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.

Nothing like Patriot’s Day in Boston

Patriot’s Day in Boston is aligned with the running of the Boston Marathon. This year is it Monday April 18th. Back in 1987, my pal Jack Mook asked me if I ever ran a marathon? He also told me that he was injured and wanted to know if I would consider running Boston? He would give me his number and I could run it if I wanted? I only ran in the winter for fitness. I thought about it and immediately responded in the affirmative and thought about what it would take to run the thing. I did my due diligence, ran my 20 in a raging snowstorm, went to Boston with Hot Harry Kirsch, Les Brodie, and Carl Trimbur and finished in a respectable time of 3:17. Not bad for a guy who basically rides a bike. The bus ride to the start was a bit intimidating seeing that I was in the company of a lot of pure runners and it seemed like a loooooong bus ride. LOL!! But the best part of that day for me was not the running, but the auxiliary experiences along the way which made it most memorable.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Experience #1- I went to the expo and met the 1984 Olympic Marathon Champion – Joan Benoit Samuelson. She was at the Nike booth with Frank Shorter and we had a great chat because we have a mutual friend- Jace Pasquale. As it turns out, Jace was Joan’s ski race coach during her years at the University of New Hampshire and all Joan could talk about was ” How is Jace?” ” What is she doing now” ” Please tell her hello from me.” Joan was such a friendly and unassuming person who was so humble – very impressive for an Olympic gold medalist. We chatted for a long time in the line and the people behind me were getting miffed so I thanked her for the time and moved on to collect some Boston Marathon SWAG.

Experience # 2- being with Carl, Harry, Les and Bill Shillinger, my running partner for the marathon. Bill had agreed to run with me and we had a great time. Bill kept my enthusiasm in check as we ran through Wellesley College with the roar of the college girls that could be heard for miles. I came smoking out of there all pumped up but Bill told me to slow down or I would have a problem. He guided me past the Green Monster of Fenway Park and as we finished together, I realized how valuable Bill had been for me in this initiative.

Hot Harry only had a running bag with another singlet and a pair of running shorts and a toothbrush. He traveled light but snored like a Stihl chainsaw- driving Les to sleep in the closet of the hotel room. Another treat of the hotel was the fact that the elevators were broken after the marathon and there was no hot water. A cruel punishment for those of us who had just run 26.2 miles. But eating at Legal Seafoods and laughing about the whole thing made me think that this mishap was all part of the experience. Running down the Newton Hills beat up my thighs to the point that I had to walk down stairs backwards the next day in the hotel and in the “T” running around town. I did not realize that running downhill beats you up more than anything.

Hot Harry- the man , the myth the legend

Hot Harry and Carl Trimbur are no longer with us. But the laughs of us all in one hotel room and traveling up and back to Boston is a time that I will cherish forever.

Experience #3- Boston is a wild place during the Marathon. So many people packing the sidewalks cheering on the runners along with the smell of beer all the way down Boylston St. Boston is resilient and even with the tragedy of the bombing a number of years ago, they have that Patriot spirit that keeps Boston strong. Eating Italian in the North End, seeing the sights from the Revolution days, and in general, taking in all that Boston has to offer is really the true essence of Patriot’s Day and marathon weekend.

I don’t run anymore because I am preserving my knees for cycling and skiing. But when I see the marathon on TV every spring, I think back to the good times that I had with the guys, the experiences of running the event, and the pull of Boston that will always bring me back to visit. 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.

The Last Turns

The Durfees

At the invitation of our dear friends, Helen and Eric Durfee of Incline Village, Nevada, we spent our last week skiing at Beaver Creek out in Colorado. With some fresh new snow and intermittent sunshine, we enjoyed all that BC had to offer. I reluctantly made my last turns for the season last Friday over at Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch. As I looked over at the majestic Gore Range, I was thankful for a great season locally, in Utah, and finishing out in Colorado. Thinking about big toe, little toe, ( a tip from my pal Eric) and keeping my stance lower and wider, I made a series of GS turns until my legs were toast and I made the last turn at the bottom of Bachelor Gulch. This is always a melancholy time ( the end of my 60th year of skiing) but I reflected on the week and all that it had to offer us.

The always energetic Lynne Hartnett

One of the highlights of the week was to connect with my old pal- Lynne Hartnett. Lynne is one of the most enthusiastic people I know and her infectious attitude towards skiing is always welcome. Sometimes it is hard to connect, but we pulled it off and Lynne, along with another friend from the past, Robin Ouimette, seemed excited to ski with our group of four. A former Vail instructor, Lynne knows the mountain well and took charge much to the delight of our group. She encouraged my wife Janet to jump right in her tracks and as she made her beautiful turns down the mountainside, she really helped Janet and we all said- she upped Jan’s game for sure. Jan got some good pointers last week from Helen and Eric as well as the always affable Lynne Hartnett. Lynne runs women’s clinics at home here in Pa. and she was more than happy to share her experiences with my receptive wife. What a great time we had with Robin and Lynne , culminating with some beverages and hors d’oerves back at our condo which were masterfully prepared by Helen, who along with her husband Eric, are very skilled skiers. Eric, an ex- ski racer- fast and solid, and Helen- great technique who can ski anything and ski it all day long.

Pat, Robin, Lynne, Helen and Janet.
McCoy Park. Beautiful scenery .

I always am a bit sad when the ski season ends. We had a decent season locally although we got a late start. But for me, making turns and riding the chairlift is always a joy. When the last turn comes, I kind of shake my head knowing that another season has come and gone. Jan and I will try to stay healthy and be fit for another season. Hopefully we get many, many more but we are grateful for what we have experienced. As I sat on the plane ride home, I thought about what a great sport skiing is. Not only is it rewarding to make carved arcs on groomers, and skiing the uncut of a new fallen snow, but I thought of the wonderful social aspects of skiing. I think of all the fun we have had with the Durfees, the Birsics and the Flying Smittys from Philadelphia, and the always enthusiastic wonderful skier and friend- Mark Hutchinson. I think about my local group at Laurel Mountain and Seven Springs. Shark and Tina, Jon Brady, Melissa and Jaime, Dixon, Bob Potter, George Skylling, Daryl, Porter, Johnny Mac, Monty, Angelo Ross, Jamie Edson, Paul Barrante, Race Jace, and Dave “everyday” Gault, and a host of others who make the local scene exciting even in the worst of weather conditions. Finally, we all look forward to the weekly “Chair Report” by Jason Eshleman! Skiing fosters lifetime friendships and I am hoping that I have a lot more seasons to come. More runs, chairlift rides, , and more good times with those with whom I have skied for years. My mountain bike friends laugh when I talk about skiing all summer (most of them are skiers and boarders too). But in reality, I ride a bike to keep in shape for skiing. As much as I like the change of the seasons and the move from skis to wheels, I always look forward to the changing leaves and the first flakes, which will usher in more good times with all my winter friends. Thanks for reading and here is to spring!!!

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.