I think this baby might dry out. The Triumph Bonneville, that is. It’s pretty much drowned, having taken long gulps of water up its air intake and carburetors, and only time and a break in the weather will tell if it dries out enough to have another go at functioning. I’d somehow managed to get the Harleys running after sitting in, no lie, 18 inches of trapped floodwater, not that it was easy.

We never saw this one coming. The meteorologists did not see this one coming. The hydrologists and river gauge monitors missed it too. We’ve been through a number of floods over the years; this is not our first hydrodeo. That’s just the cover charge for living in a wine country paradise, usually, but I didn’t see this one coming. Nobody did. The river raged over its banks and across the Alexander Valley with blinding speed, never mind that we had just been through three years of historic drought.

It came up so fast that my property went from moist to an island in the Russian River in a matter of minutes. So fast, in fact, that for the first time in all these years I didn’t have the chance to move the motorcycles out of the garage to high ground. It came up so fiercely that the water level made even opening the garage door a physical impossibility. So there the bikes sat suffering the soaking right up to the motors and more, flowing up the exhaust pipes, and depositing the stubborn silt mud all over the damn things. By the time the water had receded many hours later to the point where I could muscle open the garage door, I was met with a sight of gut-wrenching carnage. Muck and sogginess everywhere. The bottom drawers of my tool chest had become grim repositories of the dreck and expensive mud-marinated tools. The chainsaw soaked in its water-filled case. The bikes weren’t happy with me. They rely on me, and I’d let them down. The entire property was torn up by the coursing river, depositing debris of every description that came running down-valley and right into our laps. And anything buoyant on the property likewise swam off to points unknown. (I’m sure gonna miss that Weber. The river giveth and the river taketh away.)

Like I said, this was not our first hydrodeo. But it was our dog Clementine’s. She was absolutely mystified by the phenomenon and especially the fact that she couldn’t go out in the yard and do her business—it was under three feet of water in places, and moving like class 6 whitewater. She flat refused, despite my pep-club importuning, to just go take a whiz on the back deck above the water. It went against everything she’d ever learned, and she held her own water for a good day and a half before finding a dry route to a suitable pissing spot. Clem weighs about 12 pounds, but swear to God she must have let loose with about a gallon of waste when she finally got the chance to pump out her holding tank. She may yet become a competent biker dog, but I think boating is out of the question.

Against all odds, the Fat Boy fired right up without a complaint—only it wasn’t exhaust that issued from the pipes, it was steam—and lots of it. The FLHS took a bit more effort, first to sump out the crankcase oil that tends to accumulate in these older scoots, and then to turn it over and over until just as I thought it was a futile effort it fired to life and began evaporating the offending moisture from every hot surface—including the aforementioned steam emissions from the (aptly named) fishtails. And that was after emptying the water from the saddlebags and pulling out the dripping tool kits. It’s one incredible machine after 27 years—an Energizer Bunny of a bike.

I’d shut off the natural gas to the house when the flood reached the meter, and the electrical service became unreliable, but the water never did get inside the house where we remained dry though without heat or decent cooking facilities. It got under the structure real good, though, and that’s where the heat ducts are routed. So we lost some of that infrastructure and can’t begin to address it until the crawl space dries out enough to climb under there without a wetsuit—maybe April, the way things are lining up across the Pacific.

I attacked the catastrophe like a man flood-possessed; a flurry of hosing, squeegees, fans and heaters, cleaning out the muck and drying out the environs. Gallons of WD-40 were deployed.

Less fortunate neighbors were inundated, laying waste to their possessions—clothes, electronics, appliances, photo albums, and the rest of it. We’re pitching in where we can, and biker friends have come to offer their help to pitch in here as well. The task is and will continue to be daunting for the foreseeable future.

There’s an upside to all of this, though. Now I will turn my attention to a thorough detailing and maintenance of the motorcycles, which I’ve put off because of ongoing time pressures. That’s good and certainly overdue. And even better, I think the flood has eliminated my gopher problem. They’ve conducted an unprecedented occupation of the property over the recent bone-dry period and I’ve been trapping them or outright cleaving them with a shovel blade when the opportunity presented itself. Now, I like to think, the little varmints lie underground in their watery grave. So there.

It’s all right here in the diaries.


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