Couch potatoes may save us all

There’s a new invention on the horizon that could decrease air pollution, reduce traffic congestion, promote physical fitness and bring us all a little closer together.

It’s the, er, couchbike.


Perhaps you’ve already heard of it?


Well, that’s understandable. According to a recent issue of UTNE Magazine, the only working prototypes seem to be in Canada.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Canada? No?

It’s rather north of here…

The innovative pedal-powered sofa, or couchbike, is the brainchild of mechanical engineer Brent Curry and his Norwegian sidekick, Eivind Meen (

Their motto is, appropriately enough, “Have You Driven a Couch Lately?”

The pair took a rather nondescript, 95-pound sofa, attached wheels, brakes, two pedal-operated chain drives and a side-mounted steering mechanism and headed for the open road, sometimes hitting speeds of 27 mph (downhill) and drawing the attention of at least one Canadian constable.

Officious traffic authorities aside, the pair proved that the couchbike is a very viable mode of economical transportation whose time has come – although perhaps not yet on interstate freeways…

My question is, are we going to let Canada monopolize the pedal-powered sofa market?

I think not, amigos. This idea belongs to the world (and you know it’s going to be big in Berkeley).

Think about it. The couch bike uses no fossil fuels. It’s comfortable, roomy and inexpensive to operate. If you become fatigued during a long trip, you can just pull over, stretch out and snooze until your resolve is restored.

Not only will the pedal-powered sofa help cut national petroleum consumption, it will also contribute to the beautification of America, getting all those ratty, discarded couches off the roadside and into America’s 21st century transportation pool.

No longer will derelict sofas litter empty lots and the sidewalks in front of fraternity houses. They’ll be reborn as much sought-after sport utility sofas.

Best of all, couchbikes should be just as easily customized as any automobile on the road today.

You could, for example, go for the full-sized luxury sofa or strap yourself into a sporty, low-slung loveseat. Add some fog lamps, chrome wire wheels, a stereo and extra-large cupholders and you’re on your way to becoming a local street legend.

Yesterday you may just have been another couch potato from Oroville. Tomorrow you could be the king of the Sunset Strip.

These are, like, much cooler than your uncle Wilbur’s 37-foot motorhome with the stuffed Chihuahua in the back window.

Couchbikes should lend themselves to a wide variety of activities – exercise, travel, shopping and, if you and your cycling sweetie are feeling a little romantic after an idyllic ride through the countryside, hey, you’re already on a sofa, right? Just find a secluded spot and try not to scare any nearby livestock.

It doesn’t get any better than this, amigos…

Originally published June 27, 2014

It’s big, it’s here and it’s Canadian

Somewhere between Muskogee and Mississauga, in that gray area between Merle Haggard and Sid Vicious, a bold new musical style has erupted with its heart in Toronto and its soul in Vacaville.

The music’s called cowpunk, the motto is “May the Twang be with you!” and the musicians are Toronto’s pretty-well-known-in-the-neighborhood Yeehaa Cowboys.

This is not your father’s punk band, amigos.

Performing together since 1996, the four-member band (five, if you count the vampire), has just released its first CD, “Cowpunk Baby, Cowpunk!” on Canada’s Rumenal Records label.

And while the music comes from the Great Frozen North, the cowpunk sound owes much of its distinctive flavor to Vacaville, although nobody seems to know exactly why.

According to Yeehaa Cowboys’ guitarist-songwriter Cowboy X, the band is based loosely on a feature film script about the band which is central to the storyline and “the town of Vacaville itself is revered by all Cowboys’ fans and is featured in the film script.”

(You’re following all this, right?)

Fact and fiction get kind of intertwined here, but Vacaville apparently became part of the cowpunk mythos when one of the group’s vocalists (either in the script or in reality or, possibly, both) disappeared during a bizarre fishing expedition and was last seen in Vacaville with somebody known as Satan Elvis.

In recognition of the community’s contribution to the furtherance of cowpunk karma, the Yeehaa Cowboy’s debut CD contains the soon-to-be-a-monster-hit tune “Vacaville.”

It’s a hard-driving song of love, and cows, and Vacaville, and cows and love, with plenty of Twang:

“Just look at the cows down in Vacaville, everybody’s asleep but I’m goin’ still …

Can’t get you alone though it breaks my heart, Everybody’s a fool And I just play my part …

Every kiss that you throw gives me such a thrill, Just look at the cows down in Vacaville …”

The concept of Twang, as evinced in “Vacaville,” is at the very core of the cowpunk sound.

According to Cowboy X, “The Twang is a cosmic, supernatural force, fighting against evil, inspiring great music and making people dance. The Twang transformed the Yeehaa Cowboys from wayward slackers into warriors of light and punk rock cowboys.”

I should point out that “Vacaville” is just part of a 13-cut album that features such classic cowpunk melodies as “Madame Planet’s Dark Evil Ode” and “The Ballad of the Country Music Pharaoh” as well as “Oh There’s A Fish A Fish A Fish Dead in My Heart.”

The latter tune is a kind of cowpunk polka-beat tale of unrequited love with lyrics like:

“Oh there’s a fish a fish a fish dead in my heart, and it smells like a dead rotting fish …”

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Uh-oh, that boy’s been drinkin’ again. Someone call the sheriff.”

Sorry. The Yeehaa Cowboys are much more than a Bushmills-induced hallucination. Cowpunk is real. It’s here (and there) and it’s now.

And if you don’t believe me, try checking out the Web site at

May the Twang be with you …

Originally published October 22, 2000

Toronto: Hey, we’re having some fun now!

Summer’s drawing to a close and major metropolitan areas from Minneapolis to Moscow are casting wide nets for last-minute tourists, boasting first-rate entertainment, state-of-the-art transit systems and pristine park lands, along with lovable locals who are friendlier than the munchkins who trotted out to greet Dorothy and Toto.

Whether it’s San Diego or Sarasota, community boosters are rolling out the red carpet to attract tourist dollars, touting the best and brightest their cities have to offer.

Then there’s Toronto, the Canadian community that prides itself on being “The world within a city.”

Although folks in Toronto are justifiably proud of their hotels and theaters, they also take pride in some attractions that might not immediately pull in the average summertime sojourner from Scranton.

Looking for a weird time, sailor? Look no farther than Toronto…

According to the city’s latest tourism news letter, Toronto is the place to be if you fancy the latest in moose art, hippopotamus transit, gross bodily functions and a historical look at Canada as viewed through its footwear.

No, I’m not making this up. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried – it took the madcap zanies of Toronto to put this little package together. It’s real, it’s now, don’t miss it…

Let’s start with those moose.

Apparently taking a hint from Chicago’s bovine art bounty, downtown Toronto has turned the moose loose with 325 life-sized moose created by local artists. There’s a moose shuttle service so you don’t miss a single one, and a moose-inspired shopping spree, the “Wild Moose Chase.”

“Everyone on the tour gets goodies including a pair of moose antlers to wear during their adventure,” enthuses the Toronto Briefs newsletter.

(See? I told you I couldn’t make this stuff up…)

Toronto moose mania continues through October.

Then there’s the newest – and grossest – thing at Toronto’s Ontario Place: “Grossology – the Impolite Science of the Human Body.”

“It’s a fun, interactive and educationally stimulating exhibition explaining exactly how and why the body creates all that oozy, mushy, crusty, scaly and stinky stuff,” Toronto tourism authorities report.

The grossology exhibit continues through Sept. 4 at Ontario Place. If you can’t make it to Toronto by then, I can probably direct you to a tavern in San Pablo which has a similar exhibition nearly every Friday night. You’ll have to leave the kids at home, though.

Once you’ve been thoroughly grossed out, consider an excursion on one of Toronto’s stylish new “hippo” buses.

The new, specially-designed hippos are built to carry up to 40 adventuresome passengers on amphibious tours of Toronto. They’re even available for private charter.

For a more educational afternoon in multifaceted Toronto, stop by The Bata Shoe Museum on Bloor Street West. There you’ll see “On Canadian Ground, a remarkable account of early Canadian footwear.”

Yes, all too often we think of Canada as nothing more than our big buddy to the north, not giving a moment’s consideration to the footwear that won the wilderness.

The exhibit continues through next June, so there’s still plenty of time to strap on your moose antlers, flag down a hippo bus and tell the driver to hang a left on Bloor Street. Toronto will be yours, amigo…

Originally published August 20, 2000