Evacuation Over

The evacuation is over, I’m back at the RV park. Scale of destruction. Plus rants about a visit to the devastation in Paradise by [he who shall not be named] and another about the American Red Cross.

I’m back at the RV park and about 22,000 of the 52,000+ Camp Fire evacuees can also return home.  For the rest, there’s nothing to return to.

Related:  Evacuation, Fire Evacuation Contd.

The End Game

The current stats on the fire are now 88 fatalities (which does not count those who died at evacuation centers) and 203 missing. As for property 13,696 homes, 276 apartment buildings and 528 commercial buildings were destroyed. Thousands more damaged.

The RV park I’m at was not damaged – CAL Fire constructed a fire line around it and burned the ground away for almost a mile in all directions.  The first rain in 229 days then reached the area and finally put out the fire.

The air has cleared of smoke, but of course everything still smells burnt. 

Rant – HWSNBN

How was the visit to Paradise by [he who shall not be named]?  Well that went about as expected – dumbass comments off the chart:

  • Called the town “Pleasure” five times in one incoherent ramble.
  • Continued to deny Climate Change.
  • Said he “wants good climate”.
  • Said the President of Finland told him they raked the forest! Much to the surprise of the Finnish President and all the rest of the Finns.  #MakeAmericaRakeAgain!
  • … and so much more I can’t even stand to think about it.

Rant – Community vs. Red Cross Support

The community volunteers at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds were fabulous and generous. Thousands of them. And their donations were extreme. The Red Cross? Not so much.  They arrived a week after the evacuation, kicked out all the volunteers and removed most of the donated supplies. Hot meals provided by local restaurants? No more. Evacuees were fuming that coffee was being served at 2oz per person. Now I didn’t go verify that but I did make a cup of coffee for anyone trying to bend my ear ranting about it. The mood at the shelter was in freefall when I left.

I’m sure no expert about disaster management, and it’s very easy to complain. My privileged position – having my whole house with me – meant I didn’t feel personally the things that made so many upset. Still it was clear that the mood at the shelter changed from gratitude and appreciation for the support of the community to anger and hopelessness in a single day.

Putting aside the issue of performance in a disaster, I don’t support the organization financially,

The Red Cross raised over $1.2 million, in a telethon lasting just a few hours, “for the victims of the Camp Fire” in partnership with Sacramento TV station KCRA. However, the fine print on the donation form reads that the donations go to the Red Cross general fund, not to aid any specific incident. Much like Katrina or the $500+ million raised for Haiti very little will actually find its way to the victims donors thought they were helping specifically. Please support a more accountable charity in lieu of the American Red Cross.

Fire Evacuation, contd.

A week after the start of the Camp Fire and the destruction of Paradise California, I’m still safe and sound at the Yuba-Sutter Fairgrounds in Yuba City. Tens of thousands of other evacuees, not so much.

The death toll is now at 63 and 631 people are missing. This will go up on a daily basis – crews have only begun to search Paradise and have not searched the outlying towns. The fire has burned 141,000 acres (219 square miles) and is 40% contained. At least 11,862 structures have been destroyed (9,700 homes). 52,000+ people have been evacuated.

Survivor’s Guilt

The RV park I’ve been staying at for the winter was not damaged, but is still in the evacuation zone and has no access due to road closures.  There’s no power or water at the site also. This is so trivial compared to my neighbors at the fairgrounds, many of whom lost everything and may be sleeping in their cars or on cots in the auditorium. Norovirus is spreading through the auditorium.

Air quality here has stayed in the hazardous range (AQI over 400 as I write this, the ‘hazardous’ level, the worst rating, begins at 300). The hazardous air stretches from Chico to past Sacramento 80 miles to the south.

As if conditions weren’t bad enough, [he who shall not be named] is touring the area Saturday 11/17.  I wonder what dumbass thing he’ll say this time. Can’t say I’ve met anyone looking forward to the Buffoon in Chief’s visit.

Evacuation

It was a lazy morning, until I got a text from Jenna checking to see if I was OK and ventured back outside to check on this fire thing.  The smoke was thick and ash was falling everywhere.  An hour before nothing was going on. Now Clark Road was choked with bumper to bumper traffic heading south and fire equipment heading north.

Paradise Lost

The “Camp Fire” started at sunrise (about 6:30) on Thursday, November 8, near Pulga, California.  The National Weather Service had a Red Flag Warning up for the past couple of days and firefighters responded aggressively attacking the then 10 acre blaze.  By 7:30am the fire had grown to 3,000+ acres and Paradise, a town of 26,000, was under mandatory evacuation.  By 8:30 Paradise was on fire.

Time to Go

At the RV park we lost power and water just after 9am. It was time to go. I quickly got the RV into travel mode and joined the walking speed traffic heading south. That night I’d learn at least five people burned to death in their cars fleeing Paradise.

I stopped at an evacuation center outside Oroville about 10 miles south with about 30 RVs and 200+ cars.  I brought my house while many others brought just a few photos, their  pets and the clothes they had on.  I gave away my blankets, a knit cap and gloves. Oroville residents cruised the park passing out water, food and blankets.  Overnight the low was 33 and we had one fatality. They say it was a heart attack, but I don’t really know.

Déjà vu Time to Go Two

By 5am the fire had grown to 70,000+ acres driven by high winds overnight. The southern perimeter still seemed to be 9 miles north.  The air stank of smoke, but the haze wasn’t horrible.  Nevertheless, just before noon, CHP and Butte County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived in force and said we had to go NOW, passing out maps to the fairgrounds in Yuba City, 45 miles south of the fire.

At arrival, a friend from the RV park needed EMT assistance.

The fire, just one of three major fires burning in California, is now among the worst in the state’s history.  The places I stayed, shopped and hiked in Paradise are lost along with thousands of homes, businesses and an unknown number of lives.

More to follow.

That’s a Wrap – 2017

The year started in Holtville and ended in Holtville. Along the way some old stuff cropped up and some new adventures were had. The new year features an epic continental crossing.

In this Post

  • Holtville Bookends
  • Again
  • Something Different
  • 2018 the Great Loop

Holtville Bookends

2017 started and ended in Holtville, California. Why Holtville? Well, it’s nice to hang out with Seann, Jenna, Gary, Joyce and Gary. The hot spring here makes a great evening ritual. It’s warm and sunny, and sometimes it’s just nice to take a break from traveling all the time.

Again

There was a lot of “again” in 2017. Flagstaff, again. Grand Canyon, again. Repairs, again and again. Holtville, again. Yuma for solar again. The solar system is working great and I haven’t started up the generator once, even for a 5 day stretch of dark skies. Electricity when you want it – what a concept.

The canyon was eye opening. The first time I ever went down below the rim. It changes the “hole” experience.

Flagstaff, this time was a finale. Kylee graduated NAU and I helped her pack up and set off for Seattle.

And of course, repairs were with me the whole first half of the year.

Something Different

One of the new things this year was a new RV. That lead me to spectacular new places.

There was also a month in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, and a night in an abandoned mall in Yuma.

The Great Northern Loop

There’s a 6,000+ mile northern arc on tap for 2018. Starting in Issaquah, Washington at the beginning of May, I’ll be going through British Columbia, Alberta – Banff and Jasper, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Wisconsin, making a ferry crossing to Michigan, Ontario, Quebec and ending up in Maine.

But for now, it’s time for the WiNs gathering in Quartzsite. Wagons Ho!

Slab City

Slab City – end of the line for the down and out, snowbird haven, RVer right of passage, trash heap, an alternate way of life, eclectic arts and living, the last free place in America. Whatever. Maybe it’s all of that, maybe not.

Whatever Slab City is, it pulled me in. I’d planned to spend less than two weeks and wound up staying a month. Of course I was staying with a great group of people at the Slab LoWs encampment (LonersOnWheels.com, Slab Lows on Facebook). Whether it’s morning coffee by the campfire, afternoon happy hour or something in between, every day turned out to be a treat. Jenna, Seann, Shane, George and all the rest, I miss you already.

Maybe you’ve heard of Slab City through the movie Into the Wild, and thought they’re making it seem more weird, more cool, more whatever. Nope. If anything it’s the other way around.

Salvation Mountain

A three story high hill painted over two decades by the late Leonard Knight to express his love of God.

Salvation Mountain, Slab City, California
Salvation Mountain, Slab City, California

The Range

The Range is the world famous open air nightclub with a great show every week created by the one and only Builder Bill, but it’s not the only show in town – don’t miss Radio Mike’s, the VIP Lounge and the Oasis.

The Range nightclub a few hours before the show begins.
The Range nightclub a few hours before the show begins.
Band after band rocks the Range
Band after band rocks the Range


East Jesus

No religious connotation, just colloquial for “middle of nowhere.” East Jesus is an art collective with pieces created from discarded items and trash.

East Jesus

Giant Lizard Sculpture in Wire and Plastic Grocery Bags
Giant Lizard Sculpture in Wire and Plastic Grocery Bags
A mural in progress at East Jesus.
A mural in progress at East Jesus.
The TV wall at East Jesus
The TV wall at East Jesus

Sculpture at East Jesus

Sculpture at East Jesus

The Bottle Wall at East Jesus
The Bottle Wall at East Jesus

Time to Go

There’s a time for everything and for the Slabs, summer is not that time. I’m heading to Sedona where I’ll find a red rock just waiting for someone to sit and meditate on it…

Sunset at the slabs
Sunset at the slabs

…and the slabs? I’ll be back.

Run for the Border

Gotta get to Canada Before …

er, before … well, I don’t know. Maybe I need a taco before they run out.

Now, I know it doesn’t sound like much of a run – two weeks for about 830 miles, but it’s RV time. You might make the drive in a day or two by car. In the RV time slows down and the journey is the thing. This one was fast, definitely a run.

I left Reno on May 29th and went to Susanville, California on the recommendation of my good friend Ray. This place had plenty of small town charm. My neighbor had a BMW RL1200 and knew the area really well which led to some great rides through the mountains.

Main Street, downtown Susanville, California
Main Street, downtown Susanville, California
The Susanville City Hall (left) and the Masonic Temple. Downtown Susanville, California.
The Susanville City Hall (left) and the Masonic Temple. Downtown Susanville, California.
Antelope Lake
Antelope Lake

Ray said the drive north out of Susanville was really something – it did not disappoint. I really need a dash cam. As you’re winding through the tall pines, every once in a while you come to a a little gap and all of the sudden there’s

Mount Shasta
All of the sudden there’s this giant bright, bright white mountain, overwhelming everything else, and then it’s gone

I spent a few days in Mount Shasta City at the foot of the dominating peak. All the locals know it’s an active volcano. They all know the geologists say it will likely erupt again (in the next 200 years). And they know the lahar and pyroclastic flow could relegate Mount St. Helens’ eruption to footnote status. Still, there they are, in the foothills, captivated by the majestic peak.

Roadside Oregon

A short mountain ride from Gold Hill, Oregon is the Oregon Vortex roadside attraction where people and things appear to get taller or shorter depending on where they are standing. Now the science guy in me wanted to chuckle, but I’ve got to admit the outdoor demonstrations were pretty impressive. I’d also note that my phone’s GPS could not get a fix within 2 miles of this spot (queue Twilight Zone music).

Which one is taller?  The ground is level, checked by a carpenter's level and I checked it with my phone also.
Which one is taller? The ground is level, checked by a carpenter’s level and I checked it with my phone also.
The ground really is level.
The ground really is level.

Speaking of Twilight Zone

Two days later, with a stop to see one of my favorite authors, Neil Stephenson, speak, I was at the border – Port Angeles, Washington.

Port Angeles is a small city (pop. ~19,000) across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria, British Columbia. It does have quite a bit of charm.

Downtown Port Angeles
Downtown Port Angeles
Port Book and News (movie location) Port Angeles
Port Book and News (movie location) Port Angeles
Bella Italia (movie location) Port Angeles
Bella Italia (movie location) Port Angeles

Victoria

6/16 – Victoria, BC. You get to Victoria by ferry – it’s on Vancouver Island and there are no bridges. Taking the RV across was prohibitively expensive. I also decided not to take the motorcycle across since I still don’t have a reliable GPS I can use offline. So, I boarded Keira for a few days and took the ferry to Canada.

The MV Coho, loading in Port Angeles for trip to Victoria, BC, Canada
The MV Coho, loading in Port Angeles for trip to Victoria, BC, Canada
Port Angeles from the ferry to Victoria
Port Angeles from the ferry to Victoria
Approaching Victoria
Approaching Victoria
Victoria Harbor
Victoria Harbor
BC Parliament
BC Parliament

Victoria is a maze of twisty little two lane streets, very densely populated, vibrant and cosmopolitan like New York, but it’s uber clean and the people are way nicer. It is the capital of the province and a hot spot for tech and design professionals.


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And Now …

It’s back to the desert.

Monterrey Bay to Reno

I’d spent a good long time hanging around the Colorado River and it was time, time to move on. Through Barstow, Bakersfield and Santa Nella to Monterrey Bay, just 10 miles south of Santa Cruz.

The area is spectacularly beautiful, but also spectacularly expensive.

Manresa State Beach, Monterrey Bay, California
Manresa State Beach, Monterrey Bay, California. Not from a quad copter, this shot is from 2/3 of the way down the steps from the cliff.
Point Santa Cruz Lighthouse
The lighthouse at Point Santa Cruz. The black dots in the water off the point are surfers.
Santa Cruz Boardwalk
Santa Cruz Boardwalk, viewed from the Wharf.
A trail near the campground at Monterrey Bay
A trail near the campground at Monterrey Bay

From there I went to Sacramento to have some routine maintenance on the RV, plus a repair of a hydraulic jack (same problem as in 2013, but a different jack). Since it looks like 3-4 weeks to get the part they need, I headed on, through Donner Pass, to a pretty nice spot just 7 miles outside Reno.

Morning, Outside Reno

Ruffing it Outside Reno

Snowbird

At the end of October I went back to the valley for some crazy expensive dental work, a vet appointment, RV repairs (had an overheating issue and another oil leak), a poker game with the gang, and of course that all important smog test I need to keep the RV registered.

No stop in Phoenix is complete without Carolina's
No stop in Phoenix is complete without Carolina’s

Afterwards, while most of the country settled in for another crazy cold winter, I went full snowbird, starting with a stop in Quartzsite with a quarter million other RV’ers, then on to the Colorado River.

Couldn’t completely avoid the snow, we had flurries blowing around New Year’s Eve in Laughlin.

If only I had a Tesla, I’d know just where to charge it up.

No waiting for a spot to charge your Tesla in Gila Bend, Arizona
No waiting for a spot to charge your Tesla in Gila Bend, Arizona

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Mobile Again

After 25 days, the repair on the RV is finally done and I’m out of Bakersfield. There’s probably nothing wrong with Bakersfield, but I really only wanted to spend a day.

Why so long? Camping World’s collision center repaired the damage I caused and the damage they caused in two days.  The leveling jack, however, had to be ordered and took 10 days to come in. When it arrived it was the wrong part so we had to wait another 12 days. The actual repair took 2 hours.

I was worried about the dog, so I kept this drive short going only to Barstow. Keira was actually fine on the drive, sleeping in her hutch the whole way. We’ll move on in the morning.

New Ride

My new 2013 BMW C650GT
My new 2013 BMW C650GT

On Tuesday (10/29) I drove down to LA to check out some bikes for sale. Ultimately I bought this BMW C650GT at New Century BMW.  Of course, I’d driven the rental car there so I couldn’t bring it back with me.  On Thursday, with a bit of logistics (drop Keira off at daycare, take a bus to LA, taxi to the dealer) I was back to pick up the bike.  They spent a few minutes going over the controls and gauges with me, like you’d expect on any new vehicle and I was on my way back to Bakersfield.  Yes I’m still stuck in Bakersfield.

It’s a 110 mile ride, 90 of which is freeway, so in less than 2 hours I was back at the RV park.  I don’t know of any mountain roads near here, so I just rode around the city for a few more hours.

Best Bakersfield day by a long shot.