Familiarity breeds……………comfort.

So I got spanked last week on a mountain bike ride mainly because I am trying to get back into riding shape after a winter of skiing and hiking. The guys I ride with go all winter and are in good shape for the spring riding season. I will get there but not quite yet. But another factor for the spanking was the fact that we went on a familiar trail backwards. I hate to go that way because it is does not flow well and it is full of rutted, short nasty climbs. It is so much easier and flows better the way I usually go and going the way we did last week took me out of my comfort zone for a lot of reasons.
I tend to gravitate towards the familiar at times. Lines down ski slopes are also repeated until I feel totally comfortable. Now don’t get me wrong, I can handle the challenge of different routes on snow or on trails, but there are some routes that are comfortable, easy to ride, and allow me to relax and enjoy the ride and not be totally challenged with something with which I am not familiar.

So familiarity with the terrain breeds a relaxed approach and often I am comfortable with that. But other times I think to myself that at my age, I should challenge myself and not be complacent riding or skiing familiar lines. You don’t really learn much if you keep doing the same thing over and over. Riding mountain bikes should be challenging and skiing unfamiliar lines should be the same. By testing yourself, you can stretch your comfort zone and perhaps increase your technical ability.

There are times where I just want to cruise. But if you don’t challenge yourself, you can easily fall back into a rut where your pals are increasing in speed and ability and you are left behind. I don’t want that to happen so I force myself to ride and ski variable lines whenever the mood strikes me. I have to do it or I will be riding and skiing by myself. Young people challenge me. I tend to ride with younger folks and if I am able to hang on, I am a happy man. My ski group are my peers but they are fast and strong and if I don’t challenge myself, I won’t be able to hang with them either. So familiarity is not always a good thing.

Sport mirrors life don’t you think? As we age, if we tend to stay complacent, we don’t learn anything and are left behind. If you read fiction, try a biography. Try a new restaurant. Take a continuing education class. Go to a different venue for vacation. Meet new people. Have civil discussions with folks who are not of your political persuasion. Tough to do these days, but if we are to grow and survive, we need to listen and debate in a civil manner. Challenge yourself to listen to other opinions. Like a new trail, experiences in life can challenge you but when you come to the end, you have learned something. ” Hey, I found a new trail and it is great!!!” You perhaps have honed your skills and now you have advanced your repertoire.

People tend not to want to fail. I fall into the same category sometimes. But like skiing or riding, if you stop falling, you stop learning. I have reached a level of expertise where I don’t fall much, but when I do……it is a yard sale. But I pick myself up and learn from the experience. We are going to fail at things. But staying in the same familiar rut, doesn’t help anything. I struggle with this, but I know I have to expand the comfort zone. Where will I live someday? What does retirement look like? Keep moving forward, Pat. Here is to the unfamiliar!! Ride it for all it is worth. Thanks for reading.

Q.D.L. ( Quality Days Left)

My friend Jeff Chetlin( pictured here front and center in the orange shorts) said to me the other day on a MTB ride,” Paddy- I want you to get in your Jeep and think about what I am saying. I want you to think about quality days left.” He said, ” Today is a quality day. Sunshine, a long ride with friends, beers and lunch in the parking lot sitting around on soccer chairs, enjoying each other’s company after a great ride ” That is a quality day.” ” How many of these days do we have left?”
I thought about that on the way home and as Jeff also said, we really don’t know how many of these quality days we do have left. He is ten years younger than me but still, we don’t know. I asked the same question basically to my ski crowd a few weeks ago. ” How much longer do you think we will be able to ski the chutes, rip GS turns, and ski at a high level comparatively speaking?” The general consensus was if we kept ourselves in shape, didn’t get injured( longer recovery at an older age), and nothing catastrophic happened, we should be able to ski like this into our 70s. We saw a guy at Snowbasin one year making beautiful GS turns on the groomers at high speed…..at 75 years young. So back to Chetlin. He has ideas on how he wants to utilize his QDL.

Jeff seems to think that he needs to someday soon move to Bend, Oregon to pursue his dream of maximizing QDL. In many ways, his environment dictates and contributes to his QDL. He is questioning whether he wants to spend the rest of his active years in Pennsylvania or make the move to his favorite place out west. We all currently travel to ski trips and mountain bike trips but aside from those great days, our QDL are currently here in the Keystone State. But in my mind- that is ok. All of our friends are here with the exception of a few, and life is what you make of it, right? So I thought more about it and asked myself in my Jeep, what do I think is a quality day? Well, I have this positive way of viewing things and really, every day is a gift. When we wake up and are blessed with another healthy day, it is a quality day to me. I know that the epic mountain bike rides with friends and epic ski days with friends are quality days, but I think about every day being a quality day. No matter the weather, no matter what the circumstances, if you are blessed with friends, a good work environment, and a wonderful spouse, you have quality days. A great quality day is spent with my wife Janet. We need to value each and every day because we have each other currently in good health.
We will always value each other no matter what, but we need to maximize that time together. I am sure that Jeff feels that way about his wife Julie who is his partner in everything that he does.
So, I can dream about quality days left out west in some great location. But currently I live in Pittsburgh and must make the QDL alive and well right here. Again, the travel QDL are important and always will be memorable, but days like we had last Saturday with our MTB crew, riding in the spring sunshine, sitting around and telling stories in our soccer chairs, and sipping a cold brew, that is a quality day for sure. How many do we have left? Only the Lord knows that for sure. But my goal is to make every day a quality day, no matter what the day presents. I know what Jeff means about life in Bend. And, he may attain that goal soon. But for the time being, I am looking forward to the Coopers Gap Epic Ride in a few weeks at State College with the Chetlins and looking forward to more fun times with my Janet in whatever we do. Thanks for reading and maximize your QDL.

Security in an Unsure World.

A long time ago, I rode my road bike through the Netherlands. A wonderful trip which included a visit to the eclectic city of Amsterdam. Resplendent with its canals and cafes it had an interesting vibe and an integral part of my visit was to the Rijksmuseum and the van Gogh museum. Now the sad thing was that I knew nothing about art as I took in the Rembrandt paintings and the students of Rembrandt on display in the Rijksmuseum. Making my way to the van Gogh museum I also felt extremely inadequate when I took in the art there. Although I have heard that art appreciation is in the eye of the beholder, it would have been nice if I had some semblance of understanding of what I was viewing in two of the most famous art museums in the world. What a rube I was. I was determined from that point that I would learn more about art.

Fast forward light years, I found myself last weekend in Charleston,South Carolina in yet another famous art community for the wedding of my friend Nathan Durfee.

Now I have known Nathan most of his life and as a young guy, he always impressed me with his love for the arts. He played the guitar and the cello and was very musical at a young age. It was apparent early on that he was talented and when he matriculated at the Savannah College of Art and Design, we all knew that this could be the start of something big. Little did we know how big! Among his achievements are Best Local Visual Artist – four years in a row by Charleston City Paper, Charleston Portrait Slam winner, and The Teatrio Cultural Association book award for his children’s book entitled “Hello My Name is Bernard”. Nathan’s paintings are an expression of his personality in that his subjects are whimsical characters who are faced with tough, universal decisions, conveying a sense of security in an unsure world to the viewer. Again, I felt inadequate as I wandered the Robert Lange Studios http://www.robertlangestudios.com for Nathan’s rehearsal reception. Nathan is one of the featured artists for Robert Lange and I made it a point on the trip to investigate more about Nathan’s art.

Another interesting part of the wedding journey to Charleston for my wife and I was our stay at The Vendue http://www.thevendue.com which is touted as Charleston’s Art Hotel. Among the many galleries within the hotel, there is an artist in residence studio where you can visit and see the creation of oil paintings currently by Fred Jamar.

Now Fred was born in Belgium and had a very successful career in the financial world. He has since retired and has taken up residency in The Vendue and is a very engaging person who is more than willing to show you his works and let you view his artistic ability as he paints. Janet and I were in awe as we saw Fred touch up a beautiful Charleston scene on his easel. The colors were magnificent and along with our marvel at the art work of our pal Nathan Durfee, my education in the world of art took a more modern turn as we made our way through the art community of Charleston. We learned about collaboration where two artists share their strengths and combine their art into one painting. Typically Nathan either paints a central part of a work or finishes the work of another in these collaborations which are wildly popular and sell out even before the works are started. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know about the art world. But it sure is interesting when you take the time to appreciate the talent of others.

Charleston is a wonderful town on the water. It’s history is well documented but little did I know what a vibrant art community it has. In my quest to be “Younger Next Year”, continuing education must be part of the plan. I have decided to know more about art. I also have decided to try to resurrect any talent I had in playing the piano. Janet had our piano tuned and I need to use my mind and start to play again. It is great to stay in shape, ski the steeps, ride the good trails, but in order to stay relevant, it is a must to continually educate ourselves. Nathan and his lovely bride Michelle have shown us a glimpse of what that entails. Thanks for welcoming us into your world.

Paintings displayed in this post are all by Nathan Durfee.  www.robertlangestudios.com/nathan-durfee/

Not a Pine Knot!

img_1393

This winter is a weird one for sure here in the East. Some weeks are cold and snowy and others are really warm. We had the great opportunity to enjoy The Lodge At Glendorn this past weekend and got some good skiing in at Holimont and some nice snowshoeing before it all started to melt.fullsizerender The last day we started a new sport- mudshoeing because of the deteriorating conditions of the trails. However, any time spent at the Lodge at Glendorn is a good one and the weather was generally cooperative for a winter stay. http://www.glendorn.com dining-6more-gd-pics-039

One of the other activities that Mike Smith and I take part in when we are at Glendorn is learning a little bit about skeet and trap shooting. The Glendorn facility is second to none and the instructors are well versed along with the equipment that is available. The collection of shotguns is impressive and some of those pieces of equipment are over $12,000.00 each. It is harder than it looks folks, and I am here to tell you that as much as I enjoy it, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a bag of rice. Enter George.

img_1390

We were first introduced to George as we walked into the facility for our 3:00 appointment at the range. George is a retiree working at the resort with 43 years in at Kendall Refining behind him. A nice older gentleman who asked us what we knew about skeet shooting. When we feigned mostly ignorance, he thought we were sandbagging him, but I told him he will surely see we were rookies when we first hold the shotgun. We all laughed and George explained the finer points of skeet and trap before we stepped foot on the range. George is a good instructor. He is patient and kind and understanding. He said that he gets as much of a kick out of us breaking a clay pigeon as he would himself. I didn’t want him to be disappointed in my lack of skill but he guided us all the way through. The poignant conversation began when George stopped and said, ” You know fellas, you might think I am an old pine knot up here taking up space in the woods, but I was a 5 time Pa. State Champion at Skeet.” I was not surprised at all because of his knowledge and the way he handled the shot gun. But I was more taken by the fact that he was a little insecure because of his age and perhaps what we thought of him. Nothing could be further from our minds as we respected his knowledge and skill. It struck me that older gentlemen sometimes feel like they have outlived their usefulness and that life has somehow passed them by. It became my mission to make sure George felt comfortable even though I was the one intimidated by trying to perform in front of a 5 time State Champion.

I like older guys. I would bet that in fact, George was not all that much older than me, but all in all, probably had a few years on me. You could see the 43 years of hard work in his hands, the slight fatigue of an older gentleman, but the twinkle in his eyes still showed me a passion for his sport and the thrill of passing on his knowledge to others like Dr. Mike Smith and me. I do notice young people today sometimes do not respect the older generation. They sometimes dismiss them as old men who don’t know anything. I always have taught my son Jack to respect the older guys as he learned a lot over the years from his grandfather- another George, George Bope. These guys have seen a lot and in my zeal to make George feel comfortable, I truly wanted to show him that in my eyes, he was not a pine knot at all but someone who was truly interesting to me. I asked him about his years at Kendall Oil and he obliged me with stories from the refining days and his experiences in the back woods of Pennsylvania. His slight intimidation disappeared as we continued to shoot and BS, and he realized that Mike and I truly appreciated our time with him. I told him, ” George- it may be nothing to you, but just having the experience of handling a shot gun and knowing how to load and shoot it was a good experience for me.” Even though I kept shooting behind the target, I was hitting the mark with experience and a good time in the wilds of Pa. with my friend Mike and our new buddy George.

Returning to the cabin to meet our wives, we discussed our meager results. img_1391 But more importantly, we discussed how much we were impressed with George. I am looking forward to seeing him again when we return to Glendorn. He may think he is an old pine knot, but to me, he is wealth of experience. Respect the older guys, you will learn something. Thanks for reading.

The Age of Dissent

foundingfathers-400x270

Watching all the news lately, takes me back to a time in my life when I first became acquainted with dissent in this country on a personal basis. I had seen the disruption of the Democratic National Convention in 1968 on television while I was in high school and the protests to the Vietnam War. chicago8 I remember registering for the draft and getting number 11. Had the war continued one or two more years, my life would have changed immensely.

I remember guys like Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffmann and wondered, in a high school way, what this was all about and how it applied to my life. Fast forward to college, my room mate and I became friends with a girl who was studying Native American Affairs and invited us to spend the weekend at the Seneca Corn Planter reservation up near the New York State border. We learned a lot about how the federal government had relocated their reservation due to the construction of the Kinzua Dam and how the spartan concrete block residences had replaced their native habitat on the original reservation. I chuckled when one of the older tribesmen offered to play Native American music for us. We were excited for the show only to be treated to an hour of listening to a reel to reel tape. But the old guy was sincere in entertaining and educating us. The younger folks observed us with a wary eye and as I bought some bead work necklaces in the store, I was told that not many white people were allowed to buy things in that store. I was polite in my appreciation. That weekend opened my eyes to a situation in which I started to take great interest.

When I was working in Sugarloaf, Maine after graduation, I learned that our friend Debbie was working for Ted Kennedy and was involved in the Passamaquoddy Indian Trial in Maine. I had read ” Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown and was familiar with Dennis Banks and the American Indian Movement. dennis-banks_2nr7jdownload As it turned out, Dennis Banks and Russell Means were in Maine for the trial in full native attire and Debbie invited me to see the proceedings. She told me I would have to sit in the balcony with the AIM protesters and that I should say that I was a journalist. She said some of the protests had become violent and wanted to warn me, but I was excited to see the proceedings in light of my experience with the Cornplanters and my interest in history. However, I got a call in the morning from Debbie who said not to come because a couple of  the AIM protesters had beaten her attorney and the trial was cancelled until further notice. Again, I was kind of wide eyed at the whole protest movement and kept in touch with Debbie on the status of the trial and whether the Passamaquoddy tribe had any rights to retake large portions of the state of Maine.

Growing up in the 60s, I became familiar with dissent and protest in this country. Being a history buff, I know that protest has been a hallmark of our free society since the origins of our country. From the Boston Tea Party organized by Samuel Adams in 1773 to the Whiskey Rebellion here in Western Pennsylvania protesting what was seen as an unfair tax on distillers in the region. 438448_v1

Personally, I think it is healthy to have discussion, debate and discourse on subjects that affect all of us as Americans. I know that protest has historically become violent at times to promote the cause but I do have a hard time recognizing what I see as random violence like smashing windows and burning vehicles. I guess that is where I tend to draw the line- anarchy versus protest. I am still coming to terms with that.

I never wanted to get political in my blog or Facebook pages and the intent here is to continue that protocol.250px-bury_my_heart_at_wounded_knee_cover But I know there are always two sides to every story. I have my personal beliefs, but in this day of great polarization in our country, I think it is important for all of us Americans to discuss, debate and not personalize the differences with name calling and vitriol. Thomas Jefferson once said,” Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principal.” I believe deep down that most Americans recognize that we live in a great country and are blessed in comparison to most places in the world. Our differences can be discussed with civility as we are all Americans united in continually trying to improve our country and our government. Dissent is nothing new and can be healthy as history has proven. Thanks for reading.

The Night Visitor

photo

This time of year, I kind of switch gears and get away from the mountain bike, and transition to skiing,running trails, or hauling out the snowshoes. I have always been a runner at night in the winter and it is a solitary pursuit whether running around the lake in our local park, or running trails.img_1227 I am not anti-social this time of year, but it is nice to go out at night with the headlamp and spend some time by myself. I enjoy my own company. I talk to myself. Sometimes I get answers. It gives me time to think and to enjoy the winter weather. There is nothing like a run with the softly falling snow accompanied by my Pandora Christmas selections on the I-Phone. In the old days, it was the Sony Walkman with tapes. But I move ahead with technology- kicking and screaming. img_1232

There were many nights that I had the chance to contemplate Christmas and the true meaning of the birth of Christ. I always had fond memories of nativity scenes or the “creche” because of a wonderful story that I watched as a kid- ” Amahl and the Night Visitors.” carnegie_presepio It was re-broadcasted in 1963 from its original 1951 production on the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Although the story is fictional with the shepherd boy and the Magi, the opera by Carlo Menotti was based on biblical truth. I was always fascinated with that production on TV and thought of it often when I would see a creche. Perhaps one of my favorite nativity scene locations was in the grove right near my run starting point at Stone Field in North Park. It was always nice to finish a run and walk up to the grove which was decorated by Allegheny County Parks and Recreation. The star was perched at the apex of the roof of the grove and the floor was coated with hay and the walls lined with hay bales. The Magi, the shepherds, the angels all were present with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. A brilliant display especially on cold, snowy, winter nights around Christmas time.

Looking at that scene at the end of a run was comforting to me and I noticed a lot of other runners, walkers, and hikers in the park making the trek up through the field to the grove. Children were amazed and even the dogs seemed to be silent in reverence to the serene scene in our county’s largest park. It has been several years since that nativity scene or creche has been present in that grove. As we all know, there is controversy about separation of church and state and due to nationally recognized litigation, the grove is now an empty, silent, space this time of year. img_1229

Now I am not one to get political or controversial on my blog at all. I also hold any opinions to myself on Facebook posts. But I must say that I miss that creche in the park and the wonderful job that the County did on the presentation each year in that grove. I also believe there are many people who feel the same way as I do. We miss it – that’s all. We are not here to debate the first amendment but rather reminisce on the nice feeling that was present on those winter nights at the end of a solitary, contemplative run. Christmas has many meanings to different people. For me it is a celebration of my faith and the wondrous miracle that took place 2000 years ago. I never see the creche as a graven image, but rather a reminder of the humility of Christ as He came among us.

So, I continue to run, in the solitary darkness. I watched the space shuttle soar overhead last night in the presence of hundreds of stars that can be seen from the darkness of our beautiful county park. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a blessed time with your family and friends. Enjoy the season and thanks for reading.

Creche picture courtesy of Carnegie Museum.

The Power of Positive Thinking

No matter which button you pushed this week, you probably could use an inspiring story to uplift your day. I would like to tell you about one of the most positive people I know. I would like to tell you about Daniel Chew. ridinguphill

I first met Danny way back when my group was first involved in the Allegheny Cycling Association Criterium Races at Highland Park Zoo. Danny was part of an elite group of riders that included Mac Martin, Danny’s brother Tom, and Matt Eaton. All of whom had national pedigree as road bicycling racers. These guys not only rode and raced together all over the country but they took the time to work with the weekend warriors like my group. Fun guys, but very talented and Danny was one of them. The interesting thing about Danny Chew is that he was always smiling, always engaging and when you first meet him, he asks you all about yourself. He does not dwell on his accomplishments at all but is more interested in what you do, where do you live, where do you ride, and ……do you know any athletic women who would be interested in dating a bike racer like him. He has an infectious laugh and his smiling presence was one of the rich memories I have of racing at the Zoo. 4721_rosensteel_151003

Daniel was a four time contestant in the Core States US Pro Cycling Race in Philadelphia and finished 12th in 1985 and 16th in 1987 as a freelance pro with no team support. He raced against the best in the world. In 1996 he was first place in the Race Across America finishing in 8 days, 7 hours and 14 minutes. Think about that for a minute. He won again in 1999 and competed a total of 8 RAAMs in his career. In 1983, he founded an iconic race here in Pittsburgh called the Dirty Dozen where racers take on 12 of the toughest hills in Pittsburgh and 12 of the toughest hills anywhere for that matter. He was one of the oldest winners  and competed as well as ran the race up until the present time.

3273_rosensteel_151003 Danny is a math whiz so his statistics on his web site about his races are legendary and he cheerfully challenged people to beat his record of climbing the stairs at the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning. Danny loves the bicycle. His mission of riding a million miles in his lifetime is still a dream and a reachable goal in spite of a recent setback in Ohio that changed his life.

While riding his bike he lost consciousness and crashed. The result was vertibae damage and spinal cord damage that has left him paralyzed from the chest down. He is currently in the rehabilitation program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago on the campus of Northwestern University. His brother Tom researched the best rehabilitation facilities and found that RIC is viewed by many to be the finest in the country. Appropriate for one of the finest athletes in the country. I went to visit Danny last week and although he stated that this was a tough pill to swallow, his confidence in his recovery and his zeal for the road forward was truly inspiring. img_1140

Despite the life changing injury and the unknowns about his recovery, Danny has not lost that inquisitiveness about what you are doing and what is going on back home in Pittsburgh. Although he shared details of his rehab program, he was more interested in what was happening in the cycling community and how my wife and son were doing. The nurses were all doting over him because he is such an engaging individual. He is cheerful in spite of what has happened and is looking forward to his life back home when he returns sometime in December. He claims that he will continue his quest for the million miles on a hand cycle if that is his fate, but he has sought out  some military veterans and other enthusiastic hand cyclists to learn all about what lies ahead for him. He is excited to continue his life in spite of this debilitating injury.

Daniel was not only inspiring in his racing days, but in my mind, he is even more inspiring now with his positive attitude. I personally believe his life will be even larger as he continues to inspire others with his goals and his personality. I can see him on the speakers circuit someday to inspire others that no matter what happens to you in life, you can continue on if you have positive thinking and a positive attitude. Chuck Swindoll, the famous pastor always says,” I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.” I pray for Danny and his recovery. I am sure that God has a good plan for him.

If you would like to contribute to his recovery, you can go on the web and sign on to http://www.youcaring.com There is a section where you can contribute. Also, if you are local to Pittsburgh, there is a fundraiser at the Southside Works 425 Cinema Drive which will show films of RAAM and give a chance for all of the cycling community to get together and rally around this cause for our friend. The date is Sunday the 20th of November at 4:30. Pray for Danny and his family and get involved in his recovery. He is inspirational for sure. Thanks for reading.