Yesterday began for me at 12:52am. That’s when I received the first of three mandatory evacuation notices, via text message, from San Diego County. A fire, fueled by dry air and heavy winds, was burning just a few miles away.
I stood in my front yard and looked west. The horizon had an orange glow from north to south. Above the glow billowed gray smoke which was back-lit by the flames. The whole scene looked like a Hollywood soundstage.
The wind was blowing the fire away from town though. The wind charts on Weather Underground showed no expected change for at least 12-hours. I made the decision not to evacuate, but going back to bed wasn’t an option. The fire-line appeared to run the length of the border between the town of Fallbrook and Camp Pendleton.
I’d spend the next 6-hours looking out my window while toggling back and forth between the social media pages of several local fire authorities and a couple weather websites. During this time the fire grew from a few dozen acres to 3,100. At no time did I feel the town was in danger.
At 2:00pm, I was confident the fire was well enough contained that I put my wheels on the road, despite not getting any sleep. The wind had died completely, the sky was overcast, and it was 65°. All was good.
I’d been on the road just a few miles when ‘overcast’ morphed into pouring rain. Not really sure how that happened since rain wasn’t in the forecast. Fire can create its own weather though, or sometimes just re-organize what mother nature had intended. The rain lasted long enough to soak me to the core, and immediately gave way to falling ash from the fire — which stuck to my wet clothing like feathers to tar.
After the rain, the wind came back with a vengeance. All the while, I was riding toward the fire so I could see if it shifted. The wind riding home was the worst I’ve experienced since I left Boulder County in 2015. For the first time in 5-years, I rode a 5-mile split in single digits — 9 mph. I was grinding on flat ground.
As I transitioned a three-way intersection in Bonsall, I experienced something else for the first time in years — I was struck in the shoulder by Tumbleweed. That sounds harmless and even a bit funny, but the last time it happened, it knocked me off my bike and into a ditch. I stayed on my bike this time, but decided to stop and photograph the tumbleweed.
With the sky clearing again and the wind dying, I thought the worst of it was over. And just like that, the wind rain returned — just in time for my 7-mile climb back into town. My green jersey and shorts were gray with soggy ash.
The setting sun was eclipsed by storm clouds and smoke from the fire. It looked like a scene from a Cecil B DeMille film. I knew my average speed for the ride was was going to be crap. I didn’t care. In fact, I wasn’t even put off by any aspect of the experience. I rather enjoyed it all.
It was Christmas Eve. I had ridden through rain, heavy wind, falling ash, toward fire, and was hit by a tumbleweed. It occurred to me that a lot of people were home laid out on the sofa — drinking eggnog, eating cheese logs, watching television, and making smalltalk they wished they could get out of. I was doing I wanted to do — what I would rather be doing than anything. The smote failed. The ride continued. It was a holiday miracle.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
Bike: Cortez The Killer
14.6 mph avg
Yesterday’s earworm: Tell Me That You Love Me, by Eric Clapton