PARKDALE – For Jason Barnes, life has been a downhill snowboard ride, full of twists and turns and new places to glide.
Now happily settled in Parkdale and pedaling toward his second year as proprietor of the Cloud Cap Cycle & Board Shop, Barnes smiles to think of all the happy circumstance that led him and his wife, Kara, to Parkdale.
A native of Boone, N.C., Barnes was the third generation to make its living by hanging sheetrock. What he really loved, however, was snowboarding.
So he built himself an early balance between the two, working construction during the summers, and chasing snow and downhill turns during the winter.
His talents as a snowboard racer were good enough to qualify him for the Olympic trials in 2008. Those winter travels also introduced him to friends in the Mt. Hood snowboard community.
“I came to visit and fell in love with it,” he says.
Back in Boone, he would tell people about his life – a little work, a little play.
“They would look at me and go, ‘You’re a bum’,” he recalls, and smiles in the telling.
Nine months after returning from Oregon, he and Kara packed up their gear and headed west.
They passed through some different worlds on their way to paradise. He recalls stopping for gas in Bakersfield, and encountering a woman who had never seen snowboards strapped to the roof of a car.
Sheetrock, snowboarding and downhill bike riding eventually took their toll. His shoulder was shot. After a year of looking for a surgeon who would risk a repair on someone with a downhill lifestyle, Barnes found a willing orthopedist in 2014.
While he recovered, he became a stay-at-home dad while Kara built charts for other patients at Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles.
“They said I would never do drywall again,” he recalls. “I was looking for something to do. This spot (the former Jalisco Market) was for lease, and I was looking at it for awhile.”
Empty space is easy. What to put in it? Different story.
“I was thinking about a coffee shop,” Barnes recalls. “Then I thought about coffee and a bike shop. But coffee shop equipment is really expensive, so I thought ‘Let’s do a BIKE shop!’”
With snowboards, from former sponsor Smokin’ Snowboards in Lake Tahoe, and stand-up paddleboards, from Slingshot in Cascade Locks.
“I like to support Made in the USA,” Barnes says.
He knew how his shop should look, after spending time as a “bar fly” at various Hood River shops. To his eye, they specialized in sales of higher-end bikes.
“I wanted a shop with entry-level bikes,” he says. “I work on high-end bikes, but I don’t carry any bikes over $1,000, to avoid the ‘sticker shock and awe’ thing.”
Even though he loves bikes, he knew he wasn’t fully equipped for the task of repairs. So he enrolled in the intensive two-week training offered by the United Bicycle Institute in Portland, what he calls “the best in the world.”
“It was a great course,” he says. “I was studying with bike mechanics from Australia, Cuba. I learned a lot.”
Barnes started preparing space in early 2016, and opened in June. To help run things, he brought on Eric Boyd, a fellow bike fanatic. Boyd is a painter by prior training, and had met Barnes on construction sites.
“He taught me my ABCs,” Boyd says with a smile. “Always check the Air, Brakes and Chain.”
In case you may have wondered why Barnes was meeting anyone on a construction site, given his medical history, the shoulder repair worked better than expected. So Barnes is back hanging sheet rock several hours a day, cleaning up and heading down to the shop for the balance of his day.
“I’d rather be at the shop,” he says.
Besides, with three kids and a fledgling business, he says “you’ve got to have another job.”
He says public response to his shop has “been awesome.” As soon as he emerged from the Portland training, “people started showing up at my house and dropping off bikes at my garage.”
The flow has just continued.
“It’s been surprising to me, but we get a lot of hunters who are doing hunting on bikes with 4-inch tires,” Barnes says.
He says most of the shop’s business is in service, repairs and rebuilds. Last summer, he figures they did full rebuilds on 10 classic mountain bikes dating back 30 years.
As Barnes speaks, in wanders John Hitt, co-owner of the nearby Solera Brewery.
“Hey, it smells great in here,” Hitt says. “It smells like new tires.”
Barnes grins. The sweet smell of success.
(This story appeared originally in the Ruralite magazine.)