Mountain Bikes and Bluegrass Music

Did you ever daydream while listening to music and think of a place where that music takes you? I am a big fan of bluegrass music and every time I listen to Allison Krauss, the Steel Drivers, Nickel Creek, Rhonda Vincent or a host of other musical talents, I think of the mountains of West Virginia and the fun times I have had there over the years. The first time I ever spent some time there was with Chuck Greenlee when we went for the 24 Hour races in Davis and Timberline. There was no music at that time because Chuck and I BS ed each other the whole trip while trying to beat the Parrot Man and his souped up van all the way down the interstate. We did set the land speed record in Chuck’s pickup but it was a harrowing ride especially when Chuck’s friend, Sam Dyke, would find us along the road just outside of Morgantown and it was a three way race in short order.

After a while, I started to know my way around down there and always drove. Not only for self preservation but it was nice to have all my gear with me in one place. Driving to Davis and Slatyfork was always a long drive on the back roads but really beautiful as I made my way through the mountains listening to bluegrass and kind of getting into the spirit of West Virginia. Through the years I have gone with several groups to races and events like the West Virginia Fat Tire Festival hosted by Gil and Mary Willis at the Elk River Touring Center. The Wild 100 was another event that was a true back country race that Elk River hosted and oftentimes we would stay either at Elk River or The Jerico in Marlinton. At the Jerico, the grandfather of the proprietor would always tell me that they had some Yankee boys buried on the hillside above the cabins and I would always sleep with one eye open down there. All in jest but kind of unnerving,

But all the while in all of the trips, I had my bluegrass on and there have been nights on the deck of the Elk River Touring Center that Gil had some local bluegrass bands play for an event. What a treat after absolutely flogging myself on the rough, rooty, rocky West Virginia trail systems. The one thing you have to remember about riding in West Virginia is that it is the toughest riding you will ever do because the West Virginians want it that way. The locals like Sue Haywood, ( former pro with Trek and many times national short track champion), love to take you out and show you the treasure trove of demanding rock strewn trails. It is their turf and they not only know it well but they ride it even better Sue is a noted local and has raced all over the world but makes Davis home. She is a great teacher and riding those trails in Davis are a real challenge. But watching her makes it look easy. Even on the famous ” Moon Rocks”

But after a ride down there, which can be a whole different ball game when it rains, you are exhausted, beat up, bleeding, and hopefully your bike has remained in workable shape. Otherwise, it is a visit to Blackwater Bikes in Davis for repair. http://www.blackwaterbikes.com But sitting behind the grocery store at the trail head after the ride and sipping a nice cold IPA with my pals, I quietly turn on some bluegrass in my Jeep and really enjoy the wilds of West Virginia with a musical flair.

I am proud to say, that on the last trip to Davis, I introduced the boys to what I consider a real treat musically speaking. We drove just north to Thomas,WVA. and took in some bluegrass at the Purple Fiddle.

It is a locals place that specializes in good food, beer, and hosting some of the best touring bluegrass bands in the country. http://www.purplefiddle.com I hustled the group along and after a much needed shower, we made our way to one of the front tables and listened to a band from North Carolina named Mipso. Pretty talented and what I thought was a great way to end a Saturday after getting slayed on the wet, demanding trails of Davis. I believe in atmosphere and The Purple Fiddle delivers all the time. After this last trip, I thought maybe Davis was getting to be too tough for the 65 year old kid. But listening to Allison Krauss on the way home, and this week in my car again, the pain has subsided and we probably will make our way to the mountain bike festival in the fall in Davis if the Covid thing doesn’t play havoc with the trip. Look out Sue- here comes the old guy posse again. Laughs for you for sure.

There has been a lot of bluegrass fueled fun down in the mountain state over the years and thinking about all of the trips and riding that I have done down there, I think I have created some really good memories for myself. I will never forget the NORBA races in Snowshoe and after our races, it was fun to watch the pros. Even when they lose like the year Missy Giove lost the dual slalom finals and had a message for the crowd. Hilarious.

Last fall we all made it to the World Cup Finals at Snowshoe and watched the best in the world compete as well as get some miles ridden on the infamous Tea Creek Canyon trails early in the morning before the races.

Another fun trip with another fun loving group who also appreciated the atmosphere and down home hospitality of the Mountain State. Loved listing to the locals in the woods singing “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” while the racers bounded down the course at breakneck speed. Yes, music takes you back to great times and bluegrass always takes me back to West Virginia either in my mind, or planning my next adventure. Thanks for reading.

Seemed Like a Vacation

Ok, so we all are getting a little cabin fever, right? Vacation plans are on hold, getting together with friends is typically by phone call or text. The walls of the house are kind of closing in and it is important to get out and get some fresh air and exercise for more than the need to boost the immune system. We need it to also boost us mentally as we plow through this Covid-19 issue. We think back to how it was before when we could go somewhere and have a change of scenery. That option, for the moment, has been limited to local venues like parks, and local trails for the mountain bike set. But last Saturday, we called an audible and it seemed, well……..like a vacation of sorts. A few of us, trying to be socially distanced, met at Laurel Mountain State Park in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and rode on the trails that are lined with mountain laurel, spring wildflower growth, and in general, bathed in brilliant sunshine.

The enthusiasm in the parking lot was felt among all of us as several of us had not seen each other in a while. We all have our little socially distanced riding groups of a few people but this time, a few more people showed up under the threshold of what is acceptable. The laughs, the mood, the stories about how we all are coping were well received and set the tone for a Saturday ride in the Laurels. My friend Jeff dubbed it a ” Paturday” ride because of my pleasant route through the rocks and roots at a relatively acceptable pace. A couple of the fast guys and gals(Everyday Dave and Eric and friends) took off and did their thing which was fine but my race pace days are over as well as many of us in our group. Jeff even brought his drone and took some really cool footage of all of us socially distanced on the Wolf Rocks. The important thing was the camaraderie that is always present on mountain bike rides. This day was exceptional because of the extenuating circumstances and I think we all recognized the value of the change of venue and the need to socially connect in person.

But if I could put my finger on the one thing that made “Paturday” special besides all the good folks who showed up to ride was the fact that we all can appreciate something right in our own backyard. Sure, we can’t wait to get back to Bend or other far away riding places. But for the moment, we all appreciated the chance to get away about an hour and a half from our closed in walls and enjoy something local. Appreciate something local. Maybe like we have never done before? I kind of take riding at Laurel for granted but not anymore. Even the obligatory stop at the Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown for the home made pizza and delicious baked goods was appreciated more than most stops. This Covid thing will teach a lot of us a lot of lessons. One of them is to appreciate all that you have. Thanks for reading- and riding.

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One Day At A Time

Does it seem, in a lot of ways, that life has slowed wayyyyyyyy down recently? I mean, there is work to do for sure in my home office, and things never change in that regard. Happy to be still employed. But there are no real plans being made, no restaurant visits, no vacations or trips planned for the immediate future, no real plans to get together with friends socially? No group rides for the moment. The social interaction between co-workers is limited to Microsoft Teams,Zoom, and Emails. The interaction with friends, at least for me, is limited to socially distanced mountain bike rides with a few friends, and interacting with some lone trail lovers removing trees from the recent storms.  Or, riding a lot by myself on some remote trails nearby. I think often of the group rides we all enjoyed. I even daydreamed back to the days at this time of year when I would be sitting in a pack of road cyclists, 6 inches from each others wheel and roaring down the local and country roads here in Western Pa. The only scenery I saw was the back of some guys shorts but we all enjoyed the rides, races, and activity afterwards. We always said the social element was as good as the rides. But for the moment, that is suspended and we move about in this current world of the unknown.

I have always been a planner. Where are we riding? Where are we meeting afterwards? Where is the next trip planned? Who is going? We better make plane and general reservations. Time to get the car ready for a road trip. Are we going to the party? That has come to a screeching halt and most of my interaction any more is with my wife and my mother in law who lives with us. But………I am learning something through all of this. I am learning to appreciate my family. Learning to slow down. Learning to enjoy and appreciate each day. One day at a time. Instead of running at 100MPH looking for my next adventure or gathering, I am enjoying the day at a slower pace and taking in some things that I never did before. Take daffodils for instance. I never really paid much attention to them other than when my dad, the consummate gardener, asked me to pinch off the dead flowers so that they would grow fully again next spring. I was in such a hurry that I got the weed whacker and just whacked all of them off the stalks, much to my dads chagrin. I never really paid much attention to the blossoms and new flower growth over my past years. I was usually running out of the house, or riding by all of that in a frenzy. Now with some socially distanced time out of the house, I have slowed down and notice things like …….daffodils. Also, forsythia. I think of my mom now when I see the blooming forsythia. She used to bring some sprigs in at the end of winter to force them to bloom in a vase in our house. She wanted spring to come so badly that she did whatever she could to bring spring into the house. I now see the beautiful blossoms on the trees and when I ride or take a hike, I can see and smell them and really enjoy them.

Talking to my friend Pete the other day on a socially distanced mountain bike ride, we both remarked how fortunate we are to at least get out on these days and get some exercise. And we do it, one day at a time. That is all we really can do. Enjoy each day and appreciate friends and family. And appreciate all the beauty that is around us because we have the time and inclination to do that now.

Which brings me to my final point this week. We are all starting to realize that we really are not in control of things. In my opinion, I believe that God has a plan in all of this. I just think we have to trust that He is the one in control. And He gives us what we need – day by day. We just have to focus on each day as it comes. There will be brighter days ahead. Thanks for reading.

Moses said to them,” It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded:” Each one is to gather as much as he needs….No one is to keep any of it until morning” Exodus 16:15-16,19

A Great Story About A Great Guy.

Let me tell you all a great story about a really great guy. We all need stories like that don’t we? Especially in this time and place in our world. My friend Bob Reading is from the Villages in Florida by way of “Bahhhhhstan, Mass”. He and his wife Valerie, who is my wife’s good friend from Penn State, are some of the most active people I know. We get together with the PSU group several times a year and Bobby is always along when he can to join in the festivities. Mike Smith, Bobby and I are the only non-Penn State people and we kind of became friends because of that distinction over the years. Mike shown in the middle here with his wife Judy and my wife Janet. We laugh about it because the PSU fraternity is very strong. So Mike, Bobby and I started riding mountain bikes together up at Rothrock State Forest as a way to bond as the non-PSU guys and also to take advantage of the great terrain up in the mountains around State College, Pa.

Bob is an amazing athlete. A former college quarterback, he can do most things very well. We were all in the batting cages up at PSU one time for a contest that Kathy Ritchey put together for the crowd one homecoming. Bobby stepped in and had a stance just like a major league guy and started to make solid contact with the fast balls coming into him from the batting machine. He is great on the basketball court. Mike and I knew that he was a really strong road cyclist and when he first came to State College, we invited him to mountain bike with us. We took him into the famous/ heinous rock section on the John Wert Path up near Tussey Mountain and amazingly he kept up even though he had never ridden much on the mountain bike and never on the rocks that make up the advanced trails at the Rothrock State Forest. When we got to a fire road climb, Bobby was gone as he was like a rocket up the hill leaving Mike and I in the dust. The only way we could keep him in check was with the rocky sections but even at that, he was right with us and whenever a smooth section or a fire road came up, he was gone. I mean gone!!! Always has a smile on his face and in the middle of this PSU crowd, with former gridiron stars from the Nittany Lions, he was and is still the athlete of the group – bar none. But that is not the story really. Just a little background on a guy who started his own software company and then decided to do something totally different. He went to work for Samaritan’s Purse. http://www.samaritanspurse.org

We all started to get these messages from Valerie that Bobby was leaving for Africa, or the Carribean, or some other remote place where the Samaritan’s Purse reach extended. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian relief organization that provides healthcare, food, shelter, and other amenities to those living in desperate situations around the globe. The conditions in many of these places are deplorable but Samaritan’s Purse continues to provide much needed care with their teams of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. Bobby provides assistance with logistics and also financial and accounting advice and the places he has seen in the last number of years is impressive to say the least. So, what makes a guy who is successful in business, lives in a beautiful home on a lake in Florida, has a wonderful life with a great wife, and all the summer weather activities he can enjoy, pick up and go to Somalia? A good heart- that is what. There are not many people in this world who walk the walk like Bobby. He even has Valerie involved now, but Bobby is gone for long stretches at a time. I am sure he misses home but to hear Valerie, Bobby has finally found his passion in life.
I often think what I would be doing if I really wanted to make a difference in life. Don’t you also think that? Especially now when we are all sequestered. I think often, what can I do to better the world? How can I contribute? It takes a special person to do what Bobby does.

The latest is that Bobby is now in New York City with Samaritan’s Purse Franklin Graham held Easter services there today and Bobby was working behind the scenes as he always does, making sure the finances work and the costs and payments are accounted for. He is the unsung hero for the organization and that is exactly how this humble guy wants it. Don’t you just wish you could have the courage to drop everything and follow your heart? I know that Janet and I think about it often. But some people actually make the move and do it. Bobby is that guy. Humble, giving, and when he returns, I am hoping to get thrashed on the bike by him again. He does it with a smile and we all say,” How does he do it?” Thanks for reading and pray for Bobby, Valerie and Samaritan’s Purse. They do such great work at great risk.

These are the Times

” These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he, that stands by it now, deserves the love and the thanks of man and woman.”

Prophetic words from Thomas Paine, one of the Founders, which rings true today. We are all in a position to come together – although not physically with the “stay at home” rules, but mentally, in communication with each other, and prayers to the Almighty in these trying times. With social media, I-Phones and technology, we can stay in touch, communicate, send pictures, work from home and call and talk to each other. We can have some semblance of normalcy if we band together to beat this virus or at least stem the tide of its advancement.


Looking at pictures of our groups, we can remember good times and look forward to good times ahead. When you view a picture, sometimes you can see someone who you have not talked to in a little while. Text them. Email them. Call them. Ask them how they are doing in these unusual times. In many ways, that is the service to your country. It pales in comparison to military service or perhaps the service of our many first responders, nurses, hospital workers, but in many ways- bonding together even virtually for a time is service to us all.

Janet and I are trying to do our part by being responsible. Yes, I am getting outside but not in big groups. Most often by myself on the trails just to get some exercise and fresh air which is encouraged by the stay at home edict. Janet walks in the neighborhood and greets the neighbors from an acceptable social distance. We are trying to avoid large groups. Shopping when necessary but trying to keep Janet’s 89 year old mother safe. She lives with us and is most vulnerable.

So sure- we all are beginning to have some cabin fever. We need to return to some kind of routine with work, social life, restaurant outings, and in general an active lifestyle again. It will come. It may take a little bit but with some patience, understanding, generosity, and compassion and not being selfish, we can get through this. Stay in touch with your family and friends. Write an encouraging email, text or better yet- make a phone call. So important in these days of isolation.

We will get there again. Say your prayers, be kind and generous with others. Short and sweet but thanks for reading and ……….wash your hands.

Transition- Ready to Ride?

 

So the ski season is kind of winding down. Skied a lot in the rain,and was out west for some real snow. Dropped a couple of chutes. Came back to some decent local conditions and one more trip to go with the guys who hold me accountable. Things kind of rattle around your head when you reach 65 like- can I still do it? So far so good. Feel good. Don’t feel much different. Made some good turns. Looking forward to ending the season with these guys. But now the thoughts are starting to rattle and I am thinking – ” Did all the winter riding pay off?” Pete and Bob K,Syed until he blew up, and the Shark held me accountable during the winter as we rode our mountain bikes at night in some pretty horrendous weather.IMG_1014 The Frogg Toggs suit served me well by keeping off all of the muddy splooge as we showered the bikes and ourselves off in the car wash, but you think to yourself, ” Can I still ride like last year?” ” What will I feel like riding this season?” Scot Nichol always says, ” Don’t even think about it- just keep riding” Which is sage advice that I always subscribe to, but you can’t help those thoughts rattling around your head questioning your conditioning comparatively speaking. I am generally the oldest rider in my main MTB group and I try not to think about that and just ride but …….. </

And I am not ready for an e-bike yet!

So really- what does the upcoming season look like? The spring is always tough because all the conditioning you developed by the fall is usually compromised with the onset of winter. Sure you can go to the Y if the weather is too heinous, but there is nothing like actually riding outside versus a spin bike. Generally I believe that you just have to start out slowly and build up your stamina and strength again and not be in any great hurry to blast out of the parking lot trying to chase people. I have turned into a diesel engine, not fast but slow and steady after a good warm up. My disclaimer here is that I am not going to relay any great scientific points of wisdom. You can read about that anywhere. My main point is what works for me and maybe for you? Start out slow. I love the saying,” Start slow and taper off”. Jokingly initiated by our pal John Hinderliter but a lot of truth to the saying. IMG_1201

Which brings me to my next point which is if you are trying to get in shape, turning over a new fitness leaf, making a comeback after injury, or trying to ward off the ravages of time,you really need to start slowly in the spring. Ease into it. Don’t be a world beater early or you will surely burn out. The more you ride or run, or whatever, at a moderate pace, the more you will be likely to continue and each workout session you will get more fit. What is painful in the spring, is usually nothing come June or July. Just believe it and start slowly.

Another recommendation would be to believe what Chris Crowley says in his book ” Younger Next Year.” Chris makes many points in his famous book which I have given to lots of people. But one of the things that does stick out is if you are a senior or anyone for that matter, get the best equipment. Give yourself the absolute best chance at succeeding. I have always subscribed to that notion. I remember getting the first over sized tennis racket from Prince. I put the first retrofitted shock from Rock Shox on my mountain bike back in the day. I believed in the shaped ski and still try to get what I consider to be state of the art ski equipment. Lastly, I have been riding a 29er plus bike with 3″ plus tires to give me the best chance of success in the rocks and roots around the trails in our tri-state area. The carbon frame and wheels are a help with weight but it is more important to me to stay upright than it is to have a featherweight bike. Most likely the thought process of aging. Ride to ride another day I always say.

Lastly, as I gauge how the winter fitness program worked out for me, I also think it is important to think about what we put in our body. Again, lots of writing out there that refers to proper diet but my main tenants are cut out all the crap and sugar, eat healthy, salads, fruit and vegetables, lean meats when you have to, and generally, give yourself a fighting chance to succeed with your diet. My friend John Cassucio turned me on to Hammer Nutrition products. http://www.hammernutrition.com I use their gels and also a product called FIZZ which you can add to your water bottle or hydration pack to replace electrolytes lost in exercise. I feel better when I use them and it helps as I try to keep the younger guys in sight.  I also use Tru- Niagen, GNC Fish Oil Pills, and MCT oil in my coffee in the morning.  I posted about all of that earlier this winter.

So, yea, I think about things, but in general, once I embark on the activity, I don’t give it much thought. I can still do it for the most part and I don’t feel much different as I have aged. You should not either and instead of some people we know who have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel, we can get excited and look forward to another season of fun and good health. Thanks for reading and start slow and taper off. LOL!!!

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Nothing Wrong with New Kicks.

So, I know that I have posted several times about my 46 year old Vasque Hiker IIs shown here on the right. These hiking boots are absolutely bomb proof and have their original laces and Vibram soles. Amazing! They have been everywhere and could really write a blog or a book themselves. But recently my toes have been hurting when I have been hiking and I realized that as I have aged, my feet have actually grown. I believe it is because the arch collapses and your foot gets longer. Oh well. But it has been causing an issue with my feet in my favorite boots. I would have used these until I died because there is absolutely nothing wrong with them and I even reported that to Vasque. They gave me a very nice response.

Fast forward- my lovely wife purchased a new pair of Vasque hiking boots for me for my birthday( shown on the left) which are great. In fact yesterday during our regular Sunday afternoon hike, I remarked how much I liked them and how comfortable they are. Janet and I like hiking and we have a lot of local options. But Janet’s response was not what I expected. In her quiet, unassuming way, she said that retiring the old boots and putting on the new ones is very much like what happens in life. Sometimes you need new things……like relationships, hobbies, food choices, even some friends. I was taken back on the friends and relationship part but she went on to explain. She quoted Dr. Henry Cloud when he said that some relationships are “unsafe.” Dr. Cloud says that sometimes relationships or friendships become strained and they can become toxic or “unsafe” and we need to be willing to acknowledge that and make a change and perhaps retire those people who are causing us pain and making us uncomfortable. Like an old pair of boots that now don’t fit too well. Sometimes you need to be willing to make a change for the better.

Relationships and friendships are not the only ones that need scrutiny. Perhaps when we are doing some self examining and want to make some lifestyle changes, we need to look at the balance sheet of those things and determine if making a change will help us grow and move forward. Maybe it is time to start eating more healthy? Maybe we need to change our lifestyle and incorporate another kind of outside activity or any kind of activity that may change an unhealthy existence.

Recently I made such a decision and decided after riding a road bike for 40 years, I was going to sell my current ride and stick to mountain bike riding. That was a drastic change for me because I liked riding the road. But lately, my old routes through apple orchards and farms have now been transformed into routes through newly constructed subdivisions. Traffic is worse and people are texting, not paying attention, talking on the cell phone, changing channels on the XM Radio and all in all becoming a hazard to those riding a road bike. There have been several fatalities around here and I did not want to take the chance on trusting someone coming up behind me and not paying attention. Like putting the old hiking boots aside, I committed to my other ride( the mountain bike) and hiking with my wife. A lifestyle change for sure seeing that I have ridden/raced my road bike for years in many places. It was time for a change. Lots of good memories on the road bike but like the old boots, time to go.

The new boots are comfortable ( I am also an easy fit) and like any new experience, if you make the commitment and take a chance to improve your situation( relationships, friendships, lifestyle changes) the results can become surprisingly pleasant. To hike now without pain is a real pleasure. Off with the old and in with the new is a good plan for someone like me who wants to keep active and lead a healthy existence for the rest of my life. So as we get older, maybe we take a look at what has become routine and maybe be willing to reexamine what is really important,or what is hurting us, and make the necessary changes. Nothing like a new pair of kicks. Thanks for reading.

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