Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Joyboy... Right To The End .

        I'm going back to my sixteen year-old self...Joyboy...it' all about the joy! The little twinkly lights on the natural tree inside the house...the smooth taste of eggnog in my French Roast cup of morning joe...soaking naked in the outdoor wood-fired hot tub...taking the dog for a walk on the trail behind our house....riding my bicycle, outfitted with studded tires, across the causeway on the lake to drink in the view of Lassen Peak, (the snow-covered volcano to our North)...Ten days 'til the Solstice...What a way to go!
        I've been totally captivated by the History Channel series;  Countdown To Apocalypse. There are a lot of interesting angles to this countdown to Dec. 21. The religious angles, the historical angle, the mathematician angle, the astrological angle, the environmental angle and amazingly enough, the least important factor is...the Human Factor. There is absolutely nothing we can do about the whole affair....hide in a bomb shelter?
         So, my plan is to thoroughly enjoy the next ten days...and then, to enjoy the next ten days after that and... ten days after that...and so forth. We all would be happier if we lived ten days at a time...actually, each day at a time, but that seems a little too hedonistic to humans with a "serious side".
          I asked my wife to take Thursday and Friday off work next week, the 20th and 21st. We are going to sit next to each other and drink tea together, followed by a glass of wine... while playing Yahtzee or Encore or Scrabble... "Laughing all the way".

Friday, December 7, 2012

Reading Too Much / Riding Too Little

           Showing up at work, five days a week... mopped the floor, after the flood... from rain pushing on the back roll-up door... set up a few pair of XC skis...just in case Mother Nature decides to do the right thing and drops an albino shitload of frozen rain on this mtn. county.  I fixed a couple of flats this week...there are a few intrepid bicycle riders braving the chilly temperatures and occasional ice patches...they need lube, air in the tires and an infrequent tune-up.        
            So, what I do with all of my extra quiet hours at work is...READ!   I'm like a sponge... I'm wearing out my cheater glasses and drinking cups of Ceylon, Yogi and Lemon Grass tea like I'm on Dr. Oz antioxidant health regimen. Pandora's Moondog channel provides most of my background music...it's unpredictable and serves to keep me awake.
            It was 27 degrees when I awoke,  29 when I rode to work on my bike...It's dark and 33 when I pedal home pulling the Lab in her bicycle "conestoga" wagon.  Without snow on the ground, I'll have to say, I'm not a huge fan of Winter, especially the dark days here at 40 degrees latitude. I want to write more...but, here's the evidence...I really don't have that much to say.
            What do I read? This is where it gets interesting... I read a lot about the conundrum our materialistic society is experiencing....we own too much stuff and we no longer can find work producing more stuff because The Peoples Republic of China's distribution network (Walmart) is flooding the stores with cheap stuff...stuff that we sucker for everytime we go out to shop....stuff that we have to re-buy every couple of months...because, it's stuff that doesn't last. Of course, I'm thinking bicycles when I write this.  
              Global Climate Change is another favorite subject of mine...that too is a crazy conundrum. We are incredibly reluctant to change any of our behaviors until Matt Lauer or Oprah Winfrey tell us to...and it's our consumptive lifestyles, which include collecting a dizzying amount of electronic gadgets and appliances (all made in, you know where, China, or somewhere in Asia).
              So, what activity serves to clean a lot of this static and conflicting information out of my ever-expanding bald head?   Yep, riding my bicycle or cross country skiing out into the backwoods...or at the very least, taking the Labrador on a long walk during icy mornings...I'm done, the dog's tail just started wagging vigorously when I wrote that last sentence...that's weird.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Home For The Hollow Days

       Well, sometimes I wonder if I am really here...I feel present, but I'm not sure anyone can see me. This could be a good thing...like the Hollow Man...no one will see that I'm not wearing anything but a smile. My immediate family is busy elsewhere most of the time now....for Work and School. I show up during the hours indicated on the door of the bicycle shop and on a Wednesday or a Thursday, during these cold months, I may not interact with a single soul.
       Reading is my refuge...I love to purchase books from my friends across the street @ Books and Beyond, all kinds of books and I read the most far out stories on the internet (also provided via WiFi from Books and Beyond). Non-fiction is good, classic Sci-Fi is better and I'm addicted to near future predictive essays and novels...these ignite my brain the same way a piece of chocolate cake next to a scoop of vanilla ice cream use to.
        Some of the predictions are difficult, even dire, like those from Mark Hertsgaard and James Howard Kunstler, others are fun, like those from Kim Stanley Robinson or Arthur C Clark,  Richard Heinlein,  H.G.Wells or even the zany Carl Hiaasen. I've always been a Tom Robbins fan and I even like the ideas of Stewart Ward, a local guy.
        I just finished my second Barak Obama book, Dreams From My Father...I think this guy has a future. In fact, I am desperately hoping that he has a long future. Being a teen in the Sixties, a liberal, at that, left some nasty scars on my psyche...I was working on the Robert Kennedy For President campaign during my last days of high school when he made a visit to Kalamazoo, my hometown...only a few days before he was shot down in L.A. by Sirhan Sirhan.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back in My Carless...Carfree Days

         Cleaning out my desk...found some old writings, from the days when I wrote a weekly column for a small newspaper. This paragraph popped out at me...I'm amazed and dismayed by the willingness of every American to partake in the wanton and frivolous distribution of carcinogenic chemicals into the air and water. The same air and water that we all use to sustain our finite lives.
         My wife brought home a DVD called Chemical Roulette that she picked up at the local natural foods store and we invested our Sunday evening in watching this thoroughly frightening expose on corporate food production..... No wonder I totally immerse myself in my two favorite sports; cycling and baseball!
          It's true, we are going to die and... the meek are not inheriting the earth, but, no matter how hard we try, we are not going to change the minds or reform the consumptive and polluting behaviors those around us by bitching and proselytizing about "a better way" to live.
         So, all that's left is...just live, and do your best to enjoy each day and try to enrich the lives of those around you. We all have the power to screw up the environment that we share, and I realize that many of us are not performing this act out of anger or meanness but, we can all do better, we can strive to tread lighter on this planet and each other.
         Once we are aware of our impact and develop a desire to do less damage to the air and water we share, then, the change begins. This change and awareness has been going on during most of my lifetime...but, I am impatient with our progress. As John Muir said, "The money-changers are in the temple." and as long as money has the power to blind and possess a majority of those who live near us, we will only be the small voice in the back of their conscience that says, "This isn't right, I'm being selfish here."
         We may be unlucky enough to be the generation that sees radical change in how we treat each other as a result of numerous natural and unnatural disasters, that may be or not be the result of our bad environmental and political behavior...comeuppance, I think it's called. People do "pull together" during these times and definitely learn to be compassionate toward those less fortunate.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dream (and prediction) Comes True!

         Being a sports fan, (cycling and baseball) is not a waste of time. Baseball, in fact, is making me mighty happy! Business is down, politicians are phony, Lance Armstrong is a fraud, hockey is at a stalemate, American football is obese and oversold....but, the World Series will be pure bliss here in 2012.
          On April Fools Day I stuck my neck out....after careful analysis of Spring Training, not really, I called for a 2012 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants! My wife says I make that prediction every year...not true, last year I could see that the Giants were drunk on success and little hope of repeating (they won it all in 2010). The Tigers hadn't done squat since 2006...I was a rabid Tigers fan for the first 18 years of my life and they rewarded me with a World Series victory against the Cardinals in 1968.
           Who cares? Oh, how I care...the Giants are the underdog, they have been the underdog all year. Early predictions had the Dodgers winning the National League Pennant. The SF Giants were said to be no better than a third place team...thank you Sports Illustrated. The Tigers loaded up on talent and have the best starting pitchers in baseball but, that doesn't always result in being the best team...ask the Yankees.
           Many of my relatives, immediate relatives, in Michigan, feel strongly about the Detroit Tigers. I want them to be ecstatic about their team, I pulled strongly for them all year, the odds are in their favor....and yes, I know, I have to pick one over the other. I moved to California in 1969, I lived in San Jose during my first year in California. Californians put me on the front page of the San Jose News (in a good light) after I'd only been here for three months...I do love California, especially Northern California. I'm sitting at my keyboard wearing an orange hat and an orange shirt poking out of a black vest...I don't own a blue vest, I wouldn't wear it for the next two weeks even if I did. The blue Tigers hat went back in the closet this morning.....Go Giants!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Best Of All Worlds

        October is Outstanding....especially when...my two favorite baseball teams are surviving a run to the World Series...this lessens the pain inflicted by incessant political ads on the airwaves. The deciduous yellows, oranges and reds are peaking and reminding me that it's a riot and a joy to be alive and healthy in the mountains of Northern California. Gathering wood, Oak and Lodgepole Pine, from the surrounding forest, digging up onions and potatoes from the garden and fitting in hour-long bicycle rides, and dog walks, adds up to an almost perfect Autumn.
         This is also the time of year when I miss my Michigan people the most. Being surrounded by Fall colors and the feeling of impending Winter makes me want to huddle with family and share stories and belly-laughs about the events from the rest of the year.
          A month-long trip abroad always helps me reset, when I return home...I look at friends and neighbors differently...my yard, my house and my little village in the mountains, and of course the dog, welcome me warmly and forgive me for acting like the separation was permanent.
          At sixty-two I am not setting any records for longevity but, I am the guy who forty years ago said, "If I live past the age of forty, it'll be because I haven't been adventurous enough." There'll be snowblower wrestling matches in my near future,  followed by meals of grilled cheese and Advil.
           I have to say, I am hoping for another dozen cycles through the seasons, at least....and a good portion of that time in the saddle on one of my favorite bicycles, breathing hard, sweating profusely and imagining that I am an athlete being pursued by some young whippersnapper, who thinks he has my number and is hoping to stomp by me with his nose in the air, not offering a single word of encouragement. For the most part, I am still holding those punks off by choosing quiet roads to ride in remote areas...when it happens, I won't be discouraged, I won't be rattled,  I'll be thankful that I'm moving forward while balancing on just two wheels.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Post Trip...What was I worried about?

       Thirty days of "going with the flow" in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Austria and finally Germany...leaves me; tired of driving, satiated with Alpen scenery, titillated about the prospect of future cycling/camping adventures (back to France) and pleased with my level of fitness, mentally and physically.
       Back behind the counter at Bodfish Bicycles, I get to share the stories. Friends and customers always ask, "What did you miss the most?"...I know what they want to hear, "the dog, a soft bed, fixing flats and getting greasy every day, conversations in English, a full cup of coffee"... but, just between you and me, I missed my morning TheraSauna and generally hanging around in the house naked.
        Lisa and I have embarked on lengthy autumn adventures for more than half of the thirty-eight years we've been together...we understand that it takes more than a couple of weeks to untangle the web of workaday wires and knots that hold our "adventure-selves" hostage.... followed by another few weeks out of the routine, in order to recharge the batteries that power our true subterranean free spirits....we always find our deepest "true-selves" on these outings and we like what we see and share, in each other.
       The roads are quieter here in Plumas County but the motorists are callous and show no concern for the vulnerable pedestrians at the road's crumbling edge. Foot-powered travelers are not admired, but rather they are pitied and even scorned for distracting the flow and concentration of the operators of overweight metal and plastic, fume spewing boxes on asphalt strips that every citizen finances.                
        Europeans all seem to have the attitude that every human deserves his or her space on road...farm tractors, horse drawn carts and especially cyclists are included as legitimate members of "the flow" along the trodden path...respect is shown toward all, even the foot-powered.
        This is one of the reasons we are excited to spend our hard-earned money in Europe...too bad it takes jet fuel to get there.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pre-Travel Anxiety

       In two days Team Bodfish, boxed bicycles and bulging bags of camping gear are headed to SFO for what is supposed to be a flight to MUC. I've remembered my Chamoix-lined shorts, my vitamins and my Euro swimming costume but, so many things are out of my control. The cabin crew of our chosen airline is spitting and sputtering about wages and benefits and therefore staging "demonstration strikes" as I write this. London's Heathrow airport is also teaming with demonstrators with various other causes...for instance: the handicap bathrooms won't allow person's of the opposite sex attend their charge so, we are going to stage an airport clogging demonstration over this....just use the friggin' bathroom. Do you think they'll arrest you? Consequently, we may have trouble getting through Customs in the allotted ninety minutes before the connection departs to Munich. If we get there Friday afternoon we have a car and a room waiting for us, at Hotel Isar.  
       And then, there's the animal...the one we leave in the care of Colby, who by the way, hasn't checked in with us for four days...last we knew he was kayaking the American River with a mob of holiday drunks...at least three hours from here. Two days, it just doesn't seem like enough time. Did you hear about Hurricane Leslie?...She is sweeping right across our path over the Atlantic Ocean and is set to cause havoc in The British Isles as soon as we land. What? Me worry?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Bullies and Republicans

       I am not commenting about the convention this week, but....Nothing has changed since I started paying attention to politics in 1960 when Nixon and Kennedy were going at it. The Repubs are all about $...not your money and my money...they are about big money, their cronies money, their backers money, eventually the candidates' money.
       The Dems are about the Human element...how to control and manipulate the Human element....bureaucrats, always trying to maintain the bureacracy. The War on Poverty, The War on Drugs, The War on Financial Cheats and The Wars on The Rest of the World....what a joke, it's all about control and money. It's really not about keeping us Safe and Free.
        I used to think we'd end up with a more Humanistic society when all the Old School Conservatives died of old age. It's not happening. Through their mainstream propaganda networks these old guys have brainwashed a whole new generation of "wealthy wanna-bes".
         Here's my frustration with "Bullies". The American motorist...callous and clueless. Pedestrian rights? What a joke that is...until walkers and cyclists start strapping on vests loaded with several sticks of dynamite, the American motorist will have zero respect for the little guy operating under his own power. Big Truck translates into superior power just like Big Money does. The little guy is just supposed to get out of the way.
        What I discovered on a visit to Europe over ten years ago was that people mattered....just regular on-the-street people. Few people worship the rich and the powerful and anyone that's driving a behemoth truck that makes extra loud noises when it passes you, better be hauling the town's daily trash or delivering topsoil , because if you are bullying around in a Dodge Ram 3500 just to be impressive.....just to make a statement about who you "think" you are...you are an idiot!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fitness Vacation, Number Nineteen

    Lisa and I have been an "item" for over thirty-six years. We have a pattern of bi-annual/ month long, or more, fitness adventure vacations. We are about to embark on another...cycling and camping in the Austrian/ Italian Alps. We are bringing our finest bicycles and camping gear to Bavaria, where we will pick-up a VW rental car and buy a detailed regional Michelin Map.
    We decide our route when we get there. We'll be looking for hill climbs with a minimum of motor traffic...our track record is good in this department. Autumn lays out the best weather of the year, in the Alps climbs to ski stations provide the most spectacular climbs. Ideally there will be a campground at the bottom of every target climb. Campgrounds are good secure places to launch from, they are usually only half full in Sept. or Oct. and the hosts are always friendly and protective of our layout.
    We don't try to replicate the stages of the Tour de France during these trips...we ride more days than they do, but only forty miles a day...we are old people, c'mon. There's always a good shower and sometimes even a pool or a sauna at the camp. We end the day with soup cooked over our small portable stove, a hunk of cheese and a glass of local wine. Often Eurocampings have two or three good hillclimbs out of them, in which case we stay a couple days at the same basecamp.
     "How do you afford this?", people often ask. I answer with, How can we afford not to?  I'm quite sure that these outings add weeks on to the end of our lives and we aren't concerned with leaving our kid with a nest egg......he'll do fine on his own, a more capable and confident young man, I have never met.
     These trips are also excellent "mental vacations". To be in such a foreign land, performing simple tasks that are strenuous but familiar to our bodies, let's the mind unwind and the worries subsequently fall behind..."We leave it on the tarmac." I like to say.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Done With Politics

Someone like Gore Vidal, Truman Capote or Maurice Sendak was proud of the expression...politics make strange bedfellows...No one involved in these 2012 political games knows if they are being honest or not. We have seriously lost a grip on reality....and those people running for office are guilty of self-serving "pretzel logic". So, it goes back to........ Take care of your family, be as healthy as as you can be, have an elevated level of compassion for those less fortunate, and those who think they are superior, make the people around you happy and keep 'em laughing....Take care of the business at hand, do the things that make your life work and help others focus on the same.
Advice, I'm full of it....and what did I have for dinner last night? Beer and blueberry cake...horrible farts and two pounds heavier in the morning.
2012...remember? The last year of the Mayan calendar...The Queen said, "Let them eat cake!"
With this in mind, we have made plans for another month of camping and cycling in Europe. I'm sure we'll be there for the official collapse of their economy...I've been carrying some of these Euros around for twelve years. They'll be worthless by December.
So, what's important now is cranking our way up mountain passes highlighted in the Giro d'Italia and toasting the day with local wines (in recycled mustard glasses). If I find plentiful wifi signals you'll be able to see the whole thing unfold on fb.
Don't waste much time on the politicians and their rhetoric this Autumn...take care of your families and stay as healthy as you can...or, resolve to attain excellent health, because there will be life after 12/21/2012...however, it could be a radically different reality for all of us. That's what the Mayans were  indicating, there would be a rearranging of priorities...not the end of the World. If your guy loses this Fall, believe me, it won't be the end of the World.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Power Outage

It couldn't happen here...two-thirds of a billion people lost their electricity in India last week...of course, one third of a billion never had legitimate connections with the power grid. North America is far too clever and modern for such an event... right? Some things are beyond our control. Would two-thirds of Americans be uncomfortable if the power went down for a week?
Here in Northern Plumas County we have been training for such an event for.....well, the last one hundred years. Every Winter, and I have been here for the last 27, we experience an outage for at least a day, and I can remember week long outages, as well. We have an unrealistic "faith" in our modern country to be able to avoid such an event.
Oh yea, I am plugged in. I avoid online banking and I don't own a cell phone...but hell, I use an electric toothbrush! Google EMP and see if that doesn't scare you. I'm a big fan of the Sun...I'm tickled pink that it comes up on a regular schedule, roughly every twenty-four hours, and I've made a habit of absorbing as much Vitamin D as humanly possible, on my deck or on the lakeshore for at least twenty minutes a day, when it's warm enough...but, still that nuclear reaction orb in the sky scares the shit out of me when I spend five minutes thinking of how powerful it is and how much it dictates our well-being here on earth. Salutations to the Almighty Sun.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Naked French Roast

   Up in the morning at six o'clock, the birds have been celebrating for an hour already and a few glints of sun are shooting through the tree tops. No need to get dressed...it's 72 in the house. I love summer....carefully, I descend to the kitchen and activate the teapot...the joints loosen as I make my way over to the remote and bring the Weather Channel to life, at low volume.
     Black tea is my preference for waking the tastebuds...the dog springs to life and sits in front of the sliding glass door, suggesting a patrol along the property line....not wishing to go that public with my morning nudity, I decline and send her on her way.
    It's July! We are recording the Tour de France...time to get the coffee on and locate a pair of boxer shorts because...I'm about to go mindless, on automatic pilot for two hours...the spell can only be broken by the dog, begging for her eight o'clock bowl of kibbles or...one of the neighbors, trying to locate her cat...
I don't mind wearing boxers, in a pinch, but I am very attached to my freedoms.                         Happy Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Retirement, Ha!

      President Holland of France announced that retirement at 62 is a thing of the past...not an unexpected move in these difficult times...however, the new retirement age in France is 60. I write this on my last day of my 62nd complete year of sensing life and breathing outside the womb.
      I actually retired back in 1985 when I gave the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company my notice and moved to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I would no longer be a "grunt" on the bottling line...drinking my "benefits" and looking forward to SacValley life behind a steadily growing beer belly. During this post-grunt period I have been a part-time teacher, writer and promoter of all things related to bicycling and full-time Father, not the kind you kiss on the hand and bow down to. No complaints here, life has been more than fair to me. The sixties are starting with me feeling as healthy and strong as a "forty something".
      The Summer is starting off in grand style, we have heat, a full lake and energetic customers lining up at the door.  Working with Colby at my side, for most of the summer, is an absolute joy. He has numerous ideas about how to run a business but, he has a ton of respect for how the business has been operated for the last eighteen years. I really can't imagine a better employee...or offspring, for that matter.
      Here we are, charging into our nineteenth Summer of operating a recreation business on Main St., and I am optimistic....not so much that we will make more money...but, that we'll continue to thrive. It's never been about "more $".   My priorities have always orbited around health, honesty, happiness and forthrightness... really, what else is more important!
      This is not a diary entry...more a statement of purpose, from my operating manual...imprinted in my character from growing up in Michigan, with guidance from a caring and wonderful family....just letting you know that I appreciate you all and look forward to exchanging hugs, hopefully sometime in the next year.     In the meantime, Here goes, starting my 63rd year...tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just "gettin' by"

The bicycle shop is a gathering place for folks who are barely making it in life. For one reason or another...lost their license, can't afford insurance, don't want to waste money on car culture, lost their "balance" in life, need someone... who'll be decent....to talk to.
 It's an important "island of sanity" where anyone can walk in and smell the tires. I'm allowed to keep working with my hands while we talk...so it's no problem to welcome them in. At least that's how we function here in Chester, California and I know the same happens in many shops in Chico. At least the music is excellent and the shop dogs are friendly.
 I like putting people on bicycles...or tricycles. I want them to clutter up the streets and highways, and the bike rack at the post office. It reminds the motorheads/the large carbon footprint folks, that the meek, gentile traveler is still plugging along under her own power and deserves a little space on the tarmac.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Stretching The Window

        I'm not sure which is best, a morning forty-five minute up and down bicycle ride or forty-five minutes in the Thera Sauna...with either, I tend to lose three or four pounds of water weight, funny, when I do both in the same morning I still only lose four pounds. When I choose to take the dog for a forty-five minute walk in the morning I lose nothing. I can lose a pound just paying bills at the bike shop. Either way, taking the dog for a walk is only good for the dog.
         The bicycle shop is my home away from home and I get in at least 6,000 steps just putting the bicycles and kayaks out on display...it's my belief that you need to keep movin', keep sweating, when the opportunity arrises, and stay somewhat social. Do this and you'll be happy as you slide into your seventh decade of life. I feel so fortunate to be here.
         Celebrate Life...Celebrate the Temporary...has long been a credo of mine. Not too radical but, definitely more freeform than my siblings. I do wish I could be closer to my Michigan family...2,300 miles is too big a hop. So, that is what writing is all about for me...a small window into the life of your big brother. I don't believe in curtains but, for some reason I struggle to stretch this window...and I can only do that by writing more. It is frustrating that I can't reach out and HUG any of you...only in my dreams. This is also why I enjoy Facebook, it is the biggest family connection I have...no casual friends here, these are the people that I can be naked with...and I love you all.
          Yep, all this introspection is due to the fact that my 62nd birthday is just around the corner and I'm adding up the things that I am THANKFUL for, and yes, family is near the top of my list. Really, for me there is no Bucket List. I'm quite satisfied with my accomplishments and explorations...this is a mighty good life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How My Garden Grows

             Rain not snow....exposed to the elements: Tomato, peppers, broccoli, kale, peas and so forth. Warm days and good eatin' ahead. So, here it is...I'm predicting a long, hot Summer. This means many trips to the lake,  more bicycle rides around the lake and up the Quiet Volcano. I have to warn you in advance, I may be hard to corral this Summer...my 62nd.  A season of hiking into remote pools, stripping down to the suit God gave me, immersing in cold water hoping that it's enough to keep the mosquitos from drinking me dry before I pull on the bike shorts and race home to my quiet cabin in the woods.
                  This is the future I envisioned while sitting in William Everwine's Writer's Workshop in 1972. His assignment: Imagine your life as a professional writer forty years from now....Well, I didn't know I would be a small business owner, wrenching on bicycles and encouraging small town folks to go out and use them, but I did see the quiet cabin in the woods and me skinny dipping to keep the mosquitos at bay. I didn't imagine that I'd be such great friends with a black Labrador who loves to accompany me on so many lake and woods outings, but I did imagine that I would be partners with a precious woman who is adventurous, amorous and fair about all things we share.
                     I didn't know that I would have published five small titles that have brought me the smallest level of fame or,  that I would no longer own a typewriter, even though I hand-lettered all of my books. I did see me as loving the reading of books, while struggling to be a better writer, but I didn't foresee me needing cheater glasses to perform either task. Predictions are funny things...you are going to be wrong...much of the time, in fact.     I am still amazed when I'm right. However, I have not given up the prediction business...yes, I see hard times ahead for Western Civilization and I see the Detroit Tigers playing the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Weather Is Not Getting Me Down

I'm thankful for rainy weather, honest I am. Snow, at this point, I could do without. Mild depression, any depression, is a stranger to me...but, I am ready for the command to "Play Ball!"
Politics, floundering economies, climate change, gun control, gas prices, bankrupt state governments and school districts...these are all issues I am letting go of for the next seven months. I will not be investing any energy...that should read; Wasting Any Energy, on these and related issues until November...make that December, 2012. Yes, I will vote but, I don't want to talk about it.
I'll be concentrating on: Love of family, all things to do with Bicycling, Major League Baseball, exercising the dog, eating healthy and skinny dipping with friends. Focusing on these activities will keep me excited about life and looking forward to good times as a sixty-something character. We've all got our minds made up about religion and politics anyway, I think our days are better spent appreciating the sensations that come with living each day as it comes...being spontaneous, flexible and somewhat impulsive...and giving thanks for all that we have.
I've drifted away from being a preachy reformer, believe it or not, and I've given up on thinking that Education is the answer. The information is out there, has been out there for a half a Century, and still folks cling to their self-destructive behaviors with the tenacity of an Octopus.
This is one of the great things about surviving for more than six decades...you gain an ounce of "Wisdom" and a ton of "I don't give a hoot if I'm embarrassing you" attitude...this helps you see the humor in most circumstances and situations...the same ones that a decade earlier drove your blood pressure through the roof. It really is simple: just keep your nose clean, drink lots of liquids and don't waste so much time sitting on your ass....and never hold back a laugh (or a fart) when something strikes your funny bone.
Since my recent Hawaiian vacation my dreams have been full of playful people and joyful situations. I wake up with a big grin on my face and a lightness of step that feels spiritual and ridiculous at the same time. The first thing I do is step to the pot and pee...but, why am I giggling...maybe it's the Ginkgo biloba!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trouble ahead, trouble behind...just crossed my mind

We landed in Lihue on March 9, greeted by twin tornados and a hail storm. The gals at the car rental shed were amazed, they'd never seen either on Kaua'i. Thirty inches of rain fell during the week leading up to our arrival. The roads and the hillsides were in bad shape, the highlands visible from the North Shore were curtained with hundreds of waterfalls. Our rental house was not accessible due to mudslides and submerged bridges. We squeezed through on the second day, only to hear that the road washed out behind us.
The vacation house was exceptional, perched on stilts and surrounded by exotic upper tree foliage that was harboring a choir of tropical birds. No problem...No worries, even though the rain came down in sheets, this was a welcome change. Northern California was having the driest Winter in the last hundred years. We flew out of Reno, which was even drier, so the warm/lush/humid air of Hawai'i was just what we needed.
The sun came out a couple days later, the ocean calmed down and the beaches heated up.... we absorbed all that solar energy like pink-bodied sponges. By the end of the next week we had newly arriving tourists from the mainland asking us if we were "locals". We hiked, we biked, we swam and we sunned.... ten days flew by like an Osprey diving out of a treetop for a Trout. We're back and we are refreshed. Adventuring never placates the travel bug. I'm already checking the Web for tickets to Europe. Which airline flies bicycles for free? Yes, it is always money well spent.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Look Out America, We Are Leaving The Mainland.

This is not a prediction, however, we have an uncanny record of flying away from North America the day before a very large event shocks the country. Yes, you remember, it was Sept. 10, 2001 when we flew to Paris. It was also early Sept. 2008 when we flew to Barcelona...the first headline we read when we landed was about a financial collapse....Goodbye Lehman and AIG. In 2010 we flew to Toronto first and then to Frankfurt, that worked out better but, a month later we flew out of Marseilles on the same morning that French authorities stormed a motel next to the Marseilles airport and arrested 13 terrorists who were planning to raise havoc that very day!
Now I'm reading about extraordinary Solar Flares affecting the upper atmosphere and messing with radio communications...don't pilots still communicate by radio waves? Oh Jesus, it's enough to get me down on my knees. All I want is a balmy, relaxing ten days in Kauai.
We are spending a chunk of our retirement/savings on travel. This is largely due to the prediction, on my part, that we will have to be happy living out our lives tending to a garden and goats while living in a Pacific Yurt at a lower elevation, while our fellow middle class Americans accept the fact that here is no "trickle down" from the 1% that'll keep gas in their tanks and food on the grocery store shelves. These are "tough times"...about to get a lot tougher. Google Clusterfuck Nation or Club Orlov or Crazy Eddie at The Motie, to see where I'm coming from.
Our necks are so far out there...might as well concentrate on enjoying each day...and each adventure. No, you don't have to travel far to find awesome adventure. We explore remote corners of California and the West every week, month and year. We test our bodies to their physical limit often and we stretch our minds daily with conversation and varied research...not wasting the hours that remain...unless you classify watching Baseball and drinking a Torpedo Ale as a waste of time.
Well, here goes, our bags are packed, our son and our dog are in charge of "the ranch"...traveling laptopless, just a good book, some letter writing supplies and a swimsuit.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Celebrate The Freedom Machine

Forty years ago I began my rant: Car usage is overdone, we are addicted to the automobile and the apparent "convenience" of happy motoring. The oil companies/countries hold all of the cards and the noose will tighten. Driving is violence and we've become callous to fatality numbers as high as fifty thousand deaths a year...just in this country....and this does not include the cancers, lung diseases and effects from a quarter of a million injuries resulting from automobile accidents each year. A gallon of gas at the Terrible Herbst gas station on Shaw avenue in Fresno set me back 25 cents in 1972. That was the last gasoline purchase I made in the seventies. I scrapped my fire-prone Mercury Meteor in May of '72 and invested in a bicycle.
Jimmy Carter had it right in 1979 when he explained that the Middle East was holding US hostage, and maybe we shouldn't be in such a hurry to use up the Earth's account of dinosaur juice. Nobody wanted to hear it. Americans wanted a big dose of patriotic cheerleading, we wanted to hear that we were bad-ass invincibles, we voted for Ray-Gun the Conquerer. I didn't return to car ownership until Ronald Reagan was voted in for a second term...."I might as well help use it up," I reasoned.
It wasn't a major purchase, I bought Grandpa's '63 Chevy Nova for $1. We drove the snot out of that car...98,000 miles of California backroads while researching our California Dream Cycling guidebook. In 1998 we upgraded to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a vehicle that could carry us over deteriorated highways after the "coming depression". In 2005 we re-Jeeped so that we could drive through the coming financial disaster and inevitable lack of road repairs....sure to be on the horizon...and now I have a 4WD Honda Element, a go-anywhere delivery van, beautifully sensible for errands run from Bodfish Bicycles, a shop we have orchestrated and composed as a livelihood for eighteen years now. During this period I have commuted by bicycle ninety-five percent of the time.
Of course, gas and oil are not getting any cheaper ($4.59 a gallon as I write this)...oh yea, I was going to wax brightly about my freedom machine. I love my bicycles, best bargain of a lifetime, I throw effort into my bicycle and it rewards me immediately...free locomotion, birds singing all around me, a speed sensation that is earned but controllable and sweet, deep breaths and full circulation of life fluids to every extremity and all I had to do was hop in the saddle and rotate my legs. There are numerous roads and paths where you are not battling with motor-bullies. It's out there, right now. Wait for what you consider acceptable pedaling weather and get out there...rediscover the magic of self-propelled travel one more time and you are guaranteed less stress about these tumultuous times.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Pause Between Wars

Here we go again! Gas prices in the small village of Chester just hit $4.50 a gallon...what'll push them to $5? There are a half-dozen possible scenarios that I can see unfolding in the next month...all include Iran and most involve a pissed-off Israel, and hawkish Americans. It's time to bring the kids home from Afganistan but, I'm hoping the trip doesn't include a layover in Tehran.
Regardless, we knew 2012 wasn't going to be a "business as usual" kind of year. The bicycle business could improve considerably...I've seen three Nightly News interviews at gas stations this week which featured disgruntled motorists saying, "It's time to buy a bicycle."....warms the cockles of my heart. These commuters and shoppers might just fall in love with their own bodies and their ability to self-propel. Hearing the birdsongs of Spring and smelling the daffodils on their way to the Post Office or grocery store may cause permanent change...may give us all a little relief from busy-ness as usual.
Oh ya, it's going to be ugly, in so many ways...but, it's already ugly. There seems to be no way to put an end to all the unrest and unhappiness in the Middle East. Ron Paul is on to something, " isolationist America" is not even possible yet, I'm sure a few hours of thinking like an isolationist could be a good thing. In addition to pedaling around town to accomplish a handful of errands, I prescribe a few hours of silent foot-twiddling on quiet roads and paths in the country. Regular doses of "meditation in the saddle" can help us gain perspective and to savor each new day. We are only along for the ride...might as well take in as much oxygen and put out as much CO2 as you can with each breath as you possibly can, and I know no better way to pull this off, (without ruining your knees and ankles), than in the saddle under your own power.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Is Cycling Better Than SEX?

As crotch-based activities go, I honestly believe that cycling is one of the best. I suppose it is a disadvantage to have to wear specialized clothing to perform well at this hard-breathing form of exercise...small price to pay to eliminate chaffing and any embarrassing messiness. Oh yea, I'll go out on a limb and say, Yes! Cycling is as good as, and sometimes better than Sex.
What else can result in your lungs, heart and legs working so cohesively and rhythmetically while keeping a smile on your face for two hours... during each and every outing? It doesn't make you want to take a break and smoke a cigarette.
The fact that you have to perform in public may be one of the disadvantages. You get used to it, but it is one of the downsides. As a group activity cycling can be invigorating and will never result in disease or jealousy. Cyclists are seldom obligated to long term relationships or legal contracts. We are always free to drop out of the peloton and rejoin later, no hurt feelings.
Cyclists do need to be "on the same page", can't have Fat Tire enthusiasts mixing it up with the skinny/hard tire types...not for long, anyhow.
Getting back-in-the-saddle after a few weeks off often results in a sigh of relief, "Oh baby, where have you been?" The answer is always the same, "Just hanging around waiting for your remount." Loyal, loving and obedient, my ride seldom disappoints.
I'll admit, there are times when I feel inadequate, however, good coaching or a more appropriate gear, usually puts the smile back on my face. Cycling and sex can work together for a life of excellent endurance and satisfaction, yet, riding my bicycle five times a week seems reasonable and it's a lot cheaper than a stockpile of Viagra.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First Big Bicycle Tour...1974.

While earning a degree at Cal State Fresno I fell deeply in love with the Sierra Nevada and everything that was entailed with "mountain living". I had only visited various locations in the Sierra, east of Fresno, Yosemite, The John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on backpacking trips and weekend campouts with fellow students....but, I knew. I wanted to invest the bulk of my life in "mountain living".
Upon graduation I moved to Florida for six months of student teaching and guiding high schoolers on "outdoor recreation therapy" adventures. These outings only increased my burning desire to live in the mountains. A handful of my Fresno friends had relocated to the Kern River/ Bodfish region at the southern end 0f the Sierra Nevada...sounded good to me.
After a brief visit to Michigan...to hug family and acquire a bicycle, my new Florida girlfriend, Franny, and I, headed for the South Fork of the Kern where we rented a rough cabin in the berg of Bodfish. Franny did not share my love of cycling, or wandering aimlessly in the California "high country". I would set out with a sleeping bag, wrapped in a small tent, on my bicycle's backrack and see how far I could wander on backroads for three or four days...until hungry, or lonely, or in need of resupply of inner tubes. I wrote about my adventures in a rag called The Kern River Valley Review, for very small payment, before returning to the trails and remote dirt roads that led up from the Lake Isabella basin.
Franny, in the meantime, found real work with the USFS. Her work season started at the first of May, it was late February. She was ready to try a bicycle tour, but made me promise..."No dirt". March of 1974 was one of the rainiest on record, in California, and we were busily pedaling up the California coast...mostly with a tailwind, mostly soaked as we crawled in our tent every night. We rode from Bodfish to San Luis Obispo to Sonoma County. We cranked inland to Santa Rosa and Davis, before surfing tailwinds and sunny skies down California's Big Valley, all the way to Bakersfield. It took the entire month of March. Franny was surley and tired, saying something like, "If I never get on a bicycle saddle again, it'll be too soon."
Needless to say, after that, Franny and I were never "on the same page" concerning outdoor adventures, or anything else, for that matter...she went to work, I packed my one duffel and hitch-hiked eastward to Michigan, for more hugs, and a new bike....a Motobecane Grand Jubilee. My sister and her boyfriend owned a bicycle shop in Battle Creek, they helped me experience what it was like to straddle a quality bicycle...which, of course, caused me to fantasize about the mountains I would explore, under my own power, all over western North America.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mongrel Cyclist 1970

Spring of 1970, I was new to the SF Bay area and I'd just purchased a used (and immediately unreliable) motor vehicle from a Ford dealer in Oakland. I made a wise decision and bought a new "Ten Speed" in Martinez, Ca. to back up the (smoke and fire prone) Mercury Meteor...just in case.
My first ride of any note was an outing to the top of the most prominent local Lookout, Mt. Diablo. My new car's transmission had caught fire while climbing the same, the week before.
I had no idea that this, admittedly ambitious and according to my fellow workers...impossible, feat would cause me to catch fire with a life-long enthusiasm for the "sport" of bicycle riding.
I found the downhill to be far more harrowing, with steel rims and brand new brake pads, than the climb. Before the actual bottom of the mountain I noticed, what I thought was, a parallel double-track ranch road and I reasoned that if I had to crash, due to poor brakes, I would prefer it be on a dirt hillside, not on pavement contained by barbed wire fences. The dirt track meandered for a couple of miles before dropping steeply to an old ranch house and stables at the bottom of the descent. An old guy in a cowboy hat growled at me to get off his property and "wipe that stupid grin off your face."
I had discovered a couple of important things about myself on this mountain; I was more capable in the arena of self-propulsion than I had ever imagined, and riding on dirt with skinny tires can cause everlasting smiles.