A wad of cash. Opened, yet unused, prophylactics. A mummified deer hoof.
These are the inadvertent contents that employees at Gear Fix and Gear Peddler consignment stores have found among the avalanche of used gear that tumbles through their doors each year.
The deer hoof has to be the oddest discovery, said master bicycle technician James Huston, who works at Gear Peddler, located in Bend’s Orchard District.
“We were like, ‘OK.’ It was mummified. It still had the fur on it, but there was no rot,” Huston said. “It was like something that was buried under sand in a desert or something.”
Secondhand gear, for its multitude of uses and applications, can be just as quirky as the people who consign, collect or reuse it. And while perusing used gear in hopes of a score is fun any time of the year, Central Oregon’s paltry winter means less-than-tantalizing snow and still-muddy trails leave the outdoorsy types with more time than usual to gear up for future adventures. Oftentimes it’s the experience of sifting through a parade of garments, tools and inexplicable accessories — and wondering about their past and future owners — that is more fun than buying and using the gear itself.
At Gear Fix, retro-tastic belted ski suits — which general manager Matthew Deacon swears never went out of style — are in constant rotation on the sales floor. Ski suits are practically synonymous with one particular aficionado, known as Jacques, who is a fixture on Mt. Bachelor’s lifts and slopes. There, he cycles through his collection of brightly colored suits, Deacon said, while capturing high-speed helmet-camera video and posting it to YouTube.
“He’s an institution at Mt. Bachelor,” Deacon said. “He’s got like 20 one-piece suits.”
Other throwback gear dates to the 1960s. The steam-shaped, wooden craftsmanship of Paris-brand sleds and toboggans help them retain their integrity — and their value — after all these years. One padded toboggan has a $150 price tag. Waxing the sled’s bottom could make things interesting.
“That’d make it go pretty fast,” Deacon said.
A world of weird
In secondhand gear shops, quirk knows no bounds. At Gear Peddler, you can buy a ski that attaches to the front wheel of your fat bike or mountain bike, which adds stability in snow. At Gear Fix, a mint-condition, sleeveless Gore-Tex poncho hangs on display.
“That’s a pretty weird thing you wouldn’t know exists,” Deacon said.
While a pair of off-road in-line skates that feature knobby tires have been waiting to be claimed at Gear Peddler, a similar pair didn’t last long at Gear Fix. Walking through Gear Fix’s expansive location in the Old Mill Marketplace, Deacon said there is little rhyme or reason to what sticks around.
“I’ve had two pairs of off-road Rollerblades come and go since I’ve been here,” he said of his 3 1⁄2 years as the shop manager. “You never really know with that kind of thing. Somebody has to think it’s cool enough to buy it.”
Case in point: the jumping stilts that someone recently sprang for.
“That went really quickly, which is weird,” Deacon said. “I didn’t even think we should take them and then someone bought them the next day.”
Pocket scores, galore
Sometimes it’s not the items that are particularly odd or memorable, but the stowaway mementos they deliver. While car keys and marijuana crumbs are not uncommon finds, a Gear Fix customer found $520 in a pants pocket last month. Deacon said the store contacted the consigner who returned to claim the money, but he didn’t seem as thrilled about the good Samaritan’s deed as they had anticipated.
“I know where all of my $520 is,” Deacon said with a laugh. “He must have been rich.”
Another bit of discovered pocket treasure is a love note. Gear Fix employees have since tacked it to a beam by the consignment desk, hidden from customer view. As Deacon leaned in to read it aloud, several employees gathered for the impromptu recital:
“Hey I love you. Hey I need you. Hey I want you. Forever and ever, amen. I hope your day is full of long, flow-y dirt trails and cool fall sunshine.”
“That’s sweet,” an employee said. His co-workers nodded.
Outdoors compatibility is not exclusive to people. One customer was recently overjoyed to discover a consigned vintage mountaineering ax blade matched his 20-year-old ax handle. Not all couplings are good fits, however. A pair of ski boots recently inspired shrieks of protest from a middle schooler who adamantly informed her parents she didn’t want to be there, not at all, whatsoever, Deacon said.
And the stink. There’s no discussion of the secondhand gear without acknowledging that sometimes the stuff offends the sniffer.
Climbing shoes are the stinkiest items Gear Fix will accept, which they “spray the heck out of,” Deacon said, like they do all their footwear. Sleeping bags have routinely been turned away for being too ripe.
“They were lived in and put away wet,” Deacon said. “So you have human body odor plus mildew.”
Gear Peddler might have a stricter policy on stench.
“If it’s stinky, it goes straight to the dumpster,” Huston said. Rejected consignments include “snowboard boots that have been sitting in the back of someone’s van, and they haven’t been aired out, and they’re just disgusting.”
Incoming boots are routinely shaken out. Sometimes bits of crackers, peanuts and feces trickle out — evidence of squatter mice. Such boots get marching orders.
The coolest item to pass through Gear Peddler’s door is still there — a 1937 Schwinn bike called The World that a friend of the shop donated. Aside from aftermarket tires, everything else is original. The untrained eye might mistake the slightly rusted bike, with a half-deteriorated leather saddle, for junk, but Gear Peddler employees researched the bike online. They learned that the hubs alone sell for $300 to $400, Huston said. Also not for sale is a half-century-old Schwinn Traveler and a Slingshot, an early 1990s mountain bike with a tensioned cable for a down tube. Sometimes the secondhand scores are too good for shop owners or employees to resist.
Inexplicably, however, Gear Peddler customers haven’t taken to their selection of belted ski suits. Nor has anyone taken an interest in the store’s harpoon gun. Originally priced at $100, the aquamarine-colored weapon joined the shop’s collection of antiquated relics when the consigner abandoned it. The harpoon gun features a pistol grip and is still operational, yet Huston said he’s resisted the urge to test it out on a hay bale, or, say, the dumpster out back.
“Firing it once might break it,” he said with a chuckle before replacing it in a display case.
— Reporter: 541-617-7816, firstname.lastname@example.org