” Oh Thanksgiving- Oh!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Lap Around the Sun

I always liked that expression, ” just another lap around the sun.” A funny way to describe birthdays of which I had one this weekend. Everybody has birthdays. No big deal except as I get older, they take on a little more significance to me because I am starting to see them as time slipping away. I have a friend who thinks of it as quality days left and to make the most of them. Now I am not ready for the glue factory by any stretch of the imagination, but you do start to think of these things as yet another year or lap around the sun goes by.

Mom and me at Lake Erie

Thinking about laps, I think about all the time I spent running laps around North Park Lake , or lapping my favorite mountain bike loops, or lapping my favorite ski runs. Up the chair and back down again trying to make the best turns I could. Running around the lake to see how fast I could go and to get in shape for something. Riding the bike and only seeing the guy’s rear end in front of me struggling to keep up or going fast enough to keep from getting run over.

These days, the laps are more about taking in the scenery and enjoying the ride more than anything. Looking at the changing leaves in the fall, or taking in the mountains from the seat of the chairlift or at the beginning of a run. Sure I try to make good turns but it is not about the most vertical feet attained anymore. Trying to enjoy the laps and make them count a little more from the experience side of things. Slowing down to take in the peaks and valleys below on a mountain bike ride. Enjoying the laps instead of always killing myself to attain some goal.

Sitting on a rock in Bend, Oregon – taking it in.
Enjoying some laps with my wife.

As I thought back this weekend on laps around the sun, I thought about what the next laps should include. I think we all have to think about that as we work through the Covid situation and the state of the country. There are people out there who are struggling and part of our mission on this next lap should be to help them . We all should focus on being kind and considerate in this age of social media nastiness. The political stress is waning now and I think we all could make great use of our lap around the sun helping people in need and being kind to others including those who don’t necessarily agree with us. These quality days left can include just being aware of your family, friends and neighbors and going the extra mile for them. An old pastor friend of mine once said that you don’t need to go out of the country on a mission trip if you don’t want to go. There are plenty of opportunities to help people right in your own hometown or neighborhood. All you need to do is look, listen and be aware. Just a little daily consideration for your friends and family is great too. We all need to look for those chances each day. Not preaching here, just sayin. We all are in the same boat together. Maybe opening a door for an elderly person with a smile could make their day? A kind word of encouragement for a friend. Helping someone out whose vehicle is stuck in the snow. Letting someone with a handful of groceries go in front of you. (People do that for me because I am too lazy to get a cart and end up with too much. LOL) Little things sometimes go a long way to helping someone just make it through the day. A phone call?

Time flies folks and as I look at the difference between these two guys, I realize that the laps around the sun are going faster and faster. I feel sometimes like I am driving a Ferrari, way too fast, standing on the brakes and not slowing down at all. Lets all slow down and enjoy the laps. Lets all make good use of them. We need to look for opportunities to be kind. Thanks for reading.

The Beer in the Parking Lot

Mihalsky- Our favorite splitboarder and his Belgium White

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

The Notorious MTB Group

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

Hutch and the late, great , Proctor Reid

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

Apres’ in the back of the Jeep.

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

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

Garage Door Bob and the Thirsty Thursdays

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

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

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

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

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

The Operative Word is “Yes”

This photo was taken over the weekend up at McConnel’s Mills State Park here in Western Pa. Janet and I were hiking and I was experimenting with an app on the I-Phone called Pro HDRX. Pretty cool playing with that and also having an opportunity to spend some quality time with my wife on the trails. Janet and I are ” empty nesters” for the first time in a long time, and trying to be as active as we can in the current world circumstances. For us lately, the operative word has been “yes.” I participate in two major activities with friends but it has been important for me to spend time with Janet and get her more into the great outdoors than she already is, and doing some of the things that I have enjoyed for many years. She jokes that I have had a whole separate life when we talk about my activities over the years and the pre-Janet world. But now, we are in a situation where we can enjoy the time, activities and places together.

I must commend many of my friends who find themselves in the same situation and it has been fun to get together with them because we share the same thoughts about the empty nest and what that entails. The gift of time has enabled us to participate in hiking, cycling,swimming,shooting, skiing and snowshoeing. My wife and I laugh when I refer to myself as the “human crowbar.” I sometimes have to crowbar Janet out of her comfort zone and pry open that door of complacency and comfort. But once she is out the door and participating, she is happy and enjoying the many activities that we can do together. I am a Type A personality and Jan will never be in that mold, but that is why we do so well together. She tempers my enthusiasm where needed and I get her out the door enjoying things that she might not do on her own.

The interesting thing is that we have a lot of time to talk. That hasn’t been the case in many years because we were always on the go with activities with our son Jack as he was growing up. Not unlike a lot of couples. Games, practices, school, and also in the more recent years caring for her ailing parents and the constraints that are associated with that. We have no regrets but we are really enjoying the time together now that we have not had in a long time. We try to be safe in this Covid-19 world. We wear our masks, wash our hands frequently and respect others on the trails and other outdoor venues. But at some point, we will all have to accept some level of risk to be active. That is still being sorted out nationally and also in our own sphere of influence. But we persevere and try to get that fresh air that is sorely needed during this strange time.

Finally, we discuss why we feel the need to be active and go places. Is it just to check the box and say we have been there and done that? Is it because we want to post it on Facebook, or do we really like to participate because of the true gratification of being outdoors and being together. We both think it is the latter and when you see gorgeous scenery even right in your backyard, you appreciate the opportunity. Time spent together is priceless and whether you have a spouse, significant other, friend, or children, the gift of time is precious. The outdoors presents many opportunities to bond in discussion as well as a mutual appreciation of God’s great creation. We are all living in uncertain times and it is important to make the best of these times together. “Yes” is the operative word to opportunity and kindness goes hand in hand with that. Thanks for reading.

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Uncle Bob

Uncle Bob Smith was my dad’s best friend. They first met when they lived at the Perry Manor Apartments in the same building as my parents. As life moved on, Karen, Bobby and Cindy Smith became friends with my sister Molly and me and we all went on trips together and had great times at each others homes over all the years. Even though they were not blood relatives, we called them Uncle Bob and Aunt Jean because we all were so close. Basically like family. Karen, Bobby and Cindy were our cousins. Plain and simple.

Uncle Bob was raised by his mother in Lawrenceville because his dad died early. As a city fireman, Uncle Bob’s dad had a hazardous job and one day he fell into an oil tank which was on fire and died leaving his young wife behind, who was pregnant with my Uncle Bob. Growing up in the depression and post depression was not easy for a mother raising a son alone and Uncle Bob spent a lot of time at the local Catholic Church which provided needed resources for a young guy growing up in a tough neighborhood under dire circumstances. Father Jack McDowell took my Uncle Bob under his wing and was, for all intents and purposes, his surrogate father allowing him to work around the church and helping with neighborhood missions directed by Father Jack. Uncle Bob played a lot of baseball in the neighborhood and around Pittsburgh, and eventually became good enough to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs farm organization. But instead of the path to professional baseball, Uncle Bob joined the Navy to better provide for his mother financially and found himself on the USS Copahee, an aircraft carrier deployed to the Philippines and Japan.

Fast forward- I first got to know what a character Uncle Bob was when I asked him to be my sponsor for my confirmation at St. Sebastian’s Parish. The nuns had us all in line and glared at us if any one of us made a move that would somehow ruin the ceremony. As we walked down the aisle, Uncle Bob was cracking jokes to me and I tried desperately not to laugh. When we approached the Bishop, it was a silent, reverent moment until Uncle Bob blurted out” Hey Jack- How the hell are ya?” To which Bishop McDowell, the former Father McDowell from Lawrenceville responded,” Bob Smith you old rascal – what brings you here?” His miter( the bishop’s pointy hat), almost fell off his head as the two of them shared a laugh and the nuns were horrified. I knew how cool Uncle Bob was that day and he became a legend among all my friends from grade school.

Over the years growing up, I shared a lot of laughs with Uncle Bob. His irreverent humor was so funny to me and he and I became close and saw each other a lot in those days. He was truly an uncle in every form of the word and was a mentor to me on how to not take life so seriously.

I attended Uncle Bob’s military funeral this past week at the Cemetery of the Alleghenies. He was 94 and was the last of my dad’s friends to leave this earth. The military service was so moving and the Navy personnel along with some veterans from the local VFW presided.   The flag ceremony along with the 21 gun salute and “Taps” brought tears to my eyes. The Navy personnel presented the flag to Uncle Bob’s daughter Karen, and there was not a dry eye in that chapel. Three shell casings are placed in the flag representing Duty, Honor, Country. All befitting my Uncle Bob who served selflessly in a war far from his home. The World War II guys are leaving fast and soon there will be no veterans left from that war. As I left the ceremony I thought a lot about Uncle Bob and his life in Lawrenceville, and his service to his country. People like him were truly from the greatest generation and I also thought about what Uncle Bob would have said about the current situation in our country. I am sure he would have laughed it off and called a lot of the anarchists a few rude names but would understand that a lot of them have no idea of what it takes to be in the war time military. Education and understanding will do a lot to heal things and Uncle Bob got his education in the streets and hard knocks of life. We all should be so fortunate to have an Uncle Bob who made the best of his situation, helped his neighbors and friends, loved his mother, wife and family, and served his country. Rest in peace Uncle Bob and I will see you on the other side someday. Thanks for reading.

Covid Fitness

Gasping for breath up a steep climb recently on the mountain bike with my riding friends, I thought to myself, ” Where is the race?” ” Nobody is going to the Olympics – why are we racing on this ride?” Then it occurred to me that my group and a lot of other groups of cyclists, runners, and other fitness enthusiasts are in really great shape. People are not traveling for work, or pleasure just yet and a lot of folks have a lot of free time to get their work done at home and then go ride, run, walk, hike or do some other form of exercise. I am calling it Covid Fitness and it is a national phenomena.

I recently went into my local bike shop, Dirty Harry’s, in Verona,Pa and their business is booming. Barry Jeffries, the owner, told me that they have 350 bikes on back order and their repair business is off the charts. Barry, Scott, Brocc and the boys will have a record year in sales and service because a lot of people are turning back to cycling as a recreational activity during this pandemic. The health clubs are not fully operational yet and people need to get out. What better way to do it than on a bicycle? As the bikes roll in the door from the manufacturers, the boys at Dirty Harry’s build them up as fast as possible and out the door they go. Sold!!! All kinds of bikes. High end mountain and road bikes, E-Bikes, kids bikes, commuter bikes, you name it. They are selling like a fish sandwich in Lent. The Peleton home cycling equipment is back ordered by at least 6 months and that is the case with a lot of sports equipment providers. Most outdoor equipment manufacturers have had a strain on supply because of the surge in purchases due to the Covid 19 crisis. Even spare parts are being used to make new equipment because supply of parts is also in great demand. A good news bad news scenario for the sporting equipment industry in that record sales are being offset in a way by a strain in supply. They have the customers, many new to the sport, but are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

So back to my group. We have guys and gals who travel for work, guys and gals who are retired, and many working from home. These folks have always been active but recently, they probably have ridden mountain bikes and road bikes more than they ever have in recent years because the distractions have been put aside due to this pandemic. I have complimented a lot of cycling friends on their fitness and their response has been, ” Hey Pat- I don’t have much more to do.” ” We have not been able to go to work at the office, or sit and socialize in a restaurant, or go to a movie or concert, so really – outside of exercise, what do we have to do besides work at home and read a book?”

The end result is that a lot of us are in the best shape we have been in for many a year and my group keeps pushing, pushing, pushing every week on scheduled rides in various venues around our area of the country. The CDC says nothing better to combat this virus than boosting the immune system with sunshine and outdoor exercise. The texts and emails buzz every week with the proposed riding schedules and the good thing is that at least we are not sitting around with nothing to do. My wife Janet is in on the act too with an increase on her walking with her friends, cycling with me on the rails to trails on Sundays or hiking locally or in the mountains. We are making the use of time seeing that for the first time in many years, we are ” empty nesters” and can take advantage of time together.

So, again, the pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to our lives as well as to lives all around the world. It has caused a lot of us to reflect on what is really important in life and how we have taken things for granted. This too shall pass and the world will learn to live with these kinds of viruses and change our daily habits on how to deal with them. But in the meantime, there have been some good things that have come out of this time and the great outdoors has been calling to a lot of us. Enjoy the sunshine and these active summer days and evenings. Thanks for reading.

We All Need The Magic Mirror

As many of you may know, my sister, Molly McCloskey Barber was “Miss Molly” on the syndicated children’s television show “Romper Room and Friends” back in the 80’s. Her tenure began with taping shows at WMAR in Baltimore and eventually working at Channel 9 WOR TV in Secaucus, New Jersey. Lots of work was done on that show to validate children, their feelings, their hopes and dreams and make them feel special as they watched in their homes every day. New puppet characters like Granny Cat and Kimble were introduced to the show and created a cast of characters that evolved over the years as trusted friends to all the children.

But the one thing that stuck with a lot of kids who became adults throughout the country was an accessory called ” The Magic Mirror”. At the end of every show, Miss Molly would pull out the mirror and say these immortal words, ” Romper bomper, stomper boo. Tell me, tell me tell me, do. Magic Mirror tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play?” And she would go on to mention many many different names each day and if you were sitting at home and she mentioned your name, you would feel so special and excited because she saw you in the Magic Mirror. There are people today that I relate this story to that watched the show as a kid and either Molly mentioned their name or in many cases, they told me that Molly never mentioned their name. I would immediately call my sister on the phone and have her recite the famous words to that person and see them absolutely melt with appreciation or weep like a baby. It had that kind of impact.

As I think back on those days, I think of the underlying message of the Magic Mirror. What made it so special and why do people today love to talk about having Miss Molly see them in the mirror as a kid? Personally, I think that it was a chance for kids viewing the show to be validated. When Molly would mention their name, they thought for sure that she was talking right to them. All their fears, hopes, expectations, unsure moments, would all be blended into a happy frenzy when Molly mentioned their name. Their faces would light up like a candle and their smiles were infectious as they screamed to their parents, ” Miss Molly mentioned my name in the mirror!!!”

Molly was good about inviting kids to the live taping of the shows at WMAR and WOR. She always made sure they felt special and that everything would be ok in the unfamiliar environment of a television studio. Their parents were so happy and oftentimes speechless as they saw their children interact with the characters on the show.

So I was thinking just this weekend about how we all need ” The Magic Mirror”. Maybe we all need someone to reach out to us and see that we are all ok in this time of isolation? Maybe we need to be the mirror for someone who is feeling lonely, isolated, afraid, and make them feel special because we thought of them? Maybe we all need to look in the mirror and see if all our friends are having a good day? Thanks Miss Molly and thanks for reading.

Seemed Like a Vacation

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

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

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

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“Welcome to the Mountains”

One of the nice things that I will always remember about Herman Dupre, was his genuine happiness to see you on his mountain. I would often be riding my mountain bike and see Herman driving in his Subaru and he would stop and always say, ” Welcome to the Mountains, Pat” ” How are you?” He was genuinely interested in seeing how you were. He always had a smile and twinkling in his eyes. We would chat and he would continue on his way surveying the property and seeing what improvements could be made. Here was a guy that was an icon in my mind and a guy that we always looked up to as kids growing up skiing at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Herman did so much to develop the resort that his mother and father started way back in the 30s. Much has been written about him being the pioneer in snowmaking around the world. I posted about all of this before. https://chroniclesofmccloskey.com/2014/12/17/hkd-the-man-the-myth-the-snowmaker/

But the thing that I always remember was that for a guy of his stature, ability, and downright fame, he was always approachable and willing to talk to you about your interests and his projects on the mountain. I can remember seeing him in the coffee shop at Seven Springs one day when I was younger and asking him why he doesn’t get Laurel Mountain running again. Interestingly, Laurel is managed today by Seven Springs, but at the time, there were various encumbrances. Herman said to me, ” Pat- lets sit down and have a cup of coffee and I will give you 38 reasons why.” And he did, and I was amazed at his knowledge of water, the environment, and the various other factors that played into his decision not to get involved. Another time, I saw Herman and told him enthusiastically about these 55 gallon drums with large funnels attached that were placed under the chairlifts at an eastern resort that I had skied. They resolved the litter problem that is caused by people throwing beer cans and other trash off the chairlift and on to the slopes. He listened, as he always did, and said” Pat- I know all about them. In fact I have costed them out and figured that I pay my guys to be on the mountain anyhow and they can remove that trash quickly without having to deal with the cost of all those barrels. Why did I think for one moment that I had an idea that Herman had not already thought about?


Courtesy of Greg Bowlby and Bart Raitano Jr.

Herman was famous for his quotes of which one is displayed above in an old card from the Greg Bowlby collection that pretty much sums up Herman’s description of how he operated at Seven Springs. Pretty humorous but again showing the humility of a very capable guy. I have a deck of cards that Herman’s daughter Anni gave to me that has “Hermanisms” printed on the 52 card deck. Sayings like” always put a 20 dollar bill in your shoe.” Or, when he would see his guys in the parking lot after a big snow storm he would say, ” brush those cars off- I need the water.” So many great sayings that they are forever preserved in a deck of cards distributed by HKD Snowmakers- the wildly successful company that Herman started along with his daughter Anni and son-in -law Charlie.

Mike Smith, my pal from the Adirondacks, and the former mountain manager at Seven Springs, always said he learned more from Herman than from any other human being. He would call Herman every Christmas from his marina up on Lake George and wish him well. He would tell Herman that story and Herman would humbly say,” We had a lot of fun didn’t we Mikey?”

With all of his success, Herman was extremely benevolent. He did a lot with his alma mater- St. Vincent’s College and the new engineering building is named after Herman and his wife Sis. He always supported our blind ski program as well as a host of other volunteer programs at the resort and took a keen interest in how we were teaching blind people to ski. One day in the Foggy Goggle, I had our skier, Fred Siget ,put on his headset and I guided him around the bar. When I saw Herman, I guided Fred over to him and told him to tell Herman what a nice red flannel shirt he had. Herman was astonished and after we let him in on the gag, he said, ” I have been giving that guy free passes to ski for years and he says to me what a nice red flannel shirt I have.” We all had a good laugh about that and Herman gave Fred a big hug.

Herman always had a flannel shirt, jeans, and work boots and always referred to himself as a farmer. Again, as a young guy, I was always impressed with his humility in the light of his amazing achievements. Recently at a birthday party for Bif Swager, I asked Herman how his projects were going. My pal Jaime Thompson, a retired structural engineer, and Herman always had something going, and Herman responded to me, ” Pat- I have to live to 124 because I just have too much to do.” Pretty amazing for a guy in his 80’s who should be slowing down a bit. His wife Sis, laughed and said with her dry Irish wit, ” I will give him till 100 and that’s all. I am done then.”

We lost Herman this weekend and his passing sent a shock wave through the ski industry as well as the mountain community in and around Seven Springs. He lived a full life and we will all miss him terribly. Herman was such an influence in my life. His hard work, humble spirit, and generosity told me that just because you are successful does not mean that you are not interested in anyone but yourself. He influenced me more that he would ever know.

I am sure that as he made his way to his heavenly home this weekend, he gathered a crowd around the Pearly Gates. I am sure he had one of his Impulse or Impulse R5 high efficiency snow guns in tow as he explained to the Lord and the angels all about snowmaking. I can hear him say,” There is no such thing as artificial snow…..just snow that is made artificially.” It probably gathered some smiles all around as he was welcomed home. The next time you ski on a perfectly groomed trail and see those large towers with the orange guns attached, think of Herman. They are everywhere- world wide. Condolences to Sis and all of her fabulous 9 daughters. Thanks for reading.