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, 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 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,  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 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 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.