Three times Chris Brown tried to give away a box filled with bicycle-related odds and ends he had collected.
There were pictures and articles he had found or that had been given to him by customers and friends. There was even a trophy from the 1920s that a customer’s grandfather had won in a bicycle sprint.
“I’m interested in it and they want to share their stories, I guess,” said Brown, owner of Brown Cycles while sitting in his store downtown.
He thought all those things in the box could be used to create a book and “I wanted to read it,” he said.
But three times he got the box back from potential authors.
Then one night during a stay at a hotel he realized he could organize the items in the box by decade. His mind began switching gears and soon he was on a trail of words that flowed over dirt and pavement across the Western Slope through time.
The resulting book, “Bicycle Junction,” is an eclectic bicycling trail guide as well as historical fiction story.
It officially will be released at Brown Cycles’ 20th anniversary party from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, at the store at 549 Main St. The party also will serve as a book signing, with snacks and wacky bikes to ride.
One of the bikes that can be seen at the store is the bicycle from Brown’s book. It’s named the One Bike after the mythical bike that all avid riders seek — the bike that can be a mountain bike, a road bike and a commuter bike all in one, Brown said.
In “Bicycle Junction,” the One Bike takes on the additional attribute of being a time machine stashed in the desert and found by the book’s protagonist after he crashes on a trail at Lunch Loops while on a warmup ride for Grand Junction Off-Road.
The protagonist, who remains nameless, leaves his broken bike behind and rides the One Bike back to Grand Junction only to find himself somehow transported back to 1888, six years after Grand Junction was incorporated.
From there, the protagonist progresses through history meeting both real and fictional residents of the area and hearing their stories related to biking and watching roads and trails develop and bicycles change from the 1880s to 2015.
Nearly every time the protagonist leaves the city limits to go on a ride, he comes back to a different decade, said Brown, who named his book’s chapters in mile markers, each with a designated bike ride, a map and photos relating to the chapter’s decade.
All of those bike rides add up to 1,871 miles and a challenge: Any rider who completes all of the book’s rides on one bike in one year will get a bragging rights mug from Brown Cycles and a “Bicycle Junction” sticker for their bike frame.
The shortest ride is 4 miles and the longest is 415 miles, and Brown has ridden them all. They include rides at all the local major mountain biking areas, rides that people might not be aware of and routes from bike races and events such as the Grand Junction to Glenwood Spring L’eroica — Midland Rail Ride that Brown promoted from 2011-2014.
In “Bicycle Junction,” the protagonist takes on all these rides on the time traveling One Bike, which is described as “mysteriously futuristic and charmingly antiquated.”
Brown didn’t have a bike he thought fit that description, “so I built one,” he said.
It has both modern and vintage details and the pivot point for steering is in the middle of the frame. To ride it, you’ve got to lean, totally committed to whatever direction you’re going, he said.
It’s also not the only bike Brown has created. In 2007, manufacturing started on Kidz Tandem Bicycles, a line of tandem bikes Brown designed that has kids pedaling at the front and an adult steering and pedaling from the rear.
Brown, who worked in manufacturing and engineering before opening Brown Cycles in 2000, thought of the bike out of his own need to ride and get his four kids out of the house to give his wife a break.
Incidentally, Brown’s wife, Rachel, makes several appearances in “Bicycle Junction” as a character named Rachel Applegate. Applegate has his wife’s personality, but her life in the book is patterned after another Grand Valley resident, Sarah Rae.
That’s the beauty of historical fiction: Having some flexibility with your characters and to not even name them if you don’t want to, Brown said.
However, it was rather surreal to meet himself while writing the book, he said.
He decided to call himself Mr. Brown and the protagonist meets him as well as other bike store owners and people well-known in the biking community while cycling through time.
One of the things that surprised Brown as he wrote was how the story really did tell itself. He had heard writers say that it happens, but he didn’t believe it until he found himself observing his characters going about their lives as he typed words into his computer. “It was crazy fascinating to me,” Brown said.
He would enthusiastically tell his wife about this character or that and she would turn and ask, “you know they’re not real, right?”
Since it’s historical fiction, though, there is still plenty of history in “Bicycle Junction” with events and people who biked or are continuing to bike on the valley’s roads and trails today.
Brown said that as he researched, interviewed people and wrote, he realized that while times and technology change, people do the same things. They ride bikes while being chased by dogs, they peek in windows and pedal away fast, they bike for miles and miles to impress others or just for the thrilling fun of it.
At the end of “Bicycle Junction,” the protagonist finally gets to ride in the Grand Junction Off-Road race after biking through more than 125 years, and Brown concludes with the words, “Now dismount and rest.”
Well, at least until the next ride.