This November has been an exceptionally beautiful one from the standpoint of the weather and we were closely watching forecasts for the weekend since we had planned the Great Train Robbery, an outdoor mystery dinner event. Plans were set with music, food and an interactive mystery experience with a full house as well as additional tickets sold. It was Thursday night and we were sitting in the house when, suddenly, the wind came up pretty fiercely.
We’ve had wind storms here at the Featherbed and we followed procedure to notify our guests to park away from the trees since there is always the chance that a tree limb can cause damage to their vehicles. But the wind got stronger and stronger to the point that it became distressing. Then the power went out around 6:30 or so. Phooey. This was getting serious. At that point Tony moved the ’61 Corvair Lakewood from it’s parking spot by the park to a safer spot in front of the house where no trees were.
We have guests who were in town to get married and were in the process of moving but they were not back from their day’s adventure just yet. And the wind was getting stronger. And noisier.
A few weeks back our main tree guy, Dennis Dickey, had climbed all over the trees and had done a bit of trimming. With winter approaching this is normal maintenance that we do around here. Unfortunately, our swing tree was deemed to be in need of a heavy trim and the swing had come down, along with several big branches from that tree. Otherwise Dennis had given the trees an a-ok for health. We had planned to look for a new place for the swing.
Meanwhile, the guests had returned from their day out and we assembled in the dining room. By this time the wind had become ridiculously strong and branches and pieces of the trees were starting to fall. The guests, wisely, moved their moving truck to a safer spot. Sitting in the dining room we heard some pretty significant thuds and, stupidly, Tony went out to see what the noise was.
Heading down to the front of the property, that’s when Tony realized just how strong the winds were and the power of this force of nature was becoming evident as whole branches were now down on the ground. That’s when the wind kicked back in and Tony actually had to work to get back to the Main Station. Being out among the cabooses was a stupid and very dangerous place to be at the moment.
Once back in the dining room Tony vowed not to go back out and we got firewood and started to make the dining room more hospitable. Candles were found and beer was enjoyed.
As the night wore on and the winds continued, you could hear the horrible thud of trees and their pieces coming down, sometimes with a metallic bang. That was a tree interacting with a caboose, not exactly something we wanted to hear. We’ve been asked many a time what happens if a tree hits a caboose and our standard answer was that the caboose would be the better of the two. But we’ve never tested this theory and it looks like we were going to get a chance.
That was our night on November 21, 2013. While the winds that whipped through here weren’t as horrendous as those that were part of hurricane Sandy or the horrible storm that just ravaged the Philippines, it was certainly bad. Some estimates are that there were gusts of winds in excess of 90 miles per hour.
The next morning came early and Bert Hutt, the organizer of our mystery weekend was first on the scene around 7am. We were outside already and the damage was incredible. Tree limbs were down all over the property, the incoming driveway was completely covered in both trees and tree limbs. Debris was everywhere and things that started here were way over there, or had disappeared altogether. Yet stuff that wasn’t ours had been deposited randomly on the property.
Shortly after Bert arrived, a camera crew was on the scene with McKenzie Paine, a local videographer, shooting images of the incredible damage to the Featherbed Railroad. McKenzie told tales of entire roofs of buildings being ripped off. He had seen the aluminum covers in Holiday Harbor that covered the boats completely disappear and the boats had been thrown around like match sticks. “It’s really bad out there,” said McKenzie.
Since there were now several guys here we dug out the big generator with the intention of powering up the water system. No power, no water here since we have this wonderful well system but it’s not so good when the juice is off. Tony got the generator on a cart and in place, but it’s stored dry so he went to go get gasoline and extension cords and, when he came back, a tree limb had decided it didn’t want to hear the generator and had knocked it right off the cart. Yikes!
Oh well, no water, but we have lots of ice and ice becomes water so the ice chests were filled and we were ready for a few days of a more primitive lifestyle.
Back out on the property we stepped over to inspect the park - well, what was left of the park. The outhouse was completely flattened as were several of the picnic tables, the new bar that we had just put in place in advance of the Great Train Robbery dinner which was to be held in that very park. What a mess! However, some of you may remember the “smoking man” cutout leaning on one of the trees in the park - he did just fine. While the tree that he was attached to was brought down, he just rode out the storm. Weird.
There were a lot of examples of this - things getting completely destroyed next to things that were absolutely intact. Nature is a twisted mistress and it’s difficult to explain how her forces work at times, but she’s certainly got force!
While we didn’t have Internet, electricity or any of those conveniences we do have iPhones and with that fancy little pocket confuser comes an iPhone version of our reservations system. With that we were able to dial all the people who had reservations for our Great Train Robbery and let them know that we weren’t going to be able to host the event since the location where the event was supposed to be was essentially a tangled mess of tree limbs.
But the main event in all of this was the 150’ tree that was sitting on TropiCaboose. As mentioned, we had always assumed that a whole tree falling on a caboose would still leave the caboose intact, we didn’t have (or even want!) proof of this. Well, all that changed in one night with a huge pine tree resting atop TropiCaboose. The result was that TropiCaboose did get a few scratches to the paint and a painting fell off the wall inside the room, but the caboose itself was essentially unscathed. These things truly are built like tanks.
One of the many benefits of living in a small, rural community is that you find out who the greatest neighbors are in a hurry and one of those neighbors happen to own Gossett Alarm, a very reputable and outstanding alarm and monitoring company. They saw that we were without power here and immediately jumped into action with Goss, or Mike Gossett, wiring a 6500 watt generator into our electrical system. After a bit of wiring and adjusting we were back in business with electricity for the main house. The best part of this is that our refrigerators and freezers were able to keep their contents at the right temperature so no food was lost, although the thought of a neighborhood-wide barbecue had some degree of appeal. Fortunately no tree limbs took out that generator!
Dennis Dickey was back on the scene, too, with a whole crew of tree guys who cut off sections of the tree that rested on TropiCaboose. These sections were about a yard long each and we estimate that each section weighs close to 150lbs, so imagine the total weight of an entire tree!
Overall this place is a huge mess but we’re figuring that a big barbecue and a lot of friends and some professionals with chain saws is all it’ll take to make it look as tidy as always. Our insurance company is already setting schedules for things and our agent, Tom Lincoln, has been an outstanding partner in this as well even offering to have us over for dinner.
In another bit of irony our “Great Train Robbery” mystery dinner’s theme was that the guests and participants were all investors in the Clear Lake Railroad, which in real life never made it to Lake County. While we still don’t know why that train never made it to Lake County we do know why the mystery train that was the theme of our event never made it. Apparently a lot of wind and some downed trees means that the train still hasn’t made it to Lake County, real or imaginary.
A blog about happenings in Lake County.