To be…….”Trans- Generational”

     What does it mean to be trans generational?  I would explain it as being involved with activities and interaction with different age groups with a common purpose.  OTB at the North Park Boathouse

 

Take for instance when I was a kid, my mother would make me dinner early because ” my friends” were calling me to fill in for the men’s doubles tennis league at our community pool complex.  These guys were my dad’s age but respected the fact that I could play the game and was mature enough to handle the interaction with an older generation.  It was lots of fun and I did learn some things that taught me that I had maturity beyond my years especially when an argument would ensue.  I had first hand knowledge of how ” adults” handled these situations and sometimes saw the maturity level dip a long way when one of the guys hit another over the head with a racquet.  But for the most part- the trans-generational activity was positive for me as a young man.  

     Fast forward and now I was in my late teens and interacted with some older guys who helped me get involved with ski instruction.  Chip Kamin was only a few years older than me but Bob Irish and Larry Cohen were in their forties at the time and we had a great time skiing together.  Their wisdom and inspiration allowed me to pursue certification with the Professional Ski Instructors of America and together they taught a young guy the ropes.  Point being that sports like tennis, fishing, golf, skiing, cycling are lifetime sports that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.  There are mentoring opportunities for older guys and also the interaction with young people keep that generation in the game.  IMG00227-20100731-0812

     In a recent article in the PSIA publication “32 Degrees” there is an article which references how some snow pros share their secrets to longevity.  The common denominator is to “keep moving”.  Each of the instructors that were interviewed were extremely active well into their 50s, 60s, and 70s.  They each talked about looking for opportunities to connect with other passionate people with diverse perspectives.  Oftentimes this results in older people interacting with younger people in a common passion like the sports mentioned above.  I can remember as I became a parent, how important it was to bring my son and my nephews and nieces along in the sport of skiing.  IMG00117-20100116-1123

As I got older, I made a point to bring along younger guys and girls into cycling and in one instance, I introduced mountain biking to Bill Kirk and his son Billy and young Bill and I still ride today- 20 years later.  To be trans-generational benefits not only the younger generation with wisdom and mentoring from the older set, but for us older guys, to have the opportunity to ride or ski with a younger crowd keeps us young not only in our mind but in our perspective on how the world is progressing.  You can learn a lot on a chairlift or on a mountain bike trail by talking to a younger person and see what is relevant in their lives.  Heck, I lost a musical perspective way back when ” money is for nothing and your chicks for free.” That’s where I lost track.  But keeping up with the times is important and to keep tabs on current musical talent via younger people is enlightening to say the least.  

     Skiing, mountain biking, road cycling and trail running all are good activities that can unite generations.  Oftentimes we have some good debate and try to solve the world’s problems but the key factor is the difference in perspective between professional people, teachers, students, and retired folks.  The common factor is the activity but the conversations and interactions are the result of having a common passion and the accountability to get together no matter how old or how young the crowd.  I used to laugh in a road cycling criterium race when I would hear,” Inside Mr. McCloskey” or ” inside Mr. Sagan” as a young guy would slip ahead of us older guys on the inside lane of the road.  I used to smile thinking that this was pretty cool that we all were racing together, people of different generations.  

     Currently I ride mountain bikes on Thursday nights with a group that for the most part is 25 -30 years my junior.  With the exception of a couple of older guys, this group has provided some fresh perspective on many subjects including the technology that has developed with cycling.  I like the ride and the people and even though we come from different generations, mountain biking unites us and our passion fuels us enough to come each week and be accountable to the ride.  So no matter what floats your boat, keep active.  Stay involved in the sports or hobbies that always sparked you.  And most importantly try to be involved with groups that are “trans-generational.”  That is the neat thing about lifetime sports.  They unite all of us.  Thanks for reading.  

 

Don’t Give up the Ship

   One of my all time heroes in American History is Commodore Oliver “Hazard” Perry of the U.S.Navy whose command was  during the War of 1812.  When you read about Perry, you discover that he had a very distinguished naval career prior to and following the Battle of Lake Erie.  His battle flag read,” Don’t Give up the Ship” in deference to his great friend Captain James Lawrence who commanded the original frigate in peril during the battle.  Lawrence was a fatality, but the command shifted to the frigate Niagra where Perry took over and eventually defeated the British Navy forcing them to surrender.  His famous line,” We have met the enemy and they are ours”  is a testament to the tenacity of an outgunned, undermanned U.S.Navy whose leadership under Perry was able to take on and defeat the most powerful navy in the world.  

     During my travels to Rochester, NY or Toledo, Ohio, I always had my road bike with me and made a point to stop and ride at Presque Isle on Lake Erie.  There is a monument there dedicated to the construction of the ships that made up Perry’s command during the War of 1812, in and around Presque Isle and the bay. A similar monument and visitors center is situated at Put In Bay in Ohio.  One of the famous Lake Erie Islands, Put In Bay is easily accessed by the ferry  www.jet-express.com/   at Port Clinton, Ohio. I always took a ride on the ferry, rode my bike along the quiet roads on the island and always stopped at the monument and took in the video presentation of the Battle of Lake Erie at the visitors center which is managed by the National Park Service.  .  The presentation by the Park Rangers is worth the listen and it is always a must on any trip to Put In Bay.  The scenic roads around Presque Isle in Erie, Pa and the country roads of the Lake Erie islands always remind me of my youth when my folks took us to the lKing James 2012photo800px-DONT_GIVE_UP_THE_SHIP_flag.svg264px-BattleofLakeErie489px-Portrait_of_Oliver_Hazard_Perry%2C_1818ake for vacation. As I peddle along and see the cottages along the routes, it reminds me of a time gone by with swims in the lake, penny candy, and evenings along the shore looking at the stars.  

     But perhaps my most recent memories are again centered around this famous battle flag….” Don’t Give Up the Ship.”  When my son Jack played AAU Basketball as a grade school kid, we always had tournaments in Erie, Pa.  I always took the boys and the parents down to this little restaurant on the bay which had good seafood but more importantly to me, had this flag proudly displayed behind the bar.  As we all assembled around the bar waiting for our table, I took the opportunity to tell the boys the story of the Battle of Lake Erie and the courageous actions of one Oliver “Hazard” Perry.  ” Don’t Give up the Ship” was a rallying cry for our teams as we faced teams from all over the east and Canada in the AAU Tournaments.  We saw talented players who were much bigger and faster than our guys and we knew we had to face them in the next round.  As I began to get carried away with my enthusiasm for the Battle and the success of the frigate Niagra, I would encourage the boys to not give up the ship and remember the heroics of Perry and his men.  As their eyes widened with my overachieving enthusiasm, I was able to incite a little courage and oftentimes our Davids defeated the Goliaths on the basketball courts and we advanced to the final rounds.  I like to think that my speech in front of that flag was enough to attain the victory and that the boys were encouraged enough to play their hearts out.  Well, in reality, I can’t take credit for that for sure.  But a little encouragement goes a long way and helps to fuel the fire of competition.  As the years went by, I repeated the story to several of my son’s teams and when they were juniors in high school and in their last years of AAU Tournaments, it got to the point where my son preempted my speech by saying,” Don’t say it Dad!!!”  ” We have all heard it and we know…………..Don’t Give up the Ship.”  We all laughed but I looked at that flag with a fire in my eyes for our team and for my hero- Oliver” Hazard” Perry.  

     I have always been a fan of the underdog.  The little guys on a team, the kid that always strikes out, the kid with little talent but a lot of heart, the friend who has lost his job, the divorced friend who is trying to find peace, the downtrodden, the parents facing a child’s medical procedure with a life in the balance.  These are the people in our lives who need encouragement.  These are the people who need a friend at the times when it might not be convenient.  These are the folks whose name I write on my pad at work so that I don’t forget to give them a call or get together with them.  My memory is a little sketchy these days.  But these are the folks whose hope needs restored.  My mom always said to have a friend is to be a friend.  She was so right.  Encouragement is the fuel for recovery and whether we invite a person to dinner, ride bikes, ski, hike, or any activity in which conversation can be shared, it is well worth it and no matter how badly the person is defeated, the care of a friend saying,” Don’t Give up the Ship” is appreciated and may turn the tide for that person………..just like the Battle of Lake Erie.  Call a friend today.  Thanks for reading.  

Baggies versus Lycra- a mature perspective to the debate.

photoOTB at the North Park Boathouse

Ok, so I am headed out of the Giant Eagle with my groceries and I see this guy getting out of his Corvette. He seems to be a little older than me and he has his wrap around shades, gold chains, lycra running shirt, lycra cycling shorts, and running shoes. He is headed in to the grocery store and I am thinking that he is the typical guy trying to hold off the inevitable by exercising and having all the toys along with the chest toupe’, chains and all that. But why would you want to show your produce neatly wrapped in lycra cycling shorts in the produce section of the Giant Eagle? There is a time and a place for everything and lycra is for riding and running – not shopping. At my age, I would not be caught dead walking around in lycra cycling shorts in a venue that was other than my local park or outside of my house ready to ride my road bike.

So let’s jump into the fray and the long standing debate among mountain bikers and talk about the advantages and disadvantages of lycra versus baggie shorts. Lycra has its advantages and although I have been riding my road bike in lycra shorts for years, I am starting to get to that point where I am looking for an alternative. Yes, lycra is standard and with the new compression technology, it is still appealing from a functional point of view. But for us “getting to be older riders”, the change in attitude is similar to the desire to ride the triple crank on a road bike instead of a straight block like the old days. I know that it is sleek to have the nice lycra road kit and I would not have been caught in anything else back in the day, but I am starting to get a little more comfortable with outfits that may be more touring than racing. The “club fit” is beginning to take over for the ” race fit” and you know what……that’s ok.

Enter the baggie of the mountain bike set. When I was mountain bike racing, I still utilized the lycra kits and it was standard and still is in most instances although baggies have been seen in Enduros and some cross country races not only locally but on the national circuit. Why? Because they are comfortable – that’s why? Mountain bikers tend to be more laid back than road folks and baggies seem to fit the culture like some of the new jersies that can be worn post ride without embarrassment. I like the pockets to keep your stuff- like George Carlin used to say. ” You gadda have a place for your stuff.” Baggies also have a little give and take in the right places and although many of these shorts have lycra liners, they are comfortable, functional and can be worn into a grocery store without anyone taking notice of you. Baggies can also be worn in the winter with knee warmers and most of the time you can ride in inclement weather and have he feeling of freedom rather than being trapped in tights or other winter wear.

So as a chronologically advancing rider, I am starting to see the advantages of comfort on a ride versus trying to portray the image of the over the hill racer trying to hang on. I like keeping my keys, cell phone, goodies,and other various and sundry items stuffed into my pockets of my baggies rather than stuffing them into a lycra jersey or my pack. I take my pack on mountain bike rides only if it is going to be a longer ride or if is colder and I need a place to stash my rain jacket. Other than that, pockets in baggies are just fine. Things change as you age and sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror I say,” do you really want to go out in that tight fitting outfit today?” Then I defer to the baggie and the comfortable shirt or jersey and am much happier knowing that function has finally taken over for form in the life of the 59 year old kid. The real test will be when I break down and wear baggies on a road ride. You never know, the next thing that may happen is fenders, side view mirrors on my helmet, maybe a flourescent orange flag attached to my road bike? Maybe I will be like the tourons that I know that gain weight on rides by stopping at every coffee shop or lunch place? Tough to do in the woods on a mountain bike but there are still some appealing stops that may cater to a more casual rider. I am happy to report that I am not there yet and please slap me if you see me putting a flag or a reflector on any of my bikes. But the culture of the baggie has replaced the function of lycra and for the general public shopping for their tomatoes and cucumbers, their visual world is a lot safer than the other day when Corvette man disrupted their experience.

So, although the baggie versus lycra debate will rage longer that I will ride someday, it is good to recognize that there is a perspective that lies outside of the functional debates between the two forms of exercise clothing. Respect the comfort but more importantly, respect your fellow shoppers. That chest toupe’ with the chains was a little over the top. Thanks for reading.

College Bound- “Carpe Deium.”

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Perhaps one of the most interesting experiences for the 59 year old kid and his wife Janet, has been raising our son Jack. He has been a true blessing in the highest sense of the word and as a strong willed child, he has provided some interesting input and challenges at times in a household where all focus was on his daily needs. We are headed off to Ohio University in Athens tomorrow and as many of you have experienced in this endeavor, there is a lot of anguish, trepidation, but excitement for the years ahead. The experiences that will be available for Jack in an academic setting away from home are wonderful and fulfilling.

Recently contemplating as I drive to work, ride my mountain bike on the trails, and sit by my fireplace, I think back to when we first brought Jack home and his “tricks” on the living room floor. My mind is flooded with images of sandboxes, teaching him to ride a bike and the turnaround in Malone’s driveway. Taking him hiking, teaching him to ski, how to throw a baseball, how to bat, what pitches to take and what to leave. The Jersey Shore, Vail, Tahoe, Utah. The basketball years appear in my mind with AAU and school – the tournament travel, the practices( never missed), and the games -wins and heartbreaking losses. X-Box, girlfriends, our times as a family in the foundation of our church. It has been a blur and at 19 years old, he is ready to go and we look forward to his success in a new environment. We will miss him, but Athens is not that far away and we are always here for him and look forward to seeing him on his breaks and on the parents weekends. But this is his time,not ours and the transition will be an interesting time for Janet and me as well as for Jack.

This is nothing new for a lot of people who have raised children and see them off to school or a new job. But it is a new experience for me, and I have felt in the last few years that I have been running out of time. Time to be together, time to impart what little wisdom I can offer, and time to establish a good relationship with my son. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and have my bladder placed squarely behind my eyeballs. I am an open person and what you see is what you get. Jack is a little different as the strong willed child and his demeanor with me is sometimes not what I had envisioned as a father and son. We do have unconditional love for each other and that being the bottom line, I can deal with the fact that we are truly different people……….and that’s ok.

Dr. Terry Thomas, in a message delivered in our church this past weekend, stated very eloquently that you are not justified by the opinions of others or by your children. If you are seeking approval from them, or validation, justification, or whatever you require, or want to feel better about yourself, you are barking up the wrong tree. God is the source of justification, not what we do. He loves us warts and all, and understands that as parents, we do the best that we can for our children and as we transition in sending them off, we can sit back and see the fruits of our labor and the exciting possibilities of higher education under His care.

Janet and I have taken the opportunities to relay to Jack our experiences in college. The fun times, the pitfalls of getting behind in the first semester, and the ultimate end game of studying hard and getting the “skin.” The “skin” and good grades gets the good job, but the larger advantage to higher education in my mind, is that the college experience takes the burrs off. It polishes you, it teaches you how to relate to other people, how to study, how to execute a plan. College is not for everyone, but for those who choose to attend the college of their choice, the end results give memories that last a lifetime and friends who remain in your life forever. We have said it all to Jack and now is the time as we drive down I-79 tomorrow and into the Buckeye State, to take a breather, let go, hug him and wish him the very best that Ohio University has to offer. Being the opportunistic guy that I am, I have found all the great trails to ride and my wife and I are finding the best restaurants and points of interest so that when we do visit, we can enjoy seeing Jack grow and when he needs some space, we can enjoy Athens ourselves. As we drive back, we will also begin to focus on each other. The one constant is that Janet and I are a team. We were together at the beginning of our marriage and will continue to be there as a team in this time when new oportunities will arise for us.

As a hovering parent of an only child, I must admit that I have been dreading this day since Jack’s freshman year in high school. But as the process of college has ensued, I am trying to look at it as the natural progression that all of us go through as we mature from childhood to adulthood. I can’t control any more and the process of “letting go” is a new experience for the 59 year old kid. I joke about the fact that I may age chronologically, but never mature. So as I see the process with Jack, maybe we both can mature together? My wife will appreciate it. Wish us well,pray for us if you like, and thanks for reading.

I was a Crash Test Dummy ( and lived to tell the tale)

IMG-20130111-00083IIHS_crash_test_dummy_in_Hyundai_Tucsonalpine-slideDSC_0314_350_420Alpine slide - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaIngrid_Hirschhofer_Grass_Skiing_World_Championships_2009_Grass_skis There has been a lot of talk about global warming lately and the ski areas are concerned about shorter ski seasons and the revenue concerns that are a result of this weather phenomena. A lot of areas have been promoting summer activities like golf, conventions, hikng, lift served mountain biking, bike parks and other ways of bringing the public to the mountains in the summer to boost bottom lines at resorts.

Back in the day, my buddy Mike Smith, who I have referenced in this blog as my ski buddy from Lake George, NY, was the mountain manager at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. Mike was instrumental in designing and installing one of the first Alpine Slides in the country and Annie Dupre Santry and I were his crash test dummies during the installation. The slide basically was a concrete slide which made its way down the mountain and the rider would utilize a cart with wheels and a brake lever for speed control. By leaning left or right, one could ride the slide and control the cart at a speed that was dictated by the bravado and the skill of the rider. During installation, Mike would ask Annie and I to try different sections and see how fast we could go without flipping out of the concrete track. Based on our success or failure, he would adjust the bends and reduce the amount of straightaways. Annie and I ended up with some amazing crash rash on our elbows, thighs and various other body parts due to this experimentation and Mike would laugh hysterically at our failures which resulted in some colossal crashes on the adjacent ski slope. ” You better put a bend in there Mike”, I would yell out as I tended to my wounds while riding the chairlift up the mountain for another run at it. Mike would make an adjustment and tell Annie and I to go for it again with “no brakes”. Like the dummies that we were,we would comply and either make it or fly out of the track rolling in the grass down the hill with another failed attempt. Mike would put another bend in the track until we all could ride it successfully at high speed. I was never sure whether this type of testing was in the installation manual but it worked for Mike, and Annie and I had a blast doing it weathering the bleeding, scrapes, and blunt force trauma of it all.

Another form of summer carnage was the sport of grass skiing. These tank treads which had ski bindings mounted to them were an accident waiting to happen at picnics, and other weekend afternoons on grassy ski slopes. I had some of the first ones and many a friend at a picnic nearly killed themselves trying to maneuver these grass skis by physically making baby steps in the direction of the turn. Even with ski poles, the turns were not pretty and if you hit a rock or a stump, you went flying into the puckerbrush with crash rash galore. You could get your bell rung real well with grass skiing. At Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania, they even had giant slalom courses set up in the summer for grass skiing and at the top of the mountain was a large pan of soapy water to lube the grass skis for your attempt at the course. As the competitiveness of summer skiers heated up, the crashes were spectacular with many an ending in the local clinic tending to rashes and broken wrists and arms. I was fortunate enough to only secure cuts and bruises but the thrill of downhill skiing in the summer was intoxicating enough to bring us back for more and more at our local areas and parks as well as the mountain resorts. The grass skis were eventually given to some poor unsuspecting younger friend as I got older and wiser, but I sure got good use out of those ungodly machines of destruction.

Mountain bike crashes, road bike crashes in criteriums and road races and behind leaky garbage trucks have come and gone. In the winter, there have been many an edge caught with a resulting crash of spectacular form. But nothing like the raw egg beaters of working the Alpine Slide or racing on the grass skis. As I get older, some of those old egg beaters have begun to take their toll in stiffness upon waking. But I always look back and laugh at the bravado and the sheer insanity of utilizing the slide and the grass skis. No wonder I got clots and have to take a blood thinner. When you have no respect for your body and hurl youself into the abyss, things happen and they aren’t always pretty. But you have to have some fun in your life right? Nowdays, I take it a little easier. Not sure about Annie. Thanks for reading.

Culture Creates Commerce

McCandless-20130303-00102photoOTB at the North Park BoathouseOTB at the North Park BoathouseOTB at the North Park BoathouseOTB at the North Park Boathouse I started riding mountain bikes in our local county park in 1987. At that time,we were outlaws because the county police were not familiar with mountain bike riding especially at night with lights. We were not welcomed by the equestrian or hiking community and basically had to forge our own way in the world with a lot of ill will on the part of the other trail users. If you take the time to look at my post from June 23rd of 2013, you will see that life and times have changed a lot for our local park and the perception of mountain bikes has been radically altered. In order to carve out your place, the culture has to be changed not only in the park but also with associated organizations like county government. Fortunately we have a sympathetic ear now in that the former County Executive was a mountain biker and the current Parks and Recreation Director rides and enjoys other outdoor activities that have spawned in our local North Park.

But this culture change would not have happened if it had not been for organizations like PTAG( Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group) http://www.ptagtrails.org This hard working organization driven by folks like Bill Kirk( above left in picture with three guys) and Dr. Jamie Pfaeffle ( middle guy), Dave Brunger, Mike Connors and a host of others who faithfully built, and maintained new trails and met with the county to propose their vision and execute their plans. We now have 42 miles of trails that are enjoyed by many due to the hard work of PTAG. PORC( Pittsburgh Off Road Cyclists) http://www.porcmtbclub.org is a club that supports local rides which utilize trails like North Park. Bob Bannon is the tireless organizer(seen above in the white chin warmer) and has created a weekly ride schedule that makes it possible for riders and new riders to get together. Momentum has been building in the Pittsburgh area when it comes to off road riding and this growing culture of people have also been inspired by Dirt Rag Magazine http://www.dirtragmag.com founded in Saxonburg,Pa by Maurice and Elaine Tierney 25 years ago. Dirt Rag has grown to international status and a lot of the folks associated with the magazine ride in North Park on thursday evenings as part of a weekly organized ride. As the synergy between these groups has meshed over the last several years, the amount of riders in our park system has risen exponentially each year. Where you would only see a rider every once in a while, you now see groups of riders in the park at all times. This synergy has also created a culture of commerce in that the county is anxious to privatize many of the attractions in the park like the zip line venue, a potential bike shop and running store, and current sandwich shop at the golf course. But perhaps the biggest attraction that has added to the culture of riding in the park has been a project developed by Mike Kotyk, Marty Maloney, Robin Maggs and Dirt Rag circulation guru and professional photographer Jon Pratt. http://www.jonpratt.com The Over the Bars Cafe http://www.otbbicyclecafe.com built in the old boathouse is an absolute home run and I will tell you why.

For years, I have often wondered why no one developed the abandoned boat house in the park. It is a classic building with a great view of North Park lake. OTB began as a cafe on the southside of the City of Pittsburgh and it helped drive the city cycling scene as a haven for recreational cyclists, messengers and racers. It was one of the first venues to put in bicycle racks as parking spaces and their success in the city inspired the owners to invest in the North Park location. After a lot of discussion and multiple meetings with county government, the lease was finalized and Mike, Marty, Robin and Jon had attained permission to develop their dream of a restaurant in a county park that would create a culture to further develop cycling and commerce. There was a lot of sweat equity put into the construction and remodeling of an old boat house but if you see it today, it is the gem of North Park with a great bar, comfortable seating, and outdoor tables with beautiful umbrellas and a fire pit that complement the wonderful view of North Park Lake. The menu is casual dining from breakfast through dinner and the weekly featured micro brews attract not only the active crowd in the park but the general public as well because currently the OTB is the hot place to be on a week night or a weekend. When one travels to the parking lot( and the expanded lot due to popularity), you see bike racks on vans, four wheel drives, and all types of vehicles because after a great ride on the roads or trails of North Park, the OTB is now the standard post ride meeting place for the active crowd. The thursday night ride that I referred to earlier is actually called the OTB Ride and it is organized by PTAG member Billy Kirk and his pal Dr. J( Jamie Pfaeffle). In fact North Park now has a freeride trail that one rides at his or her own risk. It is called the Dr. J Trail in deference to its creator who is a spearheading force in PTAG.

It is interesting to see how so many organizations, inspired riders, friends of the park, restaurants, cafes, bike shops, magazines have all come together to create this culture of riding and communing at such a wonderful local county facility. This culture not only creates the commerce that was envisioned by the Allegheny County Parks and Recreation, but it also has developed over a number of years with momentum as these organizations, businesses, and people come together for a common cause. The created energy here is really something to recognize and it should be an example to local communities across the country who wish to develop similar venues and cultures in their recreational parks and public places. This atmosphere has come a long way since I had to turn out my light and hope that the police would leave and let us ride the trails. Now the county police are really supportive and in fact there is a new mountain bike patrol around the lake where the county police ride bicycles to enforce the law. Who would have ever imagined? Personally I am really proud of our park and the culture that has been created. When I roll into that parking lot at Stone Field or the Boathouse, I have a smile on my face because I know that I am part of a culture that has been developed over many years that promotes healthy activities, commerce, and gathering places for all of us Type A individuals to tell stories and laugh and enjoy life. Thanks for reading and if you ever get to Pittsburgh, go to the OTB Cafe on the Southside or in North Park. You will quickly recognize that you are part of something really special.

Photos courtesy of Jon Pratt Photography and Bauer Photography.

The Reluctant Angler

downsized_0715091352 I told my wife Janet that this year I was not going to bring my fishing rods and tackle to the beach because I have not had much luck fishing at the South Jersey shore in recent years. I don’t have the patience that my friend Dean Denmead has who is an experienced fisherman and has learned to wait for the catch. Most years I buy at least four different types of bait from old man Moran at Moran’s Dockside in Avalon and when I ask him why I am not catching anything, he always says that this is not a good time of the year to catch fish. So why sell me the bait? I guess a sucker is born every minute. I brought the rods and tackle again this year. I should have known that the same luck would happen when ten minutes into our first beach day, a seagull zeroed in on me at 60 MPH and launched a fecal torpedo at me which blew through the mesh in my hat, splattered my hair, my shirt and dislodged itself on my beach chair. Bad omen for the trip and a definite “Welcome to New Jersey” from the real fishermen- the gulls.

I have had more successful outings with my grandfather and his buddies in my early years who were all real good anglers. I drove them to Oregon Inlet in North Carolina, fished with them in the Everglades, and at a fishing camp several times in northern Canada above North Bay. There is nothing like being with experienced fishermen and eating a fresh fish dinner on the shores of a crystal clear lake or landing a state record snub nosed dolphin in the Carolinas. The alligators floating in the canals in Florida provided adventure for the young guy and the veterans. I still use my grandfather’s tackle and rods and although I have been marginally successful expecially when I have taken my son Jack, I am sure that he has a smile on his face in that great fishing hole in the sky.

A couple of years ago, I took matters a little more seriously and went on line to find a fishing service in South Carolina off the coast of Hilton Head. I found a site by Captain Dave Fleming http://www.mightymako.com When we booked the morning and arrived at the dock, Dave told me that the fishing was really not that good. Imagine that? But, he added, if we wanted to catch shark, we could do that. I jumped at the chance and my wife and son reluctantly boarded the Mighty Mako with wide eyed wonder as to how this was going to go. Dave used mackerel heads and instantly Janet’s line tugged ferociously as she hooked a shark and Captain Dave helped her bring it ot the side of the boat. Janet was not at all thrilled at the prospect of touching the sand shark and Dave brought it up for her to see and then cut it loose. The next snap of the line was Jack’s and the same protocol was observed by bringing the beast in view and then cutting it loose. My grandfather spoke in my ear when my line snapped and he wanted me to land it myself. After all those years with Judge Miller, Bill Marcus and George Beran, and my grandpap, I better net and land the shark myself. Dave sensed that I had some experience and let me net the small shark and instructed me to grab it firmly by the back of the head and he would take a picture. I had never held a shark before and was amazed at the sandpaper feel of sharkskin. After the picture, I cut it loose and we continued to land shark after shark until a bull shark snapped Janet’s steel leader and Dave smiled and said, ” That was one we would not have wanted to be in the vicinity of the boat.” As I gazed off into the sound, I remarked to my son that we were only about 800 yards from where he and I were sitting on a sandbar the previous day. Little did we know that we were surrounded by sharks curiously looking at us from the depths of the sound. Needless to say, my fifteen year old at the time never went back in the water.

An interesting sidebar to fishing is that you can have the opportunity to have some good family time and conversations that will be remembered for a lifetime. Even when I fish with my friend Dean, we laugh about our time at the beach and the friendship of dropping a line in the water to see what happens is intoxicating. Captain Dave told us aboard the Mighty Mako that he was born and raised in the Hilton Head area and that his father is a successful attorney. His siblings were all successful stockbrokers and professional people working in New York and he was the only “black sheep” of the family who chose fishing as a career. He was a little sheepish in his description of himself and his very tightly wound family, but I assured him that in my mind, he was the smart one. People come to a beautiful place and pay him money to take them fishing. He makes a living at what he loves and lives in Paradise. The stressful lives that most people live trying to take that one vacation to where he lives all the time is a testament to Dave’s good judgement. Personally I believe he is the most successful one in his family. What really is important in life? I may not be the most successful fisherman in the world, but the quiet time on the water either by myself or with my family is worth its weight in gold. I need to be more patient. I need to get better at being a fisherman and the sport will teach me what Dave already knows. Slow down and enjoy what life has to offer. Whether you catch a fish or not. Wish me luck. Probably buying some more bait from old man Moran tomorrow. Thanks for reading.