Evensong.

At this time of the year, I have always enjoyed choral music. I guess my appreciation went back to my college days when I would end the semester at Allegheny College with the annual pre-Christmas holiday concert in the chapel on campus. There is something special about choir music that sets the mood for Christmas and when I headed back to the dorm, my head was right for the celebration of the birth of Christ. There was something comforting in that music and it always took the burrs off finals and cramming to make decent grades. I felt like all was right with the world as I relaxed and headed home for Christmas vacation.

Fast forward and I found myself cycling in England a number of years ago. At the end of every ride, I would head back to the B&B,shower, and then hustle over to the famous cathedrals nearby and listen to the 4:00 PM presentation of Evensong. This has always been a tradition in the Anglican Church where the choir sings in the late afternoon or evening and the public is welcome. So much so, that in Salisbury Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, I was invited to come up and sit right in the middle of the choir on either side of the main aisle. What an experience listening to the beautiful harmony on all sides. It was quite moving and I remember it vividly to this day. Some days I was running late and went straight to the cathedral in my cycling togs. I was hoping I was not too disgusting for the sharply dressed, starched, choir in their vestments, as I sheepishly sat in with them and profusely apologized between songs, as I perspired all over the stone floor. They nodded politely and continued on with the presentation.

Nowadays, I rarely have a chance to listen in person, but I do tend to take in choir music on my Pandora Channel with some renditions by Libera, and even more secular music by Lorenna McKennett or Enya that gives you the same relaxed feeling as you drive. Their Celtic music with that haunting melody, can be equally relaxing. Sometimes, this kind of music can actually alter your mood and relieve stress if you do like I do, and drive the back way to and from work without fighting the masses on the freeways. I would rather go a little out of my way, enjoy the scenery, and take in the changing leaves or the gently falling snow which decorates the pines in the hollows of my commute. Those of you who know me might be wondering if I somehow have a loose screw. But I am here to tell you that as much as I like rock and R&B, I can equally be entertained and relaxed on the Spa Channel or choral music on my drives to work.

This time of year, I also have the opportunity to drive to the mountains on Saturday mornings for some local skiing in our Laurel Highlands. Being the Type “A” person that I am, the day begins well before sunrise and I am on the road in the dark. That quiet time in the car is a wonderful time for me as I anticipate a great day of skiing with my friends and have the opportunity to sip some coffee and listen to some relaxing music on the Libera station on Pandora. Sometimes I will listen to Gregorian Chant by the Benedictine Monks on the album “Chant”. The byproduct of this mood altering music is the fact that I am totally relaxed as I enter the parking lot, go to the lodge, and begin the process of booting up. Once I am on the slopes, I can still hear the chorale music in my mind which helps me make relaxing turns on the hill as juxtaposed to the headphone wearing death metal music that the crazies are listening to buzzing all around me. My elbows are out! Efficient skiing and boarding is smooth. Relaxing music creates smooth turns. Flex the ankles and finish the turns. Kyrie Eleison.

So what’s the point Pat? Well- simply put, give choral music, Gregorian Chant, and Celtic music a chance. This time of year it always gets you in the mood and is a nice alternative from Santa Claus is Coming to Town. And, if you are headed to the mountains for skiing, or a ride, or anywhere else where a car ride is involved, make the most of it and unload the stress from the week. Also, this type of music can make you think about the reason for the season. The words bring you to the real meaning of Christmas and release you from all the stress inducing secular time crunches for a consumer oriented holiday. I think of Evensong and am glad that I had that experience to make me appreciate the season. Thanks for reading and enjoy your Christmas or Hanukkah, and quiet times in the car.

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The Quintessential Pennsylvania Hunting Camp

If you are familiar with Pennsylvania, my home state, you will know that hunting is BIG around here. Especially this time of year. There are lots of white tail deer in our state and I mean lots, and this time of the season they are running! A tradition that has been passed on by hunters here in the Keystone State is the maintenance and upkeep of the classic hunting camp. So many stories about guys ” going up to camp” for the hunting season. Plenty of food, booze, and camaraderie to spread around for days. The camps are typically built from salvage material and over the years they are improved and additions made by family and friends. Marienville, Kane( the icebox of Pennsylvania), Bradford, and other central Pa. haunts have been the home of hunting camps for generations.

So it was a nice surprise when I was invited to come to camp with my friends Bob and Julie, and as I made my way on a cold Saturday morning with snow on the ground, I turned off I-80 and made my way eventually to the  double track that led to …..” the camp.” As soon as I saw Bob cutting wood for the wood stove, and smelled the smoke in the cold air, I was reminded of how much I like fires and fireplaces and wood stoves. I exclaimed to Bob, as I came into the camp, that this place was the classic Pa. hunting camp to which he had a big smile on his face and agreed with a wheelbarrow full of wood and told me to get to work. It was cold last Saturday and the main source of heat for the house was the wood stove. But as the other folks entered the camp, food and sleeping bags began arriving and placed in the kitchen and the living area near the wood stove. No matter what ever happens, a mattress and a sleeping bag is all you need at a camp for pure comfort at night. The heat of the stove is mesmerizing and you know that no matter how bitter the weather is, there will be warmth, wood, and plenty of craft beers and food to feed the guests for the weekend.

As Julie rolled out the breakfast sandwiches and Charlotte tended to her large pot of chili, I got ready to roll for a day of outdoor adventure in the Pennsylvania wilds. You see, I love cold weather, fires, snow and the smell of wood smoke. Did I mention I like fires? LOL!!

Hunting camps have been passed on for generations and the traditions of a day in the woods followed by a hot meal and some beers and discussions of the one that got away have been the stuff of legend for Pennsylvania hunters. Yes there is hunting in the surrounding states but when you talk deer hunting, and camps, you are most likely going to reference central Pennsylvania. Really no argument there because we do have the largest deer population and also a very large black bear population. The group had been down in the woods before I got there and were still marveling at the sighting of two large bald eagles by the lake. Dr. Jack came rolling in and the group was complete. As we made our way to S.B Elliott State Park and through Parker Dam State Park, we were treated to a scenic drive right into the parking lot. As we forded some rather deep stream crossings we came upon our friend John who mystically appeared out of nowhere and when I asked how on earth he ever found us, Bob responded that they all had ridden motorcycles up there for years and knew all the terrain quite well. You see, we were there for a mountain bike weekend and not a shot was fired. No ammo, rifles, or any mention of the buck that got away. But rather the buck that we saw while riding some of the more scenic trails this state has to offer. Most of us had orange or yellow clothing to distinguish ourselves from the running herd, but yours truly had on a black rain suit which I quipped, ” I will be mistaken for a bear which should be ok seeing that it is not bear season yet.” In any event, at the end of the ride, the merry band of riders settled in again by the wood stove and the beers started cracking. As the chili made its rounds and the rest of the nuts, chips and snacks were enjoyed, our pal Tom probably summed it up best when he said, ” You know, the best part of the ride is sitting around afterward, enjoying a cold beer, some good food and stories shared by friends in the woods. Yes, I was invited to a hunting camp. But the aura of the camp was just as good for riders as it is for hunters because it is all about the people.

Good friends getting together to ride mountain bikes, but so much more than the ride. The company is great, in a classic setting.  And the older we get, the more we appreciate it. Turning 65 this week was a revelation and it made me take stock in life and remember that there are people who care about you and like to be with you ……….up at camp. Thanks for reading and remember to follow the blog by entering your email address to the left of the page or scroll down to the bottom on your smart phone.

The Yinzers invade Bend!!

There has been a lot written, posted, and videos made about Bend, Oregon and I won’t bore you with repetitive stories and accounts. However, suffice to say, when 19 people from Pittsburgh go to Bend and take in the gracious hospitality of native Pittsburgh people Julie and Jeff Chetlin and Barb and Tim Girone, things happen that affect one of the top 5 places to live in the country.

No visit would begin without the obligatory trek to one of Bend’s many brew pubs where the beer is fresh and cold and the food excellent. After pahnnding dahn an Elk Burger at Immersion Brewery http://www.imbrewing.com and drinking their most excellent IPAs, I began our adventure with our merry band of riders who sat around the tables and relaxed after a long day of travel to the West Coast. We were so happy to unite with Jeff and Julie who are our official tour leaders on the rides and the Girones who execute the lead with professionalism and the daily on-line “Trail Report” from Tim. Rising the next day we begin our climb up to the snow line surrounded by the most beautiful waterfalls you will ever see in one place.

Slogging through 6-8 inches of wet snow to get to the top around 6,000 feet, we began our descent down perhaps the longest trail I have ever descended. 13 miles to be exact. The gang was ripping down Mrazek Trail as the Chetlin video was rolling. However at the end of the trail, our fearless leader had a horrific high speed crash and broke 6 ribs in the process.

After the EMTs and the Bend Fire Department hauled Jeff out of there, we continued on and finished what was to be a 6 hour experience for the band from the burg. Settling in that night with a local IPA and tacos from the local food truck, we were treated to music in downtown Bend where the locals hang out and just chill around the tables and chairs set in the courtyard for the event. As you have heard, very laid back indeed. Puffys and trucker hats everywhere with dogs running amuck. As we all lamented the crash, and the loss of our riding leader, we made our way to the St. Charles Hospital to pay Jeff a visit. He has amazing resiliance and despite severe pain, he orchestrated our rides from the hospital bed. The next morning was another climb led by local hero, Matt,a schoolteacher who teaches culinary arts to middle school kids, who punished us with a rock strewn start on COD Trail up to the snow line again. The treat began as we descended the iconic Tiddly Winks Trail with major league features that were flawlessly crafted by the local trail crew. But perhaps the best day was the last when after an amazing breakfast at “Chow” http://www.bendinspoon.com we all took the COG Wild Shuttle http://www.cogwild.com to the top of Swampy and began a snow and ice lined trail system that led to a fast rip down a finish at the classic Bend trail- Phil’s. Another amazing downhill experience with the course profile on STRAVA all pointing negative ascent. We then began the inspection tour of Bend with a visit to what was described to us as the best brewpub in Bend. The Crux Fermentation Project as it is called is another outdoor respite that is relaxing along with some amazing food. http://www.cruxfermentation.com With a visit also to the Good Life Brewery, http://www.goodlifebrewing.com we were set to make our way to the hospital again to visit the fearless one, followed by the new Warren Miller movie “Timeless” at the Tower Theater in downtown Bend. Hoots and hollers from the Pittsburgh crew for sure as we are all skiers and boarders as well.

Ok enough, so what was the most impressive? Personally, what struck me were the neat things that you don’t see in many places like the fireplace and the bar setup in Sagebrush Cycles http://www.sagebrushcycles.com where you can try on ski boots while you drink a fresh IPA and ogle the eye candy mtb frames and clothing. Pine Mountain Sports also set us up with most excellent rental rides of Santa Cruz Hightowers and Tallboys. http://www.pinemountainsports.com They were most accomodating in their set ups with us, taking their time to set the sag based on our weight and riding ability and just in general wanted to make sure that we had the best ride for 3 days in their hometown. Did you know that they don’t have downspouts in Bend? They use a chain and the water runs down the chain into cisterns to be captured. Only in Bend. I digress. Oh one more, I was in the men’s room at one of the breweries and saw this amazing sink with no bowl. Just a flat slightly inclined sink deck where all the water ran away from you into the drain somewhere else? Only in Bend. Little things like that that you don’t see. I digress. Little things amuse little minds.

All in all, the band of ‘burgers thoroughly enjoyed the “vibe” of Bend as it is described. But the most impressive thing to me was the friendliness of the people of Bend. They are all smiling and asking you about YOUR day, where YOU are going and offering tips along the way. The relaxed mood of the restaurants, brew pubs, and shops all make you feel somehow that you are in a homey atmosphere with no plastic or snooty residents. Flannel abounds and along with kids riding, hiking, climbing and skiing, it would seem to me to be a great place to raise kids. The one comment from the Oregonians that joined us on the rides, was that they were amazed that we all were such a tight knit group and that we rode so well. The operative word was fast. As the geezer of the group, I smiled at that one and once more, it is apparent that even though we were in the most friendly, laid back, wonderful town in America, the Pittsburghers have something special too by way of camaraderie and friendliness especially in the mountain bike community where we reside. So, Jim, Simon, Josh, Dave, Sandy, Pete, Syed, John, Haley, Steve, Julie and Jeff, Barb and Tim, and Todd the resident fun times  commuter to Bend via Seattle, and Stacey- the new immigrant to Bend via Pittsburgh, I salute you and cherish you as friends. We can go anywhere and make new friends all along the way. Thanks Julie and Jeff and Tim and Barb. We will see you soon along the trail.

Statistics per John Cassucio for the 3 day riding adventure:

70 miles
5560 elevation gain
8316 elevation loss
Average Speed 8.33 MPH

John, Haley and Simon- the family that rides together stays together.

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Youth Mountain Biking is Booming!!!

When I was a kid, I loved to be outside. Still do, and it was fostered by my mother who always encouraged us to get outside and get some fresh air. Playing army in the woods, unorganized baseball, kickball, football were only interrupted by the ringing of the dinner bell by my dad after all day outside. Eventually we got into organized sports and team play was everything. Today there are a lot of distractions for kids including video games,I-Phones, and TV which play havoc with a plan by parents to encourage kids to play outside. A lot of kids would rather play in the virtual world than play in the real world outside. Enter Trail Adventures- a program put together by Allegheny County Parks and Recreation here in Western Pennsylvania. If you go to the Allegheny County Website https://alleghenycounty.us and go to the Parks page and search for Trail Adventures, you will see a sign up for an amazing program coached by Drew Landefeld and Cody Pletz. These two young guys put their heart and soul into youth mountain biking at the North Park Trail System in Northern Allegheny County.

The program begins with kids as young as 6 years old all the way to 18 years old with different coaches and divisions teaching kids how to ride a mountain bike and safely tackle the trail system with its rocks and roots along the way. When you see the parking lot full of parents and kids all excited to meet at the big tree and get their instructions for the day from Drew and Cody, the wide eyed excited kids can’t wait to get started. This program begins in April and ends in late fall before the time change and the improvement and skill level is amazing for such a young group of kids. Drew and Cody herd the cats, so to speak, and before the summer is over, the parents and kids have huge smiles on their faces and a new generation of mountain bikers is on their way to a lifetime of enjoyment on the trails. You can also reference http://www.trailadventurespgh.com

Similarly for the competitive set, one of the hottest leagues in the country today is the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) which fosters high school racing and a genuine team dynamic. The charter states that NICA promotes skill development, healthy low impact outdoor recreation,coaches training, and environmental advocacy for the protection of trails. Aside from that, there is some pretty robust racing and it is not only huge on a national scale, but really huge for us locally. Jim Pottinger, who is department chair of gifted support in the Gateway School District, is the head coach of the Pittsburgh East Cycling Team which is based at Boyce Park in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. Jim not only has his own kids racing,(daughter Riley and son Tobin- both tops in their division) but along with the 30 plus racers and 15 plus parents, they care and tend to the trails in Boyce which is one of our more beautiful parks in the county system. A robust race schedule happens late summer into fall with the championships held at Boyce Park. The team travels to races across the state of Pennsylvania along with local match ups with local teams. The team has strong support from Barry and Cindi Jeffries, the owners of Dirty Harry’s Bike Shop in Verona, Pa. Not only does Pittsburgh East get equipment support, but Barry and Cindi have funded a lot of the trail work and the race support for the team and park as well.

Lou Marshall, who coaches the Pittsburgh North Cycling Team, also has a strong connection with Pittsburgh Pro Bikes and together with a team of talented racers from the North Allegheny and Pine Richland School districts, they are very competitive both regionally and nationally, but they have a strong emphasis this year on training and riding for fun.   West Virginia has strong representation as well with over 130 racers currently competing and coached by Cassie Smith, a nationally competitive pro racer in her own right.

A disturbing statistic is that over 35 percent of teenagers today are considered obese. Youth mountain biking clubs and NICA clubs are battling this statistic and encouraging kids to get outside and play in the woods and mountains which they will be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives. Not everyone can play football or baseball on a team, but a lot of kids can certainly ride a bike and enjoy a sport that will last them a lifetime. Message being, get off the keyboards and play outside. Get involved as kids in a local program like Trail Adventures, compete or just ride with a local NICA club. And get your parents out to coach, train and be a part of a booming environment which is mountain biking. It is alive again folks. Be a part of it. Thanks for reading. Click on the tab to the left of the website and enter your email to be a follower. Also at the bottom on your smart phone. I will try to entertain and not bore you………once a week.

Photos courtesy of Jim Pottinger and “Coach” Lou Marshall.

” You see that trail? Don’t take it”

Please observe this picture of so called ” experts” trying to all repair a chain at a recent MTB event in West Virginia. Take a moment to take it in. Then PLEASE,PLEASE, take a moment to review this link. https://youtu.be/L6YrqZ7HZ-0 This is the opening scene from my favorite movie ” The Quiet Man” with John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Ward Bond, Barry Fitzgerald and the affable Victor McLaglan. Stop, take a moment and watch this hilarious scene where everybody’s an expert as in typical Irish fashion. Finished? Ok? Don’t skip it. You won’t get the rest of this drivel.

Now, fast forward from this iconic film from 1952 to the present day characters hovering over the good doctor’s chain down in West Virginia. Everybody involved is an expert. Initially, the issue is the Doc. His bike is used and abused as he makes a practice of riding over every log and rock pile he can and trashing his bike in the effort. He abuses himself too. How many guys fall and break their nose on the rocks only to put it back in place and keep riding? Dirty Harry’s Bike Shop always tells us that they could fix the Doc if only he would leave his bike long enough for them to do a thorough and well needed repair. Nonetheless, issues ensue and the repair is like a magnet to the confident crew of “experts”. First comes the ” Shark” who muscles his way in and takes hold of the chain and mumbles what is needed by way of a quick link which ultimately is the wrong one. Minutes, which seem like hours, roll by with the crew getting impatient to ride only to be stalled by the first attempt to quickly repair the chain.

The others, like the author here, making a funny face at the behest of our rider/photographer who laughs at the scene and makes detrimental and funny remarks about the Doc and his assistant trying to muscle the repair. The photographer’s wife here is disinterested as she longs to begin the ride so as not to put the afternoon’s activities any further behind. We are there to see the Mountain Bike World Cup Finals and the quick link issue is anything but quick.

Finally John, similar to the Barry Fitzgerald character who comes in to rescue John Wayne from the pile of Irish “experts”, brings the right link to the repair and silently and swiftly repairs the chain and the Doc is saved from further ridicule. Then the real fun begins. What trail to take? ” You see that trail over there? Don’t take it, it will do you no good.” In typical Irish fashion, the crew discusses where to go and the maps come out, the memories of the trails, and the GPS indicators which do absolutely no good in remote West Virginia. Finally the quick witted photographer and unofficial leader of the pack takes over and takes us on a repetitive route of rocks, roots, steep climbs and missed opportunities. Once again the maps come out and everybody’s an expert on where to go, and if we can ride to a place where we can take a chairlift out. The Doc takes the main group on a detour as he says he knows that the fractal group has gone ahead there. He turns left with no idea about where the “left” will take them.

Mountain bikers are funny people. Passionate in their pursuit of fitness, fun, great gear, and finally knowing how to survive and where to go on the wilderness trails which we all love. But everybody is an expert. We all think we know all the trails and don’t need maps or GPS. When we get lost, it is someone else’s fault and the resultant conversation of what trail we should have taken, fruitlessly leads us to conclusions of no consequence. The beers come out afterwards and the abuse continues with laughs, recommendations on what are better trails, and what we all will do the next time we ride together.

Newcomers are always pleasantly surprised at the variety of personalities and abilities on the rides and if nothing else, they will know that if they take the trail that they think is right, it will do them no good at all. Thanks for reading.

The Silver Bullets to Aging

So as I soar into Medicare age, people have been asking me lately, ” McCloskey- have you lost weight?” Others, who are not active friends, have said,” How do you keep yourself in shape” ” What are you doing?” ” Is it too late for me to get started?” My active friends know because we all do the same things together. We ride mountain bikes at least 4 days a week all year long and we ski. I am usually one of the oldest guys in the group but as Scot Nicol of Ibis Bikes once told me……” Pat- don’t think about it – just keep doing it.” So I do. But there are some things that have helped me along the way so that I don’t just wither away into old age. The grays are coming on strong, the face is starting to resemble a catcher’s mitt, but my purpose is always to encourage folks to be active and don’t let age be a factor. Let me share some pretty basic nuggets.

I was listening to the Rich Roll Podcast http://www.richroll.com and he always has the most interesting guests including Dr. Dean and Anne Hornish who were touting the benefits of replacing the NAD cellular component as we age. Apparently, NAD ( Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) is a component responsible for energy, cellular reconstruction and has sleep benefits. We lose this component as we age and there is a new supplement that is available called Tru Niagen which seems to work. I have been sleeping better and I do have a lot of energy. My wife Janet says taking this is like adding gasoline to a fire but for the most part I feel a difference. I can’t tell you much more about the research, but maybe listen to Rich Roll and the Doctors Hornish to find out more.

The second thing I have done for a while is take fish oil pills. Not a big secret as it has been known that taking a supplement with Omega 3 is good for your joints and can help lower cholesterol. I don’t have joint problems so maybe this is working too? Again, I will not go into the science because there is a lot of that out there.

Third- I use one tablespoon of MCT Oil in my coffee every morning. I have heard that if you combine this pure coconut oil which is a medium chain triglyceride along with the animal based fish oil at night, you maximize your energy output and can keep your weight in check. I get it from General Nutrition Centers and they have all the information. Again-it seems to work for me.

A fourth component is diet. I am basically back to a diet that I ascribed to 40 years ago while I was a runner. Chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables. I stopped eating junk. The muffins for breakfast, desserts, pies, cakes, cookies,ice cream, etc. I used to think I was invincible and that my body was a furnace with exercise. But as my cholesterol numbers started to trend in the wrong direction, I made up my mind that I needed to watch what I eat. I am not perfect. But amazingly I lost 10 pounds and that was not my purpose. I feel better eating cleaner and the lighter I am, the easier it has been for me to exercise.

Fifth- get a good doctor. My mountain bike pal, Syed Hyder, is also my doc. He is not only a good friend and fun to be with on rides and social outings, but he is a good doctor. But the best thing is that he knows me. He has said, ” Pat- you are the only patient that I have on Coumadin ( blood thinner) that skis and mountain bikes. But you have done it for years and I am comfortable with that.” The caveat is no blunt force trauma but I am careful on the slopes and the trails. Well sort of. I had an incident years ago with a DVT in my leg ( look it up) and also a pulmonary embolism in my lung( look that one up too- it will scare you.) But I have been taking Coumadin for 30 years without incident and I tell folks all the time that are new Coumadin users, that you can be active and still be on that drug. I am a living testament to that. There are caveats but I encourage folks to contact their doctor for the medical opinion and contact me for the layman opinion from someone who has been very active and used Coumadin for years. Glad to answer any questions with the disclaimer that I am not a doc.

A 6th component is products from Hammer Nutrition http://www.hammernutrition.com I use their energy gels and also their electrolyte replacement tablets( FIZZ) in my water bottle to keep me hydrated and to replace lost electrolytes during exercise. I would encourage the use of these products and to read their monthly publication that will come to your house in the mail. Tons of informative articles on health and exercise.

A final factor is Ray Vactor the Chiropractor. LOL!! I love that. Ray is an old friend and my chiropractor. But I have been a believer in the re-alignment of the spine for optimum performance due to a steady flow of energy in the nervous system. Ray has kept me healthy in this area of holistic health for over 30 years. I do the recommended stretches after my morning showers and with monthly adjustments, I have been pain free for a long time. Research your potential visits to a chiropractor, but I can tell you Ray Vactor the Chiropractor has helped me. http://www.wexfordchiropractic.com for those in the Pittsburgh area.

The fact of the matter is there really is no silver bullet that will let you drink from the Fountain of Youth. But there are some simple things that you can do as you age that help the process of feeling good for as long as the good Lord lets you feel at all. Positive attitude, healthy clean eating, some supplemental help along the way, and regular exercise can rocket you along in life and age is only a number. Again- just my opinions. Thanks for reading.

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More Cowbell

Well folks, back in the saddle again and commenting on a unifying item called the cowbell. In World Cup ski races, you can hear the cowbells clanging and ringing on he sides of the race trail as the racers scream by at top speeds. The Swiss have a habit of bringing monster cowbells that sound more like a clanging gong than a ring of a standard bell found on the necks of the bovine community in Switzerland.

I came prepared this past weekend with my official Swiss cowbell that I bought on my honeymoon some 31 years ago in Zermatt. This tradition of cheering on the competitors is also used in World Cup Mountain Bike racing and last weekend the alpine sound greeted the downhill competitors as well as the cross country competitors as they made their way down rock strewn and root infested Snowshoe, West Virginia. I rang my bell for reigning World Champion Nino Schurter as he climbed the summit of a grinder right before a treacherous rock garden. I rang for the rest of the field and was joined in a chorus of bells of all shapes and sizes. I rang for all American competitors as I hoped that the home squad would make a good showing on American soil. This is the World Cup Finals after all in Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia. How much more American can you get than that? Kate Courtney- our former World Champion for Cross Country, dug deep and finished 5th in the XC race which guaranteed her a victory in the overall season title. ” USA, USA, USA,” went the massive crowd chant along with an assembled thousands of ringing cowbells.

As I thought about the event on the way home which included some great riding at places like Tea Creek and Silver Creek Backcountry trails nearby with my band of traveling mountain bikers, I thought of what the cowbell meant in the melee of the excited fanfare. I thought about how I had not been to a World Class event in some time but looking at the athletes, soigneurs, photographers, team mechanics, nothing much had changed. The gathering of the mountain bike tribe was still pretty much in tact even though some of us had aged and many new youthful faces had emerged. The vibe that Snowshoe created was energetic and supportive of cross country races and downhill alike. But the thing that really struck me was the unity of the crowd, cheering on their favorites and taking in the brilliant sunshine ringing their cowbells enthusiastically regardless of age, faith, race, creed, color, Democrat, Republican, whatever. We are all mountain bikers and we love our heroes as well as the tribe we ride with. All joined together as one unified throng of thousands, ringing our cowbells and smiling. Everybody should take a lesson from the mountain bike tribe. We have a lot more in common that we think. Thanks for reading.  Click on the follow button and join in the fun as I continue to muse about things in later life.  Thanks.