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Don't be a desert casualty!

Cuenca, Ecuador
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for California Desert
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Don't be a desert casualty!

"Two people have been found dead after their car apparently became stranded in the Southern California desert, where temperatures have topped 100 degrees," begins a story reported in the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday.

The story link is here: www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi…

(Hat tip to fellow TripAdvisor contributor Frisco_Roadrunner, a profligate and helpful member often found in the Death Valley National Park forums.)

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Now some personal words from me about this story: as a native of the Mojave Desert, born and raised, stories like this are regrettable. These two deaths were preventable.

Actions that can lead to death/automotive: not having the automobile filled with sufficient fuel. Not having the coolant/antifreeze changed according to the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. Not checking over and replacing on a regular basis all the rubber drive belts on the engine. Not attending to other necessary maintenance of the vehicle, such as tires (with tread, in good condition, and filled with enough air), regular tune ups (spark plugs wear out and need replacement) and replacing the fuel filter. You get the drift. Regular maintenance of your car ensures a safe driving experience, especially when venturing out from civilization and entering a desert National Park. If in doubt as to your car's condition, don't drive it. Get a rental car for your travels, which is new or at least newer and generally in excellent mechanical condition. The life you save may be your own.

Actions that can lead to death/humanly speaking: not carrying enough water on your journey. I personally carry a flat of water (24 six ounce bottles) from the supermarket in my trunk as I drive my car. Water is your primary lifesaver. You can do without food for a day or two, but water is more critical. ALWAYS have enough water on hand.

What to do:

Stay together when in a situation where your car breaks down in the desert. Stay on a main road or roads. STAY IN YOUR CAR even if you are in the offroad area. Public safety officers use helicopters to search when needed, and it's easier to view a car from the air than a person. The car is larger. The easier it is for park rangers, public safety folks or other travelers to see you, the sooner help may come. It is reasonable to think that the woman in this story became delirious and wandered away, thinking her walking away would produce help and assistance for them. The opposite is true.

Carry some long wood two inches wide by four inches long (two by fours in the hardware store vernacular). These are for placing under the tires should you ever get stuck in sand. A shovel would also be a good tool to carry with you as well for moving sand away from the drive wheels, etc.. Believe me, I know one person who would have likely died with his friends in the Mojave Desert if they had not had these items. They were on a filming shoot on location, and knew the perils, but didn't know it was going to happen to *them* until it did. Learn from them. . .

Measures to take before visiting a place such as Joshua Tree National Park: you can rely on GPS devices, but in my experience paper maps are the way to go. I have found the Thomas Guide maps to be excellent and accurate. GPS info can be programmed with errors. Garbage in, garbage out. You know the saying. . . .

Don't rely on cell phones to bail you out should you get stuck. Just because you have a cell phone doesn't mean it - and you - will be within range of a cellular tower. It may also malfunction on you. Technology is only as good as what people can make it to be. I have yet to see perfect technology, just as I have yet to see a perfect human. I know I'm not perfect by any means! Sooooo. . . . have a plan for your travels in the park, and *let someone know* of your specific travels and times, especially expected time of return. That way, should they not receive a call from you, they know to send help to look for you. You will be grateful should that need arise.

I'll leave you with this true story from circa 1994: a man and his wife were driving west of what is now called Primm, Nevada one summer day. They could see Whiskey Pete's hotel/casino a few miles away at the point they ran out of gas. Coasting downhill was not the answer. . . the hill was not uniformly down, but also level and even up.

So the man left his wife in the car. Having no water in the car or on his person, he walked towards Whiskey Pete's in the hot sun whose heat that day soared over 100 degrees.

He never made it. He died in the desert before he even came close to Whiskey Pete's. The wife died in her car, waiting for her husband.

Uden, The...
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1. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

onenewspage.us/news/World/20110824/25082023/…

He was a well known man who lived not far away from where I live. Tragic.

Tet

Santa Ana, CA
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2. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

Thanks for posting this Underdog.

Do you have an easy way to re-post this in the California Desert forum?

The California Desert forum is an umbrella over about a dozen other forums but Death Valley and Joshua Tree are not included.

Durham, North...
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3. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

Excellent info, thanks

I always carry a 12-VDC air pump and a Citizen's Band Radio (not sure how many people are on CB anymore, but at least you don't need a cell tower).

Any you may have mentioned it, a good spare tire and a properly working Jack to change the tire. I once found that I had a jack, but it couldn't lift the car high enough to change the tire (this won't happen to you). I ended up carrying two scissors jacks. So I would check to see that the jack does the job and that you feel safe with it, or I'd replace the factory jack.

SafariInfo

http://www.woodsmall.com/

Durham, North...
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4. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

Also, if you have relatives, friends or are going back to the same hotel/motel, you might alert them of you travel plans and remark that you'll let them know when you get back. (and to that, or course)

And a signal mirror - even the one off your car's windshield visor, could be handy.

Cuenca, Ecuador
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5. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

Thanks, SafariInfo for your additions. Good tips to heed when going out in the desert.

I should add that on Frisco_Roadrunner's thread, which came out before mine but shares the same exact title, there was a productive discussion on why this situation occured, as well as how to handle a similar situation in the future. Well worth the read. Here's the link: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143021-i2027-k475…

You'll also note that the discussion above came to realize that the deaths were due to two erroneous facts: the Joshua tree these folks were seeking existed and was alive (it wasn't at the time) and it was located in Joshua Tree National Park (it wasn't). These were fans of the musical group U2, for the record. Had some basic research been done, perhaps these two would still be with us today. Tragic story.

Encinitas...
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for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
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6. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

These people were on a posted 4 wheel drive road in the middle of summer in a sedan.Got buried in the sand.Had they stuck to the main road, they would be alive today.Unfortunately their decision to head off on that road in105 degree heat, led to their demise.

Durham, North...
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7. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

that was foolish

8. Re: Don't be a desert casualty!

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