A Fitting Tribute

Lois and Phillip Dupre

Sitting at one of the tables reserved for friends of Lois Dupre Schuster, I was engaged in a conversation with Angel and Andy Michanowicz and Willis Croker. Willis is a bright young guy involved in commercial real estate in Pittsburgh and I ended up apologizing to him for Andy and I rehashing 50 year old ski stories of friends and events. That is kind of the way it was at the induction ceremony this weekend at Seven Springs Resort for the Pennsylvania Snow Sports Museum Hall of Fame. Willis’s grandmother Lois and her late husband Phillip were inducted this year into the Hall of Fame and it was a fitting award for two people who really shaped the soul of Seven Springs back in the day.

Lois Dupre Schuster

Lois not only developed the rental shop at Seven Springs back in the day, as well as many other services, but served as the mayor of Seven Springs Boro for 50 years. Her enthusiasm for the ski area and the people who came as guests was only matched by her late husband Phillip who was the “go to” guy for a lot of daily things at the resort in the early days. Lois said that if you needed anything, you called Phillip. He was just that kind of guy who always had a resolution for any issue and was always willing to help. Lois had a great story about the early days when a congressman and his wife arrived at Seven Springs. The hotel was booked and when asked by the congressman if there was anything Phillip could do to secure a room, he responded that he had extra beds in his home. That is just the kind of person Phillip was. 40 years of Christmas cards that came in the following years from President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, served to show how much they appreciated the effort. They had a great time and always remembered the kindness of the Dupres.

Stories like this abounded at the induction ceremony. Rus Davies, a local legend in ski instruction and ski patroller foundations at Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain was also inducted in a most deserving way. And behind every good man is a good woman. Rus’s wife Miriam encouraged Rus all along the way in his illustrious career with the ski community.

Rus Davies

Western Pa has been widely represented in the nominations and elections to the Hall of Fame. Josef Cabe, Dick Barron, Jim McClure, Bill Bendl, Herman Dupre, Lars Skylling, Willi Klein, Doc DesRoches, and the founders of Seven Springs- Helen and Adolph Dupre. Even Olympic medalist and World Cup racer Dianne Roffe has also been inducted for her work with ski areas in Pennsylvania.

Michelle and Frank Pipak and Helen Durfee( Lois Dupre’s oldest daughter)

But as Charlie Hinchliffe and I looked about the room this weekend and at the subsequent reception at Lois’s home. we remarked that it was amazing to see how many people there look at skiing as a lifestyle and not just something that they do once in a while. People like Frank and Michelle Pipak, whose countless hours as PSIA Level III ski instructors have enriched the lives of their students in many ways. Rich Wright was there to honor Lois as he was the voice of Seven Springs for many years on the PA system. If you continued to scan the reception, it was amazing to see how well people are faring after many years. Skiing does that to you. It keeps you young and alive and enthusiastic for that first snowflake that comes as the herald of winter. There are people who ski, and then there are skiers. The people in that room and at the reception were skiers – there is a difference.

Now many of us have skied all over the world and appreciate the Rockies, the Wasatch, the Alps and other alpine venues. And although the Laurel Highlands do not offer the vertical drop of some other places in this country, the soul of skiing still exists strongly in our part of the world. We all consider the Laurel Highlands our home field and it is always great to reconnect at the beginning of the season and see our winter friends enjoying the slopes once again. The passion that the inductees into the Pa. Snowsports Hall of Fame have shown, indicates a love for something that is greater than themselves. They selflessly contributed and developed the opportunities for many of us to enjoy the sport of skiing- right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. The Eastern contingent of guests this weekend also feel the same way about their inductees from the Poconos and together, the blending at the reception of eastern Pa skiers and Western Pa skiers was really heartwarming to see.

Dupre memorabilia

As I drove home from the event, I thought about the 61 years that I have spent in the Laurel Highlands and the friends that I have made over the years. Skiing has brought so much to my life and thinking of friends who are no longer with us, but made an impact, was a bit nostalgic driving down County Line Road. Pennsylvania has a rich history in the sport of skiing, and to have it celebrated with events like the induction ceremonies this weekend, showcases the enthusiasm and passion that local skiers have for their home mountains. I am happy to have been a part of it and hopefully will have many more years on the slopes both locally and in other areas where there is another whole host of friends who share the same love of the sport of skiing. Thanks for reading, congratulations to all the inductees, and think snow!!

Elizabeth Regina

Queen Elizabeth II

Watching the events that have transpired since the Queen’s passing, I would feel remiss if I didn’t express my feelings in my little blog about someone whom I have admired all of my life. It all started when I was a kid and my cousins from England came to visit us. Margaret and Charles introduced me to the Royal Family with their stories, their mementos that they shared with us, and left me with a book about the Queen. In the following years, I followed the Royal Family with interest, but particularly the Queen who I found out was amazingly benevolent to charities and worthy causes around the world. By circumstance, she became Queen at a young age and has ruled for 70 years- longer than I have been alive. I have followed her for all of my life and although I don’t put most political figures or monarchy figures on a pedestal- the Queen was the exception for me. I felt like I knew her for some reason and she was really a model for the citizenry of Britain and people worldwide. I know you can’t live forever and at 96- she had a full life and died peacefully at Balmoral. But something struck me that day that I still am coming to grips with now.

The procession outside of Buckingham Palace in London

When you see the amazing crowds of people who lined the streets to see the funeral procession, you can get a sense of what the British people felt about their monarch. It is said that the line to view her bier got to be 5 miles long with people waiting for days to pass by and pay their respects. The interviews with the people are so touching and in some way, I feel like I have lost someone too. People of that generation are to be greatly admired. They survived the great war, depression, and the Queen led the British for such a long time. The interesting thing is that the British economy is suffering and there are issues arising for energy this winter in the U.K. But if you ask any Brit- they will tell you that they have nothing but the highest admiration for the Queen and the pomp and circumstance of the monarchy is something that they hold with the deepest regard. They love the Queen and love the Monarchy. It is a source of pride when they tell people they are from Great Britain. Sure there is the minority who wishes to dissolve the Monarchy, but that has been put aside for the moment with the 10 days of mourning in Great Britain.

The Queen lying in State

I had the opportunity years ago to ride my road bike through Great Britain. Riding on the opposite side of the road was interesting as it was when I cycled through Ireland, but I enjoyed the challenge- riding and walking. It was an amazing journey that took me to Stonehenge, the great cathedrals of England including Salisbury Cathedral where I saw the Magna Carta. I visited Windsor Castle and saw Henry the Eight’s suit of armor. I went to the evensong services in the afternoons in the cathedrals, and sat in with the choirs. It made me think I was in Heaven listening to the angels. They were so supportive and beckoned me to come in and sit with them. I cycled around the Isle of Wight and had high tea and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. When I told the server that it was perhaps the best thing I have ever tasted, she looked at me quizzically and said,” Where are you from ? The Moon?” We had a good laugh about that one. I remember riding the T in London and exiting at all the famous sites like the Tower of London where I saw the Crown Jewels. I sat outside Buckingham Palace and thought that a woman that I admired so much was inside as I saw the Royal flag flying on the roof indicating the presence of the Queen. Everywhere I went, there were images of the Queen and Prince Phillip. Even the fire hydrants, phone booths and fence posts were adorned with a crown and the letters ER on them. This was for Elizabeth Regina and I found out later that Regina was not her middle name but really meant Queen. Elizabeth Regina- Elizabeth Queen.

What an honor these guys had.

There will be 200 heads of state attending the funeral and not one of them is admired as much as the Queen. If there was ever a leader of the free world, it was Elizabeth. People worldwide admired her, liked her, and respected her. The Prime Minister and Parliament actually run the country but nothing happened without a consultation with the Queen who was passive in her judgements but nonetheless sought out for her opinion. King Charles may be more involved but he has some mighty shoes to fill.

Speaking of King Charles- he and I have the same birthday and I always sent him a card when I was in college when he was the Prince of Wales. Never got a response but wondered if he ever got them? The Prince of Wales, c/o Buckingham Palace, London, England. LOL!!

The Queen’s generation is quickly fading away. It was said a few years ago that we were losing the Greatest Generation by 1000 a day. I think of my uncle the B-25 pilot in the great war. What he went through as a pilot and as a POW in Japan for a year. That generation was tough and I am wondering what my generation will leave people in the future? What will we leave our children and grandchildren? That is what I was thinking about when I heard of the Queen’s passing. She was a member of that generation and greatly admired. I am hoping that my son will keep and pass on the values that his mother and I have tried to instill in him. I hope that he can have some heroes like my Uncle Jack and the Queen. She was not only a monarch but in many ways, a mother to us all. Like the Brits, we looked up to her for most of our lives. RIP Elizabeth Regina. Thanks for reading.

Duckin

Breaststroke by the incomparable Michael Phelps

It’s funny. My wife says to me occasionally as we walk, ” Hey- you are duckin.” I laugh and say-” well maybe that is because of all the breaststroke I did as a kid?” Duckin is her word for saying that I walk like a duck. Left foot pointed left and right foot pointed right in a kind of fast waddle. I am kidding but as I remember back, all of us kids who were breaststrokers, walked like a duck. Perhaps it was a hallmark of the physiology needed to do the whip kick that is the engine of the stroke. The Rose brothers, me, Johnny Kane, Dru Duffy, all battled it out in the community pool wars and the YMCA teams. We all ducked. Even the Rose girls ducked ( sorry Annie and Mary). Breaststrokers all ducked. That is the way it was and apparently still is. I still duck.

The Allegheny Y Team back in the day- I am third from left at the top.

So as the days dwindle down for our community pool, I do take advantage of what we have left until Labor Day and swim some breaststroke from time to time when the pool is not crowded. Breaststroke was always a natural stroke for me. I could freestyle and backstroke, but the butterfly? No way. But breaststroke came natural and I competed as a kid for our community pool- Valley Brook Swimming Club, The Allegheny YMCA and also Shannopin Country Club. My dad drove me back and forth between venues a lot so that I could catch my heats. I would no sooner finish a heat in a relay or individual event when my dad would rush me into the car to catch the meet at Shannopin which started later. Breaststrokers were a valued commodity and all three teams needed a breaststroker for individual events and medley relays. There was a lot of competition between all of us “strokers” but it was a fun part of the competitive side of growing up.

Our community pool

Today I find that swimming in my community pool is relaxing and as I “stroke” along, I think about how the sport has changed. Watching swimming on TV I see the rules have changed as well. It used to be that you needed to touch both hands on the wall before you could turn. When you did turn, you had to push off the wall and get your arms above your head and make one giant pull under water and kick to surface and start swimming the next lap. Today- you can dolphin kick for as long as you can and then surface and start swimming. You also submerge your head after each stroke. In my day, your head could not go below the surface of the water. I try the new breaststroke and it is definitely more efficient and faster. But the main reason I swim is to stretch out. I tend to get tight from mountain biking and swimming helps me stretch out and relax those tight leg muscles. As I swim along, I think about all those old meets at Trees Pool at Pitt, with the Jello sticking to our feet. The energy powder in those days was Jello and it spilled all over the floor and made our feet sticky and we sported the many colors of cherry, grape and lime. I think about the summer meets at Valley Brook and the other away meets and finally think about how hard it was to jump in the pool at the Allegheny Y or Allegheny High School in the winter. Wool hats and parkas to Speedo suits in the indoor pools.

So as the countdown begins, I will try to take advantage of all the great summer days left before the fall takes the pool out of play. Another guy from the neighborhood swims every day and he is amazing. He plays golf every day and swims every day and I just found out……..he is 80 years old. Doesn’t look it. Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise – even if it makes me duck. Thanks for reading.

Rich Roll Rocks

Rich Roll- ultra distance athlete and successful Podcast host.

Last year, my friend Jeff Chetlin turned me on to a great podcast by Rich Roll. You can google him to find out all about his podcast and his amazing lifestyle change over the years. But suffice to say that he is impressive as is his list of guests on his daily podcast. I also read his book which is a good one too.

I have listened with great intent to his interviews with world class athletes like Lyndsey Vonn, Lance Armstrong, and Rebecca Rusch. Rich brings out the best in all of them by asking provocative questions and allowing them to expand during his usual 2 hour show. The interesting thing about world class athletes is their drive to which Rich is intimately familiar as he himself is a national class ultra athlete.

The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich is aging like many of us and it is interesting to hear his guests who speak on what it takes to stay healthy. I heard a Rich Roll podcast with Drs. Dean and Anne Ornish who spoke at length about plant based eating and how that lifestyle can be a “fountain of youth” for many of us. They also spoke about mitochondria health in our cells and as we age, how it is compromised. I first heard of NADs (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and how we can refurbish our cells taking a product called Tru-Niagen. I take it every day because I believe that the science is there. Rich has varied guests in the medical field who talk about health in general but also as it relates to those of us who are trying to stay healthy through exercise as we age.

Rich on an ultra distance training run.

Recently Rich had Dr. Peter Attia as a guest who has worked with many world class athletes. The discussion centered around Zone 2 training. Now, as I listened, I thought back to where I had first heard that term. It was from the Heart Rate Monitor Book published by Sally Edwards in 1993. I had a monitor in those days and found the discussion on training in zones particularly enlightening. Sally Edwards as well as Dr. Attia find that training in Zone 2 which is basically a heart rate zone where you can exercise and still have a conversation, is the most beneficial. The heart rate zones are different based on the conditioning of the athlete, but the basic premise is not to always be in zone 4 or 5 which is aerobic to anaerobic in scale and often hampers one’s ability to be conditioned. He spoke about lactate levels which are blood lactate readings taken basically in a lab environment where an athlete’s blood is taken regularly during exercise to find the optimum level at which lactate levels begin to build in the muscles leading to lactic acid formation. If you can be aware of your levels, keep your heart rate in zone 2 and not go above your recommended levels, the training benefits are optimized. The discussion also included awareness of watts produced during exercise and the balance between watts and lactate levels. Watts seemed to be more pertinent in the discussion than heart rate but many casual athletes do not have a watt meter attached to their bike as world class cyclists do.

Now Rich Roll even admitted during the interview that most people who exercise are not at the level at which lactate measurement is a consideration. Most of us can relate to heart rates that are in different zones and if we stick to training or exercising in zone 2 – the conversational zone, it will be more beneficial and also……..more enjoyable. Pain is not always gain.

Dr. Peter Attia- google him.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about the interview with Dr. Attia was the discussion on what goals we have as we age. Dr. Attia stated that as an aging athlete, we need to consider what we would like to do in our later years as octogenarians and above. Do we want to be able to get up off the floor without using our hands? Do we want to easily get up out of a chair? Do we still want to race? Do we want to ski? Do we want to have sex? All of these things are considerations and if we outline them, we can “back cast” to the present time and lead a life that will make those things possible barring any catastrophic health issues. Bottom line in the discussion for us mortals is just to keep moving. I always quote Scot Nichol of Ibis Bikes when I asked him how long we can ski and ride like we do. His standard answer is ” just keep doing it.” ” Don’t even think about it.”

If you get the chance, tune in to the Rich Roll Podcast. It can get technical but for most of us who exercise for health with our racing days behind us, his discussions with his guests are enlightening. I won’t be undergoing any lactate testing any time soon but I recently did get a Garmin Fenix sports watch that gives me way more information about my daily exercise and lifestyle than I could ever utilize. But it does give me some benchmarks that I can use as I “forecast” to the future and see how long I can keep doing the things that I like to do. Garmin, Rich Roll, and books like ” How Not to Die ” by Michael Greger M.D. keep me in the game. Friends do too and to have a group of people who have similar interests on the slopes and trails keep me motivated and engaged. Zone 2 keeps it fun too. Thanks for reading.

The Greatest Summer Job

Golfer and Caddie contemplating a putt.

Watching Tiger ,Rory McIlroy, and my favorite, John Daly, last week at the British Open on TV reminded me of all the fun times I had as a caddie at Shannopin Country Club here in Pittsburgh back in my youth. I was never much of a golfer because I was too nervous and jerky to have the patience to be a good golfer. But I enjoyed playing with my dad. But as a caddie, I learned the nuances of the game and carrying doubles twice a day during the summer when I could was a great experience and some good money as a young guy.

You learn a lot about people when you caddie. I had the good fortune of being friends with our caddie master and his assistant so when my friend and I would get to the parking lot on men’s day and on the weekend days at 3:00 AM and take a snooze until the sign up list was out, we would be the first out and have the opportunity to carry two rounds with two bags each. Eddie Weil and Joe Stavish would make sure we got some good guys. Right up the middle guys with low handicaps. Those guys were not only good golfers but real characters on the course. Between belches and farts, they loved telling us stories and when they hit the turn at 9 holes, they would go in for the obligatory shot and a beer and press their bets on the back nine. That is when the pressure mounted and being a caddie, and a good one at that, paid off for these guys. I always made sure I put the bag down so that they could select their club and not have to pick it out of their bag on my back. I was careful to not walk in anyone’s line on the green and would always wash their ball whenever I could and return it to them on the next tee. Little things like that made you a good caddie besides course knowledge to a visitor.

Shannopin Country Club 9th hole

My claim to fame was being a caddie for Ben Crenshaw when he was a student at the University of Texas. He came to Shannopin to qualify for the U.S. Open and Ed Weil gave me his bag for the event.

Ben Crenshaw at the 84 Masters

Ben was two years older than me. He was a sophomore at Texas and I was a senior in high school. He was very quiet and used those extra long tees when he hit his driver. I was amazed at how long the guy hit his tee shots for someone of his stature. He is not a big guy but his timing was impeccable and he would launch these tee shots into the stratosphere. He didn’t have much to say other than ask me the occasional question about a particular hole- where to hit the tee shot, how long to the back of a particular hole, questions like that where a good caddie has the answers.

I had the good fortune of being a caddie for other good guys at Open qualifiers and West Penn and State championships as well. Mo Barr- the star basketball player at Duquesne back in the day, was an excellent golfer and I had his bag at a qualifier. He was a strong guy and leveraged his height to really hit the ball out of sight off the tee. Rick Hrip was a really good regional golfer and I had his bag at the State Open one year and when we came to the 17th hole at Shannopin, he hit his shot up to the left of the green on the hillside. He asked me if he could play a pitch and run down to the green and I told him no. If he did that, the ball would run off the green and over the hillside. I knew that from experience. I told him to cut a sand wedge up high and land it square in the middle of the green. He did that, saved his par, and went on to win the State Open. He gave me credit when he was talking to reporters at the end and I was very happy to have helped him. Nice tip too.

The good thing about being a caddie as a young guy is not only is it a good job outside, but you meet people who teach you a thing or two about class, sportsmanship, and life in general. I loved being a caddie for Knox Young who competed many times in the U.S Amateur and was a West Penn and State Amateur title holder. He was a kind, gentle guy who talked to me on the golf course about things in life and had a real interest in where I was going to school.. I met many captains of industry on the golf course who had a lot to say about business and how to approach a career as a young guy. I would also see the guys who would play golf and then stay all night playing cards in the locker room to avoid going home . Those lessons on how to treat or not treat your family were not lost on me.

I worked a lot in those teenage years at Shannopin as a caddie, a car parker and the occasional stint in the kitchen when Rico, the manager, was shorthanded. The lessons you learn at a country club as a young guy are priceless and I will never forget my times there. I knew every member and caddied for a lot of them. Recently, I saw a young guy while riding my mountain bike on a trail that is adjacent to the practice tee at Allegheny Country Club here in the burg. He was a caddie and was talking to another caddie and I pulled up and said to them, “guys- you will always remember this job. To be a caddie is the greatest summer job there is.” I meant it, but they looked at me like I had two heads. Youth is wasted on the young. Thanks for reading.

PPP( Pat’s Pleasant Peddling)

With Hank and Samra- Wolf Rocks Overlook- Laurel Mountain, Pa.

So, when we pulled into the parking lot at Laurel Mountain, the snake hunters were getting ready with their long tongs, long pants and boots. We all chatted briefly and the conclusion was that there probably would not be much to look at because of the cool temperatures and cloudy conditions. This suited Samra just fine as she commented, ” I thought this was going to be a pleasant ride?” “If I see a rattlesnake, it is not going to be pleasant.” Hank and I chuckled as we explained that rattlesnakes are fairly docile. If you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you. Yes they are in the Laurels as well as black bear, but again- just leave them alone. We all were up for a pleasant ride and although Samra and Hank are in great shape, they were content to ride at my pleasant pace. I find that the older I get, the more I like ” pleasant rides.”

My mantra-LOL!!!!
Blooming Mountain Laurel

I am not in the “blast out of the parking lot at full speed” crowd anymore. I need to warm up. Probably a good half hour or more. I had my stint in bicycle racing for 25 years and although it was a lot of fun with it’s share of suffering, I am happy in these last several years to back off a little bit and enjoy the rides. See things like blooming mountain laurel instead of focusing on the guy or group ahead of me. Samra and Hank don’t like big groups and were perfectly happy to have me show them my favorite place to ride at a reasonable pace.

If you live in Western Pennsylvania or are thinking of visiting, the Laurel Mountains have some great options for hiking and mountain bike riding. The trails are well marked and can be found on Trailforks and MTB Project. Maps are also available at the DCNR office in Laughlintown at the bottom of the mountain on Rt. 30. I usually ride the trails up near Laurel Mountain State Park Ski Area. Even at a pleasant pace, there are challenging sections like Wolf Rocks and Spruce Run Trail into the Summit Trail. I still like the challenge of riding the rocks but they can be done at a pleasant pace and not necessarily race pace. They will work you and your suspension but definitely worth the effort. The view from the Wolf Rocks overlook is not to be missed as well. But be aware of the rocky overlook where above said rattlesnakes tend to sun themselves if not too many people are around. But if there are riders and hikers present, no worries at all.

I still have friends who are very skilled riders and like to push the pace. I admire them for their fitness and when I ride with them, I tend to go at my own pace and sometimes take short cuts in order to make the ride pleasant. They will push me oftentimes and I have to get out of my comfort zone, but more and more as they age, they appreciate the opportunity to sometimes ride the PPP pace. I think we still get a good workout and as I always say, ” nobody is going to the Olympics.”

The fall is coming.

Another good thing about the PPP pace is that it is good for some of my friends who have had some recent health setbacks. They are trying to work their way back and you don’t have to hammer all the time to get the benefits. In fact, it is amazing to me and to some of my pals, that if you back it off just a little bit, you don’t kill yourself and you have a lot of energy left to enjoy more of the ride. This weekend with Hank and Samra, we worked the rock sections but rode at the PPP and completed the whole enchilada of my Laurel Mountain ride and I did not collapse in the parking lot. I could have ridden more. My fitness at this time of year is best, but I think the pace of the PPP helps me and can help others too. I like to think of it as an aging guy’s program. Ride to ride another day.

So if you see me out there on the trails, or you want to ride with me, you will know that I will ride at a pace where I can talk to you. I am learning to listen more and I would like to hear more about you, than telling you about me and my worn out stories. The PPP is a fun mountain bike ride. You will always smile. Thanks for reading.

Send It

UCI World Cup Snowshoe- home of the “Senders”

So I go into Trail Flo Bikes the other day to pick up my mountain bike after a minor repair and after I say “thank you” for the quick service the owner, Tom Florcik, says to me- “send it.” I kind of chuckled because I always liked this expression of devil may care bravado. He basically was saying – ” take your bike Pat and go throw caution to the wind.” “Send it”.

Women’s UCI Downhill- Snowshoe, WVA

Now when you go to a World Cup mountain bike event, and watch the downhill, you see some real senders. They absolutely have no fear and go as fast as they possibly can to win. They stand in the starting gate and you hear their coaches and team mates say “send it” right before they launch into the course. If you have any thoughts of slowing down at any point, you are out of the top ten. Similarly, if you watch any of the Red Bull Rampage out in Utah- you see some amazing scenes of guys and gals riding impossibly steep descents complete with back flips off jumps. They send it for sure, again with no fear. Well, maybe a little bit in the starting gate, but for the most part, they are amped to compete.

Corbett’s Couloir- Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I can remember standing on the edge of Corbett’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, back in the day, and thinking of where I was going to slide in and make my first turn. Something in me said, ” send it” and I went for it in my own way. Today’s kids start roughly 100 yards above the couloir and do a back flip into the abyss in the Kings and Queens of Corbett’s much to my amazement. Their meaning of “send it” is much different than mine. Today- at my age, I like to ride to ride another day and also stay on the ground. Mountain biking is exercise for me and not hucking off some cliff or big rock outcrop. Skiing is making nice turns and staying on the ground as well. “Send it” is a relative term these days.

Looking down from the summit of Mammoth Mountain, California.

I like to think that occasionally I can rise to the occasion and be like Toby Keith when he says, ” I ain’t as good as I once was, but I am as good once as I ever was.” Nice thought but for the most part only dreaming. ” Send it” today has a much different meaning to me than what it means to today’s generation.

Attitude plays a big part too in “sending it.” Take Missy Giove here back in the day after her loss in the dual slalom at the NORBA Nationals in Snowshoe. I rode up the chairlift with her and she was quite engaging and talkative, but you could tell she was pissed that she lost. She then got off the chair and launched herself back down the course with the attitude of ” send it” in a much different meaning. Kind of funny – the crowd thought so too.

Missy the Missile

When I think of the term, ” send it”, it conjures up nerves. I think about getting out of your comfort zone and with a little bit of reckless abandon, you do something you might not ordinarily do . You have to get the negative ” what if” out of your head and think positive. That can have consequences or if you pull it off, it will have you ” smiling like a butcher’s dog.” Even though I am fairly conservative these days, there are the occasions when I will try something relatively imposing, but that is the rare occasion. Getting hurt takes a little more healing time and you have to face the reality that you are not 25 years old anymore. ” Send it” might be something relatively docile compared to the old days.

I do think there are ways though these days where you can ” send it” under different circumstances. For instance, my friends who live in Florida volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse. They live a comfortable life in Florida but when SP calls, they are deployed to some really needy places in the world. They probably think, ” ahh, do we really want to go?” But then they “send it” and off they go to places and people who really need their help. We can ” send it” the same way when we have a friend in need, a sick neighbor, someone who needs some comfort or friendship, maybe some help with something with which you really are not familiar but you are willing to go out on the limb to help. You think, ” ahh, not now. I really don’t feel like doing that.” But as you stare into the possibilities that it might not work out, or you will be ridiculed, or you maybe can’t quite pull off the task, you ” send it” and hopefully come out smiling like that butcher’s dog.

Another sender.

My mother always said that ” Happiness is like a perfume. You can’t sprinkle it on others without getting a little on yourself” You feel good when you are able to help someone. Maybe you don’t feel like doing it or getting involved? But you pick yourself up and go for it. It is usually worth the effort.

Most of us will never be like the Red Bull athlete, or the World Cup MTB downhiller, but in our own way we can ” send it”. Look for the opportunities, think about standing in that start line of life, not sure of what will come by throwing caution to the wind, and …………………………..” send it!” Thanks for reading.

Snowshoe title picture courtesy of Steve Gurtner

The Tour de Death

Make Chetlin Great Again- seen here on the right.

So in the continuing effort to MCGA( Make Chetlin Great Again) a couple of us got together the other evening and took Jeff for another mountain bike ride. He is making amazing progress after a stroke a year ago and soon will be back to full strength. So, after a rain storm, it was decided that the trails in Frick would be a little sloppy. So Jesse Seager, the restauranteur extraordinaire( go to Point Brugge in Pittsburgh to find out), Darryl Huber( uber athlete in from Colorado for a visit) and yours truly took to the roads of ………..a cemetery. We laughed and called it the Tour de Death but Jesse told us when the trails in Frick Park get too sloppy in the winter, he can get a good ten miles in on the mountain bike all along the roads that go through the cemetery.

The Benedum Crypt

The amazing thing is all of the famous people interred in this famous cemetery. Business leaders like Michael Benedum, Henry Clay Frick, Henry J Heinz, Senator John Heinz, Henry Hillman and Willard Rockwell. Entertainers like Erroll Garner and Walt Harper are also interred here along with Jock Sutherland – former Pitt football coach and Pie Traynor- hall of famer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the truly neat thing about cycling through the cemetery is the beauty of the place and the incredible mausoleums and crypts of some very famous families in the Pittsburgh area. It occurred to me that people really went into a thought process about their memorial places and what they wanted to leave behind as a memory and tribute to their lives here in the ‘burg. Jesse and Jeff, as locals, gave us a great tour and it was in no time at all that Jeff probably had the most mileage and time on the bike to date. Every ride gets better and better for this guy. It won’t be long until he is 100 percent full strength. Who ever thought that part of his rehabilitation would be laps through a famous cemetery?

No complaints from the customers here.
People are dying to get in.
Military Sections Too

As we peddled along, Jeff commented that among all the groups he is involved with- skiers, moto- cross riders, and snowmobilers, he seems to think that the mountain bike community is the best. More laughs, more genuine people, and one of the reasons he won’t move permanently to his other home in Bend, Oregon. He likes the mountain bike community in Pittsburgh, even if we do ride through cemeteries from time to time.

The cemetery makes you think a little as you go along as to what is really important in life. Jeff commented that as we get older, it is not about how fast we go on the trails, how many miles we did, or even where we rode. It is more about getting together and enjoying the great outdoors. It’s being with friends, talking and laughing, reminiscing, and in general enjoying each others company. It rained on us a little bit but as mountain bikers, we really don’t care. We enjoyed the ride, the company and the views.

So the next time you think that it is too muddy to ride, maybe think about your local boneyard. It is quiet, peaceful, and offers some dry riding in the worst of weather conditions – and no cars which is a bonus. Take a tip from Jesse and Jeff, go hit it and when the trails dry, you can tell some stories out there about how you saw Pie Traynor’s final resting place. Thanks for reading.

The Final Ride

After a wonderful memorial service for our dear friend Brian Lunt, our group of riders were asked by Brian’s wife Rose to take Brian’s ashes for a final ride in the park- on his beloved trails. We all wondered how this would go and the task of filming the event fell on Dave Ashi with his brand new Go Pro and also Nancy Furbee who was backup with her I Phone. Nancy was quite creative with her Facebook video and Dave and Tim Traynor did a great job with the Go Pro video so that Rose and her family would have the event forever memorialized.

Spreading one’s ashes seems to be more popular these days as folks have favorite places where they would like to be laid to rest – rather than a cemetery plot. There are stories of people’s ashes being spread at sea, on ski slopes and trails, and in this case- on mountain bike trails. This is nothing new but it seems to be gaining in popularity and our group was happy to be compliant with Rose’s request.

Discussing our protocol

As we began the procession, the weather seemed to hold off and we were blessed with a good start – attributed to Brian looking over the proceedings from above. I had the urn in my riding pack and was dubbed ” the Hearse” by the group with a few chuckles along the way. But as we proceeded along the familiar trails of our local park, I thought about my own mortality and how a 61 year old guy like Brian is now gone. Someone who we have ridden with, laughed with, and with whom we have had many conversations on the trails and ski slopes, is now not going to be physically part of our group anymore. It makes you think. It also makes you think where and how you would like to be memorialized when the time comes. We definitely wanted to make sure that Brian was properly remembered and aside from the physical spreading on the trails, Mark “the Shark” Sauers made sure of it with his wonderful words of encouragement to all of us including fond memories of our pal Brian.

Mark set a spiritual tone when we stopped to distribute the ashes in the first location. When you see the remains and think of things like” remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” you need the encouraging words that Mark shared with all of us. This is not the end. Death is a transition for believers and we all came away with the thought that we will all see Brian again. I thought of Revelation 21-4 which says that in the end, ” He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. For the old order of things has passed away.” You can’t help to think of all of this when you are involved in something like we did that day. But Brian would not like us to all be somber either. There were many laughs along the way as we proceeded to the next stop. Our pal Bill Belch kept dropping his bike while we were standing and I joked with him to ” get it together Bill- this is a funeral you know.” We all laughed at that one, including Bill, and it kind of broke the more serious tone at the moment.

The final stop was at a scenic overlook in the park and as it started to rain, no doubt due to Brian saying” Get on with it people”. I warned the group about the wind. It was rather humorous to see us releasing Brian to the wind only to have him come back in our face. I am sure he was laughing at that one and we all joked about Brian making it difficult now with the rain and the wind. As we all put our feet in a circle of solidarity at the end of the day, we all had positive thoughts about something that we were not sure of. How was this going to go? How do we carry the urn around? Will this be somber or will we have some fun doing it, in compliance with Brian’s wonderful sense of humor? In the end, we all said that this is how we all wanted people to remember us. Take us all to a place that we love and be among friends – even though it may only be in spirit at the time. It was a positive experience and it also was an event that solidified our friendship even more. We all loved riding with Brian and Rose was right- this was the right thing to do. Thanks for reading. Photos courtesy of Nancy Furbee

P.J- A.J

These little acronyms stand for Pre- Janet and After Janet. My wife always laughs when talking to people when she says that I have a whole other life. That is why she got me to write my stories in a blog. A lot before my marriage to Janet and still a lot A.J, because Janet gives me a pretty long leash. LOL!!

I actually have three volumes of this blog printed into coffee table books so that someday- it will be a reminder of all the fun times that I have had- P.J and A.J. Maybe my son and his kids will read it someday? Because really- Jack has no idea of all the antics that I have been through. He is not married yet but someday……?

The Coffee Table Books.

Now if you have been reading my blog, you will find that I have done nothing really spectacular. But in over 360 posts, I have chronicled a lot of life. My main purpose is to get people our age to keep doing things. That is important. I try to tell stories that make people chuckle- especially if they know me. The Pre J stories are fun. Skiing, cycling, hiking, etc. In fact- Janet picks up the coffee table books from time to time and says,” I never knew about that?” “That’s why I wrote it so that you and Jack can see the fun adventures that I have had.” My music that I blare at high volume in my Jeep by myself would surely be strange to her. The New Riders, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Susan Tedeschi, etc. Not her deal but that is part of my ………………..other life.

Heli Skiing with the Terrible Towel.
Fishing trips with my grandfather.
Mountain Bike racing with the Greenlee’s Team. ADJ trips!!

Then there are the stories that are A.J and also a new category that I call Adjacent to Janet. ADJ. Like I said- my wife give me a lot of leeway and I have adventures that she prefers that I do by myself. When I was first married, Janet was still flying for US Air as a flight attendant. I would use those buddy passes for many trips to the point where I would see her friends in the airport and they would say,” Pat- are you taking another free flight without Janet? Where is she.? ” I would laugh and say,” She is working” This was all pre Jack. My neighbors would call me the married bachelor. I would live my adjacent life when Janet worked and then when she returned, we would do things together. That still holds true today.

Snowshoeing with our pals the Flying Smittys.
Rails to Trails at Niagra on the Lake.
Skiing Locally
Skiing West
Hiking. An activity we do together. A.J

Janet and I are empty nesters now and she is doing a lot more things with me that she had not done before. Or more accurately, more of what we do. And the good news is that she is enjoying it. She still lets me go when she doesn’t feel like going and I take advantage of the time with myself. I enjoy my own company. I talk to myself and get answers. There are times that she is finished skiing for the day, for instance, and I can go rip a few by myself. Just to make sure that I still have it. There are days locally that are too cold and windy for her with low visibility. I like those days and take advantage of skiing by myself and work on things. I have my local posse of skiers and mountain bike riders that definitely fall into the category of ADJ. But for the most part, if I can do something with Jan, I do it and we build our memories together.

So- yes, I have had a whole other life as Janet would say, but those are fun memories and the concentration now is A.J more than anything. The more you can do with your significant other, the better. The empty nest makes us pretty flexible. Thanks for reading and go hit the outdoors.

An ADJ hike in the woods. Complete with bloody nose. LOL!!!