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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Waldo Canyon Fire: Sobering but Surviving

The other day a friend and I decided to head out for a coffee ride up to Woodland Park. This is the first time I have ridden up to Woodland Park since the Waldo Canyon Fire. It was a nice day, temps were a "little" on the high side up in the low 90's but not unbearable. The breeze was nice and cool so it did not feel so hot.

As I was riding up Highway 24, you could see the burned out area up on the right hand side of the road. I did not have the opportunity to really look at the terrain since I was leading and the traffic always seems to be heavy. I can't complain because the merchants of Manitou Springs have suffered financially by losing the tourist traffic during and after the fire. So, if there is heavy traffic, then I'm happy because they are supporting the local merchants.

We normally stop at Starbucks--yes, I know a "chain", but the coffee is consistent and it's always a fun place to hang out and people watch. However, Starbucks was packed both inside and out so we decided to walk next door to The Donut Mill. They have donuts, so I think it would be safe to assume there would be coffee available. 

There was.

My friend also decided to get a raspberry-filled donut. Like all the comments that I've read about The Donut Mill, the donuts are HUMONGOUS!  

Yes, it was.

Large enough that we easily split it and still had leftovers.

Coffee and donut done, we headed down the highway back towards Colorado Springs. As I was riding down, I got to see the devastation from the fire. I could see the burnt-out trees and land charred by the fire. In my mind's eye I could see the very dry trees bursting into flames.

What was even more scary was the portion of Highway 24 that narrows into a canyon-like rock formation. It is close enough that the fire could have easily shifted over the highway and continued the destruction on the south side of Colorado Springs.

In talking to friends from Woodland Park a few days later, they told me that it was indeed a very perilous situation. The desire to not allow the fire to jump the highway was so great--and the firefighters were stationed 50 feet apart to quickly quell any flame that started. It was my understanding that they worked through the night.

The firemen won that victory. They drew the line in the sand and held it.

Once back in town, I also rode through Garden of the Gods. For the most part, the park was unchanged. There were a few of the trails that headed west that were closed. The park was full of tourists and locals, so it was good to see all the people enjoying the beauty of the park.

As I exited the park, I headed north and continued on down Centennial. It was here that I could see the large swaths of trees burned, their dark skeletons unclothed pine trees were like soldiers standing at attention. Down one mountain face, up another.

 (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti)

As I continued down Centennial, I noticed that many of the subdivisions had signs that said "local traffic only". I heeded the signs because I think the residents of The Mountain Shadows need time to come to grips with this disaster. I know at some point, I want to take my son up into the area only to show him the devastating effects of fire--and that it is indeed no joke.

Centennial then becomes West Woodmen and I continued my ride. The many signs thanking the first responders and firefighters were flying proudly on fences--many many many signs.

Lisa Price Waltman

As I was riding through the neighborhood on West Woodmen, I could see all the beautiful homes on the mountain side--all intact. There were some places that the fire came down to the road and there were places that fire burned in some backyards.

It was quite emotional. Thinking of the firefighters working to save homes even to the point that the fire was in some one's backyard, had my tears flowing.

As I rode home, I took comfort in knowing that our community has rallied together to pay homage to the first responders and fire fighters that worked to keep our community safe and open their hearts and wallets to help those that have lost so much.

Things have started to get back to "normal" with residents rebuilding. The folks at the Flying W Ranch will also rebuild. They have started a foundation that will help the ranch rebuild, so they can continue their 60 years of ranch history in The Springs.

Photo by RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

So while our community and the surrounding areas have had a trying time, we are still open for business. Pike's Peak, Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, and all the surrounding areas are all still here.

The rains came within the next few days, and thankfully, the fire was completely contained. 

Until next time,

Keep the Shiny Side Up....

~The Rainbow Wahine

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Colorado Renaissance Festival and What to Have in the Saddlebags

Sunday was a ride up to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. The Ren Fest is an annual event in Larkspur, Colorado and while in their 36th year, would be a first for me.

The day was cloudy and overcast--one that was welcome after the dry heat and Waldo Canyon Fire. Our caravan consisted of motorcycles and vehicles--some of my friends decided to really go all-out dressing up and felt that riding in fairy outfits consisting of short dresses and cute shoes would not be appropriate. I think they would have done it, but the weather forecast included rain--no fun in any situation. Riding the motorcycle to the Renaissance Festival is always a good idea! Parking is right outside the front door!

Another good reason to ride, I might add!

The Ren Fest was a blast! Not only was I transported in time, there was excellent food, libations, entertainment and shopping! There was also people watching--interesting the number of kilts were on-site. that a skirt or a kilt, LOL!!!

Yes, you can even get a massage by a maiden!

The weather was very cooperative. My friends commented that the weather is normally hotter than blue blazes and the cloudy and overcast weather made for a fine day! In addition, it rained the day before and therefore the dust from the dryness was minimal.

My friends and I decided to cut out mid-afternoon.

As we headed out, I noticed the rain clouds over the city were---well, raining. My mind's eye raised a few cautionary flags because the rain was coming down where we were going.  Unfortunately, the situation did not get any better with lightning flashes. As far as I was concerned, I was ready to pull off the road and call it good until the rain was over.

Have I ever mentioned that I do not like lightning?

We managed to avoid the rain for a while. As we get to the city limits of Colorado Springs, the rain started. Seeing that I'm riding with my Ren Fest garb, I decided that I should put my coat on. I pulled out of the group. Two of my fellow riders decided it was a good idea and did the same.

The rain continued and it was not too heavy--at least for the next couple of miles. The luck ran out when I rounded the curve to get on at Powers Boulevard and then sky opened up.


I pulled over again thinking that I wanted to put on my motorcycle goggles. Unfortunately, I did not have them in my saddle bag. At that point, I decided to not take Powers because of the rain and the speed--limits were 60 miles an hour and I felt safer on the side road.

If I had my goggles, I would have been fine. However, since I was riding with my usual sunglasses, I had to deal with the rain on my windshield as well as the rain on my sunglasses. It's typically not a problem, but since I am a contact lens wearer and the rain was heavy enough that I had the rain running down my face, that my vision was very limited.

I got a couple more miles in and then decided to pull off the road. Normally, I would have taken shelter at a gas station, bank, or other building with cover. There was none to be found.

So there I was, off the bike, flashers on, standing out in the rain. Not too much fun. With my vision being limited, I felt it was safer this way. So, if you were in north Colorado Springs on Sunday afternoon and saw a motorcyclist on the side of the road just standing in the rain...that would be me.

Fortunately, my friends came and rescued me--I got to ride home in a dry warm car, any my bike was ridden home by a rider with a full-faced helmet.

The story ends well--no harm, no foul. Another memorable story from what would have been a "ordinary" riding experience.

Note: I did put goggles in my bike!!

Until next time,

Keep the Shiny Side Up!

~The Rainbow Wahine

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Waldo Canyon Fire: Saving the Motorcycles

Here in Colorado Springs, the locals and media have been focused on the Waldo Canyon Fire. This fire started the end of June, and within a week, had burned over 18,000 acres. As of today, the fire has been 98% contained and we've been experiencing rain the past few days, so the threat of danger is about gone.

Unfortunately, about 350 homes have been lost and two people have lost their lives. Most of the damage was done around 4:20 pm on Tuesday, June 26th when the fire blew over Queen's Canyon and ran down the mountain face to devastate the Mountain Shadows Community. None of the firefighting experts anticipated this happening; the fire was on the other side of the canyon and they felt that the city had protection since the likelihood of the fire coming to the top of the ridge, down into the canyon and back up then to the face of the front rage was highly unlikely. The fire crews had been working to cut fire lines to contain the fire.

Until the perfect storm.

A thunderstorm formed changing the speed and direction of the wind. The storm generated 65+ MPH winds--pushing the fire to jump over Queen's Canyon and down towards the city. In a blink of an eye and within 20 minutes, the city was facing a raging fire at its doorstep.

In the midst of all this activity, a group of my close friends were on vacation--out of state. They returned back on that Tuesday. They did not travel together, so they started arriving around 6:30 pm--about two hours after the start of the fire storm. One friend was lived in an area that was pre-evacuated. I was caring for the house and pets, but after the pre-evacuation, decided to move the pets and gather important personal belongings. If the city had called a mandatory evacuation, it would have been difficult to get in to get the pets and items out since I was house-sitting and didn't have any documentation stating otherwise (I mean, really, who'd have thought something like that to happen?).

After the firestorm, his neighborhood was called to mandatory evacuation. My friend arrived back to town at  8:30 pm and did manage to get up to his home to get a few more things. He told me that he had never seen the entire ridge up on fire and burning like it did.

I had another group of friends that arrived back to town around 11:30 pm Tuesday. They had not called any evacuation, but the speed and ferocity of the fire stunned everyone and frankly, people were freaking out. The fire was creeping closer to those friend's homes and by Wednesday afternoon, the decision was made to  at least get the motorcycles out. It was something that could be moved quickly.

My friends and I gathered up into a small group and we drove down. To evacuate: five motorcycles--four to be stored at my home and one to be stored at another friend's place. For those that ride, the motorcycle is a very personal item. Many riders spend time and money personalizing their iron horse. In addition, the adventures that are "found" during rides form strong and lasting memories. So the motorcycle does become an extension of a rider--almost a living and breathing thing.

The smoke was pretty heavy since the fires were burning so close to the city. Fortunately, the wind was being cooperative. Until the WIND SHIFTED.

Fires bring special weather and that day was no exception. Riding back home, we felt the temperature drop and the wind once again shift. Riding back was a scary experience--the air grew very heavy from the smoke and we were pelted with ash and soot.

We did make it home with no incidents, thank goodness!

The motorcycles were safely stored and more importantly, my friends did not suffer any fire loss or damage.

Last week, we worked to return property and most order in our little group has been restored.

Sadly, I do have friends that have suffered losses and are working through the process to try and get back to "normal". I have faith that they will persevere. In addition, I have pledged to volunteer my time to help the victims of the Waldo Canyon fire.

My lesson learned is that life can change in a blink of an eye. I am glad that I was able to help my friends in their time of need.

Until next time,

Keep the Shiny Side Up!

~The Rainbow Wahine

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

For Father's Day: The Bucksnort

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get out and ride the beautiful roads of Colorado. Destination: The Bucksnort Saloon in Sphinx Park, Colorado. Located right out side of Pine, CO and Hwy 285, the Bucksnort is a great afternoon motorcycle ride. From Colorado Springs, it is a ride UP to The Bucksnort--the altitude is over 7,000 feet!

From the Springs, our little group of 8 or 9 headed West on Hwy 24. It's always a fun jaunt that takes us up through Ute Pass and through Woodland Park. At Woodland Park, we veer off to CO-67N and then CO 126. The ride on CO 126 has the back road feel to it--two lanes and rambling through the scenic Colorado countryside. Unfortunately, much of the wooded area shows the result of the Hayman Fire--which burned in 2002. It's a sobering reminder that fire is a tremendous issue in the dry and arid lands.

Once in Pine, a quick turn from CO 126 to 4th Street and then a quick right to CO 83 or S Elk Road. You have to keep your eyes peeled otherwise you will miss the signage for 4th Street. Believe me, I've missed it a time or two.

South Elk Road is now paved. It is a recent development and I know quite a few motorcyclists that were not interested in riding on dirt. Well, you can call it dirt, but it's really hard packed and not really an issue in my opinion. Nonetheless, the issue is moot, since the road is now paved!

The Bucksnort is known for the buffalo burgers--and yes, that's what I had. The grand offering of the "Forest Fire" or the buffalo burger with cream cheese and jalapenos. YUM!!!

Being Father's Day, it was really busy, but we managed to eat and visit. One of my female rider friends decided to pin up her dollar bill along with the hundreds of other autographed dollar bills tacked to the ceiling. Yes, she did autograph it with her John Hancock.

Refreshed, we headed out to continue our ride. Just continued to meander along the Colorado Country roads. I'm glad I did. Between this ride in June and today, Colorado Springs has faced a fast-burning fire from the Waldo Canyon fire and it's been pretty stressful. There is a motorcycle story in the fire--it will wait until my next post.

Here's the pic from The Bucksnort. The Harley is in the foreground:

The Bucksnort!

Until next time, please keep the shiny side up!!

~The Rainbow Wahine