Monday, November 13, 2017

As the Smoke Cleared

On October 9th, parts of my city of Santa Rosa, along with many other communities in Wine Country, were ravaged by a wild fire.  The final count of homes and businesses lost in the fire boarders on the incomprehensible.  I have yet to talk with a person since that day who does not personally know somebody who lost everything.  The stories of how people escaped, or sadly in some cases did not, will be told for years to come.

After surviving the initial onslaught of devastation, it was time to take stock as a first step towards the new future.  I was time to start rebounding.

Blue sky, fall colors!
Rebounding will mean different things to different people. I was very fortunate in that the fire never reached my neighborhood.  We didn’t even have to evacuate although we did pack the car one night just in case.  Therefore, rebounding for me should be much easier than it will be for others.  Still, I found myself needing a release. I needed some time to reflect.  I needed to enjoy being alive and a reminder for how grateful I am for all that I have. I needed to ride my bike!

It took three weeks after the fires before the smoke cleared enough to ride.  As always, I started thinking about where to ride as I was getting ready.  Since I was riding alone, my choices seemed unlimited.  As I rolled down the driveway and onto the road, I still didn’t know the exact route.  I only knew that I was heading west, away from the areas impacted by the fire.

Autumn among the vines.
I’m sure that one day I will go through the fire zones but this was not that day.  On this day, I needed to see Mother Nature’s softer side.  The side that creates beautiful landscapes along rolling hills versus her destructive side that can erase that same landscape overnight.

As I rolled along, I was acutely aware of what a beautiful day it was.  While the smoke-filled skies had created some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, I was very happy it was gone.  October is one of my favorite months of the year from a weather perspective and I had spent most of it trapped inside the house watching people wearing masks as they walked their dogs.  

The plan was to get out and enjoy the all of the beauty Sonoma County has to offer so I spent the time riding at a leisurely pace.  I made in out of town and into the vineyards.  As the grape vines prepare for their winter hibernation their leaves change into glorious hues of red, orange and yellow. 

The look of autumn.
At each turning point, I chose the road that I thought would be the prettiest.  In the process, I ended up taking some of my favorite roads.  While that may not have been the plan, in hindsight it made perfect sense.

The ride itself was fairly short at just over 29 miles.  However, it may have been the most therapeutic 29 miles I have ever ridden.  The beauty, the fresh air, the wind in my face, and the feeling of rolling along free of cares, even if temporarily, was magical.

I have ridden numerous time since that day as I try to enjoy the last days of autumn.  While still focused on the beauty of where I live, my last ride actually took me through some of the areas most impacted by the fire but I’ll talk about that at another time.  

For now, as winter is fast approaching, I find myself hoping that we will continue to see Mother Nature’s softer side.


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