We are a few short miles from LA, but this is not the land of movie stars and palm trees. This is real desert, the kind that would kill you pretty fast if you wandered out in it without water or a backup plan. It is hot, and we don't fly, because despite the conditions, there are no fires. People drive aggressively on the freeway. There is an air conditioned pilot lounge, but we sit outside in small patches of shade, not wanting to impose. But even all that isn't so bad.
It's the wind that gets to us. It is unrelenting. You might have an hour or so in the morning before it starts, but then it rolls out of the hills with a vengeance. It's like being blasted with a giant, 20 mile an hour blow dryer.
I've read stories, possibly apocryphal, about how the wind on the prairies drove pioneers insane. I can kind of see it.
The helicopter next to us has been here all summer. One of the mechanics confesses that near the end of his tour, he starts getting mad at people and wanting to throw things. He blames the wind.
It makes us exhausted. We collapse at night as if we have worked a 16 hour shift. When I drag myself to the hotel exercise room in the morning, I still feel tired.
Still, it could be worse, and we know it. We are lucky to be out, in this slow fire season. The crew and I amuse ourselves by naming worse places we could be. We perk up at the sight of a bunny, and wander among old aircraft that flew in here and will never leave. It's as good as any, really, in a job where you deal with rain, snow, smoke, and of course fire.
The wind is increasing as I write this. It blows across the desert like it has for thousands of years. To it, we are just an obstacle in its path, soon gone as if we were never here.
|Old planes in the desert|