Saturday, October 28, 2017

Thoughts About Riding Across The Country

        It was nearly 40 years ago when I said to my girlfriend, Let's ride our bicycles all over the West. Amazingly she said, "OK". We pedaled for three+ months, north and then east and then Kalamazoo, Michigan. We had laughably basic equipment...old steel ten-speeds adorned with adapted canvas saddlebags from the Army Navy Store in Chico. Wool Navy bell bottoms converted into knickers and odd flat shoes (bowling shoes, I think) which we wove into toe clip pedals so that we could slide into them barefoot. Yet, we easily covered 75 miles a day.
       I haven't told her (now my wife) but, I've had thoughts of doing it again. We could hopscotch with Amtrak, jump out with our bicycles for the pleasant stretches and get back on the train for the bleeker portions of the nation. How different would it be? We met many fantastic mid-country Americans along the way...people who bought us lunch, offered us camping, showers, saunas and swims in their barns and backyards. Politics and poverty were never discussed...these people wanted give us a taste of their "good life" in America. This was 1978. Would it feel the same in 2018?
        We still love riding our bicycles and enjoy conversations with new people (we've been Main St. merchants for the last 24 years) but, is America a different place than it was during those "good" years? I'm guessing that they're still out there...fantastic mid-country Americans.
        People respect that you are making your own way...self-propelling at a slow and easy pace. They know how you arrived and they know you aren't going to ride off with any of their stuff, because you are easy to catch and you don't want any excess weight or worries. (I won't be carrying your flat-screen TV from Iowa to Wisconsin.)
       Hmmm...don't tell my wife just yet but, I'm coming up with a plan...we really aren't that much older and I know we are capable. The only drawback? There might not be many wild swimming opportunities in Iowa.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I Was A Teenage Motorcycle Guy

        I learned that it hurt to crash a motorbike. It wasn't so much the loss of epidermal layers that impressed me, it was the fact that this three hundred pound machine just wouldn't take it's own route when I was hurtling through the wouldn't leave me alone, our direction and destiny were always the same... toward the object that finally brought us to a sudden stop. Problem was, I always arrived first...guard rail, back end of an Impala, side door of a Plymouth Valiant, curb or tree. I was a little heavy on the brakes so, the machine would hesitate and I would continue on...just ahead of it.
        In my early twenties I was smarter, in fact, I was a frickin' genius. I bought a bicycle and became an avid cyclist. My bike was electronics or hydraulics or fluids of any sort and it weighed one tenth as much, thirty pounds (a Columbia 10 speed). Even in these early years I was impressed with the fact that my vehicle was of little consequence to the environment (remember, the first Earth Day was in the Spring of 1970). It took me longer to arrive at my destination but, because of this I was more judicious in my choice of missions and I would combine errands. There were numerous new lessons being learned here. My next bicycle was five pounds lighter, shifting and braking were so much easier. Simpler was better...lighter was incredible.
        This brings us to the second decade of the 21st Century...most cycling enthusiasts are adding weight, adding electronics and adding fluids and even worse they're worshiping brakes that can be operated with pinkie fingers...greatly increasing the chance that one will leave the two-wheel steed suddenly when an obstruction appears "out of nowhere".
        Call me a Weight Weenie, call me a Luditte, call me a retro-wank...I think we are headed in the wrong direction here. Somebody needs to call a halt to this Industry-wide tendency to make the bicycle operate like a motorcycle.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tickled To Be Plumas People

        They say small towns are drying up, shuttered and being abandoned by Americans who want better WiFi, bigger medical facilities and fresh dark-roast coffee available on every corner. Well, there are those people and they are folding their tents and heading out of the hill country in favor of more urban settings. Plumas County is definitely hill country.
        This county is more than twice as big as Rhode Island and has less than 1/50th the population... less than twenty thousand souls, we find it easy to take care of each other. There's always a new crop of wanna-be residents, each Spring...hoping to not be too inconvenienced by Winter, and able to find new cultural entertainments and friends. We moved to remote Plumas County from a vibrant, low elevation college town 32 years ago.
        At first, I thought I'd miss the friends and activities that come easy in a California college town...and I did. However, there is joy in living through the seasons, knowing and taking care of your neighbors. There is comfort in the safety of a neighborhood and never having to wait in line...for anything. Well, once or twice in the Post Office and on a holiday in the Holiday Market...but really, that's it. There is not even a traffic signal in this village.
        I built a house and a business with my own hands here in Chester. We grew a child, established a garden and earned a good reputation without joining a local church or service club. We do worship each day and we work to improve the health and well-being of our community every year. I have become reluctant to travel to the big city as I am more sensitive to noise, rudeness and pushy people. I don't need that type of exposure. I don't want to toughen-up. Let me live my new found fairy-tale of the Perfect Life In Plumas.