September 20, 2015 by Tony Barthel

What a summer! As we’ve said we’ve been grateful to you for the best summer in our records. But we’ve also really been challenged by all the fires in Lake County and now that challenge is made worse with the Valley Fire.

If you’re not following the news, the Valley Fire has displaced an estimated 17,000 people and has destroyed an estimated 1,200 homes in Lake County, along with a number of businesses. Everybody in Lake County knows someone who has lost their home and or business, and some people have lost both.

Once again these fires are far from the Featherbed Railroad so we’ve been super fortunate in that sense and, in this case, we’ve been able to give accommodation to some people who might not have a place to go back to when all is said and done. We’re all crossing our fingers for positive outcome when officials let people go back to where their homes are, or were, depending on the situation.

While June and Paul have been holding down the fort and making people feel at home and comfortable, myself and Peggy have been able to spend time volunteering around the County.

This county has the most incredible people, as the photographs will show. The line of people donating carloads and truck loads of supplies is incredible. Whole tent cities have sprouted with a complete dining room and kitchen facilities and some of the local restaurateurs have closed their businesses to go cook in shelters. It is overwhelming. And we have a message for one and all. Many people have asked how they can help when they’re not residents of Lake County.

Frankly, the best thing you can do is plan a getaway here once this is all over with. This is not at all meant to be selfish – there are plenty of beautiful places to stay and while we appreciate your patronage, we also want to share.

Come eat at restaurants that employ people whose houses are gone. Come golf and taste and buy wine – some of our precious vineyards are gone, too. Shop at stores, have some fun. Bring your smiles and share them with everyone you see.

Because while many of our friends and neighbors face an incredible uphill battle they also need your support to help them rebuild. The restaurants, shops, stores and wineries are all still here. But many of the people who work there don’t have a place to get their mail and they’re going to want to put in a lot of overtime to help fix that situation. They don’t necessarily want a handout, they want to be able to earn their way back to a normal state of affairs.

September is a month that’s usually busy in Lake County as is October, but winter is usually really, really slow up here. If you want to help people who really need help, we would love to have you visit our beautiful, natural and slightly charred in some places tourism destination. The servers and business owners and shopkeepers and gift shop owners and winery employees and all the other people who rely on you to help put a roof over their heads now need a new roof over their heads. And the fires were bad, but most of the places you’ll want to visit are as incredible as they ever were.

You can feel great because you’re going to get a vacation in a place that has incredible natural beauty, warm people who will give even beyond what they have themselves and taste some pretty incredible wine and beer and food. But not only will you be enjoying a close-by getaway in a very affordable destination, but you’ll be helping to buy some new clothes for the kids or a bit of drywall for that house that needs to be built or who knows what.

In other words, everybody will win. You get something great – a relaxing vacation! – and the people whom you’ve come to see will get something great – a job and progress toward rebuilding what the fires have destroyed.

So we hope you make some plans in the next few months to enjoy a Lake County getaway. Tell your friends they can help people and enjoy themselves as well. Share this on Facebook and with your neighbors.

We have every intention of rebuilding what was lost up here and making it even better but we are asking you to be part of that solution. Yes, you. So, do you have your reservations yet?

Tony Barthel is the proprietor of the Featherbed Railroad Company, one of Lake County’s most unique bed and breakfast resorts, and also one of the great champions of lovely region.