Beware of Dust Storms and other Travel Tips for the Southwest – Part #2

Since I posted the last group of travel tips, I’ve done some more traveling and had some new experiences, some good and some bad.  Therefore, I have another list of travel tips for you.  Hopefully they’ll help!

11. Dust Storms are not only very real in the SW, but can be very dangerous too if you’re not careful.  In the past 8 months, I’ve been forced to get out in two of them for work.  The sky and air are both a brownish hue and if you’re outside for too long, you feel dirty like you need a shower ASAP.  The wind gusts in the two I’ve experienced were 60-70 mph.  If you have to drive in one of these, make sure to turn on your headlights and drive below the speed limit because visibility is quite limited.

12. Beware of flash flooding.  The towns in the Southwest don’t see too much rain and the cities aren’t designed for runoff, so when it does rain, it’s super easy to hydroplane if you’re not careful.

13. The closer you get to the border, the crazier the drivers get.  If you’re going too slow or waiting on traffic in order to turn left, many drivers will create a third lane and pass you on the right-hand shoulder.  I once had a guy fly up behind me while I was trying to make a left-hand turn and drive half on the shoulder and half on the sidewalk at 30 mph so he wouldn’t have to wait 30 seconds for me.  It can be super unnerving at first to watch a car in your rearview mirror drive towards you without slowing down a beat, but after a while, you don’t even bat an eye.

14.  It doesn’t matter the season: chapstick is your best friend.

15. Triple AAA is a good idea.  I haven’t had to call them since the move, but I feel so much safer driving hours to and from locations through the desert knowing I have someone to call if I break down in the middle of nowhere.

16. Make sure to pack at least one jacket or sweatshirt.  Even if the temperature is in the 80s or 90s during the day, the “desert phenomena” causes the temperature to drop dramatically after sunset.

17. A working air conditioner is not necessarily a necessity, but is a definite plus.

18. For reasons I still can’t fathom, a lot of women out here pencil in their eyebrows with pink eyebrow pencils.  It stands out like a sore thumb, but apparently is fashionable and staring is not recommended.

19. Before you head out on a trip to somewhere you’ve never been in the SW, make sure to have multiple sets of directions from different sources.  MapQuest is constantly trying to send me the wrong way down one way streets and the one time I borrowed someone’s GPS, it kept trying to get me to go offroad and drive into a gorge.  It never hurts to have an old-fashioned atlas in the backseat.

20. You’ve heard the saying “Stop and smell the roses?”  Well, out here it’s more like “Stop and listen to the music.”  It seems everywhere you go, there’s some live music playing.  The town of Old Mesilla, NM has free “Mariachi Sundays” during the fall in the plaza, and for some reason I have yet to fathom, there is a small mariachi band that sits in the lobby of the WalMart near my place every Saturday and plays for hours on end.  Even if you just have a few minutes, it’s completely worth stopping and listening to all the talented musicians.  They’re super talented and feed off the energy of the crowd.

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