Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mosquito Ridge Road Fire


THE ASSAULT HAD BEEN INTENSE. And effective. Fire engines, pumpers, tankers, the ambulance, a couple of green Forest Service pickups and some supervisory Cal Fire vehicles choked the road. Amidst the collection, positioned at an angle to block passers-by was the white Law Enforcement Ford Explorer. Now covered in an orange slime looking a bit like a layered birthday cake with twenty-minute old dollop of orange sherbet melting on its top.

A squat man, crew-cut hair, in a no-nonsense green uniform, and packing a no-nonsense side arm, looks beyond the two civilian pick ups that were in front of me in line and pointed.

I flash on him passing me as I snapped pictures from the wide point three miles back.

“You!” he yells above the equipment. “You’re next.” His left hand rests on the butt of his side arm. In his right hand he clutches a walkie-talkie with which he traces a line on the pavement for me to follow. Diagonally. Onto the shoulder. Between the upward cut bank and his frosted Ford.

“Go! Go! Go!” He yells swinging the hand-held in a giant circle.
I felt as if I should parachute over the edge.

I pass him and nod. Fifteen feet to the catty-cornered vehicle. I select my route.

“Wait!” he commands. “You…”

I looked over my shoulder.

“You! Wait.”

Oh great!

I thought of the pictures residing in the Leica. And of Joe Friday of the Forest Service spotting me snapping them as he raced toward the scene of the incident.

My blood ran cold, as if up-upslope wind had sliced not only through the Mesh Tex, but through my skin as well.

“Got a question for you.”

I pulled in the clutch lever, put a foot down and raised the visor on the Arai.

He crosses the pavement and puts a firm grip on the shoulder of the jacket.

“Armor, huh?” he asks.


“The jacket,” he repeats. “It’s padded, right?”

“Ummm. Yeah.”

“Elbows, too?”


“Elbows, too?” he asks. “This looks like a pretty neat thing. Is it cool?”

I’m flummoxed. “Ah, well, yeah.”

“You like it?”

I’m sure the gentlemen waiting in their pickups are none to happy that I got cuts.

“Well, yeah.”

“Where’d you get it?”

I can’t remember breakfast today, let alone where I bought this First Gear summer jacket two, maybe three years ago.

“Cycle Accessories? No. Cycle Barn. No, A&S. No… Heck, you can get them anywhere for about a hundred bucks.”

He squeezes the shoulder, then the elbow. “I gotta get me one.”

I look at him, full-face helmet covering most of the perplexity of my face.

“Just started riding about six months ago. Got me a GS, too. A 650.” he grins. “Well, have a nice day…”

Winking through the visor I throttle up. I catch Joe’s reflection looking at me in my rear view mirror.

Not like a cop. Like a brother.

I stop, put a foot down and motion him over.

“You take the motorcycle safety course yet, brother?” I ask.

He shrugs, “Nope.”

I point at the fire and its devastating aftermath. “And you think this stuff is dangerous?”

He grins like a sheep and off I ride.

(c) 2009
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. Great descriptions. My favorite:
    "My blood ran cold, as if up-upslope wind had sliced not only through the Mesh Tex, but through my skin as well." Gave me chills. The end made me smile.