Summer-time Lessons from Adventuring

Molly drove home from San Francisco last week for her annual summer visit. She and her Heeler/Pit Bull, Roxy, loaded up “Little Red,” Molly’s new used car, a fire-engine-red 2003 Honda Civic, on Saturday noon and drove 1,300 miles, arriving in Salida on Sunday evening. 

Little Red proved quite road-worthy except for one thing: About 90 miles west of Grand Junction, Colorado, crossing the Utah Desert in hundred-plus-degree temperatures, the air-conditioning stopped working. Molly soaked some towels with water and wrapped she and Roxy in them as evaporative coolers, and drove on. 

“The weird thing was,” she said over dinner, a pasta salad with fresh pesto I had made that day, “it came back on again when we got up higher and the air cooled down.”

Some of you may already know what happened from that particular detail, but I didn’t until I called Mike’s Garage, my wonderful neighborhood shop, the next day. Dallas listened to the story, asked one question (“Did the fan cut out, or the cold?” “Just the cold,” I said.) She checked with a mechanic and then explained:

Relatively new cars like Little Red have a computer that senses engine function and condition, and when the engine gets too hot–as in driving for hours across the desert in a heat wave–the computer makes the decision to save the engine’s power for cooling itself and shuts down non-essential functions, including the compressor that makes cold air. 

“In the old days before car computers,” Dallas said, “the engine would just cut out.” 

I should have known that, because I can remember family summer road-trips when we’d drive at night to keep the engine from overheating when we crossed the desert. 

Molly and I have a tradition of adventuring whenever she’s home, whether exploring a new trail, visiting a new place, or learning some new skill. 

This summer, we decided to learn stand-up paddle-boarding, something I’ve wanted to try for a while. I set up a half-day lesson from Rocky Mountain Outdoor Center, a local outfitter. On the appointed morning, Josh, our guide, outfitted us with boards, helmets, wetsuits, and the other gear you can see in the photo at the beginning of the post. 

After orientation on land, we got on the water and began to learn balance and paddle-strokes, starting on our knees, and then working up to standing on the boards. Which took me longer than Molly.

I am a firmly terrestrial creature, so anything involving water, whether swimming in it or floating on it, takes some courage. As it turned out, I mastered the starfish (falling backwards off the paddle-board with an impressive splash), and learned that the water was indeed c-c-cold.

Still, I began to get my balance and had a lot of fun practicing. I grew up canoeing and have kayaked on and off for 30 years, so the paddle strokes were familiar. But the feel of gliding across the water while standing on the board was deliciously different.

After we felt like we were proficient enough, Molly got Roxy, and we worked on her paddle-board skills, first with our two boards rafted together, and then with her swimming between the boards. After which Molly bravely stood up and paddled around the pond, with Roxy standing like a pro in front of her. 

Until Roxy decided the trout she could see in the water were more interesting than standing on the board, and jumped in. I laughed so hard I did a perfect starfish, and surfaced still laughing. I swam back to my board and Roxy decided to “rescue” me, which meant it took me twice as long to get back on my board as it would have otherwise. But we had a great time. 

At the end of our lesson, Molly and I helped Josh load up the boards and stow the other equipment, and thanked him for patiently teaching us. As we drove off in Big Red (my Tacoma pickup) with Roxy snoozing the back, we talked about getting paddle-boards of our own. And wetsuits. 

Of course, none of that equipment is in either of our budgets right now, but maybe next year. 

And Molly and I have some wonderful new shared memories. I feel very grateful that she loves Salida, and me. I’m lucky to have her in my life. If only her daddy were still here to join us on summer adventures… .

Richard Cabe (1950-2011) paddling our double kayak