Fire and Water (Northern California and Puerto Rico)

We at CatSynth are staying safely ensconced at HQ as the rather poor smoke-filled air reaches our doorstep. Fortunately, we are safe and have everything, which no longer true for so many to our north in Sonoma and Napa. This is still an on-going situation which we are following on social media and through local sources like SFGate. It is just devasting to see scenes and places I recognize going up in flames.

As things are still in the emergency and evacuation phase, the focus is on shelter, and of course fighting the fire.

Bring Crucial Supplies & Volunteer at Shelters

To accommodate the estimated 20,000 evacuees, a number of local landmarks have opened their doors to the growing influx of escapees. Below is a list of shelters, organizations, schools, and businesses we’ve found that are currently operating as safe spaces; they need able-and-willing volunteers and donations of essential supplies.

Veterans Memorial Building and Hall, 1351 Maple Ave. (Santa Rosa),
Petaluma Community Center, 320 N. McDowell Blvd. (Petaluma),
Sonoma County Fairgrounds (open for large- and medium-sized livestock and farm animals), access via Gate 7 on Aston Ave. (Sonoma),
Ramekins Culinary School and Inn, 450 W. Spain St. (Sonoma),
Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds (open to accommodate small livestock and other farm animals, access via Gate 4 on 175 Fairgrounds Dr (Petaluma),
Crosswalk Church (currently at-capacity and in need of aid), 2590 1st St. (Napa),
Napa Valley College Gym, 2277 Napa Vallejo Hwy. (Napa),

Here are some resources for those needing to evacuate with pets. Please share with your friends in the area:

Multiple shelters are open to assist pet owners. They are:
Napa County Animal Shelter at 942 Hartle Ct, Napa
Santa Rosa Fairgrounds at 1350 Bennett Valley Road. Access the Fairgrounds via Gate 7 on Aston Ave
Cloverdale Citrus Fair at 1 Citrus Fair Drive, Cloverdale
Californians: If anyone has a horse trailer, Chalk Hill Ranch near Healdsburg needs emergency help. They have 54 horses in dire need of transportation off the ranch. 13426 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448 707-433-1804

To help animals and their humans, Donate to the Humane Societies and SPCA

Natural disasters of this magnitude affect more than human lives. Donate your time—and extra bags of dog and cat food—to the North Bay branches of the Humane Society and SPCA as they go about the tough work of accommodating new shelter animals.

Humane Society of Sonoma County, 5345 CA-12. (Santa Rosa),
Humane Society of Napa County, 3265 California Blvd. (Napa),
Yuba-Sutter SPCA, 745 Sutter St. (Yuba),

Animal shelters in the region are evacuating some of their residents to places south here in SF and in Oakland. In some cases, it may the shelter is in danger. In others, they are making space for animals lost or otherwise affected by the fires. Our friends at the SF SPCA and Cat Town Oakland are helping out.

Many wineries and other institutions are affected. We haven’t heard updates from some our favorite places around St Helena and Calistoga. We did hear that the di Rosa Art Center galleries and staff are all safe. Friends have reported in safe as well. We will continue to follow things – it is so hard to watch but also so hard to look.

Thousands of miles to the east and south, our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are trying to recover. We have fire; they have water. The recovery phase sometimes falls off the outside radar as new disasters happen – though in a dark twist the toxic politics will ensure that it does stay in our consciousness longer. It was pretty outrageous to see the lack of response, then the embarrassingly poor response, and cheap shots and criticisms of the people suffering through this disaster and trying to help them. But we persevere…

In general, organizations helping humans, pets, and preserving culture need cash more than stuff (and it’s also best to allow it to go to general funds). For disaster relief, friends have recommended Oxfam America. As in our local conflagration, and after the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, organizations are helping rescue and evacuate pets and other animals. From a recent story in The Atlantic:

The Humane Society of the United States, anticipating a deluge of lost and abandoned pets after the recent natural disaster, began coordinating flights of animals already in Texas shelters to other parts of the country. Eventually, they relocated hundreds of adoptable cats and dogs in the days before and after the storm. The same happened with Irma in Florida and the Virgin Islands. The same is happening after Maria in Puerto Rico.

HSUS is collecting and distributing donations for animal and human relief work. Many local organizations are helping as well. You can find out more from The Humane Society of Puerto Rico’s Facebook Page on current status and needs.

You can see feline evacuees from Puerto Rico to Safe Haven for Cats in North Carolina in this video, via this article.

Fun with Highways: Puerto Rico

This installment in our “Primary Highways” series takes us to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is not a state, but it is part of the United States. Dealing with that concept is beyond the scope of this article. Instead, we choose to visit like we would any state in the U.S.

We begin in the capital, San Juan. Specifically, in the old city of San Juan, which was started on a small island just off the main island of the territory. The narrow alleys and colorful buildings are a common feature of colonial cities in the Caribbean, and indeed these images remind me a bit of Havana.

The narrow streets and buildings seem ideal for walking around and observing architectural details. And with the small size of district, the bay and ocean are part of its visuals. Just to the north of the old city, facing the ocean, is Fort San Felipe del Morro.

[By Mtmdfan at en.wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

At the eastern edge of Old San Juan, two of the streets merge for the start of PR 25, the Avenida Juan Ponce de Leon, which continues east past the Capitol building of Puerto Rico. PR 25 and PR 1 leave the island of San Juan via a pair of causeways to the main island, where PR 1 becomes a major freeway. As it curves around the central city, we observe a very different kind of architecture. The modernist curving Puerto Rico Convention Center has won numerous awards.

[Photo by chente922 on flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]

We exit the city east on PR 26, which becomes PR 66 in the city of Carolina. And after the freeway ends we continue on PR 3. Eventually we turn south onto PR 191, which is the goal of this side trip from San Juan. This small highway winds its way upward into the El Yunque Rainforest. It is the only true tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System

[By AjaxSmack (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

While I have been more drawn to the desert over the years, the textures, lush colors and imagined warm humid climate pique my interest. El Yunque has unusual vegetation even for a tropical forest (including the unique “dwarf forest”), waterfalls, and the ever popular frogs known as the coquí.

[By United States Department of Agriculture ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

[Photo by Jmoliver. (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

One the sides of one of the peaks is Yokahu Tower.

[Photo by Joe Shlabotnik on flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)]

The shape gives it an appearance of an old castle (or perhaps a chess piece), and cracked paint set against the tropical vegetation adds an air curiosity. But it’s main function is as an observation tower, providing spectacular views of the hills and forest.

Returning to San Juan, we can head west on PR 2 along the coast to Arecibo, home of the Arecibo Observatory.

The observatory conducts radio astronomy and has attracted attention for its use int he SETI@Home project for crowd sourcing of potential intelligent signals from space. It has also been involved in many scientific discoveries related to our Solar System, and two exotic astronomical objects like pulsars and neutron stars. It has struggled with funding in recent years (sadly, certain groups target both public funding and all things scientific at the same time), but it is still operating.

Back in San Juan, we head southward through the center of the island on PR 52. This is a busy toll expressway, but outside the cities it stretches across hilly countryside in the interior of the island. As we approach the southern coast, we can stop at one of Puerto Rico’s few highway rest stops and see both human-made and natural landmarks, the Monumento al Jíbaro Puertorriqueño and Las Tetas De Cayey.

[By Roca Ruiz ( [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

PR 52 ends in the city of Ponce on the southern coast. The city is known on the island as a major center for the arts, and ishome to many museums including Museo de Arte de Ponce.

[By Oquendo on Flickr (appears to be Jose Oquendo here.) (Flickr.) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

The building itself is a work of art, built in the 1960s and designed by architect Edward Durell Stone. Their primary collection is traditional European Art – something that sounds at first description a bit jarring for the building. But their signature piece is more modern, the 25-foot Pinceladas al vuelo (Brushstrokes in Flight) by Roy Lichtenstein.

With on in mind, we continue west from Ponce on PR 2 – this is the same PR 2 we encountered in San Juan, as it traces the coast on the western half of the island – and stop at the ruins of the CORCO refinery.

[Photo by cavenaghi9 on Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Like so many other places in this series, this seems like a great place to do some photography work. The pipes and columns are rusting and peeling, but they still stand there. I don’t know whether it is quiet – there is still some industrial activity in the area – but it is what I imagine.

It’s a no-brainer that a tropical island like Puerto Rico would have beaches. But the southwest corner of the island apparently has some of the most scenic and less populated beaches – which is what I would prefer if I was there. We exit PR 2 onto PR 116 past the town of Guánica, where we come to Las Paldas and La Jungla beaches. We conclude with this video of quiet beaches on Guánica Bay.