Friday, January 18, 2019

My Ten Favorite Books of 2018

       I've always been a reader. There was a period when I read less books and more internet garbage. I've switched back...I love books. I haven't made notes on all the books I've read in the last year but, here are ten of the standouts...the ones that have changed me. Two were dog books...Merle's Door and A Dog's Purpose. This was the 'year of the dog' for us...we are so happy with our new Black Labrador, Nori Jo. You have to wonder how their little minds work and both of these books provide interesting possibilities.
       Wallace Stegner's All The Little Live Things was also a treat... an interesting perspective on how "old people" think. Roger Deakin's Waterlog was a pleasant surprise...an autobiographical account from a 'serial skinnydipper" who kept notes on his lake-bagging activities in the British Isles. Surfing With Sartre by Aaron James was also interesting...because I like philosophy.
        B. Kingsolver always tells a good story, I read her new novel ...Sheltered and successfully reread Animal Dreams...which I gave up on ten years ago, halfway through. I found a lengthy book about The Medici's at the Chester Library book sale...like 800 pages...and thoroughly enjoyed reading about this 15th and 16th century family and how they related to Italy, France and the artists and thinkers of that period.
        Heartland by Susan Smarsh was a nice surprise. I think I liked it because I related so well to her working class upbringing and the difficulties involving the prospect of upward mobility in America. The Crash Of '29 was another surprise...an account that reminds you that due to greed and stupidity, we as a nation, are on a repetitive cycle that will never cease...as long as we call ourselves Capitalists. Christopher Moore, Carl Hiaason and Michael Moore also entertained me in 2018...I read these authors to give my brain a rest in between  the "heavier" tomes. Nothing more to say there.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Rain Recharges and Oh, The Lakes, How They Nourish Us

        Wild swimming is best in fresh water and the 2019 deposit is looking excellent already. We are only beginning the second week of the year, but as they say, "The storm door is open for Northern California".
        The volcanic aquifers on the south slopes of Lassen and Mt. Shasta will gush liberally for months even after the rains stop, but they do need a recharge every couple of years. Swimsuits not required, there are so many remote locations beckoning for baptismal that you'll seldom have to share a beach, or a rock ledge, or a hole with another soul. Whatever you do, don't write a book about it.
         I don't like to admit that I look forward to Spring...snow is not the enemy...but, I'm a big fan of songbirds and new leaves and the smell of running sap through tree trunks. The energy of Spring is undeniably contagious. The days are longer, warmer and flat-out invigorating. My bicycle mind starts cranking and mapping-out new adventures. A three hour ride with a swim at the mid-point is ideal.
        It might be my imagination, but all the bodily joint pains disappear during Spring. Time slides by so damn fast during this burgeoning season that I need post-it notes on every door saying, Go Out, Find A Swim Today! Get Out On Your Bike!...cause, before you know it, it's August and everyone is demanding your time and wrenching ability.
        Sixty-nine has long been a lucky number for me and I'm determined to make the very best of this last year of my sixties. I'll do this by acting like a teenager and plunging into water quickly at every opportunity...just like I did when I was growing up in Michigan. You start life in a pool of water and you might as well risk ending it in a pool of water.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

But Hey, I Still Like This Job

        I made an announcement on my shop fb page a couple weeks ago that I am willing to sell the bicycle shop, or a portion thereof, so that I can go out in the world self-propelled on two wheels far more often than I presently do. I'm in no hurry to get this done.
        I really like my job, even after twenty-five years of smelling tire rubber and TriFlow (bananas). I've had a few offers (everybody wants a bargain) and they are not even close. I have 400K in inventory and real property here. Nurturing the name and reputation for 45 years and running a business that has always been "in the black" has to be worth that much again. Oh well, someone will come along that understands the true value of a low footprint, Quiet Mtn Sports, cycling promotional enterprise like Bodfish Bicycles.
        Even though my only child is off conquering and video-recording fun and fabulous events around the planet,  he may, one day crave the smell of Indonesian produced rubber. I really can't give this creation away. Do you know how many thousands of people have attempted to start and maintain a bicycle oriented business over the last twenty-five years and failed? Many more than have been successful.
        The other option, besides selling, is to just work the hours that I want to work, the days that I want to work. the months that I want to work...and go ride my bicycle when I want to. The customers, they will adjust and be thankful for the times that I am here.
        The suppliers actually care less about 'brick and mortar' stores than they ever have (while they still have a usable internet) but,  they need us to make sense of the local cycling scene, we do an incredible amount of interpretive work that you won't find on YouTube.  Cycle shops are seeing a big increase in bicycle set-ups with cables routed in a cattywampus direction, forks on backward, wheels improperly installed and brakes that have little chance of stopping one in an emergency. We don't just sell bicycles and parts for bicycles, we perform miracles every week...and our customers tell us this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Swimming In My Own Sweat

        I've been known to sweat profusely...especially when laboring at my shop or climbing one of the local roads or trails when it's hovering in the 90's (because it never gets to 100 degrees in Chester). I can usually remedy this situation with a quick dip in the river, lake or even in my "cold plunge" hot tub at home. However, it's Winter and I'm thankful for any heat that develops in the bike shop.
        My mornings often include a 45 minute session in our TheraSauna. It's a corner cabinet of far- infrared heat therapy that has become a necessary part of my life. Not everyone can appreciate "the workout" it provides. In fact, not everyone can perspire freely...I've had a dozen different sauna buddies over the years and I'm amazed that only half of them have gotten seriously sweaty while we share this space.
        The conversations are often easy and free-flowing...just as the Finns claim, the sauna is a great place for people to expose their true feelings and concerns. Finnish parents utilize this valuable family time to keep track of their teenager's progress and concerns. I thank everyone who has spent time in the sauna with me. You are showing your love, trust and non-judgemental nature by sharing this time to evacuate the toxins with me in this intimate setting.
        The last couple of mornings in the sauna have been especially important. I've been moving kayaks, electric bicycles and furniture... and I've driven two thousand miles in the last week and a half. So, as you can imagine, a couple of hours of quiet sweaty meditation in the TheraSauna has been a life saver. Back, neck, shoulder and hip rehabilitation is an effective specialty of the far-infrared dry sauna and I need this kind of therapy four or five times a year.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

You've Got To Keep Moving

        I read once that sitting is bad for your health and sitting for long periods will absolutely kill you. Most often when I am at work (or on my computer) I am standing, squatting or squirreling around the shop like a man on a mission. I very seldom sit. I usually get about three hours of "sit time" in the evening while watching TV... however, I make a point of rising at least every fifteen minutes to do small errands around the house (get a new log for the fire, make a cup of tea, survey the property, let the dog out, let the dog in).
        I've been friends with a fellow named Jack for 30 years. He's a cyclist who migrated north to Chester in his 63rd year of life after a career as a body man (on cars) near Glendora, Ca. He made an impression on me that I'll never shake...he was mated to his roadbike like a pro-peloton cyclist and his motto was; "You've got to be smooth and you have got to keep moving." Jack is now 93 years young and when he steps into the bicycle shop where I work, he dances in...kind of sideways like he has a 40's Jazz tune playing in his head.
        I'm thinking that driving a motor vehicle is one of those things that will kill you...and unless you are a residential delivery milkman, you will always be sitting when you drive. I ride my bicycle to and from work nearly every day and as I said, I seldom sit at work, so, as you can see, I am planning to live into my nineties like Jack...one problem, I don't dance as well or as often as Jack but, I do like older Jazz.
       We have numerous gadgets that keep track of our steps, our blood pressure and count our beats per minute, generally trying to inspire us to keep moving. However, there are many more gadgets that discourage movement...presenting a screen that demands attention and distorts our awareness of the 'here and now'. In fact, these screens demand that we split our attention so that we even lose track of the task at hand (like driving, or cooking, or parenting).
       Generally, I'm saying that this 'digital age' discourages us from dancing, cycling and hiking through the days we have left. So, when you think about it, it's really no surprise that the lifespans of 'civilized' people has been shortening during this 21st century.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Rude, Crass, Dishonest, Delusional, Insensitive, Braggadocio, Insincere, Tainted and Not A Reader.

        My fourth grade teacher, Mrs Snow told me, " Chuck Elliot, you read so much and such a variety of books that I think you could be President someday." I thought, at the time, she meant President of Ramona Lane Elementary School. I was leading the "Gold Star Reading Wall" competition and we were headed for Easter Break. I had a stack of biographies under my arm. Major distractions like, Alan Shepard orbiting earth and me running (almost out of control) down dunes along the coast of Lake Michigan and as the oldest, being in charge of a pack of sisters while my step-father took my mother out to dinner three times that week, prevented me from devoting enough time to reading my vacation biographies.  And in fact, I lost that Gold Star competition to a girl named Sharon Ellis, (but, we know girls can't become President).
        Mrs. Snow hadn't a clue what it takes to become President, anyhow. I admired Presidents, especially JFK. I stopped admiring Presidents shortly after he was assassinated. I started running long-distance at thirteen which left a lot less time for reading. Maybe reading was over-rated. Now I am incredibly disillusioned about what it takes to be President, or how a President is supposed to behave.
        I pedal my bicycle long distances these days in an attempt to unravel the confusing contradictions and disasters that tie us all up in knots daily. Often, somewhere along the route I look for a place to immerse my overheated body in cool clear water so that I can find a refreshing new perspective before returning to my happy place (home). It's worked so far. I'm working on my 69th year on this planet and I'm in no hurry to follow Alan Shepard beyond this atmosphere.
        I have been reading a lot lately and am getting no closer to being qualified as a candidate for President. The qualities required for occupying such an office have all evaporated and been rendered counterfeit anyhow. I just want to find a quiet road and keep turning over the cranks until I find another perfect skinny dip.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Spooky...Those Pre-election Blues, Again.


        Where are we going with all this? Even Brazil is getting in on the act, electing a new fascist/nationalist president that wants to turn the Brazilian rainforest into cash. I just want to ride my bike! The mid-term elections will be over soon enough (6 days) but, what's not over in six days is this drought we are experiencing in NorCal. We were told that we'd have a wet warm Winter...I sure hope they are right. So much to worry about...and so little time.
        Actually, what am I worried about? I've had a good run. Now is time to put on that elder smile and enjoy each sunrise. We hiked with our six month old pup to Beauty Lake in the Caribou Wilderness this last Sunday and found that nothing had changed...still a great place to recharge the batteries and wet the whistle...whatever that means. Our Black Labrador puppy loves trail hiking and lake-bagging. She needs a lot of attention and she is not so fond of riding behind the bicycle in her trailer....she has ceased howling all the way to work...but she tries to hide when I say, Load up, it's time to go to work. So, we ride a lot less and hike every chance we get. We have learned that we can 'crate her' for one hour in the afternoon without undue stress, so that we can ride together. Nothing better than a new puppy to bring you back to the 'here and now'.
        So really, there's very little to worry about...as long as the sun keeps rising in the eastern sky and we are here to witness it.