North Carolina native brings his love of snowboarding and biking to downtown Parkdale
By Stu Watson
For Jason Barnes, life has been a downhill snowboard ride full of twists, turns and new places to glide.
Now settled in Parkdale and pedaling toward his second year as proprietor of the Cloud Cap Cycle & Board Shop, Jason smiles as he thinks of all the happy circumstances that led him and his wife, Kara, to Parkdale.
A native of Boone, North Carolina, Jason was the third generation to make its living by hanging sheetrock. What he really loved, however, was snowboarding.
So he built himself a 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 introduced him to friends in the Mount Hood snowboard community.
“I came to visit and fell in love with it,” he says.
Back in Boone, Jason would tell people about his life—a little work, a little play.
“They would look at me and go, ‘You’re a bum,’” he says with a smile.
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. Jason 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. Jason’s shoulder was shot.
After a year of looking for a surgeon who would risk a repair on someone with a downhill lifestyle, he found a willing orthopedist in 2014.
While Jason 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,” Jason says. “I was looking for something to do. This spot (the former Jalisco Market) was for lease, and I was looking at it for a while.”
Empty space is easy. What to put in it is a different story.
“I was thinking about a coffee shop,” Jason says. “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!’”
Around the same time, he was chatting with the owners of Solera Brewing, who wanted to build their own winter trade and suggested Jason add snowboards to his inventory.
With snowboards from former sponsor Smokin’ Snowboards in Lake Tahoe and stand-up paddle boards from Slingshot in Cascade Locks, Jason covered the glide side. For buyers who want American-made bikes, he points to product from Worksman Cycles, which has a plant in New York.
“I like to support ‘made in the USA,’” Jason says.
He knew how his shop should look after spending time at various Hood River shops. To his eye, they specialized in sales of higher-end bikes.
“I wanted a shop with entry-level bikes,” Jason 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 Jason loves bikes, he knew he was not fully equipped for the task of repairs. 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 and Cuba. I learned a lot.”
Jason started preparing the space in early 2016 and opened in June.
To help run things, he brought on Eric Boyd, a fellow bike fanatic. Eric is a painter by training, and had met Jason on construction sites.
“He taught me my ABCs,” Eric says with a smile. “Always check the air, brakes and chain.”
Why Jason was meeting anyone on a construction site, given his medical history? The shoulder repair worked better than expected, so Jason is back hanging sheetrock 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. But with three kids and a fledgling business, “you’ve got to have another job,” he says.
Jason 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 continued.
“It’s been surprising to me, but we get a lot of hunters who are doing hunting on bikes with 4-inch tires,” Jason 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 Jason speaks, in wanders John Hitt, co-owner of the nearby Solera Brewery.
“Hey, it smells great in here,” John says.
“It smells like new tires.”
Jason grins. To him, it is the sweet smell of success.