Whether through traveling by off-road motorcycle or battery-powered mountain bike, or by eating dehydrated meals, or knowing how to make fire, visitors to the inaugural Prepare 2 Endure Preparedness Expo said Saturday that they want to be ready when trouble starts.
Organized by brothers Daron and Brian Payne, of Lancaster and Bakersfield respectively, the event, which continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Kern County Fairgrounds, brought makers of useful products and teachers of arcane skills together with people who'd always thought about what to do if something happened. Something big.
"We had a preparedness kit, but I looked at it when we moved, and one of the cans of food had exploded and it ruined everything, it got all moldy," said Janette Zinn of Bakersfield, who visited the Expo with her husband, Brian.
Down the aisle, they'd noticed Bakersfield-based American Emergency Food and Supplies -- offering everything from stroganoff to oatmeal and tomato soup, good for 25 years.
"If it happens, I want to be the one that eats," Brian Zinn said. "Look at New Orleans, when that happened. You wait on the government, you'd be out of luck."
And so they came, an estimated 2,000 visitors on Saturday, to visit vendors who trekked from Phoenix and Utah, from Eagle Rock and Escondido, to feed a need they said is growing exponentially.
"We're really shocked how, we're out in a desert town, out in the middle of nowhere, and we're getting a good crowd," said Mike Peters of Utah, purveyor of the Ultimate Bunker -- made of welded steel, and reportedly nuclear device-proof under just four feet of dirt.
"I was just over in Scotland, and they said Americans are really getting into this," said survival expert Tim Ralston, whom you may remember from the National Geographic reality series "Doomsday Preppers." His latest invention is the X Caliber, a series of seven-inch, stainless steel tubes that adapt a 12-gauge shotgun to fire different calibers of bullets. The gun show was next door, and so the most lethal device offered at the Expo was the stun gun, offered by Strike Back Protection Products.
Ralston had made a big entrance during set-up, towing the Bug Out Survival Shelter (BOSS) teardrop trailer he helped design, equipped with weeks of food and power, behind a ROKON two-wheel-drive off-road motorcycle. But this, he said, is as much about skills as about buying things.
"It's kind of going backwards to the time of my grandparents," said Ralston, 50. "My grandparents were the first preppers." Others agreed.
"I did a lot of these in the '90s -- it was the build-up to Y2K -- and the world didn't come to an end," said Christopher Nyerges of Eagle Rock, who teaches survival skills courses at Pasadena City College.
"Buying stuff seems to help with that (question of what to do in a crisis) but it's our skills that we really need. I always tell people, what you know is better than what you carry," Nyerges said, teaching a reporter how to make fire with a hand drill. Quick lesson: drilling a blunt wooden dowel into a too-small wooden hole will eventually yield smoke. And where there's smoke ... .
Scores of the intrigued walked next door, through 106-degree heat, to classrooms where Nyerges and others taught everything from defense tactics to preparing for the crash of the dollar to making your own quail trap and living off the land.
"My wife and I, we learned. We lived through three hurricanes in Corpus Christi, Texas," said Will Lusk of Ridgecrest, who toured Mike Peters' Ultimate Bunker and pronounced it "doable," for a friend who's planning to retire in New Mexico.
"There are three reasons why we did this," said Lusk, who keeps supplies and keepsakes in plastic tubs, in case they need to leave fast. "One is earthquakes. Two would be a major power outage. And the other would be a major event in L.A. or on the coast."
Not everyone was ready to hunker in a bunker, however.
"Kind of spooky, living your life down in the hole," said Dianna Gurnett, who toured the Ultimate Bunker with her daughters, while delivering more business cards to her husband, Scott Gurnett, at the booth for their solar power business, Bakersfield-based Divine Power USA. "We get lax if we don't think about these things," Gurnett said. "If we have a major earthquake, we need to be ready." Ready, in some cases, to reconnect with the skills of their grandparents.
"We just took some survival classes," said father of three Clint Fuller of Tehachapi, who visited the Expo with his wife, Stephanie, and infant, Benjamin.
"This feels like a vacation," said Stephanie, noting that the family's older children, a 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter, were home with the babysitter.
"I don't know much about sewing or quilting, and I'd like to teach her about quilting," Fuller said of her daughter. "I got some books that I think will help me learn."