Friday, December 11, 2020

Did You Ever Just Want To Pack Up Your Bicycle And Go?

Not actually the right season for such a move but oh, so tempting. We've done this a half dozen times, for months at a time. We didn't have smart phones or laptops with us and we only knew what was going on in the "news world" by glancing at the headlines as seen through the scratched plexiglass of newspaper stands. It really didn't matter what was going on in the world of politics or pandemics or Panda naming. No newscasts from magazines, radio or television. No Facebook or Instagram and no special apps for searching. We weren't searching. We were spontaneously pedaling and rolling, looking for the next campsite and skinny-dipping hole. We did enjoy using our camera to document the experience but, we never saw the pictures until we had them developed through the home drugstore....after our journey was completed. Times have changed, and in a very big hurry. We communed with nature. We marveled at the purity of forests, rivers and wild animal behaviors. We meditated while watching sunrises and cloud movements. We thought a lot about the "bigger world" and how we were just mobile little specs on our two wheels. We didn't have any big ideas that our opinions mattered and needed to be entered on an electronic gadget. We actually never searched for a recharge from a 110 outlet or mother computer. We did need petrol or propane for our little backpacking stove and we frequented grocery stores and fruit stands. Hard to imagine doing this has become so complicated. However, I do believe it can still be done. I'd have to arrange for someone to pay my bills...because, no one can live life without bills. Now I see what I am doing...I am lusting for a simpler life and my experience has shown that it comes with mounting a bicycle and riding off into the sunset.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Drive Less, Breathe Deeper, Ride A Bicycle!

I've been a "driving fool" these last several months. I'm still driving far less miles than the average "Out West" American but about ten times as far as I'm used to driving. After a couple dozen four hour (each way) journeys to Sacramento for health scans and doctor visits, I must say I'm getting pretty good at timing and 'going with the flow' of crazy Californian motorists. In a quest to keep each other healthy and extend our lives several more months we drive through unprecidented forest fire smoke, extreme heat and a spat of unpredictable freeway shootings. It really doesn't make much sense, on the surface. After a couple of successful surgeries and excellent follow-up care, I have to say it's worth it. For sure it's the price we pay for living in the California Outback (Where the water is pure and the cycling is excellent.) Now I own two "Bread Box/ Toaster" vehicles and both beg for attention and workouts "To lube the seals", our mechanic advises. Looking forward to the day when we can be far less 'virus paranoid'. We love wandering the desert and we've really missed hearing the Pacific Ocean crash in to the continent on the Left Coast. Our bicycles and our Labrador travel in comfort with us to unbelievably remote locations throughout the West. We are not all that fond of being around other humans but, I have to say, Those humans who work at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento are a Godsend. Thank you so very much for accepting us into your workplace.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Honestly Puzzled

I thought I knew, how the country works, how the body works, what's fair and what's not fair. I have always thought that honesty...from and by everyone was the pinnacle of character. We want to be around people who are honest and I know that honesty is the Hallmark of great relationships. People will want to be around me, to associate with me, if I am 100% honest, make that HONEST. After 70 years on the Big Blue Ball, I'm wondering, didn't I learn anything? I'm also puzzled by the human body. We have always thought that the best "health plan" was to stay active, (very active) and to treat our bodies as health santuaries not as garbage cans. No smoking, few drugs (moderate caffeine and alcohol)...but, there are glitches that can affect the body or the mind that you can't control. Genetic glitches that eventually show up no matter how conscientious you are. Fair or not, we have to deal with these incidents as graciously as we can. We need to lean on each other...and we will, and I am really thankful to have had a lifelong partner. Somebody once called me a "Know it all!"...whoa, I must have been quite young and pretentious... because, the older I get the less I know. I can see that now.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Ding Dong The Joker Is Gone

Not quite yet, I know. Can you believe 70 million people in our nation wanted Trump insanity to continue? Truly, the man is off his rocker...from so many angles. Now we can count the ways we ducked several Presidentially-fired bullets and historians will be recounting how perverse the dude was and the unbelievable fact that he was at the helm for four full years. The Donald Trump story is not over, I realize, but he will never be in charge of our nation or given the respect, that he never earned, again. Relief is what I'm feeling a degree of right now. We still have the Covid !9 and some crazy personal health challenges to recover from but at least our country isn't spinning clockwise down the toilet hole of untruths and international disrespect. Let's tighten our suspenders and begin an impressive recovery of honor, legitimacy and compassion for those who were temporarily bullwinkled by this out-of-control meteorite and cult leading whacko...DT (delirium tremens).

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Trick or Treat...Enough Already

We've had some mean tricks played on us lately...I'm ready for some normalcy. Covid has found Plumas County here in October and more to the center of the target, it has found Chester, California...ten cases in the last 24 hours! We have several reasons to be afraid of this nasty bug and I am even questioning the wisdom of opening my business three days a week. "Don't let it dominate your lives."says the Joker. Guess what, It is a shadow over the health and well being of all of us and we cannot afford to deal with it. Every Halloween for the last 26 years we have handed out treats to at least 450 little gremlins from the front door of the bicycle shop here in Chester. I remember nasty encounters with the flu...haven't had any during the last decade, which is a miracle because I've only opted for a flu shot twice over that period. We now have pre-existing conditions (being 70 years old is one) that could result in serious setbacks for our happy life here in Chester. I am increasingly taken aback when someone dashes into my store without a mask and not a clue about the consequences of their carelessness. It happens...and I've started to show my frustration with this behavior in a ways inconsistant with my peaceful reputation as a caring and laid back downtown merchant. We have some hurdles to cross this Autumn and Winter and I am looking forward to a return of the good times that months of responsible diligence can bring.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Truth, Honesty, Integrity, Sincereness and Love.

The virtues I value the most. You don't even have to be a giver to your community or overflowing with generosity. {Which would make you an exceptional human being}. All I need to be your friend is straight forward honesty and sincerity in your dealings with me. We don't have to agree on the issues of the day, though that might be comforting. All I ask from my neighbors is Truth, Honesty and Integrity. America used to be overflowing with these qualities. Now, I'm afraid we don't see these virtues automatically in the people who surround us. As you know, we don't get to pick our neighbors but we do get to pick our friends...and we have some power(not much) in choosing our political representatives. I'm hoping a majority of voters value the same virtues that I am glorifying here. We don't really expect our politicians to change the world but, we should demand that they present us with the truth and not spend their time feeding their own narcissistic faces. Most of us have already voted in Plumas County and we are in a very conservative corner of California but I am keeping my fingers crossed that we install some persons of integrity in the offices that need to be filled in January 2021.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

2021 Has To Be Better....No?

Well, I certainly hope so. Political pettiness has been a drag on us all. How is that everybody is smarter than Dr. Fauci these days? I mean everybody is a genius. We are all qualified to be President of the U.S.A. Everybody wants to argue about the smallest thing...especially the virus...until, it hits you and puts you in the ICU. One of my sisters ended up in intensive care very early in the game, early February, in fact.She's still not certain that she is rid of this bug, "Weird things have been happening to me ever since." I assure her that weird things have been happening to all of us. The smoke may clear by January and we'll all be breathing easy. A little rain and snow should help, along with a new president being inauguerated. I really can't wait to get back on my bicycle daily and stop driving so much. We bought a new cargo van that we are slowly converting into an escape/camping vehicle so that we can go to the coast and listen to the radioactive waves roll in from Japan. We haven't learned to treat the ocean better, we haven't learned to treat the forest better and most important, we haven't learned to treat each other better...everyone wants to argue over the smallest thing. We are overdue for a 'uniter-in-chief'.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

It's An Honor To Be Involved In Clinical Trials

Well, we'd kind of rather not but, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. If a half dozen 200 mile drives to UC Davis Med Center in Sacramento could give you a few more years, you'll do it. Enough said, no sympathy needed. We are blown away when see how many people are going through major health trauma. The Affordable Care Act is a Godsend for, millions! We may never catch up to the level of care all other civilized countries offer their citizens but this "Obamacare" effort has made a huge difference in the lives of so many. When you hang out near a major medical facility and hear the stories...your selfish mind is turned 180 degrees. The intensely bad air we Californians have been breathing during this last month is sure to add thousands more to the cast of severely sick people. We are already in masks and fearful of the virus that is trying to bring us all down. I've so learned to appreciate truly deep breaths...Riding my bicycle to work today helped me practice with at least one hundred impressively deep breaths. This pandemic cannot be ignored...many are trying to pretend it doesn't exist or, even more selfishly, they are trying to reinforce their political perspective by practicing denial inspite of the staggering numbers. America has the worst track record on the planet with this bug (contrary to the information thrown out there by our Commander in Chief). Lying does not alter the numbers...we are in deep trouble on the health front and even though it seems to be leveling off, that is only temporary...just hang out in front of a major medical clinic and strike up a few conversations through your is not easy for way too many Americans.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Life Sucks Right Now

I'm usually the Pollyanna type. I've always been able to see the bright side. Not this time. From six different angles I am not loving life. I don't think I can write my way out of this funk. Our AQI (Air Quality Index)is extreme...presently 480. Our rural county is on fire and we are losing residents.The Covid-19 epidemic is not going away (like magic)...we could use a little magic. We have unspeakable health problems and consequences that we are hoping to correct over the next year...and now, I have an incredible sore throat. The bicycle store is running out of product...bicycles as we know them. Tubes, tires, wheels are kaput in the most common sizes.Really no reason to be open more than three days a week. People still walk in the door saying, "Do you really want me to wear a mask? "Are these people fucking dense? Don't answer that. The stark fact that 40% of Americans are voicing their preference for a second term for the "King of the Idiocracy". What happened to admiration for honesty and integrity? Is America that dense? Reality TV stars and phoney millionaires deserve what? Not the trust and confidence of the American people. Excuse me for being so negative...but, that's where we are at right now Negative-ville. 2020 and I have such a murky vision of where we are at.

Friday, July 24, 2020

My Sweetheart Finds A New Swimming Hole

        "The water is clear and the pool is so deep and cold. I've got to take you there." Nori, our two year old Labrador is addicted to swimming holes..."She plunged in at least forty times." This new spot is only twelve miles away from home, an easy bicycle ride. Too far to run the dog...we may have to drive. I've been working six days a week...happens every Summer...I miss out on a ton of lake-bagging just so that I can install more chains, fix more flats and adjust derailleurs.
         Reaching the age of 70 has really changed my perspective...there are other accomplishments awaiting me. Who cares if I ran my own brick and mortar store for 27 years or for 30 years? Time is precious and I want to invest most of the rest of it getting wet in mountain pools. I've been discovering new 'Shin-rin Yoku' shrines with my loving best friend for the last 44 years...there's no guarantee that we'll be able to share these experiences for 50 years.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

So Many Adventures...So Little Time

       We are sitting on the bank of Domingo Lake and it hits me....How many times have Lisa and I pedaled to the perfect swimming hole and broke out a lunch for, what we always call 'A French Picnic' or 'Pique Nique de France'. Dozens, no hundreds of times. We are in our forty-fifth year of cranking out these kind of destinations and we do this exact thing at least ten times a year. We do it in France we do it in Oregon and we do it in Vermont. We've done it in Colorado, Italy and New Zealand. We have well-earned skinny dipping and lunch memories from Michigan, Spain and Maine.
        It's our MO and we want more. We've committed part of our life savings to a new AWD Ford Transit van and we are determined to continue to find new lakes to bag throughout North America. We'll show our swimming-obsessed labrador Nori Jo some of the perfectly remote places to plunge (plongee) in perfect fucking French style.
       People stupidly ask, "What will you do if you sell the bicycle shop?" After twenty-seven years of  nursing this business through thick and thin, you don't think we've figured out other things we'd rather be doing? Wild swimming with the answer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

KVCC Ribbon Cutter

         I was eighteen, in college, as the editor of the KVCC Valley Voice. My most-read editorial ended with the phrase..."Stick with us and we'll show you a rainbow (of opinions.)" Exactly one year later I moved to Hawaii to become a U of H Rainbow. I had stood on the stage at the opening of the college with Kalamazoo Valley C.C. president Dr. Dale Lake. I made a short speech about how thankful we less privileged SW Michigan students were to have a accredited school to continue our education. Dr. Lake and I held an oversized pair of scissors as we attempted to slice the ribbon that would launch this school for it's first group of 600 students (mostly from Kazoo area high schools.) It took three tries to cut the ribbon.
         A couple dozen of us had met for two years to determine what kind of curriculum would be presented here. We represented all twelve high schools in the region. The first campus buildings were temporary units set at the eastern edge of a very big paved parking lot. Most of us were not really sure what we would gain from this effort, we just knew that we wanted to continue with our education and this was the only way we could afford to do so. We were quite sure that the ten acre parking lot was overkill.
        That was over fifty years ago and it opened my world best friend and study partner was a beautiful young lady named Pat Robinson who had attended Kalamazoo Central High School. She was the smartest person on my newspaper staff. I loved hanging out with her. I knew my stepfather was a racist but, I was really taken aback when my mother warned me, "If you bring that girl home you are going to have to find a new place to live." Yes, she was from the other side of the tracks. Black and beautiful.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

People Just Want To Ride Their Bicycles!

        More so now, than ever....people just want to ride their bicycles! Once busy thoroughfares are quiet and therefore accommodating. The danger of contracting a virus is far less than the dangers we cyclists usually face...the threat of being run over by a distracted motorist.
        In California, bicycle shops (specifically the store that performs maintenance and service on bicycles) gets a pass here in the Spring of 2020. We are considered an essential business...for commuters, families and recreationists who have been told, "Get out in the fresh air and sunshine while physically separating from others by two meters. The warm sun and circulating air is the enemy of the Covid bug."
       Who is going to keep these self-propelled vehicles operating throughout the Spring?... Bicycle shops. Families are spending more time together now than ever. The kids are not going back to school for months. Most parents are working from home, if at all. They are facing the hour by hour dynamics of home isolation like never before. We only imagined this kind of huddling when we considered burying a bomb shelter in our backyard during the Cold War with the USSR. A bicycle ride can provide the perfect opportunity for an 'attitude adjustment' superior to any other outing. Shopping used to give us the chance for that getaway more, keep shopping to a minimum. Just get out and get up on your bike.
        A Spring Tune Up is usually inexpensive, especially if you go to the store where you purchased your bicycle...a little air in the tires, a little lube on the chain is often all you need (unless you left your cycle out in the snow all Winter). Bicycle mechanics are used to washing their hands several times a day. In fact, most of us are familiar with decontaminating our hands with solvents and alcohol based grease removers from the time we get to work until the time we lock the door in the afternoon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Disaster Movie

        We've executed the drive from Burbank, Ca. to Chester, Ca (nearly 600 miles) at least 40 times over the last 40 years. One has to psych-up for the escape from the West's most populous regions to the least...from the San Fernando Valley out through the desert suburbs of Palmdale and Lancaster to the relatively safe roads beyond Mohave. This last Sunday we found it a very different experience...we shared the eight lane fwys of I-5 and I-14 with only a handful of trucks. It was daylight (7 to 8am) and there were stretches of freeway with absolutely no cars in sight. Soooo...was this a set-up for another SoCal disaster movie?
         Beyond Mohave...nothing moving. A group of nearly 100 passenger jets were parked south of the highway for dry storage where we usually see a only two dozen. I treat my Honda like I want it to last for a couple of decades so,  I try to keep the speed down near sixty miles per hour. When there are no other cars in sight 62 miles per hour feels very slow. The few cars I did see passed me like I was standing still (maybe 90 mph)...have I seen this movie? A Mad Max movie? I was wishing I had a weapon...more than just an oversized pedal wrench. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) has convincingly changed the motoring mentality of the majority of Californians.
        Sure it was Sunday but, suburban Californians race to malls and 'big box' stores on Sundays. By 8am everyone is filling the football field-sized parking lots, jockeying for the best slots...on this day, the parking lots were empty. The boulevards that underpass the freeways were empty...really, there was no one in sight. We'll never see this again, I told my wife in the passenger's seat. I must say, I prefer a little more activity than are the gas stations going to stay open?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

He Is A Liar, A Con Man And A Cheat

       When I was growing up in the fifties, such accusations (He’s a liar, a con man and a cheat) would only apply to a mob boss, Mafia Don or a huckster (that my step-father didn’t approve of) probably from some Eastern European country. My step-father, to his credit, taught Honesty (with a capital H) to all of us little people who were nourished by and benefitted from his hard work and strong principals. Not in so many words, he explained, to me and my siblings, that our personal integrity and reputations (and therefore our future) depended upon how we dealt daily with the issue of honesty.    
        I’m not incredibly intelligent, I’ll never measure up to the ideal of material wealth by American standards but, I did take to heart the teachings of my surrogate father and I continue to operate under the idiom that ‘Honesty is the best policy’.
        Of course, in his world, politicians and community leaders were not beyond fact, they were roundly admonished and criticized for their progressive ideas (ie. Eisenhauer, Martin Luther King, Kennedy and Johnson). None of these were tagged by their personal lawyers (for a decade) as “A liar, a con man and a cheat.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Feeling Kind Of Insane...Six Weeks And No Rain

        February and March are normally our wettest months...if not in the shape of snow, definitely in the form of rain. It has been six weeks without either. This is truly insane...the new normal and, we worry about the flames. The first week of March has already squeaked by and now we are not trusting the weatherman's eye. I am thinking we always need something to worry about. Why do we worry when there's nothing we can do to change the politics or the weather?
        Now, we have Covid 19 a new bug in the air and plenty of talk about it, to give us a scare. I'm really not worried, I'm not flying anywhere... this month or next. So, I really don't care.   ( I'm stuck in a Dr. Seuss loop here.) What I really mean to say, is that we really shouldn't worry, we should just go out and play.
        Oh's what my sisters always say. Is this what it's like when your mind goes astray? Ok, I'm looking forward to Spring, maybe it'll be wet. But, if you were a thinker like me wouldn't take that bet. Give me a wrench, ball bearings and grease...aren't we all glad I didn't become a priest.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Yes, They Are Watching Us....Infecting Us..Wherever We Go

        A friend and I had this discussion while skinny dipping up in the Caribou Wilderness a few years back..."We think they are mosquitoes, what if some of them are drones...tiny drones?" This sounds a bit like paranoia, but in this 'day and age', who can blame you? A virus spreading through our civilization is much more common than we like to admit. It was inevitable...we are all facing infection and we are all being snooped on.
        I enjoy my time on the internet. I have so many questions about the world around me...type in your questions and slowly, you are revealing (to the keepers of information) your soul. Humans exposing their souls. Machines collecting this information and putting it to use. Bugs invading every secret hideout, some of them natural, many of them developed for private gain.
        As my friend says, "There is nothing we can do about this." Except for....find a refreshing small lake in a wilderness nearby for secret swims and do not carry your smart phone with you. We dismissed the 'mosquito drone' worry immediately by laughing it off and reapplying the Deet. Being kept track-of is a more serious and pervasive conundrum. We are being watched nearly everywhere we go...satellites could spot us as we plunge into our secret lakes. So often, we volunteer our warm bodies for information gathering, nearly every waking moment of our days.
        I have imagined how I would drop-out of society, a plan of escape, if it all became too much for me to handle. It's not bullet-proof, especially if I mention it here. It involves bug-out supplies in my go-bag and a bicycle. I would stay on the move along the backroads of society...the unpaved roads...and hope they would accept my debit card when I get hungry.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Please Melania, Vanquish Bullying

        I witnessed bullying, rather extreme bullying when I was in Junior High a "fireplug" of a kid, who was my age but one year behind in school. Unknowingly, I sat next to his girlfriend in Study Hall. She asked me what I thought of 'RK' one day while we were supposed to be studying. He's a prick, was my answer. I told her that I witnessed him picking on a "special needs" kid in gym class and I was sorry I didn't step in and stop him. That was the end of our conversation...we went back to studying.
        The very next day, 'RK' challenged me to an after-school fight...sure enough, events unfolded quickly and two days later we were squaring off on the school football field. 'RK' was stocky. a wanna-be football team running back. I was taller but "lanky"and had no interest in making the Northern Huskies football team.
       Most in attendance, yes, we had spectators, I was sure, were betting on 'RK'. He didn't have the grades to make the football team and he knew it. He was angry and his brother had just shipped off to Vietnam...  (I found out later.)
       "No weapons, just fists." My step-father watched from his Studebaker pick-up truck. We exchanged a couple of loud and impressive blows to the face, mostly the foreheads. I moved in quickly and put him in a headlock, which I was determined to maintain..I pushed his face down in the dirt a few times. Surprisingly, he said, "That's it, I'm done." Which surprised me to no end...I let go and sure enough, he stood up and walked away. He seemed to be sobbing as I watched him walk under the goalposts.
       We didn't finish our last four years of school as friends but, we did talk a few times, no hard feelings. I had a few extra 'friends' after that and I was never called into the office for an explanation or discipline. It turned out that I wasn't the only one who'd witnessed him bullying "the slow kid".  Mr. Warner, our P.E. teacher watched a couple of these bullying incidents and he hadn't done anything about it either. He told me a couple of years later while our class was immersed in a "boxing unit", "I've seen you box, you tagged 'RK' pretty good back in ninth grade." Really? I had no idea that there was a teacher watching our skirmish. I hated bullys then and I detest bullys and bullying now. I'm rooting for you Melania.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Couldn't Make This Up...If I Didn't Dream It

       I've been tossing around the idea of selling my Old Town Chester business for about a year now. In last night's dream I proposed the sale of Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports to my old friend Kenny G. He said, "I'll get back to you." In just seconds (dreamtime seconds) he called back saying, "Yes, I'm going to buy the entire core of Old Town Chester. Six properties, I believe."
       Fast forward...I get up to pee and return to my warm bed, next to my lifetime sweetheart...Same 'dream world' finds me running a much more complicated business empire...A pub, a bookstore, a health food store, a diner and a much bigger outdoor sports store. I'm scratching my head, "How did this happen so quick?" I'm worried, "How do I lock all this up at night? Who are all of these employees? Do they know what to do? Are we really doing this?"
        Fast forward again, after another draining of the bladder (I drank two cups of tea before going to bed)...
        We are partying in the parking lot of this complex when Lisa says, "Chuck, Lance has to go. I thought you wanted to talk to him." I run down to the entrance gate and say, "Hey Lance." He says "Yeah, I wanted to talk to you". I introduce myself as Bodfish. He says. "That's not your real name, that's just what your handlers use to make money off of you." I agreed, not sure why I agreed to that. I say, "Hey, let me walk you around the place." We step out on the Main Street and suddenly the business complex starts rotating around in front of us. Behind the front view a mammoth castle/ brewery unveils itself. "Wow, how did you do that?" asks Lance. "Chains, I think." was my answer, just before the main chain broke in front of me..."I'll get it, I'll pick it up. I don't want you to get greasy."
         I awoke with a loud "Wow!" Lisa, sits up asking, "What happened?" I don't know if I can explain it. I don't want to jinx it...maybe it'll come true. I describe where I've been in my dreamworld and she counters, "I thought you wanted to retire."

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Coming Out, All Opinionated On Gravel Bikes

        I must respond to the question I hear most often these days..."What kind of bike should I get for riding dirt roads?" All of the cycling media seems to be drinking the same Kool Aid when it comes to this subject.
        Let me start with front derailleurs...Front derailleurs are a great thing to have on your Gravel bike...Your chain will last longer because you should be in the habit of keeping it in as straight a line as possible. It will get gritty and it will make noise because of this accumulated grime but, it will wear less and irritate you less often, especially if you don't 'cross it over' into extreme configurations. The one chain ring/ no front derailleur fashion of the day will necessitate replacing the chain more often and will come with a ridiculous set of cogs on your rear wheel. Twelve cogs with the largest being a forty-eight or fifty toother. Right away you'll need a much thinner chain and on dirt...That ain't good. A 2x10 or a 3x9 will give you a much larger range of gears operating with a much stronger chain.
        My next suggestion involves the front fork. A rigid fork is lighter and cleaner looking but, hey...there are some outstanding and relatively light (when compared to MTB forks) 700c suspension forks out there. Dirt roads get hammered by cows, sheep and teenagers in Dad's new Jeep Wrangler or Polaris quad vehicle. Have you ever tried to pick your way down a road that was slightly damp when a herd of cows took a shortcut from one pasture to another? Who needs hours of vibrations and stress on your wrists, elbows and shoulders. It's something I've learned to avoid, if possible.
        Drop bars look cool and provide a little extra suspension however, flat bars provide a little more control due to leverage afforded by the extra width. Brakes are another issue that folks like to argue about long after the sun sets...doesn't matter, as long as they stop you when you need them. I like mechanical disc brakes like Klampers or TRP dual piston disc brakes but actually, my 'dual sport' GF Fast City (which I use for most of my rides, dirt or paved) with rim brakes, has never failed me. They all need pads replaced periodically depending on how hard you use them and on how wet your outings are.
        How about waterbottle cages? People even argue about these. I like cages, it's great to have extra water on the bike instead of a sweaty hydration pack on your back. If it's a very long ride in an arid zone you better have both.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Forty-Seven Years of Mapping 'Bodfish Gravel Routes'

        It was 1973. I moved to Bodfish, California with a Kelty backpack and a couple of bicycles and my adventure buddy Franny Sullivan. We set up home on Erskin Creek Road in a one room cabin that provided plumbing, heat and a tremendous front porch. Franny got a job with the Sequoia National Forest and I started writing for the Kern Valley Weekly. I was also in charge of pruning the orchard we lived in. Rent was minimal.
         I wrote a column called Outback Of Bodfish, in which I chronicled my various explorations afoot and/or on one of my bicycles along the backroads and trails of Kern County. The paved roads in the area were on the busy side so most of the outings I wrote about were taken on gravel roads and dirt paths. The editor of KVW thought I was nuts..."It's alright we like nuts around here."
         I pedaled up roads to Breckinridge Lookout, Mt Cook, Kelso Valley, Saddle Springs, Sherman Pass (unpaved then) and to Peppermint Camp. I rode a Japan-made town bike made by C.Itoh. The tires were fat enough to tolerate all the rocky and rutted roads that I explored. My map making skills were not at all refined (still aren't) so, the little newspaper often left them out of my published stories. I was actually paid a nominal amount for these columns.
        Selling little books and giving out free maps has given me great joy these last 4+ decades. Guiding friends along many of the routes with the help of my durable (and talented) wife with much fatter tires on our bicycles over the same period has also been a thrill. We are still actively scouting out loops in California for what is now called "Gravel Grinding". We will be publishing a couple of new routes this Spring through the valleys and along the ridges of Plumas County. You might have to visit Bodfish Bicycles in May to get your hands on these new challenges.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

What's Your Mission?

        My old friend Jack (94, two days ago) bops in once in awhile just to make sure I am awake. The bicycle store is extremely quiet in January. Jack usually has a tune playing in his head when he comes through the door, either Jazz or Swing. and he challenges me right away with "What's your mission here, Chuck? You've been in business here for a quarter century, you must have figured out what your mission is." Rubbing my chin, I get the mental gears working and offer...Putting retired truck drivers on bikes!
         Retired truck drivers usually have back or knee problems or hips that don't rotate fully or "deadleg" and they can't feel their feet. Do you know what'll fix those ailments every time? Bicycle riding.    Jack quickly retorts, "Damn right, Chuck, good answer." We are definitely a 'working class' cycling shop...we listen, we diagnose and we set you up with a $500 ride that will change your life. It' no more difficult than that. "I'm proud of you Chuck. I've asked that question to many merchants over the years and nobody has given me a better answer than that. You know what you are? You're honest and a realist. Honest as the day is long."
        We don't try to impress folks with the latest technical gadgetry or $6,000 bicycles. We just want humans to ride and enjoy their ability to get out and explore, listen to the wind in the trees and an incredible variety of birdsongs. Jack loves birds and fish and especially birds who hunt fish. Jack rode road bicycles competitively for a couple of decades before moving north to Chester. He rode recreationally for a couple of decades on Plumas County roadways. Before all this he worked on trucks, "a fender bumper" he once told me, "I was a body shop man with a big rubber hammer."