For nearly two months, I’ve been at the front the group, drilling it. In our cycling metaphor, I’ve been in the big ring, turning a 53×15 with some terrific pulls by others. It’s worth noting, that I’m not a big guy, the one you turn to when banging out the miles if a sizable draft is the need. Put another way, this is not the job for which I was hired.
Such is the circumstance of an all-hands effort. I went to the front of our group and with or without help I’ve been determined to get our bunch back in the pack.
But I’ve been well-fed. You might say every guy in the group has given me a bottle, pulled a gel from their pockets and passed it my way.
In more concrete terms, the clothing distribution effort that began as a result of my post, A Request, has rained lycra and wool. The generosity of RKP readers is unlike anything I’ve ever personally been a part of. Long after I thought I must have supplied clothing to every home-lost rider in Santa Rosa, I continued to hear from members of our extended family who wanted nothing more than a kit or two. Similarly, long after I thought I couldn’t possible see the arrival of another box, more boxes showed up. Another four last week.
We’ve managed to organize the arrivals according to small and medium bibs vs. large and XL bibs. Same for jerseys. We separated bibs from shorts. Vests and jackets got a bin, as did long sleeve jerseys. There’s a box just for gloves. Women’s pieces got their own sort as well. We’ve even got a bin just for warmers, though it’s the first to empty following a new arrival. Somehow, I still have two boxes just for socks.
I confess that I never took a formal inventory; I was too focused on uniting the arrivals with the riders in need. That said, by my rough estimation, I’ve given out about 1.5 times what you see here. Roughly 50 riders have come through. Not all the tears shed were theirs. The stock has rotated enough that I’ve had some riders come back a second time to fill holes in their needs that I couldn’t meet weeks ago.
There are plenty of reports in the local paper of people gaming charities, FEMA, retailers for deals and giveaways. Because everyone I’ve met has come through a personal referral, I have a high-degree of confidence that every piece I’ve given out has been to someone truly in need. In each case, I’ve heard the story of their escape.
From an emotional standpoint, I don’t ever want to be this close to a disaster again. The aggregation of these stories has given me a cinematic vision of the movement of the fire out of Tubbs Lane, across the county, through Mark West, Fountaingrove, the embers blowing across the 101, fire leaping from one home to another in Coffey Park, flame running downhill on the south side of Fountaingrove, toward my home, and then walls of orange moving through some of the most storied vineyards in Napa County as spears of heat raced through Kenwood and north into Trione-Annadel State Park. I can recite timelines the way a conductor knows a train’s schedule.
The reality is I’ve devoted the sort of time to this that one might put into a part-time job. I’d have made more working for REI or NorCal Bike Sport, and it wouldn’t have been a fraction as demanding, or fulfilling.
Based on the fall-off in appointments for this week, I anticipate I’m nearing the end of my pulls. It’ll be time for me to drift to the back and let the group go.
Once I’m satisfied that I’ve reached everyone I can, I will need to make arrangements for the rest of this clothing to find homes. But I need to be transparent in how I do this.
In talking with a couple of friends, my favorite idea is to do this in two steps. First, we go through the inventory and pull all the items of appropriate sizes to teenage boys and girls and split it between two NICA teams in the NorCal Leage: Annadel Composite (often referred to as the A Team) and a new team in Windsor that will be coached by the very first recipient of the clothing that arrived.
Following that, I want to hold a rummage sale of sorts and sell all of the remaining items. With your approval, I’d like to take that money and put it toward buying used mountain bikes for those two teams. The A Team lost four of their bikes in the fires and all of their clothing. Thanks to one reader, I’ll be presenting team members with a used mountain bike later this week.
I like this course of action, but only if all of you who have been so generous give me your leave. I need buy-in, so please comment.
No matter what your religious or secular bent, we like to say this is a season for giving. What you have done for my community is a kindness that won’t be forgotten. Not ever.