Chasing 72 degrees

Full-timers often say they are “chasing 72 degrees,” meaning that they follow the weather around the country to maintain that perfect summer day as often as possible.  Normally that’s our plan as well, but it’s harder than you might think.  If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know we often run into unexpectedly hot or cold weather because the timing is never perfect.

Lately we’ve been chasing 62 degrees, with freezing nights.  We spent too much time in September getting across the midwest, and as a result we arrived in the higher elevations west of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah in time for fall.  Rather than head to lower elevations, we’ve taken advantage of the shoulder season and enjoyed relatively uncrowded campgrounds and trails.

But the late season is putting a cramp on our activities.  At night we’ve encountered temps as low as 18 degrees, which forces us to burn a lot of propane (and hence buy a fresh tank every four or five days).  Morning hikes have been chilly, and the sun is setting early. Seasonal stores and attractions have shorter hours. Evening Ranger talks have ended.

The big limitation of fall is that some campgrounds are closing.  We were considering visiting three Flagstaff-area national park sites (Sunset Crater, Wupatki, and Walnut Canyon) but the only camping nearby is at National Forest Service sites in the Coconino NF.  Those sites close for the season today, October 12.

This is happening all over, as overnight temperatures dip to freezing.  So we’ve decided to skip those three national park sites this time, and start working our way toward the low desert. Eleanor and I realized this morning that we’ve been deliberately delaying our return to Tucson only because we have a house there and we know that once we arrive, we’ll settle into a homebody routine.  Ironically, if we didn’t have a house, as in years past, we would already be in Tucson at a park enjoying the dry 85-degree days because we would know that in a week or two we’d continue on.

Well, we are not going to delay much longer.  Last night the catalytic heater refused to light.  It has been getting increasingly balky over the past two weeks, taking longer to light and occasionally going out if not run on the maximum setting.  These are symptoms of the catalyst pad being “poisoned” by contaminants.  Since this heater has been used only infrequently over the past eighteen months I suspect bad propane may have killed it.  Dust can also terminate a catalytic heater prematurely, but we have had a dust cover on it.  When we get back to Tucson I will have to investigate “an authorized Factory Service Technician” as the owner’s manual suggests.  I suspect that catalytic heater service technicians are not on every corner.

We used the furnace instead, so we weren’t cold last night.  I just hate listening to it cycle on and off in the early morning, especially when it comes on every five or ten minutes.  That’s a sign that we need to move somewhere warmer.  If we were going to skip the house I’d aim at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern AZ, but the lure of suburban life is calling us.  It is time to chase — and overtake, for a while — 72 degrees.

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