Holy crap! That was a week! It seems never a dull moment around here. I’m not sure if it was the fact that a week ago I un-invited rain to the Summer Solstice Celebration (I should definitely have shown more respect) or because of Phil Mueller’s lovely photos of water that were displayed on our walls that invoked even more water, or because of the climate changing. Whatever it was too much for our old building and we had to let it go back to the river.
For those of you following along, I’ll try to tell the story. This is the long version.
A few years ago the city proposed buying my building and helping me to relocate downtown. Being open to that in theory, we started looking at available buildings and exploring what that would mean exactly. With the city planning to move forward on a flood wall this summer, we considered several buildings and verified that building a kitchen, especially in an old building is very, very expensive. When Muchos Amigos across the street closed, we took a look to see if that would be a suitable site. In the last couple months we have moved forward with a purchase agreement on 248 River Street and last Tuesday night, the city approved a purchase agreement to buy our present building. We signed it on Friday. Whew!
On Thursday it rained in Glenco and the flood prediction went to 20.6 feet. The highest we’ve seen since we owned the building is 20.3 and that was under early Spring, melting conditions rather than June, saturated ground conditions. We started taking equipment out of the lowest part of our building, the store room on Friday while Erik Brandt entertained a crowd. On Saturday we closed down to coffee service and prepared the pumps and 50 volunteers place a bazillion sand bags all around the building. The difficulty is that there is no room behind our building for the city to place a clay wall. We’re simply too close to the river and so they have no choice but to put the wall in front of us to protect the town.
We relocated our Summer Solstice event to my house on high ground, since the food was already prepared and our rock star staff was willing to take it on. About 40 people showed up to celebrate midsummer and we had a cheery and positive outlook. And then the prediction went to 21 feet.
We rented more trash pumps and organized volunteers to take shifts throughout the day and night to keep them gassed up. The city told us they would open the clay wall to let us get more things out of the building and that they would have to shut off gas, electric and water at 6 PM. At about 4 in the afternoon we put out a call for help to move things out of the building and by 5:25 everything we wanted out was on trailers, in trucks and moved to high ground. Unbelievable!!!
On Sunday night Brad and I both got a good night sleep and in the morning we were able to think more clearly. Bob VanLith, the fire chief, alerted us to the dangers of the saturated ground and I realized that with the ground oozing water and looking at several more grueling 24 hour days of pumping and the ever present danger of the river going even higher, we were fighting an uphill and possibly dangerous battle. There are several big trees on the riverbank that could give way and the eroding action of the swirling river could cause a foundation that has withstood almost a century of assaults by fast flowing water to collapse. Not to mention the tricky business of monitoring the water height in the basement, not too high, not too low, so as not to come over the floor but also not create too little water in the basement so the pressure on the outside of the walls would cause them to collapse. And then there are the trials of working in the dark with the roar of pumps and generators in slippery, muddy, wet conditions.
After emptying the kitchen to the highest part of the building and making a plan for the orderly removal of the pumps, at 3 PM we turned them off and with the last crowd of volunteers, watched the water flow into the building from the patio and up through the floor from the basement. It was an amazing sight.
Yesterday afternoon I met with my team of leaders and they helped shape our plan over the next few months. Our first concern being to find jobs for our displaced workers and dealing with storing and housing the contents of the building including a lot of perishables.
It was a sad day and I’m sure it hasn’t hit me fully yet. I am moved by the outpouring of love and caring that has been exhibited by everyone. It is clear to me that if I ever had a thought of locking the doors and walking away, and yes, it crossed my mind once or twice, it is simply not possible. The encouragement and willingness of people to lend their shoulder to the wheel is heartening. It is clear to me, that we are most certainly not islands and to withstand what life throws at us we are dependent on others to support us and call up our courage to go on.
I plan to tie up some loose ends and go up north to enjoy the quiet and company of my family for a couple days. Then we’ll move ahead with the purchase of the new building and begin work. Over a year ago, Brad and I had planned a 3 week trip to France in late July of this year. The timing looked dicey but as it turns out, it couldn’t be more perfect. I look forward to taking a break and being inspired and energized to come back and build an even better Three Crows and reopen in the Fall.
Today my heart is overflowing with gratitude for all the people that make my life rich beyond measure. I know you appreciate having a place to call your third home, you’ve made that infinitely clear to me over the years. My unskilled attempt at creating a place for community with your kindness and patience has turned into a thriving business over the last almost 10 years and my vision for a place for real food, great music and peace in the world, remains the same.
I will continue to write to you on a weekly basis. I hope you come along, we have many more adventures ahead of us.
Love to you all,