Thursday, April 13, 2017

Keep It Simple, Keep It Fun...Part 2

         We have ridden across the continent...West to East and South to North...and then some.
Cycling fulfills the need for independence, freedom and saddle-time meditation. Why complicate that? We are such suckers for "advanced" technology and we strive daily to fulfill the popular definitions of "cool" and "clever". The bicycle is an outstanding mode of transport because of it's Simplicity and Efficiency. Gears are good, brakes are excellent and pneumatic tubes make life almost perfect...cyclists haven't always had those conveniences and cycling wouldn't be near as popular without them.
         Complicating that sensation of "almost free" locomotion has fascinated progressives for over 120 years. Put a motor on it, add more gears, construct them with space age materials, electrify, superfly and  mystify the pedestrian bicycle users..."We can make some real money here." We all fall for "gotta-haves". Promotion and glorification of the latest and greatest products has run our economy for decades, but hey...is this really necessary in the realm of simple transport?     Not to the degree that we've witnessed with self-propelled two wheel cycles.
          When pedaling out across the countryside, unwinding from the daily complications of family crisis', workplace worries and world news...you really don't want breakdowns that you can't remedy with tools you are carrying on your cycle or in your back pocket. If you are rolling on tubeless tires, carry a spare tube. If you are depending on electronic shifting, bring an extra battery. If you have an electric motorized ride, make sure it can still be pedaled if you run out of juice...it's called an "electric-assist" bicycle. If you depend on your phone for rescue or directional information, make sure you have a small solar collector stuffed in your bag (or seat tube) to recharge your lifeline.
         If you 'keep it simple' and think ahead about your ride (and what it takes to keep it rolling) you'll re-fall in love with cycling every time you crank beyond the borders of your village.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Keep It Simple, Keep It Fun

        I've been trying to explain where the bicycle world (mainly the bicycle industry) has seriously gone wrong. I keep coming back to the same realization... 'Died in the wool' cyclists are cyclically victims of a "motor mentality"...specifically, direct attacks from the motorcycle "schwabs" who are continually trying to make our sport and livelihood, theirs.
        This began a half century after cyclists had been earning their way on the cobbles and dirt paths around America and Europe. The internal combustion engine was introduced to (and fornicated with) the convenient triangle at the heart of the bicycle frame. Indian, Harley (originally bicycle manufacturers) and others locked us in a fume-filled room, tied us up and extracted some of the valuable secrets concerning two wheel travel that we held close to our souls.
        It took seventy years for the self-propelled cycle-lovers to get our mojo back...thanks to pods of Hippies and College professors on both coasts of North America a new bicycle energy was born in the mid-seventies. We had a new secret code...we were lifting our steads over fences and boulders, we were traversing washouts and exploring the small paths where motorbikers were not capable or welcomed. Their bikes were too heavy and too loud and they were dependent upon petrol...we had none of these limitations.
        During the last couple of decades, however, the motorcycle (and technology) "schwabs" are making inroads again into the simple and sacred world of the bicycle. Battery power, fluid charged brakes, electronic shifting and analytics have attached to the perfect machine like Louisiana leeches on a swamp dog. The bicycles are heavier and complicated with gadgets that are seriously superfluous and limit our ability to enjoy economically the freedom that comes with pedaling the damn bicycle down a country lane.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Boy In Search Of A Plan

        I was eighteen and I had to get out...I had a thirst for adventure. I had digested every Herman Melville book (mostly about traveling the South Pacific)  in the Portage Northern library. An imperfect relationship with my stepfather in a small suburban home, in which eight of us shared one small bathroom...helped pushed me out the door.
         I'd applied to Universities in Hawaii, Alaska and Annapolis, Maryland. My good citizenship in academia, not my grade point average, resulted in acceptance to all three directions from Michigan. I was a hard worker throughout my teens and an avid baseball fan. The Detroit Tigers had World Series rings for the first time in my lifetime so, all I had to do was sell my 1965 Ford Mustang and buy an airline ticket out of there....chapter complete.
         I decided against an 'all expenses paid' six year commitment to the US Naval Academy or a period of study on Alaska's frozen tundra, in favor of, a Melville-inspired move to the remotest archipelago of year-around warmth on the planet. Yes, I was running away to "find myself". During the summer of 1969 I found myself wrapping silverware and cleaning ovens between two of Honolulu International Airport's two busiest runways...working in the United Airlines flight kitchen. Hawaii was complicated, I crashed my newly acquired Honda motorcycle three times and met the perfect 19 year old girl, on vacation from the San Francisco Bay area.
        An airline ticket to SFO cost me $12.42 (taxes only) a few months later...I was following a tip from my U of H advisor that San Jose State College had the best journalism program in the western US and he could get me accepted there. I was also chasing "the perfect girl. I got an internship at the San Jose Mercury News and a month later they put my picture and an important fragment of my story on the front page of the 'morning edition'     ....to be continued.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Good Times Ahead

       " It has to get worse before it gets better"...who said that? Yeah, like remodeling a home or reshaping a life. We all need perspective...before and after pictures. Well, it's early February and NorCal is having some weather issues that revolve around excess precipitation after five years of drought. Which is worse and which is better? The pendulum swings to and fro, at what point do we decide we are satisfied? Some are never satisfied. 
        I am making a concerted effort at adopting "perpetual satisfaction"...focusing on those things that are perfect right now. My relationship with the 'Love Of My Life' which next week is a 41 year bond. The fact that I have two workable legs, two workable arms, two good eyes and two good ears... I've been concentrating heavily on Thankfulness during the last year or so...it has made a difference.        
        I'm particularly fascinated with Mockingbirds... their song changes so radically every twenty seconds. You might think that they are not happy with who they are...but, I think they just enjoy being every bird out there...searching for excellence in song, the tune that makes them feel great for the moment.
        My advisors in the early 70's would say, "Be Here Now" and "Don't Push The River"and "Just Feel It."  I get that, we are only influential through how we live our lives...not by what we preach. We cannot change the circumstances of the day but, we can tune in to the excellence of each moment. I try to stay with that for the majority of my waking hours...not easy but, I think a worthy goal. It's right there in front of you, the green leaf, the flower, clear water, birds, little critters, blood coursing through your veins....miracles that we witness every second. Take a moment...because that's all you get...fantastic moments.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting Out There

        So stormy since September....California, north and south, is brilliantly green. Our Governor Brown wants it to stay that way...he offered token resistance to Trumpty Dumpty in the "state of the state" message today saying, "California is going forward, not backward." I'm not sure we can fight the undertow.
        I spend way too much energy and emotion fretting about the direction our state, nation and environment are headed. There's not much that I can do about it, that I am not already doing. Repairing and launching bicycles back into my neighborhood still feels important and may become increasingly important when gas prices return to four or five bucks a gallon...and they will...we are still talking "finite resource" here. As John Muir once exclaimed, "The money-changers have broken into the temple we call Planet Earth." ...and it ain't pretty.
        As I've said before, I feel like an alien in this resource-depleting culture...and yes, I know that I am part of the "problem". Our aim, as a society, has lost sight of the target....Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Living Things.
        These green hills and the coming phenomenal wildflower displays and the full-to-the-brim mountain lakes are inviting me to immerse my heart and soul (and bod) for most of 2017. This will be an exceptional year of refreshment, recreation and beauty....so, don't forget to "Get out there" and breath it in... suck it in with your pores and let it cleanse you of negative energy and emotions.
        This is advice I give myself and anyone else who might be listening. Life is too short to waste the rest of it cowering inside and "grumping" about the issues you can do nothing about. When I go to the polls I usually vote for Peace and Freedom (four out of the last five Presidential elections). Every morning that I awake I celebrate the new sun and I pray for Peace and Freedom.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Upstream

        I am hoping to be smarter and more active in 2017. I've got a good start on one resolution ....the elimination of ale from my daily regimen...one or two a week is plenty, oh yea, I like the little buzz but, I don't like the big belly that comes with it. I've decided that it's really an adult soda pop...tons of sugar goes into it's production and you can't rely on the little yeasties to consume all of the calories, so you know where it ends up...midriff bulge! I am not so sure it's the greatest substance for your gut fauna and flora either. Since the 7th of September I have stopped imbibing the daily one or two 12 ounce ales that I so looked forward to after every day of work at the bicycle shop.
        The walking habit has left me too...this one, I vow to bring back. In preparation for the new Labrador that we are presently planning for, I need to restart my twenty year routine of hiking at least 30 minutes a day along the single track trails and double track roads that wander the woods behind our house.
        As usual, I again vow to ride my bicycles more hours this year than previous "non excursion to Europe" years. This shouldn't be too hard. Lisa and I awarded ourselves with new mountain bikes for the first time in ten years.  She really seems more interested in wandering the roads less-traveled with me...this will help us minimize our exposure to the hoards of increasingly distracted paved road motorists.
        The fifty or so newly refreshed mountain lakes that ring our Sierra/ Cascade zone are calling us like never before...the cycling and hiking required to access these gems will also add to our cardio-vascular mileage totals. The rush from diving into a cold mountain lake or stream is definitely worth extra fitness points. You're probably thinking that New Year resolutions are worthless, I disagree...they really do remind me to get my head and body pointed in the right direction. I'll be rereading this little essay monthly.
        2017 will be a year of increased activity for me...no need to sit around and watch... the News, entertainers or sporting events...these events are totally out of my hands....but, I can make a difference in my health and attitude by getting "out there" breathing hard and getting wet as often as possible.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wild Swimming

         Yeah, I know...it's an unusual time of year to be dreaming of and planning for next year's "wild swims". It's all about my personal level of optimism. 2017 will be record breaking in my quest for Bodfish Bingo/ UBES swimming points. I did horribly in 2016 due to my problem with workaholism...and a little reluctance to dip into warm stagnant ponds and lakes.
         Resolutions are due in a couple of weeks and mine will include a record breaking spring and summer of dipping into various lakes, streams and pools of the far West. UBES is the acronym for the University of Bristol's Expedition Society which, on their webpage shows how to obtain points for your brave dips into cool waters.
         Here's the other thing...we have received 200% of our normal precipitation in Northern California, the water tables have been recharged and the lakes look delicious. I resolved three months ago to watch a lot less daytime TV...including NEWS, politics and baseball...instead I'll make a point of   driving and riding my bicycle to many of the fifty lakes within 25 miles of my home in Chester, California.
         I will be expanding upon this theme in upcoming entries...hence, the expanded name of this blog. Passing the mid-sixties in age has helped me focus on what's most important and I've decided that Wild Swimming (which is what we were doing in the womb before we took our first breath) makes this life a beautiful full circle.