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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The Global Warming/Climate Change Disappointment.

So far this winter season, I have had to chase the snow. From skiing and hiking in the rain, to heading west earlier this month, and later next month, to actually ski in some honest to goodness snow. But like I always say, I can’t be out west all of the time so I need to maximize my winters right here at home. Recent meteorological history suggests that climate change is a reality around these parts. Here in Southwest Pa, we are right on the borderline of the snow/rain events. So you really need to head north of Interstate 80 to get to snow country that so far has eluded the climate change issue. At least for now. We had that opportunity this past weekend when Janet and I ventured north to Bradford, Pa. The Icebox of Pennsylvania. I love winter and have posted about that love many times. But when you are standing on a pair of snowshoes and stopping to view and hear the gurgling of a winter mountain stream, it takes your breath away. There is complete silence in the wilds of Pennsylvania save the running water under the ice laden streams. One of the cool things about snowshoeing is that you can easily manage the trails by staying on top of the snow instead of post holing with your hiking boots. We use ski poles as well to aid in our balance and the movement among the snow covered pines and over the bridges of the streams. And if you want to go off trail and bushwhack to get to another stream or point of interest, the drifts are no match for snowshoes. I love bounding over drifts and off trail to enjoy all that the woods have to offer this time of year.

I always struggle to get the most ski days, schlepp equipment to the airport and to the ski areas, get some snowshoe days, look for snow, and in general get what I once had as a regular thing. I never had to search for winter. I grew up with it. Sled riding in the neighborhood with snow all winter. My dad built a skating rink for us in the backyard. We never had issues with weather. Winter was winter. Now we fight the weather, the rain, the sleet, and try to make the most of it outdoors. Sometimes we just have to go on the search for winter because this issue of climate change is affecting our weather down here in the banana belt and it is frankly discouraging to a winter guy like me. At the end of the season, I almost breathe a sigh of relief that the tension I put on myself is over for another year. I get mad at the forecasts, I constantly look at ski reports, I DVR ski races to ease my pain. I can vicariously root for Mikaela Shiffrin or Tommy Ford on the TV after a rain soaked ski day here in the changing weather scene. I will do whatever to enjoy the winter and that includes making things as easy as possible for my wife whose passion for the winter is not as keen as mine. Please note that my wife calls me the Sherpa. Ang McCloskey Sherpa. Two pair of skis, two pair of boots in the pack, two helmets and goggles. She handles the poles. Full disclosure, not that she won’t carry her own stuff, she is perfectly willing. I just do it to make life easy for her and encourage her to chase the snow like me.

So bottom line, I am discouraged at the local winters anymore and kind of bummed at climate change and global warming. I do what I can to help the environment in my own small way. I am a contributing member of POW ( Protect our Winters), the Jeremy Jones endeavor to lobby Washington to heed the call on climate change. I know that weather and climate have cycles over the centuries but there is something to be said about what we do to our atmosphere by way of CO2 emissions . I get it. Other countries better get it too!! Otherwise, our winter scenes, mountain streams, ski slopes, and snow clad peaks will be a distant memory for many folks. Support POW. http://www.protectourwinters.org Thanks for reading folks.

Resolutions- 2020

So I was thinking the other day as we turned the corner on the new decade. How easy it will be to type 2020. Or write 2020. Tap tap. Click click. It was a kind of foreshadowing of how good I am hoping the New Year and the new decade will be. Lots of good things happening and surprises for sure for all of us. I was in our local park the other day on January 1 and chuckled a bit at all the Resolutioners that were out and about. You know, the ” this year I am going to get in shape, eat healthier and feel better about myself” crowd. They were out in droves walking and running around the lake and I even saw a guy in a canoe with full winter garb paddling furiously. Now don’t get me wrong, I always admire anyone who makes a change in their life as it is not only good for them but very admirable to see the commitment. The parking lots were full and the enthusiasm and some times expressions of pain, were abundant in the faces of those folks who were undertaking the process of getting in shape for the New Year. My advice to anyone who wants to start an exercise program is to start slowly. Ease into it so that you won’t get burned out and sore. Every day is an improvement and if you stick with it, good things happen with your health and mental state of affairs.

No matter what you do, cycling, walking, running,skiing,hiking, or any kind of activity that gets you outside is great. Take my old neighbor here. He got into running and now he is hooked, entering races, and leading a healthy lifestyle all because of a New Year’s resolution. I have made a couple of resolutions in my day as well. I started to write this blog a number of years ago upon the suggestion of my wife. I also made the choice to eat more healthy and try to reduce some cholesterol issues by quitting sweets,unhealthy snacks, and sticking basically to chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables. As a result, I lost 12 pounds and had one of the best riding years I have had in 2019.

But really, what does it take to make a resolution? What do you want to change? How do you want to change? These are questions that pop up in your head anytime you want to do something different in your life. I speak of all the Resolutioners pounding around the lake on January 1 making the commitment to improve their health in 2020. But are there other things that we all should do to make a change? Personally I hope so. I would like to see people try to be more kind. Social media these days is dripping with sarcasm and vitriol for anyone who differs in opinion. It is easy to sit behind a keyboard and type some God awful things these days. It is sad. We are all Americans and this country was founded on discourse and discussion. Just because someone’s opinion is different than yours does not make them a bad person. I hope we can make an attempt to be more forgiving and kind especially in the election cycle ahead. I hate to say this but there is really nothing we can do about the political climate aside from casting a vote if we are honest with ourselves. Any change is really made at a grass roots level with all of us being more tolerant, kind and concerned for each other as Americans and as friends. I am hoping a lot of people in this country make that change. I am going to try to do the same in my own little way. We come into situations in our lives every day where we can help people if we look for that opportunity. John Guest, the famous evangelist, once said that ” you don’t have to go to a foreign country to evangelize or be helpful. You can serve people right in your own neighborhood. Your mission does not have to be in a foreign country.” I agree with him. If you make yourself available to people, you can be kind and helpful. What you say or do may move mountains for that person and you might not even realize it. People like to have kindness afforded to them. If we do it a little bit, we all can make a difference one person, one household, one neighborhood at a time.

So as 2020 (tap tap) evolves, maybe we all extend some grace as we have been extended grace. Look out for your family, friends and neighbors. After all, what is really more important than that? Thanks for reading.

” Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace.”
– 1 Peter 4:10

Creative Genius

You don’t have to be a Picasso, or Brahms or Mozart, or even Martin Scorsese to be a creative genius in my book. Lots of my friends are really creative and can look at an opportunity, or a problem, or a riddle and figure out how to best create a solution. Perhaps the best creative genius that I knew, who was able to solve most problems and riddles, was my father. A Carnegie Tech mechanical engineering graduate, Dick McCloskey saw most things as a fun challenge. His engineering mind was always at work and he relished the opportunities to create solutions that would last. He could plumb, do electrical work, solder, and artistically create things like the treasure chest that he made me as a kid. I still have it some 55 years later and store my mountain bike maps there. My dad made us an ice skating rink in the backyard by using 2X4s as rink perimeters and a large roll of Visqueen plastic as the liner to the rink. He would fill it with water every winter and we were not allowed on it until it was completely frozen for fear the skates would cut the plastic. Many nights were spent on that rink on the back patio and it was the centerpiece for the neighborhood kids for winter entertainment.

When I first started to go to Tuckerman Ravine in the spring for the ritual of spring skiing, I needed a way to lash my skis to the external pack that I owned. My dad rigged up some aluminum tubing with some hasps and wing nuts and presto, I had a frame that allowed me to attach my skis with the boots in the bindings to the outside of the pack. Skis pointed to the sky on either side of the pack.

Interestingly, my friend Eric who lived in Vermont at the time, was faced with the same challenge and he made his supports from wood. We have laughed about that in later years as the boy from Steeltown had metal supports and the boy from Vermont had supports made exactly the same from wood. Creative genius from two different perspectives.

But the masterpiece which was created around the same time by my dad, was the ski bench that he made me and I still use some 42 years later and is featured in my blog photo here. I remember going to my dad and saying to him that I needed to have a bench now that I knew how to tune my own skis. Thanks again to my creative genius friend Eric Durfee ,who taught me everything I needed to know about tuning skis. He was also perhaps the best ski instructor I ever had but that is another story. I told my dad that I needed to have a bench using the vices that Eric had given to me and he looked those over with great thought. What popped up in his creative mind was something I would never have imagined. A door from the hardware store complete with hinges. He knew that I needed to have a place for my bindings to fit and he cut the door to the specifications of my skis allowing the bindings to rest in a cut out hole in the door between the two vice pieces. He then mounted the door on the wall of my townhouse in the garage with supports underneath either side of the horizontal door. When I was finished tuning my skis. I flipped the door up to be secured by a hasp on the wall and pushed the supports up against the wall and the whole bench was out of the way until the next time I needed to use it.

The interesting thing is I still use the bench today and as an aside, it also serves as a refrigerator in our garage for items that my wife wants to keep cold. My dad never saw that coming, but the creative genius of my wife allowed her to think about a place to keep things cold in the winter and as long as I did not get metal filings or wax in the food, she was open to storing things on my ski bench when it was not in use for it’s original intent.

I could go on and on about my dad’s creative genius. There were so many things that he made for me that we enjoyed together when I was a kid. Today people just buy things. My dad made them, and his love for creating solutions is something I will never forget. Perhaps the biggest benefit about my dad’s creativity was the chance for me to spend time with him. I cherished those moments and I think about him every time I open up that bench, heat up the iron to wax the boards, and get the file ready for the side edge tunes. My dad never skied, but he and my mother made sure my sister and I did and I am in their debt so many years later. Creative genius is more than just the solution. It is the catalyst to education and a chance for guys like me to appreciate and look back so many years later with thankfulness and love for my dad and mom. Although my creativity is on the other side of the brain, I still look back with respect and love for those who educated me with their ability to see the solution. Thanks for reading.

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Make The Best of It

This time of year in Western Pennsylvania, people tend to get down because of the weather. We are right on the borderline of snow/rain/sleet/freezing rain/and with the time change, the attitudes of some folks tend to get a bit blue. It is also accentuated when the Steelers are not quite up to par and risk not making the playoffs. The major reason I write this blog is to encourage folks to get outdoors and make the best of it. With the weather pattern changing and the storms blowing off the Great Lakes, we tend to be like the Pacific Northwest and precipitation and cold weather go hand in hand.

For those of us who actually do make the best of it down here in the Banana Belt, the lights come out for mountain bike rides as we suffer through cold, wet and slimy conditions, at night, in the dark, illuminated by an array of really high quality lighting systems.


One of the things that makes it manageable is clothing. Rain pants and wicking underlayers are key. I happened upon an amazing full rain suit made by Frogg Toggs which I picked up in the hunting department of Dick’s Sporting Goods. Inexpensive, but it definitely blocks the wind and keeps you warm. And for 38 bucks, when it finally wears out, you can easily replace it. We even hang it in the car wash to hose off along with our bikes with a light spray.

Full disclosure here, we do use a light spray and not the high pressure spray which blows the grease out of all the bearings. We don’t want to incur the wrath of the Dirty Harry’s Bike Shop crew so we tend to be very conservative in the clean up phase after rides. When the splooge factor is high, we must visit the car wash. Splooge being the nasty, muddy, slop that coats your bike during wet winter rides. But it is all remedied at the car wash. And, you can hose off the suit too. And when I am lazy, I just hose off the suit while wearing it.  Just like a shower with the car wash wand.  Lots of fun rides in the winter if you have the drive to continue to ride year round.

A lot of us are skiers and snowboarders too, and we plan our western trips for the season. But living here in Western Pa, you can’t be out west all the time so you make the best of local conditions and just get out. No matter what the weather throws at us.

For these activities, clothing is just as important as seen here with my Patagonia Pro Gore Tex suit that keeps me bone dry along with my snow making gloves from CHS Snowmakers. http://www.chssnowmakers.com

If you can stay dry, skiing in rain is really good because of the soft snow and no lift lines. One of the best days I ever had skiing, was at Whiteface up in the Adirondacks in a torrential rain storm. The rain was cascading off my helmet and goggles as I rode the Summit Chair, but the snow was so soft and easy to ski. I hated to quit at the end of the day because the skiing was so good. Again, you have to be willing to get out this time of year. The cold weather will come soon enough and January and February and especially March, which tends to be more winter like. But in late November and early December, you take what you can get. Just get out and do it and you will feel so much better when you do.  I sound like Warren Miller?   

There are lots of activities in which you can participate during the “off season”. When the snow piles up, the snowshoes come out for my wife and me, and with a headlamp, you can snowshoe at night as well as during the day. Hiking is another fun activity for couples. As with skiing and snowboarding, the apres’ activity is also a fun reward. Nothing like a hot drink sitting next to a roaring fire. The IPAs in the parking lot after rides are pretty tasty too.

So, no deep message here this week folks,( not that I ever give a deep message), just some encouraging suggestions that will make you think about making the best out of rotten weather. Like my friend the Shark always says,” No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices.” Thanks for reading.

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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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