Anticipation!

New Boards

I have posted on it before, but it takes a real enthusiasm to be a skier in the mid- Atlantic region of the country. We have to fight the continuing cycle of snow, ice, and rain events along with increasingly milder temperatures. If it were not for snowmaking, and good grooming, we would be in a world of hurt around these parts. We do our best to get our ski days in locally and then plan trips for the West and New England. Covid will offer some challenges but I am undaunted in my quest for the target 30 days which is fairly decent for a guy who is still employed, lives in Pennsylvania, and yearns for the first turns of the season. Nothing does my heart more good than a new pair of boards.

My local ski buddy and my western ski pal also got new boards this season and we are all excited to try them in hopefully a short month or two.

New Lake Tahoe Stocklis
New Heads for my local pal

To me, a new pair of skis is like a jump start to the season. I get a little bummed at the end of the season when the last turns are made and I have to wait another 8 months to ski again. With a new pair of boards, the anticipation is increased among the changing leaves and the falling temperatures . It makes the 8 months seem to race quickly as I anticipate the first turns of the season, especially excited to try a new pair of skis. November comes quickly with You Tube Ski TV and vicariously I begin the season in advance of the first tracks around here.

Wooden skis, cable bindings, leather tie boots. Back in the day

My passion for this sport began when my folks first took me skiing. ( They didn’t ski but wanted my sister and I to get started). I will never forget my first pair of wooden skis , and my excitement then is no different than it is today embarking on my 59th season. Anyone who skis remembers his or her first pair and can probably name most of the skis that they have used since then. I remember my dad subsequently buying me my first season pass and also a pair of Head 360s for Christmas. My job was to earn the money for my first pair of buckle boots and boy was I excited when I first tried on my Koflachs. No more bloody knuckles tying ski boots. But the important thing was that my dad was teaching me to earn money so that I could buy what I wanted. It meant more to me and is a lesson that I carry with me today. Any trips, equipment, and lift tickets were my responsibility from that point on and I mowed a lot of lawns, shoveled a lot of driveways, hauled a lot of steamer trunks caddying at my dad’s club. Working in the box factory in college helped pay for a lot of things and the lesson was being ingrained with every pay check. It still is today when I budget for trips, ski equipment, and ski passes.

I think a lot about my dad when ski season starts. Especially when I tune my skis on the bench that he built for me some 40+ years ago. Every time I add to my quiver of skis and get a new pair, I think of him and the message that he taught me to earn the skis that will earn my turns. So many memories of ski seasons past, but the anticipation of what is to come is only accentuated by the vision of a new pair of skis, waiting to be mounted. Think snow and think safety in the coming ski season. Wear your mask, wash your hands and make sure that skiing is there for all of us this season. Thanks for reading

Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Ecclesiastes 3

A Walk in the Woods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storms

We looked off into the north the other night and saw huge black clouds coming our way. The distant thunder and far off lightning were beginning to warn us of a pending doozie of a storm. Oftentimes, in our area, the storm track is north of us and most of them head to the east before emptying themselves after they leave our area. Unless they sometimes, in a fickle mood, hook around and get us from behind with a southern wind assist. Thus was the case as we pressed on. Up on the ridge, the wind became stronger and the large droplets of rain began pelting our helmets as we could smell the approaching storm and the pace picked up for all of us on the trail that evening. This time, the storm decided to empty itself on us with a wicked fury and as we popped out of the woods, the lightning was cracking directly overhead as we headed for shelter. No place was really safe. The roads were beginning to “pond up” and as we rapidly approached the building water, we wondered whether we were going to hydroplane off to the side of the road in a crumpled heap. It was raining so hard we could hardly see and fortunately I remembered to put my cell phone in a zip lock bag, otherwise, it would have been destroyed like a lot of other phones of mine that have hit the creek, or became too wet to even save with the bag of rice.

I have always had a healthy fear of lightning. I can remember being caught in a storm in the mountains east of here and the storm was right on top of me. The lightning was crackling directly overhead and bolts seemed to be all around me as I hunkered down under a tree in the woods and prayed for the storm to move on. I was an old caddie back in the day and also had some harrowing experiences on the golf course where I worked. I remember one day sitting in a shelter on Number 17 at Shannopin Country Club and seeing a bolt of lightning hit a sprinkler head on Number 10 – right next to us. The turf exploded all along the pipe line and a black smoking line was formed all the way to the green. Again, ” Dear God- please let this storm pass.” Very frightening. I even was caught in a wicked lightning storm on the old Cascade chair lift at Killington, Vermont while spring skiing. It started to rain and the next thing you know, the chair stopped. I was swinging in the wind as bolts of lightning were all around me and I was pelted with driving rain. Not too cool being in an all metal chair lift with metal towers all around. The chair finally begin to move again and the operator at the top said to me, ” Pretty scary ride, eh?” I said-” you really don’t know the half of it.” Thank God again. Rescue from what could have been a disaster. So, when I shouted to the guys to pull into the shelter the other night, I was not kidding.

Lightning bolt strike from a thunderstorm over El Paso, Texas.

When you hear thunder and then see a bolt of lightning immediately, you know that that storm cloud is close by. It is often said that the time difference between thunder and lighting indicates how close or far away the storm actually is. In any case, whenever I am out in a storm like the other night, my mind starts racing. ” What if?” So I head to shelter or the closest resemblance to shelter I can find. Kind of like the storms of life , right? You seek shelter. You seek a safe place and let the storm pass which it always does. No matter how frightening the storms of life can be for us, there is shelter. That is why we all need faith in these times of storms and uncertainty. It would be really frightening without it.

” Then He got up to rebuke the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ” What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him.”

Mark 8:26-27

Thanks for reading.

Discourse

I subscribe to “Mountain” magazine which is a very high quality periodical with great photography and articles pertaining to the mountain life. I like to get lost in the articles and photographs and I am especially thrilled when it shows up in my mailbox. There is something still in me that likes print media and “Mountain” is one of the better quarterly periodicals that has survived. The editor is Marc Peruzzi who is also the founder of the magazine. Marc is an excellent journalist who I have followed over the years. He writes about cycling, skiing, and ski mountaineering in many other magazines like “Outside” and “Ski” . He is well known and has made his living creating interesting articles related to the outdoor industry, outdoor sports and general life of adventure. Marc- seen here on the left on the podium for the Breck Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race.

I was surprised at Marc’s editorial page in the current issue which was named “History Doesn’t Stop”. I found it to be a bit too political for my taste and called Marc to task in an email . My point to him was that I want to read” Mountain” to get away from the political media editorials of today and just plain enjoy a magazine dedicated to the outdoors. To my surprise, he immediately responded with a well crafted message culminating with the following:
” Just as I always take my own opinions and beliefs to task, I am always willing to be taken to task by readers like you. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts instead of just reaching for the cancel button.” We went on to have an increasingly amiable dialog in which he aptly explained his views, but also respected the spirit of his magazine. He felt that today’s political journey does not exclude the mountain population and therefore would always be faithful to putting forth opinion that would relate to that community.

Marc also commented on the fact that I support his print media with a subscription. He thanked me. He also went on to say that it has been hard to attract the advertising that he once had and that print media in general was having difficulty. He wrote most of the articles in his latest issue and said that hopefully things will get better and the ads will start flowing more freely again. I understand his pain as I saw the demise of a lot of quality periodicals that fell prey to a vanishing ad base. Magazines like “Dirt Rag”and “Skiing.” But Marc’s exemplary journalism skills carry the magazine and I went on to tell him so. What started as a rant about his political views in an outdoor magazine, turned into a “discourse” of the spirit of the magazine and his thoughts on the publishing of “Mountain.” My wife Janet was amazed at the time spent on the email discussion with someone who took the time to have a half hour dialog with me on his editorial. Although our political views may slightly differ, the discourse and discussion was enlightening and educational.

Discourse is defined in some circles as ” written or spoken communication of debate.” My point this week is that in today’s divided world, there is often not much discourse. There is a lot of opinion on either side of the political spectrum which oftentimes turns personal in response instead of a healthy dialog or discourse. In this surprising interlude with an editor of an outdoors magazine, I found that discourse with Marc, which is so rare today. I found a person who was willing to discuss his views without getting personal and find a common ground with me. We both love the outdoors and both like to write about it. I was impressed with his passion about the current political scene and how it relates to the outdoors types for whom he writes. It is not often that one ever receives a reply from a letter to the editor, much less such the civil response that I received. But it shows you that people can disagree, but in the continuation of discourse, can find common ground. The Founders did it. Why can’t we all? Thanks Marc for the healthy dialog and thanks for reading folks. Subscribe to “Mountain”. Worth the read.

Chasing the E-Bike

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

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

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

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

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

Garage Door Bob and the Thirsty Thursdays

The tough guy who you see in the middle here with the studded fat bike tires for winter riding is Garage Door Bob. Aptly named because of his highly successful garage door installation and repair business – B&V Garage Doors. B for Bob and V for his lovely wife Vicky. To say that Bob is an avid mountain biker would be a bit of an understatement looking at his own garage filled with bikes, wheel sets, and parts. Bob loves to mountain bike and loves it all year long. The amazing thing is that Bob will ride on 90 + degree, high humidity days after putting in a full days work installing or repairing garage doors. He will do the same in raging snowstorms on icy trails. But what makes Bob and his wife Vicky really special is his ability to round up fellow riders weekly with a text that simply says” Thirsty Thursday- 5:45- Devil’s Elbow Grove- no replies. Just show up or don’t show up- don’t care.” Really a misnomer because Bob does care. He just doesn’t want all the text chatter all day while he is working. LOL!!!

Thirsty Thursday is a tradition that was started by Bob back in the day and has continued along with other weekly rides for our eclectic group of mountain bike riders. There are the tough guys up front who push the pace and then the stragglers who keep the group in sight to the best of their abilities. The tough guys wait at the turns to make sure everybody is along for the ride as it is a no drop ride. But for the most part, all the riders are able to at least keep up and Bob is happy with his weekly band of followers on the trails. We are squeezed a little tight here for social distance but the picture was worth it showing the weekly group and some additions and subtractions as the weeks go by, all year long. But as much as everybody likes the ride, the real thing that people look forward to is the post ride at the grove with beers, snacks, and food graciously provided by Bob and Vicki and Tina and the Shark. Another fun couple who like to contribute to the camaraderie. As long as I have know GDB, he has always brought snacks, beers and been extremely generous at the post- ride festivities- socially distanced of course, and making sure that everybody has a good time. There is something to be said for the post- ride. Sitting in your chair, sipping a beverage, and reminiscing about the crazy stuff that happened. Mountain biking is an accident waiting to happen sometimes. The conversation also turns to what we all will do on future rides and if there are any trips planned. These post ride festivities remind me of apres-ski in the winter around a fire talking basically about the same thing. What happened, what was funny, what do we do next?

Bob and Vicki, Shark and Tina fuel this weekly gathering in more ways than one. And in these days of Zoom, Teams, social isolation, masks, and other Covid related precautions, it is important to somehow be able to get together with your friends in some outdoor activity and have that one on one conversation with a live person. GDB makes it happen each week and although he says he doesn’t care who shows up, he is the first guy to encourage you to ride the whole loop and stay with the group no matter what. He feeds you, he inspires you, he pushes you and he motivates you. Something we all need at least once a week.

Don’t we all need a Garage Door Bob to keep us motivated through these strange social times? Don’t we need more than Zoom, Teams and other forms of communication that really don’t cut it for interaction? Don’t we need that time to sit back and enjoy the remnants of the evening and the cool temperatures seeing the smiles on everyone’s post ride faces? Socially distanced of course. Sure we do. We all need people like GDB and his Thirsty Thursdays. Thanks for reading.

” People- people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.”
– Barbara Streisand – ” Funny Girl”.

Out of This World.

A long time ago, my dad bought me an army surplus tent and I slept a lot of nights outdoors behind my house. It was really the beginning of my fascination for the universe and the solar system that is highly visible on a clear night. Many nights I looked up and thought how small we are in the grand scheme of things seeing that what I saw was a fraction of the Milky Way, which is a fraction of the Galaxy, which is a fraction of the Universe. I could not even contemplate but was highly satisfied with what I saw. There is something about the smell of the night air when you are awake at 3:00 AM and you look up in the stillness and see the absolute beauty of the sky. God’s amazing celestial creation. Years later in my dome tent, during many backpacking trips, I looked up from my sleeping bag, through the ceiling screen, and had the same feelings that I had as a kid in my backyard, thanks to my dad and his creative entertainment for Molly and me.

Fast forward, I bought myself a telescope. It was so interesting to see the craters of the moon, the moons around Jupiter and the ring around Saturn. Of course, aside from our moon, the details are not as defined as a professional telescope, but for me, it was pretty cool to zone in on it and see it “live.” I remember the first night I was up in the field behind our old house and called my son to come up and see it. He said, ” Dad- I can see it 50 times better on the Internet.” Millenials! Oh well, my wife came up and said, ” Well- that is nice dear. I am glad you are enjoying it.” Always the supportive wife even though it was not her thing.

Eventually, I bought a pair of high powered binoculars and a tripod. I really went to town then, exploring with the Sky Walk app on my phone to look up new planets and stars and see the constellations. The binoculars and tripod are a little more mobile than the telescope and easier to use. Lately, these clear nights this summer have been spectacular viewing. Once again, I tested my wife’s patience the other night looking for the Comet Neowise. I had the poor thing sitting in a field getting bit by insects waiting for the sunset and looking right under the Big Dipper in the northern sky. No dice initially until I moved her up to the golf course where she patiently waited for me as I made my way to a really dark place and finally saw a small version of what I had seen by the professional photographers on the Internet. Again, not real clear but I felt like I had hit my target for the night. Again, my patient wife said, ” I am so happy for you dear.” After all these years she is still supportive of my quest to see what is in the sky. Well, it won’t be around for another 6800 years so I figured I better see it now. LOL!!

Logging on the ” Spot the Station” and entering my email, I get notices from NASA when the Space Station is overhead. Even thought I can’t pick it up too well with my binoculars because of the speed at which it moves, it is still the brightest thing in the sky and travels at amazing velocity. My neighbors all get a kick out of me, out in the street at night with the binoculars and I give them all a view. And again, they kind of give me a ” well, that’s nice Pat. Glad you are enjoying it.” Although a lot of them are now watching and waiting for the Space Station. I kind of got them hooked.

The other day, I watched the astronauts installing the high definition camera on the outside of the Space Shuttle and thought to myself how cool it would be to see the earth from their perspective. Azure blue oceans, puffy white clouds and the continents rotating in their view so clearly. I thought, what they see is so pristine. They don’t see the conflict, the division, the problems that we are faced with globally in today’s world. They just see the creation in its finest position like a fine painting on a celestial easel. They are “out of this world” for a little while and doing great work high above the earth. Like the little boy in the tent so many years ago, I am still fascinated by what I see in the sky. A great hobby recommendation for all of you. Especially in this time of social distance. Buy a pair of binoculars from Celestron and begin exploring the galaxy. It gives you some great perspective on how small we really are. Thanks for reading.

The Operative Word is “Yes”

This photo was taken over the weekend up at McConnel’s Mills State Park here in Western Pa. Janet and I were hiking and I was experimenting with an app on the I-Phone called Pro HDRX. Pretty cool playing with that and also having an opportunity to spend some quality time with my wife on the trails. Janet and I are ” empty nesters” for the first time in a long time, and trying to be as active as we can in the current world circumstances. For us lately, the operative word has been “yes.” I participate in two major activities with friends but it has been important for me to spend time with Janet and get her more into the great outdoors than she already is, and doing some of the things that I have enjoyed for many years. She jokes that I have had a whole separate life when we talk about my activities over the years and the pre-Janet world. But now, we are in a situation where we can enjoy the time, activities and places together.

I must commend many of my friends who find themselves in the same situation and it has been fun to get together with them because we share the same thoughts about the empty nest and what that entails. The gift of time has enabled us to participate in hiking, cycling,swimming,shooting, skiing and snowshoeing. My wife and I laugh when I refer to myself as the “human crowbar.” I sometimes have to crowbar Janet out of her comfort zone and pry open that door of complacency and comfort. But once she is out the door and participating, she is happy and enjoying the many activities that we can do together. I am a Type A personality and Jan will never be in that mold, but that is why we do so well together. She tempers my enthusiasm where needed and I get her out the door enjoying things that she might not do on her own.

The interesting thing is that we have a lot of time to talk. That hasn’t been the case in many years because we were always on the go with activities with our son Jack as he was growing up. Not unlike a lot of couples. Games, practices, school, and also in the more recent years caring for her ailing parents and the constraints that are associated with that. We have no regrets but we are really enjoying the time together now that we have not had in a long time. We try to be safe in this Covid-19 world. We wear our masks, wash our hands frequently and respect others on the trails and other outdoor venues. But at some point, we will all have to accept some level of risk to be active. That is still being sorted out nationally and also in our own sphere of influence. But we persevere and try to get that fresh air that is sorely needed during this strange time.

Finally, we discuss why we feel the need to be active and go places. Is it just to check the box and say we have been there and done that? Is it because we want to post it on Facebook, or do we really like to participate because of the true gratification of being outdoors and being together. We both think it is the latter and when you see gorgeous scenery even right in your backyard, you appreciate the opportunity. Time spent together is priceless and whether you have a spouse, significant other, friend, or children, the gift of time is precious. The outdoors presents many opportunities to bond in discussion as well as a mutual appreciation of God’s great creation. We are all living in uncertain times and it is important to make the best of these times together. “Yes” is the operative word to opportunity and kindness goes hand in hand with that. Thanks for reading.

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Covid Fitness

Gasping for breath up a steep climb recently on the mountain bike with my riding friends, I thought to myself, ” Where is the race?” ” Nobody is going to the Olympics – why are we racing on this ride?” Then it occurred to me that my group and a lot of other groups of cyclists, runners, and other fitness enthusiasts are in really great shape. People are not traveling for work, or pleasure just yet and a lot of folks have a lot of free time to get their work done at home and then go ride, run, walk, hike or do some other form of exercise. I am calling it Covid Fitness and it is a national phenomena.

I recently went into my local bike shop, Dirty Harry’s, in Verona,Pa and their business is booming. Barry Jeffries, the owner, told me that they have 350 bikes on back order and their repair business is off the charts. Barry, Scott, Brocc and the boys will have a record year in sales and service because a lot of people are turning back to cycling as a recreational activity during this pandemic. The health clubs are not fully operational yet and people need to get out. What better way to do it than on a bicycle? As the bikes roll in the door from the manufacturers, the boys at Dirty Harry’s build them up as fast as possible and out the door they go. Sold!!! All kinds of bikes. High end mountain and road bikes, E-Bikes, kids bikes, commuter bikes, you name it. They are selling like a fish sandwich in Lent. The Peleton home cycling equipment is back ordered by at least 6 months and that is the case with a lot of sports equipment providers. Most outdoor equipment manufacturers have had a strain on supply because of the surge in purchases due to the Covid 19 crisis. Even spare parts are being used to make new equipment because supply of parts is also in great demand. A good news bad news scenario for the sporting equipment industry in that record sales are being offset in a way by a strain in supply. They have the customers, many new to the sport, but are having a hard time keeping up with demand.

So back to my group. We have guys and gals who travel for work, guys and gals who are retired, and many working from home. These folks have always been active but recently, they probably have ridden mountain bikes and road bikes more than they ever have in recent years because the distractions have been put aside due to this pandemic. I have complimented a lot of cycling friends on their fitness and their response has been, ” Hey Pat- I don’t have much more to do.” ” We have not been able to go to work at the office, or sit and socialize in a restaurant, or go to a movie or concert, so really – outside of exercise, what do we have to do besides work at home and read a book?”

The end result is that a lot of us are in the best shape we have been in for many a year and my group keeps pushing, pushing, pushing every week on scheduled rides in various venues around our area of the country. The CDC says nothing better to combat this virus than boosting the immune system with sunshine and outdoor exercise. The texts and emails buzz every week with the proposed riding schedules and the good thing is that at least we are not sitting around with nothing to do. My wife Janet is in on the act too with an increase on her walking with her friends, cycling with me on the rails to trails on Sundays or hiking locally or in the mountains. We are making the use of time seeing that for the first time in many years, we are ” empty nesters” and can take advantage of time together.

So, again, the pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to our lives as well as to lives all around the world. It has caused a lot of us to reflect on what is really important in life and how we have taken things for granted. This too shall pass and the world will learn to live with these kinds of viruses and change our daily habits on how to deal with them. But in the meantime, there have been some good things that have come out of this time and the great outdoors has been calling to a lot of us. Enjoy the sunshine and these active summer days and evenings. Thanks for reading.