In looking back on the eight days I was out of my home certain pieces of bike periphery made life a good deal easier. Coping being what it is, the difference between needing one glass of wine and three at times came down to my ability to get out on the bike every few days. I was able to head out to West County to a trail system there and ride even when the air in Santa Rosa would have frightened most of Beijing. There are a few items that proved to be absolutely invaluable; most are items I’ve written about previously, but a one is new here.
I want to preface what are sure to be kind and positive words effusive with the happiness of rescue—rescued bikes, rescued food, rescued wine—by saying that the incredible usefulness of these items didn’t emerge from a pre-planned disaster preparedness checklist. Nope. When I opened the garage it occurred to me that, “Oh, this will be handy.” In a way, that’s my best recommendation for something; its utility is so obvious as to transcend a prioritized list.
First up is the Sea Sucker Mini Bomber bike carrier. I reviewed this back in 2015 after using it to carry bikes from Los Angeles to Santa Rosa. The Sea Sucker is the bike carrier that uses suction cups to hold the bike to the roof of the car (or window, if you’re so inclined). While suction cups are very Mission Impossible, I’ve yet to meet a cyclist who didn’t get nervous upon seeing the suction cups being pumped to vacuum. Maybe the pucker factor is a sympathetic response. Think about that a second.
The Mini Bomber takes a few minutes to install, though not long in the grand scheme, less than 10 minutes for the whole thing. I’ve been driving around with it on my roof for two weeks at this point. Every three or four days I remember to check out the suction cups and make sure each is secure and they’ve been fine each time. I’ve carried bikes up there six times in the last two weeks. I actually like it better than your traditional trunk rack, in part because it’s so easy to store, but also because I prefer how you mount the bike.
As much as I like the Sea Sucker rack, I have to admit I dispensed with the two rear suction cups to hold the rear wheels of bikes. I was in a hurry and didn’t want to do two more suction cups. That’s when I remembered that I had received two samples of Hiplok’s Z-Lok reusable zip ties.
I knew that I could simply lock the rear wheels to my roof rack and that would be secure enough to drive to Point Reyes without using paved roads and the bikes would still be there. I’m not sure how long the Sea Sucker suction cups would have taken to secure, but the Z-Loks took seconds. It’s hard to explain, but every time I got to my home time felt short. The Z-Lok is easily released with a small key that you slide into the two eyelets visible on the side. As a keep-honest-people-honest security device, I think it’s pretty genius, but in this instance my need was simpler; I needed something to hold the wheel secure to my roof rack. They ended up getting used in other ways, like when I needed to carry four helmets in one hand. A pair go for $20 and I’ve got no reason to complain as there’s nothing quite like them.
The weekend prior to the fires, I went (with a great many other fine people) up to Giro’s Grinduro in Quincy. A group of Santa Rosa cyclists camped together at one end of the campground and we did a fair amount of cooking. I brought along a Dometic CFX 35W portable refrigerator. Dometic is to Yeti what a McLaren is to an Acura. This isn’t just a cooler, it’s an actual refrigerator, one that you can carry.
I got home, emptied the fridge only to realize Tuesday morning, after power in my place had been off for almost 36 hours that I could save a few things from my fridge and freezer. I ate through some of those items while displaced and then added more. It gave me a way to have refrigeration without taking over my host’s fridge.
This thing is amazing in ways I’d never really considered were possible until I went looking for alternatives to Yeti. I don’t see the point to spending $400 for something I still need to load with ice. For a bit more you can have an actual refrigerator. Consider that all of the space in a fridge is useful; you’re not losing space to ice. This variation from Dometic has a USB port so you can charge your phone no matter where you are, plus wifi capability so you can use an app on your phone to control the temperature to the degree.
Being evacuated sucks, full stop. I’m still scratching my head that I spent a full week on the run from flames. But man, once my family and pets were out, I learned that food and bikes are two needs that really can paper over most others.