Living in an age of technological miracles and creature comforts, we take so much for granted it isn’t funny. And just like that, it can all be gone. It can, and it was …

We’ve just spent an entire week completely off the grid, and not by choice. We’re talking no running water, hot water or flush toilets, and limited power from a backup generator running off a propane tank. And this is Silicon Valley, mind you.

Here’s what happened:

A massive storm hit the entire Bay Area on Saturday. I was making dinner when my wife came home from work.

“Happy you made it home OK,” I shouted from the kitchen. “We’ll be eating in 30.”

After changing clothes, my wife came in and said, “There’s something wrong with the water on that side of the house.”

“That’s weird, it’s fine in here,” I said, and turned on the kitchen faucet to show her. But she was right; it was just a slow drip.

“Huh. It must have just happened,” I said. “Well, I’ll check out the tanks and call Jason (our well pump guy) in the morning.”

As predicted, the storm kicked into high gear Sunday morning, with wind gusts over 50 mph and major flooding. Trudging up the hillside to our two 5,000-gallon water tanks, I was instantly drenched and muddy … but the tanks were dry.

Jason was out of town so his brother-in-law came out and said it was either the well or a leak. I couldn’t imagine the well suddenly drying up, so there had to be a major leak somewhere. I scheduled a water delivery truck for the next day and, nothing left to do, sat down to watch football.

A few hours later, all hell broke loose. A series of landslides took out a bunch of enormous redwood trees and a power pole, blocking the entrance to the private road we live on. Now we had no water or power. What a bizarre coincidence. The good news is we have a backup generator. The bad news is it runs off our propane tank, which was low. Figures.

Funny thing is, my wife actually went to work that day and ended up getting trapped on the other side of the landslide. Since we live two miles from the entrance to the road, I drove to the site and hiked up the slide — with downed power lines all over the place. She parked on the other side and did the same. We met at the top, covered in mud. It was sort of romantic.

landslide-3

Today is Friday, and that’s the way it’s been all week. Our road association is close to getting the road somewhat cleared so the power company can restore power, which will hopefully happen today. Then maybe we can get gas and water in tomorrow and start to figure out what’s wrong with our well system.

Let me tell you, it’s been one hell-of-a-week taking “baths” with buckets of rain water, using water syphoned off the overflowing swimming pool to wash dishes, trying to stay warm next to our wood-burning fireplace and keeping power usage to a minimum to keep the generator running. We won’t talk about the toilet situation.

Sort of makes you value all the things we take for granted and realize how little we really do need to survive. We may be spoiled, but we haven’t lost our adaptability. At least not yet.

Update: Power came back Friday afternoon, water leak was resolved Saturday, and boy did that hot shower feel gooood!

Image credits: Steve Tobak and unidentified neighbor

  • BigGameHunter

    Liked it, Steve, and you are so right. If you liked that sort of thing just a bit, you should accompany me on one of my expeditions . . . like to the jungles of Cameroon, or the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan, or the bowels or peaks of some other wild place. Not only do you get to experience the wilds, above all else, you meet the real people of the world. They are wonderful and you leave as brothers. Makes you wonder why there is so much political tension and wars in the world because the real people just want to make a living and take care of their guests.

    • Lizard Skin

      I would absolutely enjoy that sort of thing. May I have your email address please?

  • Glad y’all will be doing fine.

    Every Friday I take the BART in from the East Bay to do my weekly volunteer shift at Muttville.org, the senior dog rescue shelter. The 6.5 block walk from the 16th St./Mission station to Muttville on Alabama St. has me walking past and around an increasing number of rickety homeless tent and tarp clusters along the sidewalks. I can’t imagine what these recent howling, cold, torrential storms have been like for those “residents.”