On October 8th, 2017 a fire started on Tubbs Lane just outside of Calistoga, California. Whipped by winds that blew at 75 mph and at times gusted north of 100 mph, the fire raced into Sonoma County wrought apocalyptic destruction. It was one of more than a half dozen fires that turned Northern California into one gigantic relief effort. Just a dozen days later I put out a call to you, the readers of RKP, to help. Clothing began pouring in. Mark Ritz of Kinetic Koffee fame showed up with grocery bags containing thousands of dollars in new and barely used clothing. He later shipped even more stuff. That was on top of the clutch of gear that my friend Pat McKay at Kali Protectives shipped to us just days after the fires began. For weeks not a day went by that another box arrived. So much clothing showed up on my doorstep that I had to ask my management company if I could use a spare garage bay to store everything.
Thanks to Facebook and email, I was able to connect with dozens of riders who had lost their homes. Setting up a time to meet with them was no biggie. Helping them find pieces that fit their needs and their bodies was no biggie either. But part of the job that I took on, without knowing it, was listening to each and every story of people escaping the advancing flames, embers swirling into their garages as they pulled out, watching their fences consumed by orange in their rear view mirror. That hasn’t been easy. In some cases I’ve used this post from the Enter the Deuce series to connect with people and help them understand that I get how hard it can be to accept assistance even as you need it. Processing all this has taken up more than a few sessions with my counselor, and I’m carrying the rest of it around my belly in the form of fat from all the wine and beer I drank last fall.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge just how amazing some of the clothing was that has passed through here. From amazing wool jerseys to Assos and Castelli pieces that were practically new, I took some delight at sizing someone up and then saying, “Oh, I’ve got this amazing jacket in your size!” There were any number of pieces I’d love to have had for myself. On more than one occasion, after hearing me enthuse about how great a piece was, people said, “Oh, take that one for yourself. You deserve it.” I couldn’t. I didn’t. The good folks at Industry Nine sent a huge box containing clothes, shoes, a hydration pack and more. It also contained a bottle of I9’s I9PA, a double IPA. When I tried to give that to someone, she read the accompanying note and said, “No, I think this is meant for you.” I can report it was delicious. But back to my point, I’m happy to say that helping pair people with the right clothing and showing off just how cool some pieces were was genuinely enjoyable.
As recently as last weekend I managed to connect with two more people who needed clothing. At this point I estimate I’ve given out close to 70 percent of what has arrived. What’s left is slightly less than what you see above.
The time has come for all this to go. A few weeks back I put forward the idea that I sell off the remaining clothing and then take the money generated in the sale and use it to help out local NICA teams. It’s the only way I see of making sure that all those donations go to helping cyclists who need help without me creating a 501(c)3 to administer this. The Annadel Composite team lost three of their four bikes in the fires. While they’ve replaced some of their bikes, they’ve needed to repair others and cover administrative and entry fees for some of the kids who come from families with fewer means. The idea of helping NICA teams has been warmly received by everyone I’ve connected with who donated clothing.
I should mention that we’ve had some relatively recent arrivals; those most recent shipments have been almost entirely cold-weather gear; I asked people who were still inquiring to send items for riding in roller temperatures. I want to report that those items aren’t just going to turn around and be sold. I’ve given out nearly every piece of insulated gear that has arrived in recent weeks. Some people who came by in November have stopped back by to pick up additional items as the stock has changed.
I’ve already begun a pre-sale of clothing; friends from the community have dropped by and picked up a few pieces and that money has already been put to use paying for repairs and tires for some of the Annadel Composite Team’s bikes. I left money on account with Kevin Gambini of Breakaway Bikes here in Santa Rosa just to help the team. I look forward to giving him more.
The sale will be at Trail House this coming Saturday, March 24, from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. And yes, it may be raining, but we’ve got a backup plan for that. Most of you reading this are probably nowhere near Northern California, but maybe you have friends or family who are nearer and could use some extra cycling gear. We’ve got everything from jerseys to bibs, tights to jackets, and even some baggies for mountain biking. Some of the stuff we have is new. With the exception of a few smaller items (like socks), every piece will go for $20. While I’d like to make as much money to help the local NICA teams as I can, I have a real need to make sure everything sells on Saturday. I’ve promised my management company that I’ll empty that garage bay, so I can’t bring that stuff home.
To all of you who donated, thank you. You’ve done my community a kindness that won’t be forgotten. Not ever. I also need to thank Andrea Wells and Allen Louie for helping me with bins and organizing all this stuff. I couldn’t have done it alone. Thanks in advance to Shane Bresnyan of Trail House for agreeing to let us do the sale there.
This readership has turned out in force twice in the past: for my beer fund that Robot set into motion after I crashed back in 2012 and then when my son Matthew, aka His Tininess the Deuce, was born. I was humbled by what you did on both occasions, but the generosity that you’ve shown here is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life and I hope someday I find a way to demonstrate the gratitude that the community here feels for what you’ve done.
RKP’s Massive Clothing Sale
Santa Rosa, CA
1:00 to 5:00
As they say on “The Price Is Right”: Come on down!