Fortitude Ranch Chief Operating Officer Steve Rene speaks from inside a storage room stacked with food in Mathias.
The growing number of people getting infected by the deadly coronavirus has left the world in absolute panic.
The narrow, worn track in West Virginia, close to the foothills of the Appalachians, leads to a camp set back in the woods, where a group of US survivalists began preparing for the collapse of civilization long before the arrival of the new coronavirus that has brought so much of the world to a halt.
Boxes full of family-size tins of food, bags of freeze-dried victuals that can last up to 25 years, rice, flour... the survivalists did not wait for the wave of panic-buying that has emptied shelves across the country: their provisions were already neatly stacked up in a bunker made of reinforced concrete and dug a meter (yard) into the ground.
Ever-ready, they even have ample supplies of two of the most sought-after commodities in the jittery country: toilet paper and face masks.
"It's worth a lot of money now!" joked Steve Rene, presenting the 100-acre (40 hectares) site that he manages as though it were a holiday camp. Which it kind of is.
The Fortitude Ranch's motto embraces both End Times and more normal times: "Prepare for the Worst... Enjoy the Present!" Members have up to two weeks each year to revel in this rural retreat, enjoying nature, hiking or trout fishing in the appropriately named Lost River.
"We're not militaristic. We have no ties with militias, anything like that," he insisted, although his past military service -- he served in Operation Desert Storm in the Arabian Gulf in 1991 -- is evident from the impeccably ironed brown shirt he wears.
Nevertheless, there are lookout posts in all four corners of the property, and there is a high-caliber rifle, capable of stopping an armored vehicle, in the ranch's living room to convince would-be new recruits of just how seriously the members take this enterprise.
More than foreign invaders, the survivalists view their main threat as fellow Americans rushing out to steal their provisions if public order collapses as a result of a nuclear or biological weapons strike, an economic implosion, a political uprising, a pandemic or a mix of any of the above.
The creator of the Fortitude Ranch franchise, Drew Miller, is a former military intelligence expert and Harvard graduate who hopes to establish a dozen such retreats across the United States.
As opposed to the "luxury bunkers" that the super-rich are building themselves, the entrepreneur is aiming clearly at the middle-class market.
People pay at least $1,000 per year, per person, for the basic package: a berth in a bunker dormitory.
Rene has been getting more and more inquiries and emails as the coronavirus spreads across the country.
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