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Is It Hot Enough For You?

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn't it a pity
Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

Summer in the City lyrics by The Lovin’ Spoonful



The first time I actually realized some people have no idea how hot it can get in the Central Valley was in January of 1992.

I had moved to Manteca the previous year from Lincoln which on average is two degrees hotter than Manteca from where it is situated on the eastern edge of the Sacramento Valley plus has the added bonus of not benefitting from Delta breezes.

I had done a story on a new Kaufman & Broad neighborhood in Manteca for the real estate section that mentioned new homes were starting at $119,999.

A real estate agent called up and wanted to know how that was possible given the median resale price for an existing home at the time in Manteca was $125,900.

Checking back with the subdivision sales associate provided the answer. Air conditioning was a $4,000 option. Some unsuspecting buyers from the San Francisco Bay Area actually bought new homes without air conditioning. I’m sure after one summer that was no longer the case.

Being a fifth generation Valley boy — the Central Valley and not the San Fernando Valley — I was raised to live with the heat.

Given the stretch of 100-plus degree days we just survived that hit 12 in a row before the National Weather Service forecast the high to dip slightly below the century mark, you might wonder whether the heat has fried my brain along the way.

The secret is to embrace and respect the heat while conditioning to it. That means minimizing extreme swings — think of going from a 70 degree building to 104 degrees outside to a 140 degree car you cool down to 75 degrees and then back out into 106 degree heat. That puts stress on your body.

It also helps that I take on more water than the Titanic. Dogs pant to stay cool. We sweat.

And while sleeping without air conditioning can be a challenge at least it’s not what pioneer miners had to do in Death Valley. They slept during the day in the shallow waters of Furnace Creek and worked at night.

And if you really want to know how people 100 years ago survived sleeping in the Valley heat, they relied on Mother Nature’s air conditioning — the Delta breezes. Screened in summer porches to keep the insects out and let the cooling breeze in was the norm.

As a kid growing up in Lincoln, on days when the mercury topped 100 degrees, we slept in the backyard at night on chaise lounges. It was a lot cooler and you had the added bonus of gazing at the stars and pondering all sorts of things. After midnight you’d have to pull a blanket over you as it felt that cold. No alarm clock was needed as the sun hitting the blanket brought you out of your slumber.

I occasionally repeated the outdoor summer sleeping during the three years I lived in Laurel Glenn apartments in a second floor unit that had a balcony. The only thing that’s thwarted me from doing it at my current homes is Dalmatians that seem to think they are lap dogs all of a sudden at 3 o’clock in the morning.

There are those who say they’ll never get used to the heat and that the Central Valley is hell on earth.

Perhaps they should book a week’s stay in Downstate Illinois during a summer “heat wave” when the high is at 90 and so is the humidity. After seven days we’ll compare notes.

If you want to wear a sweater at mid-day on Aug. 1 then drive to San Francisco. While our high is pushing 104, the top number in The City is 76 degrees.

Mark Twain nailed it. The coldest winter you are ever going to spend is a summer in San Francisco. But then again on those rare occasions when the marine layer goes AWOL and the temperature in San Francisco shoots up to 90 degrees it makes Dante’s Inferno feel like a walk-in freezer in comparison.

As for grandparents that will tell you to quit complaining that it was hotter when they were a kid, turn off their air conditioning and ask them to reconsider their stance.

The debate over global warming aside, it is hotter today than it was 70 years ago and it’s reflected in overnight lows that aren’t quite as low as they once were. It’s because there’s a dearth of trees with massive canopies, swimming holes created by irrigation canal overflows are gone, and concrete and asphalt have transformed our living environments. Rocks — that concrete and asphalt emulate — have an uncanny ability to absorb heat and as the temperature cools to release it. That doesn’t even mention the fact the surface can heat up effectively in the sunlight. Cold-blooded rattlesnakes are smart. They get how nature works. Warm-blooded humans aren’t, given how they keep trying to defy Mother Nature.

As for how you condition yourself for the heat, more than a few firefighters I’ve known over the years get it. They will plan their runs between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on a day that will be in the triple digits. That’s because it is when the peak heat of the day hits.

These are folks that have to deal with heavy turnouts and will deal with working conditions at times that make a 104-degree day feel like a brain freeze after devouring an Icee.

No one is advocating or recommending that’s how to start an exercise program or that everyone should try it, but it does illustrate how conditioning makes sense.

Heat can be a dangerous thing. I get it because it almost got me once.

It was back when I was into bicycling big time racking up 10,000 miles a year. On a two-day jaunt to Chico where my sister was attending college and back to Lincoln, I plotted a 121-mile first-day trip via Oroville. I planned it when I had no idea what the temperature would be. It ended up being a record 108 degrees. That wasn’t the issue. What was happened to be an unscheduled crash near Table Top Mountain where I shattered two large water bottles I had filled in Oroville. By the time I repaired the rim and replaced the tube I had almost drained what was left in the third bottle that I had been drinking on since departing Oroville.

Long story short since my planned route had a long climb ahead, I was out of water and it was 108 degrees with no breeze, I consulted a CSAA map and altered my route — big mistake. Had I stayed the course I later found out that after 1,000 feet of climbing in three miles I would have come across a general store. Instead, I turned into a dry, hot wind. An hour later I was seeing things. In this case it was a beer dive. I figured I could at least get water there. But when I realized it wasn’t there, I did the only thing I knew to do that could help — find shade. After an hour I got back on the bicycle at 3 p.m. and within a few miles reached a busy crossroad that happened to have a convenience store in the middle of nowhere. I got a 42-ounce cup filled to the top with ice along with soda (the soda wasn’t a good idea), dug out a couple of dimes and called my sister explaining the situation. While I waited I polished off the ice and soda and got another.

She arrived with a small jug of ice and water. After I put the bicycle in her car, I ended up downing the water on the way back to Chico. Once there I figured I should take a cold bath to cool my body down. Before I did that I raided the fridge for ice water and asked if I could have an unopened container of ice cream bonbons. I polished them off while I was soaking in the bath tub. After I got out I stepped on her scales that claimed that after guzzling water I weighed five pounds less than when I left home that morning.

So I did what any sane person would do — the next day I rode back to Lincoln on a longer route covering 130 miles.

It is why I rarely go anywhere without water. And when I hike on what should be a five or six hour round trip, I always take enough water in case I get stranded for a day or so.

Fear is a good thing. I don’t leave anything to chance.

But at the same time I don’t let fear consume me from not embracing summer.

That said I’m normal compared to my cousin Larry Wyatt. His personalized plate for years read “MECRAZY”.

For three years Larry ran the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. It’s a nice mid-summer jaunt from Lake Tahoe to Auburn that the goal is to “run” in 24 hours or under.

In order to stay in the race, participants had to stop at check points and be weighed. If they lost more than 7 percent of their body weight they had to sit out until they regained it via hydration and such.

Larry would do almost daily 20-mile training runs in June heat carrying peanut butter sandwiches he would eat when he ran so he could keep weight on.

Nearing the end of the race in the American River Canyon where heat radiates from rocks at night, they’re allowed pacers to cover the last 10 miles. Often times the pacers have to be “rescued” because of the heat and elevation gain.

And Larry thinks I’m crazy because of my annual week-long hiking trips in Death Valley and other hikes I take.

As for the fact we will likely have more stretches of 100-degree days, will that bother me?

My answer is simple: That’s why Dreyer’s created Nestle Drumstick Sundae Cone Ice Cream. Working out on a day like this is the best excuse I can think of to polish off a half gallon of ice cream in one sitting. If it’s lucky, the half-gallon will last for 20 minutes tops.

Say what you want about Manteca and the heat, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. That’s especially true since Dreyer’s Ice Cream’s 25,000-square-foot cold storage distribution center is in Spreckels Park less than a half mile from my home.