Friday, December 13, 2019

We gave up on being Normal 'Mericans in the early 70's

        We are a happy and successful family and here comes 2020. I'm making a list of what makes us unique and why we are not considered normal:
We never watch situation comedies on the TV...never have.
We don't play video games, paintball or pinball.
We don't eat out or take-out from restaurants.
We believe that our dog and our bodies need exercise every day.
We are not so much into clothes, we are minimalists and we don't shop for new fact, if it's warm enough we forego the use of clothes altogether.
Our house is like a Spa...we have a hot tub, a sauna and exercise machines...and there is always Yoga.   We are always striving for more vitamin D and we religiously take Glucosamine.
We always tell each other the truth (no secrets).
We always stop at two drinks (alcohol).
We believe there is such a thing as enough income...keep your "needs" moderate.
We can go for days without driving our car...when we do drive we begin by clasping our hands while saying, "safe drive".
We don't eat red meat, we seldom eat any meat at all and we prefer rennet-less cheese.
        So, how strange are we? We've founded and practiced these behaviors as we have grown together and traveled to far corners of the world over the last 44 years.
We are a little different but, we are harmless and we do what we can to help others negotiate their way through a life filled with obstacles. Counseling, sympathizing and understanding those we consider friends and family. Criticizing is not our they say, different strokes for different folks.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Bodfish Bingo...A Lowpoint and a Resolution

         Lake-bagging, one of my very favorite outdoor seasonal activities, is promoted by a game I created a decade ago called Bodfish Bingo, which is represented on a card I hand out from my Quiet Mountain Sports desk on request. Forty-nine spaces on a 7x7 grid that each represent a lake within twenty-five miles of Chester. To earn a point you must fully immerse your body in one of these lakes. You can only score on a lake once per season. You earn 2 points when you plunge naked and you can earn as many as 4 points if you have to remove ice before diving in nude. The scoring was developed by UBES in England's "lake district".
         I usually earn close to 20 points yearly in this thrilling endeavor. However, 2019 saw me earn a meager 6 points. One of my customers earned 32 points this year and completed a 'row of seven'...Bingo! She won a Bodfish sweatshirt! She described each visit to a lake and how it made her feel. This is required in order to win a prize. " I felt like I was Eve and the lake was my apple."...her description of diving in to Blue Lake.
         Here's where I need to make a New Year's 2020 I need to score 20 points. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult. A single day hike through Lassen National Park can result in 10 points if you plot it out correctly. I'm careful to slip in to the clear mountain water without being a nuisance or offending families. If you really want that extra point for immersing in the nude,  just ask those in attendance if "sans costume" would be a problem. We've seen whole families strip down and follow us in after expressing this courtesy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Biggest Year For Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mtn Sports

        The numbers are in, our twenty-sixth year was the busiest and most profitable. We got a big boost from the displaced Paradise people who, over the last two and a half decades have supported us by purchasing bicycles and kayaks. When the insurance checks came in they ran right in and resupplied. There is undoubtedly more to it than that...we've seen a big increase in Reno-based customers over these last few years. Most express frustration and disgust with the crowds they encounter during their Tahoe visits and are quick to say, "Lake Almanor is more accommodating, friendlier and definitely less crowded than Lake Tahoe."
        I'm hoping this means we will see a re-energizing of the downtown Chester business scene. The east end of Chester (olde towne) is presently occupied by only a half-dozen brave merchants. There are definitely services and merchandise that are better supplied by local businesses. Keeping the money in the region is a much better strategy than sending hard-earned cash to Amazonville. Price is not everything. Personal service, advise and attention from a caring local businessperson is incredibly valuable. As I said, we are definitely doing better than "just hanging in there".
        The decision I made 27 years ago to switch from teaching children to encouraging older outdoor recreators was timely and has been incredibly rewarding. When I pass this shop on to another family looking for those rewards, I know that they too will be serving the Chester community with pride and satisfaction. Folks just need a little encouragement and guidance to find excitement and a healthier life from playing in the out-of-doors.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Humans and Systems Are More Fragile Than We Know

        This realization often occurs to me in the Autumn. The hubbub of Spring and Summer keeps me from thinking too deeply about the world around me, but damn, what we like to call Fall usually ushers in the bad news...fires flare, people die, friends commit suicide and the nation threatens to get flushed down another rat hole. November especially, how is it that there is never good news in November? I'm guessing that this is why Thanksgiving is in November.
         My life has been one of good fortune...psychologically and physically, I have been one lucky boy. I'm often heard saying, "What's everyone whining about? We are still taking oxygen in and exhaling carbon dioxide... and there is always ample food in the grocery stores." I'm a type "B" personality. I often say that my life is going "swimmingly"...I progress forward by back-stroking and breast-stroking...I'm not fast and I suck at forward crawl (freestyle). I'm seldom in a hurry, which somewhat frustrates my lifelong partner. She's an excellent straight ahead swimmer. I am not a big worrier, in fact I am sometimes accused of being insensitive to the worry and troubles suffered by those around me. 'Get over it' is likely to come out of my mouth before I've thought deeper about it.
        As a "mom and pop" retailer I encounter hundreds of needy people every week. I have dozens of casual conversations with people who "just want to talk" to someone. My early training in the 'social sciences' and 'special education' come in handy in my line of work. I can usually figure out which bicycle, bicycle accessory or repair a person needs within minutes of their arrival in my bicycle store. I don't irritate people and I'm good at knowing when I'm approaching the "thin ice". Every once in awhile I perceive that someone is in need of more thoughtful advise...I usually start with, "Ahhh, what do I know, but have you tried such an such?" This is not a good counseling technique but what do expect from an uncertified bicycle mechanic?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bicycles Evolving Into Motorcycles, Again

        It began happening one hundred and twenty years ago and then, right after WWI each machine went it's own quiet path and one noisy path. Sixty years later, when the Mountain Bike came storming out of the seventies into the eighties, little did we was happening again. Upright handlebars, fatter tires, suspension forks, soft-tails, hydraulic disc brakes, electronic shifting and now electric assist motors and here we are...another generation of fossil fuel-powered cycles.
        There is something irresistible in society about letting the machine do the hard work.  I have wavered a few times over the last five decades from nutrition-powered machines to fossil fuel-powered contraptions (driving Ducatis and Hondas) but, my first love has always been the leg-powered bicycle. I'm not saying they can't co-exist, however nothing satisfies me more thoroughly than earning my own way by leg-spinning up a long hill, followed by the sensation of soaring silently down the other side and repeating same, for hours, day after day.
         I'm in a position now where I am encouraging customers to utilize both modes of transport. I can't help but think the electric bicycle people are really cheating themselves out the euphoric pleasure that comes with climbing and descending under your own power. The endorphins just don't get "cranking" when you are twisting a throttle or setting your handlebar-mounted monitor to Turbo mode. The adrenalin can still be there but... that is a drug that can only get you into trouble somewhere down the road.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

You Know You've Been Ripped Off When...

       I have a couple of customers who slide into Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports every few years wanting me to get riled-up over bicycle tour guide writers who have duplicated/ lifted a handful of my historic ride suggestions from columns and books I've published over the last fifty years. I explain that California bicycle guide writers are a family and this information really is community property (who has the funds to enforce copyright law?). I started drawing maps of my two wheel expeditions when I was living in Bodfish, California in 1973.
       One writer in particular, who puts ride information on a website named Jack's Essential Rides really gets my people going, "He uses almost all of the rides from your books, California Dream Cycling and Cycling In The Shadow of Shasta!" I checked it out and retorted that hey, these are all public roads and cyclists (even cyclists who write) are always looking for the best roads. Besides, he missed a couple of the 99 rides I published.
      "He could at least acknowledge where he hi-jacked the information." shouted the most recent loyal complainer. I, again...appreciating her allegiance, pointed out that no one was ever going to become rich or famous for depicting or reporting the best roads to ride in California. The audience is small and a sense of adventure is rare these days.  I have broken-even on my publishing adventures within the world of California cycling enthusiasts. I still have a couple hundred copies of the last two; California Dream Cycling and Cycling The California Outback with Bodfish (in fact, there has been a resurgence of interest in this's now called 'gravel grinding'. I occasionally hand them out as gifts or take donations for them. No big deal.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

How Could I Have Been So Wrong?

        I just don't get it. Forty-five years ago I figured out that bicycles and bicycling is good for you...the healthiest and most efficient form of locomotion ever invented. Simple and beautiful and increases your awareness of the world around you like nothing else. When cycling is performed and practiced on a regular basis it keeps you young, supple and smiling. It's easier on your feet, your knees, your back and your pocketbook than any other activity that you attempt in the out-of-doors.
        So, why doesn't everyone I know and especially the ones I love, partake in bicycling? "It's too hard"...doesn't have to be. "It's too dangerous"...don't ride where it's dangerous. "It's too expensive"...doesn't cost as much as most of your bad habits or mindless entertainments. Spend $500 on a new bicycle and you are likely to use it for twenty years with inner tubes and chain lube as your only expenses. "It's too much work" yet, they realize that doing work leads to rewards...some that you expect and others that surprise you.
        I really thought that bicycles and cycling would be an easy sell. Now that I've owned a bicycle shop for over twenty-five years I must's not always easy to convince the public that bicycle riding is a good idea. It appears to be so much easier to hop in your car to go to the grocery store, even though you spend as much as a fifth of your annual income keeping the car (or truck) fed, housed and operating reliably. I can't even sell my own family on the idea of regular cycling activity for the sake of health, the environment or extending their lives by a couple of years.
        How could I have been so wrong? I actually imagined that by the year 2020 America would be rivaling Denmark or The Netherlands for percentages of travelers choosing to ride bicycles to complete their errands. I imagined huge bicycle parking facilities in America's downtown spaces. As a teenager with a fertile imagination I was often called "a dreamer"...some things never change.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Back To The Rust Belt and My Working Class Roots

        We have remained "working class warriors". My wife and I worked our way through college. We labored at bakeries, breweries, dairies and in gardens and yards. We worked for Uncle Sam and we continue to pay Uncle Sam. I grew up in a "union family", in the "rust belt" where nearly everyone I knew worked in a factory or were destined for factory work. We paid into Social Security for decades and we want Social Security now that we are into our sixties.
        In a few days we are hopping on a train for a return to Michigan....legitimate hopping...Amtrak.  We'll be rolling through "fly-over" by coastal dwelling Americans. I signed up for this trip twice in the Spring but "fly-over " country was flooded throughout most of March.
        Now, two weeks later, the trip to Michigan was a wonderful success. It necessitated a three hour drive to the train station in Reno, a 48 hour train ride on the California Zephyr and a three hour bus trip from Chicago to Kalamazoo...and then a twenty minute car ride from one of my sisters at 3am to a bed where would could get horizontal for the first time in three days...we traveled as coach passengers on Amtrak saving us approximately $600. Like I said, we are working class people.
        We built our own house from scratch thirty years ago and we still labor to fix the problems that come with an aging abode. My mother, who bought the house we grew up in 60 years ago, has moved into an apartment in a "seniors complex" and I can report that she is doing very well in spite of being mostly blind, while now in her late 80's. She'll be leaving no inheritance to any of her six children. She just hopes to stretch her life savings long enough to cover the rest of her life.
       Our feet are planted firmly on the ground. We are exceedingly thankful for everything we have and the people we have left to hug. ..and hug we did.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Investing An Hour Each Day

       It's my morning habit...a dog walk, a bike ride or a session in the TheraSauna. Moderate exercise for sure, but usually followed up by ten thousand steps at work putting bicycles on display and then putting them all away before five pm. The sauna fools the body... you are sweating so, you must be exercising. I sweat more in the sauna than I do on the dog walk or bike ride.
       Sauna time is precious for so many other reasons...solo in the sauna provides time to get back to the basics; stretch, breathe and encourage the toxins to flow. The more you practice the better you get at flowing freely through the pores. When sharing the corner cabinet TheraSauna space with friends or family,  conversations also become free-flowing...the naked truth is the only truth....resulting in reflections on the time we've shared and forward looking discussions on the days ahead.
       I've read that in Finland and other Scandinavian countries this friend and family "sauna time" is treasured and considered just as important as mealtime for folks to counsel and be counseled, therefore  revealing the emotional state of each family member. This closeness and honesty between family members is something Americans abandoned long ago. There is no room for criticisms and judgements when you sharing the hot box, we all have our flaws and our shortcomings but when we're this close (and naked) we definitely feel more compassion and tolerance for friends and family.
        Regular sauna sessions result in deeper revelations and confidence in the mental states than any other therapies could.  So, come on America, invest in home saunas and share them with friends and family. Get to know those around you, those you care about, better than you ever could any other way.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

For My Nineteenth Birthday I Moved To Hawaii

        Fifty years ago this week I was scrubbing pots, mopping floors and wrapping silverware for United Airlines on the night shift at the Honolulu Airport. Two months earlier I hadn't been west of Chicago. My escape from the Midwest was a decisive one. I needed a challenge and I wanted out from under the constant scrutiny that comes with living close to hundreds of relatives. I was allergic to Michigan air, freshly cut grass, ragweed and my stepfather (who I think was a descendant of ragweed). Ocean air, Desert air and Mountain air have all been very good to me since I left behind the humid, pollen-filled Midwestern air.
        Don't get me wrong, I love visiting Michigan and all of the hub-bub that goes with such trips...but no, I wouldn't want to move back there. I can breathe in the West. I can be a little different (liberal). I don't own air conditioning or a land line, I still commute to work on a bicycle. I survived thirteen years without owning a car. I didn't decide to have offspring until I was thirty-nine. I was a "strange duck"... a big kid who had no interest in playing football, shooting guns or snagging fish.
        I was the first in my family to graduate from high school or college. I took no scholarships or financial aid packages and I didn't go to college to avoid going to Asia to shoot at "Communist sympathizers". My number in the first Draft Lottery was 366...last, beyond pressure to stay in college. I went to Grad School, got an advanced degree in Education while working several part time jobs. I don't think I would have been given the space to do that had I remained in working class Michigan...there would have been too much pressure to get a "real job".

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Week Without The Internet

        You'd think we went on a wilderness camping vacation...last thursday a faller dropped a tree on an important transmission line near Chester resulting in a twelve hour power outage. Frontier, our internet provider decided to upgrade along with it's reboot and subsequently blew out most of the older modems. Hey, this wasn't actually a tragedy...slightly inconvenient but not horrible. Not being connected (intentionally) to any microwaves was cleansing.
       Chester sits at the halfway point of the PCT and hosts an impressive variety of hikers who are either starting their trek in Chester, Ca. or refueling for he second half of their summer adventure. I have hiked several 100 mile stretches of the Pacific Crest and I never had the desire to text, call or fb anyone. I didn't want music or financial news or tweeting gossip. In fact, I imagined that I was free of civilizations' ability to keep track of me...even though my campfires would have been easily spotted by satellites, I didn't think anyone would be concerned with my whereabouts.
         The PCT hikers of this century are glad to be on the grid and complain when they find a canyon or hollow that blocks their signal. One senior hiker shared a story, "I hiked all day recently and hadn't seen a soul. The first person I saw that evening was sitting on a rock watching the sunset and I thought Great, someone to talk to and camp with. I said Hi, she nodded without looking at me and said, "Not now." She was typing on her phone. I walked into the twilight instead of camping, realizing I'd just encountered a Zombie."

Thursday, July 18, 2019


        Just about everybody who comes through the door here at the bicycle shop asks, "How is it going?" If it's July, my answer is usually the same...Swimmingly. Lisa and Nori and I sweat through some hectic and difficult days operating out on Main Street and I am so thankful to have my family's help and counsel, but...the promise I must make nearly every day is...Yes, I will take us swimming in the lake no matter how tired I am. The ale and easy chair (and the Giants Game) will have to wait until after the evening baptismal.
        We don't always end up at the perfect skinny dipping spot. So some of my hikes from the garage to the front door of our house (200ft.) are performed in wet shorts...what are my options here? Nori is a Black Labrador so she will promise us anything if only we give her 30 minutes of lake time, nearly every day! Our child is still a waterdog, he lived the same pattern when he was at home...addicted to whitewater.
        The Summer slides by so quickly that I annually remember not to complain about a short trip to the lake...a one million acre-foot reservoir of Mt Lassen snowmelt. I personally prefer the smaller pothole lakes that are peppered about the southern slopes of the Cascade Range. Too numerous to list here, if you are really curious, wander into Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports and I will hand you a copy of my publication Bodfish Bingo...a lake bagging card which, if executed correctly...could result in prizes being awarded from the Bodfish inventory.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Rebranding For The Gravel Grinders

       Ten years after experimenting with pedaling off-pavement and writing columns for the local newspapers about my dirt road bicycling exploits, I self-published Cycling The California Outback with Bodfish. These adventures started in 1973 shortly after I'd relocated to Bodfish, California from the lower elevations in California.
       I'd always wanted to be a "mountain person". My adventure bicycle spirit took me over Sherman Pass (before it was paved), to Saddle Springs and Kelso Valley, to the top of Breckinridge Lookout from the Bodfish side. My C.Itoh road bike had fatter than normal 27" tires and proved quite durable during all of these exploits.
       My son, who is no-doubt smarter than I, has a publishing idea for me..."Put a new cover on your California Outback book emphasizing that these routes are Gravel Grinding loops." He probably didn't realize that I still possess 1,000 of the 10,000 Outback books that I printed many decades ago but, my answer, Great Idea! A bible of Northern California Gravel Grinders.
        This is what retirement is going to look like for me...revisiting all of the loops I featured in my four bicycling books; Butte Country Bicycle Journeys, Cycling In The Shadow Of Shasta, Cycling The California Outback and California Dream Cycling...all with Bodfish. I'll just have to come up with a way to release myself from the retail grinder that I've been so heavily involved with these last 25 years. Working on "The Complete Bodfish" book of questionable road surfaces...sounds like a great project for my 70's.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Quiet Mountain Sports Culture of Chester, California

        Most people get it...a few don't like it...but, most get it. My son was four years old when we started Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports in Chester. At eight years old he announced that someday he would buy the lot across the street from our rented bike shop location and he would open "Noisy Mountain Sports". "I'll do more business than you." Eight year olds are very clever but I got him on this one...three years later, I bought the lot across the street (the present location of Quiet Mountain Sports).
        Shortly after we opened the shop (Spring of '94) people would poke their head through the door and say things like, "There's nothing wrong with snowmobiling or "a motor is better than no motor"...or "I'll make all the noise I want." I heartily agreed with all of them, they have the right to recreate however they like. However, most who commented were fans of Quiet Mountain Sports activities.
        We had boats and bicycles right from the start. My friends Debbie and Vernon Pew were crafting beautiful Navarro canoes in Potter Valley, Ca.  We sold a couple hundred of them before Vernon gave up the business for health reasons. In 1998 we evolved into "lake kayaks" first from Old Town and then we started with Hobie in 2000. Now we are all Hobie. Pedal, paddle and sail with boats or boards.  We switch some of the inventory over to XC skis and snowshoes during Winter...when Winter decides to show up. This business formula has succeeded right into year 26. BTW we've stopped hearing comments from defensive "motorheads".

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Every Day A Niece Or A Sister Gets Older..Listen To Your Elder, He's Not Getting Older

        I am now an Elder...willing to give advice...if anyone is listening. Whatever you do, don't get grumpy and don't be bitter. Stay light-hearted and playful...any thing else is a waste of time, a wasted life. Keep playing, keep laughing in your heart...did I already say that? Old folks repeat themselves. Alcohol, in moderation, is a good thing...helps deflate the seriousness of each day's issues. Don't be bitchin' at people around you. You can't change them for the better anyhow. You can only push them toward worse.
        My 69th year is almost complete and I believe I am in a good place...moving well and playing with my new dog every single day. The wife gives me a hug and a kiss every morning and evening and she means it when she says, "I love you." I feel it throughout my being, when I say it back to her. Stay forever young and try to sing a new song every morning while you are brewing coffee. There are things to worry about but, I try to limit the 'worry time' to only a few minutes each day. Inflammation is a killer, try hard to avoid inflammation...Advil or Aleve is helpful here. Don't mix alcohol with your anti-inflammatories...bad for he liver and pancreas.
        I'm thinking that after seven decades we can stop striving for perfection and cease being competitive. Actually, we could have given up on each of those things a couple of decades earlier. I don't shave every day and I don't look in the mirror more than once a day. There's no fixing or primping me now. "I yam what I yam..." I didn't come this far to make it un-fun.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

We Met In Paradise, or All Wet In Paradise

         Gerald Ford was our default President and I had just relocated from San Francisco to the small town of Chico, Ca. six weeks before. I followed the advice of my college chum Barbie Baker, "Chico is the place you oughta be." So, I loaded up my bike and I moved to Butte County. A casual friend of mine, Sandy from Chicago, Il. (I'd met her in Yosemite National Park the year before), had also moved to Chico that winter. Something good was going happen to me if I moved north to this small college town but I wasn't sure what.
        A flyer for the Dogtown Valentine's Day Bluegrass Festival in Paradise,  caught my eye while I was scarfing waffles in Mel's Diner in downtown Chico one morning. I could do this, I lived in Butte Creek Canyon (halfway to Paradise)...I could walk there. On the morning of February 14 it was drizzling as I hoofed it up Honey Run Road but I was prepared, I had a day pack with a change of clothes and my sleeping bag. I was ready for anything. By the time I arrived at the festival site I was drenched. Seeing my predicament, a matronly lady invited me into the community center for coffee...she'd already rescued two other sopping wet hikers from Chico and she thought we should get to know each other, "This is Lisa and this is Cheri, here... meet Chuck." We got on impressively, dancing to the music in the main hall and talking about our adventures climbing Honey Run. I couldn't believe my luck, I was partnered up with two beautiful and brave young girls. Warmth was immediate and completely welcomed once we started dancing and talking between songs.
       About two weeks later, I was sitting next to the woodstove in my one room cabin in Butte Creek Canyon talking with my nurse friend from Chicago, who only lived a half mile away, when there was a rap on the door. Lisa had once again hiked up the canyon from Chico. "You won't be able to hike back before dark." offered my friend, Sandy. "I won't have to." Lisa responded, "I'm staying and you're leaving." she stated boldly. She was right, Sandy was just leaving. Lisa and I chatted well into the night. I'm so glad we did.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Finding A Spot...To Sun, Swim and Fall Into A Good Book

.....with a broad-brimmed hat on, of course. I adore 75+ degree days, therefore I'm always glad when it's May. We have special places, before the mosquitoes hatch, where the water is crystal clear and the air is still, usually. Even if the little buggers have hatched, the secret here is to ice-down in whatever pond you've chosen and watch them gather on the one person who refused to dip...rolling in mud helps too, plaster each other with mud and, same the biters swarm to the one person who refused to play...there's always one. Yeah, I'm a real hoot when I adventure out-of-doors on a warm day. I must insist on less work this year and definitely more play.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Chuckie's Big Train Adventure

        First, it didn't happen in 2019. I tried to make it happen. I made seat reservations to leave on my darling wife's birthday for points East (Chicago) and then,  east of that (Kalamazoo). This would have left her with sole responsibility for our Labrador puppy, my 25 year old business ( Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports)  and her own schedule of Yoga Beautiful addition to late season snow removal chores at two locations. However, two days before departure I got an email from Amtrak...trip cancelled due to severe flooding in Nebraska and Iowa.
        Ok, I persist, and make reservations for a seat eleven days later. The national news showed horrific flooding in the Missouri River drainage with RR tracks being washed out and twisted throughout the region. I researched all of the latest reports on this devastation but held on to my tickets, hoping for quick repairs. No word from Amtrak concerning a new cancellation. Amtrak veterans and enthusiasts on Facebook were saying that passenger trains wouldn't be traveling through that region for months. Still no word from Amtrak "passenger services".
        The day before my newly scheduled late March departure I called Amtrak and cancelled. They penalized me $40 and gave me a voucher for a future trip. The California Zephyr never made it past Denver in March. I guess they thought I should at least train to Denver and then figure it out from there. Now, it's the second week of April and the train is making it all the way into Chicago. I am a tiny bit superstitious and I try to pay attention to "omens".
        At the same time, Southwest Airlines was canceling flights from Reno to Chicago due to problems with their Boeing 737 jets. How many omens do you need? I wasn't supposed to travel to the Dairy Belt this Spring. So, my big train adventure to the region of my birth must wait until the signs are showing approval and my responsibilities in California are covered. Amtrak, I still love you and I suppose you could use the $40 to repair your tracks.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Quality Of Life Quotient...It Comes Down To Five Excellent Places To Live In NE California.

        I've walked, bicycled, camped near and driven on a multitude of backroads throughout the great state of California. I moved here fifty years ago to stake my claim somewhere in the "Golden Hills" and have had few regrets. I like the people. I like the birds and I've learned to love wild places in every corner of this state. Northeastern California is my favorite region. It's the region I've elected to spend the bulk of my life in. Modoc, Shasta, Lassen, Plumas and Tehama counties specifically.
        There are five villages (not cities) that I could live out the rest of my life in with a warm heart and a constant smile on my face. They all enjoy outstanding water quality (for swimming and drinking), exceptional trail and road quality (for hiking and biking), consistent air quality(for breathing and healthy  red blood cells) and, though conservative on the whole, admirable people quality. I am most interested in Quality Living. Here goes...Cedarville, McCloud, Fall River Mills, Chester and Taylorsville.
        Now, there can be hazy days, occasional bad people and washed-out road surfaces but, 350 days a year all is well in NE California. This volcanic corner of California is reliably therapeutic to almost anyone considering an escape from the manic motorcar-dominated rat-wheel life that most Californians have had to endure. At least once a week visitors to our region ask me, "What's it like living in the sticks?" I most often give them a sober report, not wishing to see a wave of them moving up this way.
        However, if you want to know what I really think...well, you've made it this deep into my blog and...I don't mind telling you. It's a quality place that you'll have a hard time beating in any other part of California.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

But, Where Do You Shower And Where Do You Pee?

       As a substitute teacher in my local school district (for eight years), I always had honest discussions with students about my wanderings and lifestyle before I became a settled and predictable adult. This was dangerous and would undoubtably lead to me being questioned by those in charge (parents and administration) but, I valued honesty and candidness with young people much more than I valued "not rocking the boat". I knew that I wasn't into the teaching profession for life.
        My wife and I had lived without an automobile for ten years before moving to Chester, California. We hiked and biked and once in awhile got on a bus or a train, when we felt the need to travel. "so, you really didn't travel." proclaimed one of the students. Actually, we traveled farther and more frequently than most people you know, I countered. We pedaled nearly 200 miles a week during that ten year span and nearly every autumn we stretch that out to one or even two thousand miles in a month.
        We rode from Chico, California to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to Jasper, Alberta and back by way of the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Another year saw us ride to Anacortes, Washington, then to Glacier National Park followed by a downhill ride all the way to Kalamazoo, Michigan... "How did you get back to California?" train, of course.
       They found this hard to fathom. "But, what if you wanted to go to the coast?"...We'd ride our bicycles, I offered. One year we hiked along the spine of the Sierra Nevada along the John Muir Trail..."Who was John Muir?" There was a lot of educating to be done here and they weren't getting these kind of stories from their parents or there regular teachers. Yeah, I kind of miss watching their eyes grow wide as saucers, at least the few who were actually listening or half-believing me...that's the thing, most weren't.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

After A Gazillion Hours Of Trump News

        Yes, I do have better things to do with my time, catch with the dog, ride bikes with my darling cycling-addicted wife, or sit in on one of her Yoga Beautiful classes. Maybe, play games of Scrabble without the news on in the background. However, I am feeling a congealing of all this background information in my psyche...and it's not good.
         I am a "news junkie" but, I have not been able to see into the future, until now. I went to bed last night AFRAID...I'm starting to understand how Mr. Trump's behavior is manipulating everyone, the distractions, the bullying, his pretzel and mostly backward logic and defensiveness. A full 30% of Americans think he's onto something that's going to benefit them. They still think they did right voting him into the White House. So, what can all of this possibly lead to? Violence.
        Leading into the next election, these former "Tea Party' / MAGA activists are encouraging chaos and disruption. Calling the media "the enemy of the people" is an opening of the door to anarchy...where nothing is believed and nothing is believable. Trust and Truth become an old fashioned notion, that's impossible to find. Why else would this POTUS lie so many times every day, on every subject and spend every day calling everyone else a liar...even the people he hired to run his show?
       I'm afraid we are going to witness a violence-laced attempt at Revolution. The ultimate manipulation of us "little people". This "mob boss" may continue to get his way at our expense...(or is that Pence?) I don't like it one bit and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. He is winning in the field of confusing all of us and he predicted that he would "win so much that we'd be tired of his winning". I'm tired (and terrorized) by the prospects here.
        I try to focus on the amazing 'here and now' events that come my way each day...the migration of swans and cranes making music above each evening and the hooting of owls every morning when I walk the dog out for a pee. This is the important music, and it does not goes on in spite of the annoying background static of politicos and money-driven plutocrats.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Just For The Health Of It

        One of the young girls that helps out at my bicycle shop during Summer asked, "Why do you walk or ride your bicycle to work every day?"... Well, it's not to save gas and it's not because I'm too lazy to drive... she was stumped...I like the way it makes me feel, I finally told her. I suppose that I am a total curiosity to the people of Plumas County. For one thing, I absolutely love my work. I grew up in a college town and lived mostly in college towns until I moved to Plumas County, a little over three decades ago.
         I have advanced college degrees and I am quite sure I could be pulling in twice as much money by working within the educational bureaucracy, however I chose to do "my own thing". Twenty-five years of doing what I love has kept a smile on my face and a glow in my heart. No regrets here. I have not converted any 'motorheads' to stop racing around the hills, leaving a trail of fumes and fear with the mountain wildlife in these parts.
        So-called 'liberal notions' that you might pick up living in an 'enlightened' college community like; Tread Lightly (on the natural environment), or Living Green, or Consume Less/ Recycle The Rest, are not subscribed to daily (obviously) in the hills of Northeastern California. So, as you can imagine, ramming around the woods on your snowmobile, motorcycle, quadracycle, Wave Runner or in your Jeep are the most common ways of "communing" with nature. It's the relationship my neighbors want with nature and nothing else makes sense.  Encouraging people to cycle, sweat, hike long distance, kayak and swim, for exercise and for the good of the planet, just does not compute.
        I have nourished and grown this business (Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports) with these activities in mind. We may have made a slight difference in local behaviors toward the natural world but, I'm not seeing the wave of awareness that I at one time thought possible. If the youth of Plumas County are still puzzled as to what the benefits of walking or pedaling to work daily, might be. We still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Decisions Can Sneak Up On You

        How does this happen? A snowy day in early February, we are both holding plastic snow shovels and losing the battle to keep the deck clear of snow, while our eight-month-old black lab alternately grabs each shovel thinking she at a 'festival of giant plastic bones'...pulled out for her enjoyment. I pop up and say, I think we should go ride bicycles in France this year...mysteriously, Lisa answers, "I was thinking that too." We'll have to find a dog-sitter, a house-sitter and a bike shop-sitter. Hopefully the same person.
        Small and medium-sized villages separated by vineyards, forests and fields of sunflowers. Connected by small roads (petite rue) that aren't afraid to wind and climb over formidable ridges that define healthy drainages, which are sprinkled with more villages and vegetable gardens and places to erect our humble tent for a night or two.
        Seriously a dream world for cyclists and romantics who long for simpler times and honest relationships with the natives. Motorists in France do not bully the gentle traveller. The courtesy we are shown each and every day is disarming. You can cycle everyday and never feel a moment of anger toward the motoring public. This cannot happen in California or any other American state. We avoid the larger settlements, knowing there is an 'attitude change' when too many people gather in the same couple of square miles.
        People quality and food quality keep us coming back. This will be the sixth time we've chosen to invest a month or more of life wandering the hills of France. When you find a place that works for both of submit to the addiction. You can stop seeking out a better place. We love where we call home...Chester, California is outstanding...and we deeply love where we cleanse our souls and take refuge every couple of years... The hilly 'South of France' where pedaling, swimming, camping and imbibing keeps us smiling and feeling young.

Friday, January 18, 2019

My Ten Favorite Books of 2018

       I've always been a reader. There was a period when I read less books and more internet garbage. I've switched back...I love books. I haven't made notes on all the books I've read in the last year but, here are ten of the standouts...the ones that have changed me. Two were dog books...Merle's Door and A Dog's Purpose. This was the 'year of the dog' for us...we are so happy with our new Black Labrador, Nori Jo. You have to wonder how their little minds work and both of these books provide interesting possibilities.
       Wallace Stegner's All The Little Live Things was also a treat... an interesting perspective on how "old people" think. Roger Deakin's Waterlog was a pleasant autobiographical account from a 'serial skinnydipper" who kept notes on his lake-bagging activities in the British Isles. Surfing With Sartre by Aaron James was also interesting...because I like philosophy.
        B. Kingsolver always tells a good story, I read her new novel ...Sheltered and successfully reread Animal Dreams...which I gave up on ten years ago, halfway through. I found a lengthy book about The Medici's at the Chester Library book 800 pages...and thoroughly enjoyed reading about this 15th and 16th century family and how they related to Italy, France and the artists and thinkers of that period.
        Heartland by Susan Smarsh was a nice surprise. I think I liked it because I related so well to her working class upbringing and the difficulties involving the prospect of upward mobility in America. The Crash Of '29 was another account that reminds you that due to greed and stupidity, we as a nation, are on a repetitive cycle that will never long as we call ourselves Capitalists. Christopher Moore, Carl Hiaason and Michael Moore also entertained me in 2018...I read these authors to give my brain a rest in between  the "heavier" tomes. Nothing more to say there.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Rain Recharges and Oh, The Lakes, How They Nourish Us

        Wild swimming is best in fresh water and the 2019 deposit is looking excellent already. We are only beginning the second week of the year, but as they say, "The storm door is open for Northern California".
        The volcanic aquifers on the south slopes of Lassen and Mt. Shasta will gush liberally for months even after the rains stop, but they do need a recharge every couple of years. Swimsuits not required, there are so many remote locations beckoning for baptismal that you'll seldom have to share a beach, or a rock ledge, or a hole with another soul. Whatever you do, don't write a book about it.
         I don't like to admit that I look forward to Spring...snow is not the enemy...but, I'm a big fan of songbirds and new leaves and the smell of running sap through tree trunks. The energy of Spring is undeniably contagious. The days are longer, warmer and flat-out invigorating. My bicycle mind starts cranking and mapping-out new adventures. A three hour ride with a swim at the mid-point is ideal.
        It might be my imagination, but all the bodily joint pains disappear during Spring. Time slides by so damn fast during this burgeoning season that I need post-it notes on every door saying, Go Out, Find A Swim Today! Get Out On Your Bike!...cause, before you know it, it's August and everyone is demanding your time and wrenching ability.
        Sixty-nine has long been a lucky number for me and I'm determined to make the very best of this last year of my sixties. I'll do this by acting like a teenager and plunging into water quickly at every opportunity...just like I did when I was growing up in Michigan. You start life in a pool of water and you might as well risk ending it in a pool of water.