PPP( Pat’s Pleasant Peddling)

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

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

My mantra-LOL!!!!
Blooming Mountain Laurel

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

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

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

The fall is coming.

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

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

Send It

UCI World Cup Snowshoe- home of the “Senders”

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

Women’s UCI Downhill- Snowshoe, WVA

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

Corbett’s Couloir- Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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

Looking down from the summit of Mammoth Mountain, California.

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

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

Missy the Missile

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

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

Another sender.

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

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

Snowshoe title picture courtesy of Steve Gurtner

The Tour de Death

Make Chetlin Great Again- seen here on the right.

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

The Benedum Crypt

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

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

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

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

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

The Trails Are For All of Us

Laguna Beach, Ca
State College, Pa.

So I was rocking down the trail the other day with a bunch of my pals in a tight line on our mountain bikes. As we rounded a corner, I was the last guy and I heard behind me,” You’re Welcome!!” Feeling like we had committed a transgression, I stopped, turned around and saw a woman hiker who obviously was not happy. I knew the guys would wait for me up ahead so I turned back to address the lady and say that we were sorry for not thanking her for moving off the trail to let us by. I explained that I did not see her as surely I would have thanked her per my custom with hikers and runners on the trail. I also told her I have a bell where if I see someone hiking or running or riding for that matter, I use it to give them a courteous notice that I was coming. This conversation with the disgruntled hiker was not cutting it as she said, ” Why do I have to always move for you guys?” I replied once again that I was sorry and apologized for the rest of our group. But it got me thinking. The trails are for all of us and we need to be courteous to all who use the trails, no matter what. Sure we were flying and everyone in our MTB group was working hard to keep the pace of the line. But, obviously this was not received well.

Fast forward, the other day, I was riding by myself in our local North Park trails, and came upon a woman and her family and three dogs. Two nicely behaved golden retrievers and a smaller dog who was quite young. I rang my bell, was courteous and thanked her for moving the dogs as I sped by but I could tell she was uncomfortable moving the dogs and trying to keep them off the trail to let me by.

Hiking in North Park- Pittsburgh , Pa

I did one more lap around and came upon them again and this time, I got off my bike, moved off the trail and said to them, ” Now it is your turn to pass” with a big smile on my face. She appreciated that and it kind of broke the ice a little bit and she explained that she had some difficulty with a mountain biker the other day. Seems like a guy came roaring by them and startled their little dog, who I found out was a rescue dog. The rider never said sorry or thank you for moving, just roared past her. The lady explained that after that event, the little dog was terrified of mountain bikes and asked if she could walk her past my bike to show her that all mountain bikers are not scary and rude. We exchanged further pleasantries and I went on my way feeling that perhaps I had diffused some hard feelings and maybe I helped show the lady and her family that all MTB riders are not the same. I told her in passing that we try to educate newer riders on the courtesies of the trail, but some people- just like on the the trails of life , are only thinking of themselves. More education is needed.

My family likes to hike too.

My wife and I are avid hikers too and I can certainly see the conflicts that take place from a hiker/runner perspective on the trails. I notice when riding sometimes that trail runners and hikers sometime take a more aggressive attitude when we are passing them on mountain bikes. But I get it. They probably have had similar experiences as my friend with the dogs. I see the disgruntled looks on their faces and my immediate reaction is ” Hey- I pay my taxes too!!!” But then I think, be courteous, ring your bell. Smile and thank them for moving. I always think that the best way to improve perception is to be polite, courteous, and respect others on the trails.

The other users that need a lot of respect are the horses and their riders. Our group makes a habit of getting off our bikes, standing well to the side of the trail, and greeting them in a friendly manner. Most of the equestrian types are nice and very thankful that we move. Horses are easily spooked and I am sure they have had their moments of nervousness with a group of mountain bike riders.

The last thing I am going to comment about here is trail work. If you are going to claim certain rights on trails and use them frequently, it might not be a bad idea to give a little sweat equity to http://www.trailpittsburgh.org if you live in the local area. There are opportunities for cyclists, runners, hikers, and equestrians to work together on trail projects. Not only does that improve our trail systems but it gives all of us users a chance to work together and talk about some things that maybe need resolved. If you are open enough to listen to concerns with other user groups, you will be more educated as to their issues and work to resolve them – one trail day session at a time.

Our group of courteous riders visiting Wild Wonderful West Virginia

These trail improvement organizations are everywhere and no matter where you live, you can get involved and maybe learn a little bit about other user groups. In my mind, trail use is a little bit of a microcosm of life in general. Interaction with people where courtesy wins the day. Shouldn’t that be the way we all behave as we move through life ? We all use the trails to get away from the stresses of daily life and to get some exercise in a great environment. The trails are for all of us. Thanks for reading.

Mossy Lane

Did you ever notice that some people have amazing talent? Some in more than one area. I think of Tony Bennett, obviously with his singing, but did you also know that he is a very talented painter? His art is displayed in some fairly exclusive galleries. Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane also has a gallery of her art in Sausalito. How do some people get all the talent? I suppose once you are a creative artist, that can be displayed in many ways and there are a lot of people who not only have the ability, but they take the time to share their work with all of us – much to our amazement and benefit.

Elaine Root is one of those people. When you walk into her shop in Aspinwall, Pa. you are first impressed at the cozy location on a side street that is very welcoming. Oftentimes with the door open and Elaine smiling there to greet you. As you roam her shop, you are amazed at the quantity and quality of the clothing there. I think my wife could buy out the whole store if you gave her enough time. The interesting thing is that all of the beautiful clothing on display is made by Elaine herself.

Wearable art.

Elaine is a busy person. Finding the time to prolifically create skirts, blouses, hats, scarves, purses, wraps, and a myriad of other selections is mind boggling. My wife Janet particularly liked a black dress that was just a little too long and Elaine took it immediately to her table and shortened it just right to change the whole look. She has an eye for fashion and knows what looks good on people. She can size you up as you walk into her shop and pick some of her creations that fit the bill amazingly well. Janet is sold on Mossy Lane.

But more importantly, Janet is sold on Elaine. Her inspiration to open the shop came from her mother- Mossy, and she dedicates a lot of her effort to her mother with whom she was very close. But there is more to this story. I know Elaine from mountain biking. Elaine is an excellent rider and many people do not know, but Elaine and her ex-husband Maurice, created one of the most beloved mountain bike magazines to ever hit the stands- Dirt Rag Magazine. For those of you who do not know, Dirt Rag was published right here in Pittsburgh and its circulation reached world wide status. Elaine used her creativity to develop the story lines, edit submissions, and together with Maurice, they made an iconic publication that rewarded them with an entry into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.

Another world of creativity

Dirt Rag was not the typical magazine that only reviewed products, and was just a repository for advertising dollars, but rather it developed the soul of mountain biking by offering articles and submissions that talked about the off beat subjects that were associated with the sport. Dirt Rag was one of the first places that I read about craft beer( a mountain bike staple), out of the way places to eat and stay in famous and infamous mountain bike locations world wide. Articles about the pioneers of the sport who were personal friends of Elaine and Maurice. So many different articles and submissions that really separated them from the other published magazines. So much fun to read and so informational. Elaine was responsible for the quality of the content. She is a talented editor and writer. And now devotes her time to her other craft of clothing creativity.

Elaine is one of those people of whom I first mentioned above. Talented in different areas and a creative artist in different genres. Sometimes that abundant talent comes with some difficulty. Elaine is currently challenged by a health issue that will require her to take some time off with her husband Scott and address something that totally took her by surprise. You wonder why something like this happens to someone who is so creative and gives so much to the world? But Elaine is a competitor. Her mountain bike racing days taught her grit and determination to succeed. Creating a world class magazine and forcing it to succeed also developed her determination. Finally her tireless work to create fashionable clothing and make her Mossy Lane a success comes with a lot of chutzpa-(look it up). I am totally convinced that Elaine will beat this challenge because she is positive, joyful, and has an upbeat take on the situation. I told her that our prayers are powerful as well and there are many examples of success.

Elaine’s equally talented and amazing husband Scott.

Elaine will take some time off shortly, attend to her treatment and healing, and in no time I am convinced that she will be back creating the things that make us all smile. Check her website http://www.mossylaneproducts.com for hours of operation as she makes her way through the process. But remember what Elaine says,” I make clothes that remind me to breathe. To stop and take notice.” Elaine has dedicated her whole creative life to that process. Support her shop, pray for her successful treatment and healing, and most of all- marvel at the amazing talent that some people are blessed with in this life. Thanks for reading.

The Well Rounded Athlete

I came upon a post last week in Facebook by Julie Gavrillis describing how she came back into contact with a mountain bike that she had not seen in years. Julie was the manager in 1994 of the Volvic – Power Bar Women’s Mountain Bike Team and the bike that she received recently belonged to one of her riders- Susan DiBiase. Julie went on to say what a nice, humble champion Susan was and how she was privileged to manage that team back in the day. The tie in here is that Susan and her brother Jimmy are old friends of mine from our skiing days at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Susan developed into a multi- pronged professional athlete being on the U.S National Freestyle Skiing Team from 1988-1992, The Budweiser Pro Mogul Tour -1992-1994 , and also a professional mountain bike racer for GT from 1990-1993, Volvic- Power Bar in 1994, and finishing with the Evian Women’s Team from 1994-1996. She also spent some time in 2007 as an Ambassador for the Professional Women’s Team- Luna Chix. But my little story about Susan is how she first became involved in cycling which all started with local rides with our Moon Cyclist group and the ACA weekly criterium races at the Highland Park Zoo.

The recovered mountain bike from back in the day.

Susan first started with road riding and racing and would bring her pal from Penn State to the races to ride with us during the week. Karen Bliss was Susan’s pal and was 4 time U.S. Points race champion on the track and 3 time National Criterium Champion and recently nominated and entered into the U.S. Bicycle Hall of Fame. At the time, Susan and Karen were training and racing, and because we were friends who first got her started in cycling along with Susan’s step father, Paul Phillips, they would be gracious enough to ride with our group. I can remember telling the guys at the time that we had special guests riding with us. Gary Gillis and Mike Mihok from the Moon Cyclists were skeptical at first, but when Susan and Karen would pound us into submission and the guys would look at me and say ” Who are they?” I would laugh and say-” try to keep up”. The only reason we were not dropped weekly was that the girls didn’t know where they were going. They had to rely on us for the route- otherwise we would never have seen them.

Fast forward- Susan set her sights on pro mountain bike racing and had success with several teams. She never forgot her old pal Pat, and when I would go to mountain bike races back in the day, Susan would always make sure I was involved and introduced me to her team mates and friends from road cycling and mountain biking. I met all the luminaries of the sport through Susan and those were fun days to be sure. I felt proud to have been a part of Susan’s riding history and she was always gracious enough to mention it to her friends and team mates.

At the World Championships in Vail in 1994, my friend Bob Anderson( local mountain bike racing legend),Tim Sweeney (local masters racing legend) and I took in the races as spectators and saw the world’s best compete. We watched John Tomac win the downhill in a black skin suit looking very much like Darth Vader as he rocketed down the course. We hiked all around the cross country course and watched the men’s XC races as well as the women and cheered Susan on with her team mates. Again, Susan made sure our experience was complete as she invited Bob, Tim, and me to the after -race party for sponsors, suppliers, and teams competing in the championships. We walked around with our passes and bumped heads with all the legends of the sport and Susan was so happy we enjoyed the event. I needed to get back to Denver to catch a flight and was trying to see where Bob was so we could leave. I looked into the mosh pit at the party and saw a horizontal Bob being passed around by the crowd and was resigned to the fact that Bob was having a great time and the ride to Denver would be a quick one with Bob napping in the back seat.

Susan and Julie Gavrillis reunited

Currently Susan is the General Manager and U.S marketing director for Babolat- a universally well known equipment supplier in the tennis world. She and her husband Peter live in Fraser, Colorado and Susan is still very active in her athletic pursuits. I was happy to see the post by Julie and the many memories that it brought back to me. As Julie says, you will not find a more caring person than Susan and her smile and giggle will always be remembered locally and also throughout the sports world where Susan competed many years ago. Hopefully we will reconnect someday but in the meantime- I have Jimmy. Thanks for reading.

Nothing like Patriot’s Day in Boston

Patriot’s Day in Boston is aligned with the running of the Boston Marathon. This year is it Monday April 18th. Back in 1987, my pal Jack Mook asked me if I ever ran a marathon? He also told me that he was injured and wanted to know if I would consider running Boston? He would give me his number and I could run it if I wanted? I only ran in the winter for fitness. I thought about it and immediately responded in the affirmative and thought about what it would take to run the thing. I did my due diligence, ran my 20 in a raging snowstorm, went to Boston with Hot Harry Kirsch, Les Brodie, and Carl Trimbur and finished in a respectable time of 3:17. Not bad for a guy who basically rides a bike. The bus ride to the start was a bit intimidating seeing that I was in the company of a lot of pure runners and it seemed like a loooooong bus ride. LOL!! But the best part of that day for me was not the running, but the auxiliary experiences along the way which made it most memorable.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Experience #1- I went to the expo and met the 1984 Olympic Marathon Champion – Joan Benoit Samuelson. She was at the Nike booth with Frank Shorter and we had a great chat because we have a mutual friend- Jace Pasquale. As it turns out, Jace was Joan’s ski race coach during her years at the University of New Hampshire and all Joan could talk about was ” How is Jace?” ” What is she doing now” ” Please tell her hello from me.” Joan was such a friendly and unassuming person who was so humble – very impressive for an Olympic gold medalist. We chatted for a long time in the line and the people behind me were getting miffed so I thanked her for the time and moved on to collect some Boston Marathon SWAG.

Experience # 2- being with Carl, Harry, Les and Bill Shillinger, my running partner for the marathon. Bill had agreed to run with me and we had a great time. Bill kept my enthusiasm in check as we ran through Wellesley College with the roar of the college girls that could be heard for miles. I came smoking out of there all pumped up but Bill told me to slow down or I would have a problem. He guided me past the Green Monster of Fenway Park and as we finished together, I realized how valuable Bill had been for me in this initiative.

Hot Harry only had a running bag with another singlet and a pair of running shorts and a toothbrush. He traveled light but snored like a Stihl chainsaw- driving Les to sleep in the closet of the hotel room. Another treat of the hotel was the fact that the elevators were broken after the marathon and there was no hot water. A cruel punishment for those of us who had just run 26.2 miles. But eating at Legal Seafoods and laughing about the whole thing made me think that this mishap was all part of the experience. Running down the Newton Hills beat up my thighs to the point that I had to walk down stairs backwards the next day in the hotel and in the “T” running around town. I did not realize that running downhill beats you up more than anything.

Hot Harry- the man , the myth the legend

Hot Harry and Carl Trimbur are no longer with us. But the laughs of us all in one hotel room and traveling up and back to Boston is a time that I will cherish forever.

Experience #3- Boston is a wild place during the Marathon. So many people packing the sidewalks cheering on the runners along with the smell of beer all the way down Boylston St. Boston is resilient and even with the tragedy of the bombing a number of years ago, they have that Patriot spirit that keeps Boston strong. Eating Italian in the North End, seeing the sights from the Revolution days, and in general, taking in all that Boston has to offer is really the true essence of Patriot’s Day and marathon weekend.

I don’t run anymore because I am preserving my knees for cycling and skiing. But when I see the marathon on TV every spring, I think back to the good times that I had with the guys, the experiences of running the event, and the pull of Boston that will always bring me back to visit. Thanks for reading.

Back in the Saddle

Jeff- back in the saddle.

You know, it is particularly gratifying when you see someone overcome an unexpected and debilitating event in their lives. Our friend Jeff had such an event nearly a year ago and has been working hard to overcome the effects of a stroke which had him on the ropes for most of the past year. After a routine heart valve replacement, he had a stroke in the hospital and was able to be treated immediately. Jeff is an avid mountain biker, backcountry skier, hiker, snowmobiler, and general outdoors superman. This was tough on him. But with a lot of hard work on Jeff’s part with UPMC Centers for Rehabilitation Services, and prayers from a lot of people, and the unwavering support of his wife Julie, Jeff has been able to make a comeback slowly but surely with walking, hiking and this weekend, back on his mountain bike. He is literally and figuratively back in the saddle again. Gene Autry would be proud.

Jeff and Julie hiking at Laurel Mountain

So this weekend, my pal Pete and I were on notice that Jeff wanted to try riding his mountain bike. He had told us how he has been riding rollers at UPMC Center for Rehabilitation Services, on the Southside and how he wanted to give it a go outside. Pete installed flat pedals on Jeff’s bike and as we pumped up the tires and checked the bike overall, he seemed ready to go. I threw Jeff’s bike in my Jeep and the three of us made our way to the bowling green area of Frick Park which is relatively flat. A good place to start in the grass in the event of a possible spill. The last thing I said to Jeff before he mounted his favorite Spot mountain bike was, ” Jeff- don’t even think about it. Just ride your bike.” He agreed and the next thing you know, he is off and peddling. Pete and I never touched him which really surprised us seeing that we both expected to be balancing him on his bike and running beside him. This was surprisingly not the case and as Jeff rode around the grassy area around the bowling greens, we were very much surprised at his ability and progress. We immediately called his wife Julie who was visiting her son at school and sent her some video of the event. It was nothing short of a miracle and so gratifying to see that huge smile on Jeff’s face as he did laps around the park. He even made it out on to the road, made a left turn with his leg out motocross style, shifted up and peddled up the road past us. All three of us were so thrilled and the event of the day was a huge success. Jeff is on his way now and Julie, Pete, and I will be taking him out and we believe soon, he will be riding his beloved trails of Frick Park again.

Jeff front and center with his posse.

You know, most people don’t survive such an event in their lives. Or at the very least, it redefines their way of living. With the help of friends here and in his adopted other home- Bend, Oregon, Jeff has been encouraged to work hard and overcome an adversity. Julie has been unwavering in her dedication to her husband, and Jeff’s friends have all stepped up to help which is a testament to the mantra that ” to have a friend is to be a friend.” Jeff is that model and because of his friendship to so many people, everyone stepped in to help and get this guy back in the saddle again. It was a long time coming and Jeff still has some work to do. But this weekend showed that with tenacity, and the power of prayer, one can overcome what would take most people down. It won’t be long until this is all a distant memory and we all will be riding together and not giving it a thought. Good on ya Jeff. Loved seeing you on your way back. Thanks for reading.

P.J- A.J

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

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

The Coffee Table Books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Nordic!

Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins,

Years ago, I met a young lady who was a member of the Middlebury College Nordic Ski Team. She was recounting her workout routine while quickly demolishing a half gallon of ice cream right before my eyes. She had to pay close attention to her diet and make sure that she was eating enough calories to fuel her practices and meets. In many cases, they just can’t eat enough. You see, cross country ski racers are a rare breed. Among endurance athletes, they have the most impressive VO2 data and their engines are unmatched in the endurance sports world. We have a real superstar right here in the U.S with Jessie Diggins who is a member of our U.S Nordic Ski Team and a gold medalist from the most recent Olympic games in Korea. She has had tremendous success on the World Cup and is a favorite for gold in the upcoming Olympics in China. These athletes are amazing and their skill and endurance is worth watching on the upcoming coverage of the Olympics in February. Check them out.

More gold in China?

If you take it down several notches, there are opportunities out there for the mortal man to participate in this winter sport. I am an alpine skier and rarely get to go cross country skiing any more but I have always had respect for people who make use of Nordic ski centers like the one we have at Laurel Mountain right here in Pa.

Laurel Mountain Nordic Ski Center

The cool thing about cross country skiing is that you can enjoy it casually like a nice tour through the woods or you can make it a real workout. Traditional skis can be used in the machine made tracks and the feeling of gliding along with your skis floating though the tracked trail is spectacular. Shorter skating skis are also available and you can skate your way along groomed trails which is another great workout. Finally, there are wider touring skis that have metal edges which allow you to break trail on a freshly fallen snow landscape like a golf course. Many ski touring centers offer rentals and if not, most outfitters like L.L. Bean. Public Lands, and REI have equipment for sale or rent. With the recent big snow in the East, I see many people out on the golf courses and on the groomed trails these days trying to make the most of the winter weather.

Tracked Trails.

Years ago, I had touring skis and would ski at night on the golf course near my home with a light on my head. A fun workout on clear, cold nights. Oftentimes in those days, I would also visit my friend Eric in Vermont and as a diversion from alpine skiing at Killington, we would take cross country equipment out of his garage and head to the quarry near his home in Bethel, Vermont. It was there that we skied up and down gravel and sand piles showing off and usually crashing and burning many times until we either had destroyed his equipment or were so stiff and sore and snow covered that we left and headed home for a cold beer. Fun times in those days in Bethel.

I often joke with my friends who cross country ski. I call them communist skiers. They laugh because they know that I associate cross country ski racers with the Eastern Bloc. Most of the success in recent years has been with skiers from the Baltic countries or Russia as well as the usual suspects from the Scandinavian countries. But look out for the Americans. We are coming on strong and the term communist skier jokingly will be a term of the past for me.

As much as I like alpine skiing, I do miss the days when I used to cross country ski. I may take it up again although Janet and I like to snowshoe when we are not skiing. We take advantage of the snow when it comes. If you are looking for a good day in the woods, there is nothing like a sunny winter day with cross country equipment in hand. Try it and perhaps look up your local Nordic ski center or consult with L.L.Bean, Public Lands, or REI and enjoy the winter. Thanks for reading, watch the upcoming Olympics on NBC and Peacock, and think snow.