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 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."