EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Scale | Baghdad By The Bay

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Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On

Downtown NapaYes, I woke up a 3:20am this morning to feel my house shaking quite a bit. To all the newcomers to San Francisco, welcome. You’ve just felt your first big earthquake.

Centered in American Canyon near Napa that is where the most damage was. So far I’ve read that there were about 70 people injured mostly near the epicenter of the quake. That wasn’t too bad. During the 1989 Loma Prieta quake that registered 6.9 [or some people still argue it was 7.1] 63 people died, but over 3700 people were injured. The 1906 was estimated at being around 7.8. The recent American Canyon quake people are saying was between 5.7-6.1.

I don’t remember the last time I felt an earthquake in SF other than the Loma Prieta, but we used to get them more frequently than we do now. They used to be so frequent that people tended to ignore them most of the time [see the video at the end. That’s the way most San Franciscan’s handled an earthquake even though it’s a clip from the movie L.A. Story].

Earthquake preparedness wasn’t a big thing before the Loma Prieta. The earthquakes just weren’t that big before then and there were never any after effects. I woke up this morning to feel my house shaking in an East West direction. The first thing I realized is that this was a longer than normal quake because I actually had the time to think about what direction the shaking was happening in. I heard the doors that were closed rattling and after I realized we were having an earthquake I made sure my wife was awake. We learned a few years ago during our NERT training that running for a doorway isn’t the best thing to do. Get up against a wall because if the building falls down being next to a wall is the best place to be because if the roof falls it will most likely break at an angle giving you the most room and air to breath next to a wall.

I of course made sure my wife was against the wall and then did the dumb thing — I started to run to get near our daughter. Her room is upstairs and being seven and autistic this might not go over well with her. Luckily by the time I got to the stairs the quake was over and my daughter had slept through it.

I did a quick check and saw that LED’s on some of our electrical gear was still on so I knew we hadn’t lost power. I grabbed my phone  as soon as the quake started and realized that my iPhone with the built in flashlight was probably a good thing to have next to the bed for just such an occurrence. I hadn’t heard anything fall over so I started to calm down and checked twitter and Facebook to see what my friends felt. San Francisco is fine, Napa looks like it’s pretty trashed right now.

OK, it was near American Canyon so we were away from the epicenter which was good. All of my friends in SF were fine so now it was time to calm down and go back to bed. The biggest problem after an earthquake is the rush you get that when you’re lying down trying to fall back asleep that makes everything feel like its still moving. While the quake lasted maybe 30 seconds or so [The NSGS never tells you how long a quake lasts only how big it was.] I still felt like the house was mildly shaking for about five minutes afterwards. I managed to get back to sleep and woke up this morning to see what everyone else was saying. There’s a kind of dark humor that pops up after a disaster, especially if you’re on the edge of it. I actually had to add to it with the following tweet that’s starting to go viral:

Dark Humor

Other’s are showing how tough they are by bragging that they were in the 1989 quake and this was nothing. While that’s true, I think the people in Napa might disagree with you. Earthquakes are pretty scary to say the least. We generally have a lot less damage than a hurricane or tornado though and the big ones only have once every 20 or so years. We’re pretty lucky overall. Now let’s see if people start leaving San Francisco since I did predict about a year ago that the only thing that would get people to move out would be an earthquake…

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The Purple Mile

The Purple MileI think you kind of have to be kind of old to remember slot cars from the 60’s and 70’s, but our own Playland at the Beach had a famous track built into the original location of Topsy’s Roost that many of us old guys who were kids back then remember.

The Sovereign 220 [The Purple Mile was it’s nickname] was to slot car racers what Mavericks is to surfers. Slot cars were sort of like hot wheels on steroids. They were bigger and had a little pin that stuck down into a slot that received electricity from a hand grip that you squeezed. The tighter you squeezed the more electricity would go to car making it go faster. There were several tracks you could buy for home, but it was never the same as the Sovereign 220. I remember going in their with a friend of mine somewhere between 1965-1969 which was probably towards the end since I would have been about seven when it closed. I remember the smell to this day. Now I know it to be the smell of ozone as the electrons were splitting the oxygen in the air and making it recombine into a not very safe gas.

The track was big. It was the largest slot car track ever built and being a small kid I could barely see the end of it so you’d sort of lose track of where your car was on the track. I can’t remember how much it cost to run your slot cars on the track, but being seven I didn’t really care about money back then. I was still having adults pay for the penny candy I was eating all day long to fuel  me up to run around like a madman.

Unfortunately slot cars were starting to be old news by the late 60’s just like Whitney’s Playland at the Beach. It was closed down and the track was sold to someone in Texas and it was sold again and probably again until it wound up being bought by a hobbyist in Ashland, Massachusetts who restored it to it’s former glory. I managed to find a video of the track as it looks and operates today which isn’t much different than it was back in the 60’s now go grab some electrical wire and a 9-volt battery to click the wires together to make sparks so you can get that same smell in your room just like the old days at the slot car track.