Fires, Rocks, and Fastest Known Times

by Beth Donovan


But above all, enjoy the process. 

Failure is never an option; however, we rarely control the outcomes.

So, how do we respond when failure is the outcome? 

Ambassador Connor Koch shares a recent experience.

Strange Rain

Con Koch


We rode into the burn zone at mile 105, finally arriving at the northern barrier of the fire flickering on the horizon all day. Past the line of cars, at a wall of orange cones, we stopped our bikes and stared, shocked at the devastation before us. The officer manning the barrier described the chaos beyond, the fire burning over HWY 395, ablating homes and growing rapidly, fueled by the hot winds. We would have to sleep in the juniper trees on the side of the road, he said, and continue through in the morning. 


Stoically, we accepted our lot, and sat on the shoulder eating our dwindling food supply. A white car emerged from the smoke, driving out of the burn zone slowly, an evacuee from the blazing communities of these stark hills. The driver pulled through the barrier into safety, coasting to a stop just a few feet from me, staring back into the maelstrom, seeing nothing but dense, swirling smoke. I walked up to her window, feeling something urgent, a need to connect. She rolled down the window, smiling kindly at me, an older Hispanic woman alone in her car with all she could salvage on a moment’s notice. We shared a moment I won’t ever forget, a slow look of pure human connection, a cord of empathy taut between us. She asked me where I was going, looking at our bikes and our outfits with concern. I told her south - far, far south, in pursuit of a goal that felt completely meaningless in the face of this real human tragedy unfolding before us. Still smiling kindly, warmth brimming from her eyes, she offered me some of her water and a blanket. 


I was overwhelmed with a rush of emotion, feeling inadequate and small and perfect and enough, grateful for this one beautiful moment, this kindness beyond kindness. I felt all these things falling over me like some strange rain, bathing me in new understanding and humility. How could I possibly deserve the kindness of this stranger, the last of her water proffered to me amidst the smoke and falling ash, as her home burnt and the winds ripped the sky into horrible tornadoes of flame and superheated air? 


I awoke the next morning to an indescribably still dawn, heavy with the smell of burned structures and charred livestock. Overnight rain had wet us before the sky puked ash down upon us, coating us in gray; what pain coated me here? How many homes and belongings and memories had incinerated and floated down upon me as I slept? 


Before waking Jonny and Charlie, I stared out silently for a moment, watching the winds move the fire east across the rolling plains of Nevada, watching the emptiness become something else as the flames licked the skyline, clouds billowing gray, blue, purple, red, orange, black, building upon each other higher and higher, smokestacks climbing into the heavens. I knew then that I, too, would one day float that high, ash and dirt and matter and memory on a wind, becoming part of everything once again. I felt a kinship with this rare beauty, scarred and imperfect and whole as I am, sitting in the palm of a natural disaster, subject to the twisting flow of life, a polished stone churning in the river. 


From our perch, I could see that the road was open, allowing passage through the burn. I awoke my friends, and we climbed back on our bikes, heading far south.



What is your favorite Kitsbow piece?

The one I always have on me - my Wind Jacket. This insanely packable little piece is deceivingly durable, weather resistant, and can elevate your core temp from miserable to tolerable. As you can see from the photos the Icon is always nearby.

Get them Here: