Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Moment That Changes Everything

        Three weeks in the city...survival depends on a radically heightened awareness of people and their machines ...congestion and movement and noise. We pedal various routes through the hilly suburbs of  Burbank and Glendale during the late morning hours, after the commuters rush off to work and finish before they scurry around seeking lunch.
         Cars backing out of driveways and popping out of parallel parking slots have to be our number one concern. Leaf blowers constantly throw clutter under our tires and obscure our aural sensory warning system, as we are fully tuned to the warning hums of rolling tires and moaning engines. We've had heart-stopping moments when car doors are flung open in our path or gadget fascinated drivers blow through traffic signs and signals in the same space that we felt we were entitled to.
         California and many other states have new laws requiring motorists to give pedestrians and cyclists a safe cushion of space before passing, usually three feet however, drivers have no fear of tickets or reprisals if they ignore this legal courtesy....and there are always a few who resent the new law and feel adamantly that the foot powered traveler has no right to share the right of way that has been dominated for one hundred years by motorists.
         We all have had those close calls when we say, "I saw my life flash in front of me." In fact, just yesterday, I sat at a traffic signal on a busy boulevard here in Burbank, patient like the Buddha, with my foot on the clutch. The green light told me to proceed, I pushed on the gas and let up on the clutch , feeling entitled to safe passage, when my wife put her hand on my wrist and gasped, I hesitated with my right foot just as a red light running Jeep Wrangler bore down from the left at 40+ mph narrowly missing my front grill.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Third Wave Of Off-road Cycling

        This new wave of off-road cycling may be the biggest yet. The first wave rolled in slowly during the fifties, sixties and early seventies. The Rough Stuff Fellowship met weekly for explorations throughout the British Isles from 1950 well into the 70's. Stateside, explorers like John Finley Scott and unheralded others were adapting bicycles for the exploration of abandoned railroad grades and forgotten roads throughout the West. I was riding "bombproof" ten-speeds up rugged lookout tower roads in the southern Sierra Nevada.
        In the late seventies an entrepreneurial group of young suburban men had the wherewithal to weld up a new kind of bicycle for accomplishing off-road explorations and expeditions into the unpaved tracks beyond American neighborhoods.. After a handful of years of experimentation with steel tubes, the money changers entered the temple and promoted "Mountain Biking" into a monster bigger than all other types of cycling combined. Here began the Second Wave Of Off-road Cycling.
       Through the subsequent decades the machine became much more specialized and complicated, therefore exceedingly expensive, (incorporating sophisticated suspension hardware, hydraulics and electrification)....again putting the cost out of the reach for the common person interested in cycling.
       It wasn't until the second decade of the 21st Century that folks remembered that almost any bicycle can be ridden on the seldom-motored backroads of North America.
       In what I'm calling The Third Wave, "Gravel Grinding" has become a "thing" and is getting a remarkable amount of press.  Hundreds of young outdoor enthusiasts are signing-up for organized events that feature trails, double-tracks and dirt or gravel roads. The real attraction, I think, besides the lack of motor traffic, is the space to use individual creativity in designing and constructing the "perfect ride" by using the entire pallet of cycling components and designs developed over the last several decades.
        In our local new event...the "Grinduro"...cyclocross, fitness hybrids and mountain bikes ride side by side without obvious criticism or judgements that were common during previous events structured around specific competitions. A festive and all-inclusive vibe brings a whole new contingent together for nothing more than... "fun on a bicycle".

Friday, December 8, 2017

In The Sauna In My Half-Birthday Suit


        Celebrating and starting the day in my Thera Sauna with my wonderful best friend, Lisa. I'm going to admit...it's not a great time of year for those of us who'd rather be naked. In public, I prefer clothes, just so you know. Swimming, sunning, soaking, sauna-ing and gardening however, are performed better without. I don't think this is too radical, but then I'm a Left Coast man...a little different. Skin cancer is a bitch. I've  had a few. My dermatologist worked on me this week...Cryotherapy (freezing several spots).
         Sun is good, vitamin D is good, but small doses, please. We take advantage of "pinking opportunities" when we can...twenty minutes of full sun does every body good. We are not exhibitionists, we prefer to not get caught. Interesting though, in France and when visiting family in SoCal there is no such thing as "getting caught". No one cares.
        Showers, pools, beaches and campgrounds in France and Germany may not be smokefree, quite often however, they are suitfree. The campground bathrooms/showers are often coed/ mixed sex or must be executed in such small cubicles that you must leave your clothes outside and therefore enter and exit naked making shyness impossible. So...get over it or stay dirty, sticky and miserable.
        The solstice is in two weeks. The sun will rise earlier and climb higher in the sky every day. Welcoming back the warmer days of 2018 and inviting us to seek out more dips and flips into mountain lakes and streams...oh, the stories we will tell. I only "bagged" twelve lakes last year. I really thought I'd plunge into twice as many. I will most definitely keep you posted...no, I still don't know how to put pictures on my blog page. It's just as well, we'll leave it that way.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Shorter Days

        I continue to show up for work, (75% of success is due to the act of....) however, I am less 'into it' than in previous years. My wife is retired now and she constantly asks, "Wouldn't you rather go on a hike or ride your bike? " Well, of course I would. This next Spring will begin our 24th year as an independent Main St. business. The next time one of my wealthy customers says, "I would love to have a little bike shop in the mountains." I'll throw up a price. We'll see what happens. SF Bay area people are selling one bedroom/ fifty-year old bungalows for $600,000....or more.  
        Follow your passion. Own a business in a mountain paradise...land, buildings, awesome name, on Main St. in the Sierra/ Cascade region of California for $600,000,  plus inventory. I need to work on the sales pitch a little but as P.J. says in the movie 'Angels In The Outfield' "It could happen."... Some "angel" refugee from the urban craziness 200 miles south of here may read my blog. When you've nursed a Main Street business from infancy into a responsible 23 year old, you know it's getting near time to "let go ". I love him/her still and it will always be part of me....but, just possibly, it's time to wander.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Blagnac Blog Block in Burbank

        SoCal...a different world. Not Baja or Costa Rica or Cancun but warm and comfortable and the natives are friendly. We have developed patterns that have made these family visits mighty rewarding. Starting with hugs, even the dog stands for the family hugs. We normally keep shopping and freeway driving and social amusements at a minimum...driving down to the car wash is our "big event".
         We have a private pool and sunning deck for our vitamin D enrichment and hydro-therapy. We eat fresh and healthy. We do a considerable amount of gardening and house maintenance.   We inject humor and enjoy laughing every chance we get. Foothill surfing with bikes and boots is part of our daily regimen. Our fellow walkers and cyclists are courteous and surprisingly friendly...even the blower-holding yard workers show us respect.
        Shouldn't we be flying off to Blagnac with our skinny bikes this time of year? We actually only afford a vacation every other year...our obligations and limited funds keep us within the borders of California. It's all good, not a horrible imprisonment like you might think. We adore several corners of the Golden State ...our ongoing "good roads" research has taken over forty years and should continue for many more. Is There another book "in the works"?  The answer is yes, there is always another book in the works.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Thoughts About Riding Across The Country

        It was nearly 40 years ago when I said to my girlfriend, Let's ride our bicycles all over the West. Amazingly she said, "OK". We pedaled for three+ months, north and then east and then south...to Kalamazoo, Michigan. We had laughably basic equipment...old steel ten-speeds adorned with adapted canvas saddlebags from the Army Navy Store in Chico. Wool Navy bell bottoms converted into knickers and odd flat shoes (bowling shoes, I think) which we wove into toe clip pedals so that we could slide into them barefoot. Yet, we easily covered 75 miles a day.
       I haven't told her (now my wife) but, I've had thoughts of doing it again. We could hopscotch with Amtrak, jump out with our bicycles for the pleasant stretches and get back on the train for the bleeker portions of the nation. How different would it be? We met many fantastic mid-country Americans along the way...people who bought us lunch, offered us camping, showers, saunas and swims in their barns and backyards. Politics and poverty were never discussed...these people wanted give us a taste of their "good life" in America. This was 1978. Would it feel the same in 2018?
        We still love riding our bicycles and enjoy conversations with new people (we've been Main St. merchants for the last 24 years) but, is America a different place than it was during those "good" years? I'm guessing that they're still out there...fantastic mid-country Americans.
        People respect that you are making your own way...self-propelling at a slow and easy pace. They know how you arrived and they know you aren't going to ride off with any of their stuff, because you are easy to catch and you don't want any excess weight or worries. (I won't be carrying your flat-screen TV from Iowa to Wisconsin.)
       Hmmm...don't tell my wife just yet but, I'm coming up with a plan...we really aren't that much older and I know we are capable. The only drawback? There might not be many wild swimming opportunities in Iowa.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I Was A Teenage Motorcycle Guy

        I learned that it hurt to crash a motorbike. It wasn't so much the loss of epidermal layers that impressed me, it was the fact that this three hundred pound machine just wouldn't take it's own route when I was hurtling through the air...it wouldn't leave me alone, our direction and destiny were always the same... toward the object that finally brought us to a sudden stop. Problem was, I always arrived first...guard rail, back end of an Impala, side door of a Plymouth Valiant, curb or tree. I was a little heavy on the brakes so, the machine would hesitate and I would continue on...just ahead of it.
        In my early twenties I was smarter, in fact, I was a frickin' genius. I bought a bicycle and became an avid cyclist. My bike was simple...no electronics or hydraulics or fluids of any sort and it weighed one tenth as much, thirty pounds (a Columbia 10 speed). Even in these early years I was impressed with the fact that my vehicle was of little consequence to the environment (remember, the first Earth Day was in the Spring of 1970). It took me longer to arrive at my destination but, because of this I was more judicious in my choice of missions and I would combine errands. There were numerous new lessons being learned here. My next bicycle was five pounds lighter, shifting and braking were so much easier. Simpler was better...lighter was incredible.
        This brings us to the second decade of the 21st Century...most cycling enthusiasts are adding weight, adding electronics and adding fluids and even worse they're worshiping brakes that can be operated with pinkie fingers...greatly increasing the chance that one will leave the two-wheel steed suddenly when an obstruction appears "out of nowhere".
        Call me a Weight Weenie, call me a Luditte, call me a retro-wank...I think we are headed in the wrong direction here. Somebody needs to call a halt to this Industry-wide tendency to make the bicycle operate like a motorcycle.