Friday, September 30, 2016

See-Through Toilet Paper

        Camping in France is exceptionally good. Our fellow campers are from all over the world...we all have warm showers and clean and women all use the same unit, so Lisa and I often get to take a shower in the same stall...some of the showers are even hot and some are communal shower rooms with six heads coming out of the wall at different heights (family shower). The toilet paper situation is not as good, we don't stay in places with bidets so, you'd better carry your own paper. If they provide paper it's as this as a Chinese rice cake...and falls apart like one.
        The bicycle riding is phenomenal...sharing the road with very courteous and non distracted drivers. Many of the roads we ride are only ten foot wide and curvy so you have to be extremely alert when driving them. Potholes are few, I'm not sure how the French gov't can afford to keep up a million miles of pavement to such perfection. We have been concentrating on the high roads of the Pyrenees during the first three weeks of our vacation and will move toward the lower lands in October.
       Our fellow cycling fanatics are from all countries and of all ages.. The majority of the French cyclists are men over 60 years old. French women are usually on sensible upright bicycles and working on errands. We have rented a Citroen Berlingo van for 7's a five speed stick shift and about the same size as my Honda Element. This is a huge advantage on narrow roads.
       We have not found many swimming opportunities, as yet, but the water quality is exceptionally good anywhere in the Pyrenees. The prediction is for a warmer than usual October so we may find ourselves swimming more in the lowlands.
        Nearly everyone in France smokes which conflicts a little with our healthy vacation strategy. Wine instead of beer, ale...along with bio foods and healthy cheeses with Dijon moustarde on Pave sourdough bread, on top of three hours a day climbing the hills under our own efforts... makes for lighter and healthier bodies when we return.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fifteen Years Later...

        France, it has been fifteen years, to the day (Sept. 10). Our first journey across the Atlantic landed us in Paris. 2001 was not a good year for America, however the three of us had embarked on a fantastic adventure and we were treated very well around the world, for six months, on bicycles. We are on our sixth journey across the Atlantic (2016) and we expect great results one more time.
        We travel with bicycles and the focus is always on improved fitness while searching for the finest cheese and wine and swimming holes of each region. We have no set itinerary, we follow our noses, throw out our camp in the ripest of locations. Yes, we expect to be lucky...the glitches are few and far between...we've experienced a week of bad weather in Italy one year, we had a fender fall off our rental van in the Pyrenees, we lose track of baggage occasionally and now we have a broken bicycle, but none of this gets us down for long. The fact that we pre-plan minimally is what drives our friends nuts.
        What brings us back every couple of years is the courtesy and respect we are shown while pedaling the back roads of France. I have written all of this before and yet, I am pleasantly surprised each time we experience the "love of cyclists" that shows up when we jump in the saddle here. We are more focused in on the "south of France" these days because we can still climb outrageous hills and the weather seldom disappoints. Yes, I know "bad luck" lurks but, we works to keep our immune systems strong and our attitudes topped off so, I'm thinking we have set the stage for another superlative expedition.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Gently, quietly and humbly o'er the landscape...

        It's the silence that I most appreciate, the deep breathing and the silence. I work on Main Street, at least 40 hours a week,  and have for the last quarter century. I'll grant you, it's one of America's sleepiest Main Streets, but it's still Main Street and I show up at least five or six days a week. People make demands everyday and I get paid for my services.
         I own and operate a bicycle shop in Northern California and I show up year around. My meditations, in fact, my salvation and rejuvenation comes while straddling the saddle of one of my bicycles...gently, quietly and humbly o'er the landscape. It happens during my two mile ride to work and back; or during one of my thirty mile sojourns toward or in the National Park,  located a dozen miles north of my home and business.
         My wife and I have been known to saddle up and ride into the sunset for as long as six months at a time. No real agenda, just a general direction that needs exploring and experiencing silently and under our own power. It really is about the simple living... and the silence.
         No television, no internet, no telephone...just a few simple tools, a tent and a water filter; maybe a good book, probably not, and our bicycles.  No animals to feed or clean up after. No motorcar to fuel or worry about....or to hide from the elements in. If you pick the right roads and regions to explore,  you too will feel the magic of pure air and phenomenal silence.
         It's still out there but most of us are missing it entirely,  because of the static....the static that is a big part of our waking lives...and I fear that this noise continues through the night, in our dreams, which is why we are so unsettled and not at peace with the choices we've made and continue to make, in our noisy, noisy world.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Beauty and The Beast

        Lisa brought me to a play in Chico on an early Sunday in May, "The Beauty and The Beast". She bought tickets for several of her friends, (she's like that) and we all met in the parking lot of the Chico Performing Arts Center. Before that rendezvous, she invested a few hours tending to her garden, while I hopped on my bicycle and climbed one of my favorite hills toward Lassen Volcanic National Park.
         She said, "Remember, you have to be back in an hour and a half, don't get carried away with exploring." I mounted my dual-sport/ townbike, called the Fast City...because this hill has some nasty bumps and bubbles in the pavement, especially on the descent, and the Fast City has a suspension fork. I climbed for 45 minutes, from 4,500ft. to 6,200ft. to a campground on the south edge of Lassen Park.
         The loop through the campground was blocked by snow so, I executed a tight u-turn on the small dirt lane... for some reason the chain broke and stretched out in a straight line in the dirt below....damn!  I carry tools on my bike to fix a flat or true a wheel but, I don't carry a chain tool...which is what I needed to make this repair and get home on time. Now, I'm going to be in  trouble...if I don't get back in time I'll be considered The Beast who messed up the rendezvous.
         I'll have to coast and run all the way back to Chester. I am used to pedaling on this downhill run, and even though I've ridden this particular hill hundreds of times, I don't recall if I can coast the entire way back. I had cleated shoes on so, I was really hoping to stay in the saddle all the way back to Chester. It turned out that there was only one hundred yard run-up and a few short ones. I made it home on time and parked my bicycle at the bottom of the stairs. Lisa was waiting on the deck and said, somewhat casually, "How did it go?" I told her about my chainless return and just then, the front tire let go of all it's air...psheeeeuuu!...perfect place for a flat.

SUMMER...I get it, three months of perfection.

        Warmth...steady, reliable ...a little sweaty, days with less clothes and a lot of cold water; to drink, to dip in, to open your eyes in...ohhh, heaven. I think it's the thing about living in a region of four seasons. Each new season titillates different senses. People are suckers for warm climates...after a handful of season-less years, you begin to forget how sweet it is to enter a new season. You won't know what I am talking about if you haven't spent time, extended periods of time, in both zones.
         I grew up in Michigan and then invested fifteen years in the largely season-less lowlands of California. Now I've accomplished 30 years in the northern mountains of California...real mountains, the mountains that give you a very definite taste of each season. Let me just say...Summer is much appreciated. I live in a quiet corner of this 1,000 mile long state...I might not be so in love with Summer if I had to live in one of the urban pockets that infect much of California. The noise, the lack of respect for each other's territory (and mind space) would probably drive me Lake Tahoe. Chester/ Lake Almanor...ain't no Tahoe.
        So far, snow-birding has not been for us...we stay in snow country to fight the good shovel, to keep an eye on the ice dams and to make sure the windstorms don't cause havoc with our cherished structures. Our pipes stay thawed and our driveway remains driveable. We cheat just a dropping to lower elevations for bicycling, camping, shopping and visiting grandmother.
         It is somewhat odd to add 50 degrees to your daily high temperature by migrating to another corner of your same state for a week or so. No other state in the union features this possibility. Snowbirding for a week or so is not the same as snowbirding to avoid an entire season. Well, maybe Arizona, if you live in Flagstaff.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Letter To The Bodfish, Expedition Leader

Dear Mr. Bodfish,  
       My wife tells me that you took her on a week long bicycle tour in 1978. She says it's still the best vacation/ outing she's ever been on. I'm trying to recapture some of the details here. (As you can imagine, I was starting to worry...  husband retracing events of the ancient past). You and her, (We were not alone, there were at least twelve others with us), rode for six days mostly on dirt.        
        You bathed mostly in cold streams but, managed to camp two nights at hot springs resorts. My wife is no geographer, she remembers that there were sixteen in your party, (Whew!) and that you all got naked, a lot...(Whoops) but, she can't remember what roads or even counties you visited. We know that the entire week of riding took place within a two hundred mile radius of Chico, Ca.
        I'd like her to revisit this "Greatest Outing" as much as possible. I'm not inviting you to come along but, I would like you to indicate the route on this map that I've enclosed and please send along any current hot springs resort information that you have.   Sincerely, Rich W.

        Whoa! I'm not invited to come along? We were young, carefree and on skinny tires. Rich, This experience cannot be re-created. I remember now...twelve women and four men wandering the Mendocino, Trinity and Six Rivers National Forest, with sleeping bags, simple tents and a single change of clothes, which often had to be rinsed in cool creeks. I realized at the time what an exceptional journey we were on and that it was not repeatable. Those were the days...just take her to these suggested hot springs and relax as much as possible.....Bon Voyage, Bodfish

Friday, May 6, 2016

Two Women Passing The Bicycle Shop

         It's waaay too easy to get into trouble these days. A pair of overlarge women were walking by the bicycle shop just as I was rolling the fleet in for the day (A ritual that I have performed for over 22 years), Both were smoking and trying real hard not to look at me or my colorful array of cycles....          Here's where I possibly went wrong, I dared say, "Afternoon ladies, looks like it's going to rain." The shorter one snapped, "We are not into bicycles!" I answered, "I knew that." There was a slight pause before she hollered, "What did you mean by that?"           Rude comebacks flashed through my head but, I calmly explained, "Usually people who are into bicycles aren't smoking and they look at a row of beautiful bikes." (Instead of, "You don't look like bicyclists"...or, "you look more like coal powered oil tankers than cyclists.") No,  I was pleasant ..."No offense intended." I cowered...."We will never come into your store." she finished. Awww geez......what's a merchant to do?