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 thing...watch 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 classes....in 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?" ...by 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, like...play 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 lie...life 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 you...you 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 surprise...an 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 sale...like 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 surprise...an account that reminds you that due to greed and stupidity, we as a nation, are on a repetitive cycle that will never cease...as 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.