At the end of the day, adjunct professor Kevin Lizarazo got into our rental Jeep and said, “I’m not even sweating.”
The high temperature of the day was 105 degrees. The low was 96 degrees, according to my Apple Watch that overheated.
My watch and Kevin weren’t the only things that overheated on Day 1. Two scientific instruments also failed due to the scorching heat of the New Mexico desert.
Amy McAdam, a research scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center, was using one of them, a handheld device called LIBS that analyzes the chemistry of rocks within a few seconds.
Halfway through her work the machine gave up. She had to let it cool down, kind of like when our phone gives up when we’re sunbathing on the beach. When we return to Kilbourne Hole, she plans to bring a little umbrella to shade the LIBS.
My own near-meltdown was not caused by heat but by height. I love flying and roller coasters, and skydiving over the Las Vegas strip is high on my bucket list. But when we walked along the edge of this huge crater and I looked down at the steep drop, all I could think of was how many broken femurs I’ve seen working as a paramedic.
People on the trip thought my job would make me adventurous. But in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The fear of being stuck in a desert waiting for a medevac was enough to make me turn around – -which is exactly what I did, an hour or so before the team quit for the day.
While Kevin was cooling down, the car leading our little caravan back to our hotel in El Paso took a wrong turn. If we’d driven a few miles farther south, we would have hit the Mexican border. We went 8.5 miles the wrong way. Which may not seem like a lot, but when all you see is mountains and a road that goes as far as the eye can see, it feels like an eternity.
After about an hour and a half of driving around, Kevin, Kayla McKiski, a fellow journalism student, and I saw civilization. There was a massive sigh from the three of us.
I’ve never been more excited to sit at a red light.