Night Skiing

Keystone, Colorado

This time of year when I was a kid, I used to sit by our phone and wait for Bob Rose , our wonderful friend and neighbor, to call and tell me when he was picking us up for the weekly trip to the mountains. My mother would make an early dinner for my sister and me and we would pile into the Rose’s station wagon for the weekly ski season trip to the Rich’s house on County Line Road near Seven Springs The first outing of the weekend was night skiing and oftentimes it was brutally cold weather at night.

Dixon Rich and I still skiing together 59 years later
Seven Springs Mountain Resort at Night

In the early days, there was no snowmaking and the grooming was slim to none. We had to negotiate frozen slopes and trails with wooden skis, cable bindings, and leather boots. But all of us kids didn’t care because we were skiing and that is all that mattered. Seemed like more trips to the fireplace in the ski lodge than during the day, but as long as we could get a hot chocolate and thaw out in front of the roaring fireplace, we were fine and back out we went.

As we became teenagers with better equipment, the benefit of snowmaking and grooming became appreciated. But usually on Friday nights, the groomers were not out yet and night skiers had to deal with frozen moguls and deteriorating conditions until the groomers did their magic overnight for us to have perfect conditions the next morning. Didn’t think much about visibility in those days, just where we were going to build a jump so we could hit it all weekend long.

Fast forward and night skiing took on a new meaning as we included it in the itinerary for trips to Holiday Valley in Western New York with wicked snowstorms blowing in off Lake Erie. Night skiing there was at a whole different level. It was at that time that visibility became a little more important to me as we charged down the slopes making sure to stay near the edge to have the best lighting. Skiing at night is fun but you have to be able to see fairly well because the lights are limited in their range and you can ski in and out of dark spots. And again, it is really cold at night in a ski area. One of the more interesting signs that I have seen was on a chair lift stanchion at Killington and also at Whiteface that said” These slopes are as cold and lonely at night as they were during the 1700s. Don’t ski alone” Wise advice especially if you night ski.

Now in my 59th year of skiing and having skied in 111 different ski areas, night skiing is not a priority with me. Now don’t get me wrong. I still will include a night skiing session when my buddies and I venture northward to Western New York in the early season. We will take anything early on and if it includes a session at night, we do it. I have also night skied in Keystone, Colorado with my friend Norm which was an adventure. Keystone makes it their business to light some black diamond slopes which can be a challenge if the visibility at night is compromised by weather. But the same rules apply to when I was younger. Stay near the edge and take advantage of the best light coming off the stanchions. Norm and I got some extra skiing by venturing out at night. We loved to pack it in and that extra cold session in Colorado always will be remembered.

The bottom line to all of this is that at 66 years old, I still get as excited for skiing as I did as a kid. My first outings are local and then on to the scheduled trips out west and to the Adirondacks. But if someone said to me, ” Pat- lets go night skiing” – I would not hesitate, if it meant more time on the hill. I love to ski and will kick, claw, drive through brutal conditions, ski in the rain, sleet, blinding snow, and work real hard to get my time in. How about you? I close my eyes and think back to this time of the year when after all day Saturday and Saturday night skiing, Bob Rose would find me passed out in front of the fireplace in the ski lodge. ” Get up dummy. Time to go.” I laughed and poured myself into the station wagon. What I would give to do it all over again. You don’t quit skiing because you get old. You get old, because you quit skiing. Thanks for reading and enjoy the winter. It is upon us.

Another Lap Around the Sun

I always liked that expression, ” just another lap around the sun.” A funny way to describe birthdays of which I had one this weekend. Everybody has birthdays. No big deal except as I get older, they take on a little more significance to me because I am starting to see them as time slipping away. I have a friend who thinks of it as quality days left and to make the most of them. Now I am not ready for the glue factory by any stretch of the imagination, but you do start to think of these things as yet another year or lap around the sun goes by.

Mom and me at Lake Erie

Thinking about laps, I think about all the time I spent running laps around North Park Lake , or lapping my favorite mountain bike loops, or lapping my favorite ski runs. Up the chair and back down again trying to make the best turns I could. Running around the lake to see how fast I could go and to get in shape for something. Riding the bike and only seeing the guy’s rear end in front of me struggling to keep up or going fast enough to keep from getting run over.

These days, the laps are more about taking in the scenery and enjoying the ride more than anything. Looking at the changing leaves in the fall, or taking in the mountains from the seat of the chairlift or at the beginning of a run. Sure I try to make good turns but it is not about the most vertical feet attained anymore. Trying to enjoy the laps and make them count a little more from the experience side of things. Slowing down to take in the peaks and valleys below on a mountain bike ride. Enjoying the laps instead of always killing myself to attain some goal.

Sitting on a rock in Bend, Oregon – taking it in.
Enjoying some laps with my wife.

As I thought back this weekend on laps around the sun, I thought about what the next laps should include. I think we all have to think about that as we work through the Covid situation and the state of the country. There are people out there who are struggling and part of our mission on this next lap should be to help them . We all should focus on being kind and considerate in this age of social media nastiness. The political stress is waning now and I think we all could make great use of our lap around the sun helping people in need and being kind to others including those who don’t necessarily agree with us. These quality days left can include just being aware of your family, friends and neighbors and going the extra mile for them. An old pastor friend of mine once said that you don’t need to go out of the country on a mission trip if you don’t want to go. There are plenty of opportunities to help people right in your own hometown or neighborhood. All you need to do is look, listen and be aware. Just a little daily consideration for your friends and family is great too. We all need to look for those chances each day. Not preaching here, just sayin. We all are in the same boat together. Maybe opening a door for an elderly person with a smile could make their day? A kind word of encouragement for a friend. Helping someone out whose vehicle is stuck in the snow. Letting someone with a handful of groceries go in front of you. (People do that for me because I am too lazy to get a cart and end up with too much. LOL) Little things sometimes go a long way to helping someone just make it through the day. A phone call?

Time flies folks and as I look at the difference between these two guys, I realize that the laps around the sun are going faster and faster. I feel sometimes like I am driving a Ferrari, way too fast, standing on the brakes and not slowing down at all. Lets all slow down and enjoy the laps. Lets all make good use of them. We need to look for opportunities to be kind. Thanks for reading.

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

” We had ’em allllllllll the way”

You know – there is a joke about Pittsburgh, my home town, that goes like this – ” How many Pittsburghers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? ” ” Three- one to screw in the bulb and two to remember how great the old bulb was.” Kind of funny but if you know Pittsburghers, you know it is true. Especially in sports. We love our teams and can remember the good old days of the Steelers( the Immaculate Reception by Franco) and the glory days of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

My pal J.B. Loughney posted a video the other day on the 60th anniversary of the 1960 World Championship Pittsburgh Pirate’s victory over the New York Yankees. The famous home run by Bill Mazeroski is still revered around here to this day. When I saw that video, it brought tears to my eyes seeing all those great players who I so admired in my younger years attending the games with my dad at Forbes Field. And to hear that voice again of Bob Prince, pictured above, the voice of the Pirates on KDKA Radio, really choked me up.. Bob’s famous line after we won a game was……” and we had am allllllllllllthe way”. I can still hear that in my mind and to hear it on this video was so gratifying. I remember how great the old bulb was. J.B remembers too. His grandfather was Joe Barr- the Mayor of Pittsburgh back in the heyday of the Pirates.

From the University Club News

I can remember seeing all those players in the video many times during my youth and marveling at the talent of a guy like Dick Groat, who played basketball for Duke and then spent his career with the Pirates playing professional baseball. I was a catcher in minor league, little league, and pony league. The only position I ever played and Smokey Burgess, the catcher for the Bucs, was a hero to me.

One of the cool things that my dad did for me was to take me to the University Club for the Father and Son Baseball Nights. We would meet many of the Pirates and listen to Bob Prince, who usually was the speaker. Then eat dinner and go to the game. The Pirates like Bill Virdon, Donn Clendenon, Dick Groat, Harvey Haddix, Vernon Law, and many others would take the time to come to the event before the game to meet all the fathers and sons and sign autographs. For free!! No paying a fee for an autograph in those days and the players were happy to do it. We were all enthralled at the stories that Bob ” the Gunner” Prince would tell us about the ins and outs of Pirate baseball.

Following dinner, we all would line up in the driveway of the U Club and begin a march to Forbes Field behind one of the great jazz trumpeters of our time- Benny Benack. He would play with his quartet and we would march in a row behind him singing songs like ” Oh the Bucs are going all the way, all the way, all the way this year” Kind of cornball but whatever. I can still see it in my mind 50 some years later. Time flies but boy do I remember that old bulb.

Yes- those were the good old days of my youth and those players were true heroes to me. In those days, they played for the love of the game. There was no greed, holdouts for better contracts, or any of the other issues that plague professional sports today. Those guys loved baseball and were honored to play for the Pirates and sign autographs for a fat little catcher like me from the North Hills of Pittsburgh. That video really got to me folks and I watched it over and over as those days with my dad came alive for me again. So yes, I am the typical Pittsburgher remembering, and once again- thinking how great the old bulb was. 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

How would you like to be buried with my people?

I came across an old deed to our family burial plots the other day. I have not seen this document since my folks passed away back in the early 2000s. The deed is for Calvary Cemetery in Hazelwood and it says things like, ” no carriages allowed in the cemetery after dark.” Seeing that Calvary was founded in 1886, and my maternal great grandfather bought the original plots, it is a historic document that is still legal today. Turns out we have several plots still available in this historic cemetery . Reminds me of the old joke that says ” How does an Irishman propose marriage?” ” He says, How would you like to be buried with my people?” LOL!!

Famous individuals are buried in Calvary. People like former mayors of Pittsburgh, Dick Caligiuri, Bob O’Connor, and David L Lawrence. Billy Conn, the former light heavyweight champion of the world, is interred here. Harry Stuhldreher, one of the famous Four Horsemen of Notre Dame football, and Frank Gorshin- the Riddler from the Batman TV show, are buried in Calvary as well.

Apparently my grandfather and grandmother went on dates to Calvary to decorate the graves and it turned out that their respective families were buried right across the street from each other. What a romantic guy my grandfather was. ” Hey Mary- would you like to go to the cemetery?” They took picnic lunches and continued that tradition with me as a young lad. Ham sandwiches sitting on some guy’s headstone. My grandparents, between bites, explained who all was buried there. We planted geraniums on both sides of the street and made it equal. Couldn’t have the Carroll’s have more flowers than the Reynolds. The flats of flowers were provided by my dad seeing that my grandpap was a little tight. No bee like a freebie.

Fast forward and I was driving. My first destination was to O’Brien’s Funeral Home on the Northside of Pittsburgh. All of “my people” had their arrangements with O’Brien’s and if you went anywhere else, you were thought to be “high hat” and were scorned by the relatives and friends. I was so proud of myself for making it to O’Brien’s and not wrecking the car. Turns out that I made many trips there over the years because of the eventual passing of my elderly relatives. I was so happy to be able to drive to O’Brien’s and so was my mother who was usually my passenger. Ever since she rear ended a garbage truck, she was happy when I got my license.

My most recent memories of Calvary were when my folks died and I took their cremated remains to be buried in the Reynold’s plot. I can remember how strange it was to have my mother and father sitting beside me with a seat belt on the urn. I remarked that I thought that they have looked better and had a laugh to myself in a very odd trip to Hazelwood. Sometimes humor can make the solemn palatable.

Oftentimes today, I look at gravestones in cemeteries like the ones shown here in a local Lutheran Church. As a history buff, it is intriguing to me to see stones with born and died dates in the 1800’s and in some, as old as the 1700’s. I ride my mountain bike by a site in the mountains that memorializes a lightning strike that took the life of a young person. National Cemeteries like Arlington and Gettysburg memorialize great struggle and the lives that were lost in those wars

So, looking at that deed this week brought back many memories of my folks, my long gone relatives, and a final resting place for our family out in Hazelwood, Pa. I am not sure I want to be put to rest there because I have these grandiose ideas of being blown to the wind in the mountains. But my wife, who is 8 years younger, says, ” You will probably go before me and if so, you won’t have much say in the matter.” We both have a good chuckle about that one. When I remember my last time out in Calvary and observing all of my relative’s memorials, I know one thing. I won’t be having any picnics out there any time soon. Thanks for reading.

Vive Le Tour

Right around July the 1st, I usually surprise my wife with my annual statement,” Guess what time it is dear?” She says “what time is it?” I tell her Tour de France time and she groans because for the next three weeks she knows I will be glued to the “telly” and watching the Tour on a DVR rebroadcast every day or evening whenever I have a chance to sneak it in. This year because of the Pandemic, the Tour was delayed to September so my statement came as a real surprise to her but nonetheless, I tried to make it as unobtrusive as possible without missing all the exciting action of the world’s most grueling bike race. I always look forward to the insightful commentary of Phil Liggett and although we all miss Paul Sherwen due to his untimely death, the team of Bob Roll, Christian Vande Velde and Chris Horner fill the gap with expertise and insightful commentary.

This year we had a surprise as a young Slovenian, Tadej Pogacar from the UAE Emirates Team pulled off a stunning victory in the final time trial and won the stage by one minute and 55 seconds. He took back the yellow jersey from Primoz Roglic, his best friend on the Dutch Jumbo Visma squad, to create an unsurmountable 59 second lead going into the final celebratory stage into Paris. Really exciting and the role of young people in this year’s Tour was impressive. Not only did Pogacar win the Tour at 21 years of age, ( the youngest since 1914), but we had a star in our own right make his mark on his first Tour as well. Sepp Kuss, who rides in support of Roglic on the Jumbo Visma team, had an outstanding Tour and was the strongman in the mountains. Watch for him as a rising star in future tours. His stock is rising rapidly as he was a relative unknown up until this time riding out of Durango, Colorado.

MERIBEL, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 16: Arrival / Sepp Kuss of The United States and Team Jumbo – Visma / Col de la Loze (2304m) / during the 107th Tour de France 2020, Stage 17 a 170km stage from Grenoble to Méribel – Col de la Loze 2304m / #TDF2020 / @LeTour / on September 16, 2020 in Méribel, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

I kind of lost a little interest in the Tour in recent years due to the doping scandals. But I always at least watched the recaps. This years excitement kind of reminded me of when Greg LeMond overtook Laurent Fignon back in 1989 to win the yellow jersey. France was devastated at the unbelievable result. LeMond rode the final time trial at an incredible 34 miles per hour average with the newly created time trial aero bars on his bike. I had the opportunity a number of years ago to ride twice with Greg at a charity ride in Maryland. It was my good fortune to have a little bit of the Tour rub off on me those days when I asked Greg numerous questions about the Tour. He said a lot of interesting things like, ” Fignon had the opportunity to use the bars but refused. It cost him 14 seconds and a Tour loss for France.” He also was kind enough to sign autographs for everyone long into the night. His friendly demeanor was impressive and the guy still showed flashes of brilliance on the ride although he was not in great shape due to a massive schedule of charity events and business travel. The three time Tour winner was also kind of a character. Our one friend riding with us kept trying to hammer Greg and near the end, Greg shot off to hide behind a pine tree. Our friend eventually came roaring by on his bike looking for LeMond. As he passed, LeMond came out from behind the tree and laughed with us at the wasted effort of our friend trying to hammer him to the finish. As we finished, our friend looked incredulously at LeMond and asked where he went because he was trying desperately to catch him. LeMond just chuckled and we all had a laugh at that one. The guy could take pictures for miles on end without touching his handlebars and his riding skills were obvious that day.

Those days of riding with the champ restored my faith in the race. He told a lot of stories about the organization, the history of the event, and the audacity of the upstart Americans who were making their presence known on a basically European stage. As many know, the French have a bit of a superior air about them when it comes to Americans. I can remember being in Geneva, Switzerland with my wife and trying to impress her with my limited French at a bar. The bartender was French and looked at me with disdain when I basically asked him for a glass of glass. I had a laugh about that one but his reaction was like I was Chevy Chase in European Vacation. A typical rube American trying to make his mark. The Tour is a French event and it seems to be clean at this point. They have made it their point to always have the race and make it fair as a matter of national pride. When the Tour ended this weekend, I was a little down as I always am because it is one more year passed for me, and also the Tour. I am a fan and hope that someday, I can perhaps see it in person. On the bucket list for sure. Thanks for reading

A River Runs Through It.

My son Jack brought home his new golden retriever puppy “River” back to see us this past week. She is an active, friendly, but rambunctious little gal to say the least, and it was an unusual experience for me- a non- dog person. You see, I have always had this thing with dogs. I kid my friends and say dogs like me- I taste like chicken. I have been bitten more times than most people and I believe it is because they sense something about me. I can be at a party of 50 people and the dog of the house always comes up to me and sniffs me in a personal area. My wife laughs because she has had experience with dogs as a pet. I have not. My experiences have been less than positive.

Years ago, when I was a kid, I used to make my way home from the back neighborhood and try to sneak through the Forrest’s yard without their boxer, Buster, hearing me. It always failed because I heard the harried breath of a running dog behind me and I took off like a shot yelling for my mom to open the screen door to the kitchen. I dove into the kitchen and Buster always banged his head off the screen door. A harrowing experience for young Patrick -every day, every month.

Moving forward- riding road bikes through the country was always a challenge. From a huge St. Bernard that would come inquisitively into the road and knock me off my bike just for kicks, to the Doberman who would head me off at the pass going up a steep hill by the farm where he resided. Every ride it seemed he would go higher and higher to cut off the angle until one day, he was waiting for me and all I could do was to make a run for it back down the hill- sprinting like wild man. I had to find another route or risk carnage.

More recently I was bitten by a Rottweiler on a winter run on a golf course. The owner wrestled the dog to the ground and basically said nothing and moved on. I was in shock as he drew blood on my well clothed left arm. More recently, I came upon a friend in the woods on a mountain bike ride. I moved close to him and asked him to take a picture of all of us riding and his little dog of some kind firmly and decidedly locked on to my right ankle growling and cutting flesh. I looked at the owner who said, ” Oh Pat- he won’t hurt you. Where are you guys riding?” Say whaaaaaat???????

So when my son came with River who you see above as a puppy, I was not sure how it would go. Last week River had grown and is now about 5 months old. I was encouraged by my friends who said that golden retrievers were friendly and River is that. She is almost too friendly and she does indeed run through everything like the movie title. Having a puppy in the house is kind of like running after a toddler. They get into everything and my son is much more laid back in his response than Janet and me. Janet bought her a harness which she seems to like and walked her quite a bit while she was visiting. I was left outside with her a couple of times while Jack and Janet had to do some chore and I engaged in kind of a dog charades when trying to get her to do her business. My neighbors laughed when they saw me engaging in showing her how to lift her leg and uttering a “psssssssssssss” phrase to encourage her. River looked at me as if to say, ” what are you doing, human?” I was confounded and soon the rightful caregivers came to my rescue. Dog charades= a dismal failure.

I have always been amazed at some dogs though. Like Chuck Greenlee’s old dog who would go on mountain bike rides with us. I always said she was a good rider in that she ran up the hills ahead of us and stayed back on the descents knowing somehow that she could not keep up going downhill. Amazingly good partner on rides.

As the week went by and we had our experiences with the little girl River, believe it or not, I became a little attached to her. My friend Hutch in Vermont says ,” Pat- a dog is the best friend you will ever have.” I was amazed at the loyalty and the attachment to me even though River didn’t know me that well. Something attracted her to me and it was not the tasty smell of my leg. As they pulled out of the driveway to head back to Michigan, she looked at me quizzically like” Aren’t you coming?” No River, I am not coming and it was nice to spend time with you but still of the mindset that I am really not a dog person. But she had softened me a bit and River and Jack have taught me a few things about dogs that I never would have known. Thanks for reading and remember- dog charades don’t work.

Harder Than it Looks.

Janet and I had a nice bicycle ride this weekend up at Lake Arthur. As we sat on a bench and looked at the nice scene you see above, we admired the skill of the sailors who were piloting their sailboats, catamarans, and wind surfers. We observed some folks attempting to wind surf who had elementary skills and after a while, we realized that wind surfing is harder than it looks. Probably not unlike a lot of things with a steep learning curve until you get the hang of it. As my mind drifted in the hot sun and pleasant scenery, I went back to my earlier adventures in life, trying to pilot water craft. Not too successful.

Take whitewater rafting. Now I had always gone on whitewater rafting trips on the Yough and Gauley Rivers around here, but always had been a passenger and did what the guide told us to do. Kind of fun but basically along for the ride. One day, my father in law thought it would be a good idea to do the Youghiogheny River with my mother in law and my wife. He ended up in a raft with some other guys and I had my own raft with my mother in law and Janet. They looked at me skeptically when I said I knew what I was doing and we pushed off and paddled downstream with a look of excitement and wonder as the whitecaps began to lap up against the raft. We were doing fine until we came to the famous Dimple Rock which has been the demise of many canoes and water craft with a tough eddy current up against the rock and a designated route around it outlined by the outfitters at the beginning of the trip. I saw a bent canoe hanging from the rocks on the left bank and knew that we were approaching the challenge. I told my mother in law and my wife to keep paddling and I would try to steer us in the recommended direction of the current. Unfortunately, we zigged where we should have zagged and somehow I managed to get the raft out of the current and basically in the direction we wanted to go. And then the unthinkable for my MIL and my wife. I flipped out of the back of the raft and was on my back floating down “Swimmers Rapids” trying to hail them down. My wife apparently kept paddling with my MIL and then after a while of no response to questions like ” where do we go now?”, they realized that I was not in the raft. Janet screamed at her mom and said, ” He’s not here.” To which the MIL responded” Oh get out, you don’t know what you are talking about.” She then looked back and the two ladies were on their own.

After a little while, I managed to float alongside the raft and after a barrage of questions, I said, ” I will see you in a mile at the end of these rapids.” I have no problem swimming but piloting a craft is not my strong suit. We all had a laugh about that one for years.

Another foray in into the world of water craft was when I decided one year that I would like to take up kayaking on the Yough. I took a continuing education class at Pitt with outings in a swimming pool trying to roll the kayak without getting out. A necessary skill when actually kayaking on a river or stream. I never was good at that and on the field trip to the Yough as our final outing, I put on a rain suit to try to keep myself dry. Little did I know that was a worthless endeavor seeing that I was out of the kayak more than I was in it and to make matters worse, the outing was in October and it was snowing on the river. Cold is not the word for it. Something much worse, and I was never so glad to rid myself of that kayak and tell myself that the idea of being a river rat or a granola crunching paddler hanging out in Ohiopyle, Pa was not my fate. My old ski buddy, Mark Singleton, who is now the Executive Director of American Whitewater, would not be proud of me and maybe welcome me back on the river for some lessons and maybe some redemption. But any trip to North Carolina to visit him would be on two knobby tires on trails and not on the river rapids of the south.

I had a few close calls on the water that were not my fault. One was on a boat offshore at Martha’s Vineyard where a friend of my in-laws, piloting the boat, went down into the hold to get some nautical maps I believe, and we were drifting precariously close to a large buoy. I was just about to grab the wheel when the guy came up, screamed, ” Holy S@#$”, and then just avoided what would have been a bad collision seeing that the base of the buoy was made of concrete. I can just see it now, all of us hanging on the buoy waiting for the Coast Guard as the boat would have surely sunk. The second was on the river here on a party boat with a bunch of ex football players. The weight in that boat had us very close to the water surface and I looked at my one friend and said, ” make sure you have your wallet and car keys within reach because when this thing sinks, we need to be ready to swim to shore and have our belongings” Fortunately, we were able to get off the boat before a collision with another boat and a close call with the walls of a lock on the river.

My mind drifted back as Janet said, ” time to go.” As we mounted our bikes, I took a final look at the sailboats, wind surfers, and other pilots of the water and said to myself, ” that is not for me, but it is nice to watch.” I will be a spectator for sure. Thanks for reading but don’t let me dismay you. If you want to try something new, go for it. It would be cool to know how to do it.

Ride to Ride Another Day

You know, as the 65 year old kid ages, I think about a lot of variables that come into play while pursuing the activities we like. When you think about it, staying in shape, exercising, and getting fresh air and sunshine, especially in these days of quarantine and gradual social interaction, is key to your sanity and well being. One of the things we don’t want is to get hurt in the process.

Part of the thrill of mountain biking and skiing, for instance, is the ability to ride over obstacles and pick lines that are challenging but all within reason. Thus my saying of “ride to ride another day.” Mountain biking is a sport where you do have to keep your wits about you to successfully navigate the obstacles on the trail and concentration is key,looking ahead and not at your front wheel. Kind of like skiing in a way where you are looking down the hill and not at your tips. Looking ahead gives you better reaction time and that is compromised when you narrow the visual field. For me though, concentrating and knowing when to “send it” or not, is really important as an older rider. I don’t want to get hurt. I want to ride for exercise and not anything else. I also don’t feel a need anymore to stress myself all the time. Once in a while to test your fitness and see if you can still hang is fine. But for the most part, I want to enjoy my ride and not turn it into a death march.

One of the things that has been happening lately in my group or groups has been injuries. My one friend says he gets injured when he is tired from consecutive days of hard riding and his skills are compromised because of the fatigue. Another friend gets hurt because he is thinking about other things and not concentrating on the task at hand. Both of these guys are really good riders but are willing to take chances that I am not willing to take. Again, I ride to ride another day. I don’t want to spend my time recovering from injury. I would rather ride or ski. I tend to ski faster and better than I ride and I always make it a habit to concentrate on every turn so that I don’t catch an edge.I try to make each run a series of good turns instead of a series of high speed linked recoveries. Again, ski to ski another day. Which brings me to the point. None of us are competing in the World Cup so why not enjoy the ride instead of putting yourself in a position of potential carnage? Especially as you age. Recovery is not that easy for warriors in their 50s and 60s like my groups. I always say mountain biking is an accident waiting to happen unless you approach it conservatively. Now, there are always the cases where things happen, but you can be in some semblance of control if “you know your limitations.”

I guess I think about these things and feel a need to write down my thoughts, especially now with the need for all of us to get out and get some sunshine while we wait for things to open up safely. We all are going to have to assume some level of risk in this post Covid world if we want to live our lives to the fullest. Can’t live in a bubble forever. Be smart but live fully. But when you do, remember to “ride to ride another day.” That goes for a lot of things, not just mountain biking or skiing. Then you can drink your post ride/apres ski beer in one piece and say, ” the older I get the better I was.” Thanks for reading. Be a follower. Enter you email to the left and get a once a week post from the 65 year old kid.