No matter how, shrink he did and by Tuesday evening he was already only a tropical storm with winds of 65 miles per hour – tame by comparison with speeds of 180 mph measured on Sunday with gusts estimated to be as high as 220 mph. Based on predictions that Rick would further weaken, the decision was made to depart as scheduled the very next day, Rick permitting.
Wednesday morning the first order of business was to call the airline and find out if the flight was leaving on time or at all. A nice lady from Alaska Airlines confirmed that as of that time 7:00am PST, the flight was still scheduled to leave on time and that the only weather that might be a potential cause of delay was “thunder storms.”
Preparations were hastened with arrival at the airport accomplished in plenty of time for what was hoped would be the usual 10:30am departure. Once again the question was asked “is the flight leaving as scheduled?” An affirmative answer was received, it was blue skies and calm in San Jose del Cabo. After days of sitting on the edge of our seats wondering if the coast would be hit with all the force of a Category 5 hurricane we were thankful for the reprieve from Mother Nature.
Waiting for the plane to board the internet was accessed via the T-mobile wireless connection available in the San Francisco International Airport for $6.00 US + $0.10 per minute. This was unlike the friendly and helpful Portland Airport where wireless was discovered to be available for free!
An email from a surfing friend confirmed that Hurricane Rick spun out the best waves of the decade, which had been breaking a few days earlier at a special break near our home. Professional surfers and surfers of all abilities turned out to put on an amazing show of acrobatics in the tubing waves. The surf was heavy and non-stop – not a time for beginners and difficult even for seasoned surfers.
Days earlier, when news of the storm and the waves it was generating arose, it was thought that it was possibly a blessing to be away from the surf during this time. Maybe you think this odd? To be thankful to miss incredible waves?
As a relatively new surfer with only seven years experience it is possible to find that the surf is more powerful than one can handle. And this is particularly true when one has not been surfing a lot and is therefore not in peak condition. So dreams were had of the perfect waves, but the realities of the danger of going out in large surf provided a reality check to the dreamer. Big waves are powerful and hurricane swells are consistent with wave after wave marching in like robotic soldiers stopped by nothing in their path. A surfer can be caught in rip tides or quickly become exhausted just trying to get out to where the waves break. And then there is the dreaded hold-down, which usually happens after a major wipe out. The surfer is grabbed by the wave and pushed to the bottom of the ocean, sometimes onto rocks and in really consistent surf they can be held there as wave after wave pushes down in succession. Luck or a break in the waves eventually allows the oxygen deprived surfer to return to the surface where they might not even have enough time to gulp some air before the next wave slams on their head.
So this is why it was thought that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to miss out on the epic surf?
The landing in San Jose del Cabo airport was smooth as silk and before we knew it we were on our way to pick up the SUV at the nearby Los Cabos Mini Storage. Looking around it was observed that an ominous dark grey blanket of cloud and rain was moving in from the northeast. “Look! It’s raining at home!” The size of the front was impressive and we hastened to get our fruit and vegetables at one of the roadside stands so we could start the journey towards home.
Heading North on Mexican Highway No. 1, as we realized that the storm would envelop us sooner than we thought, drops of rain the size of nickels started to dot the windshield. Drops turned to buckets and the rain came down so hard that many drivers pulled over to the side of the highway or put on their hazard lights and slowed to a crawl. We instead sped up, realizing that if enough rain fell the Santa Catarina Arroyo, a large normally dry riverbed between us and our home, would quickly turn into a raging torrent, blocking indefinitely passage to the Palo Escopeta Road.
The drive to reach the arroyo was along a pot-hole ridden windy street though one of the neighborhoods on the outskirts of San Jose. As we bumped along, water coming up over the hood of the car in great sheets as we crossed puddles the size of small lakes, I braced against the imagined ruptured tire or broken axel. But we continued on, unimpeded by the gaping holes lying hidden under the rushing water covering the road.
We reached the arroyo and looked both ways. “Go straight to Santa Catarina!” I urged, knowing the alternate route would take us the long way through the arroyo, thus increasing the chances of our getting caught by a wall of water that might be rushing our way – such is the nature of the flash flood. As it turned out it was the only choice, as we passed the “Y” to the alternate route it had already become a solid river of water.
We reached the other side and could breathe a small sigh of relief. “Only two more arroyos to go!” The arroyos at a rancho just East of the village of Palo Escopeta and the large arroyo near our home in Las Vinoramas still lay between us and our home.
As luck would have it, the concern about the other two arroyos was unwarranted. The skies began to clear within a few miles of San Jose and the road became less a river and more of a road. The going was slow with all the new pot holes and large erosion channels cut in the sandy surface, but 80 minutes of bumping along and the house was in sight. The large Arroyo Las Vinoramas had not run at all. At the gate a welcoming party of six dogs greeted us most enthusiastically. A sense of deep gratitude descended along with the sun.
Today it was discovered that the reality check sensed while mind-riding huge barreling waves in the days prior to our arrival was warranted. It turns out that in those epic waves served up by Hurricane Rick, a surfer friend with decades experience almost drown when a wave held her down for a long time. I imagined myself in that same situation, trying not to panic with lungs feeling like they would explode in their demand for oxygen and a body flying around under water like a rag doll in a washing machine. The thought reverberated, “that could have been me.”
Gratitude x 3.