A Prize for the Pies…

…and the fruits and vegetables, the coffee, the sandwiches and the cookies and scones and turnovers. And the pies!

Ralph and his 'Luke"

The Pacific Italian Alliance awarded their 22nd Luke Award to Ralph and Denene Lucchetti, the owners (very hands-on owners) of The Fruit Bowl, our local favorite fruit stand and bake shop. PIA presents an award each year to individuals or organizations or businesses that  contribute to the Italian Culture.  According to the award dinner program: “From continuing to foster and nurture the Italian language to keeping the family run Farm Stand (The Fruit Bowl) tradition alive and growing, The Lucchetti’s exemplify for a younger generation what it means to be Italian.”

Rest Stop Asparagus: From Jersey Pockets to the Grill

I’ve known Ralph for a long time. When I started farming with my dad I used to see him at grower meetings and when I delivered cherries to Blue Anchor.  My nonna and nonno knew Ralph’s parents Ina and Frank. They even sold some peaches to Ina for her to sell at their fruit stand on Waterloo Road.  The Fruit Bowl opened in 1947, and in those days it was just a small kiosk in an unpaved yard. Today it is a much larger shop, with many wonderful products grown or produced locally. There is a bake shop where you can get all kinds of goodies (coffee too), or gelato, or order a sandwich for a light lunch.

Small Statue for a Big Honor!

The Fruit Bowl pies are famous and delicious. Last year the Stockton Bicycle Club hosted a “pie ride”. We did a 30 mile flat ride starting at The Fruit Bowl, and afterwards the club provided free pie and coffee to the riders. The ride was really popular and we had a turn out of around 35, far more than an average Sunday club ride. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving there is a steady stream of cars arriving to pick up pies for the holiday the next day. Order in advance!

Diane and I went to the awards dinner, which was very well attended. The Pacific Italian Alliance could not have picked a more deserving couple to receive the honor of a Luke Award. The Lucchettis are keeping a family business with a long history going strong. And for hungry cyclists seeking delicious mid-ride treats, The Fruit Bowl is an oasis. Grazie mille Ralph and Denene!


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Paradise Lost…

Look what turned up in my Facebook Newsfeed this morning: some very bad news to start a Sunday.

Paradise Lost: A Casino Ruins Some Great Riding Roads

Harrah’s Northern California Casino will be located on the Buena Vista Tribe reservation land in Amador County, approximately 1 mile south of the town of Buena Vista, 5 miles southeast of the city of Ione, 28 miles northeast of the City of Stockton, and 32 miles southeast of the City of Sacramento. The location is complementary to Caesars Entertainment’s existing portfolio and is expected to generate strong visitation and excellent financial returns.

This casino has been in the works for years, but until now a combination of over saturation in the gaming ‘industry’ and local opposition has managed to give cyclists hope that the project would never be built. Hopes that look dashed by today’s news.

The casino is going to be located on Coal Mine Road, about 7 miles south of Ione and literally in the middle of some of the best cycling roads we ride. It looks like a large project. The press release release states “The 71,000 square-foot property is expected to open in 2019, and will include 950 state-of-the-art slots, 20 table games, one full-service restaurant and three fast-casual dining concepts.”

The area boarded by Highways 88, 12, 26 and 49 contains Comanche and Pardee Reservoirs. There are some pretty quiet and lovely cycling roads in this area. South Comanche Parkway, Chili Camp Road,  Campo Seco Road, Jackson Valley Road, North Comanche Parkway, Curran Road, Reservation Road (oh, the irony) and Stoney Creek Road. And of course there is Coal Mine Road itself.  And the new casino is almost in the center of all this quiet country. All of these roads can expect huge increases in traffic, turning a quiet cycling mecca into an area to avoid on two wheels.

I have ridden Coal Mine Road in both directions at least 25 times a year since 2007. Our Thursday Club ride does it almost every week. From North to South it is a short but steep climb, with wonderful views of Jackson Valley to the West. This road carries so little traffic that I am certain that once the casino opens I will encounter more cars during one ascent than I did in all my previous climbs  added together.  Assuming I even try to deal with the increased traffic instead of seeking more placid pavement.

I don’t mind if people want to gamble, but the crazy interactions between Federal, State and Tribal law allow a huge enterprise to be built in a completely rural and pastoral setting. No other large business would ever be permitted in this location; the rural zoning would not allow it. Why not build the casino closer to the customers? Doesn’t anyone care about the carbon footprint of all the Sacramento and Bay Area gamblers driving to this remote location? How about an environmental impact report? Open space issues? Wouldn’t downtown Stockton be an excellent location for this type of business?

The people at Caesars Entertainment are not stupid, they expect this casino to succeed, and it probably will. One cost of that success is that some bucolic cycling routes are being destroyed.  I’m really going to miss those roads.



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Peace and Quiet

My last blog was about drivers behaving badly. Passing too close, too fast, leaning on their horns, giving cyclists a ‘smoke out’ or a one fingered salute. Shouting at us to get off of ‘their’ roads. Stoker even noticed; she said that people are getting ‘more vicious ‘.

No Car Conflicts: All Smiles at the Finish

Incidents have been happening to me (and us) on so many rides this year that I am beginning to dread heading for the hills in Amador or Calaveras counties. Every car that approaches has me on edge. Literally; I pedal as close to the right side of the pavement as is safe and pray the motorist gives me a little room and a little forbearance. I call out ‘car back’ as soon as I spy oncoming cars in my mirror, and hope my friends ahead will move to ride single file to facilitate passing. Even though I’m nervous I’m still heading up to the hills: those anti-cyclist drivers can’t get rid of me quite that easily. I keep my hands on the bars and don’t yell back, but I’m trying to get licenses and report violations of the 3 foot law or dangerous driving or threatening behavior.

So having said all that, our last two tandem rides in the hills were completely incident free. Drivers passed safely, and the only horn I heard was a polite tap to make sure I knew the car was behind. Of course with my mirror I had seen the car well before the gentle reminder. A couple of drivers waved at the tandem, with five fingers raised instead of one. There was a propane truck that passed us so carefully that when we saw the driver stopped at a delivery up the road I shouted “Thanks for passing us so safely!”. He smiled and waved.

I would like to think that my recent blog had something to do with this. After all, it was printed, in print, on the editorial page of The Record. But I’m pretty sure it was just luck, and that incidents will continue. But Thursday and Sunday the  ‘share the road’ spirit prevailed.

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Anger Issues…

Not All Drivers Agree...

That is what my friend Ilya said is going on.

On Sunday, as Stoker and I were laboring up the big hill on the north side of Pardee Dam, the driver passed me and told me “Ride on the white line” on the right side of the road. Never mind that that particular white line is on the edge of the tarmac (no shoulder) and there is a 2 inch drop off onto gravel. Never mind that Stoker and I are laboring at 5 mph on a 9% grade, and at that speed a tandem is hard to control and needs a little space to maneuver.  Never mind that we are riding within 2 feet of the edge of the pavement and that the road ahead is perfectly clear and the car could pass easily and safely without giving me advice about my proper place on the road.

In fact he is wrong. I have the right to use the road on a bicycle, tandem or single. I am required to ride as  CLOSE TO THE RIGHT EDGE OF THE ROAD AS IS SAFE. Not ‘as close as possible’, but ‘as close as is safe’. Cars passing cyclists are required BY LAW to give us a 3 foot margin. Or, cars are allowed to pass cyclists closer than 3 feet IF they slow to 25 mph or below.

This has been a bad year for bad behavior towards me as a cyclist, and there have been three memorable confrontations, yesterday’s being the least threatening. In January the tandem got yelled at by a woman sitting in the passenger seat of a big pickup pulling a big horse trailer, telling us we didn’t belong on this road.  But more threatening was an encounter with a black Jeep while rolling down Old Sacramento Road, again on the tandem. Here is the report I sent to the CHP:

On Saturday, February 3, my wife Diane and I were riding our tandem bicycle on Old Sacramento Road. We were about 2 miles west of Plymouth heading towards Hwy 16. We were with another cyclist, Steve Frentress. Both my wife and Mr. Frentress are witnesses to what happened.

We were riding single file, with traffic and to the right side of the road as close to the edge of the pavement as was safe. There was no oncoming traffic and we were not impeding any motor vehicle traffic. We were riding in a completely legal manner

We were passed by a black Jeep CJ type with very wide tires and a soft top. We believe the license is ______.  We are not 100% sure of the license. There was one passenger and the driver in the Jeep.

The vehicle slowed next to my wife and I, about 2 feet to our left. Closer that the ‘3 foot’ rule for passing cyclists. That is a traffic violation. The passenger leaned out of his window and yelled “Get the f… off the road”. The Jeep then sped past us.

When the Jeep was about 150 yards ahead the driver came to a complete stop in the middle of the road. The driver opened his door, got out and turned toward us. I slowed our tandem bike but did not stop. When I was about 50 yards behind him he yelled “I’m going to kick your ass”. Then he got back in his vehicle and drove off.

I would like to file an official report of this incident. If I need to come to your office to do so I would be more than willing. I would also be happy to speak with a deputy on the phone, feel free to call.

I believe it is important to report this even if your office does not have enough information to issue a citation or pursue criminal investigation. I doubt this is the first time this driver and passenger have harassed cyclists, and I would like this report on file in case a more serious incident occurs.

I don’t know if the threat “I’m going to kick your ass” constitutes “Making a terrorist threat” but this definition might apply:

1) Willful Threat: Someone willfully threatens to commit a crime that will result in death or great bodily harm. This means that the threat obviously has to be of a highly dangerous nature. Threatening to slash someone’s tires, for instance, would probably not be sufficient. However, the threat can be made in writing, verbally or electronically transmitted.

CHP actually responded. A very nice sergeant called me. It turns out I had the license number wrong. Not surprising, since I was concentrating on not crashing the tandem and trying to decide how best to deal with a stopped Jeep and a dangerous driver. Too bad; the sergeant said that if the license had matched the description he would have contacted the owner for a talk.

Most drivers pass safely and calmly and don’t cause cyclists trouble. But occasionally we get flipped off, yelled at, passed too close or too fast or both, ‘smoked out’ (a big diesel pickup pulls right along side, then slams on the accelerator to leave a cloud of black smoke for the cyclist to ride through). A truck once passed our group, then pulled off the road and spun out in the gravel to raise a cloud of dust for us to breathe.  Drivers passing us lay on their horns, or honk repeatedly. So much anger.

If you are inclined to this type of behavior, you are unlikely to be reading this. But those drivers should be advised I’m trying to get your license and I’m going to report you. You probably won’t be cited, since it will be your word against mine. But do you really want a visit from CHP?

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A Good Day for a Great Cause

5 SBC Riders at Mile 40 Rest Stop

Saturday was the 10th Pedaling Paths for Independence ride, a fund raiser for the Community Center for the Blind in Stockton. I am friends with Joni Bauer, the driving force behind this ride. Joni works with ‘clients’ at the Center, helping those with sight impairments learn to function in the world.  A noble vocation, and the Stockton Bicycle Club is happy to support her efforts with funding for the ride. Many of our members also sign up for the event. I have paid for Stoker and me to do every edition, although the February weather is usually not to Stoker’s taste, so she stays home while I ride. I have also helped Joni ‘mark the course’ for 7 of the 10 editions. I drive and she puts down the route arrows which tell riders which way to proceed at intersections. Marking takes the two of us about 6 hours and Joni manages to fill up most of the time with a verbal stream of consciousness about what is going on with her life and with everything she has to do to put on the event. Her friend Doug once gave me a pair of earplugs to help me concentrate on driving.

10 Years of Metric Fun!

Joni wasn’t always a cyclist. She taught spin classes, and someone said she should try riding on the road.  Back in 2002 I was on her very first ‘real’ road ride with the Stockton Bicycle Club, and while it was obvious she was a strong rider is was also obvious that she had quite a bit to learn about long hilly rides. Not only did she learn, but she discovered she had a talent for long rides. Really long rides, like double centuries, 200 miles in one day, and not on flat roads either.  She had done over 60 of these monstrosities since that first Club ride, which is over 60 more that my total of zero. I can take credit for her nickname ‘Bionic Babe’, and her complete nickname is ‘Bionic Babe PF Double Century Girl’, or BBPFDCG. What ‘PF’ stands for will remain a secret unless she reveals it. She calls me ‘Sir Richard’ for reasons I don’t understand, but I take it as a friendly term.

Back to Saturday: the morning was quite cold and there was a wind from the Southeast, which meant mostly headwind for the first 25 miles. I was signed up for the Metric Century (64 miles) and I arrived at the start not feeling especially well; I had kind of a dull headache and I wasn’t looking forward to the ride much. So naturally when I got on the bike and started riding my legs felt great, and I rode hard pretty much all day. At the Farmington rest stop the SBC riders who started at 9 am regrouped, and we stayed together for most of the last 50 miles. There were about 11 of us, and I did a lot of the pulling on the front. I was feeling really good. Rafi did a couple of nice pulls too, and when we regrouped at Hwy 4 he said I was becoming a good flatland rider. I’m not; fast flat pace lines are difficult for me and Rafi is a master at them, but yesterday I was going really well.

At the finish, after 64 miles and 3:37 of riding, I still felt great. I wasn’t even tired, but I was certainly hungry, despite enjoying the excellent provisions at the three mid-ride rest stops. The post ride meal at De Vinci’s took care of that: the roast chicken, pesto pasta, salad and focaccia were delicious . The total time of the ride was a little more than last year, but this year the wind was more of a factor, and it shifted to the Southwest, which meant that we had to fight headwinds both going out and coming home. The course was modified by taking out some high speed riding on Hwy 26 and replacing it with about 1 1/2 mile of unpaved road. It was perfectly rideable, but we were only doing about 12 mph, which brought our average speed down considerably.

At the post ride feast my friend Lauren told me I rode really well and thanked me for all the time I spent pulling on the front. I really appreciated that; she is a strong rider (and a CA Cyclocross Champion too!). If she thinks I’m going fast enough to sit on my wheel rather than head off on her own, I feel like I’m riding pretty strong. And on Saturday I was.

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Butterfly Effect Part 2…

Gentlemen, Stoker and I Thank You!

The Federal Government is shut down this weekend.  People are wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth. The alleged reasons are DACA and a big wall, but perhaps the Cosmic Cause is Karma for a lucky couple. Consider the case of Stoker and me: if not for a similar shutdown in 1978 we would have never met.

Shutdown #5: Jimmy Carter vs. the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

When did it take place? Sept. 30 to Oct.18, 1978
How long did it last? 18 days
Who was president? Jimmy Carter
Who controlled the Senate? Democrats, 59-41; Robert Byrd was majority leader
Who controlled the House? Democrats, 292-143; Tip O’Neill was speaker

The details of why this particular shutdown completely changed the course of our lives are far too complicated to relate here. Back in 1978 I had just graduated UC Davis, and a federal “agency” was very interested in hiring me. So interested, that after some preliminary interviews and tests in California, they were willing to spend money to fly me to the DC Area for final interviews and tests. The scheduled date was in early October, 1978. After the shutdown my interview was deemed ‘non essential’, which it obviously was, at least for them. For me, getting a job was pretty ‘essential’ at the time. The “agency” called to postpone and said to be patient.

Eventually the shutdown ended and I finally flew back east in mid November. The delay allowed me to make some contacts for other job leads. The interviews at the “agency” went very well and I went home 98% sure that my first office would be in Langley sometime in 1979.

Surprisingly, one of the leads, the president of a 7 person private (i.e. non government) agricultural consulting firm, called me a week later and offered me a job. I was stunned. I had really enjoyed meeting him but was pretty sure that my skills and inexperience were not a good fit. I thought about it for a day or two, then decided I would rather work with a small company instead of at a huge “agency”. So my first office turned out to be on the second floor of a bank in Georgetown. Stoker was one of the 7 employees there.

No government shutdown, and I would have ended up in Langley. Stoker and I would never have met. I almost certainly would not have returned to California. I would probably have gotten married, had kids, gotten a divorce (odds are about 40% for first marriages) and stayed in the white collar bureaucracy work world. No return to the farm, no pet goats, no tandem cycling. No 35 years of very happy marriage. A prospect too dismal to dwell on.

So while the politicians argue consider that Fate may be arranging some surprising consequences for some lucky couple.

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Happy Anniversary Stoker!

Tomorrow Diane and I are going to celebrate the 35th anniversary of our wedding. We are planning an enjoyable day: we’re going to a movie and then out for the great burgers and fries at the Lodi Brewing Company.

But before that, we are planning to ride our tandem CoMotion from Ione to Plymouth with the ‘B’ Group of the Stockton Bicycle Club. We might be the only ‘B’ Group bicycle, but that will not bother us. When we are riding together we are never alone. Just like in our marriage.

Smiles at the Summit: Headwind to Follow

Diane wasn’t always known as ‘Stoker’. For the first 23 years of married life we didn’t ride a tandem. We had bikes and did casual rides around the flat rural roads east of Stockton. In 1999 I got serious about cycling, and although we still rode together Diane kind of lost interest. I would do the Club ride, and afterwards go out with her for 12 easy miles. Diane likes to tell the story about how she looked back once and saw that I was pedaling with one leg, which I was doing to try to get some training benefit from rolling at 10 mph on flat pavement. She says was the end of cycling for her.

In 2005, we borrowed a tandem that our friend Bennie wasn’t using and gave it a try. Our first ride was about 10 miles, took almost an hour, and made me a nervous wreck. The bike felt wobbly and cumbersome, and we didn’t know how to start or stop. But we finished without crashing, and I hoped that some day we might be able to ride the 30 mile round trip from our house to Clements in under 3 hours. Today it takes us less than 2.

Neither one of us knew that the first ride would lead to tandem cycling becoming a major part of our lives. We kept at it, and we got better and more comfortable on the bike. Our first ride in the hills was an adventure for us both. We rode from Ione to Plymouth, and I was worried about the steep parts of  Irish Hill Road, but we made it up without stopping or falling over because our speed fell below the critical minimum for steering. And on the descent of Carbondale Road, I was really enjoying myself, because the tandem is more stable at speed than a single bike. But Stoker told me afterwards that as we sailed through the gentle sweeping turns at well over 30 mph, she had her eyes closed.

It took us several years to even try, but now we can stand up together and pedal out of the saddle on hills. Some tandem couples never manage this. I warn her to ‘be ready’, and when the gradient and the gearing seem right I rise out of the saddle and somehow she knows how to stand with me, smooth and secure. I don’t know how she does it.

We have ridden together in Death Valley, the entire Oregon Coast, the Canadian Rockies from Glacier (Montana) to Jasper, in Southern Arizona and in the South of France . We exceeded 3,000 tandem miles in two different years. And there have been some moments when I have been so proud of what Stoker did on our bicycle that my eyes get teary.

35 Years of Marriage: 12 Years in Tandem

The day I remember most was the ride over Logan Pass on the famous ‘Going to the Sun Road’ in Glacier National park. This is a 10 mile climb that averages 6%. It is the longest continuous stretch of uphill road we had even done, and we made it to the top without needing a sag. I had been very concerned about this climb, but Stoker rode strong and we were all smiles at the summit.

I thought the rest of the ride would be easy, a long descent followed by an nearly flat 10 miles from the highway to the Many Glaciers Lodge where we were spending the night. What I did not count on was that the last 10 miles would be into a 40 mph headwind. It got so bad that I had to use the granny gear on a flat road as our speed dropped to 6 mph. We found out later that one of the guides who was riding with us got blown off of the road. Twice. And he had been a professional track rider in Europe and could do one wheeled track stands and bike hops! If the wind was too much for him, imagine how Stoker and I felt.

But Diane kept pedaling and never complained once. After 72 miles and 5,500 feet of climbing and almost 1 1/2 hours of battering headwind, she was smiling. And deservedly proud of finishing a very tough ride. That night in our room I massaged her legs and told her how well she did and how proud I was of her. I still am.

Starting a marriage is like starting to ride a tandem: you have to work together and think about your partner to make it work. It can be awkward at first, but with practice it can become something really special. For 35 years, Stoker and I have been trying to do that, and we think we have something really special. On the bike, and off of it too. Happy Anniversary Stoker!


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Assassins and Tour Guides…

July 27, 1910 was a very hot day in the south of France and race officials anxiously waiting at the top of the Aubisque watched to see if any rider could make it over both the Tourmalet and the Aubisque. The second rider, Octave Lapize, appeared in great distress and pushing his bike. Upon reaching the top Lapize angrily shouted “ASSASSINS…” at the race officials as he passed…

Since 1910, when high mountain passes first became part of the Tour de France, the term ‘Circle of Death’ has been used for the most difficult race stage in the Pyrenees. The 1910 version included 4 huge Cols, including the 3 I took on doing my own ‘Circle of Death’: The Col du Peyresourde, the Col d ‘Aspin, and the giant Col du Tourmalet.

Three Summit Selfies on the Circle of Death

I was in the Pyrenees on the 2nd day of 44|5′s week long tour from Toulouse to the Atlantic Ocean. This tour provided the hardest 6 consecutive days of riding I have ever done: 350 miles and 47,000 feet of climbing. Over 7,800 feet a day! This ride alone featured 10,900 feet over 70 miles. Perhaps not as long or hard as a Tour Stage, but at the very least a ‘semi circle of near death’ for a 61 year old cyclotourist. It was also the most climbing I have ever done on a single day’s ride.

44|5′s Pyrenees Adventure Tour was sold out, and 7 of the 10 riders were friends I had toured with before. Only one person in the group had no connection to at least one other guest. This familiarity made for lively conversation at dinner, but on the road this day silence was pretty much the norm: these mountain passes require all the oxygen you take in go towards propulsion and not to your vocal cords.

I started the day thinking I would do the first two Cols and evaluate whether I should attempt the Tourmalet or not. Since the day was cool (unlike our first ride which was pretty warm) I actually felt pretty good at the lunch break, so I started up the Tourmalet thinking I would probably make it. And I did. 4 Km from the top in the ski resort town of La Monge I decided to stop for a Coke. Unfortunately I forgot that my money was in the car, and I would have to ride about 200 meters back down to retrieve it. There was no chance I would do that, so I drank some water and took a few Endurolytes and headed up to the summit. And I made it. At 2115 meters it was the ‘Cima Coppi’ of our tour.

The rest of the day’s ride was pretty much downhill to our lovely Art Deco hotel in Argeles.  Cycling is really embedded deep in the cultural fabric of France. There were three signed jerseys in the fitness room of the hotel. Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Bernard Thevenet. I felt like I was in a cycling museum. Two of the greatest cycling champions and another rider who ‘only’ won 2 Tours. I wonder if the jerseys were protected by an alarm system. Some unscrupulous cycling fan might want an incredible souvenir.

The next day we did a ‘recovery ride’ up Hautacam. 30 miles and 5,100 feet constitutes ‘recovery’ on a 44|5 Tour. I could have shouted “Assassins!”  at our guides John and Gerry, but over the years and multiple tours they have become good friends and I would never do such a thing. Hautacam is a 15 Km climb averaging 7.6%. And do not be deceived by the Kilometer signs counting down to the summit. ‘Kilometer 0′ ends in a parking lot, where you still have another 1.5 Km to reach the cafe at the very top. I thought I was finished when it turned out I had another 100 meters to climb!

These two were in stock. The Peyresourde is on the way.

While the ride wasn’t exactly recovery, we did finish early enough for lunch in a restaurant and an afternoon siesta. About 5 pm I went for a walk into the village for some gelato and souvenir shopping. I wanted to purchase the three road markers for the three Cols I had climbed the previous day. The shop had plenty of ‘Tourmalet’ stones, but I got the last ‘Aspin’ and the ‘Peyresourde’ was out of stock. Google to the rescue! When I got home I ordered one from England to complete my set. Mementos of a monumental day.


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As Old As You Feel…

The Fruit Bowl is a Stockton Institution. From its beginnings in 1947 as a small fruit stand on Waterloo Road selling seasonal fresh fruit (mostly peaches) it has evolved into a large shop with a wide variety of  fruits, nuts and vegetables, all grown locally. They also have a bake shop with wonderful pies, cookies, pastries, calzones, focaccia, and sandwiches for a light lunch. Coffee and  gelato too! It is a favorite rest stop for cyclists pedaling the quiet and completely flat roads east of Stockton. Stockton Bicycle Club Rides stop there at least once a month from April through November.

That 70's Show: SBC Members and the Fruit Bowl Owners Ralph and Denene Lucchetti

This is the Fruit Bowl’s 70th season, and it is also the 70th season for some of the Stockton Bicycle Club’s finest. So a group of the Club’s new septuagenarians got together with the owners Ralph and Denene Lucchetti for a commemorative photo under the celebratory banner.

The photo got me thinking about the demographics of our bike club. Virtually all of our regular riders are over 50, quite a few (me included) are over 60, and a growing number have reached their 70′s, including the 6 stalwarts shown here. Most of us have been riding together regularly for a decade or more, growing ‘less young’ together. Occasionally a new younger rider like Keith or Adam (both early 40′s) joins our group, and we can certainly use the new blood. After a brief adaptation period, Keith now rides rings around his elders, but not all 40 somethings can say the same. These old motors still put out the power. No wonder Social Security is in trouble!

G Man, on the left, is newly 70, and he has adopted a new motto: “Ride until you are 90, then ride some more!” I hope he makes it, and I hope I will still be cycling with him 20 years hence. 90 is the new 70, perhaps?


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Tripped by the GFI

Last Friday and Sunday I pressure washed the exterior of our house. The vinyl siding cleaned up nicely. Diane was very happy and kept saying how great the house looked. And if Stoker is happy everybody is happy.

Tripped Me Up

But no good deed goes unpunished. On Monday, I got out our electric lawn mower to cut our tiny piece of lawn. It is the old fashioned kind with a cord that plugs into an outlet. Not a good tool for a huge lawn, but our token lawn is so small that it does the job with a minimum of fuss.

I plugged it in, pulled on the safety handle to start the mower, and nothing happened. I tried the other socket, and still nothing. I tried the lawn mower by plugging it into an outlet in the garage and it worked fine. I went to the fuse box and saw the GFI fuse marked ‘outside’ was tripped.

I am not a real handyman type, but I do know that Ground Fault Interrupter Fuses (GFI ) are deliberately built so that they trip easily, for safety. I also know how to reset them. Pull the lever all the way to ‘off’, then push it hard to the ‘on’ position. It will click in if you do it correctly. To make sure, press the button that says ‘test’. If the fuse is working it will click off. Then use the reset method again and you are good to go.

I tried. I tried several times. The fuse would not click into the ‘on’ position, and the ‘test’ button did nothing. I checked the other backyard outlet on the ‘outside’ circuit and verified there was no power there either. So I assumed the fuse had failed and called our trusted electrical company. It was Fourth of July Week and they said no one could come until Thursday afternoon. I said that was fine, this certainly was not an emergency. The grass wasn’t going to get out of hand in a couple of days.

I figured that the pressure washing had gotten some water into the outlets and tripped the fuse. And that there might still be some water in the outlet which was causing the hypersensitive GFI’s to keep tripping and fail to reset.  I did think maybe if I waited a couple of days, they might dry out and I could reset the fuse. I resolved to try this Wednesday afternoon.

At 2 pm on Wednesday I got a call from the electrician; he was turning into my driveway! He was right on time for the promised 2 to 4 pm time slot, but he was a day early. There was some confusion, probably caused by the holiday week. He listened to me describe the problem, went to the fuse box, did exactly what I had done on Monday, and the fuse clicked into the ‘on’ position.

I told him I had done the same thing he did, and he said these fuses can be tricky. He was probably trying not to laugh at a clueless homeowner who can’t even reset a fuse. He agreed that the pressure washing might have gotten some water where it shouldn’t be, and could have been the problem. He left after about 5 minutes total, which will probably yield the highest return per minute of all his calls that day. If he hadn’t come a day early I might have been able to reset the fuse myself now that it had dried out, and I could have cancelled the service call and saved some money.

The same kind of thing happens with my bikes. I hear an irritating noise. I do everything I can think of to get rid of it but nothing works. Finally I give up and take it to the bike shop, where no matter how hard I try I cannot reproduce the noise. It is almost as if the bike is doing it on purpose, making its owner look silly. Just like the GFI did.



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    Rich Freggiaro

    Richard Freggiaro is a Stockton area native who grew up on his family’s farm. After an nine year detour to Davis for College, Washington DC for work, and Iowa for graduate school, he returned to San Joaquin County and spent the next quarter century farming with his father. He has been married to Diane for 31 years. He is (mostly) retired which leaves him plenty of time to ride each of his 4 bikes, and he is an enthusiastic and passionate cyclist. Read Full
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