The Trails Are For All of Us

Laguna Beach, Ca
State College, Pa.

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

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

Hiking in North Park- Pittsburgh , Pa

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

My family likes to hike too.

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

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

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

Our group of courteous riders visiting Wild Wonderful West Virginia

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

The Final Ride

After a wonderful memorial service for our dear friend Brian Lunt, our group of riders were asked by Brian’s wife Rose to take Brian’s ashes for a final ride in the park- on his beloved trails. We all wondered how this would go and the task of filming the event fell on Dave Ashi with his brand new Go Pro and also Nancy Furbee who was backup with her I Phone. Nancy was quite creative with her Facebook video and Dave and Tim Traynor did a great job with the Go Pro video so that Rose and her family would have the event forever memorialized.

Spreading one’s ashes seems to be more popular these days as folks have favorite places where they would like to be laid to rest – rather than a cemetery plot. There are stories of people’s ashes being spread at sea, on ski slopes and trails, and in this case- on mountain bike trails. This is nothing new but it seems to be gaining in popularity and our group was happy to be compliant with Rose’s request.

Discussing our protocol

As we began the procession, the weather seemed to hold off and we were blessed with a good start – attributed to Brian looking over the proceedings from above. I had the urn in my riding pack and was dubbed ” the Hearse” by the group with a few chuckles along the way. But as we proceeded along the familiar trails of our local park, I thought about my own mortality and how a 61 year old guy like Brian is now gone. Someone who we have ridden with, laughed with, and with whom we have had many conversations on the trails and ski slopes, is now not going to be physically part of our group anymore. It makes you think. It also makes you think where and how you would like to be memorialized when the time comes. We definitely wanted to make sure that Brian was properly remembered and aside from the physical spreading on the trails, Mark “the Shark” Sauers made sure of it with his wonderful words of encouragement to all of us including fond memories of our pal Brian.

Mark set a spiritual tone when we stopped to distribute the ashes in the first location. When you see the remains and think of things like” remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” you need the encouraging words that Mark shared with all of us. This is not the end. Death is a transition for believers and we all came away with the thought that we will all see Brian again. I thought of Revelation 21-4 which says that in the end, ” He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain. For the old order of things has passed away.” You can’t help to think of all of this when you are involved in something like we did that day. But Brian would not like us to all be somber either. There were many laughs along the way as we proceeded to the next stop. Our pal Bill Belch kept dropping his bike while we were standing and I joked with him to ” get it together Bill- this is a funeral you know.” We all laughed at that one, including Bill, and it kind of broke the more serious tone at the moment.

The final stop was at a scenic overlook in the park and as it started to rain, no doubt due to Brian saying” Get on with it people”. I warned the group about the wind. It was rather humorous to see us releasing Brian to the wind only to have him come back in our face. I am sure he was laughing at that one and we all joked about Brian making it difficult now with the rain and the wind. As we all put our feet in a circle of solidarity at the end of the day, we all had positive thoughts about something that we were not sure of. How was this going to go? How do we carry the urn around? Will this be somber or will we have some fun doing it, in compliance with Brian’s wonderful sense of humor? In the end, we all said that this is how we all wanted people to remember us. Take us all to a place that we love and be among friends – even though it may only be in spirit at the time. It was a positive experience and it also was an event that solidified our friendship even more. We all loved riding with Brian and Rose was right- this was the right thing to do. Thanks for reading. Photos courtesy of Nancy Furbee

Mossy Lane

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

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

Wearable art.

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

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

Another world of creativity

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

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

Elaine’s equally talented and amazing husband Scott.

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

The Well Rounded Athlete

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

The recovered mountain bike from back in the day.

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

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

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

Susan and Julie Gavrillis reunited

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

Back in the Saddle

Jeff- back in the saddle.

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

Jeff and Julie hiking at Laurel Mountain

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

Jeff front and center with his posse.

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

Affirmation

Affirmation with the Cow Bell.

So the other day, I was riding my mountain bike at our local park trying to get back into some semblance of shape after a tough winter on our trails. Once the snow came and the thaws and freezes, the ice on the trails was too tough for me because I don’t have studs. So with the recent spring like weather, I figured I would go out again and start riding. I was making my way up a hill when a guy who was hiking with his wife said, ” Hey!………..good job”. I kind of chuckled at that comment and said thank you and kept riding. It kind of reminded me of the old mountain bike racing days when I would be killing myself up a hill and some kind soul observing on the side of the trail would look at me and say………..” Hey- good job.” Those kind of comments kind of spurred me on to the top of the hill and then helped me make my way enthusiastically to the finish line. It is amazing how a little positive commentary can spur you on.

I always returned the kindness at the World Cup Mountain Bike Finals in Snowshoe, West Virginia with my cowbell. When the pros would be making their way up a heinous climb, I would encourage them with my cowbell. Many of them were so focused that they they never wavered in their concentration. Others like American Haley Batten would smile and enthusiastically say “thank you” and keep riding spurred on by the pro-American spectators wishing her well.

The Shark and the affable Haley Batten

Affirmation is usually the result of the acclaim of a job well done. At Snowshoe, you can see the result of hard work of the world class athletes, and the support they got from their home team and trainers. We cheered them on- affirming their hard work. Affirmation comes after the support of someone trying to do something positive. Support them first- then affirm them.

We all have the opportunity to support people on their way up or maybe on their way back. For instance, I have a neighbor who had a severe stroke and is making his way back. He has been through a lot along with his supportive wife. The guy is a noted, retired orthopedic surgeon who has had some tough breaks with his health. I have tried to support him as well as his wife in different ways, but the other day- I saw Dr. Tim out on a walk using his walker encouraged by his ever supporting wife, Joyce. I looked at him and said, ” Good job, TIm.” You could see the smile on his face because I affirmed the hard work he has done to make it back. When I was at his house the other day, he showed me his strength by pulling me with his arms. The guy is a big strong guy and although he is in his 80s, he has made a remarkable come back. He deserves affirmation and we give it to him.

I have another friend who has had a stroke as well and he is making his comeback. Although he is younger, he has worked hard to come back. He is an avid mountain bike rider, skier, backcountry adventurer, snowmobiler, and traveler. He has his moments of despair, but I always affirm his hard work and tell him that he will be back stronger than ever. People need support when they have difficult times and we all can give that support. And when they make their way up over the hill metaphorically, we can give them the affirmation that they deserve.

Jeff on the comeback trail.

There are a lot of people today that can use our help. Friends who have had a death in the family, are having health issues, maybe are going through a divorce or other personal issues, or people that just need a boost up that hill. We can make the effort to support them and when they make progress, we can affirm that progress with a kind comment like- ” Good job- keep up the good work.” You may not need to use a cowbell to affirm them, but you can certainly recognize that people go through a lot and can use a word or support, a kindness afforded to them, and affirmation that gives them that boost that they need. To have a friend is to be a friend. Thanks for reading.

P.J- A.J

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

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

The Coffee Table Books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

55+ years of Friendship.

My Pal- Dixon Rich

Dixon Rich and I have been friends since the minor league in baseball. We both talk about how we forged our friendship on the bench. I was a fat little catcher and Dixon played out in left field, but we talked a lot about how thirsty we were and couldn’t wait to get to Dixon’s house for a drink.

Fast forward- Dixon senior bought a cabin on County Line Road and all of us neighbor kids spent the weekends crashed out on the cabin floor in sleeping bags. What a wonderful way to grow up. The winters were always special to me and still are thanks to the Rich family and my pal Dixon.

Dixon, Melissa and Jaime. Laurel Mountain friends for life

Dixon is an accomplished attorney and tax specialist. You might not know that if you visited him and he answers the door with a red bandana adorning his noggin and baggy shorts and construction boots doing someone’s tax work. He plays the Dead while he works and really doesn’t know the difference between night and day. He works when he feels inspired and that may be in the middle of the night. Naps are important to Dixon as he takes them between work sessions. He is a character. A skillful tele-mark skier, Dixon likes to hide out at Laurel Mountain where it is quiet, scenic and he has the place basically to himself most days of the winter. He can work from anywhere and the Laurel Highlands are his home for the winter. The other day he pulled out a pair of old 70’s era alpine skis and attacked Lower Wildcat on an icy morning. I have not seen skis like that in a while but Dixon has a whole houseful of 70s era skis which he uses with tele equipment and a few selected pair for alpine outings.

Valuable nap time for the tax man.

Dixon and I have skied together for over 55 years. But we also have had many adventures in cycling. We used to ride from his cabin to Confluence, Pa on our mountain bikes, getting lost on the way home, running out of daylight and crashing exhausted at the Red and White Store in Indian Head hoping to get a ride back. One time in West Virginia at the Wild 100 Backcountry Race, we both ascended Prop’s Run just outside of the Elk River Touring Center. When we got to the top exhausted, Dixon smiled at me with vivid blue teeth and asked if I wanted some bubble gum. That was his ” Power Bar”. He loves Captain Crunch cereal and other sweet treats. I am trying to get him back into riding more and he claims he will join me again this spring and summer. But his antics on the slopes and on the trails are legendary. Ask him about the plastic shower cap he used to cover his fanny pack when riding. A bright floral pattern which protected valuable cargo in his pack. LOL!!

Dixon does not like to be pinned down with a schedule. He is happy to meet you and ski with you but it is on his timing and on his terms. I call it like seeing an “albino deer” – wonderful to see but never planned. Like me- he likes the quiet of a remote ski area and enjoys the scenery without all the hassle of what takes place at Laurel’s sister area – Seven Springs, which can get a bit hectic during the winter. He has a great head of hair and never wears a hat – no matter how cold. I am amazed sometimes but my wife always says that with that great head of hair, she wouldn’t wear a hat either.

But the most important thing about Dixon is that he is a good friend. They say if you leave this world with friends that you can count on your right hand, you are a lucky man. Dixon is one of those fingers to me. I will always remember when my father passed away unexpectedly in his sleep back in 2001. Dixon was one of the first guys there for me and tirelessly helped me to close down my dad’s business. I could not have done it without him and will always be grateful for his kindness, his help, and his expertise.

Friendships are important. Especially as we age. We need to stay active, pay attention to our health, and most of all, spend time in the great outdoors with friends like Dixon. Thanks for reading and if you see the albino deer sometime, say hello. You will instantly gain another good friend.

The Return of the Ride King

Jeff Wuerthele- aka ” The Ride King”

You know, you have to be a special kind of enthusiast to get two knee replacements and then come out on a 28 degree morning to bounce around on the rocks and roots of Laurel Mountain in November on a mountain bike. Jeff Wuerthele is that kind of person. In fact this whole crowd of guys who are in their 50’s and 60’s are enthusiasts who think nothing of weather and just appreciate the opportunity to ride in the Laurel Highlands on one of the last nice, sunny days of the year. From this point on, the weather here gets a little sketchy but these guys take it all in stride. They are also skiers and snowboarders so it stands to reason that they are not inhibited by weather that would make most people shy away and just sit on their couch watching SportsCenter. These are fun guys and I am happy to call them friends. In fact, my doc who is also in this group, commented that we all are good friends united by the sport of mountain biking. Guys like Jeff Wuerthele kept us all together for years with rides in the mountains and I am happy to have him back on the trails. He said it was the first group ride he has done in a while and he was happy he showed up.

Just to give you a snapshot of how these guys tick- lets take a quick look at this group, of which I am the elder statesman soon to be 67 years young.

Jeff Wuerthele- retired, former bike industry luminary and overall fun guy who lives full time in the Laurel Highlands and enjoys snowboarding and riding a mountain bike- again after two knee replacements.

Angelo Ross- the youngster in this crowd. A true renaissance man who is a retired school teacher, is currently on the Alpine skiing education staff for the Professional Ski Instructors of America. He has his own podcast, his own clothing business, and is also a guide for Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle, Pa. Very talented in a lot of areas.

John Cassucio- successful businessman and mountain bike and skiing enthusiast who is in excellent shape and fuels himself on Hammer products and vitamins. He is a testament to living cleanly and respecting his health as he ages. Not to mention a fun guy with a great sense of humor, and a skilled videographer.

Mark” the Shark” Sauers- mentioned many times in this blog. A true character who is a successful sales guy in the medical field, a certified snowboard instructor and excellent mountain biker. Perhaps his greatest asset is his willingness to share his faith on the trails with all those who ride with him. He walks the walk for sure.

Steve Gurtner- dentist and enthusiastic skier and mountain biker. Great sense of humor and a really skilled rider. His famous self deprecating line is ” Pat- we are bringing our B game to an A ride.” Not quite true in his sense because he is a fit, skilled rider, but funny all the same.

The Doc- Syed Hyder- seen here on the right. Syed is always on a busman’s holiday on our rides because he is always patching up people. The story of him inserting a presta valve into some guys chest on a ride to relieve air pressure is legendary in the medical community. An excellent and skilled rider and a really funny sense of humor always entertains us on the rides.

5 old ding dongs trying to repair Syed’s tire. Jeff working hard- LOL!
The Doc prior to Wolf Rocks eating his tire.

While we were all out in the woods as far as we could be from the cars trying to repair Syed’s tire in many different ways, we all remarked that just hanging around in the sunshine in the Laurel Highlands was enjoyable enough. Nobody cared that we were temporarily dead in the water as it was all part of an adventure for old guys out in the wilderness. That is the cool thing about mountain biking. Probably more than any venture I do outdoors, this community is responsible for fostering many lifetime friendships. Hard to explain – you have to be a mountain biker to understand. But, the adventures, the laughter, the camaraderie and the ability to participate as we all get older is fantastic. Most of my friends are either mountain bikers or skiers or in many cases, both. Lots of gray hairs under those helmets.

The wonderful end to the day of adventure was eating at the Out of the Fire Cafe in Donegal with our good friends – Julie and Jeff Chetlin. Jeff is very much like the Ride King in that he is the lynchpin of many cycling groups. Currently rehabbing from a health issue, Jeff is anxious to rejoin this group of merry men as well as others in the expansive network of Chetlin ride partners. He and Julie were so happy to see everybody and hear the stories of mishap on the trails. He is missed and we are all sure he will soon return to full health. Like Syed, he remarked that he has met all his good friends through mountain biking. Again, there is something about this sport that is uniting in many ways and we all feel it one way or another.

Angelo, the Ride King and Cassucio- just hanging around.

So, as I finish my rambling this week, I guess the point of all of this is that there is value to being active outdoors that extends beyond the health benefits. To participate in a healthy, challenging sport and to foster life long friendships as a result, is a real plus as we all age. I always remember Scott Nichol, of Ibis Bikes, stating a simple encouragement. When I asked him how long did he think we all could do this at this level as we age? His simple remark was,” Pat- don’t think about it- just keep doing it.” That has been my mantra for sure- just keep doing it. And if I can do it with friends like these guys, I will be a happy man living a long, healthy, fruitful life. Thanks for reading.

Gore Tex Days

Pennsylvania Foliage

In the last week or so, the foliage has been spectacular here in Western Pa. There has been a lot of comments on how late the changing of the leaves came due to the warm October and climate change in general. However, almost on cue, the leaves around here have changed in a dramatic way. I love the fall and to hike or ride a mountain bike viewing the leaves is a great way to spend some time in the outdoors.

Jill Lake at The Lodge at Glendorn.

,However, as much as we like to enjoy the fall and the changing foliage, there invariably comes the change in the weather where the leaves are brown, the rains come, and in general, a feeling of despondency on the part of a lot of folks who know that the winter is not far behind. We tend to get some pretty nasty weather here when ” the winds of November come early.” Now I am a winter guy and enjoy the snow and cold weather for various reasons, but what to do when it is not quite winter and we are in the “tweener” season here in the Keystone State? We can hunker down and binge on Netflix, or we can make the decision to continue to be active. I tend to focus on the latter as many of you know from my blog.

When it rains in Ireland, the locals refer to it as a “soft day”. That’s a lovely thought isn’t it? A soft day. I can just hear them say it. If you don’t like it, just wait a few minutes and it will change. Back and forth, but it will change. They don’t let it bother them and I tend to think in a similar manner. Especially if you invest in a good rain suit and well………….get out in it. I have several friends who hate the rainy late fall weather here and I constantly tell them that the only way to beat it is to get out in it. My wife and I donned the Gore Tex and got out in the rain for a really visually spectacular hike this weekend. Janet is starting to realize the functionality of a good rain suit and how you can always adhere to the old saying,” there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices.” The leaves are still colorful in the rain and when you have finished the hike or whatever outdoor activity you choose, you have the feeling that you got over on something. You beat the bad weather and got some exercise. This is a well beaten mantra of my blog, but I focus on it to give the naysayers some incentive to change their thinking.

Time for the lights.

The time change is coming this weekend too. And instead of spending the next 5 months hibernating in a gym, why not get some lights and ride or hike? Light technology has changed immensely since I first started riding in the dark way back in 1988. Do some research and see the amazing changes that have been made and the increasing lumen capacity and battery life that now exists with lighting technology. The cost has come down significantly.

Wolf Rocks – Laurel Mountain
Top of North Face- Seven Springs, Pa

So I guess the message here , short and sweet, is don’t let the rain, cold, and nasty weather get you down. Take the offensive and get out in it. Invest in some good foul weather gear and some lights. You won’t be disappointed. And if you see my pal Pete and me hosing off our rain suits in the car wash after a ride, don’t laugh. You could have a smile on your face like us. Thanks for reading.