Seeing a fire truck in the parking lot of trail head is never a good sign. I was hoping it was nothing too serious but those positive thoughts were quashed when we heard the helicopter air ambulance come in and circle an area in the valley ahead of us.
Period Covered: August 16 – 26, 2013
Locations: Flagstaff, San Diego, Encinitas
We were interested to see if it would land and take someone to the hospital but the helicopter could not find a landing spot and flew past us as we hiked toward the watering hole. It was hot and after around 30 minutes of hiking we came around a bend and saw a group of people on the side of the trail looking down. There was a team of six search and rescue members from the local fire department putting a woman on a board getting ready to extract her out. According to the other hikers, she had slipped on the narrow trail and fallen down the steep side 30-40 feet. The Search and Rescue (SAR) team had her on a drip and it looked like she might’ve had a broken leg but we were surprised it wasn’t worst. The SAR asked if a few of us could help get her back on the trail since she was located quite far down from the trail and the path was very steep and tight with cacti lined on the side. Tomas and I were part of a group of eight guys that helped the SAR team and even with all the extra hands it was quite a challenge.
The woman easily weighed approximately 230 pounds and it was great to see her and her brother (who was also overweight and sitting on the side of the trail not talking to or reassuring his sister) try and do something active such as hiking in Sedona. I hoped this experience wouldn’t deter her from future healthy activities. Tomas went down close to the SAR team for the initial carry while I was further up in the tight spot ready to grab and carry it up further before passing it to another group at another tight spot. There was a lot of loose rocks so we picked them up and threw it further down so it wouldn’t affect our footing. Once we started the move, it took us ten minutes and lots of pass and move before we got her back on the trail. When I started this trip, I did not think I would participate in a Search and Rescue but now I can check it off!
We had worked up a sweat and Tomas got pricked by cactus. We confirmed with the SAR team that they were good from there on. Some hikers on their way out of the park would help get her to the helicopter so we continued on to the watering hole which was still 20 minutes away. We quickly jumped in and swam around in the cool waters. Some cool beers and dried mango made a perfect snack and we started the hike out after 2 hours at the watering hole.
A little further from the spot where we extracted the injured woman, we see the SAR team and the woman still on the board on the side of the trail. She had not been moved to the helicopter yet and we also came upon the air ambulance helicopter on the way out. We then saw an ATV heading towards the injured woman and hypothesized that they decided it was too difficult or painful to carry the woman all the way to the helicopter so they asked for the ATV. However, the trail was quite narrow in a few sections and there was an area with lots of branches which required chainsaws to clear it first before the ATV could get through. This was confirmed when we saw a bunch of branches sawn off on our way out. I counted 7 trucks (Fire Dept, Park Ranger, Police) in the parking lot and some camp chairs setup for members of the different departments helping and supporting the rescue. As we drove away, we heard the helicopter take off and pass us towards Flagstaff. I really hoped she had medical insurance including medial evacuation because otherwise it would be an painfully big bill.
My time in Flagstaff was very relaxing and exactly what was needed after speeding across the US. On the first off day, Tomas and I rode around beautiful Sedona and avoided thunderstorms looming close by. On my final night in Flagstaff after our search and rescue experience, we met up with a couple of Tomas and Breezy’s friends for a nice BBQ. The next morning I would cross the Mojave to get to San Diego and stay with my friend Mauricio. Thank you Tomas and Breezy for the hospitality and good times!
Arizona in August is pretty hot. The heat map was dark red for the Phoenix region and temperatures were in the mid 40s celsius so I decided to take the slightly longer route west on I-40/US-66 to Lake Havesu and Needles, California before turning south on I-15/215 to San Diego. To avoid the worst of the heat, I got up at 5am and departed at 6am from Flagstaff. With little traffic and the long straight roads I was able to travel at a pretty quick speed averaging 120-130km/hr. At the gas stop in Needles, California I needed an energy drink since the 38°C heat was starting to make me drowsy. Fortunately the temperature didn’t rise any further and while it was uncomfortable the heat was bearable as I sped through the Mojave desert reaching top speed of 137km/hr. I loved the desolate landscape and it didn’t take me too long to cross the Mojave and reach Barstow and urban California. I immediately stopped at the In-N-Out and got a double-double hamburger animal style. In-N-Out is my favourite burger chain and the 2×2 hit the spot.
After having spent most of the trip through smaller cities, small towns and less populated areas the amount of people at In-N-Out and California traffic was a bit of a shock. It would get worse as I hit extremely slow stop-and-go traffic on the highway around Hesperia due to a bad traffic accident. I was also starting to get drowsy again which is especially terrible in hot stop and go traffic and had to pull off to a nearby Starbucks for coffee and cooling down. After the rest, the temperatures dropped as I went through the valleys of Southern California reaching Mauricio’s place in North Pacific Beach, San Diego around 6pm and seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time on this trip. Day 12 from Flagstaff to San Diego was 851km and neither the heat nor the distance seriously bothered me but the California traffic did!
I expected to be in San Diego for a couple of days getting Francesca serviced at BMW San Diego and getting ready for the Baja leg of the trip but in the end I ended up hanging out in San Diego for just over a week. While Francesca was in for the major 12,000 mile service I got a loaner BMW F800S (sport version) and the lighter bike was fun to zip around San Diego as I ran errands and picked up equipment and parts.
After making a few posts on ADVrider and Horizons Unlimited about being in San Diego and getting ready to enter Baja, I received replies back from Paul and Jeff saying they were in San Diego as well and planning on entering Mexico. I arranged for all of us to meet in Encinatas (Jeff was camping north of San Diego). Paul and Asli (theroadtoca.tumblr.com) are from New York riding two up on a V-Strom heading for Panama. Jeff from Ottawa (Ottawa-Inuvik-Tierra del Fuego) left in late June has ridden to the Arctic Circle before heading south. He’s also aiming for Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego and he’s riding a Yamaha Super Ténéré.
We all had a few errands and maintenance tasks to complete before being ready and Jeff was waiting on tires being shipped in from Canada to complete a tire change before being ready. While waiting for confirmation from Jeff, I met up with Paul, Asli and Danny (a San Diego based Horizons Unlimited member) for lunch downtown. We exchanged stories and Danny gave us some good tips on riding in Baja, where to stop and what to see. On Monday, August 26 Jeff emailed the group saying his tire had arrived and changed. We would cross into Baja Mexico the next day and start Stage 2: Mexico of my trip. I had a great time in San Diego staying with Mauricio (hit the beach, tried stand-up paddling, had great microbrews) but it was time to experience Mexico. I was anxious (having heard so many warnings and great stories) but I was also very excited and glad to have the company of Paul, Asli and Jeff. Thank you Mauricio for the company and providing an excellent base for me to crash and get ready for the rest of the trip!