857 Main Street
Morro Bay CA
Installing the human spirit in the landscape.
In the fall of 2009 my road led back to the Central Coast of California and the little town of Atascadero.
I asked the locals where the main bike shop was and they pointed me in the direction of Kman Cycle and Run. My aging “Fiery Steed” was already having saddle slipping issues. Also, Kman’s sister website Team Kman (@teamkman) provided me with a comprehensive list of trail maps incuding mileages that I went to right away to plan my training routes. It was a great way to get acquainted with the area.
My friend Martha VanInwegen (@marthvan) lives in Atascadero and, knowing me, also mentioned that Kman’s had a BIG BLANK WALL that might be hungry for a Bike Scribble! Hmmm, do tell!
We met the first week in December and by January 8th the Scribbles were spinning vibrantly on the two story wall and visible from Highway 101. While I wasn’t sure why I chose Atascadero for the next chapter when I arrived, now the purpose is absolutely clear.
While there were some grumblings from the city about needing sign permits and such, nothing in that regard has materialized. The City of Atascadero doesn’t really have a public art policy or process and we’re hoping, now that some redevelopment in the historic downtown area is planned, that public art will be a larger part of those plans.
“@bikechik Thanks for sharing your great passion, inspired by riding through vineyards, indeed, almost a surfeit.” -@RandallGrahm President, Bonny Doon Vineyard
We’re going to play a little game called “find the bike or cyclist in this picture”. I didn’t plan on it but there were so many cyclists training on this road I just went with it. There’s one in about every other shot.
The subtitle of this blog is: “It’s All Terrifying and it’s All Beautiful”. Never before have I witnessed a scene that exemplified that sentiment so well as what I am about to show you. As many of you know the neighborhoods around East and West Mountain Road in Santa Barbara were laid waste by the Tea Fire. That road is the way to the infamous “beyond category” 3,998 ft alt. hill climb simply known as “Gibraltar Road” and therefore a favorite haunt of cyclists including myself.
I watched as the 300 ft flames climbed into the sky that night and roared, fast, ferocious and deadly down the hillsides, whipped by 70 mph winds. I prayed for the people in those houses. “Run! Get out!” I whispered under my breath. When the fires had all been put out I made a point to ride up to that area on the days that followed, my goal being this:
What had happened to the art collector with the sculpture garden and the cyclist fashioned into a mailbox? I had to know. It took over a week to get there. Edison crews pulled the barricades back a block at a time as they replaced the torched telephone poles.
As I rode past driveways I knew well I saw instead the houses that high hedgerows had hidden, now reduced to smoking ruins. The air was still oppressive, the smell of smoke filling my nostrils. I rode slower and slower and slower… I couldn’t take my eyes off the blackened smoldering hillsides, the trees, the mailboxes, the twisted metal and wire of all the things that days before had been an everyday part of someone’s home.
I resolved to return and document, document, document. When I did I began to see such beauty. Cast-iron black trees against blue sky and chocolate earth. A thousand shades of umber, sienna and rust. Then on the last trip… GREEN! Like a fresh splash of cool life on the eyeballs, NATURE was coming back. And that made it even more beautiful. I wish I was more of a photographer with a proper camera and lenses because I can’t hope to do it justice. My friend Carson Blume, cycling photographer, is sick this week otherwise I would have got him up here. I hope you get the idea anyway.
On my fourth birthday I received a grape purple Schwinn ‘big kid’ BIKE! It came with training wheels… I tooled around on the driveway for about 20 minutes, marched into the kitchen and demanded they be taken off. My mother all flustered, my dad with a knowing grin stood 20 feet apart on the blacktop and pushed me back and forth standing farther and farther apart with each pass. After about 15 minutes of that I circled the drive a few times and rolled off down he hill. I was FREE. I yelled to my mom that I’d be back before dark.
I went to explore the canyons and visit all my little friends. To her credit, Mom, instead of freaking out and shrieking at me to come back ( I was only four) simply got on the phone to all my little friend’s moms and proceeded to track my progress through the neighborhood with the accuracy of NORAD, as I flew by kitchen window after kitchen window. It was 1968.
I became a professional artist at 19 when I sold my first painting, quit my day job and later dropped out of school (oops). But it’s taken 25 years of painting and 40 years on two wheels for the love of cycling to make the trip from my heart to my brain where it finally trickled down my right arm and hit the canvas.
So here it is, my first ever bike painting. It does have a precedent in my body of work, for those of you who are serious art enthusiasts. It follows from a series called “Scribbles” (for obvious reasons). You can see more Scribbles on my website if you like.
I’m serving it up here for ‘my people’, my bike people, like my first born. But don’t feel you have to tell me the baby is pretty. Please express whatever you’d like. The point of ART is neither to be ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but to make you think and ultimately feel in a way that you hadn’t thought or felt before you looked at it. If you happen to enjoy it, well heck, that’s gravy!
Yes, there will be more joining this one soon, pedaling hard on his heels about to catch…