Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bodfish Vacation Formula

Vacation perfection is not all that difficult to come by. It requires travel away from here...we live in a vacation wonderland but still, it's great to get away. Bicycles are most often part of the formula, yet, hiking boots are an acceptable substitute. Driving a car, taking a train or a jet are ok...however, biking or hiking from our front door is a great way to begin an adventure. A majority of outdoor time is a definite requirement. At least two hours of 'sweat on the brow' exercise makes us happiest. Bodfish vacations also include a couple of hours luxuriating in the "s's", the daily rituals of swimming, showering and sunning or sauna.
Cold fronts can change everything, and have been known to cramp our camping style. We don't embark on Snow Vacations...snow is for shoveling or taking the dog on a run while on cross country skis or snowshoes. We seek warmth, but we are adamant about avoiding crowds...we avoid "snowbird" destinations like "the plague". There are rumblings in my family about a Hawaii vacation in our near future...hmmm, can you still get remote in Hawaii?
I'm looking forward to another month long adventure in Europe...sometime before Obama loses the Presidency...the Euros love Obama, or any American with a "social agenda". They can teach us a thing or two about taking care of each other...and about being totally comfortable in our skin, on a beach, in a pool, sauna or spa... uninhibited, always willing to share wine and soap. What's up with those outdoor Europeans?...Lovin' life, willing to converse, willing to break bread. Don't they fear a future of austerity, a future that includes ten Euro a gallon petrol prices? No, I don't think they do...they'll ride their bicycles and tend their gardens like they always have and toast you, and your adventure, each evening with their favorite local wine.
We may spend a bundle of money on a train or plane ticket yet, we are downright frugal about buying entertainment while traveling. The best quality food is seldom expensive and the evening wine always seems like a bargain. We don't always sleep in a tent, on occasion we find a cabin or a Gites if it is safer or drier than our camping dome. Heck, we buy mustard that comes in wine glasses so that we can use these nearly unbreakable units for the remainder of the trip.
Traveling companions with the same attitude or style would be hard to come by, we think about that on every adventure..."who could possibly travel with us for a month and not get freaked out about the details?" Our plans change every other day or so, depending on so many factors. In the half-abandoned Autumn campgrounds of France or Italy we often find other couples using our same techniques of vacationing. They are usually from Germany or Holland or Denmark, we connect, go on a bike ride or to the beach, bathe together and share a glass of vino, but then, after sharing addresses...Poof!, we go our own ways and promise to get in touch again someday.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Waiting For The Big One

Spitting snow under grey skies...I'm sitting, standing, pedaling in the bikeshop...waiting for the big one. Somebody is going to walk in here and say, "I want a Hobie kayak and two Trek bicycles." That will comprise the largest sale I've ever made in the month of November, ever. This is the eighteenth November that has daily, seen me obediently unlock the door, turn on the lights and stand out in front, while putting out at least a few bicycles and holler, "Come and get it!" You'd think that this behavior would be embarrassing...the crazy bike guy...but there's seldom anyone to hear, and I'm right downtown.    Recent California Earthquakes is a fascinating website,  I check it several times a day. There's a World view on this site and when a very large red square shows up, as it did seven months ago off the coast of Japan,  I launch off of my stool and look for someone to tell. Waiting for the big one, the crazy bike guy...doesn't he have anything better to do?      Actually, I'm reading, writing and generally educating myself in preparation for writing something profound, something that will reach into another's soul and change their life, forever. This takes an incredible amount of preparation...I'll know when I'm primed sufficiently for the task, or will I?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ten Years Since

During our first day astride our gear laden bicycles in France...September 13, 2001, we sprinted from the airport under our own power and found our way into the pastoral French countryside in less than twenty minutes. The first hilltop town SE of the Chas. De Gaulle Airport featured a small contingent of greeters...what, for us? The mayor and a few of his friends were waiting for "The Americans" that were pedaling up to their town. They hugged us and gave us a flower, saying "condolences" in french. It took us awhile to figure out how the French always knew that we were Americans.   That afternoon, we had skirted around Paris and were now headed for Dijon, we did a little grocery shopping in San Souplez...Lisa wanted to be the navigator, so we gave her the map and said "Have at it". She led us into the stunning agricultural hinterlands around San Souplez. It was harvest time and the scents from the fields were hour later we entered a wondrous little town that looked a lot like San Souplez...Hey, it even had the same name! Colby said, "Mom, give me the map."   The mayor of San Souplez saw our return and asked if we needed anything..."Maybe a place to camp", I tried my french here. I didn't think she understood, but a few seconds later she opened a gate behind what turned out to be her house and said "Voila". Her family brought us dessert later that evening and invited us into their house....again, they offered us condolences for the attack on America.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ten Years After

Ten years ago today we scrambled to make a flight out of LAX connecting to Pittsburgh, Pa.  It was late afternoon when we arrived in Pa. and we had a three hour layover before continuing on to Paris, where we were scheduled to arrive in the early morning hours of Sept. 10.  As we flew over Washington D.C. at thirty thousand feet the pilot comes on the intercom and says, "Below, you can see the unique street layout of our nation's capitol." It looked like a large bicycle wheel...good omen.    The next morning, we arrived in Paris, rescued our bicycles from three "Brutus" baggage handlers, found a shuttle van to the Sheraton and slept for the next eighteen hours (when we weren't raiding the lounge refrigerator).         Daybreak, September eleven, 2001...took the train into central Paris, a little stressful...I leave my passport at the money exchange booth near the Louvre (this occurs to me as we reach the top of the ferris wheel and I reach back to see if my wallet is secure in my pocket). Retrieved my passport (lady was just closing her booth) and the three of us walked up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triumph, a large band was playing and marching around the monument...the traffic was manic in the roundabout, couldn't get closer so we took a left back toward The Seine. A city bus pulled up next to us with Eiffel Tower flashing on it's destination board. We jumped on the bus when a woman with two small children said, "You are Americans, have you heard?  New York City has blown up along with the White House and The Pentagon!"  I'm thinking every city has it's whackjobs and this one has really lost it. I ignored her and we exited the bus at the Tower bus stop. We are standing in a ridiculous line waiting to climb the tower when I notice that people ahead of us are leaving the cattle chute, ducking under the rail to get out of line. There's an air of excitement and through a mix of many languages I pick up the words Bush, New York and Pentagon.  Now I'm concerned, we step out of line and head toward the WC. Colby says, "What are you doing?  I've always wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower and he starts to cry. "Let's pee first and then we'll figure it out."  My ears were big now, something very unusual had happened in the U.S. of A. We regrouped and figured, whatever it was there was nothing we could do about it now so...let's go up the tower. We enjoyed the big view of Paris from the little glass room at the top and then we were all shuttled, rather hurriedly back to the base...they were closing the Eiffel Tower, effective immediately! ...  to be continued...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Naja's Paradise

Naja gets fed at 8am, then she rests...for no more than thirty minutes. At 8:15 I either go on a bike ride, without her...or I split rounds of Lodgepole Pine (the first warming) and stack it. Anytime I am in the yard working, Naja brings me toys to throw...a Chuck-It, a frisbee or an old nasty tennis ball... between swings of the maul she butts in, with drool spilling from her jowls, while holding one of aforementioned items and expects me to give it a hearty toss. I toss, she gives out a single bark while heading off in hot pursuit. We continue this ritual for nearly an hour before going back inside for the second cup of hot coffee and a shower.  I emerge, am slow to get dressed while taking multi-vitamins and fish oil. Naja waits at the door for our next move.             The ride to work is astride a bicycle pulling a dog trailer...Naja runs alongside for the first mile, which includes a potty stop on the same empty lot before catching up with me. Depending on the traffic situation, I let her trot alongside, nearly halfway to work. When I say, "Load up!" she immediately lunges into the trailer and turns around so that her nose is pointing backward...she really doesn't care where we are going, she revels in the memories of where we have been.       For the next seven hours she patrols the downtown one quarter acre that surrounds the bicycle shop, where she has worked as greeter, crotch sniffer and 'tween the toes cleaner ( if you are wearing sandals). She partakes in a Spa Rotation Treatment by laying on hot blacktop for twenty minutes, cold concrete for five, followed by a one hour nap on a pile of cushy pillows. If someone comes into the store with sandals or flip-flops, schedules can change. At four PM she moves to the shady asphalt at the front of the store...when I've got everything put away and I lock things up, this is where I exit the building, bike and trailer are parked here and she's thinking about that 5:30 feeding that happens after we walk through the door at home.       One important exception to this routine is the bike trip to the five thirty we may be headed East, dog in trailer and sweaty old man turning the cranks with great determination, to deliver us to our magical, volcanic sand-covered beach known to us as Naja's Paradise. The water is warm, the sun hits here for another hour or so and we have a stash of tennis balls. Both of us, in our birthday suits, running, swimming and shaking off excess water until we's time to eat! We hide the balls and run/ride back to the highway before loading up and rolling back to our mountain village that sits under the Big Snowy Mountain. Ahhh...we've earned our kibbles and quesadillas and an evening of cheering on the Giants.

Summer of Slim Pickens

Two weeks left, Summer becomes Autumn. My summer was not a vacation and will not be immediately followed by a vacation, this year.  Holding it all together... this is what I've been doing in Chester's Old Town during the summer of 2011. Six viable businesses remain and sixteen are empty or on the verge of calling it quits. We need new energy...and buckets of it. I'm thinking of sending out a  press release announcing a new Geothermal Hot Springs Resort opening in Chester, California during the summer of 2012!   Why Not, hey, that's what we will name it...Why Not Hot Springs. One can only hope that this fictitious prospect will get the wheels turning in the brains of our wealthy fans and cheerleaders...Chester has cheerleaders. Nestled between a National Park and a large warm lake, at the juncture of the Cascade and Sierra know Chester, California has fans. We do sit atop hot vents and fumaroles...and the purest water aquifer around, so...let's bottle it and bathe in it, and tell the world to "come on in, the water is fine".

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So many ways that the simple act of riding a bicycle helps you rise above the quicksand that's sucking at the soles of your shoes. Improved health may be the most important...that shrill sucking sound emitted by the healthcare system, accompanied by the drone of non-stop drug ads on radio, computer and TV, can be held at bay by practicing self-propulsion, occasional dancing and frequent stretching. The bicycle provides all three activities and assures that your cardiovascular system is throbbing and flushing like it was designed to do.
The bicycle can't fill all of our transportation needs but, it can put a serious dent in our habitual contribution to the petrol-chemical mafia that dominates much of our culture. When you feel better, due to increased breathing, which comes with participatory locomotion, you want to live cleaner and eat better. The fast-food, big box, endless asphalt parking lot culture won't even miss you, until...possibly, you convince a dozen of your friends that there is a healthier way to utilize the precious hours we are given to tread on this planet.
Beat the system, this has been a consistent theme that I have practiced for most of my sixty years. I pay my taxes and I am generous with those less fortunate but, I am always looking for a way to avoid the pitfalls and boobytraps laid out by the dominant consumption-dependant society we live in. I didn't own and operate a motor vehicle, a television, a phone, a clothes dryer or a computer for over fifteen years...I abstained, chose not to participate in this normal high impact lifestyle that Americans accepted as necessary and normal for the last sixty years.
Now, for the last twenty years, I have been participating in this American lifestyle, this behavior that the rest of the World is now struggling to adapt. Besides eating healthful foods on a regular basis, the one constant throughout my adult life has been the daily riding of my bicycle. Somehow it helps me hold the idea that I am beating the system, resulting in a long life and an excellent attitude...which I believe, benefits everyone.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hello April! Once again my bikeshop bank account slams down to ZERO. I borrow from personal savings and hope a body walks in and buys a bicycle or a kayak, or both. Materially the shop is fine, but it's not always easy to turn inventory into cash. The first three months of the year are quiet in the non-ski area regions of the high Sierra. Many businesses evaporated in Plumas County this winter...many will never come back. Online shopping is causing small town America to shrink to a cluster of coffee houses, convenience stores and a plethora of corporate franchise restaurants.
Rural America is shrinking and those who hang on are living with less. Book, appliance and new clothing stores have disappeared from small towns. Many surviving storefronts are now secondhand or thrift shops..."yard sales with a business license". Big box retail is usually within an hours' drive and country folk are still able to afford a weekly supply run to one of the Chinese product- filled, characterless shells, to stock up on toilet paper, hamburger helper and cheese puffs.
When gas prices creep up beyond six bucks a gallon I believe the surviving country families will finally co-op on these shopping trips and distribute goods out of their homes. It's a brave new world, alright, and the one good thing about these circumstances is that we are getting to know our neighbors much more intimately than we ever imagined we would. Are these just tough times or is this the way it's going to be from now on?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


The neighbor kid comes into the shop and says, "My mom says you guys are Naturalists."
Ever since we moved to this conservative village, twenty-five years ago, we've been known as "the earthy ones" or "earthy types". I think it started with me wearing Birkenstocks to my teaching job at the high school. Believe it or not, in this town these labels are not considered compliments but, rather are attached with disdain...even scorn.
She was waiting for my response...looking me right in the eye. "Well, ya...I've been called worse. We believe in a scientific explanation for what is going on with the planet", I explained. I know that this family believes that the explanation for all earthly phenomena has to do with God and that the Christian Bible explains all.
"So, is that why you like to lay on the deck naked and swim nude?" This question caught me off guard. I thought we were talking about Naturalists, not naturists. "Somebody has been peeping through the trees." I said, with a slight smile. She turned bright red and started to turn away. "It's not a bad thing." I said unapologetically. "I know that!" she snapped, as she headed to the door of the bike shop.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm beginning my seventh decade on the Big Blue Ball....happy about that! I like working and I'm excited for the busy season to begin. Winter fills this small town merchant with doubts and drags down the bank account. I might have the added the weight of worry from rumblings about our community bank struggling with it's (our) finances. Where does it all lead?
I know I'll be putting dozens of people on new bicycles soon and re-outfitting their old bikes with tires and comfortable seats. It's an honorable profession and those who come through the door seldom need a sales pitch. After seventeen years of service and follow-up care we've built a return customer base that guarantees our continued success, as long as success is defined as steady slow progress toward paying the mortgage and keeping the facilities in good shape.
One of the huge benefits of owning a bicycle shop is that you are always inspired by the activity you promote and the great feedback from customers who see their investment with you as invigorating and even "life-saving". Most bicycle shop owners I know are cyclists and are always plotting their next ride.
I just came back from my sixty year "Physical" at which I received a big "thumbs up" from my doctor. A couple of her exclamations (which I won't repeat here) were very encouraging. She couldn't believe I didn't have a drug regimen for a chronic health problem, "everyone has one, you don't know what you're missing." She has a surprising sense of humor. Here I go, roaring off toward sixty-one with a smile on my face and a bulge in my pants...quadriceps, silly.