In all of our years of travel we have been quite lucky. No bad accidents or illnesses have struck while on the road and very few mishaps. We had a couple bikes stolen from the back of our motorhome once, but that is why we carried cheap ones.
Yes, we try to take precautions. So when preparing for our recent trip to Cuba we decided to leave several things in our apartment that we normally would have carried with us. Our best computer, back up drive, some beloved antique family jewelry, and most of our credit cards stayed behind. We thought that they would be safer there.
Goes to show you never can tell. Here is what happened to our building while we were gone:
A wildfire raged through in the predawn darkness of last Tuesday and completely destroyed everything we had except what was with us in our carry-on bags and backpacks.
Because internet access was scarce, and we spent our days on our bikes with the Backroads tour that we were on, we didn’t find out until over a day later.
At that point we had to decide whether to leave behind the fantastic tour of Cuba we had so looked forward to and head back to California to see if anything could be done, or try to ignore things and stay for the duration of our trip.
Ultimately we concluded that we simply couldn’t possibly appreciate or assimilate the rest of the trip while wondering what had happened to our home, so we cut it short and flew back.
That in itself was heartbreaking because the three days that we did get to spend on the island were incredible, and yes, we will have stories about that soon.
We returned to total devastation, which put us in the odd and uncomfortable position of victims. Frequent visitors to GypsyNester.com will know that we are inclined to post ways to help when disaster strikes, perhaps sometimes too much. (BTW, there is still help needed for the hurricanes of this past summer.)
When we made our way up the hill to where our home once stood, we found the complex reduced to nothing but ash by an inferno beyond anything we could imagine. Firefighters were still on the scene pouring water on stubborn hotspots days after the blaze.
Fortunately everybody got out safely, but the stories we have heard from our former neighbors are of terrifying escapes in pitch blackness, with only minutes to spare. Some had to flee so frantically that their cars were left behind.
The speed of the fires caught everyone, including firefighters, completely by surprise and electricity was out to the entire city of Ventura. Perhaps we were lucky not to be there; avoiding the trauma, but another side of us can’t help but think that we may have been able to save a few cherished keepsakes.
Our vagabond lifestyle had already reduced our worldly possessions down to the famous 16 Boxes that we wrote about in Going Gypsy, so we are not mourning the loss of a great deal of “stuff.” Unfortunately, that means what little we did hang on to throughout our many moves were the truly important, irreplaceable, sentimental items.
Photo albums spanning four and five generations, adorable baby clothes, favorite toys, and revered books held in hopes of future grandchildren, the emergent works and grades of our offspring as they strived from class to class in their studies, souvenirs gathered from across the globe, and the relics and mementos of our previous careers have all been wiped away forever.
Processing that loss will take some time. It may be years before we stop recalling some treasure that was once tucked away in what we thought was the safety of our closets. Or maybe that will never go away.
Meanwhile we are faced with the daily tasks of recreating something resembling a normal day-to-day life. In that sense we are better off than many, we have a place to stay temporarily and friends and family have been unbelievably helpful and supportive.
To help those who are not as fortunate, here is a good list of resources that can certainly use any and all donations.
One thing we are trying hard to embrace is graciously accepting the help that has been offered by so many, including complete strangers. Our inclination is to decline and feel that others are more worthy of aid.
A dear friend wisely advised us to stop that, not only for ourselves and facilitating our recovery, but for the people who genuinely desire to help. We should not deny them that opportunity.
With that in mind we are passing along this link to the GoFundMe page that our wonderful children have set up for us.
They felt helpless scattered across the globe in Paris, New York, and Alaska and did this as a way to connect, assist, and show their love and concern.
It is incumbent upon us to gratefully accept that assistance.
Most importantly, we say thank you.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com