My father had a great saying whenever I returned from one of my adventures. I told him about the event, the adverse weather, the rain, the snow, the cold winds, whatever. My dad said, ” Kind of sounds to me like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. It feels so good when you stop.” He was right in a way. For some strange reason, I like foul weather. I have all the Gore Tex gear. I was always fascinated with weather and for reasons that I can’t really put a finger on, I always did better in events when the weather and the conditions went to hell. Snowstorms in the Month of Mud Mountain Bike Races, torrential rains in NORBA events, wicked cold weather and snowstorms on ski trips. I liked it when the weather was a factor. Even today, I try not to let weather ruin my fun. I put on the foul weather gear and go for it. Around here, if you don’t ski or run or ride in the rain, you don’t get much activity. Even when you go away, you run the risk of bad weather in any season and I always try to prepare for it and enjoy it in a quirky way.
Now that attitude does not necessarily apply to my family. Take my sister for instance. She is game, but I have tortured her in many ways on many different trips. We stood at the top of the Cirque at Snowbird in a raging snowstorm and our friend Mike Smith took a header down the slope and didn’t stop till he hit the bottom of the run. I looked at Molly and said,” You’re next.” She also gave me the deer in the headlights look when she started to see the snow slide on High Rustler at Alta after a harrowing trip accross the High Traverse. I made her ski on bullet proof ice at Killington,VT, then drive 5 hours to Sugarloaf, Maine to ski on ice balls the size of baby heads. It’s not that I am a tough guy or anything like that. It is just that I like to ski and will do whatever it takes to slide on snow. My sister likes it too but not to that degree. But she was a trooper in all that adversity. One year I took Molly and her husband Ray on a charity bicycle event which seemed tame enough except when we were about 5 miles into the event, the heavens opened up. They were soaked and hadn’t ridden a bicycle very much. As they were sopping wet, they faced a daunting hill and Ray quipped,” Looks like a walker to me, Molly.” I felt badly as they pushed their bikes up the hill while I tried to lift their spirits telling them that the rest stop was not far away. Yes- I tortured Molly and then her husband had the good fortune of being tortured by the jagoff brother in law. Again, not that I am vindictive or tough, or anything like that. I just try to make the best of adverse situations. Sometimes my positive attitude gets me a “Go suck an egg, Pat.” But eventually after the day is over, the furor dies down to a few laughs and good memories of athletic and meteorological torture.
You have seen the picture before of my wife skiing in the freezing rain. I have also had her and my son out in raging snowstorms in places like Eldora, Colorado. They try to smile and embrace my zeal. But oftentimes it generally breaks down eventually and a trip to a fire and a hot drink is in order. I have taken my wife on 4 hour hikes here in the Laurel Highlands to see a scenic overlook between Rt. 653 and Seven Springs Resort. She also was subject to a 6 hour hike in Nevada with the master of athletic torture, Eric Durfee, only to be comforted by Eric’s wife Helen and the teenage comments of my son Jack who endured the hike as well. But the views of Lake Tahoe and Reno were spectacular. Those views were a little lost on them at the time, but the pictures that are on our coffee table remind them that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you strong. They laugh but they think, ” What a putz.” Unfortunately I put the icing on the cake two weeks ago when Janet and I went hiking on our local trails and she fell on a rock and broke her elbow. I am not mentioning that the leaves will be changing soon and the hiking will be spectacular when she heals. I also am not mentioning that it is not far from ski season around here. I might leave that one alone while the poor soul is still in a sling. You see with not much effort and a lot of positive energy, you can torture your family on outings to the point where they question whether they will ever go anywhere with you again.
Maybe I do hit myself in the head with a hammer? Maybe I torture my family. But even my cynical teenager says, ” Dad- I know your heart is in the right place.” He will be off to college next year and I will be limited with potential torturous outings with him. However, my lovely wife will always have the opportunity to participate in “fun outings” only if she wants to do it. Sometimes I have pushed her and she responds in a positive way and has a good time in the great outdoors. But I will be discerning in the future. But, then again, our good friend Debbie Sagan says,” Hey Pat, we are active people. Things happen.” She just got over some broken elbow issues herself and is back on the trails running with her pal Mary Jo Neff. Deb fell and got hurt on her bike a few years ago and now competes in and wins triathlons. Torture is a state of mind. You either embrace adversity and grab the experience for all it is worth or you punt. Nothing wrong with punting, but you might just miss a good time in the rain, snow, or heat. One thing I know, my sister, my son, and my wife will always have memories of the crazy outings that they have participated in with the 58 year old kid. They did real well. They just don’t want to know details of the amazing adventures I have had in really crummy weather. “Hey- my head feels good now?” Thanks for reading.