The Soul of Soles

“Pat- listen to this.” Gretl Dupre said to me as we walked into the kitchen of Camp Soles in Rockwood, Pa. It was the screen door slamming behind us. She said” isn’t that cool? Isn’t that just the sound of summer?” I thought about that and agreed that slamming screen doors reminded me of a time which was long ago in my life. I remember hearing that all the time in my kitchen at home on my way into and out of the house. It was like the sound of entry into the great outdoors of my neighborhood and at Camp Soles- it was the sound of kids heading out to play on the 263 acre facility which includes the beautiful Lake Triss.

Lake Triss

Camp Soles has been a mainstay of the Western Pa community since 1957 and traditionally run by the YMCA. This season it was supposed to close but at the 11th hour, Gretl Dupre came to the rescue and bought the facility. She had skin in the game. She and her 8 sisters had been campers there when they were young girls and there was no way Gretl was going to let the facility sink into oblivion. Gretl is a ” go getter” and even though she now lives in Seattle, she felt an attachment to the place and will make every effort to revive the spirit of summer camp in Western Pennsylvania. She intends to spend more time here and is on the path to revitalizing not only the facilities but revitalizing the spirit of the camp. She is literally the ” soul of Soles.”

The ever energetic Gretl Dupre.

Gretl and I are old friends as her family were the original owners of Seven Springs Mountain Resort where I spent a lot of time as a kid. As we walked the grounds, Gretl explained her reasons for investing and also her vision for the place. As she first showed me the kitchen which she is refurbishing to meet all the CDC Guidelines for the pandemic, she pointed out the speaker system where she says she will make announcements and raise and lower the flag each day. Traditional camp things but she has so much more planned. She will have campfires and roasted marshmallows and all the fun things that a summer camp will have, but she is more about teaching the kids responsibility with work around the camp which will teach them valuable lessons going forward. Things like sustainability – recycling, planting your own garden and growing your own food. Gretl has a vision of more than “kumbaya” around the campfire. She wants to make leaders of the kids and teach them valuable skills and responsibility that they can use for the rest of their lives. She wants them to have an understanding of the importance of the great outdoors and to respect the environment. In this age of entitlement, it is a noble task to which she is fully committed.

The Camp Motto

We walked around the lake and saw the kayaks and SUP equipment being readied for the season. She showed me the ” ski lodge” and a small hill facing the spacious windows and remarked that she ultimately wants to make Camp Soles a year round facility for families as well as kids. Downhill skiing and cross country skiing with plenty of snowmaking capacity is on the docket. The dormitory lodges which will house the campers are being refurbished and there are many of them around the perimeter of the lake and nestled in the wooded areas around the camp. There is lots of work to be one but the employees of the camp are as committed as Gretl and they all have a ” can do” attitude with their daily chores to get the place up and running for the summer camping season.

Lots of people my age have great memories of spending a week or weeks at summer camp. Those days of hiking, fishing, wearing headbands and beaded bracelets which were made at camp, all are fond images in the minds of a lot of parents today who may wish to rekindle those memories in the lives of their kids. Fresh air and activities outdoors instead of days in the basement playing video games. You can learn so much as a kid when you spend time working and playing in the great outdoors and no place is better than summer camp.

Camp Soles is currently a beehive of activity with planting gardens, refurbishing facilities, upgrading equipment, and a general positive buzzing vibe to the place. It seemed to me that the spirit of anticipation was all around with the ” angel investor” Gretl at the helm. I was totally impressed with what has been done so far to resurrect a beautiful facility that was on the brink of extinction.

As I closed my time with Gretl at Camp Soles I couldn’t help to think how proud her father Herman would have been of her. I am sure he is smiling down on her activities and is somehow prodding her to make things at Camp Soles bigger and better with a new mission.

Old Pals.

There are opportunities to sponsor a camper at Camp Soles this summer. Perhaps your own or maybe a camper who would not have the financial means or the immediate opportunity to partake in this fabulous experience. You can visit http://www.CampSoles.com or go to Friends of Camp Soles a non-profit entity EIN# 85-3514602 to donate or sign up. The address for donation or sign up is 1009 Tall Trees Drive Pittsburgh, Pa. 15241. The phone number for further information is 412-213-5321. The anticipated cost for a week camping is $520.00. Gretl anticipates that there will be a lot of ” heads in beds” up there this summer so don’t hesitate if you want to sponsor a child or get your own child or grandchild involved. Lots to do, lots to learn in the wonderful world of Camp Soles in the Laurel Highlands of Pa. Thanks for reading and thanks to Gretl for making it happen.

The Brendan Boat

From the Best of http://www.chroniclesofmccloskey.com

Just trying to take a break from all the Covid-19 stuff and give you all a little enjoyment for St. Patrick’s Day. Back a number of years when I was in Ireland riding my bike, I peddled my arse to the west coast and ended up on the Dingle Peninsula. That is where I purchased the item above that depicts St. Brendan and his monks rowing their dory boat. You see St. Brendan and the monks were from a place very close to Dingle and they are famous for their explorations of the Aran Islands and westward spreading the gospel. Read Tim Severin’s book ” The Brendan Voyage” for a fascinating account of their voyages. It is said that they made it all the way to Newfoundland 500 years before Leif Erikson and close to 1000 years before Columbus made his way to the Caribbean. National Geographic also did a piece in August of 1977 reporting on Severin’s re-creation of the voyage outlined in the book. My point today is that St. Brendan and the boys were not much into social distancing. In fact they went way out of their way to spread the gospel and also meet new people and visit new lands on the way. The Irish are like that.

St. Patrick’s Day is a celebration of what the saint did in Ireland as a Christian missionary and bishop. It also celebrates Irish culture with parades, Guiness, Irish Car Bombs, and similar merriment but also recognizes the social character of the Irish and their descendants like me. My mother was a huge fan of the day and also a huge fan of all things Irish. Her humor was represented in sayings like the above and also in her love for things like Belleek china, Waterford crystal and making Irish soda bread. But again- it involved people, and our house growing up had that classic Irish tradition of gathering friends and family and enjoying the humor and the company. I spent many times on the piano in my folk’s house playing Irish songs and to this day do the same at home. My mom’s favorite saying was that “happiness is like a perfume, you can’t spread it on others without getting a little on yourself.” And she did in many ways- cooking, singing, entertaining her friends and relatives, and well…….being Irish. I believe I received her sense of humor as a gift because I always try to look at life from the bright side. If I can offer some humor to my friends and family along the way, I feel good and I hope they do as well. I tell my inane stories of my experiences on the chairlift and on mountain bike rides, much to the amusement of my friends who have graciously heard the stories over and over again. But I believe that a little self deprecation, which is the root of many of my stories, leads to belly laughs and people shaking their heads and saying………..McCloskey???????”

 

So this Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day. Yes- we are in the middle of a national crisis. The parades have all been cancelled, restaurants are closing, bars are closing, we are encouraged to be diligent and wash our hands and keep our distance. Not in the Irish tradition at all. But we need to do it. But when the day comes, and you have “The Quiet Man” on television or maybe “Waking Ned Devine” , think of the folks that you would like to be with and give them a call or a text. Have a laugh and try to keep some humor during some trying times. I will probably do that and bore people with more stories and corny Irish jokes, but they will laugh and say- ” thanks for the call man”.        Slainte’ .

“When All Else Fails, We Still Have Trails”

Multi Use Trails

The motto above is the moniker of one of the most interesting trail systems I have seen to date. Round Valley, near Park City, Utah is a paradise for cross country skiers, fat bikers, hikers, and dog walkers. The well groomed trails encourage multi use and 25K is groomed for traditional cross country skiing and freestyle XC over 700 acres of preserve.

Perfect conditions for the Fat Bike.

This preserve was once slated for development until some of the townspeople thought better and put together a foundation- http://www.mountaintrails.com to encourage an alternate use for the land. They were successful and today, it is a very popular place for recreation. Well marked, and used for many pursuits, it shows how forward thinkers can offer an alternative to the rabid development of available land for housing or commercial pursuits. Especially in a town where recreation is king.

Tom Smiling Like a Butcher’s Dog.

Not only are the trails well marked and groomed, but there is a sense of pride that you can feel there with all the activity. Some of the different things that I noticed aside from the layout was the general health and shape of the people who regularly use the system. At altitude, it is impressive to see older people skating up a steep hill on freestyle XC skis. With a big smile on their face they greeted us as they hammered up the hill to the summit which has a breathtaking view of the surrounding Wasatch Mountains. You could see fat bikers off in the distance climbing on miles of trails and the traditional cross country skiers making good use out of the track setting- again for 25K. Gliding along they smiled and said hello as their dogs followed in hot pursuit.

Well Behaved and Trail Saavy Dogs

Speaking of dogs, I was amazed at how many of them were along with the hikers, skiers, and riders . At no time did they interfere with activity and they seemed to know to get to the side when going downhill so as not to impede the progress of their owners. All off leash, they seemed to have a sense of how to move with the flow of traffic and at no time did they seem like a menace to anyone on the trails. My friend’s dog always wanted to avoid the hill to the finish and tried to make her way to the short cut. Only to be encouraged to do the hill by my friend Tom. Even the dogs are welcomed to get into shape and never avoid a hill for fitness . But their sense of the trail layout and the difficulty of some trails and the gentle grade of others showed me that man’s best friends are more aware than I thought.

Just Smiling and Rolling Along

I always say when I venture west how impressed I am with the fitness of people out there. Even “older” folks seem to be in great shape and don’t let their advancing age hinder their pursuit for outdoor activities and the great visuals of the Wasatch. I suppose if you have over 300 days of sunshine, world class skiing, water sports, and multi use trail systems like Round Valley, you really have no excuse not to take advantage of the great outdoors. They have a great life out there. Again- for more information on a really well thought out recreation area, check out http://www.mountaintrails.org and see for yourself how active people can make a difference to better their lives and other lives as well. Thanks for reading.

In Search of Gemutlichkeit

Kitzbuhel, Austria

I have always been an atmosphere guy. Nothing did my heart better this year than having a white Christmas here at home. It just added to the atmosphere or the Gemutlichkeit as the Europeans would say. Getmutlichkeit officially is described as a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. But it is so much more with the creation of atmosphere in a particular setting.

I love to ski but there is so much more to skiing than just sliding down a hill. The first time I learned that was when I was a kid and walked around our local ski resort – Seven Springs, and took in the Bavarian atmosphere. The log, stone, and glass architecture of the old world was present in the original buildings built by Adolph Dupre back in the 30s. I related skiing to this wonderful world of European elegance which I could not wait to take in someday.

The Town of Kitzbuhel

Fast forward and I was in a little church in Engleberg, Switzerland for midnight mass at Christmas. As I listened to Silent Night sung in a German dialect, I was enthralled with the atmosphere of this little town in the Alps. Later in my young life I returned to Europe and was part of a PSIA Ski Instructors outing in Austria where we skied and visited many places in the Austrian Tyrol. I learned the significance of plum schnapps (tough on the stomach but you can never refuse it),and the fun tradition of the Rodelrennen which is a sled race down the mountain roads in which I took part. After the race, we all went to the awards in the town of Kuthai and I reveled in the Gemutlichkeit of the local party and the understanding that skiing is a lifestyle in Austria. The atmosphere that is created there with the food, the beer, and the traditions celebrates everything winter. I was hooked for sure.

Rodelrennen in Austria

My wife Janet and I spent our honeymoon hiking in the Swiss Alps and visiting Austria once again and together we experienced that Gemutlichkeit in places like Verbier and Zermatt , where a candlelight fondue set the atmosphere just right. We have not been back since, and it is on the bucket list to return someday to take all of that in.

Today- I still search for that wonderful way of life when we travel westward. Some of the ski areas of the west still create that Bavarian atmosphere and it makes the trip aside from great ski conditions . Perhaps the closest we get is when we visit our good friends the Birsics in Park City and take in lunch at the Stein Eriksen Lodge.

Although the atmosphere is Norwegian, it still celebrates the feeling of Gemutlichkeit in the mountains of Utah. Nothing like coming in from the slopes and walking in to the Stein and having lunch. Linen tablecloths, fantastic food and drink and looking at all of Stein’s awards and medals in the trophy case just make the ski day all that more special. Spoken by a man who currently eats a peanut butter sandwich and boots up in his Jeep due to Covid regulations at our local area.

We celebrate a little Gemutlichkeit in our home around the holidays. Janet makes it her business to create that Christmas atmosphere with the decorations and the food.

So, I don’t know, I am just an atmosphere guy. I love the winter and when I have an opportunity to create or take in that feeling of warmth, friendliness and good cheer, I do it. Covid has been tough and things are different this winter. But someday, it will be over and we can all search and take in some Gemutlichkeit whether it is in our home, a ski area, or even out in the woods on a pair of showshoes- with some cheese and wine in the back of the Jeep. Thanks for reading and have a great New Years.

” Oh Thanksgiving- Oh!”

” Oh Thanksgiving , Oh Thanksgiving. How we greet you as in days of yore. Coming as you do in autumn when the summer ain’t no more. Oh Thanksgiving, Oh Thanksgiving, Oh!”

At the beginning of most Thanksgiving dinners in my house growing up, my Grandmother Reynolds would always recite this crazy little poem. We all would laugh and any new people or strays as they were called, would look at each other in bewilderment and wonder – ” what was that?” But Thanksgiving in our house was always a big deal. My mom was a heck of a good cook and she would make several turkeys, mounds of stuffing and potatoes, gravy and all the fixings for all of the relatives and those friends whom she felt needed a helping hand or lift at the holidays. She and my dad always worked so hard to make it nice and the meal was off the charts delicious. My favorite meal of the year. Plus, with my mom being the consummate entertainer, the house always looked festive and the fireplace was roaring because my mom thought of it all as entertainment and our house as a stage.

Fast forward and my dad bought a green Buick station wagon to pick up all the relatives. At 16, that was my job, and we laughingly called the station wagon the “ambulance” with the advancing age of my relatives. In fact, when they had too many Manhattans at my house, which I always made to help my dad, the term ambulance took on a serious meaning because I literally had to pour them into the station wagon in various stages of inebriation- they were Irish you know. My mother’s Aunt Lee would always be looking for her glasses after too many highballs which were invariably perched on the top of her head. My mother’s cousin would be putting the ignition key into his side window of his car. I told him to sit tight and I would take him back home later. The Manhattans were lethal and my dad’s eggnog was even more so. Octogenarians tended to be fragile anyhow and after several bombs served at my folks house, they only had one recourse- home in the ambulance.

It got to the point eventually when the ” ambulance” became only the delivery vehicle as we got older and my sister and I were in charge of delivering the Thanksgiving meal to all the elderly relatives who really could not make the trek to my folks house any more. I can remember many a Thanksgiving spending the whole afternoon delivering 5 complete turkeys and the accompanying dinner to each of the relatives, helping them get it ready, saying grace with them, and then headed on to the next stop. My mom and dad were amazing in their zeal for Thanksgiving and to make sure that all of our family in some way was together with at least a good homecooked Thanksgiving dinner.

Oftentimes I was beat up before I started the deliveries with the neighborhood Turkey Bowls. The Slippery Rock kids and the Clarion kids who played football, took great delight knocking all of us younger neighborhood kids into the middle of next week at the annual football fest. I was careful not to get hurt before ski season, but can remember catching many passes and then getting absolutely creamed by a kid who played college football. My dad would come over to the field and tell me to start getting ready for the deliveries in the green station wagon and believe me, I was happy to leave.

When I think back on those days, I marvel at my folks who made entertaining an art form. They were very generous to my relatives and also our neighbors and the time spent on making 5 turkey dinners amazed me. They did it as a team and even to a young kid, it was impressive. Even more so as I look back today. I am grateful for my parents and the generous spirit in which we were raised.

I remember asking them why they went through all the effort and my mom’s famous line was always” Patrick- happiness is like a perfume that you can’t sprinkle on others without getting a little on yourself.” I really think that they got more happiness out of doing those nice things than the people that they served.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here in that in this day and age of isolation due to Covid, a polarized political climate, and general uncertainty. The need for reaching out is even more paramount than in my parent’s day. There will be a lot of people this year spending Thanksgiving without their family. It will be a strange year and yet, if we all pitch in and sprinkle a little bit of that perfume, we all will be better off until things return to normal someday. Even in these hard times, we all have a lot to be grateful for. I am thankful every day for many things and even though this year will not be shared with relatives and friends, I will be happy to look at my wife and say , ” things will get better real soon.” Thanks for reading and reach out to someone who might want to hear from you. Sprinkle some of that perfume.

The Beer in the Parking Lot

Mihalsky- Our favorite splitboarder and his Belgium White

The snap of the pop top, the removal of the bottle cap with the Dirt Rag 25th Anniversary bottle opener. ( My job) That familiar fizz of released Co2 and beer foam opens smiles just like the bottles or cans in the parking lot after a great day. One of the wonderful traditions of a day on the trails on a mountain bike or a day on the slopes, is that end of the day beer in the parking lot. Kind of a thing we look forward to as a tribe with almost ritualistic fervor. The clinking of bottles or cans is an unspoken toast between friends knowing that what is shared with that beer celebrates a great day.

The Notorious MTB Group

When you sit down in your camp chair after a great ride, not only is that first sip refreshing, but it is the celebratory gateway to some great conversations among friends about how the day went. Tough climbs, rough trails, scenic beauty from the seat of a bike, are all topics of conversation in the parking lot with a cold one in hand.

Hutch and the late, great , Proctor Reid

After a great day on the slopes, there is nothing like that beer that is waiting for you from the cooler. Cold, refreshing, and we are not even out of the ski boots yet. ” What a day!” ” That snow was superb!” ” How about that last run?” ” We will remember that one forever.” And on and on with the one-upsmanship continuing in the parking lot over who brought the most tasty IPA. ” Oh wait to you taste this one!”

Apres’ in the back of the Jeep.

It is hard to accurately describe these moments in time when a great day is celebrated with beers in the lot. We all need those moments to celebrate what we love and do best in our recreational lives. And we need each other more than we know. All the angst, issues, worries and concerns of everyday life seem to be put on hold in the parking lot. These days we really can’t go to the apres’ ski spots but really, who cares? I would much rather have that cold one in the lot with my buddies than drinking an overpriced draft in some watering hole where people have no idea what we all just did. Cleaning that trail section, dropping that cornice, and celebrating those efforts of the day, seem all too important to release them to the general public in a bar.

Things are a little different now anyways. There are more of us celebrating in parking lots and tailgates, socially distanced of course, and most likely, it will continue like that this coming ski season. And that’s ok with me. I can eat a sandwich on an outside bench, stay outside to ski or ride, and look forward to that ritual of friendship in the parking lot. Remember, it is not about getting blasted, or pounding beers, but rather about a gathering of friends with a toast outside. Enjoy a cold one with your friends. Thanks for reading.

Change

So my wife and I were hiking the other day up in the Laurel Highlands and she said to me,” It took 32 years ,but I finally am hiking with you up in the mountains in the woods.” We both chuckled as I recounted all the times I told her how peaceful hiking is and how beautiful it is especially at this time of the year. The colors are vibrant as the changing of the leaves ushers in the fall season here in Western Pa. As empty nesters now, we are taking advantage of a lot of opportunities even in this restricted time.

As a byline, she also told me not to take her to any trails that might have rattlesnakes and I agreed seeing that I know ground zero up there for those sightings. But we did see bear scat and she was amazingly calm when we discussed black bear in the area. All in all, Janet is becoming an avid day hiker and when I approached the subject of possibly camping out and sleeping under the stars, she was not ready for that………..yet. But day hiking is relaxing and in this day of rapid fire change, it is nice to see a calm, peaceful changing of the leaves with a relaxing activity like hiking.

Interestingly, the outdoors has become a refuge for a lot of people in this Covid age. Many of my friends across the country are also making use of the time hiking, camping, and enjoying their native surroundings near their homes. From camping near the coastal mountains in California, to camping and riding mountain bikes up in the Bend, Oregon area, to hiking the Green Mountains of Vermont, my friends for the most part are staying close to home and enjoying nature at its finest. Recreation is becoming regional until things become a little more certain.

No matter where you live, there are opportunities to get outside and enjoy the change of seasons right in your own backyard. The fall is one of my favorite seasons and as I think about what has happened to all of us over the last several months, it is encouraging for me to see that active people are out and about. Even a lot of people who were not necessarily outdoors people, have taken the opportunity to buy a bike, a kayak, hiking boots, camping gear if they can get it. It’s nice to be in a remote place without a mask, right?

With change comes the knowledge that the winter season is approaching and people like me are looking forward to that change as well. Not sure exactly how the ski season will be in 2020-2021, but we are prepared with ski passes, trips planned, and a general positive feeling that being outdoors in the winter will be good for all of us. Keeping positive and hoping for the best. But at the very least, there are outdoor activities that can make winter fun and a lot of people might be trying snowshoeing, winter hiking and camping, and cross country skiing for the first time. We can all encourage them and join them to get through all of this together.

In this changing world, we have to stay positive and know that the only thing that is constant these days is change. When we see the colors fade and the leaves falling from the trees, we know that soon enough they will be green again and another season will be upon us. But in the meantime, enjoy each season near to your home and take advantage of spending time with friends and family in the outdoors. It does wonders for your physical and mental health. Thanks for reading.

” To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven”

– Ecclesiastes 3

How would you like to be buried with my people?

I came across an old deed to our family burial plots the other day. I have not seen this document since my folks passed away back in the early 2000s. The deed is for Calvary Cemetery in Hazelwood and it says things like, ” no carriages allowed in the cemetery after dark.” Seeing that Calvary was founded in 1886, and my maternal great grandfather bought the original plots, it is a historic document that is still legal today. Turns out we have several plots still available in this historic cemetery . Reminds me of the old joke that says ” How does an Irishman propose marriage?” ” He says, How would you like to be buried with my people?” LOL!!

Famous individuals are buried in Calvary. People like former mayors of Pittsburgh, Dick Caligiuri, Bob O’Connor, and David L Lawrence. Billy Conn, the former light heavyweight champion of the world, is interred here. Harry Stuhldreher, one of the famous Four Horsemen of Notre Dame football, and Frank Gorshin- the Riddler from the Batman TV show, are buried in Calvary as well.

Apparently my grandfather and grandmother went on dates to Calvary to decorate the graves and it turned out that their respective families were buried right across the street from each other. What a romantic guy my grandfather was. ” Hey Mary- would you like to go to the cemetery?” They took picnic lunches and continued that tradition with me as a young lad. Ham sandwiches sitting on some guy’s headstone. My grandparents, between bites, explained who all was buried there. We planted geraniums on both sides of the street and made it equal. Couldn’t have the Carroll’s have more flowers than the Reynolds. The flats of flowers were provided by my dad seeing that my grandpap was a little tight. No bee like a freebie.

Fast forward and I was driving. My first destination was to O’Brien’s Funeral Home on the Northside of Pittsburgh. All of “my people” had their arrangements with O’Brien’s and if you went anywhere else, you were thought to be “high hat” and were scorned by the relatives and friends. I was so proud of myself for making it to O’Brien’s and not wrecking the car. Turns out that I made many trips there over the years because of the eventual passing of my elderly relatives. I was so happy to be able to drive to O’Brien’s and so was my mother who was usually my passenger. Ever since she rear ended a garbage truck, she was happy when I got my license.

My most recent memories of Calvary were when my folks died and I took their cremated remains to be buried in the Reynold’s plot. I can remember how strange it was to have my mother and father sitting beside me with a seat belt on the urn. I remarked that I thought that they have looked better and had a laugh to myself in a very odd trip to Hazelwood. Sometimes humor can make the solemn palatable.

Oftentimes today, I look at gravestones in cemeteries like the ones shown here in a local Lutheran Church. As a history buff, it is intriguing to me to see stones with born and died dates in the 1800’s and in some, as old as the 1700’s. I ride my mountain bike by a site in the mountains that memorializes a lightning strike that took the life of a young person. National Cemeteries like Arlington and Gettysburg memorialize great struggle and the lives that were lost in those wars

So, looking at that deed this week brought back many memories of my folks, my long gone relatives, and a final resting place for our family out in Hazelwood, Pa. I am not sure I want to be put to rest there because I have these grandiose ideas of being blown to the wind in the mountains. But my wife, who is 8 years younger, says, ” You will probably go before me and if so, you won’t have much say in the matter.” We both have a good chuckle about that one. When I remember my last time out in Calvary and observing all of my relative’s memorials, I know one thing. I won’t be having any picnics out there any time soon. Thanks for reading.

Garage Door Bob and the Thirsty Thursdays

The tough guy who you see in the middle here with the studded fat bike tires for winter riding is Garage Door Bob. Aptly named because of his highly successful garage door installation and repair business – B&V Garage Doors. B for Bob and V for his lovely wife Vicky. To say that Bob is an avid mountain biker would be a bit of an understatement looking at his own garage filled with bikes, wheel sets, and parts. Bob loves to mountain bike and loves it all year long. The amazing thing is that Bob will ride on 90 + degree, high humidity days after putting in a full days work installing or repairing garage doors. He will do the same in raging snowstorms on icy trails. But what makes Bob and his wife Vicky really special is his ability to round up fellow riders weekly with a text that simply says” Thirsty Thursday- 5:45- Devil’s Elbow Grove- no replies. Just show up or don’t show up- don’t care.” Really a misnomer because Bob does care. He just doesn’t want all the text chatter all day while he is working. LOL!!!

Thirsty Thursday is a tradition that was started by Bob back in the day and has continued along with other weekly rides for our eclectic group of mountain bike riders. There are the tough guys up front who push the pace and then the stragglers who keep the group in sight to the best of their abilities. The tough guys wait at the turns to make sure everybody is along for the ride as it is a no drop ride. But for the most part, all the riders are able to at least keep up and Bob is happy with his weekly band of followers on the trails. We are squeezed a little tight here for social distance but the picture was worth it showing the weekly group and some additions and subtractions as the weeks go by, all year long. But as much as everybody likes the ride, the real thing that people look forward to is the post ride at the grove with beers, snacks, and food graciously provided by Bob and Vicki and Tina and the Shark. Another fun couple who like to contribute to the camaraderie. As long as I have know GDB, he has always brought snacks, beers and been extremely generous at the post- ride festivities- socially distanced of course, and making sure that everybody has a good time. There is something to be said for the post- ride. Sitting in your chair, sipping a beverage, and reminiscing about the crazy stuff that happened. Mountain biking is an accident waiting to happen sometimes. The conversation also turns to what we all will do on future rides and if there are any trips planned. These post ride festivities remind me of apres-ski in the winter around a fire talking basically about the same thing. What happened, what was funny, what do we do next?

Bob and Vicki, Shark and Tina fuel this weekly gathering in more ways than one. And in these days of Zoom, Teams, social isolation, masks, and other Covid related precautions, it is important to somehow be able to get together with your friends in some outdoor activity and have that one on one conversation with a live person. GDB makes it happen each week and although he says he doesn’t care who shows up, he is the first guy to encourage you to ride the whole loop and stay with the group no matter what. He feeds you, he inspires you, he pushes you and he motivates you. Something we all need at least once a week.

Don’t we all need a Garage Door Bob to keep us motivated through these strange social times? Don’t we need more than Zoom, Teams and other forms of communication that really don’t cut it for interaction? Don’t we need that time to sit back and enjoy the remnants of the evening and the cool temperatures seeing the smiles on everyone’s post ride faces? Socially distanced of course. Sure we do. We all need people like GDB and his Thirsty Thursdays. Thanks for reading.

” People- people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”
– Barbara Streisand – ” Funny Girl”.

Out of This World.

A long time ago, my dad bought me an army surplus tent and I slept a lot of nights outdoors behind my house. It was really the beginning of my fascination for the universe and the solar system that is highly visible on a clear night. Many nights I looked up and thought how small we are in the grand scheme of things seeing that what I saw was a fraction of the Milky Way, which is a fraction of the Galaxy, which is a fraction of the Universe. I could not even contemplate but was highly satisfied with what I saw. There is something about the smell of the night air when you are awake at 3:00 AM and you look up in the stillness and see the absolute beauty of the sky. God’s amazing celestial creation. Years later in my dome tent, during many backpacking trips, I looked up from my sleeping bag, through the ceiling screen, and had the same feelings that I had as a kid in my backyard, thanks to my dad and his creative entertainment for Molly and me.

Fast forward, I bought myself a telescope. It was so interesting to see the craters of the moon, the moons around Jupiter and the ring around Saturn. Of course, aside from our moon, the details are not as defined as a professional telescope, but for me, it was pretty cool to zone in on it and see it “live.” I remember the first night I was up in the field behind our old house and called my son to come up and see it. He said, ” Dad- I can see it 50 times better on the Internet.” Millenials! Oh well, my wife came up and said, ” Well- that is nice dear. I am glad you are enjoying it.” Always the supportive wife even though it was not her thing.

Eventually, I bought a pair of high powered binoculars and a tripod. I really went to town then, exploring with the Sky Walk app on my phone to look up new planets and stars and see the constellations. The binoculars and tripod are a little more mobile than the telescope and easier to use. Lately, these clear nights this summer have been spectacular viewing. Once again, I tested my wife’s patience the other night looking for the Comet Neowise. I had the poor thing sitting in a field getting bit by insects waiting for the sunset and looking right under the Big Dipper in the northern sky. No dice initially until I moved her up to the golf course where she patiently waited for me as I made my way to a really dark place and finally saw a small version of what I had seen by the professional photographers on the Internet. Again, not real clear but I felt like I had hit my target for the night. Again, my patient wife said, ” I am so happy for you dear.” After all these years she is still supportive of my quest to see what is in the sky. Well, it won’t be around for another 6800 years so I figured I better see it now. LOL!!

Logging on the ” Spot the Station” and entering my email, I get notices from NASA when the Space Station is overhead. Even thought I can’t pick it up too well with my binoculars because of the speed at which it moves, it is still the brightest thing in the sky and travels at amazing velocity. My neighbors all get a kick out of me, out in the street at night with the binoculars and I give them all a view. And again, they kind of give me a ” well, that’s nice Pat. Glad you are enjoying it.” Although a lot of them are now watching and waiting for the Space Station. I kind of got them hooked.

The other day, I watched the astronauts installing the high definition camera on the outside of the Space Shuttle and thought to myself how cool it would be to see the earth from their perspective. Azure blue oceans, puffy white clouds and the continents rotating in their view so clearly. I thought, what they see is so pristine. They don’t see the conflict, the division, the problems that we are faced with globally in today’s world. They just see the creation in its finest position like a fine painting on a celestial easel. They are “out of this world” for a little while and doing great work high above the earth. Like the little boy in the tent so many years ago, I am still fascinated by what I see in the sky. A great hobby recommendation for all of you. Especially in this time of social distance. Buy a pair of binoculars from Celestron and begin exploring the galaxy. It gives you some great perspective on how small we really are. Thanks for reading.