At 5:04pm on October 17th, the Loma Prieta Earthquake took the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas by surprise.
The year was 1989, I was 6 years old, with a birthday around the corner and what I thought was a pretty developed fashion sense (Hey mom, do these karate pants look good with my rat tail?). When the shaking started I was dumping sand that had been lodged in my aqua-socks back into the sandbox and for a split second, the tumbling grains of sand and the momentous shaking were connected in my head. Time slowed as I watched each grain fall slowly to earth. I was...a SUPERHERO. My powerful fantasy was shattered by my meathead counselor's screams of "EARTHQUAKE!". 15 seconds, the duration of the earthquake, seemed like an eternity but eventually it subsided. While parts of San Francisco and Santa Cruz were devastated, life did eventually return to normal.
Bridges were rebuilt, houses retrofitted and people settled back into the tense and precipitous agreement we have struck with the fault line our communities straddle.
In the 15 years since I moved to Santa Cruz I had never visited the epicenter of the Loma Prieta quake. In fact I hadn't spent much time in the Forest of Nisene Marks at all. A recent ride took us to the epicenter and while the real oblique-slip rupture took place miles below the earth's surface there is still some evidence in the form of landslides and rubble, although it is hard to tell what was caused by the quake and what has occurred in the subsequent winters. Our ride, like the epicenter site itself, wasn't all that remarkable, just a few friends out for a good old fashioned rip. We suffered up the park's chaparral ridges, breaking for snacks and water often. I am fairly certain we used up the majority of our energy jibbing things on the side of the fireroad. We hooted as we sliced down the duff covered descents. I think I cased half the things I tried to jump. We walked our bikes through some of the more treacherous cliffside sections, incessantly chatting about the tacos we would eat after the ride was over. Not the stuff of superheroes but a damn fine afternoon nonetheless.