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.

The Cinnamon Roll ( and it’s cousin- The Sticky Bun)

In my January 8th 2015 post, I told you about my plight as an acraphobic skier. I opened up and admitted that I am afraid of heights which is kind of strange for a skier. But I suffer through the aerial tram rides and chairlifts to get to the top. Now, I bare my soul again and reveal a hidden vice that due to my upbringing in Catholic guilt ridden hell, I must reveal. I am an addict. I am addicted to cinnamon rolls and sticky buns. o-1

Sadly, this aversion to healthy eating began with my wife’s grandmother Thelma Curren, who made hot, fresh sticky buns in the oven and called me over to my future in-laws house when they were ready. I was not a coffee drinker at the time, and prepared for the feast by bringing my own freshly squeezed orange juice and enjoying my own rack of buns with raisins. These were prepared especially for me much to the chagrin of my future brother in laws and my future wife Janet. How dare Mrs. Curren make Pat McCloskey his own batch. I loved every bite.

Fast forward to riding my road bike at the Jersey Shore. As I make my 50 mile round trip to Cape May and back to Avalon, I justify my stops at Mallon’s, which after much research, I found to have the best sticky buns at the Shore. I bring a rack back to my family who devours them with glee and then they tell me to never bring them back again. Their perpetual diets are sabotaged by this practice so after the first rack, I ride to Mallon’s and eat a rack by myself, sweating and stinking all over their outside bench. The minimum order is 6 buns and if I cannot inhale them all with a coffee, I sneak the rest back to the condo and hide them in the fridge. I make my way back from the beach feigning a bathroom break and sneak the buns out to the microwave an no one finds out. ocean-city

This helpless habit continues to this day on ski trips. I volunteer always to go to the grocery store after skiing and sneak a bun or a roll on the way back. I find the great bakeries. A weekly ritual in the winter, locally, is to stop on the way back from Laurel Mountain and eat a couple of cinnamon rolls from The Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown. Nothing makes the drive home easier than a coffee and a couple of rolls. o I used to bribe my son Jack to come skiing with me by enticing him with a visit to the Pie Shoppe and he always bit. Now beer is a more likely bait for him. But not for me. As much as I like my IPAs, I will take the buns and the rolls first and foremost.

Penn State people like my wife will extol the virtues of the grilled stickies from Ye Old College Diner in State College, Pa. These mass produced beauties are great grilled and can provide a doughy base in your stomach after an all star night on the town. ye-old-college-diner-stickies But something is lost on me with these buns when you can buy them in the local grocery stores as well as at the Diner. The fresh, warm bun or cinnamon roll right out of the oven in a great bakery cannot be beat. I know my health conscious friends are rolling their eyes at me now and even though I try to eat mostly healthy fare, I can’t help myself when tempted with these treats after a great ride or a ski day. But I know other people slip, like my chiropractor who is deeply into holistic health. Even he goes off the wagon here and there by buying a bag of cookies from Whole Foods and devouring them before he gets home. I outed you Ray. Guilty people love company.

The only justification for this aversion to healthy eating is my diligence in trying to pay for the indiscretion. I truly think in my mind that I can run off that bun or cycle off that roll. I will sweat like a dog trying to burn up that treat and in my mind, after a vigorous workout, I have paid the price. Only to be tempted again in a day or two and the whole vicious cycle of sin and penance begins anew. img_1547

As I have grown older, I have finally found the holy grail of cinnamon rolls dangerously close my home. The Bartram House Bakery has, hands down, the most delicious, cinnamon packed, warm doughy treat one could ever consume. It is so decadent that I find myself paying for it with an over extreme workout. Instead of being a connoisseur of the sticky bun and the cinnamon roll, I have become a common sewer with weekly stops. What am I supposed to do? This sweet toothed practice haunts me as I struggle to lead the healthy lifestyle. So there it is. I have outed myself, dropped my drawers and told you of the struggle that plagues me. I have come out of the closet much like a drinker and the first step to redemption is to admit it. But, chances are, you will catch me sometime with a smile on my face and icing all over my chin. Thanks for reading.

Keepin’ it Relevant

So, a couple of months ago, I had lunch with my buddy Bill Day and as we munched away on our burritos, he asked me,” Pat- how long do you think you are going to work?” It kind of took me back a bit and as I struggled for a response, Bill told me that he intends to keep working as long as he can. He may slow down a little bit when his boys enter the business in a few years, but for the moment, he likes his business and the challenge it offers. Bill is one of those guys who wears a t-shirt, running shoes and shorts, no matter what the temperature is and looks like the picture of health for a guy in his 60s. I thought about his question and remarked that I had to think about my son in school, health care, etc. but as long as I was contributing, I have no problem working. We are in similar circumstances but I work for a large company and Bill has his own very successful small business. We both agreed that we need to be relevant and making a contribution in order to continue. fullsizerender-51

So what does it mean to be relevant? In my mind, it is raising your hand and volunteering for new projects at work. It is providing guidance to younger employees. It is problem solving using experience gained over many years of employment. It is continuing to provide value even though you are not one of the younger ones anymore, in fact, in my circumstances, I am one of the older ones in our company. But “relevant” is a mindset and both Bill and I agreed. If you can stay healthy, provide value, and want to continue, age really has nothing to do with it. It also has to do with challenging yourself. There is a great blog out there called   jen-agan.squarespace.com  where it is said that,” truth of character and purpose comes to light when we find ourselves soaring outside our comfort zone.” Sometimes, when we think about the road ahead, we must continually challenge ourselves in order to provide value and be……relevant. I have a lot of friends who have retired. They travel, they volunteer, they provide value in their own right but they also enjoy life. I want to do the same thing, but for the time being, it is associated with my work environment.

Aside from the challenges in the work place, what can help you with providing value? I have always been a proponent of strong body assists strong minds. Exercise and activities support good mental health as well as physical well being. I have a group of contemporaries that enjoy skiing and mountain biking. We all challenge each other and love the sport, atmosphere, and history of these pursuits. We look forward to getting together each week and on vacations enjoying the slopes and the trails. We hold each other accountable and the activities support our work ethic because we have the energy to continue to provide value to each other via our activities, but also provide value in the workplace. img_0723img_0203

One of the byproducts of being “relevant” is that you have the chance to test that with younger employees and also younger folks who ski and ride. I ride mountain bikes with a group on Thursday nights during the year who are in good shape and are considerably younger than me. Oftentimes, I am the oldest one by 30 years unless some of my contemporaries show up. But the interesting thing is that I learn from this group. I hear what they like in music, entertainment, politics, and listen to their workplace challenges and when they seek counsel or opinion from the old guy, I feel relevant in that I can respond to them without sounding like a parent or a boss. I am their friend and confidant even though our demographics are somewhat far apart. I can have a beer with them after the ride and we all enjoy the stories of the trail that night. At the same time, I know my place, and would not enter their world on a weekend or week vacation with their peers. I am not one of them. But in the environment of the ride, I am, and we enjoy each other’s company. fullsizerender

So, I guess the bottom line here is age should not dictate whether one is relevant or not but rather mindset and enthusiasm. I like my job and I like my hobbies. I would like to continue to pursue them and stray outside the comfort zone from time to time to test myself. We live in a rapid paced world with social media, continual advertising assaults, main stream media, challenges in the workplace, health and financial challenges, and the list goes on. But with the right attitude and the ability to learn from the younger set, baby boomers like Bill and me can still provide value, learn, and be……for lack of a better word……….relevant. Be kind in 2017 and thanks for reading.

Coffee- The Great Motivator.

I was not always a coffee drinker. In fact, the first time I ever drank a cup of coffee was when I was on a trip with my wife in San Diego. She said, ” it would be really nice if you would sit and have a cup of coffee with me.” I always thought that coffee was for ” big people” and that it stunted your growth as my mother taught me. So, up until I was in my mid thirties, I had never had the pleasure of experiencing the warm, tasty, caffeinated slide of liquid down the old gullet. It was a revelation. images-1

Fast forward and I found myself in the land of coffee- Seattle, Washington where Starbucks and Seattle’s Best reign supreme. img_0576
I took advantage of all that coffee had to offer there but the fun part was finding the small , boutique coffee stands in places like Enumclaw, Washington on the way to ski at Crystal Mountain. You pull in and order a custom crafted cup of Java from the smiling, female baristas and make your way to the ski area with a warm, travel cup to start your day. mount_rainier_from_west

I often find myself drinking the Java on the way to work or to a work out like cycling or skiing. Aside from the purported benefits of reduction of risk of Type II diabetes, Alzheimer disease, Parkinsons, heart disease, and colorectal cancer, I find that coffee gives you a degree of sharpness in the morning. I find that if I drink a cup on the way to a cycling outing, it gives me a little jolt that is needed because as you age, it takes more time to warm up. But the coffee helps you get out of the parking lot a little easier and I notice it when I don’t drink before I ride. Same benefit with skiing. When I finish the coffee in the lodge, and strap on the boards, my first turns are more focused and the rhythm of the ski turns are assisted by that initial caffeine boost in the morning. Even going to work, it give me focus to begin my day. But aside from the caffeine benefits, what is so special about the proverbial cup of coffee that warrants discussion? images

I have found that there is a whole culture out there of coffee aficionados who revel in the relaxing atmosphere of a coffee shop. Starbucks, McDonald’s and smaller boutique shops encourage folks to relax and enjoy the coffee with soft music and the opportunity to use the internet conductivity to conduct business or just browse the internet while enjoying a fresh cup of coffee. My wife and I enjoyed this type of atmosphere at La Prima this Christmas in the strip district of Pittsburgh. A simple cafe that specializes in the coffee experience. We marveled at the artistry of the frothy creamy decoration on the surface of the cup and just enjoyed the experience instead of getting a “to go” cup and slamming the beverage down during our shopping outing. sawada-coffee-10dec2015-003

But I have to tell you that most of the time, I am slamming the coffee on the way to something. I remember coaching my son in his early soccer years and pounding a cup of coffee before the Saturday morning game. My wife always said that me drinking coffee was like pouring gasoline on a raging fire as I became an enthusiastic, motor mouthed, raging lunatic of a coach. My son cringed as I loudly encouraged them to shoot the ball, defend, and die for the team- all in a grade school soccer game. img00002-20091022-1737

So, the caffeine thing is not lost on me and the benefits of coffee to begin my day or as a performance enhancer is recognized as I slam the coffee down my throat. img_1301

Janet is always telling me that I have to relax and I try to get into the cafe, coffee shop experience, but most of the time I am slamming. Even after all these years, I am a rookie when it comes to the true taste of coffee. I like a strong cup but I really like a little coffee in my cream and sugar. My associate Steve Elliott, with whom I work, says that to really enjoy the taste of coffee, you have to drink it black. I am not there yet and although I am trying to wean myself off the cream and sugar, I have a long way to go. But in the meantime, I will enjoy the sweet, creamy, experience of a slammed cup of Java and thank my wife for introducing me to one of the small pleasures of life. As I age, I notice the smaller things and appreciate them. Hopefully the coffee will appreciate me with healthful benefits that supposedly exist. Enjoy a good cup of steaming coffee and thanks for reading.

A Colonial Christmas

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I am a history nut and particularly the history of the Revolutionary days in this country. We here in Western Pennsylvania are fortunate in that a lot of the events that took place to shape the direction of the new nation took place right here in our region. I often daydream of what it would have been like to be an 18th century man. At this time of year, that daydream turned into a bright vision as I walked down the Duke of Gloucester street during my visits to Williamsburg, Virgina. 6c3139f39b95ad590a6b9fe3fffca04e

Wiliamsburg just might be one of the nicest places to visit during the Christmas season. Not only is it rich in history dating back to the 17th century but the reconstruction of historical sites make it seem like you are walking back in time. There were many nights when it was colder and  I walked the streets and talked to colonial dressed people standing beside an army stack of firewood burning brightly and warmly on the street corner. Their discussions of topics of revolutionary times not only made it seem real, but for visitors like me, it gave me great pleasure to see how it might have been had I lived in those days.
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Williamsburg is also famous at this time of year for their decorations on the doors of the shops and pubs and the Christmas decorations in general are exceptionally well done especially with a dusting of snow on the buildings and the streets. 605fd664dfc5584d478748da52c67ef3

One of my more vivid memories of those visits was to take in the Candlight concert series at Bruton Parish Church which was founded in 1674. When you come in from the cold and are greeted by candlelight and a choir from a visiting town, you can really get into the Christmas spirit absorbing the atmosphere and listening to the harmonies and the musical excellence of the chamber orchestras.

During warmer visits, I took my mountain bike and joined the evening rides with the shop guys from Bikes Unlimited ( 757-229-4620). You can call them for the ride schedules and can be treated to trail rides on the William and Mary campus trails as well as the Chambrel trails near by. The rides are always followed by a gathering of riders at the local Panera. These trails are twisty, turny, singletrack and although there are no measurable hills in the Tidewater region, they are challenging enough with the meandering trail construction. It is interesting to take a break on the campus of William and Mary and be facing a statue of Thomas Jefferson. Knowing that he attended here as a student and looking at his countenance was a treat to this history buff.

Sometimes history is lost on people. I had my family in Williamsburg one summer when it was 100 degrees. As I was extolling the virtues of Patrick Henry to my son as we heard his speech done by an actor, my son looked at me and said,” Hey dad- where is the pool.” Now there were no 18th century pools available but he eventually soaked his hot little bones in the hotel pool. My wife was looking for relief as well but all I could think about was ” give me liberty, or give me death.”

The Williamsburg Inn is the hallmark location to stay in the village. images-1
This is a beautiful hotel with first class amenities but the Williamsburg Lodge is another option if the budget for the Inn is not there. 806309_44_b

If I were to offer a suggestion, I would still stick by my recommendation for Williamsburg at Christmas time. If you get lucky with some snow and winter weather, you will really feel the colonial ambiance. Take it in and take a walk back in history. Thanks for reading.

The Natural Portrait

My friend Helen Durfee always said that the fall season in Western Pa is just as nice as Vermont, just a little less dramatic. She grew up in the Laurel Highlands and lived the first part of her married life in Vermont. I agree that Vermont and New England are famous for “leaf peeping” but I have to say that this particular fall here in Western Pa. has been spectacular. img_1111

I have been treated to some amazing days of mountain biking and hiking this fall where I have taken the time to enjoy the color of the leaves. I have taken the time to “savor” the days like a fine steak or fresh seafood. I try to take little bites and enjoy the flavor. Like my commute to work on Squaw Run  Road. I don’t go the fastest route to work but rather the scenic roads to enjoy the changes in the leaves each day. This year the changes have been remarkable. img_1117

Another contributing factor to my enjoyment of Fall 2016 has been the app that was suggested to me by my friend Eric Durfee( Helen’s husband and native Vermonter). It is called ProHDX and can be downloaded on your I-Phone. This particular app allows you to shoot a photo and really get the focus and colors sharply so that the end result is an I-Phone photo that looks particularly good compared to most. I am not a real good photographer and the only camera I have is on my I-Phone. But I have really enjoyed using this app and the convenience of the I-Phone on a ride or a hike can yield some spectacularly sharp images. img_1106

The one nice thing about a hike or taking in the view from a mountain bike is that you can avoid all of the cars packed with “leaf peepers” and enjoy the quiet transformation of the season in the woods of Western Pennsylvania. Many past seasons have been rushed with race pace rides looking at nothing other than the persons backside in front of me. Games, practices, kid’s activities take a lot of time and effort for many of us. But as you age and the seasons of rushing to activities wane, it is a great practice to slow down, take in the seasons, and enjoy the flames of the maple leaves, the golden colors of the oak trees and even the pale shading of the ferns on the forest floor. In my old backpacking days, I did take the time to hike and enjoy the fall in the Laurel Highlands. But in the many years since, those times had been replaced by soccer games, basketball games and general activities with my wife and son. Now I have a college student who does his own thing, and my wife and I are trying to slow down and enjoy what God provides for us by way of a natural display of color. img_1108

So, I guess the message here is to savor your experiences. The yearly season change where the warm days try to hang on into Indian Summer, create some spectacular viewing if you take the time to enjoy the days. You don’t have to go to the mountains to enjoy the scene. Just look out your window, your windshield, or take a walk in the neighborhood. Smell that fall aroma of leaves. See the tannin of the leaves change the creek colors. Notice the difference. Slow down. Thanks for reading.