Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The China Grade

        Lisa says, "I'm going to Taylorsville for some bodywork, would you like to come with me?" She's been working on a stiff neck/ tight back problem, so it would be good of me to do the driving. Kanda, her masseuse extraordinaire, had some unfinished business with Lisa.
        Hey, I'll bring my bike and ride up Mt. Hough on the China Grade. I air-up the fifteen year old Gary Fisher Cake and throw on cycling clothes...November high country cycling clothes.
         It was high noon on a monday...mid November. The China Grade heads south out of town, right behind the school...I imagined the kids looking out the windows saying, "No Way." It's a 20-23% grade for the first two miles, without a pause in grade...should've warmed-up a little. I dropped to granny gear immediately. The left knee started talking to me right away...the seat felt like it was tilted back a bit too much. The road surface was perfect, moist clay-like dirt and no rocks.
        At the 1 milepost there was a light snow accumulation next to the one lane track but, the road was clear and tacky. At the 2 milepost there was a truck track to follow through a one inch snow layer. The grade was still relentless, I was puffing like a horse at full-gallop...even though I was progressing at a two mile-an-hour pace. I'm looking desperately for the 3 milepost and now pushing on the pedals with all I have to progress through four inches of snow. The truck track stopped. I can see where the driver had unloaded a snow machine...I followed that track for another hundred yards to a confusing intersection of five roads.
        OK, time to head back downhill...I'll just follow this truck track. I'm not sure how it happened but, it was the wrong truck track. The downhill was snow and ice covered for two miles and went in a NW direction. I should have taken the NE fork...it didn't look right...Oh well, I have my phone. Yep, I hit the main road five miles west of Taylorsville. My feet were numb and my hands were crampy from working the brakes down the icy descent. It was only a twelve mile ride and took me an hour and a half to complete. My commute of twelve miles a week may be keeping my butt bones in shape however, my sore legs and frozen feet thought they had had enough.  Lisa was all warm and rubbery when she walked out of her massage..."Are you sure you don't want Kanda to work on you?" I was salty and my body temperature must have been in the low nineties. I think she would hurt me, I'm not going to risk it, I replied. A man has to know his limitations.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Starting From Kalamazoo...One Week Ago Today

        The train trip back to the far west gave me time to reflect...we had just completed our twelfth trip to the homeland in forty years...so much love in that SW corner of Michigan. ..Home of "my people". A few things I don't miss...the noise, the freeways from hell, I-94 and 131 (where 100 car/truck pile-ups are not uncommon). The roar of the Detroit to Chicago truck route is stunning and intimidating.
         I don't miss the predominance of "mall shopping" (once called the Mall City). I do miss the "Country Roads"...the backroads of SW Michigan are busy now, there are modern ranch style homes sprinkled throughout. This zone of my home state now has 749,000 residents. The zone of California that I have called home for the 30 years (NE California) has one tenth as many residents in twice the land area...Plumas, Lassen, Modoc and Sierra counties. My mind finds solace, relief and an addictive  meditative quality in the quiet roads and wide open spaces.
        Yes, I realize that no one is going to move West to be nearer their big brother...It's been 45 years! I am lucky to get family for a visit every ten years. So, it is what it is...I'll just have to get my batteries recharged by Michigan hugs once every three or four years.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Thrown To The Pavement

         The Portage Creek Bicycle Trail is a well used six mile stretch of macadam that starts not far from my mother's house...the neighborhood that I grew up in...2500 miles East of my present home. Not wanting to experience "cycling withdrawal" symptoms during my visit, I tuned up and borrowed my nephew's 26 inch wheel bike and launched down the trail.
         The morning was warm and the pavement was perfect, until it wasn't. I started to pass a side by side pair of female fast-walkers, plenty of room to get around them on the left edge of the trail, when "KERTHUNCK" ...my chest and my right forearm were making contact with the hard black surface, having traveled over the handlebars in an instant. Yes, I was wearing a helmet.
        I stood up fast and found the bicycle off in the weeds next to the trail. The ladies instantly reacted, "Sir, are you alright?" I sprung up off the pavement and assured them that they hadn't caused my spill, "It was this sinkhole that did it." This version of a mountain bike, a Gary Fisher 'Gitche Gumee' has a rigid front fork, no suspension.
        "I have a cell phone. Do you want me to call somebody?" She offered. when she inspected the hole she asked, "Are you going to call the city about this hole?" She dragged a branch out of the woods and draped over the deep depression. "Well, I am calling this in, the city needs to know about this.", she said loudly. They were quite upset, having witnessed a 65 year old large man slam to the pavement.
        I straightened the handlebars and remounted the Gitche Gumee....I had to finish the trail. While pedaling away from the scene I started to take inventory: two bloody knees, a scuffed right forearm, and a deep pain under my left boob. I wore gloves and even they lost some of their protective surface.    It wasn't until we were sitting on my mother's deck an hour later that my body started to talk to me. The right arm swelled to twice it's normal size....Ice please. My left ribs sent pain Morse Code signals to my brain...let's wrap that with a chest compression wrap and whatever you do, don't cough!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Presidential Intelligence

        I am so glad that I have lived long enough to witness true intelligence occupying the position of "Leader of the Free World." I watched much of the 9/16/15 press conference this morning and am impressed with the thoughtfulness, choice of words, deep understanding of a rainbow of issues, displayed by "44"...not Willie McCovey, Barack H Obama.
        President Carter had his moments as did Clinton. Daddy Bush had his best moment when he puked on the Prime Minister of Japan, forever changing the momentum of the Japanese economy (there are spiritual/samurai economists who actually believe this). Mr. Obama has remained healthy and has maintained his sense of humor in spite of numerous obstacles thrown in his path since he assumed office (twice).
         I am not saying that President Obama hasn't been jerked around by special interests, he knows where his financial support comes from, but he is incredibly aware of America's influence, affluence and arrogance on the world stage. His terms in office have shown us how 'balance of power' works in our federal governmental structure. Which actually is a relief because there are no truly intelligent candidates out there on the horizon.
         I have read both of Barack Obama's books and I was excited to see what he could do to humanize the process by which we are governed. I was also looking forward to the change of perspective he would encourage among the Europeans we discuss politics with every time we travel. I am not sure any of this "change" ever came about but he gave it a decent shot...only time will tell. I am disappointed with congress and the judicial branches of government for always leaning toward their most conservative factions. They squashed "hope" at every turn and intersection.
        So, how does this set us up for the next eight years? I only see us going backwards at an accelerated pace. My backwards may be someone else's forward but, I don't see the country,  or the world improving through political actions. We have peaked...peak everything! I'm sorry for the young people who have had their secure future stolen from them by the greedy generations that preceded them.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

How Is "Nature Boy"

       An old friend stopped by the bike shop yesterday, someone that I hadn't seen for 42 years. Damn, he looked old. After a nice chat, between customers, he said, "Just texted my wife (Linda), she asked, How is Nature Boy?" I guess we don't change much over the course of a lifetime.
        Hiking, cycling and skinny dipping were my main outdoor interests when I moved to the south fork of the Kern River in 1973 and they are still at the top of my activities list here, at the other end of the Sierra Nevada, in 2015...but of course instead of skinny dipping we call it chunky-dunkin. I still love the ice cold plunges and I enjoy sweating profusely to find them. We are so lucky to have the fit and healthy bodies, and the excellent attitudes that encourage us to get out there and enjoy nature at it's best.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Last Chance ...64

        This is my last chance to post a few paragraphs in May. It's also my last chance to post a little ditty as a 64 year old.        I admit it, I love going to work...my job is not like work...it's a labor of love and fascination with the bicycle and people who bicycle. I can make most of them happy, in fact, very happy. If my customers are happy, they are working on being healthy and this makes me happy...a compounding/ perpetual feedback loop. It's almost embarrassing how good our life is...not by chance, we've worked at this and I realize we have made excellent decisions at certain junctions...but, there is a small factor of luck.
         Next May we are going to host a "Celebration of Good Fortune" marking Lisa and my 40th year as Life-Partners...living together and spreading the Love.  The "huggers", as one of our older Chico friends described us. How many more hugs do you get to give...how many more hugs are you going to receive? We lose friends to accidents and disease when we are young but, we lose long-term buddies when were older...a constant reminder that this whole arrangement is temporary and that we should be busily Celebrating The Temporary.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Be Like Jens and We Miss You

        I should have known better but,  I thought my friend, Jens Jensen from Berkeley, California, would live forever. He would fill the bicycle shop with 'barely in control' laughter. He made me feel like a clever comedian. Every third sentence out of my mouth was worth fifteen seconds of loud and enthusiastic laughter. I so enjoyed his company...we rode bicycles around the 34 mile lake circuit a dozen times...his big calves were usually breaking the wind for my chicken legs. When the road slanted upward he'd drop behind me and hold on like he had an invisible bungee. At the top of the hill he'd call me "Master of the gearbox." He'd say, "You always know what gear to be in, at the right moment."
        My friend Jens had a way of making me feel clever, intelligent and comedic. He was the smart one, a master mechanic and always willing to throw time into solving a puzzle. I felt energized when he would show up at my bicycle shop, and always a little disappointed when he left. He has departed this life but, the echos of his laughter and support are still in the air, here at Bodfish Bicycles.
         The funny people in our lives always seem to be the first ones to go...someone up there is looking for company that'll fill the void with laughter. At least we still have The Dalai Lama and our excellent memories.

Muscle Car

        I never understood the describing of an over-powered automobile as a "muscle-car". I owned a 1965 Ford Mustang when I graduated from Portage Northern High School, it was the version with the bigger engine, but, I put "baby moons" on it and drove it like a pussycat. The term "muscle car" might have originated from the vision of a tattooed over-sized bicep masturbating a stick shift through the gears as his tires smoked and his engine roared, but I don't think so.
        A muscle-boat is a boat you row or paddle. Muscle transportation in general would be something human or horse-powered...not  a hunk of metal and plastic that is artificially and chemically propelled from point A to point B. A gas-powered unit could be called a "racket-rocket" or "horseless carriage" or a cancer-spewing coffin on wheels. Of course, I am most interested in the muscle transportation energy one derives from food. "Support your local farmer, ride a bicycle". Treat your loved-ones and neighbors like you want them to live cancer-free forever....use your muscles, or your horse for transportation.
        Oh well, what's done is done, we've been spewing carcinogens for over one hundred years in the name of speed and convenience, but not in the name of efficiency. We work half of our lives away to support the "happy motoring" lifestyle...and the "muscle-car" guys must spend two-thirds of the working hours supporting their habit and boosting their macho self-image, subsequently scaring and bullying the gentle folk along their path.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cycling Nirvana

        Just over the hill from Paradise you'll find cycling nirvana...the dirt, the trails, the safe roads and a very helpful bicycle shop. What used to be a six month Plumas perfect bicycling climate has recently been extended to ten months. For this we can thank the "Burners"....oil, gas, wood and coal. I'm starting to think that nothing is more important than riding a bicycle at least two hours a day.
        Well actually, working five days a week is still more important. But, those stretches of time in which I do ride my bicycle two or three hours a day help me climb to a pinnacle of health and wellness. No doubt about it, I do need to dedicate more time and effort to foot twiddling. That evasive "pinnacle" keeps taunting me, just out of reach...unless I take six weeks off and ride every day, as we have been known to do.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Mission: It's About More Than The Bicycle

       The Bodfish "handle" has been with me for well over forty years, since I started writing "Outback of Bodfish" weekly columns about my self-propelled adventures in the southern Sierra. One would think I'm all about bicycles, all of the time, but actually, it's more than that. I'm about simple/honest living,  I'm about tread lightly/small carbon footprint living. I'm about being the best neighbor you could ever ask for.
        I'm all about potential, even in my mid-sixties, and I'm about the future... and being prepared for whatever it wants to toss my way. The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to keep moving, today. Morning hikes,  afternoon bicycle rides and watching my best friend perform Yoga poses are my favorite ways to keep "the ticker" strong.
       Operating my own Main St. business gives me a solid sense of purpose and keeps me on my toes. Right Livelihood is an important concept for me...not just taking up space or accumulating money because I can. I believe I am saving lives here and putting smiles on the faces of total strangers. How long can this go on? Believe me, I am passing it on...to my son, to my customers and to my community.
       It's a lifestyle, it's sincere and I have to believe that I'm making a difference.