Sunday, October 8, 2017 Canadian Thanksgiving
Even with the current state of Elvon, we have much to be thankful for. We had a quiet day, French toast for breakfast, with bacon and sausage, cleaned up paperwork, and booked hotels for Singapore and Hong Kong. That had been nagging at me, as we are going around Chinese New Year, and the local people travel. Now, our little group has two great places to lay our heads, The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the Conrad in Hong Kong. That done, we spent an hour in the gym, I picked up 9 eggs from our Lodge chickens, and we had leftover chicken with gravy, sweet potato sauce, and a Caesar salad, on our balcony, with its lovely sunset.
I had a couple of nice phone calls with friends, and we settled in to watch Anthony Bourdain at 9:00 pm. He’s my kind of tourist, all about food. By 11:00 pm, we were in bed for sleeping purposes, but I smelled smoke. It was coming from outside. I called the concierge and she told me not to worry, the fire department was on its way. The fire was at some little distance. What she didn’t know was how big it was. I had no sooner turned off the light when a text from Susan came in, to the effect that Silverado was being evacuated. So, I turned on the TV and found ABC was covering the story. There was also a fire in Calistoga, which is at our level in the Napa Valley.
Next thing I heard was there was another fire at Mark West Springs and Riebli Rd. Now, that’s close, not more than 5 miles. The fires were big and the winds were strong, gusting to 55mph in Santa Rosa. I decided to take no chances, as evacuating Elvon was going to be a serious project. I ran down to our locker and grabbed an overnight bag, and Sylly P’s carrier and traveling gear. Then I called Pat Gustafson, to tell her we were leaving, and did she want to come. She called her son Matt, who coordinates the CalFire in this neck of the woods. She got his wife, Cindy, who invited us all to their place in Windsor for the night. It was serious, all right.
Pat, Mike Desky, Elvon and Helen mustered and were ready to go, in three cars, in about ten minutes. The Lodge had just decided, or had been told, to evacuate, and people were going door to door, rousting the residents. We were none too quick, either. Just after we started north on 101, we saw the flames, and they were close. We drove through a lot of smoke, with flames on the right shoulder. You could barely see, but it was, thankfully, a small area.
By the time we got to Windsor, I had figured out that I wasn’t going to risk taking Elvon into a private home, with the possibility of another evacuation looming. I got back on 101, with a plan to drive until I couldn’t smell smoke any more, and then some. When we got close to Ukiah, about 60 miles up the road, it was smelling bad again, and you could see flames ahead, and, about 5 miles further up, the road was closed. I told the nice flag man my story and asked about options and he sent me to the coast to pick up US 1 north.
On the way there, I decided to go south to Mendocino to hole up. It’s a quaint little town, but it doesn’t have much in the way of basic, flat, and accessible rooms. The Mendocino Inn was charming, and Mitch was very helpful, considering it was after 5:00 AM, but his accessible room was located up a long winding path that I couldn’t see myself dealing with. He suggested Fort Bragg, which is flatter and has chain hotels. So here we are at the Holiday Inn Express, where the seals were waking up and barking, as we got out of the car. Elvon didn’t want to stay there, but it was after 6:00 by now, and I had driven all night on no sleep. Breakfast was open, so I got us some cinnamon rolls and tea, and we had a little snack, while we watched the fires on all three networks.
Napa, and particularly Silverado, is a full-blown disaster and so is Santa Rosa. Fountaingrove Lodge was still standing at 10:00 am, when I turned off the TV, and its occupants were in the New Vintage Church, in downtown Santa Rosa. They may have to move again. I’ll find out when I turn the TV back on, which will be right after I send this. We’re well, albeit tired, and relatively safe, although there is another fire in Willits, 35 miles north-east of here. I hope we don’t have to move again. Here the air is relatively clean, with the ocean is across the street. It’s the roads that are iffy. I grieve for Napa. I saw Sallyann and Peter Berendsen’s house burn down on television. They won’t be the only ones. Our hearts go out to all of you. We are so sorry.