The Soul of Soles

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

Lake Triss

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

The ever energetic Gretl Dupre.

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

The Camp Motto

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

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

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

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

Old Pals.

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

Expectations

Here we go!

I remember the days when I used to wait for a killer group of road riders to come out from Shadyside and pick Art B and me up for a long ride to Moraine State Park in the spring. It was always hard for me to get started because no matter how I tried to keep myself in shape over the winter, spring riding was always the toughest. I used to say to Art ” here they come – get ready to enter the pain cave.” I remember getting to the halfway point and laying on my back, shoving fig newtons into my mouth, guzzling Gatorade, and wondering how in the world I was going to make it home. Aside from bananas, fig newtons and Gatorade were the only fuel of choice in those days. My friend the Shark always says that ” ski legs are not riding legs.” And he is so right.

The group that keeps me young.

Fast forward to this past weekend where I went on my first longer ride of the season with my group of friends who keep me young. After about 2 hours of riding in 82 degree heat, I was kind of cooked. I am the oldest of the bunch and anyone who is older, in my general group of riding friends, is riding an e-bike. I am not ready for that yet but as I peddle into my 67th year, I realize that my expectations have to mellow a bit. One of my famous lines when being flogged on a long climb is to say that ” nobody is going to the Olympics so I am not riding that fast.” I admire those who still can hammer hills and push the pace of rides. But this season, I have an altered M.O. I am really going to enjoy the ride by backing off just a little bit instead of always chasing. I seem to enjoy the ride more if I stay within my limits. My expectations are that I will eventually get in better shape, but so will everybody else, and so if I ride to ride another day, I will be happy and really enjoy the rides much better.

I am grateful for good health. I have a lot of friends my age who have had some serious health issues. I heard my doc Syed say one time that “s@#$ happens in your 60s” So I am grateful that I can still ski at a higher level and that I can ride a mountain bike seeing that a lot of people my age and older are taking a hot bath at the end of the day and watching Fox News – ranting back at the TV. My friends are younger and they keep me in the game. But the bottom line is that I have been blessed with good health and when I arise each morning, I thank God for His blessings on me and my family . You can never underestimate the benefits of good health.

At the end of our ride on Saturday, we all went to Mad Mex for a post ride lunch. Aside from the early season physical test, the real important thing was that I was riding with my friends. As I looked around the table and saw the faces of the people, I sat back and was grateful as I listened and laughed at the stories that were told. The cool thing about riding or skiing for that matter are the friendships that are created over the years. That is the important thing. Not how fast you ride or what you did, but sharing the experience of riding and reflecting about all of that over a beer and some good food.

Friends make the experience.

So as all of you start a new season try to remember what is really important. You are getting exercise in the sunshine and rekindling your friendships. Maybe you are new to it all? Maybe you will make some new friends along the way? Whatever you do, adjust your expectations to what is good for you and not necessarily good for other folks. Spring is tough but try to enjoy it at a pace which is good for YOU.. Any type of aerobic fitness can be enjoyed at a slower pace and it will keep you coming back for more. As we jokingly say, ” start slow and taper off.” Thanks for reading.

“When All Else Fails, We Still Have Trails”

Multi Use Trails

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

Perfect conditions for the Fat Bike.

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

Tom Smiling Like a Butcher’s Dog.

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

Well Behaved and Trail Saavy Dogs

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

Just Smiling and Rolling Along

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

Gratitude

The Ski Lodge

We are halfway through winter and the groundhog comes out soon to let us know what he thinks about the rest of the winter. I wonder if he will be masked? In any event, this has been a little different ski year with booting up in the parking lot and eating lunch in the vehicle, or at a small tailgate. The good news is that the snow has been really good this winter and lots of folks are getting out to enjoy the slopes- nationwide.

The view that never gets old

Locally, here in Western Pa, the snow has been plentiful especially in the ridges and all of our ski areas have been operating well. There have been a few glitches along the way but for the most part, I am grateful that the lifts are spinning. The outside fireplaces are roaring and when there are only a few people in the lodge, I will sneak in early to sit by the fire- one of my favorite things to do.

Nothing like a fire in the Lodge,

There have been a lot of changes this year in the operation of skiing. We don’t really know the half of it but I am sure that operating a ski resort in Western Pa. is challenging enough let alone in a year with a pandemic. In the fall, there was a lot of question whether there would be skiing this season, but the resorts have made it possible even though their bottom lines are probably not as robust with the lack of bar and restaurant business. Tough to survive on take out and limited indoor seating. But they are doing it and for that – I am grateful. When I ride up that chairlift and look out over the Laurels, I am so thankful that I have the health and the skill to enjoy skiing. And for an hour and a half from where I live, I will take it.

Janet and I are headed west in February and I will be going again in March. From what I am hearing from friends out there, the resorts are doing a good job in general. Sure there has been the issues with long lines due to social distancing on the chair lifts, but it seems to have sorted itself out as the season has progressed and this past week, most of the west has seen a significant snowfall which will hold them in good stead for the rest of the season. Outdoor recreation is essential to all of us if we want to get through this pandemic and nothing better than enjoying the snow in the winter- no matter what you do.

Masked up and playing by the rules.
The PSU Pals

So- as I sit in my chair at the beginning of the day and boot up, I look around and think we are much better off than we thought we might be. The weather has been cooperative and it has led to good times outside for a lot of us. So the next time you see a snowmaker at the resort- here or out west- thank them. They work hard in really adverse conditions. When you see the patrol, the ski school, a groomer , restaurant employee, ticket booth personnel, or management at an area, take a moment to thank them and tell them how much we appreciate their efforts to keep us all going strong this winter. The good news is that no matter what that rodent says, we have a lot of winter left. Enjoy it and ………..be grateful. Thanks for reading.

A White Christmas

Even if you are not a winter lover or a snow lover, you have to admit, you like a white Christmas? Most of us who are winter people love the snow and when this last blast came through, blanketing our local parks and mountains with the white stuff, there was a feeling of happiness and contentment in the air. We saw a lady on the trail with a big smile. She looked at us and said….” We needed this!” The long range forecast was cold indicating that the recent storm with re-enforcing 1-2 inches daily would guarantee that we would see a white Christmas. We have not seen one in quite some time. The fact of the matter is that with all we have gone through in 2020, the storm and subsequent weather has been a psychological lift to all of us. If we take the time to take it in and enjoy it.

Personally, there is nothing better than strapping on the old snow shoes and heading out on the trails of our local park in Sewickley, Pa. The muffled sounds and the silence that accompanies a large snowfall, really helps you to put your mind in a place where you can relax, enjoy nature, and think about what is important as we close out a very tempestuous year.

One of the other gifts that we received with this storm was a visit from our friends from Philly who were here visiting their new grandson. Mike and Judy Smith are very active people and jumped at the chance to join Janet and me on the trails of Sewickley. We met up and strapped on the snowshoes and reveled in all that is winter around our local park.

The Flying Smittys
PSU buddies forever.

People in Sewickley also get creative and a surprise at the end of the trail was a most welcome photo- op.

The Outdoor Christmas Tree

Following the “all smiles” snowshoe outing, I got some sandwiches, cheese, fruit, drinks and goodies and proceeded to set up an outdoor picnic- Euro- style! Jaime and Melissa would be proud. It was a welcome surprise to our friends and also my wife who complimented me on the good idea. Although it was a bit chilly, we bundled up, sat in the camp chairs and enjoyed the end of a pretty good day- celebrating the surprise that winter gave to us this past week. Again- a mental break from all that has happened and is currently happening with all the unknowns about the Pandemic.

Winter Picnic in the Park.

I believe you have to take advantage of anything that a season presents to you. Snowshoeing is not only good physical exercise, but a great way to get deep in the woods and think about what is important in life. When all is quiet and all is calm, you can really appreciate the Christmas season. And to have the blessing of a snowfall, the frosted pine trees and the hushed sounds of wildlife moving in the forest, your mind slows and all the problems, schedules, and issues, seem to disappear at least for the moment. It was a real treat to see the Smiths. We have not seen that many people during this time and to see their smiles was truly a lift for the day. I even liked their grand doggie who came on the outing with us. And we were outside which made us feel more safe in these times.

I love Christmas and the gift of a lasting snowfall just accentuates my love for the season. When I snowshoe by myself, it also gives me a chance to think about the real meaning of Christmas. As my earbuds rang out the Messiah choruses, I loved listening to verses like the following:

” Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name- Emmanuel- God with us”

Isaiah 7-14.

I even start singing which is pretty hilarious to people looking at me on the golf course the other day. ” Hallelujah, hallelujah, halleluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuujah.” 🙂 There is something special about choral music ringing in your ears around Christmas. It really gets you in the mood.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. Take the time to enjoy the snow, the beautiful scenery, your family, and the real meaning of Christmas. Emmmanuel! God with us. We need Him. Thanks for reading.

The Car Wash Kings

Pete hosing off.

So this is the time of year for lights, night riding and inclement weather for mountain biking. Now before everyone at the shops gets their pants in a wad, we only hose off like this at the car wash with a LIGHT spray. Just to knock off the splooge. We don’t use the high pressure spray and blow all the grease out of the bearings. This is part of the routine for night riding locally in Western Pa. Also- as an additional disclaimer, we don’t ride trails that are muddy or where we can cause damage. We only have our selected routes that are rocky and drain well in the rain, sleet, snowy and melting conditions that we have here in Western Pa. Pete and I joke that we should have a season pass to our local car wash. We also have additional duties with our splooge suits.

Doing our laundry at the car wash.

People laugh when we tell them we do our laundry at the car wash, but it is a necessary function seeing that our wives would kill us if we brought home a mud encrusted splooge suit and just threw it in the washing machine. We have to prepare and pre- wash these beauties at the car wash.

Riding in the winter takes a special amount of fortitude. I always say that this time of the year is not the time to race, ride fast, or try to get into shape. This is the time of the year just to get out, peddle a little bit and get some exercise. Good lights are key and our Lord of Lumens – Bob Bannon keeps us all well lit.

The Lord of Lumens

The other night we had our first significant snowfall ( 6 inches) which is not an issue for fat bikes. Pete and I have 29er plus bikes with 3″ and 2.8″ tires which are a little more challenging in the snow but doable. Our pal Garage Door Bob and the Lord of Lumens run studs in their fat bike tires but we are not that dedicated. But maybe we should be when we slide out on the black ice that forms on the trails in the freeze thaw conditions we have around here. I take it easy because I don’t want to get hurt during ski season. But nonetheless, a visit to the car wash to knock off the snow and ice is mandatory. It feels so good when you return to your house with a clean bike( LIGHTLY SPRAYED ) and relatively clean clothes. I always say winter night riding is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. It feels so good when you stop. But we all do it and to have the bragging rights to say that we rode all winter, is pretty special.

Garage Door Bob
Our Doc Syed- keeping us all in one piece on rides.
The Shark- ” No such thing as bad weather- just bad clothing choices”
Yours Truly

So- if you think that riding is over with the time change, you might want to consider the alternative. Riding all year. One thing is that you are outside and that kind of exercise is recommended in these Covid times. For me, skiing and riding the MTB keep me outside and socially distanced. Just make sure you do your laundry at the car wash. By the way, my suit is available at Dick’s Sporting Goods or on line at Amazon. The jacket and pants are made by Frogg Toggs. They are in the hunting department at Dicks for around 38 bucks total. When the pants wear out, I just throw them away and get a replacement for around 15 bucks. Thanks for reading

Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ecclesiastes 3

A Walk in the Woods

I have to say that this time of year is my favorite among the seasons. The temps are changing and the leaves are turning colors- somewhat blazing this year. I love to hike at this time and my interest in that pursuit all started when I was a kid. I loved being in the woods. The first five human beings I knew outside my parents, were my five backyard neighbors- Richard, John, Ron, Glen and Cliffy. We lived in the woods – playing Army, catching crawfish and salamanders, and basically being there until my dad rang the dinner bell from our back patio. My parents didn’t worry about us much in those days. We were gone all day and would come running in for lunch, dinner and stay out as long as possible. We even drank from garden hoses and nothing ever happened to us. Imagine that? Slept out under the stars. We loved the woods and I still do today. This is a picture of Richard, John and me at Arapahoe Basin a couple of years ago. They both live in Colorado now. Even with the fact that we had not seen each other in a while, it seemed as if we left off right where we were the last time we were together. Isn’t that the way it usually is with good friends?

Fast forward from childhood, I hiked and back packed a lot in the fall right after college. The woods in the mountains seemed like a good place to reflect and try to figure out what the heck I was going to do with my life at the time.

I would either set up my tent or make arrangements to sleep in a ” lean to” shelter provided by the state. I would look up at the stars in the middle of the night while stoking the fire and try to figure out a path forward – like many of us at the time. Hiking was a relaxing way to reflect, take in the change of seasons, and breathe in fresh air. A walk in the woods was always therapeutic and still is today.

Moving on, to today’s world, hiking is a great activity for my wife and me to enjoy. As empty nesters, we love to get our gear together, strap on our boots and packs, and take that proverbial walk in the woods.
We either go to the Laurel Mountains east of here, or locally to one of our favorite routes in Sewickley. We often remark in our local hike that we could easily be anywhere with the scenic forest and well built trails .

It looks a lot like Vermont or New Hampshire with the rocky trails and hardwood forest, but it is only a 15 minute drive from our house. We don’t have the dramatic backdrops of the Green Mountains or the Whites of New Hampshire, but for a local hike, the scenery is pretty good here in Pa. A nice way for my wife and I to connect without any pressure of keeping up with anyone or keeping some sort of time schedule. Time moves slowly when you take a walk in the woods.

My folks never understood my need to be out in the wilderness, either locally or when I traveled near and far to basically camp, hike, climb, ski, and otherwise enjoy what is out there. Their idea of camping was sleeping at a Holiday Inn with the windows open. Me? I like that tent where I can see and smell the night. The stars, the planets, and the general feeling that the woods are embracing me. I feel like I belong there. That is why it irks me to no end when I see people deface rocks and overlooks with graffiti. All of us who love the outdoors need to protect what we all enjoy. Public lands, trails, National Parks, are all part of our heritage and if we want to leave ” a walk in the woods” for our kids and grandchildren, we always must pay attention to protecting our outdoor places of recreation.

A final suggestion, if you are looking for an activity this fall, maybe try hiking? There are so many places to go and aside from a rucksack filled with water and snacks, and some good sturdy hiking shoes or boots, the investment is minimal and the rewards are great. My love for the woods and the outdoors stems all the way back 55 years with my old buddies playing Army in the woods behind the Zankey’s house. For all we knew, we were in the Rocky Mountains or as far as our imagination led us at the time. Take that walk in the woods. It will restore you and give you needed perspective in our world today. Thanks for reading.

Chasing the E-Bike

There has been a lot written about e-bikes, pro and con, but I am here to tell you that they are flying off the racks at bike shops and manufacturers. So much so that they are the leading category of bicycles sold today. People love riding them, they are fun, and they help a lot of people who would perhaps not be able to keep up on group rides because of age, conditioning, or other health considerations. Two friends of mine who are older than me recently purchased top of the line e- mountain bikes and love them. Chip says that with the app on his phone, he can alter the amount of assist he needs or wants on his bike. He adjusts it with enough electric assist to get him up and over the tough grunts on the trails, otherwise, at 72, he would not be able to keep up with the group of younger riders he is used to riding with.

I recently saw a program on You Tube (” Syd and Macky”) which chronicles the lives of a married couple who mountain bike race all over the country. Macky is a strong, expert class mountain bike racer and Category 1-2 Road racer. He recently challenged his 75 year old dad to a 25 mile race on the road. Macky had his road bike and his dad rode an e-mountain bike with full suspension. The e-bike is governed to 20 MPH and although Macky tried his best to ride downhills and flats as quickly as he could to over come the e-bike, his dad crushed him in the race. Say what you want about the pros and cons, I am not here to debate that. But I will tell you a story about my recent rides with my other friend who purchased the top of the line Specialized “S” Works e- mountain bike.

Bob- the Lord of Lumens, ( named so for his expertise in mountain bike lighting systems), loves his e-bike. Bob is a really fit rider who recently turned 70 and on a regular bike, could still handle a lot of riders half his age with his expert skill and conditioning. But since he went to the e-bike, he is having more fun than he has had in years. I have seen the smile on his face and his positive comments on rides around these parts. But there is a definite protocol to riding an e-bike with a group of riders who are on regular mountain bikes. Bob is aware of that protocol and usually makes me the governor who sits right behind him in line on the rides. The reason I do that is to keep Bob in check because he does not realize how fast he goes uphill. If Bob doesn’t look back and check how the group is doing on a climb, he could easily leave most riders in the dust with the e-bike. He doesn’t want to do that and thus- I am the guy who keeps him in sight and lets him know if he is riding up the trail too quickly.

The dynamics of e-bikes and regular bikes is interesting on a ride. I have noticed that if I don’t keep the group in check, and allow faster riders to pass me and get right on Bob’s wheel, he instinctively rides faster trying to stay ahead of the thundering herd of faster, stronger, riders. Then the group tends to split in half. The fact of the matter is that no matter how strong a rider you are, you are not keeping up with an e-bike and the rides can become disjointed if certain protocols are not followed.

I ride a mountain bike because it is good exercise and it is fun. Riding over roots and rocks is a challenge and I always say it is like skiing in the summer. But I ride mostly for exercise. If an e-bike flattens out the tough climbs there is the thought that you are not getting the exercise, only the fun. But Chip assures me that he does indeed pedal and makes sure that he programs his assist only enough to get him up over the really tough climbs. I can see that for sure especially as I get older. I can tell you this, one of these bikes is in my future but not just yet. I took Chip’s bike for a spin and was amazed at the boost that you get as you pedal. I think the technology will change in the next few years and the large batteries will become smaller and more efficient and you probably will not recognize much difference in a regular mountain bike and an e-mountain bike in the future. And the bikes will be lighter. But in the meantime, I will see the smile on Bob and Chip’s faces as they smoothly pedal ahead in the distance, looking back to see if we are still there. Try one out. They are pretty neat. 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”.