Friday Group Ride #382

Friday Group Ride #382

When I woke early Monday morning I had my doubts that the fire would affect my life. My wife had gone straight to DefCon 5 and was packing and waking the boys. She was pissed when Mini-Shred, who is all of eight years of age, went right back to sleep. I pointed out that the fire wasn’t terribly close to us and he didn’t need to be awake until and unless we decided we needed to leave.

There was no denying the fact that the fire, which was bright enough at 2:00 am to illuminate the smoke rising from the hillside, was unnerving.

Our power was off, so I used my phone as a flashlight to shuffle through an apartment cave-dark. I shut down my desktop computer, slipped my laptop into a backpack, slipped another laptop into the backpack as well, unplugged hard drives, began collecting cables. From our balcony I could see the flames disappear below the branches of the trees as fire leapt its way toward my neighborhood. In 15 minutes it had moved at least a mile, maybe more.

Once I’d walked the computers and hard drives to my car I went into our garage. I pulled out the SeaSucker double rack that I’d reviewed a couple of years ago and installed that on the car. Between that and my hitch rack, I’d be able to take four bikes with me. There were 19 bikes in the garage between those that were mine, the boys’, my wife’s and review bikes. How to choose?

The DiNucci, the Bishop and the Seven were reasonably easy choices. So was bringing a mountain bike, and as there’s only one in the garage currently, no choice was necessary.

Back upstairs I favored stylish T-shirts to my best suits. I didn’t even look at my tux. I made sure to grab one pair of each type of shoe for the different pedals I run. Yeah, I focused on cycling shoes more than street shoes.

In times of emergency, when homes vanish, people readily say that it’s only stuff. But stuff is the stuff of which a life is made. Photo albums, artwork you saved to purchase, signed books, keepsakes from vacations, these are the things by which we choose to identify our past. So it’s always seemed disingenuous to me to discount the mementos we’ve decided matter. Sure, most of us have boxes of odds and ends we don’t much need, but I’ll admit I struggle to part with those boxed tokens from the 1998 Tour de France.

I have been fortunate to make two more trips back for stuff. My home sits but a single block from two different evacuation zones. It’s middle ground that does not feel lucky. Between three addresses I’ve gotten out 10 of my bikes and one each for my boys. I’ve gotten all the important art off the walls. I boxed up some of my favorite magazines with features I wrote, and one complete set of Asphalt. My MFA thesis remains hidden in a box, as does my other creative work from grad school.

I’m less surprised by what I insisted on taking (I had to enlist the help of friends to get my tandem out), than the things I chose to leave behind. I’ve had this dream of doing lossless transfers of my CD collection to a who-knows-how-many terabyte RAID. I left the CDs, some of which still aren’t copied.

Tuesday night I made peace with the idea that I wouldn’t see my home again. So far, it’s still there, and while more planes have passed overhead than any other day since this fire started, I’m not ready breathe, sigh or feel any degree of relief.

This week’s question is, beyond family and pets, what matters to you? If the air raid sirens turn or neighbors knock on your door, what do you grab? What is the stuff of your life?

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  1. TomInAlbany

    So, the answer is, ‘How long do I have?’ I know you know how fortunate you are to have been able to make multiple trips.

    EVERYTHING my kids have ever made for me. I have a lot of it in shoeboxes, etc. But, I’d grab as much as I could.
    The wedding stuff. I’ve saved every card my wife has ever given me. I also have the ‘fresh cut’ slice of of every Christmas tree my wife and I have shared. I use a sharpie and write the year on them. I’ve got 15 of them in a bag.
    The computers with all of the digital photos on them. Hard drives, etc. ACTUAL photo albums. There’s about a dozen… There are also boxes of unsorted photos I’d want, though I’ve not looked at them in over a decade. Maybe two.

    There’s an afghan that an old girl friend made for me. It’s comfy and a momento of the first serious relationship of my life.

    Honestly, I’d leave the bikes. I kinda sorta want new ones anyway. My two are 15-20 years old.

  2. DRB

    This is a great line….so true and well put.

    “In times of emergency, when homes vanish, people readily say that it’s only stuff. But stuff is the stuff of which a life is made”.

  3. Victoria Thomas

    In 1972, living in very high north of Canada on Victoria Island, my parents apartment building burned to the ground in the middle of the night. It was cold. It was dark. There wasn’t a fire department. I was six months old. My dad went back into the burning building to find a missing man. My parents had only be living in Canada for four years. They were alone in the Arctic Circle with a six-month old baby and nothing else. They had to sleep on the floor of the school gymnasium. I was christened shortly after this fire. For months afterwards, my parents slept fully clothed with their boots on – they wanted to be ready in case it happened again. They got through it. No, they don’t talk about the fire often. Five years later we were forced to evacuate to higher ground due to a raging forest fire engulfing our northern Saskatchewan town of Uranium City. We got through it. It’s not easy. The second time, like the first fire, they took nothing – there was no time.

  4. MattC

    My wife and the dogs. That’s the important stuff…sure, there is lots of STUFF that I’d miss, but nothing worth risking our lives for. Houses and stuff can be replaced. IF I had time I’d grab my mt bike. But even that can be replaced. One of the guys I work with’s sister had moments…the ran to one of the cars and drove out thru flames…lost the house w/ everything and the 2nd car…stuff happens fast in that wind. What a freaking disaster unfolding for SO many people. Packing ahead of time would be very smart, giving you a chance to save ‘stuff’.

  5. Dave in ME

    Essential – Wife and animal and my meds/supplies because I am a lifelong type one diabetic. Not much future for me without that stuff! A big file drawer full of art and cards my girls have made for me throughout their lives which I’d grab and I would stick in an external hard drive I have full of pics from various adventures and stages in my life. Bring the laptop to stay in touch with folks etc.

    Before I discuss the bikes, I acknowledge that they are all replaceable and if I had to leave them I would. But if I had a chance, I would grab them all!!
    My CoMotion Espresson CoPilot is a beaut and does everything I want in a road bike. I bought it prior to living and racing in Spain for a year. It can climb and descend like few other bikes I have owned. It is hanging in my shop with just a headset and fork and is screaming for a Super Record build.
    My Merlin Works – gorgeous titanium with a premium build. I’ve had a titanium bike since 1998 because I love the ride and this is the best ti bike I’ve owned.
    Finally my Fuji Cross Pro – I have done everything on this beast. Rode up Mt. Washington, commuted year round (no small feat in small town Maine), ridden untold amounts of gravel and single track and on and on.

    I hope you and your family are safe.

  6. Shawn

    I’m not sure. But as the owner of a lot of 40 year old collector stuff (yeah right!), I could stand to part with a lot of it. If I were to be unfortunate to lose my home as so many people have, I’d try in the future to not concern myself with obtaining as much replacement stuff.

    I do wish I was closer to the Santa Rosa, Napa, Petaluma area so that I could utilize my emptied bike hauler mini-van to help out those who may not have enough vehicle room to transport out a lot of the things that they would prefer not to leave behind.

    Best wishes to all of those who have lost homes, are immersed in the smokey darkness or are dealing with the saddest matter of all, the loss of a loved one.

    and thank you to the firefighters who endure torturous work day in and day out breathing smoke infused air.

    I’m not a religious person, but God bless them all.

  7. Evo

    In the winter of 2014 my wife and I fulfilled a long held dream and purchased a small cabin in the mountains. Paradise with riding and skiing access. It was a life goal, a dream fulfilled. Six months later I was loading up the car as we had a level three (go now) evacuation order as a forest fire was bearing down on our place. Power had been out for some time and it was spooky silent. The air smelled like death. I recall looking around like I was on a life boat leaving the sinking ship and deserting my dream. I was operating on rote, emotionally distant because my heart was in uncharted waters. I could not compartmentalize this. We took bikes, electronics and odds and ends that seemed to provide some emotional comfort. Kind of like stuffed animals for a middle aged man. Our place survived but the experience left something slightly less than a scar on my heart.

  8. Steve

    I cannot imagine how scary it must be in your neck of the woods. If, as you say, you have made peace, you are a better man than I. Just wanted to put out there that I hope no real harm comes to you or your family and friends and neighbors.

  9. cash

    Nothing really, stuff is stuff to me. After enduring a painful divorce seven years ago, I embraced loss and divorced myself from attachment to things (as well as her … which is a different story). In healing from that, I further embraced minimalism and stoicism. Which isn’t to say I don’t like nice things (I do … clearly), but I try to stay detached from those nice things.

    So …. I grab the dogs, my wife, my laptop. Everything else is kindling in my view. Sure, the bikes will be missed (and ultimately replaced). And the fancy mattress sure makes bedtime activities of all sort that much more pleasurable, but it to is just a thing to leave behind.

    Good luck. These fires are biblical.

  10. Quentin

    This is not the first time this week I’ve asked myself this. I would definitely take photos, with priority to old pre-digital ones, but I’d probably grab the laptop with my digital ones even though they are backed up. If I could take only one bike I’d grab my son’s 26″ MTB. I didn’t spend much money on it, but he wanted something unique and personal, so I ordered a bare frame online, we painted it with a design he came up with, and installed parts on it from his sister’s outgrown bike. Most likely he’ll outgrow it in 2-3 years, I’ll get him a 27.5 bike with better components, and probably get rid of the parts currently on that frame, but that frame we painted together is the one piece of bike gear in my garage most likely to still be there in 20-30 years.

  11. Pat O'Brien

    We used to live in a house with a 4 lane bypass road right behind it. After watching numerous crashes, including one propane truck, behind our house, we prepared a “bug out” checklist in case a propane or gasoline truck crashed right behind out house. We also prepared two bug out duflles complete with 3 days worth of clothes, bathroom kits, and shoes. We even made one for the dog. The bug out list included gathering all important documents and lap top computer, and two touring bikes if time allowed. The list also included preparing the house items like turning off the natural gas. We practiced using the list and could gather everything, prepare the house, pack the car/truck, and leave in 15 minutes. We ended up using the list when the Monument Fire of 2011 made us evacuate. for 3 days. We no longer live in an area where we would have to leave quick. But, we still maintain the evacuation list.

  12. souleur

    Time of course is the most precious commodity each of us have, outside of that, materially/physically what is most important….good question.

    My FJ60, family pictures, and my Pinarello
    My wife however, she would be packing heavy as she has the goodies
    even in that, things can be replaced
    lives cannot

  13. Michael

    Great to hear you are still okay for now. I had a few close calls with fires when I lived in California and thought a lot about evacuations and what to take. A few important items would be handy – my daughter’s SS card and birth certificate, all our passports, and our computers, which have all the important life info these days. I guess I’d bring a phone, although I don’t use it much, so I could contact people to let them know I was okay. Probably my favorite coffee maker and a couple of bottles of wine that I have been saving, just to have them after the disaster to celebrate surviving. It seems like having some tiny bit of normalcy would be important. Bikes? I guess I’d want one for my wife (her choice), my travel bike that can do almost anything, and then the tandem as it is so important to my daughter, whose epilepsy makes riding alone a bit dangerous. Tying the tandem on the roof would be the slowest – I could have the rest together and loaded in under five minutes. But sometimes there are not five minutes to spare. Clothes and bike kit and the like would probably all get forgotten, if time was tight.

    A friend, in evacuating his house before a fire a couple decades ago, was running to the car and thought “Hey, I’ll need some clothes.” He had clothes drying on the clothes line so ran along the line, simply scooping all the clothes off it onto his shoulder and tossed them in the car as he jumped in. The fire burned the post that held the clothes line, but there were no clothes to carry the fire across the lawn to the other end of the line, where it was tied to the eaves of the house. The house was untouched.

  14. Les.B.

    The bikes would be left to melt — too big. Unless I used one to escape as did at least a couple of people did up there.

    To avoid indecision in the time of panic I have 2 laminated lists on the fridge, one “Leave NOW” list and one “Leave soon” list.
    The now list has phone, keys, cats, evac bags, not much else.

    Most of my heirloom stuff, my parents’ and mine, was stolen by extended family members from my folks house years ago. My disaster happened already.

    1. TomInAlbany

      Family are the worst, sometimes. Sorry that happened to you as well. When my Grandfather dies, one of my cousins went into the house and took all of the classic stuff to furnish a room or two in his house. never asked the rest of us if we wanted anything. I had to ask for my grandfather’s shot glass.

  15. Cameron

    After spending several years living overseas and moving every second or third year we have worked hard to disaster proof our lives. All we need is a couple of go bags with food, water, clothes and toiletries, 4 cross stitches, passports, and other original documents. The irreplaceable memories such as pictures, letters, school projects, notes, and journals have already been scanned and uploaded to the cloud. Media too is all on the cloud. While losing anything else would be an inconvenience, everything can and would be replaced if a fire were to come through. We have learned to become sentimentally detached from our stuff and although it would be work to replace, we would not be devestated by the lost of many things. As far as my bikes, if they were lost, I’d be happy to meticulously research, plan and build replacements.

  16. Jeff

    I’ve already embraced tiny house living. One file cabinet drawer (all documents). One box with camping supplies. Grab the go bag. And my great great grandfathers end table. You only need one item from the old country to remind yourself of everything else you left.

  17. Quinn

    Family, life and limb above all else. Might even welcome the cleansing aspect of the fire to put an end to the procrastination and reckoning of too much stuff.

  18. Mike

    We have a small wheeled safe that has our important paperwork in it.
    In the garage are a couple of totes with camping gear and basic survival needs.
    Add some clothes and shoes in a bag. Maybe even a toothbrush. ;^)
    Pick up the cat.
    Grab a pistol, a rifle and ammo and head out the door. 15 minutes or less.

    Some may not like the idea of being armed. I do.
    Living in a state where hurricanes are always an issue, a fire will bring out the same behavior from those who wish to capitalize on tragedy.

  19. Mike

    Forgot to add grabbing my copy of A Sand County Almanac, written by Aldo Leopold.
    That would be the only book I truly care to keep

  20. Jeff Dieffenbach

    In no particular order:

    1. Laptop and external hard drive, even though the data’s all up in the cloud … the computer (and my phone) are my conduits to staying connected, getting information, and being entertained.

    2. My camera, to document the journey.

    3. My fat bike and bike bag with helmet, shoes, and the basic gear I’d need for riding. My fat bike isn’t my best bike, but my best bike isn’t all that much–my fat bike brings me the most joy, and I’d want some joy to ride around while the dust settles.

    4. My 2015 Leadville belt buckle (11:27:41).

    5. My father’s Navy-era sidearm that he handed down to me, for the reason that Mike cites. I’m licensed but have never fired it–even so, it’s got some sentimental value (my Mom and he are still going strong). It’s only a .22, so I’m going to have to swing by my local sporting goods store to pick up a LOT more ammunition.

    I should finally buy that bikepacking gear … I could carry all of the above with me on the fat bike!

    It would hurt to lose my books, but mostly because I’d lose the list of those books. Most aren’t on shelves, but photographing the lot wouldn’t take all that much to do. I’ll get on that

    I love questions that make me think. I feel like I’m forgetting something important that a memory scan of my place isn’t revealing … this is going to nag at me for a bit.

  21. Inga Thompson

    Thankfully, I didn’t have to choose two years ago when a fire ripped thru while I was gone. I am blessed to have amazing friends that chose for me. They took the horses and cows first, which made me smile.

  22. S. Barner

    I’ll stick strictly to bikes, since that’s what RKP is about. If I could only take four, the first would be the Gunnar Crosshairs, as it’s the most versatile bike I own, and could serve double duty for almost any other. The second would be the Keith Lippy tandem. I’d want a mountain bike, so I’d probably grab my wife’s ’86 Fat Chance, as it’s in such fine shape and we both could ride it. That would leave me with a very short time to pick a classic, and that would be a very tough decision. A Carlsbad Masi? The sweet ’90 DeRosa? I’d pass on the ’77 Paramount touring bike I bought new, as it was always too long, anyway. The Murray/Serotta/Campagnolo Neutral Support bike that was actually used in the LA Olympics? The mint ’72 Paramount that I never get around to riding because it still looks like new? In the end, I expect it would likely be an eeny-meeny-miny-moe between my ’82 Marinoni, the only bike I ever had custom made, or my Raleigh Pro track, as it’s the bike I’ve owned the longest of any. It also has the distinction of being the only bike I have that I owned when I only owned one bike. I rode that damned thing everywhere–even New York centuries, in a 48 x 14 fixed cog.

    1. Author

      You’re killing me. There’s no way I’d consider a Gunnar over a Carlsbad Masi or the Lippy tandem. But I think it’s terrific you have such a dilemma.

    2. S. Barner

      The Gunnar would be selected because of its utility and versatility. I’d need a bike that had fenders, a rack, and wide tires more than any other, so it would need to take up one slot on the roof rack. After such a mini-Armageddon, it would become one of my most important tools, if only for my sanity. Of the 6200 miles I’ve accumulated this year, 3800 of them have been “utility” miles.

      In the ignorance of youth, I sold my first Masi, which was a very early Carlsbad with a twin-plate crown. I had stripped it by hand to repaint it (my wife did most of the hand sanding, and will never let me forget it), and the workmanship was so achingly perfect that no one will ever convince me that it wasn’t brazed by Mario. It was many years later that I realized what I must have had, so I’ve already lost the best. in such a scenario, it’s time to focus on the future.

  23. Another Mike

    The Canyon 2 fire down here was close enough for me to think about this last week. The dogs, a box of our important documents, and the computers/hard drives (that have all of our pictures) are the most important. After that, given time and space, probably some old keepsakes. And maybe some clothes so we wouldn’t have to immediately go shopping for more.

    It really does put things into perspective about what is truly important. I hope you guys are doing okay up north.

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