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Tips On Driving Through A Desert

Updated on August 19, 2012
Desert
Desert | Source

How to Prepare for Driving Through A Desert

Road trips are the fun, educational and inexpensive family vacations, especially when your kids are in grade school. Road trips provides the best opportunity for the kids to learn geography and social cultures in different places. Traveling across landforms that are different from where they live are especially helpful and valuable. We live in a big city that is nestled in a valley, it was an eye opening opportunity for our kids when we took a road trip that involving drive through deserts.

To prepare for the road trip, if you're traveling with your kids, I would recommend a SUV or van or minivan which has more space for storing essential items and with the right equipment can also be used in an emergency situation as a bathroom inside your vehicle.

Make sure your vehicle is in good condition. It is highly recommend that your vehicle has a complete check-up before the trip.

Fill up a tank full of gasoline before heading out into the desert. There will be gas stations along the way but distances between them can get quite far and the gasoline is likely to be more expensive than it is in a city or town.

The Essential Things to Bring on A Desert Drive Through

Although there are people living in the deserts, there are very few stores for you to get what you may need when you need them. So try to prepare and bring your own stuff. Here are the checklist for a road trip in a desert:

Food: You need to pack enough food that can last for at least 3 days in case you're stuck in the middle of the desert and can't get help right away. Please keep in mind that it will take a longer time to get help in a desert than in place where more people live. Pack food that doesn't go bad within a week, such as crackers, snack bars and cereals.

Water: Prepare a gallon of water per person per day. You might need more water because the temperature is very high during the day. If your car breaks down you won't have the air conditioning to keep you cool. So water can help keep you from becoming dehydrated.

Cooler: Keep some of your water in a cooler so that you don't need to drink hot water if you spend your day in the desert without air conditioning.

Portable toilet: Most of the time you can find restrooms in stores and gas stations. But it is unpredictable on how far they can be spaced far apart. Worse yet, if you're in a storm and need to go badly, a portable toilet can save the day. You don't have to spend a lot of money buying a portable toilet. A bucket and some good plastic bags will do the trick. It is the same concept as how people use plastic bag to wrap around a garbage can to hold garbage, then discard the whole bag when it is ready to throw the contents away.

Blanket: Keep a blanket in the trunk just in case you need to spend a night or two in the desert. The temperature can drop very low even during summer time.

Flashlight: A flashlight will come in handy if you do need to spend the night in the desert.

First Aid kit: Make sure you have your First Aid kit every time you're far away from home, such as bandages, scissors, fingernail clipper, knife, medications for fever, stomach pain, tooth pain, etc.

What to Expect During A Desert Drive Through

You need to be cautious as you're driving through a desert. There are a lot of unpredictable things in a desert, such as fast changing weather, sand/dust/bug storms and road construction or repairs along the winding freeways.

Weather in a desert

The weather in a desert can change fast. A sunny day can change to thunder storms within 30 minutes. Or half of the sky is bright and sunny while the other half is flashing lightning from angry dark cloud followed by loud thunder claps. The temperature can easily climb above 100 degree Fahrenheit and drop below 50 degree Fahrenheit at night

These two pictures were taken in a desert within 15 minutes apart.  It shows how fast the weather changes in a desert.
These two pictures were taken in a desert within 15 minutes apart. It shows how fast the weather changes in a desert. | Source

Sand/Dust storm in a desert

The sand/dust storm might greet you unexpectedly. For your safety, make sure to slow down or stop your vehicle depending upon the degree of the sand storm when you encounter one. Luckily, we only saw small dust devil during our last road trip in the desert. It rushed across the freeway and disappeared within a minute. We were disturbed a little, but then were able to continue to process on our way.

Dust Storm in Desert
Dust Storm in Desert | Source

Bug storm in a desert

The bug storm was a big surprise to us. Believe it or not, we met a large quantity of bugs flew across the freeway in a group. At first we thought it was just another small sand or dust storm moving toward the freeway from a distance - about 1/10 mile away from where we first noticed it, but the color was a lot darker than the sand storm we saw the other time. We slowed down a little as precaution. But when we reached the point where the dark storm crossing the freeway, 80% of our windshield was covered with smashed bugs.

Drive Through A Desert
Drive Through A Desert | Source
Drive Through A Desert
Drive Through A Desert | Source

Highways/Freeways in deserts

The highways/freeways in deserts are most likely just one lane for each direction. However, there are passing lanes spaced along the way so that the slower traffic can move to the right lane to yield for the vehicles behind them. There are signs to alert you for the upcoming passing lanes. You can also use the opposite traffic lane to pass the slow vehicle in front of you when you see dash line as dividing line and no cars coming in that lane. Although there usually are very few cars traveling on desert freeways, you might not able to see the car coming from the opposite lane due to the either the hilly or winding landscape or road construction. We witnessed an accident and kept reminding ourselves not to use that option to pass slower traffic as the risk is too high. I understand the frustration inching up the hill behind a big truck hauling three large containers. But safety should come first and you should wait until there is a passing lane for you to pass more safely . It is very important that you follow the traffic rules and never cross the solid double yellow line or when the solid line is on your side of the road.

Desert Scenes

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rainbow in DesertDesert Sunset ViewCloud in DesertAbandoned Structures in DesertDesert life, Desert living.Lodging & Motel in DesertTrading Post in DesertDesert WeatherDesert Living, Desert lifeDesert WeatherCactus in DesertGas Station in DesertDesert ViewDesert ViewDesert ViewDesert ViewRoad Sign in DesertCloud in DesertDesert weatherCloud in DesertDesert weatherDesert ViewDesert ViewDesert WeatherDesert at NightDesert at NightSunset in DesertSunset in DesertSunset in DesertDesert View
Rainbow in Desert
Rainbow in Desert | Source
Desert Sunset View
Desert Sunset View | Source
Cloud in Desert
Cloud in Desert | Source
Abandoned Structures in Desert
Abandoned Structures in Desert | Source
Desert life, Desert living.
Desert life, Desert living. | Source
Lodging & Motel in Desert
Lodging & Motel in Desert | Source
Trading Post in Desert
Trading Post in Desert | Source
Desert Weather
Desert Weather | Source
Desert Living, Desert life
Desert Living, Desert life | Source
Desert Weather
Desert Weather | Source
Cactus in Desert
Cactus in Desert | Source
Gas Station in Desert
Gas Station in Desert | Source
Desert View
Desert View | Source
Desert View
Desert View | Source
Desert View
Desert View | Source
Desert View
Desert View | Source
Road Sign in Desert
Road Sign in Desert | Source
Cloud in Desert
Cloud in Desert | Source
Desert weather
Desert weather | Source
Cloud in Desert
Cloud in Desert | Source
Desert weather
Desert weather | Source
Desert View
Desert View | Source
Desert View
Desert View | Source
Desert Weather
Desert Weather | Source
Desert at Night
Desert at Night | Source
Desert at Night
Desert at Night | Source
Sunset in Desert
Sunset in Desert | Source
Sunset in Desert
Sunset in Desert | Source
Sunset in Desert
Sunset in Desert | Source
Desert View
Desert View | Source

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    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 4 years ago from Ohio

      Beautiful hub!! I never drove through a desert, and I had never realized how variable the weather can be. I love your tips and your photos!

    • kittyjj profile image
      Author

      Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

      I didn't know the weather in desert can be this scary either. It's my first desert drive-through and the experience is priceless. Thank you Robie for reading and commenting.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Voted up, awesome and tweeted. Your tips were helpful but it's your beautiful photographs that really grabbed me. Just gorgeous. The bug storm was really weird.

    • kittyjj profile image
      Author

      Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

      We didn't expect to see a bug storm either. We were so surprised by its presence. Thank you for vote up and tweet.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      We took a family vacation through the Southwest US which included Phoenix and Las Vegas. It is very true that you need to plan ahead before venturing out into the dryness of a desert.

      Good job and I love the itemized list.

      Voted up and useful

    • kittyjj profile image
      Author

      Ann Leung 4 years ago from San Jose, California

      Preparation always helps! Thank you adjkp25 for the vote up!

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