Tuesday, August 14, 2018

No One Told Me....

        When I started taking the bicycle seriously in the early seventies (bought my first 10-speed in 1970), it came in a box, just like buying a bicycle on-line today. There were no instructions for assembly or riding...just a unassembled bike in a five foot long cardboard box. I figured out how to put it together and make it safe.
         No one told me to avoid the rough roads, broken roads or unpaved roads. I lifted my bicycle over gates, pushed it around barricades and washouts and explored double tracks that often turned out to be country driveways leading to angry ranch dogs. I didn't enjoy riding with impatient motorists on bustling EastBay motorways so, I explored the roads less traveled. I lived in Pleasant Hill when it actually featured...pleasant hill trails and tracks and far fewer developed neighborhoods.
         I migrated south, where for a couple of years I explored longer backroads east of Fresno...and then, down to the less developed environs around Lake Isabella in Kern County. I was riding a C.Itoh...a Japan built ten speed with the fattest 27x 1.4 tires I'd ever seen on a ten speed bicycle. I'd graduated to alloy rims and a backrack. Overnight outings that included climbs to old passes and fire lookout towers became my fascination....all I needed was a sleeping bag, a bag of Gorp and two waterbottles.
        I wrote about these outings in a rag called The Kern River Valley Review, which didn't last long but inspired me to continue writing a column, about my cycling adventures, when I moved 300 miles north to Butte County (Chico, Ca.) "Biking With Bodfish". I'd kidnapped the name from my village in Kern County. I continued to chronicle my forays, with hand drawn maps for more than a decade before moving to the north end of the Sierra Nevada and changing the column's heading to Quiet Mountain Sports.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

How To Be Free Of Clothing

        It's not as difficult as you think...and I don't care what you say, there are times when it is absolutely appropriate. There is no need to make anyone else uncomfortable...pick your moments and celebrate the freedom to be unencumbered and enjoy the breeze. As an outdoor expression you must be careful to pick your locations wisely. Indoors and at home only the family needs to be in agreement...nudity is not a terrible thing. Open and honest and stress-free, we are who we are and and we are judgement-free. The home Spa helps here...hot tub and sauna allow for and encourage family casual nudity. Lake bagging is one of our favorite family pursuits.
        Seeking out remote bodies of water and immersing fully (sans costume) has been one of our main activities for over forty years. When you arrive home sweaty and grimy one of the first things you do is jump in the shower...here is another opportunity...don't be so quick to get re-dressed on exiting the stall... drip dry and cool off before looking for your pajamas. Not surprisingly, there are many homes that operate under this protocol...clothing is only necessary when there are guests. I know, some people really love their clothing but really, even when it's ninety degrees?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Puppies in the Feather River

        She can't shed her fur coat...but, we sure can. Our new black labrador's name is Nori...nine weeks old. We took her down to the river just as the 'digital alcohol' hit 94 degrees. She liked it and showed us that she already knew how to "dog paddle". There were people down the way, it was too hot to care, we shed our outer layers and plunged in. Dipping in sixty degree Feather River water is the perfect way to cap an afternoon in the nineties.
        Nori Jo will have to be a swimmer, a hiker and a shop dog. It's in her 'job description'. She did not enjoy her first journey in the Tail Wagon bicycle trailer. She'll 'get it' before long. Hiking has been awkward...she thinks that the ideal healing takes place directly between her companion's feet. We are hoping to have another twelve year run with our new "project". The bicycle rides have to be done solo and traveling is a bit more difficult...even shopping trips have to be executed solo..."You stay with the pup, I'll shop."
        Oh well, we've managed to be good parents before...this is our fourth time. There are benefits...she will protect us and give our lives another important focus point. The hard part is when they expire, for whatever reason. In twelve years I'll be eighty years old and probably tired of dealing with Loss...so, enjoy them while you have them...the years are going by soooo fast.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

I Really Didn't Miss Writing In June

          Funny thing, I appreciated every single day of June. I was sure I had made a couple of contributions to the Bodfish blog...thought to put something down a half dozen times. So, what did I do with June? Wild swimming...Juniper Lake, Lake Almanor, Butt Lake...how could anyone consider wearing a suit in Butt Lake? My favorite...Naja's Paradise (about to become Nori's Paradise)...saw our immersions three times. Wild Swimming in our own sauna sweat was the favorite activity of June...only missed a couple of days. I had company nearly half of those sauna days...conversations in the sauna are always easy and rewarding.
         Dog walks with Olympia's Golden Doodle Teddy have helped us stay in shape for our new puppy....throw in a dozen bicycle rides into the hills above our abode and you have our health- enhancing activities of June. Of course working six days a week fills out many more hours. We put a lot of energy into encouraging others to 'get out there' and enjoy their body's ability to perform and glow in nature. This is the busiest season (Fourth of July week)...so, I really have to show up every day.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Shinrin yoku...This Concept Turns Me On

        I have to admit, here at the gateway to my "advanced age years", not much actually turns me on. A morning hug and kiss from my lifelong sweetheart excepted. The almost- daily walk in the woods that we've practiced for the last thirty years here in the mountains of Northern California now has an exciting label....Forest Bathing (Shinrin yoku).  It's amazing what a new definition and categorization can do for an habitual exercise.... and now, there are certified guides and organized groups for this type of bathing. I actually love this more than you can believe.
        I am not being a facetious goof here. Forest bathing, mountain bathing and lake bagging are the foundations of my peaceful state of mind and the essence of my existence.  It's why I thrive, by living in the woods, walking in the woods and bathing amongst the trees. I do not feel guilty for harvesting many of the trees that grew on my two acres...it's like weeding your garden. The survivors are healthier for the lack of competition, their boughs reach wider and they grow taller quicker than when they were crowded together. I built my house largely from the forest that stood on the same property that we have called home for the last 28 years. There are a few who bemoan the lack of a meadow or lake view from our woods but, not me. I love the forest and feel protected by their smell and their humming needles.
        Shinrin yoku is a japanese concept that was introduced to the world less than fifty years ago. I'm surprised that it took us this long to label and identify this forest blessing. Of course, forest dwellers have known of the magic of "forest bathing" all the way back to our chimpanzee beginnings. The new thing is that here in America we have learned to make money off of the activity. That's not a bad thing, many people would never discover it's effectiveness if they didn't have to use their credit card to get them in the right state of mind....shopping. Shopping for Wellness legitimizes many of our activities, hobbies and fascinations.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Life Below The Quiet Mountain

        We are about twelve miles (as the Bald Eagle flys) below an active volcano. There have been periods throughout history when volcanoes get violently active and angry as a group. The last time was during November of 2013. Seven volcanoes erupted dramatically within hours of each other around the globe. In reality, I am not a predictor of doom (Doomer). I am sure there are tough times ahead...for the Earth and the economy, and the culture of modernism. However, I do not wake up each day under a cloud of doubt or fear.
         It is good to keep in mind that we refer to the volcano above us as the Quiet Mountain because it can become explosive and loud. We can identify lava as far as sixty miles away that used to be part of what the natives referred to as Waganupa, (Mt. Tehama, over 15,000 ft. in height). Lassen Peak is one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world and it lives, it breathes, it steams and it waits. We are lucky to thrive and play on it's lower slopes.
        Simple hiking, biking and swimming between her magnificent folds. Over three decades of drinking from her aquifer and building a home and business out of her trees. She owes us nothing. Each day is a gift...and not a day goes by where I lose track of that fact. California in general is a land living "on the edge". We worship each sunrise and realize it can all shake and shiver and go... Poof! This enhances one's awareness moment to moment...you don't get this in Nebraska. Unless, I suppose, you live next to an ICBM missle silo.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Riding The Dirt on Skinny Tires, Now Called "Gravel Grinding"

        I've been riding the dirt roads on Road Bikes since 1973...when I moved to Bodfish, California. I immediately started writing about this in a weekly column for The Kern River Valley Review, called Outback of Bodfish. Stories about solo trips to Kelso Valley, Peppermint and Saddle Springs, Breckinridge Lookout and crossing Sherman Pass (which was unpaved in those days).
         No big deal, 27x1 and 1/4 inch tires, it's what I had and I loved ridin' the dirt. My stories were dirty stories and it seemed that no one could relate to them. During the Winter of '75 I moved to Chico, Ca. and kept up the stories under the pen name Bodfish...Biking with Bodfish. I didn't have a huge following in the Butte County Bugle but, there were bicycle riders who,  got it.
         So, after a couple of years of developing a fan-base, I decided to self-publish a book...Butte Country Bicycle Journeys. On road and off-road journeys were featured, including a dirt route to "The Coast" from the Sacramento Valley. I worked as a wrench at Chico Bicycle and one afternoon I started a sign-up sheet which announced, "Riding to the Coast, Lotsa Dirt".
         Amazing, eight people signed up! Only six actually followed through...we had a rip-roaring time on roads like; Pettyjohn, Pattymocus, Stuart Gap, Pellitreau Ridge and Usal Road. Mud, gravel, log truck ruts and smooth dirt on whatever bicycles we had...remember this is years before a "Mountain Bike" hit the market. We've since published numerous articles and three more books that include dirt and remote paved bicycle adventures.
         Cycling The California Outback, published in 1983, exclusively features gravel and dirt routes throughout Northern California. It never made the best-seller list however, for those who were not afraid, it opened a whole new world of quiet foot-twiddling. Bicycle tires come in a huge array of sizes these days, my favorite is still somewhat narrow...700x38.
        There are a million miles of quiet roads in North America all waiting for the silent traveler to come cranking along under her own power. So much easier than 45 years ago, you can have an adventure accompanied by the incredible music provided by nature and the "Rice Krispies" sound of your own tires rolling along the backroads.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Hill Cycling...Better Than Sex

        Hear me out... a couple of hours in the saddle climbing: spinning in a reasonable gear, crotch work, lungs keeping a moisture-flushing rhythm, heart exercising metronomically and sounding like a drum gathering in the Oakland Coliseum, enough scenery to knock your socks off, climbing, shifting and staying in the sweet spot, inhaling thin pure air and swigging clean mountain water, resulting in an high elevation climax that proves you are still a force to be reckoned with.... followed by a slippery/soaring flight that recalls your most exotic dreams and helps the other bodily functions return to a mellow 'valley state of mind'.                                                                                                                 Instead of five or ten minutes of ecstasy, you have a two and a half hour effort that guarantees improved health and attitude.
        Not convinced? I know I'm not the greatest salesman but, after 24 years of pretending, I have improved somewhat and I have to conclude: I'm doing something right!  I know endorphins and antigens and I am excited to launch from bed each and every morning... and I am excited to take on what the daylight hours want to throw at me.
         I'm talking RESULTS here... as I approach 68 years on the blue planet. I'm no James Brown, but damn, I feel good! Cycling is one of my great loves and I am exceedingly lucky to have Lisa, one of my other great loves, to enjoy it with. I'm not bragging here. I am appreciating... how incredibly good we've had it and the fact that it's continuing, swimmingly, toward the third decade of the 21st century.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

REtire? What is that?

        I'm not tired...I enjoy working with most people and I love fondling their bicycles. The industry has been coming up with strange, ridiculous and unnecessary configurations for this simple and therefore, glorious machine but, hey...send those technology-worshipping high-enders down the road. There's always some young mechanic who wants to hook your bike up to a diagnostic monitor to figure out why your electronic front derailleur isn't obeying your commands. Who needs that complication? What are the risks? What are the rewards?                
        Don't be stupid, keep it simple. Yes, I work with the public and there are some very strange customers, whom you can't make happy and often, they are not really sure what they want. A bicycle shop is visited by at least one of these puzzlers every month. I am a compassionate and decent person and I put a lot of effort into understanding what customers want...and I try to perform miracles without making fun of any single individual. A few of my fellow bike shop owners have thrown up their arms and sold or shut down their operation due to frustration or disgust.
         I am not there yet. I enjoy the humans who walk into my country bicycle store....there's very little "attitude" going on in a 'working class' rural bike shop. We are all just thankful to have gainful employment and to experience so many smiles coming at us from appreciative outdoor lovers.
         Yes, I'll try to call it quits at 25 years of service...Good Will, a great location and a lifetime collection of tools has to be worth a million bucks to someone trying to escape the Bay Area urban mania. I'll sell this investment (and Mom and Pop lifestyle) to some deserving soul...and yes, I know what I'll do with my remaining hours and energy. I'll invest a large portion of my time in the saddle earning the hills, especially the small roads...les petite rue...no more daily sales reports and quite a bit less Tri-flow in the lungs.
         Oh my, this is my 25th year, coming up! Hey if you know anyone who likes people as much as I do, please send 'em my way. I have an amazing lifestyle and sufficient income for them. I might settle for a little less than a million bucks.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Get Up On Your Bike, Get Down On Your Bike or Go Get A Bike.

       Just wondering...Why isn't everyone out on a bicycle? At least three days a week. So many options for those who are capable...mountain bikes, road bikes, fat bikes, electric-assist bicycles, recumbent bikes and handcycles...on road, off road, bicycle trails, rail to trail conversions, you can even ride indoors on a bike trainer (which is what I'm doing as I dictate this.).
        We know that it's healthiest to get up and move. Cycling is a cure for chronic knee pain, foot pain, back pain or even the pain of depression and the double curse of bad attitude and bad luck. It takes so little time and even less money to pop a little air into a two-wheeler's tires and drop a spot of oil on a neglected chain for a lap or two around the neighborhood.
        Do the math...what it'll cost you to get rolling will be repaid many times over by enriched living and a longer life span on this blessed planet. I've been preaching these verses for many decades, along with my gospel of healthy food selection and consumption...and, I realize, all the ranting and preaching will mean nothing until people are either desperate or stumble upon and recognize the solutions that are laying in their path.
        Do the math...we only get so many upright hours. The time is NOW to put those minutes to good use. So, here I am the motivational speaker,  riding my Cyclops Bicycle Trainer and talking into my phone, while at work.... Come to think of it,  I'd rather be wrenching and listening to Michael Franti lyrics on the shop stereo.  No, in fact, I'd rather be out on my bicycle breathing hard and listening to a mockingbird concert under a sharp blue sky.
        I'm not too far from retirement and even though I own a comfortable rocking chair, I am hoping to give it less time than I give my Brooks Professional bicycle saddle.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

One Quarter Of A Million Miles On A Bicycle (and I still thirst for hills)

        The dark days of January, no swimming to be done, outdoor cycling in snow and slush...not fun, television viewing of the national scene (the clown president and the waves he makes)...not palatable! Winter business in the bike store...non existent. So, I read and I dream and I watch videos of climbing cols in the Pyrenees and the Alps.
        The snow finally fell yesterday (end of January). Drought year? I'd say so. XC skiing is usually an energy outlet but, we need a base and two days ago the surface consisted of rock and pine needles...rough on the skis. Almost February and I'm thinking of how good it'll feel to spin up warm foothill pavement forty-five miles west of here.... when I get a day off.
        My wife says I should think about retirement and selling the store. How many days do we have left to hop on our bicycles and pursue dreamy climbs?  Time in the saddle is worth a million bucks...maybe she's right. No time like the present to ponder the possibilities here. February often brings sunny warm days, even in the mountains of Northern California. The foothills, however, are coming into their prime. The almond blossoms are causing a white/pink riot on the valley floor and the winds are warm and gentile.
       Our mission: to get more butts on bikes. Bicyclists, their steeds and cycling has had my focus for the last four decades. I don't need to be a retailer/ mechanic to get this done. However, I do need an income. so, if you know anyone..."Own your own small business, selling a product you're passionate about." Life in Chester, California is exceptional...abundant pristine water, excellent neighbors and guaranteed return customers every Spring and Summer, followed by a colorful Autumn and an extremely quiet Winter.
        The "good life" has always been an uphill climb, it's supposed to be...it's called... Earning It.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Moment That Changes Everything

        Three weeks in the city...survival depends on a radically heightened awareness of people and their machines ...congestion and movement and noise. We pedal various routes through the hilly suburbs of  Burbank and Glendale during the late morning hours, after the commuters rush off to work and finish before they scurry around seeking lunch.
         Cars backing out of driveways and popping out of parallel parking slots have to be our number one concern. Leaf blowers constantly throw clutter under our tires and obscure our aural sensory warning system, as we are fully tuned to the warning hums of rolling tires and moaning engines. We've had heart-stopping moments when car doors are flung open in our path or gadget fascinated drivers blow through traffic signs and signals in the same space that we felt we were entitled to.
         California and many other states have new laws requiring motorists to give pedestrians and cyclists a safe cushion of space before passing, usually three feet however, drivers have no fear of tickets or reprisals if they ignore this legal courtesy....and there are always a few who resent the new law and feel adamantly that the foot powered traveler has no right to share the right of way that has been dominated for one hundred years by motorists.
         We all have had those close calls when we say, "I saw my life flash in front of me." In fact, just yesterday, I sat at a traffic signal on a busy boulevard here in Burbank, patient like the Buddha, with my foot on the clutch. The green light told me to proceed, I pushed on the gas and let up on the clutch , feeling entitled to safe passage, when my wife put her hand on my wrist and gasped, I hesitated with my right foot just as a red light running Jeep Wrangler bore down from the left at 40+ mph narrowly missing my front grill.