Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shinrin yoku...This Concept Turns Me On

        I have to admit, here at the gateway to my "advanced age years", not much actually turns me on. A morning hug and kiss from my lifelong sweetheart excepted. The almost- daily walk in the woods that we've practiced for the last thirty years here in the mountains of Northern California now has an exciting label....Forest Bathing (Shinrin yoku).  It's amazing what a new definition and categorization can do for an habitual exercise.... and now, there are certified guides and organized groups for this type of bathing. I actually love this more than you can believe.
        I am not being a facetious goof here. Forest bathing, mountain bathing and lake bagging are the foundations of my peaceful state of mind and the essence of my existence.  It's why I thrive, by living in the woods, walking in the woods and bathing amongst the trees. I do not feel guilty for harvesting many of the trees that grew on my two acres...it's like weeding your garden. The survivors are healthier for the lack of competition, their boughs reach wider and they grow taller quicker than when they were crowded together. I built my house largely from the forest that stood on the same property that we have called home for the last 28 years. There are a few who bemoan the lack of a meadow or lake view from our woods but, not me. I love the forest and feel protected by their smell and their humming needles.
        Shinrin yoku is a japanese concept that was introduced to the world less than fifty years ago. I'm surprised that it took us this long to label and identify this forest blessing. Of course, forest dwellers have known of the magic of "forest bathing" all the way back to our chimpanzee beginnings. The new thing is that here in America we have learned to make money off of the activity. That's not a bad thing, many people would never discover it's effectiveness if they didn't have to use their credit card to get them in the right state of mind....shopping. Shopping for Wellness legitimizes many of our activities, hobbies and fascinations.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Life Below The Quiet Mountain

        We are about twelve miles (as the Bald Eagle flys) below an active volcano. There have been periods throughout history when volcanoes get violently active and angry as a group. The last time was during November of 2013. Seven volcanoes erupted dramatically within hours of each other around the globe. In reality, I am not a predictor of doom (Doomer). I am sure there are tough times ahead...for the Earth and the economy, and the culture of modernism. However, I do not wake up each day under a cloud of doubt or fear.
         It is good to keep in mind that we refer to the volcano above us as the Quiet Mountain because it can become explosive and loud. We can identify lava as far as sixty miles away that used to be part of what the natives referred to as Waganupa, (Mt. Tehama, over 15,000 ft. in height). Lassen Peak is one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world and it lives, it breathes, it steams and it waits. We are lucky to thrive and play on it's lower slopes.
        Simple hiking, biking and swimming between her magnificent folds. Over three decades of drinking from her aquifer and building a home and business out of her trees. She owes us nothing. Each day is a gift...and not a day goes by where I lose track of that fact. California in general is a land living "on the edge". We worship each sunrise and realize it can all shake and shiver and go... Poof! This enhances one's awareness moment to moment...you don't get this in Nebraska. Unless, I suppose, you live next to an ICBM missle silo.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Riding The Dirt on Skinny Tires, Now Called "Gravel Grinding"

        I've been riding the dirt roads on Road Bikes since 1973...when I moved to Bodfish, California. I immediately started writing about this in a weekly column for The Kern River Valley Review, called Outback of Bodfish. Stories about solo trips to Kelso Valley, Peppermint and Saddle Springs, Breckinridge Lookout and crossing Sherman Pass (which was unpaved in those days).
         No big deal, 27x1 and 1/4 inch tires, it's what I had and I loved ridin' the dirt. My stories were dirty stories and it seemed that no one could relate to them. During the Winter of '75 I moved to Chico, Ca. and kept up the stories under the pen name Bodfish...Biking with Bodfish. I didn't have a huge following in the Butte County Bugle but, there were bicycle riders who,  got it.
         So, after a couple of years of developing a fan-base, I decided to self-publish a book...Butte Country Bicycle Journeys. On road and off-road journeys were featured, including a dirt route to "The Coast" from the Sacramento Valley. I worked as a wrench at Chico Bicycle and one afternoon I started a sign-up sheet which announced, "Riding to the Coast, Lotsa Dirt".
         Amazing, eight people signed up! Only six actually followed through...we had a rip-roaring time on roads like; Pettyjohn, Pattymocus, Stuart Gap, Pellitreau Ridge and Usal Road. Mud, gravel, log truck ruts and smooth dirt on whatever bicycles we had...remember this is years before a "Mountain Bike" hit the market. We've since published numerous articles and three more books that include dirt and remote paved bicycle adventures.
         Cycling The California Outback, published in 1983, exclusively features gravel and dirt routes throughout Northern California. It never made the best-seller list however, for those who were not afraid, it opened a whole new world of quiet foot-twiddling. Bicycle tires come in a huge array of sizes these days, my favorite is still somewhat narrow...700x38.
        There are a million miles of quiet roads in North America all waiting for the silent traveler to come cranking along under her own power. So much easier than 45 years ago, you can have an adventure accompanied by the incredible music provided by nature and the "Rice Krispies" sound of your own tires rolling along the backroads.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hill Cycling...Better Than Sex

        Hear me out... a couple of hours in the saddle climbing: spinning in a reasonable gear, crotch work, lungs keeping a moisture-flushing rhythm, heart exercising metronomically and sounding like a drum gathering in the Oakland Coliseum, enough scenery to knock your socks off, climbing, shifting and staying in the sweet spot, inhaling thin pure air and swigging clean mountain water, resulting in an high elevation climax that proves you are still a force to be reckoned with.... followed by a slippery/soaring flight that recalls your most exotic dreams and helps the other bodily functions return to a mellow 'valley state of mind'.                                                                                                                 Instead of five or ten minutes of ecstasy, you have a two and a half hour effort that guarantees improved health and attitude.
        Not convinced? I know I'm not the greatest salesman but, after 24 years of pretending, I have improved somewhat and I have to conclude: I'm doing something right!  I know endorphins and antigens and I am excited to launch from bed each and every morning... and I am excited to take on what the daylight hours want to throw at me.
         I'm talking RESULTS here... as I approach 68 years on the blue planet. I'm no James Brown, but damn, I feel good! Cycling is one of my great loves and I am exceedingly lucky to have Lisa, one of my other great loves, to enjoy it with. I'm not bragging here. I am appreciating... how incredibly good we've had it and the fact that it's continuing, swimmingly, toward the third decade of the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

REtire? What is that?

        I'm not tired...I enjoy working with most people and I love fondling their bicycles. The industry has been coming up with strange, ridiculous and unnecessary configurations for this simple and therefore, glorious machine but, hey...send those technology-worshipping high-enders down the road. There's always some young mechanic who wants to hook your bike up to a diagnostic monitor to figure out why your electronic front derailleur isn't obeying your commands. Who needs that complication? What are the risks? What are the rewards?                
        Don't be stupid, keep it simple. Yes, I work with the public and there are some very strange customers, whom you can't make happy and often, they are not really sure what they want. A bicycle shop is visited by at least one of these puzzlers every month. I am a compassionate and decent person and I put a lot of effort into understanding what customers want...and I try to perform miracles without making fun of any single individual. A few of my fellow bike shop owners have thrown up their arms and sold or shut down their operation due to frustration or disgust.
         I am not there yet. I enjoy the humans who walk into my country bicycle store....there's very little "attitude" going on in a 'working class' rural bike shop. We are all just thankful to have gainful employment and to experience so many smiles coming at us from appreciative outdoor lovers.
         Yes, I'll try to call it quits at 25 years of service...Good Will, a great location and a lifetime collection of tools has to be worth a million bucks to someone trying to escape the Bay Area urban mania. I'll sell this investment (and Mom and Pop lifestyle) to some deserving soul...and yes, I know what I'll do with my remaining hours and energy. I'll invest a large portion of my time in the saddle earning the hills, especially the small roads...les petite rue...no more daily sales reports and quite a bit less Tri-flow in the lungs.
         Oh my, this is my 25th year, coming up! Hey if you know anyone who likes people as much as I do, please send 'em my way. I have an amazing lifestyle and sufficient income for them. I might settle for a little less than a million bucks.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Get Up On Your Bike, Get Down On Your Bike or Go Get A Bike.

       Just wondering...Why isn't everyone out on a bicycle? At least three days a week. So many options for those who are capable...mountain bikes, road bikes, fat bikes, electric-assist bicycles, recumbent bikes and handcycles...on road, off road, bicycle trails, rail to trail conversions, you can even ride indoors on a bike trainer (which is what I'm doing as I dictate this.).
        We know that it's healthiest to get up and move. Cycling is a cure for chronic knee pain, foot pain, back pain or even the pain of depression and the double curse of bad attitude and bad luck. It takes so little time and even less money to pop a little air into a two-wheeler's tires and drop a spot of oil on a neglected chain for a lap or two around the neighborhood.
        Do the math...what it'll cost you to get rolling will be repaid many times over by enriched living and a longer life span on this blessed planet. I've been preaching these verses for many decades, along with my gospel of healthy food selection and consumption...and, I realize, all the ranting and preaching will mean nothing until people are either desperate or stumble upon and recognize the solutions that are laying in their path.
        Do the math...we only get so many upright hours. The time is NOW to put those minutes to good use. So, here I am the motivational speaker,  riding my Cyclops Bicycle Trainer and talking into my phone, while at work.... Come to think of it,  I'd rather be wrenching and listening to Michael Franti lyrics on the shop stereo.  No, in fact, I'd rather be out on my bicycle breathing hard and listening to a mockingbird concert under a sharp blue sky.
        I'm not too far from retirement and even though I own a comfortable rocking chair, I am hoping to give it less time than I give my Brooks Professional bicycle saddle.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

One Quarter Of A Million Miles On A Bicycle (and I still thirst for hills)

        The dark days of January, no swimming to be done, outdoor cycling in snow and slush...not fun, television viewing of the national scene (the clown president and the waves he makes)...not palatable! Winter business in the bike store...non existent. So, I read and I dream and I watch videos of climbing cols in the Pyrenees and the Alps.
        The snow finally fell yesterday (end of January). Drought year? I'd say so. XC skiing is usually an energy outlet but, we need a base and two days ago the surface consisted of rock and pine needles...rough on the skis. Almost February and I'm thinking of how good it'll feel to spin up warm foothill pavement forty-five miles west of here.... when I get a day off.
        My wife says I should think about retirement and selling the store. How many days do we have left to hop on our bicycles and pursue dreamy climbs?  Time in the saddle is worth a million bucks...maybe she's right. No time like the present to ponder the possibilities here. February often brings sunny warm days, even in the mountains of Northern California. The foothills, however, are coming into their prime. The almond blossoms are causing a white/pink riot on the valley floor and the winds are warm and gentile.
       Our mission: to get more butts on bikes. Bicyclists, their steeds and cycling has had my focus for the last four decades. I don't need to be a retailer/ mechanic to get this done. However, I do need an income. so, if you know anyone..."Own your own small business, selling a product you're passionate about." Life in Chester, California is exceptional...abundant pristine water, excellent neighbors and guaranteed return customers every Spring and Summer, followed by a colorful Autumn and an extremely quiet Winter.
        The "good life" has always been an uphill climb, it's supposed to be...it's called... Earning It.