August 4, 2008
Looking Out for a Sister City
By Kristin S. Agostoni
The 10-year-old Chevy Suburban had outlived its useful life rushing fire officials around Redondo Beach. But it turns out the truck wasn't quite ready for retirement; there was another city waiting for it south of the border.
And so this fall, the 1998 SUV will hit the road for Ensenada, which will welcome not only a new fire command unit, but a fleet of Mexican and American bicyclists.
The theme of the ride is "2 Cities, 2 Days, 2 Wheels, 200 Miles," and the goal is to strengthen ties between Redondo Beach and one of its two Mexican sister cities. (The other is La Paz, and Redondo has also formed a partnership with Zhangjiagang, China.)
The relationship between Redondo and Ensenada was stronger in the 1960 s, about 10 years after the two became sister cities, but in recent years it has been limited to mostly exchanges among high school students, said City Councilman Steve Diels, who is spearheading the September bike ride to coincide with the delivery of the fire vehicle.
The plans jelled fairly easily, in large part because the timing was right, he said.
Diels was visiting Ensenada six months ago when he learned the Fire Department there needed a command unit. As it turned out, Redondo Beach Fire Chief Dan Madrigal had just retired one.
And Diels, an avid cyclist, said that for some time he's wanted to organize a bike ride linking Redondo to Ensenada, a port city about 70 miles south of Tijuana in Baja California.
"I've been talking about doing (a ride) for years, and I finally had to pull the trigger and get it all done," he said. "The vehicle was just sitting in surplus. - The timing was just perfect."
Madrigal said the Fire Department in 2001 sent a used unit to La Paz, but this is its first donation to Ensenada. While the city has a policy calling for vehicles to be retired after reaching a certain age or mileage, the SUV is "still in excellent condition," he said.
Ensenada Fire Chief Jaime Nieto, who oversees 200 personnel, said his department has 10 extinguisher units, two tanker-type vehicles, four ambulances and five medium-sized operations and transport vehicles - but nothing like the command unit coming from the South Bay beach city.
Through a translator, he said Ensenada and Redondo residents will demonstrate their friendship and affection "by participating in this event and mutually supporting each other with equipment, training, and also why not with a little party."
His department will join the ride to provide support and security, he said.
The details are still unfolding, but Diels said the plan is to start pedaling Sept. 26, following a kick-off dinner the night before at the Redondo Beach Lobster Festival.
Cyclists will head to the Mexican border, where they'll board a shuttle and stay the night in Rosarito Beach - dodging a trek through Tijuana, which prompted concerns about cyclists' safety - and then join the 50-mile Rosarito-Ensenada Bike Ride, a tradition that dates to 1979.
The 10-year-old red Chevy Suburban will serve as one of the ride's SAG - supply and gear - vehicles, offering cyclists assistance along the way.
On Sunday, Diels said another trip is planned to the Ensenada orphanage Casa Hogar, which will receive proceeds generated from the bike ride. Participants will be asked to pay a fee that covers their lodging costs and to make a donation.
HOW TO HELP
Organizers of the Redondo Beach-to-Ensenada bike ride Sept. 26 and 27 are looking for corporate sponsors and cyclists to fill a limited number of spots. Anyone interested should contact Redondo Beach City Councilman Steve Diels at 310-318-8181, or [email protected]
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