Adrenaline, Decision and Perception….oh sh*t!

We interrupt your regularly posting of twowheelstwofeet motorcycle blog for the latest breaking news…

On Tuesday, August 16th, sometimes after 11:00 am, I looked out my window and noticed that there is another plume of smoke to the south of me.  Sh*t…not another fire! We’re just wrapping up from the Pilot Fire near here which started a week ago and just was contained this morning. One thing I learned from that fire is that perception is not what it’s seem. The smoke from the Pilot Fire made it seem like the fire was much closer than it has been. So, I hop onto P2 to hit the OHV trail to head out to the Lookout Point which is about a mile south of my house.

By the time, I got to the Lookout Point, there were four other people there, long time resident of the area.  We started debating where we think the fire is.  Like I said earlier, perception can be distorted.  The consensus appears to be that it is on the west side of the 15 Freeway which is good news for us since we live on the east side.  These old timers stated that as long as they have lived here once the fire started it usually stay one side or the other of the freeway. It seems all at once, we all let out a sigh of relief at the same time.

We stayed awhile and chit chatted about P2, my motorcycle trip and the old timers’ glory days of riding.  Every now and then, we would turn our head to check out the status of the fire.  Then all of sudden, the power line above us starting crackling and setting off sparks of electricity.  We all knew that it was not safe to stay there anymore and head back.  I managed to take a picture before I hop back onto P2 and head home.

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By the time I got home, I was able to access the InciWeb, an Incident Information System website listing all of the fires in United States.  I found out that it was being called the Blue Cut Fire and here what it reported. The Blue Cut Fire started on August 16, 2016 at 10:36 AM in the Cajon Pass along Old Cajon Blvd. north of Kenwood Avenue west of Interstate 15. The fire quickly spotted across Cajon Creek and grew into a large wildland fire. During the course of the fire fight, railroad lines, local roads, highway 138 and Interstate 15 were closed along with a large evacuation area that included Lytle Creek, Wrightwood, Summit Valley, Baldy Mesa, Phelan and Oak Hills.”

I knew it wasn’t going be long before the law enforcement would be coming around to tag our house for mandatory evacuation.  Mark was already on the way home and I called my son, Chris, to come over to help us since we have a cat, two dogs, two horses and six motorcycles to get out of here.  Oh Sh*t…we only have a three rails motorcycle trailer so which one should we take?  We ended up deciding to take our new Adventure style motorcycles and P2 out and leave the rest.  Now, it’s time to load up the van with all of the important papers and personal stuff that are not replaceable.  By the Mark and Chris got to the house, the power was already out.  On top of it all, as part of the San Bernardino County Search and Rescue team (SBSAR), we were called out to help out with the large animal evacuation.  Luckily, the priority is that ourselves and our home comes first and then everyone else.

Mark headed out with our horses to drop them off at a friend’s house and he will be back to get our neighbor’s horses.  Meanwhile, I stayed behind to finish up loading up the bikes and other belongings.  I got it all done and noticed that Mark was not back yet.  So I called him to see what is taking so long, he started cussing about all of the “lookie loo” on the main road that would just stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures of the fire.  This was causing difficulties to navigate around these idiots.  I finally got to see what he was so upset about when it was time to take the dogs and the van with the motorcycles out.  It was really frustrating!  I wished that everyone would just stay home and watch it on the news so we could get our job done.

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Once our animals and personal belongings were safe and sound, it was time to go back to our neighborhood to be on “standby” in case any other of our neighbors needed help with the evacuation.  While waiting, since our house is the last one on the street, it became the staging area for the Los Angeles County Fire Department who were fighting the fires in our zone. We were able to provide them with valuable information about the roads, trails, and the terrains.  As the night falls, we propped ourselves on top of our roof to watch the fires.  Then all of the sudden, the fire trucks in driveway turn around and left.  We looked at each other and were baffled as to why they were leaving since the fire is burning on the ridge next to our house.  We looked to see where they went and realized…oh sh*t…the fire is roaring up the main access road and it’s our only way out of the neighborhood.  I guess it’s time to get the heck out of there.

By the time, we got to my mother-in-law’s house to crash for the night, we got a call out from SBSAR to help evacuate thirty-three horses from the Phelan area.  Oh sh*t…it’s going be a long night!  We finally made it back to our temporary lodging for the night, we got a text from a relative who is in law enforcement and just finished patrolling our neighborhood letting us know that our house is still standing.  What a huge sigh of relief!  Now, we can crash for the night.  However, neither of us gotten much sleep.  We’re still running on adrenaline and our minds are going a hundred miles per minutes.

We got up early and snuck back into our house to see for ourselves that our house was still standing.  Relieved and then we looked at each other, wondering what should we do now.  At that moment, we realized that the both of us reek with the smell of smoke.  We decided that we should take a shower but with the power out, will we get any hot water?  We figured it was better than nothing; luckily, it wasn’t too cold.  Feeling all clean, both of us crashed again.  We woke up to the sound of the television being turned on.  It look like the power is finally back on again.  Oh sh*t, we still felt like crap.  How do the adrenaline junkie deals with the crash after the rush?  We’re still completely exhausted from yesterday ordeal.

Even though our mandatory evacuation was finally lifted on Friday, our volunteer work with SBSAR was still not done.  Many of the other areas in the fire were still under mandatory evacuation and sadly, many of the animals were not able to be evacuated due to various reasons.  So, SBSAR partnered with San Bernardino County Animal Control and Barstow Fire Department, we were allowed into those area to feed and water to the animals that were left behind.

Oh sh*t…this fire has caused a horrific path of devastation that seems random at times.  As we traveled down the road, you would see a house standing without a scratch whereas the houses on either side completely burned down. It wasn’t until we working in those areas that I realized how blessed we were in our area.

I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of those involved in helping fight the fire and those who help with the evacuation.  We couldn’t have done it without you!

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Overland Expo 2016

Last year, the Overland Expo (OX) was the start of my journey around the back road of United States.  This year, I will be working the event as an ASL interpreter for an attendee.   Now, I need to figure out which mode of transportation I want to take to the event. Plus, I need to see if my partner, Mark, wants to attend the event as well and if he does, how much vacation time he can take off.  Also, if he does want to go, then this will also determine which way we will travel to OX.

After much discussion, he decided that he wanted to go and we will be taking the van.  Several months ago, we bought a 2006 Ford diesel e350 van to convert it into a camper van.   Our plan was to use it as way for me to continue traveling since the arthritis in my hands can’t handle long trip anymore.  The camper van would allow us to travel to a base camp and then bring along the bikes to do short trips from there.  We originally found a contractor to help us with the conversion but he wasn’t able to help us right away and we haven’t been able to find another contractor that would work for us.  Summer was approaching, so we decided to put the project on the back burner for now until winter.

So, we figured that we might as well utilize the van for this trip since it does have a reclining bench that can be used as a bed.  Realistically, it is not big enough for the both of us but we will make it work for now.  Also, this trip would be a good practice run for us to learn what would work and what doesn’t work of the camping gears that we have bought so far.

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Getting to Mormon Lake, AZ from our house is only about 6 hour drive but Mark was really excited to be attending his first overland adventure event with me so we took off on Wednesday night.  We took our time driving and made a lot of stops along the way, we ended up stopping at Kingman KOA for the night.  Even this late at night, it was still quite hot and realized that an A/C should be on the top of our list for the camper van conversion.

We got up early the next morning and headed on out to our final destination, the OX.  Once we arrived, I was surprised that Roseann managed to obtain a camping site right next to the presenter’s Moto Village so I could be close to all of my friends.

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We arrived in plenty of time before I needed to be at the presenter’s meeting where I will be introducing myself to all of the Nicole’s instructors to give them the 411 on what to expect while I’m interpreting during their class.

The four days spent as an ASL interpreter was challenging and rewarding at the same time.  The challenges were taking on the persona of four different presenters in the same class, the long days or having to come up with technical signs for the various type of winches when there is only one sign for it.  However, the rewards were knowing that the attendee was able to grasp what was being said in the presentation and building a friendship with her.

 

I have to give a special thanks to the Land Rover Team. The instructors went out of their way to make sure that the attendee and I were taken care of while out on the course for the Vehicle Marshalling Skills class.

Well, it wasn’t all work and no play, there were a couple of gaps in her schedule where Mark and I were able to catch a couple of classes ourselves.  The first one we were able to squeeze in was the DIY Overlander: How to convert an ambulance, bus or military truck.  Even though we don’t have any of those vehicles but thought that we might learn a few tips and tricks that would be beneficial to us.  Boy, it sure was!  One thing we learned that we did the right thing by taking the van on short trip to figure out what we need and want to have in our van before doing the conversion.  The second thing was when they asked us a question, “where do you typically park your camper?”  Most people try to find shade to park under so installing a solar panel on top of your vehicle is the most practical thing to do.  So they recommend getting a portal solar panel instead so you move it around to face the sun.

The other class that we managed to attend was the Overlanding Survival for Couples.  After traveling solo the past year, I going to need learn how to deal with the challenges of the constant togetherness on the road.  Oh boy, I haven’t laughed so hard in a class, Simon and Lisa Thomas sure made it enlightening.  My favorite tip was that if I can’t get Mark to do what I want then I can start withholding foods and sex and then he will come around. 🙂

 

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Photo by @classglass

We also were able to sneak in some times to wander around the exhibitor’s area to look at products that would be useful for our camper van.  Remember, in the DIY class, we learned that a portable solar panel is a better solution than the built-in one.  So we were on a mission to check out all of the vendors that were selling portable solar panel.   We finally came upon a vendor, overlandsolar.com, with the quality and the price we were budgeting for.  He had several different wattage solar panels available and convinced us that we didn’t need the biggest one for our van.  He even had a converted camper van as well and welcomed us to step in to see what he has done to it. So, I would highly recommend this vendor if you’re ever in need of a portable solar panel.

 

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During the evening, I am able to get some free time to catch up with some friends that I haven’t seen since last year when I left for my trip.  We were able to catch up as if no times have been lost.  However, I’m still amazes of the camaraderie that is shared among motorcycle riders.  A lot of them know my stories and they welcomed Mark into the circle of friends like he has been a part of it the whole time.

After we got home from OX, Mark asked me when the next event is, itching to get on the road again.  I smiled and said next month to the Touratech Rally in Plain, WA. I think Mark got the traveling bug now.

 

 

 

Prelude to Overland Expo 2016

There are events and rallies throughout the world for all types of overland adventurers such Horizon Unlimited, Overland Expo, Overland Rally, and Touratech Rally.   It was at the Horizon Unlimited event where Russ and I got the travel bug and started dreaming about life on the road.  As you know, our dreams got cut short. So when I made my promise to Russ that I will pursue our dreams now rather than later, I began researching and preparing for the big trip.  While reading up as much information as I could about overland travel, I came across an event called the Overland Expo.  They offer classes, roundtable discussions and demonstrations for different type of travel whether it’s by 4-wheel or 2-wheel.  In addition, the event also host over 200 vendors of adventure travel equipment, camping gear, bikes, vehicles and services.  I figured that this will be the perfect place to get as much information as I can.

This year was my third year attending the event.  Originally, I wasn’t sure that I was going to attend this year.  I was still in a funk since returning home from my trip so I didn’t sign up to be a presenter. Plus, Purple was still under construction.  However, a couple of months before the event, I across a Facebook post by the staff of Overland Expo requesting help in finding an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter for an attendee.  Hiring an ASL interpreter to provide the service required by law is expensive and they haven’t budgeted it to accommodate for that added expense.   Some of the comments on the Facebook post wasn’t very supportive to the needs of this attendee.  I was a little put off at first by these comments and was going unleash my opinion but realized that these comments were being made by ignorant people and doesn’t know what it is like being deaf or hard of hearing.  As being hard of hearing myself, I know what it is like not being able to understand what is being said and miss half of the presentation or show.  That kind of frustration makes you not want to go the movies, concerts, or any type of shows.

This remind me of the first time that I have had an interpreter provided for a comedy show.  Russ and I got invited to see the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Jeff Foxworthy with some friends of ours. I was dreading going knowing that I would be lost in the translation and frustrated with missing half of what was being said.  You got to remember that I depend a lot on lip-reading to understand what is being said.  I have a 65 to 75 percent hearing loss but with the assistance of hearing aids, I can hear almost at the same level of a hearing person.  However, even with the assistance of the hearing aids, I can’t hear ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘ed’, any sibilant (hissing) sounds, the intonation and/or the pitch of a voice that signal sarcasm or indicate the feelings on what is being said.  For example, if you ask a person how they are doing and they said good but with a flat voice tone.  A hearing person would know that the person is not being honest with their answer.  For me, I would have to look at the person facial expression to see that the opposite is true than what is being said.

Having that said, one of my girlfriend, who is a teacher for the deaf suggested that I get an interpreter for the show.  Me? I said to her. Mind you, sign language is my native language but was raised orally from fourth grade on and to this day, I do not use it every day.  I was raised with a mind-set that I’m not handicap and don’t require any assistance in functioning in a hearing world.  My friend finally convinced me that it would be helpful with the sarcasms, idioms and the meaning behind the jokes.  So, I called the event organizer and requested an interpreter for the show.  The event organizer change our tickets from the balcony to the front row so we see the interpreter up close.  I’m so glad that I went with her recommendation, it was the first time I could truly understand the meaning behind some of these jokes.  Actually, the interpreter and I became the centre of the show when Jeff Foxworthy started noticing that the interpreter was having difficulties with a sign for “Widjadidja” widjadidja(a redneck slang for “with you did you”).  Since there isn’t a sign for it, the interpreter had to spell it out and it took a while.  So Jeff noticed that and kept saying it over and over standing right behind the interpreter.  To the point where the audience was getting upset at Jeff Foxworthy for pulling this joke over and over again.  As an interpreter, you can never get out of your role but the audience was starting to boo and I had to tell the interpreter that the joke was being played on him and convince the audience that it was okay.

Even though, it became the centre of the show at one point, I became aware of how much I was truly was missing at event such as these.  I began requesting interpreter more and more.  I can now enjoy going to the show and not find excuses to not attend them.

With not seeing anyone stepping up to the plate on the Facebook post yet, I decided to reach out to the organizer of Overland Expo, Roseann Hanson, to let her know that I may be of assistance to them.  I was honest and up front with her stating that I’m hard of hearing and that I’m not fluent in ASL.  I suggested that they keep trying to find someone but will be available as a backup just in case.  I also let her know that the attendee may not accept me as an interpreter for a couple of reasons; one is that I’m not a certified ASL interpreter and two that I am known in the deaf community as “little d” whichoneMEDwhich mean that I was born deaf but do not socialize or immerse myself into the world of the deaf culture.  It can be viewed as a derogatory term when a deaf person who chooses to function and socialize in the mainstream society.

She took the information under advisement and contacted the attendee to see how she felt about it.  The attendee suggested that we have a Skype interview to see if my signing would be acceptable to her.  Man, I was so nervous about this interview that I actually hooked up with a friend of mine who is a child of a deaf adult (CODA) to practice conversing in sign language.

I guess the practice paid off! After the interview, the attendee had emailed Roseann to let her know that we had a good conversation and she doesn’t mind having me as an interpreter for her classes and workshops.  Now, I just need to start researching and learning the sign for some of the more technical words in overland travel such as “winching” which is the same sign as “towing”. towing