Thursday, November 22, 2007
It's the last race of the season at Southridge, Fontana, CA. I load up Saturday morning, not getting the early start I had hoped to get, and wondering if I will make it to the venue in time to register to race the Super D. I know I'll get there in plenty of time for downhill practice. With both the trail bike and the DH bike on the back of my car, I speed north to Fontana.
I arrive just as they have closed the Super D registration, but they let me slip in as a last-minute registrant. Later I will curse my "luck," and wish I had only been another 10 minutes later to the venue, so that I wouldn't have been able to ride this course.
The shuttle van comes up and they load all the Super D racers and their bikes in the truck to take us to the top of the hill. Only, we don't go to the top of the hill. We start the Super D at the cul-de-sac near "The Wall", almost at the bottom of the hill, and are told that the first part of the race would be climbing up to where the DH starts.
"You've got to be kidding me," I think to myself. I don't even want to know how many vertical feet it is.
My trail bike is an '02 Turner RFX that I used to race DH on. I changed out the 6" rockers for 5" rockers, to make it a 5"-rear/6"-front bike. Most of the other racers have very light-weight 4"-travel XC bikes. Translation: I have brought a mule out to race with Thoroughbreds. Granted, my mule can take on any of these Thoroughbreds when it comes to the nasty, steep, can't-see-the-dirt-because-there-are-too-many-rocks type of trail. But my little Mighty Flea is not a strong climber.
I start off optimistic, but am soon reminded why I don't race XC. I haven't been on a course I wanted to hurl on in a long time, and while I really like the "giving it all you've got" thing, I would prefer to do so in that last 2 minutes of a race, not the first two minutes of the race. By the time I get up to the top of the DH start, I am so relieved to be there, that I forget to unlock my suspension, and essentially have about 80mm of travel for the rest of the course.
Me at the top of the Cal State section
And the close-up of my "this-is-a-mistake" face...
By the time I hit the Cal State section, I am so exhausted and spent, I don't have the strength to wield the bike through the rocks. With my suspension locked out (I still don't realize it's locked out), the bike is unable to take care of me like I am used to. As the guy behind me bears down on me, I crash hard on the rocks, landing on my helmet and wadding in a heap amidst a swirling cloud of dust.
I moan and try to move as I hear him coming up behind me. "Pass me! Pass!" I yell to him. He leaps over my body and continues his race.
(Quick side-note: Notice there are all of maybe 4 people, including racers on the course at this location at this time. Yet, I had no less than 3 different people, one of whom I didn't even know, comment to me later, "Oh, hey, I heard you biffed pretty hard in the rocks on the Super D..." Sigh. Yeah. That was me.)
I stagger to my feet, and try to stand without falling over.
"Laura! Are you OK?" I hear someone yell to me from the side of the trail.
"AAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!" I roar, by way of answer. So I get a little angry when I crash.
I pick up my bike and continue the race, hoping it won't be much further, and there won't be much more climbing. Like an idiot, I've come in and done this race blind, with no idea what the course lay-out is. I do not advise this as a race strategy.
Before the race is over, I manage to miss the hard right that would have avoided the lower rock section that runs along the wall.
Lower rock section looking onto the course
As I approach the wall, just AFTER I pass through the last set of rocks and manage to stay on my bike, I realize I'm off course. Sigh. It's another steep climb to get back to the Super D course... (note to self: always pre-ride the course).
Oh well. Other than crashing on my helmet and going off course, I rode really well!
The next day, I raced the DH, and did really well. No crashing. And I even did my last practice run on Saturday afternoon without coming unclipped once! I usually find myself dabbing in one section or another.
I dropped down from the "older expert women" category to race in the Expert 34 and under women's class (I'm over 35). Those girls are FAST! I managed to eke out 3rd of 4 women. :) Of course you never do all the things you hope to, and you rarely hit all the lines like you want to, but overall, I was pleased with my race run. The cool thing is that we are all very well matched. Our race times were all within a 10-second block.
Lower rock section
I felt myself squirreling out, so I pushed the bike forward and got off the back... I stayed on the bike!
Expert Women Podium
A great race weekend. See you all in January!
Big shout-out and thank you to Chris "Sharky" for the race photos!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday morning we meet for the ride. It's foggy and cool, and the smell of burnt grass still fills the air.
It came really close to this place...
As we continue, we note the devastation, and we take care to hold our lines and stay on the trail. We learned from the fires 4 years ago that the earth is incredibly regenerative, and the grasses in most of the burned out areas should be back by spring, provided we get some rain this winter.
Tom spotted a dead bird alongside the trail. He wasn't burned, so he probably died of smoke inhalation. And no, I don't really know it's a "he."
It seems wrong to just leave the bird there, but we have no means to bury him, and Tom tells me that nature will complete the cycle of life on it's own. Julie and I decide that we should show God's creatures, even the small ones, a little respect, so we arrange rocks around him.
Satisfied, we continue up the hillside.
One of the things we notice is how close the fires came to the power station, and how hard the firefighters mush have worked to keep the flames from overtaking it.
We continue the climb. It's remarkable how some parts of the hillside are completely burned out, while others are untouched.
Another area with a power station, and the hard-fought fire perimeter.
I find the unburned weeds at the edges of the road quite a striking contrast to the rest of the devastated landscape. Here's a tree we found, which had been completely engulfed by the flames, while the one just behind it seems to be untouched.
We continue climbing, and Frank remarks that it almost looks like snow-covered patches where the white ash is heavy.
We are almost to the summit, and look out over the homes below. I notice how close the fireline is to the homes, and take a deep breath again in relief that the firefighters got the fires under control.
It is a long and difficult climb. The last time I attempted it, I was not able to finish before I had to get back down to mountain to go to work. Tom asks me if it's easier this time, but I can't tell. We still haven't come to the stream crossing, I think to myself, and wonder how much further it can possibly be. After we have been climbing for about an hour, it dawns on me that we passed the "stream crossing" but there was no water, and there was not the dense vegetation I remember. Ah. Yes, this time is easier. It's not so hot, and I don't feel like my heart is going to explode.
The climb continues and continues, and I ask myself why I do this. I slip a pedal dabbing through the rocky climb, and scrape my leg which starts to bleed,the thin trickle running down into my sock (this is why I always wear black socks on a mountain ride). The air is thick with the smell of ash and smoke, and I just want to breathe deeply without smelling it. I turn my head to take deep breaths into my sleeve, in an attempt to filter out the ash and smoke. I find relief for a few breaths, but until we get to the top, the sooty air is inescapable.
The rock below shows how the fire came in really fast, and swept across the mountain with intense heat...
We finally reach the summit, but it's so foggy that you can't really see the reservoir. This only means I'll have to do this climb again... (uuf).
We head back down the mountain, and the fog begins to lift as the morning sun fills the sky.
Downed power lines...
Down the fire road, back down to the reservoir.
Firebreak at the trail.
We are almost back at the reservoir, when the guys stop to wait for Julie and me. As we ride up, Frank has turned around off the trail just as the Park Services truck arrives. Unfortunately, the only time any of us venture off-trail is right as the truck pulls up and Frank makes his turn onto the scorched earth.
The new land manager for the area gets out of the truck and introduces herself, then asks us very politely to please stay off the mountain, and reminds us that the area is healing. Tom, who has been volunteering with the Park Service for years, and is very conscious of staying on the trail and making as little impact on the land as possible, is glad to meet the new land manager, and in a painfully honest moment, introduces himself. If it were me, I'd have given a false name and denied I even knew anyone who rode off-trail in a recent fire-area. After they drive off, Frank shrugs, and shakes his head and says he didn't know what he was thinking when he made the turn. We laugh and call him a newb (he's been riding longer than anyone but Tom) and get back on our bikes to finish the ride.
I glance at my watch and realize that I have absolutely no time to spare. In fact, I won't even have a chance to go home before going to work. I wish I had got a photo of myself: most of me is covered in soot, I am ash-marked where tree branches have drawn charcoal lines across my arms, and I have blood, dried in the in the running-down-from-the-knee pattern on my left leg. I mutter that I will have no time to shower, but will have to go straight to work. Tom suggests that I reconsider.
"Naw... I have a towel in the back of the car, and we have a sink at work."
They tell me I'm just looking for street cred. I'll take what I can get.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I turn onto Aguamiel Rd and go up the street, seeing people on both sides of the street sift through the rubble and ash of what used to be their homes. I want to somehow connect myself to them, but I am at at a loss as to how to do it. I want to take pictures to cement this experience as a memory, but I hesitate to intrusively photograph someone else's deep experience.
Walking down the street with my camera, I pass a group of people in sooty work clothes and flimsy filter masks, standing in the front yard of one of the pristine, untouched homes. One women is holding a tray of small sandwiches, while the rest eat and talk, and occasionally erupt in short bursts of laughter together. I am painfully aware that I am an outsider here, and don't belong. I sally forth anyhow. As I approach the group of people, the woman with the tray looks at me, "Would you like a sandwich?" she asks with a smile. "No thank you, I'm good," I tell her with a warm smile, and continue walking toward the row of three houses that are completely gone. The third house is the one I want the picture of, because of the sign out front that laughs in the face of the tragedy: "Finally! No termites!"
I approach a woman who is dusty with ash and sipping a beer, "Um, is this your place?" I ask, indication the empty space where there used to be a house.
"Yes, who are you? You're not a reporter are you?"
"Oh, no, I go to church at St John of Damascus across the 15. I just wanted to see how you guys were doing and... well, see if you need any spare hands tomorrow. Who clears all this away?"
She warms up and we chat briefly about the cleanup. The city of San Diego wants all the metal to be gathered separately and large appliances to be picked up by the city, so that they don't go into a landfill. I survey the scene around me, and see people with the same attitude I saw before: "It is what it is. Let's get to work."
Deciding I should move along, I head back up the street. As I pass a few of San Diego's bravest, I hesitate, then go with my instinct. I ask the firefighter, "Are you with San Diego, or are you from out of town?"
"San Diego," he answers me.
I smile a tight-lipped smile, and reach out to give him a hug, which he returns as I tell him, "Thank you."
"Oh, sure," he replies, as if I had just thanked him for picking up my dry cleaning or something. I turn to his buddy next to him, reach out to hug him as well and tell him thank you. By now, tears are welling in my eyes. By the time I hug the thrid firefighter there, I'm visibly choked up.
"Are you alright?" one asks me.
"Oh, I'm fine," I laugh. "I am doing so well. Thank you."
"Well, how's your house? Where do you live? Were you guys OK?" another asks me.
"We are all fine. We live on the northwest side of Bonita. It was tense, but we never had to leave..." I pause, "thanks to you guys," I say as my voice trails off.
"You're sure you're OK?" he asks me, as he puts a gentle hand on my shoulder.
I laugh. "I'm just really hyper-sensitive, and probably in sensory overload right now. Haha. I just wanted to say thanks, that's all," and I smile again, then turn to go.
I would think they would be used to emotional females randomly giving them hugs by now.
I continue up the street and decide to drive past Judi and Bernie's house, just to look at how lovely it is, and make the report that they received no damage real to me. I don't have time to eat anything before church, and know Judy wouldn't let me off easy if I stop, so I just drive by. They house is of course as lovely and inviting as it ever was.
At the top of the hill, I see a large motorhome with news letters (I forget all the initials) on the side and a dish on the top. Two vacant lots with piles of rubble and ash top the hill. I'm intrigued by the palm trees, and want to photograph it, so I park my car and walk up the hill towards the burned-out homes.
As I approach, I see a man sitting on a metal cover of some kind, taking a break after a long difficult day. He's covered in dust and ash, and has his filter mask hanging loosely around his neck. He looks strong, but weary. I have no idea what to say. It seems impolite just to ask if I can photograph his missing home. When our eyes meet, I ask, "So, is this your place?"
"Yes, it is," he says with a sigh.
Suddenly, I abandon my plan. The photo really means very little to me. I look at his slumped shoulders and dusty face, and reach towards him to give him a hug, and tell him, "God bless you. You're going to make it through this." I don't know why I say this, it just comes out.
He swallows hard. "Thank you. Yes, we will make it through this."
He begins to telling me about receiving the reverse 911 call with 5 minutes to evacuate, how they had no time to collect anything but themselves...
I sit down next to him, as he continues telling me about the hasty evacuation with several pets, how they lost everything, but how they all got out.
I recount to him part of the pep talk to myself, that I might lose the trophies, but I would always have the achievements, and that while I might lose the photos, I would always have the memories, that nothing can take that away from you...
He cocks his head, then nods. "That's right," he agrees.
It turns out he was a Navy chaplain, and we probably have acquaintances in common. As I stand up to leave, he asks my name, and we introduce ourselves. He thanks me for walking up the hill. I tell him that I have friends just down the hill, and that I look forward to seeing his new house in all it's splendor very soon.
I get back in my car and glance at my watch. I'm going to be late for church if I delay much longer. I head down the hill, and out onto West Bernardo Drive. Just before the turn to go under the 15, I see five National Guard humvees parked in an alley, as if awaiting orders to move out. It flashes across my mind to stop and run hug them too, and tell them how much I appreciate them being there. I would perhaps not go to such an extreme as leaving my running car on the side of a busy road as I run to hug strangers, but I've been acting impulsively for the past hour, and impulsive momentum is driving me.
I pull to the side of the road, jump out of the car, run towards the humvees, scanning the people I approach. Most of the National Guardsmen are sitting in the vehicles, and I only see two people standing idly by. I head for them, a man and a woman in Army fatigues. I figure I'll hug the woman first, and as she looks up to see me run towards her, I smile and tell her thank you, then embrace her and tell her again. She laughs, and hugs me like an old friend.
I turn to the man now, and the words, "Thank you for being here" are out of my mouth before I look into his face and see that it's my mountain bike riding friend Armando. "No way! What are you doing here?! I didn't know you were in the National Guard!"
Armando laughs, "Yeah! What are you doing here?"
"I go to church in RB," I tell him.
He nods, "So how do you know each other?" he indicates me and the other girl.
She and I laugh, "We don't! I saw your vehicles, and just wanted to say thank for being here, and so I left my car running - hope it's still there - Oh wow. This is so funny to see you here!"
"So you didn't even know it was me?"
"I had no idea..."
Armando shakes his head, "Now that's funny..."
Having no more time to chat, I hug him again and dash back to my car. San Diego is a small town once again, or maybe I just never stop talking to strangers...
PS. Thanks Mom, for always encouraging us as kids to hug the Vietnam veterans coming home, and thank the people who fight for us.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
No more fire threat to city of San Diego
Matt Hall and Sherry Saavedra, staff writers
Posted by Union-Tribune, 2:19 PM
San Diego Fire Chief Tracy Jarman said this afternoon there's no longer a fire threat to the city of San Diego.
However, Ron Lane, director of the county's Office of Emergency Services, said parts of the county are still very much at risk.
"There is still danger out there," Lane said at the county's 1 p.m. briefing on the latest fire conditions...
Tonight is quiet, the sky is clear, and a light breeze from the ocean blows cool air on my face as I pull on a fleece cardigan. It almost seems as if I've been transported away from the inferno that was Tuesday and am now someplace much more temperate and far far away. Then again, was it really only Tuesday that I was in the inferno?
There's a surreal quality to living through a crisis, almost as if your mind is conditioned to receive the same basic input on a daily basis and rejects that which is too far off the scale of "normal." You ask yourself if it really happened, and wonder how you are to process all this new and "abnormal" data in your brain. As if your mind can only absorb so much at one time, and needs to push some of the experience to the side, so that you can absorb it later.
In the movie "Courage Under Fire," Meg Ryan is the commander of a downed helicopter who leads her crew of 5 men (including one badly injured) through enemy fire to a safe place in the rocks where they can await evacuation. Everyone is on edge, and suddenly, after a moment of stillness, one of her men glances at her brushing away tears from her cheek and exclaims, "Are you CRYING??!" To which she responds, "This is STRESS, MORON!"
I love that scene.
Throughout the movie, Ryan's character is portrayed as a strong, confident, resourceful, capable woman. They didn't have to include a scene with her crying, but they did. What a great and honest scene. I hate to take my cues from Hollywood, but I need to be reminded that strong women relieve stress by occasionally crying (as opposed to screaming, swearing, breaking things or blowing stuff up in video games).
The past four days, especially Monday and Tuesday, were mentally and emotionally draining, and by Thursday afternoon, it didn't take much for me to burst into tears.
I think I'm still processing the experience of the fires: the smell of smoke inside the house, the ashes falling from the sky, the large plume of grey behind Mt Miguel, the anticipated call to evacuate, the painful waiting that would tell me whether the church would still be there when they re-opened Rancho Bernardo, the tension of wondering where my friends were, and whether they were safe... It's too much information, and I feel I'm still in sensory overload.
So perhaps I'll let myself cry a little bit, chalk it up to stress, and not let myself think that the tears mean I can't hunker down and do what needs to be done. I can do what needs to be done, just give me a tissue and I'll be with you in a minute.
Most of my friends have checked in with me and I with them, my mind is at ease that the church is still standing and untouched by the flames in Rancho Bernardo, the fires on San Miguel mountain are under control, and my neighborhood is no longer in danger. But the weight that still remains on my heart is at Lyons Peak.
Wednesday night the fires spread back to the east, out toward Honey Springs Road and the Skyline Truck Trail, where I take one of my favorite road rides.
Periodically on Thursday, I scan the forums and blogs, looking for information about the Lyons Valley general store, knowing they battled a fierce fire battle the night before, but I find nothing. I had stopped by Rohr Park after getting coffee to ask Dave and Dana if they had any news from there. No, they hadn't heard anything, but knew the fires had swept through there and consumed most of it. Yes, I had heard that too.
Then late Thursday afternoon, I come across this article...
In the midst of the Harris fire chaos a little thing like the reopening of the Lyons Valley Trading Post brings back a sense of normalcy to this small community.
As soon as the locks came off the trading post and the doors were thrown open it was a calming sense for Teresa Arden. Arden is one of the valley's residents who did not leave in the face of the fire.
The trading post is her lifeline. It is where she shops, but more importantly, in the days of fires and evacuations, it is where she gets her news.
"This store is the heart of the community," she said, moments after store owner Bob Johnston popped open the locks.
Arden immediately grabbed an energy drink, settled into the store and started talking with friends.
Just behind Arden were firefighters and a handful of residents who eagerly scooped up drinks and snacks.
It pleased Johnston to see his neighbors … and to lend a helping hand.
"I couldn't keep the store closed," he said. "People have to have a place to come for news and for each other."
I can't believe it. I read it again. And suddenly much of the stress and emotion that I had kept bottled up within me bursts, and I sink into my chair and collapse in heaving sobs. It is still there. They made it.
With tears streaming down my face, such that I can hardly see, I post a comment to the blog:
I've been watching the news so closely... wanting to know it were still there, asking anyone I knew for updates on Lyons Peak, and fearing the worst.
Knowing the store is still there, still thriving... well, it's like finding out the friend you thought might have perished is still there waiting for you. I'm a mess for all the tears running down my face in relief. And as soon as I can, I'll be back there on my bike. :)
May God bless and protect the firefighters and all of you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
October 25, 2007 5:12 PM
Only after I post do I notice the date of the report, not just the time. It was from Wednesday, the day before the fires swept over Lyons Peak. Crestfallen, but still optimistic, I contact one of the editors of signonsandiego.com, and ask him to please find out if the store is still there. It would be just too painful to leave my comments up if it were gone.
I hear back from him in just moments via email.
I breathe, and cry again.
Writing all of this now, I'm shaken with doubt again, because I know the fire was really intense up there. Just to verify, I google them and send an email. I hope to hear from them soon.
Till I can transfer the ride report to this site, here is my ride report on Ridemonkey.com.
Almost as soon as the call when out, people waited in lines up to 2 hours just to drop off the bottles of water and juice and bags of dog food, etc, that they had purchased at CostCo and taken to the evacuees. Volunteersandiego.org had to issue a statement that there were more volunteers available to work than there were opportunities to volunteer. By Wednesday afternoon, county officials were asking people NOT to bring any more supplies, because they were full to capacity, and had no place to store things.
What is most remarkable to me about the photos of the overflowing supplies at Qualcomm is that none of it was supplied by the government - it was all the citizenry taking care of its own. I love this town.
This is the inside, from Christmas last year:
I love this church, and just this past Sunday, I stood during liturgy awed by the realization that I was indeed in a holy place. When that sense of holiness hits you, you can't help but react like Peter when he first encountered the Christ. You are made acutely aware of your own lack of holiness and want to drop to your knees and lower your gaze and say, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." Yet I'd been given the grace to stand in that holy place. Lately I've been pretty distracted, but at that moment last Sunday in church, God had my attention.
All Monday and Tuesday, I was anxious for news of the church, and finally Tuesday night heard that it had been spared from the fire.
To give you an idea of where the chuch is vis-à-vis this fires, here is an image. The church lies on Espola Road (the yellow line at the very bottom), half-way between Pomerado Road (running N-S dead center) and the fire perimeter.
(If I had better software, you'd have a better image... sorry.)
Not so fortunate are a couple from my church, Kon and Birdie Worth, who lost everything. They were awakened abruptly at 3:30am on Monday morning and told to evacuate IMMEDIATELY. When the winds are gusting at 60 mph or more, it only takes minutes to be engulfed by the flames. I'm told they have nothing. They are staying with my priest and his wife until further notice.
Although this is devastating for them, they are very resilient and positive people, with a huge outpouring of support from the church and community around them.
Joe DeCrescente is the man who greets me with a smile every time I come in to the Lyons Valley Trading Post in the middle of that long Honey Springs ride, telling me "Just pay me next time," if I don't have the cash for the sunscreen I'd forgotten to apply that morning. As of this evening, the fire is still inching towards the peak. I'll have to wait till morning for news.
Harris fire burns around Barrett Lake
Posted @ 12:29 PM
Seen from a vantage point above Barrett Lake, the Harris Fire is burning out of control around the lake. Air tankers are swooping over and dropping fire retardant to halt the spread further into the back country.
Firefighters are staging in Lyons Valley in case the fire comes over the peak and heads into the residential area of the valley.
At the Lyons Valley store, Joe DeCrescente vowed not to leave. I'm going to stick it out," he said. "I haven't run in 35 years, and I'm not going to now."
He said he's been taking calls from people who evacuated Sunday. He's been checking on homes and delivering the updates to the Steele Canyon High School evacuation center.
Along with couple of others, DeCrescente has been keeping a generator running at the Lyons Vally Store so the frozen food won't spoil.
-- David Hasemyer, staff writer, signonsandiego.com
Because of downed power lines, we have been using power from Tijuana. From what I understand, they've got the grid back up and running now.
Another note on the positive side of things, despite the thousands of evacuees, and hundreds of homes destroyed, San Diegans remain upbeat, and the mood at the main evacuation center at Qualcomm Stadium is rather positive...
(from fark.com) 2007-10-24 03:49:22 PMIt's true. San Diego has more volunteers looking to help right now than there are volunteer opportunities. Local massage therapists, yoga instructors, magicians, performers, etc., have gone out to volunteer their time and help ease the stress of the situation. If you get a chance, you should scroll through the photos from Qualcomm.
Probably, San Diego has to be the largest group of good Samaritans in the world. They had too many supplies and volunteers within hours of making their initial request. Now it's just particulars they need.
Hell, they even have Yoga Classes.
Steph was telling me she went out to dinner last night and restaurants were packed. As she described the scene in the crowded restaurant, in my best Valley Girl voice I intoned, "Like, yeah, the house is totally gone and I--- Oh wow! Have you tried this swordfish? This is totally to-die-for!" Yeah. That's almost how it is.
Additionally, people take the initiative to create things like this:
(from fark.com) 2007-10-24 08:53:08 PMIt's wonderfully overwhelming, the sense of community and connectedness. It's what will get us through the long and difficult days of clean-up ahead of us.
I don't know if anyone posted this yet, but volunteers (including my husband) at the Computer Science Department at UCI were up all night and working this morning to make Calfirehelp.com--a website where people who have been displaced by the fires can get in touch with people who want to give them a place to stay. The site also has a news feed and maps. If you have been displaced and need a place to stay or if you have some extra room please check it out!
(from their website) This site allows evacuees to look for shelter, and volunteers to provide shelter. It also provides a news feed with information on the current state of the fires. Please click the links above to get started.
Current Hosts Who Can Provide Housing: 20
Current Guests in Search of Housing: 6
At the far end of Rohr Park, a horse evacuation center has been set up. There are only a few horses there, but Dave who is there with his horses tells me I am welcome to give them some hay and and carrots.
They are pasture horses, and used to running free on a large acreage. Being kept in the pen overnight after having been evacuated is tedious for them and it's evident they are agitated. After tying the horses that are not his on the outside of the corral, I help Dave unhook the lead ropes from his horses so they may run around the pen while we talk about the area, about trails that we both enjoy - I with a mountain bike and he on a horse.
It turns out that horseback riders have endurance events too. He was tells me about a 35 - 50-mile ride that they take into the back country. Covering that kind of distance takes at least 5 hours or more on a mountain bike, and with all the climbing is especially difficult. It takes about that long on a horse too, and I'm as surprised that he would undertake such as ride on a horse as he is that I would do so on a bike. We both think the other is slightly crazy, but respect the other's right to be so. For the record, I've only done one mountain bike ride like that (but it was only 25 miles!). I was the only female, and yes, I was in way over my head.
Dave is the coordinator for Horse Evacuation and Rescue centered at Rohr Park. Although very few people took advantage of the this location, there are over 2500 horses at the evacuation center at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. I can't imagine the chaos there. Horses are very sensitive creatures. You can have 20 horses in a paddock that are calm and steady, add one horse that is high-strung and agitated, and suddenly you have 21 horses that are agitated and kicking up dust. Dave is thankful for the calm that surrounds us here in Bonita, as are his horses.
I leave Dave my phone number in case he needs any volunteers to help if things start to get crazy. Although most evacuations have already taken place, the fire is moving through Julian and across to Deerhorn Valley, and we may be getting overflow from Del Mar.
Evacuation areas are shown in red...
I check back with Dave and Dana later in the day, when my friend Stephanie and I return to Rohr Park and feed the horses some more carrots and ask if we are needed.
It is quiet, and the horses have adjusted to their temporary home. Dave says it's been almost like a vacation for him. He sits in the shade in his captain's chair by the lake (don't be fooled; it's a duck pond), watching the horses and visiting with folks who stop by the feed them carrots or just chat. A family came by, and Dave put the little daughter up on one of the horses and gave her a little horseback riding lesson. He said the mother was grinning from ear to ear.
We talk about how San Diego has pulled together as a community, and taken responsibility for its citizenry. I was in north central NJ on Sept 11, 2001, and commented that I didn't think I would ever see such a sense of community, neighborly concern, and kindness outside of the Tri-State area (NY-NJ-CT), least of all in California. I think San Diego is truly unique in that aspect. I'm so proud to be here.
I am still in my house because they are going out on the burning hillside and have chosen to put their lives on the line. I walk straight up to the closest firefighter to me, take him by the shoulders and manage to choke out, "Thank you," then hug him briefly, look at him and smile, and move straight to the second one. Tears well in my eyes as I hug him too, "Thank you for working so hard," and so on to the third young man, "Thank you for saving my home," and then I thank the captain, who greets me with a warm smile.
They ask me where I live, and then comment that I should be in no danger now. Of course I've always had great respect for firemen, but I have a larger place in my heart now that I have been so close to the horror. We are so very blessed.
Note: All these photos are from SignOnSanDiego.com.
High winds Sunday and Monday spread the fires very very rapidly. And I mean really really high winds...
This is an image from Rancho Carillo near Carlsbad late Tuesday. I don't think there have ever been fire evacuations so close to the coast before. The sunset was amazing on Tuesday night.
photo courtesy of shyrmp. Images of the Harris Fire, burning in Jamul, approaching Otay Lakes. This is the fire that was bearing down on Bonita-Sweetwater where I live. Even though the winds had died down, and at times shifted back to the East, we were not completely out of danger yet... I believe these are from Tuesday night.
The power plant at Mt San Miguel.