Troubled bridge over waters …

Here in S’lano County, where men are men and women can bench press Honda Civics, we tend to revere our bridges, whether it be the sparkling span that straddles the Carquinez Strait in Vallejo or the quaint, whitewashed Thurber Bridge along strategically ambiguous Pleasants Valley Road north of Vacaville.We partied on the Carquinez Bridge when the new span opened a few years ago, and last month a select group of Solanoans gleefully gathered in a pasture near the recently renamed Thurber span to celebrate the 100th birthday of that two-lane bridge.

Sad as it seems, not all of California’s counties love bridges the way we do here in S’lano County.

Take Butte County, for instance.

Located just a hop, skip and a jump up Highway 99 from Yuba City, Butte County is currently experiencing an orphaned bridge problem. Near the aptly named community of Paradise – home of the renowned Hootch Hut liquor store – there are at least two historic bridges which are neither celebrated, nor even claimed, by any municipality, government agency, private business or citizens’ bridge booster committee.

According to a recent article by Nicole Pothier of the Paradise Post, two old bridges near Magalia, north of Paradise, have fallen on hard times and nobody can figure out who’s supposed to fix them.

The bridges are along old Ponderosa Way, part of a thoroughfare that was built in the 1930s, stretching 700 miles from the Kern River in the south to the Pitt River in the north.

I’m told an eight-lane interstate freeway had been envisioned, but since freeways hadn’t been invented yet, the engineers most likely just wandered off to Oroville to celebrate the end of Prohibition.

The truck route eventually fell out of use, probably due to the aforementioned freeways of the future which became the freeways of the present.

Several government agencies apparently had jurisdiction over the old route as the years passed, but once the bridges were sufficiently deteriorated, it seemed nobody wanted to claim responsibility for them.

(“My bridge? Whaddaya mean MY bridge? That’s your bridge, pal, and you’re welcome to it. I wouldn’t try to walk a butterfly across that thing …”)

Instead of celebrating their historic bridges with bands, donkey races and a judicious amount of alcohol, Butte County wrings its collective hands and looks the other way while wary rural residents cautiously inch over the dilapidated structures and pray that they’ll be able to reach Pitt River before the next big snow.

This is a pretty sorry state of affairs.

I know Butte County. My kids grew up in Paradise, and I can’t begin to count the number of time they’ve phoned me to lament, “Daaaaaad, the bridges up here all suck.”

I think it’s way past time for S’lano County leaders to extend the hand of friendship to their rustic counterparts in the north and offer to show them how to have fun with bridges before all the folks around Magalia are swallowed up by bottomless potholes and rushing waters.

Let’s bridge this gap, amigos. It’s just the right thing to do …

Originally published May 13, 2007

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