Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Quick, cold, naked dips "make" the summer.

Winter Doldrums

         It's not my favorite thing...showing up at work five days a week, during Winter. The last three Winters have been strange, little or no snow, mostly cloudy and very few customers. We haven't had so much as one morning frost this December (2014). The shortest days are upon us. The storms come whipping across the Pacific and the weather people are visibly excited...only to split, some goes North, the rest goes South and we are left with sprinkles.
         I've been able to ride my bicycle more than in years past, however,  I'm pretty bundled up...and can't even consider riding to a lake or place on the river for a quick dip. Reading is my refuge, mostly books and crazy stories that I find on the internet...almost always "fiction" these days.
         I have little interest in the realities and complaints of my fellow Americans. I'm less interested in the International situation, the stock market and even the weather reports than I imagined I would be, now that I'm in my middle sixties. My only sports are bicycling, professional baseball and lake-bagging...that's it! Who knew that I'd become so narrow.
         I most want to start writing interesting stories...using my wealth of experience and depth of feeling about real issues of the day. I shouldn't worry about the fact that few people will be interested in what I have to say, and that others will be insulted or embarrassed with what I reveal. I want to just "go for it".  I think I need a few cheerleaders...a handful of coaches and supporters who have a thirst for what I might compose. It takes guts to write it down,  just as it spills out of my head. I'm not sure I'm that brave.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Owning My Own Writer's Block

You'd think it would be easy...just sit down and write. Certain stars need to be in alignment before I can sit down and write anything meaningful. My brain needs to be ON...I am thinking that this is only possible during a few hours a day. I can't be feeling guilty about the fact that I am not pitching in with the "real work" that begs to be done around me. And then there's the question that always haunts me...do I have anything meaningful to say? ...and who wants to read it, anyhow? These doubts are the foundation of my personal brand of  "writer's block".
You probably didn't notice but, I haven't composed a blog entry for five and a half months. These were my busiest work months at the bicycle shop followed by a six week cycling/camping/driving vacation in France. Now...in the last couple of days...I'm finding time to relax and configure my next essay.
When men ask, "What do you do?"...this happens a lot when you are on vacation, and women never ask that question, I've been practicing with the answer, I'm a writer. It's a sure way to halt the inquiry...but you see it in their eyes, (WTF is that?). On the other hand, if I say, I own a bicycle shop...they are all smiles. It's a handle they can understand. My partner is retiring this week after 30 years of working for the US government...she is now an artist and organic gardener. She was always an artist and organic gardener...and I was always a writer, sometimes it takes decades for us to own who we really are.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Disc Brake Mania

        A longtime customer walked into the bike shop this morning and asked, "I'm looking for an $1800 mountain bike, but I don't want disc brakes." I'll see what I can find, was my answer. I checked the catalogs, I searched the internet and I called my experts in the nearest college town...guess what?...there is no such animal, in fact, between $600 and $3,000 you will not find a new mountain bicycle that does not come outfitted with disc brakes. I was shocked.
         I've been in the bicycle business for forty years as a columnist/publisher/author and mechanic. I've owned and operated my own bicycle shop for over twenty years. I never saw this coming...the industry has been swarmed and inundated with disc brake technology. It's not as if rim braking was a problem. I've only seen a handful of worn-through rims in four decades of fixing bicycles. What's going on here?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Turn Down The Noise, Get Outside And Sweat.

If I were the Dalai Lama (of course, I am not), and someone asked me what advice I would give Americans (no one asked me), in eight words or less...it would be, turn down the noise, get outside and sweat. Yes, I know several people who exercise with earbuds attached to IPods and the like...I realize they won't hear my valuable advice. Oh well, I'm just imagining that I have something important to say here. I'll shut up.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Days We Have Left

        What to do with the days we have left....It's a finite number...everybody has a finite number of days. How precious they seem, once you've seen 23, 330 days fly by. Only the very lucky make it to 30,000...my mother will make it and she sounds as if she is enjoying each day, every time I call her.   She is only 6,315 days older than me...now, that's a long time to avoid being in the wrong place...at the wrong time. There are lightning bolts, falling trees and distracted drivers galore, out there, so, I'll assume that I won't accumulate that many days.
         When you only have 6,000 days left are you going to waste a day? Let's hope not. I'm getting a lot out of each day now but, I'm sure I can do better. This is why old people move to warmer climates, they assume that the quality of life is better where it is warmer. I've never believed this...the  lazy, shiftless, addicted, dishonest and unfit tend to gravitate toward, what they imagine is, an easier life. This is not the element that I want to share my neighborhood with.
         Would I do anything different if I knew how many days I had left? I would. I'd work a little less, swim more, ride my bicycle more adventurously and hug those I love a little longer.  Funny, I never set my sights on making a bunch of money. I'm just happy to stay ahead of my bills and stay in control of my material lust. Wanderlust, on the other hand, is harder for me to control. I love to travel and I'm lucky to have a mate that loves traveling (and bicycling) just as much as I do.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cogent Thoughts On "Why The Bicycle"?

        A few years ago my son asked, "Dad, why have you focused so much energy on the bicycle and cycling?" I didn't give him a good answer then...I'm sure I said something like; I didn't want to spend my life producing beer or, I'm allergic to chalk dust and teacher's lounges.
         I woke up on a Tuesday....after a long bicycle ride on Monday...with the answer. The bicycle is symbol of Respect. Respect for each other and Respect for the environment. The bicycle can be a therapeutic tool. Cycling teaches us what to do with hills and headwinds. The whole body gains a "cyclical knowledge"...each bone, muscle and organ contributing and demanding cooperation and action.  I'm not so sure he would have understood these concepts ten years ago but,  I'll bet he would now.
        Twenty years of actively selling bicycles to my community (which covers Northeastern California) and forty years of promoting, publishing and waxing poetic about cycling (and where that effort will take you in life),  I've finally figured out a way to describe what I'm up to by focusing on bicycles and cycling.
        To think that I could make a fair living by promoting the bicycle and it's use, is really something special. The promotion of cycling and bicycles in my region is a humble pursuit...I have only convinced a handful of souls that the daily use of the bicycle is a worthwhile investment of their time. It's a start.
        When the price of a gallon of gasoline tops $4 my job becomes a lot easier. The rewards are so obvious. It's still a puzzle to me, why wouldn't half of my neighbors be riding bicycles around town when errands call? Don't they see that firing up the motorcar or heavy hauler truck is expensive, unnecessary and harmful to the rest of us?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Welcome To My Morning At Ye Olde Bicycle Shoppe

        Broken spokes, wheel out of true, bad chain links, ripped tire bead, loose bottom bracket, bent crank arm and rusty shifting wires..."This won't cost me more than forty bucks, will it?"...Welcome to my morning at ye olde bicycle shoppe. I charge $45. for a general tune-up, which includes cleaning, lubricating and adjusting of gears, brakes, cones, tire pressures and general alignment....parts are extra. This fee is twenty-five percent lower than most of my competition within a seventy mile radius of Chester.
        I pass on dozens of free bikes every year (and have done so for the last twenty years), these would be still-operable bicycles that are dropped off at Bodfish Bicycles by folks who are leaving the area permanently (some people will do anything to avoid the twelve dollar fee charged at the waste transfer site for unwanted bikes). I want as many people on bicycles as possible in Northeastern California, a region better known for teenagers (and "manly men") in lifted four-wheel-drive over-powered pick-up trucks and Humvees.
         It's not impossible, but it is difficult (and awkward) to mount a gun rack on a pedal-bike. A very large county with less than twenty thousand citizens, Plumas is hilly and many of the highways are narrow and heavy with logging trucks and other eighteen wheelers. Some day I believe the "meek" shall inherit the country lanes of America (you know, those on bicycles, motorcycles and in small electric cars).... when a gallon of diesel costs fourteen dollars and restaurants are selling their spent cooking oil for ten bucks a gallon.
        Everybody wants a break when it comes to getting their bicycles back on the road, and I want them to get a break, but when they come in to me with a malfunctioning $200 "big box"purchased bicycle and want me to perform miracles for forty dollars...I just have to shake my head and send them away. Making a "living" at a small rural bicycle repair shop is not possible in this second decade of the 21st century... without a certain percentage of my visitors pulling out their checkbooks (or credit cards) to commit to one of the brand new bicycles that I've gambled on, in hopes that someone in my realm  is willing to straddle, fall in love with and purchase... The goodwill that I've built by orchestrating a steady, consistent and honest business provides the momentum that keeps us afloat, but believe me, no one is getting rich here by showing up on Main Street every day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bicycle Disc Brake Baloney

          I've been accused of resisting our inevitable future...disc brakes on all bicycles. During my forty-two years of working on and selling bicycles, I've maintained that the beauty of the bike is it's simplicity. We have here, an instrument of conveyance that is light, depletes a minimum of natural resources, distributes even less harmful fumes and poisons than a walking human and is an item that nearly every person in modern society can find a way to afford.
         Well, the modern capitalist cannot resist complicating and therefore making more profitable, even the most efficient mode of transportation ever developed by man. Disc brakes on bicycles is the latest example of technical overkill to sweep the two-wheel industry...braking really wasn't a problem that needed to be addressed. Unless you spend much of your time cycling through the slushy streets of Seattle or Vancouver.
          So, there are seasons and places where disc brakes are appropriate, but why does every bicycle sold in America have to be outfitted with these heavier and technically "advanced" pieces of hardware. The hubs of bicycle wheels are now beefier to accommodate the the stainless rotors and the increased torque stresses they cause on the wheel...the lacing of the spokes must now also be "dished" on both sides of the wheel, resulting in less side to side (lateral) resistance to folding during abrupt turns that the cyclist might deem necessary.
          The additional weight added to the bicycle is alone enough reason to abstain from purchasing a two wheeler that can throw you ass-over-tea-kettle with a squeeze of a pinkee finger. Call me a Luddite or an Amish sympathizer (hey, the Amish love their bicycles but, have no use for hydraulic disc brakes). I am confident that this (fascination with trick technology) too will pass. A hundred years ago innovators thought that all bicycles of the future would have motors, built in headlights, horns and a throttle.        
          Bicycles and motorcycles are no longer sold out of the same dealerships but, each have their following. I'm not saying that the disc brake bicycle does not have a future. I am saying that not all bicycles need "braze-ons" that accommodate the braking mechanism. There is a future for light, simple bicycles and wheels...so, please stop trying to put these contraptions on our lightweight and magical road machines.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Mountain Bicycling...It Doesn't Get Better Than This

        Incredible...a twenty-five pound instrument of locomotion, a bottle of water, pump, patch kit and a spare tube and you are good! You are set up for a half day of adventure and surprising discoveries...all under your own power. Type of cycle matters not, as long as it weighs 28lbs or less. Yes, this eliminates the "big box store" bicycles. You don't need those kind of troubles while climbing or descending mountain roads or trails...did they put the handlebars on correctly?
        A perfect mode of transport, no noise, no petrol, no problem. Non weight-bearing impact on the earth between your wheels while the vascular system flows and the heart beats like a metronome or, in some cases, like a grandfather clock. When you explore the mountains or hills in a fifty mile radius from your basecamp you can pick a new route every day of your vacation. Who wouldn't want this?
         I'm not a fan of flat-road cycling, too much time to think about work, or butt bones, or distracted motorists. The hills however, are full of entertainment and wonder...like, I wonder what's over the next one. I started on this tack over forty years ago...exploring the backroads on a chain and muscle-driven two wheeler. It has long been my goal to impart the 'joy of cycling' to everyone I come in contact with...to see that wide smile under the salty brow of my riding companions on nearly every outing.
         It's an easy sell, "Do you enjoy running? Do you want to extend your life a couple of years? Do you like the high that comes with manufacturing endorphins? Let me take you on a bicycle ride, I know the way and I can keep you rolling....just give me a couple hours of your life."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Driest Year On Record

        A little lady walks by the bike shop nearly every morning when I'm putting the flag out. Her name is Barbara. Yesterday I said, "Barbara, have you ever seen anything like this absolutely dry Winter we're havin'?" She was almost in tears when she managed to say, "Chuck, this really frightens me. What is going on?" We're used to having nine foot of snow by the middle of January, in fact, during several of my thirty years here we've had six foot berms standing on flat ground by this time of year. "Something a little different, is all." She was shaking her head side to side as she sauntered on down Main Street.
         Mountain people are getting a little freaked-out about, the weather, the economy, the lack of water, the health of the forest and somebody coming around to confiscate their guns. Nothing new, really. I'm pretty sure we'll all be talking about too much rain next year or the year after that.
         They'll be drawing down our reservoirs for the cities and farmlands below and even though it'll be shocking to see, I love this Cascade southslope because of all the natural lakes and springs that seem not to notice the periodic drought cycle.
          I have less faith in the economic cycle. How long can a recession last, even if they did stop calling it a recession a few years ago? The remaining businesses on Main St. are doing whatever necessary to keep the lights on; less employees, less heat in-store, wiser selection of inventory, leaning on the savings account to bolster the ledger.
         We believe there are good times ahead...a summer of smokey skies and empty reservoirs due to drought would knock most of the rest of the wind out of our sails. For Sale signs have popped up this Winter in the least likely places...Ayoobs, a general merchandise store started in Plumas County over seventy years ago by Lebanese immigrants, was the most recent listing. The Snowbirds and Summer people will return in April and May. They will once again complain that there aren't enough restaurants to choose from and that there's not a shop where they can find a descent pair of hiking boots...but we need their support.
          None of us know what it'll all look like in a couple of years but, I do know that this place is an environmental oasis and will remain one of the most livable locations in the American West.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


        Look it up, on say, About.com.  I am not and will not criticize my upbringing, (I am just lucky to be here. ). The first twenty-three years of my life were spent under this cloud. I hid in locker rooms, or dressed and undressed super quickly...I didn't confuse this with modesty, there was real fear that I wouldn't get my pants on quick enough. This was the order of the day in our house...seven or eight people sharing a single small bathroom and none of us had ever seen one another naked. The one exception to this was my experimentation with skinny dipping at a secluded reservoir near our house...Snapping Turtles, however, cured my fascination with "natural" swimming.
         Living in Chico, California and finding the "girl of my dreams", who had no such phobia, snapped me out of the self-conscious and the guilt-ridden mentality, the one that had kept me under wraps for the first third of my life. I am still only comfortable being nude with family and very close friends. I am not an exhibitionist and I am exceedingly careful about where I practice my love of chunky-dunking.
         This post is, in part, a response to my mother's recent outburst..."What's this obsession with nudity, have you no modesty, I didn't bring you up like that!" Well, it's not an obsession, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a sense relief, that I have learned not to fear that family or friends will be critical of my small penis or extra layers of fat.
         Let me just say here, to all who know me and whom may find themselves in my company during my final years on this planet, if you are at all uncomfortable with the real and uninhibited Chuck (or schmuck) that I have evolved into....just say so and I will be more than happy to keep my pants on, or my towel wrapped around me.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me...

        Every year is a big deal. I feel strong and capable as I hike into the hills behind my handmade house. I feel quick and responsive when I climb into the saddle of my "mongrel" bicycle, a hybrid that does everything well and without complaint and I still bounce up stairs when pursuing an idea or project like putting in a new bathroom sink, (which I did yesterday).
         Over forty years ago when I took up a lifestyle that excluded red meat, sodas and fold-over fruit pies...and included regular cardio-vascular self-propelled activities such as swimming, hiking and bicycling,  I had hoped that I would live well into my sixties, maintaining a vibrance, a sense of humor and a level of energetic enthusiasm that would be envied by those half my age....I couldn't have foreseen how thoroughly today's "thirty-somethings" would have neglected their health by being couch potatoes, gamers and whiners (especially when presented with exercise opportunities...like walking to the store to buy their cigarettes).
        What, me critical?  No, I'm wildly appreciative of the good fortune I've had...a wonderful relationship with the eighteen year-old that I shacked up with nearly four decades ago, one very healthy child who has grown to be an enthusiastic vessel of unique ideas and humor, a degree of luck that has kept me and my loved ones (mostly) out of harm's way, a perspective that see's most cups in front of me as being half full, not half empty.
        So, how could I have known, all those years ago, when I first heard the Beatles song...When I'm Sixty-Four...that I would show-up at this ripe age feeling like I could go out an run a 10K or ride a 100K with the most active of my relatives and associates....all of who are much younger. I don't want to jinx this great run I'm having but, I'm also not too worried...having made some great choices in those early years "has made all of the difference." (Thank you, Robert Frost)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Poetry, Contemporary Dance and Organic Gardening

        The Kiplinger List of Best Value Colleges and Universities came out today and....for the fortieth year in a row, none of my Alma Maters were on it. Every college listed cost more than $20,000 a year to attend. I'm sure that I spent less than that to obtain either of my degrees, but how valuable was my eight years of higher education? For me, the main value in submitting to over 200 units of instruction was...figuring out what it was that I didn't want to spend my working life doing.
         The most enlightening year I experienced was my junior year at Fresno State..the year before it was officially named California State University at Fresno. I attended poetry classes with Everwine and Levine, organic gardening with Ishimoto, enology with Gallo and contemporary dance with twenty-four of the most graceful and kind young ladies ever collected in one gymnasium.
         You wouldn't believe it, if I told you, how many of those young dancers invited me over,  for dinner and conservation, during my last year at Fresno.
        After three years of experiencing North America on foot, mostly penniless, with backpack...I planted myself in Chico, Ca. and enrolled in the graduate school at California State University at Chico. I was interested in something I called, "Outdoor Recreation Therapy". The Rec department was goofy, so.... I pursued my goal in the Department of Education under the tutelage of Professors Russ Morris and Joe Smith. After three years of struggling to conform to that departments' guidelines and policies and receiving top grades, I was awarded a Masters in "teaching the educationally handicapped"...which I think means... everybody that didn't get a free ride to one of Kiplinger's List.
        So, I've been doing that ever since...mostly from behind the counter of my little bicycle shop. Recreation Therapy and Teaching the Educationally Handicapped.... to keep rolling down the path of life, fixing their flat tires, squeaky chains and unsynchronized gears.