Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Distance" and Perspective

Table Mt. Blvd., Oroville, CA
I remember when riding my bike two miles to downtown Fairfield, Iowa, was a big deal.  After all, it included the steepest hill in town that required using my bike's lowest gears!

Now that I have been riding in Oroville, California, for several months while staying with my parents, the six-mile ride to town is just a normal thing. My gauge has adjusted, expanded.

Part of the "adjustment" is physical conditioning, but the other part is mental. For me, the physical conditioning was not a big change. What changed was with retirement more time to ride--even though I can't be gone for much more than three hours usually. The longer distances came naturally.

I've been reading journals of self-contained bicycle tours and came across the following statement: "Today was a short day, only 30 km." Thirty kilometers equals 18.6411 miles. This is now an unremarkable distance for me, too.

Pacific Heights Rd., Oroville, CA

The longest I have bicycled so far is 43 miles. This morning I rode for three hours before turning around because of time--28 miles--and I would have loved to have continued riding. I'm looking forward to when I have more time to ride longer distances when touring.

Many long-distance touring cyclists regularly travel 50-80 miles a day--no big deal.

There is a joy when the body is working well. There is a joy from moving under ones' own power. There is a connection with the environment while riding a bike.

That sense of unity is worth attaining, and it's worthy of celebration.

Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day Rides in Oroville, California . . . I'm Still Rolling

The best decision I've  made in a long time is that once I realized I'll be spending about six months caring for my parents and brother, I chose to buy a bicycle. I made that decision about two months into my California stay, and I thank my wife for endorsing and encouraging me to action on my desire.

I've now been taking day rides in the Oroville area. These rides are good for both mind and body. The physical activity involved with spending time with people who are blind or who use walkers or wheelchairs is limited. I'm glad I have the time and the opportunity to be active more according to my current needs and abilities. Thank you, everyone, for giving me the chance to engage in something that gives me joy.

Crazy Guy on a Bike is a website that provides the space for individuals who ride bicycles to post journals and photos about their bicycle travels. Neil Gunton is a bicyclist who is also a computer programmer. He toured on his bicycle one year . . . and developed a website to share his exploits. He has opened that site up to others, including me. CGOAB now includes thousands of journals with photos, product reviews, a bicycling forum, and much more. The site now has a life of its own (still shepherded by Neil), including the possibility of donation to support it. Thank you, Neil.

Here is my profile for CGOAB. It includes my journals/photos, my travels so far. Below are photos and comments about my travels during this time that I am away from SE Iowa while taking care of my family.

This photo represents for me much of the reason why I am bicycling. The shot is a creative experience--seeing the opportunity and taking the shot, and then working with the photo, cropping, turning it to a b & w photo, and playing with contrast. I think I've created a mood that represents (at least for me) what I was experiencing at that moment on Lone Tree Road west of the little town of Palermo: the power and grandeur of nature, the wonderful mystery of life, and the underlying, silent, pure potentiality that is the basis of all activity and individual intelligence.

Taken about 8:30 AM, this photo isn't technically great, but the sky and the morning were. This was the first time I had ever been on this road. Although I can deal with traffic, its lack that morning provided deep satisfaction. In no hurry, I stopped, took photographs, enjoyed the morning, and appreciated being there. The only sounds were those of nature and the whisper of my tires on the pavement. The sky was huge and bright and beckoning. The road before me was an invitation. I gratefully accepted the moment given me, pedaling toward the horizon, alone yet completely connected.

Here I am on a gravel road, a 2.5-mile connection to the next paved section. I enjoyed the change the gravel gave me, and I enjoyed the new environment. I met one auto on this road, a farmer in a pick-up. I like how on these rides I have an overall time frame of travel, since I am caring for my family, yet within that time I am free to rest, explore, or just ride. I usually take some food and stop somewhere along the way for a snack and an opportunity to let the world come to me rather than my coming to it. "Earth abides" is the phrase that sums up this photo for me: I am engaged in the everyday task on eating, yet around me, those eternal rhythms of nature paint the environment with large strokes. The distant bleached fields of grasses--who can miss that we do not move through nature but that we never leave it, that we are part and parcel of it.

This ride was along the Feather river above the fish hatchery. It's a beautiful ride, yet I couldn't escape the memory of how beautiful the river was before the environment was altered by the California water project in the 1960's to dam the river (several times) in order to provide water for Southern California and flood control and recreation for Northern California. In many ways, I think Northern California got the short end of the stick. The rugged canyons and isolated gorges of the area, laced with the river branches and streams, was such a beautiful and unique environment, now buried by man-made reservoirs. What we have created has its beauty, but certainly a beauty no greater than the original.

All that talk, and then a truly grand experience like riding a bike over the suspension bridge at Lake Oroville--great moments come from within as much (or more) than from without. This ride involved climbing, an experience that I had little of or for short duration in Iowa. So, gearing down and grunting or getting off and pushing, both of these experiences I enjoyed and tucked away. The pay-off of the suspension bridge was a treat. Up in the mountains and above the water, the quality of light and sound are special. Vision expands to distances and sound echoes and deepens to silence. I feel like a stone dropped into a pond; I expand, becoming more and more as I become less and less.
I've also made two little videos from my day rides around the area. Both are just a little over a minute in length. One follows the bike trail for about two miles along the Feather River and features some of the sites. The other just is a study of light and shadow while riding some quiet roads.



This last spring I retired from teaching after 34 years. Even though I am needed now to take care of my family, I can still find time to pursue that which brings me happiness. I need to keep remembering that

Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Local Bike Shop Adds Juice Bar, Spa, and Yoga Classes

"Around the country, bike shops are shifting gears. The National Bicycle Dealers Association 2013 survey of 4,000 establishments found that 12% have coffee bars, 11% offer spinning classes and almost 5% serve beer. About 1% offer massages, yoga or full-service restaurants."

This is the new trend or profile of the local bike shop, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. The market researcher who profiled this new twist to bike shops predicts a five-fold increase of such diversification by 2018.

This diversification is an attempt by some bike shop owners to accomplish two things:
  1. create alternative streams of revenue
  2. attract new customers
These goals certainly have value, yet I hope that this trend toward having the local bike shop be a combination shopping site, mechanic's shop, watering hole, and health spa is a cultural change that recognizes that bicycling is our future--a green, healthy, and economical means of transportation.

So I vote a big YES for my local bike shop to add a table outside and a juice bar inside, copies of Adventure Cyclist magazine available for reading, and good company to be found.

One last cautionary word from one of these new age bike shops: "Of course, there's always a concern about keeping grease out of the refreshments."

Copyright 2013 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved