Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

My last earthquake, as I recall

Wick's World


Last week saw another 6.0 earthquake in California’s Napa Valley. My cousin’s wife lamented the huge loss of corked wines that ended up either busted or on the floor. My sister-in-law was grateful that this quake was sufficiently north of her home in Black Hawk so as to experience no damage. I was safe and rock solid in the fairly stable land of Minnesota. However, I do remember the one large earthquake that I was in.

When the books tumbled to the floor, I realized the shaking and rumbling in the house was not my friend and his wife.

The date was January 17, 1994, the city was San Diego and Bart, Jussie, Wiggy and his wife, Miss Wiggy, and I had just survived the Northridge Earthquake. Measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale, the 40-second earthquake was caused by a reverse dip-slip fault. Richter is to earthquakes as Doppler is to radar and that is probably more than you need to know about earthquake science.

This is what happened in the houses and on the streets of California that early morning. I was sleeping on the couch when the house began shaking ever so slightly. When I awoke, my first thought turned to my friend’s bedroom. However, when Jussie emerged from the spare bedroom and met the rest of us in the kitchen, we all realized we were in a huge earthquake. Bart remained sound asleep in the back of the pickup camper.

Sirens and car alarms joined the barking and howling of the neighborhood dogs. Then the fire sirens began to wail as neighbors spilled from their houses.

The following day, the four of us were sitting on the shore of the Sea of Cortez in Northern Baja when we heard a loud rumbling as if a huge thunderstorm was about to approach. Strangely enough, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The sound we heard rumbling over the sea was the aftershock (also referred to as the quake spasm) of the Northridge Earthquake.

Later that day, we decided to follow a dusty road that was carved out between the rocky shoreline and the sandy desert on the western shore of the Sea of Cortez. Unlike today, San Felipe was still a sleepy fishing village when we stopped that morning for breakfast.

Our destination was a small community of inexpensive houses and trailers called Puertecitos. Totally unlike any other town in Baja, North American vacationers and ex-patriots dominate the quiet village which was first settled in 1949.

We continued on until we literally drove to the end of the road. We then followed a trail about 10 miles down the coast where we found an ideal place to park our small travel trailer and pickup camper. The road less traveled actually featured a 10-foot saguaro cactus that had grown smack dab in the middle of the trail.

Each morning, just like clockwork, a flock of pelicans would swoop down on schools of fish. The feeding frenzy would begin at 8 a.m. sharp. This ritual was repeated later in the day at 4 p.m. We joked that you could almost set your watch to their mealtime.

Disaster struck on the journey back north. Our old Ford pickup up and died on us out in the middle of the desert. Bart and Jussie made a temporary camp while Wiggy and I began the long walk to the next village. Within a few minutes, a couple locals came by in an even older pickup than ours. They returned to camp with us and took out an old hemp rope that they looped several times around our bumper and proceeded to pull us about 30 miles to San Felipe.

The outdoor garage we stopped at was surrounded by junked cars and palm trees. The mechanic and I conversed in each other’s language long enough for me to understand we needed an electronic part. I assumed we were destined to be stuck in this village for a long time. The mechanic thought otherwise. “No problema!” he said.

Within moments he was back with our car part and soon had us on the road. Bart and Jussie were astounded that we not only were up and running in two hours, the entire ordeal cost us only $75. The car part, which was brand new, cost only a few bucks. It was only later that we learned that many Ford parts were being manufactured just up the road in Tijuana.

By the way, just the other day, I finally told Miss Wiggy what my first thought was when I heard their house shaking and rumbling on that earthquake morning. She appeared to have another aftershock.


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