Wild Wonderful Rocky/Rooty West Virginia

It has been a few years since I rode a mountain bike down in West Virginia. I used to go quite a bit back in the day. But as other destinations moved ahead in the plans, it has been a while until last weekend. Our fearless leader, Mike Connors, said a few weeks back, ” Let’s go ride down in Davis.” I said great idea and off we went with 7 other MTB fanatics who were like minded. IMG_0958

I thought I would up the ante a bit by texting Sue HaywoodIMG_0964 and asking her to lead our group of aging athletes. Sue has quite a reputation as a world class mountain bike racer and currently is retired from World Cup racing. However, she runs clinics and workshops and is still very much active in the mountain bike community.Sue has relocated to her home town of Davis, and man can she ride. She gave us all we could handle. 17786_10151858587474203_1524945910_n
One interesting thing about riding with a person of her skill level is seeing just how fit she is and how she effortlessly rides over the most challenging roots and rocks. If you can ride in West Virginia, you can ride anywhere- “BELIEVE ME.” In our case, there was a lot of riding but there was a lot of running and walking too. That is the thing that struck me the most was once I was on those trails again, I remembered just how hard they were. And, we are older now and the challenge is even more acute. I remarked to Syed Hyder, my physician who was on the ride, that I was fine for about the first hour and then I started to get tired and every little thing had a tendency to knock me off balance. He agreed after we bumped into each other a few times. Good thing the doc was along for the ride. There are no letups or coasting on those trails and the challenge of a three hour ride with a world class guide was evident to all of us. The curious thing about aging is the recovery time is not what it used to be. After the first ride, we plopped ourselves down in our chairs in a field by Sue’s house and relaxed with the obligatory beer. But the enthusiasm on the morning of the next day was waning as we licked our wounds from the first day of hard riding in West Virginia.

To digress for a moment, I would like to say that Davis had not changed all that much and the quaint little town in the middle of the Monongahela National Forest should be on everyone’s bucket list. Blackwater Bikes, Hellbender Burritos, and the famous Sirianni’s Cafe are all obligatory stops for the visit and just walking around town is a treat. Things are a lot slower in Davis but in my mind, that is a good thing. The residents enjoy life in the Canaan Valley and look forward to each season of riding and cross country skiing at the Whitegrass Touring Center.

Now back to the torture. The second day, we rode the famous trails leading to the Moon Rocks. IMG_0993 This granite outcropping is famous in the lore of the Blackwater 100 motorcycle races and also a famous landmark in the now defunct 24 Hour mountain bike races held in Davis. I had not ridden this trail in 23 years and the challenge of the Moon Rocks has not changed in all those years. Fred Fischer and John McWilliams were the only two of our group to make it to the top without stopping which was quite a challenge. We all remarked how tough this section was and as the elder statesmen of the group, I was tarred and feathered by the Moon Rocks. If the rocks could chuckle, they would have as we all left for the trail ahead. Fortunately I regained my mojo following Ken McFarland and Jeff Balicki on his most beautiful Scot Genius bike which he rode like a champion. My good friend Pete Hilton and I took turns laughing at the difficulty of the riding but he kept me motivated by his smooth riding and friendly banter. Quiet Pete!!!

To digress for a second moment, we took in the Brew Skies Festival while we were there. Evenings were spent on the lawn in front of the Timberline Ski Area as we listened to local and national bands playing various forms of country rock with a bluegrass bent. Food tents were also in abundance with some of the local restaurants and breweries hosting the food and drinks. We were not disappointed as the mountain state has some pretty impressive lineups of craft beers and local cuisine highlighted by local fruits, meats and vegetables.

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I am trying to avoid the narrative here, but the last day started with rain. The sunshine that we enjoyed for the first two days was most welcomed because I had never seen the sun in any of my previous outings to the Canaan Valley or anywhere in the mountain state. Most of the races I had done or outings that we participated in, were soaked with biblical downpours. So to have two straight days of sun for me was a welcome relief. However, the last day reminded me of days past and several of us passed but Mike, Pete Hilton, Fred, and Dr. Sy were the tough guys and rode Big Bear Trails up near Morgantown on the way home.

I suppose the point of all of this, aside from a narrative trip report, is that it is important to keep challenging yourself no matter how old you are. If you can stay in relatively good shape, you can enjoy even the toughest challenges like the trails in West Virginia. I have too many friends who have thrown in the towel but not my crew. These guys are enthusiastic riders who defy the age factor and the odds and keep riding the roots and the rocks. Take a page from their book. Even the fast guys like Dave Gault and Eric Seamon(still in his 40s- he doesn’t count) were challenged. But the key is to just “keep riding” like Scot Nichol of Ibis Bikes always says. He never thinks he is 62. He just keeps on riding. Thanks for reading and for sure…….head to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

The Tribe

I am reading an interesting book by Dr. David J. Rothman called,” Living the Life- Tales from America’s Mountains and Ski Towns”. I thought it was going to be some fun stories about the ski life but it has turned out to be so much more in the description of the lifestyle of the sports that we are all passionate about. Dr. Rothman suggests that there was a certain “cause and effect” that took place when we realize that something that we were attracted to as an outdoor activity became a passion. The resulting experiences and stories are shared by a group of people that are communities in effect and we understand the stories that we tell about ourselves.

I remember coming back from Tuckerman Ravine2013-02-05-the-bowl one year and telling my folks about the steepness of the skiing and the ice block avalanches and the weather and the total experience of being in the mountains in it’s most raw state, and my mother’s response was, ” That’s nice dear- would you like some more potatoes.” Not my mom’s fault but she just didn’t get it or appreciate it. But the Tribe does. That is what Dr. Rothman so eloquently describes in his book and what I am about to describe here to you.

There are groups of people who I call fans. They are football fans, baseball fans and many of them have played the sport but most of them are fans of a sport in which others perform. In sports like skiing,mountain biking and snowboarding, there are groups that are formed and friendships made that last a lifetime. IMG_0803 These groups also merge into what I call ” The Tribe” which is a gathering of many groups celebrating the passions of these activities. The gathering of the Tribe can take place at a mountain bike festival, a race, or at the bottom of the slopes in the springtime for instance at a ski area where folks are celebrating the weather, the friendships, and the stories around a beer and a burger on a sun splashed deck.

If you are not involved in a group or a Tribe of people, chances are you will be lost in the conversations of the Tribe. ” Hey- did you see that endo that Joe did over the bars into the creek with all that splooge on his face?” ” Hey- did you see Mike ski down that couloir with rocks on every side?” ” I looked down that couloir and had to really think about that first turn.” ” How about that climb out of the canyon?” ” How about that rock strewn singletrack with the slimy root section- hairy wasn’t it?” These are the types of conversations that infuse the gathering of the Tribe at a festival, race, or ski area. IMG_0723

The disappointing thing about being with the Tribe of your peers, is that when you come back to work, or home and try to recreate the vibe of that weekend or time spent with the Tribe, you cannot adequately describe it. But the cause and effect and the passion that resulted in the decision to join a group and the several times a year gathering of the Tribe, is necessary because these are the people who are ” your people.” Nothing against your co-workers, family, friends who may not participate but there is nothing like the feeling of when the Tribe gathers and the stories begin at the end of the day around a campfire or an outdoor deck. IMG_0811

Recently the local mountain bike tribe gathered in the Laurel Highlands for a celebratory ride for a birthday of a friend. A whole cadre of folks came out representing many groups of riders all there to celebrate the big day of one of our own. Elaine Tierney, of Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Dirt Rag Magazine notoriety, said it best when she was amazed at the gathering of different age groups represented. Elaine remarked,” We have people riding here in their 20s, 30s, 40s 50s and 60s. All age groups riding together and enjoying all that the mountains and the friendships have to offer. Age means nothing when you are passionately involved in a sport like mountain biking, skiing, or snowboarding. So, I always encourage older folks not to shy away from an activity because they think they are too old. There is a group for you and also a Tribe who will welcome you with a smile, a beer, and conversation that you can understand once you are a member. Thanks for reading. Be a follower of the blog

He’s Back!!!!

Well folks, after a year recess, the batteries have been recharged. The Chronicles are back and I am hoping that you will enjoy some new perspectives from life in the fourth quarter. Games are won or lost in the fourth quarter so there is a lot of activity left for aging kids like us. Stay active, keep healthy, eat well and enjoy life. IMG_0334 I needed to do some things to update my profile and page which will be available soon but in the mean time, I will be posting weekly about some nonsense for your enjoyment and perhaps some perspectives from a guy who still thinks he is a kid- even though he looks in the mirror and knows he is not. IMG_0723
Stay tuned for weekly ramblings available on WordPress.com and also Facebook. Hopefully the posts will give you a laugh, some insight from the mind of a 61 year old fun seeker, and most of all, a break from the daily grind. The Chronicles are back. Have a laugh or two at my expense. IMG_0515

The Earth Awakens

Still waiting for the trails to dry, but we are getting close in this neck of the woods. In the mean time, I am watching the world awaken from the seat of my road bike.IMG_0154 It is interesting when you go on solo rides through the country roads this time of year, that you can take the time to appreciate spring and how the word awakens to a new season. The sun splashed hillsides yield new floral growth similar to a newborn baby smiling when it is fed after a nap.IMG_0152 If you take it in, you can almost feel the frozen ground melting and draining and enjoying the benefit of longer days and warmer sunshine. The grass grows greener instantly, the air smells fragrant with the scent of blooming plants and blossoming trees. I have to say that for many years, I did not notice. I was always working hard to stay on the wheel of the guy in front of me in a pace line on a road bike. Like the saying goes,” if you aren’t the lead dog, the view is always the same.” I did not take in the signs and the scents of spring in my early days of road riding and road racing. Now I do and it is a very pleasant experience. IMG_0150
My fascination with spring growth was fostered, I suppose, by my dad. He loved flowers. When I was young, he grew marigolds, geraniums, alyssum, and other plants in the basement under artificial light. When he built his new house, he purchased and built a Lord and Burnham greenhouse and spent many a winter night meticulously planting seeds in his plant trays and carefully watering them with the appropriate nozzles and sprays. Miracle Grow was his “go to” plant food and the result was gardens full of thick, colorful growing flowers and planters and hanging baskets groaning under the weight of the thick lush flora.IMG_0124 Whenever I see flower beds or go to the spring flower show at Phipps Conservatory here in Pittsburgh( a National Historic Landmark- built by Lord and Burnham), I think of my dad. IMG_0126 When the plants came out of the greenhouse and were ready to be planted, my dad the engineer, devised a quick way to plant them. He had a drill with an over-sized auger and would drill the hole and yours truly would plant literally hundreds and hundreds of flowers in the beds every year. It was amazing how spring came to life at my dad’s house in Wexford and also our old house on Siebert Road.
My current road riding routine includes stops to enjoy the sights of the back roads of Sewickley, Pa. I will climb to Allegheny Country Club and sit on the bench and watch the golfers approach the holes on the back nine.IMG_0145 The lush green fairways, and the manicured greens remind me of my old caddie days and I take the time to drink it all in on sunny days. I pass horse farms and stop again to visit the horses grazing in the field. Sometimes they make their way over to the fence where I am standing wondering if I have an apple for them? Power Bars and Cliff Bars are not to their liking but maybe I might start bringing an apple or two for their enjoyment? Climbs up out of Sewickley back home are steep but I don’t ride them the way I used to, suffering to keep up with my group. I drop the gearing down and spin my way to the top without taxing myself too much. It is a much more enjoyable way to ride as the 60 year old kid. I enjoy the back roads and even though I can’t wait to get back in the woods on my mountain bike, I do enjoy the road with the sights and scents of spring- including the horse manure. ūüôā
Forsythia is another blooming bush that is verdant in the spring. My mom used to bring in sprigs from our bush on snowy spring days and ” force” the blooms in a vase of water.IMG_0167 It was her way to welcome spring although Pennsylvania spring weather was not always cooperative. My dad never planted anything before Memorial Day but we were in high gear on those following weekends. It cut into my riding routine a little bit, but I enjoyed the time with my dad and always managed to get my rides in somehow.
As we age, we tend to appreciate things a little more. I am enjoying the spring and enjoying the growth and scents of an awakening earth. It is great to do it from the seat of a bicycle. You can enjoy life and “stop and smell the roses.” Thanks for reading and enjoy the spring. IMG_0134

Enjoy the Ride

It is mud season now. April showers bring May flowers but for mountain bikers, it is a time for us to wait until the trails are dry so we don’t trash them for the rest of the summer. I bring out my road bike and begin the long process of trying to get in shape after a winter of maintenance trail running, snowshoeing and skiing. I can always ride in the rain on the road bike because I am used to the drill. If you don’t ride in the rain in Pittsburgh, you don’t ride much in the spring. Trust me, as I get older, the process gets a little harder but I am dealing with it in a more mature way which I will discuss in a short. Suffice to say, I don’t blast out of the parking lot these days. I ease on down the road.
As I meander on the country roads north of my house, I think back to the painful rides at this time of the year when I raced a road bike. It was always a chore to try to get in shape so that you didn’t get dropped on a training ride or in a race. You had to scramble just to be able to ride with your friends. As I daydream on my current rides, I think back to when I used to meet Art Bonavoglia, Frank Habay, and George Sagan up on Saxonburg Boulevard waiting for a crew to come up out of Shadyside in Pittsburgh. I slowly dragged my sorry butt out of bed and made my way to the meeting point where George, Art, Frank and I waited for the freight train that was coming. Scott Dismukes, a former track cyclist- strong as hell, Bob Gottlieb- Cat 2 rider of local fame, Barb Katzenburg-national class road racer, and Mike Alex- PHD candidate in Electrical Engineering at CMU riding a mountain bike with slick tires. These guys(and gal), could ride and when they came roaring up the road, you better be warmed up and ready to jump on the pace line or you were history. I would see them in the distance and sigh to my friends,” Here they come.” The pain began. photo
The destination was always Lake Arthur up in Butler County. These are beautiful country roads here in Pennsylvania but all I saw on those rides was the backside of someone faster than me in the paceline. As we exchanged pulls, ( mine were always the shortest), we made our way through pastoral fields and dairy farms. Virtually no traffic which made the ride as pleasant as it could be but the pace increased with each country mile. By the time I got to Prospect, Pa with a stop at the country store to reload on food, I was exhausted. I can remember laying on the sidewalk jamming Fig Newtons in my face and washing it down with Gatorade as fast as I could swallow. I looked at Mike Alex and said,” How the hell do you ride that fast on a mountain bike?” He said the slick tires helped but he was only being humble. I looked at Art, Frank and George and said, ” How am I going to make it back?” But I always managed it somehow. Fig Newtons and bananas were the Cliff Bars and Power Bars of the day. That type of energy food was not available yet. The Newtons and the bananas generally did the trick but when I pulled into my townhouse I was totally gassed. The killer crew left me and roared back to Shadyside logging in excess of 100 miles. photo

As I come back from my daydream on my road rides now, I am usually alone. I think back to that far away time in a galaxy far, far away. Painful spring rides, wool jerseys, leather hair nets, toe clips and cleats, downtube shifters, and steel road frames. Today I ease into my spring road rides. The equipment is lighter, smoother shifting, and carbon fiber rides a lot more comfortable than Reynolds tubing, although there is something to be said for the classic steel frame. I don’t stress myself. I don’t need to train. If a hill comes, I shift down and noodle up until I reach the top. I don’t have to do what Mac Martin used to tell me. ” Take it out of park McCloskey, and when you reach the top of the hill, don’t just coast- put the hammer down because your competition will be coasting behind you.” I don’t need that pain anymore as the 60 year old kid. My road rides now are enjoyable. I can look at the spring blossoms, ride in the softly falling rain, and really……enjoy the ride. home02
I mostly mountain bike these days but I must admit that I look forward to bringing out the road bike in the spring. It reminds me of my past and I definitely don’t have the pain that I used to go through at this time of year. Like life- I am now enjoying the ride. I see flowers, trees, farms, and sights other than the back of some guys lycra shorts. Haul that road bike out guys and gals, let the trails dry out. Thanks for reading.

Rat Poison- keeps me in the game!

As I make my last ski turns for the year and prepare to put the boards away and get myself into riding shape for another spring season, I think about a prescription that has kept me in the game for 25 years. Did you know that a component of the chemical makeup of blood thinners is the same component that is in rat poison? It is funny, when I go to the pharmacy, I always ask them for my monthly dose of rat poison. They laugh because they know, as pharmacists, what I am talking about. What I am about to tell you is my experience only. My disclaimer here is that I am not a doctor. What I say here in the post is my experience and in no way a recommendation or any type of suggestion. You may make your own conclusions but “blood thinners” have kept me in the game. IMG_0136
It all started before I was married and I returned to the U.S. from a cycling trip to Ireland. I had crashed over there and then had a long plane trip back to the US. Nothing serious because I had crashed many times on a bike and thought nothing of it. But thinking back on this, I am sure that this series of events caused my initial DVT( Deep Vein Thrombosis.) I was at a party at Frank and Jan Habay’s house when I noticed that my calf was swelling and I had a dull pain that went from my calf all the way up my leg. Long story short, I went to my doctor and he said that although I was an extremely active person, he thought I had a blood clot in my calf. Sure enough after a simple dye test in my leg, it was determined that I had a DVT and that I had to be in the hospital on Heparin drip to “thin my blood” and then onto Coumadin therapy for a couple of months. I walked all around the hospital with the IV to keep my sanity and even wanted to take it over to Shadyside to get a corned beef sandwich, but they discouraged that. ūüôā They told me all about what my diet should be and not to eat too many foods that would interfere with Coumadin. Foods like green leafy vegetables that had lots of Vitamin K which would interfere. I watched my diet and swam for three months before I was off the therapy and the doctor gave me the green light to continue cycling. photo
Fast forward- 8 years later I was in a mountain bike race and when I came home that night, I had a stabbing pain in my back that would not stop. Janet was out of town and I drove myself to the hospital where my friend was working in the ER. Mike Mihok, a fellow cyclist, had a series of tests run and finally I had a angiogram which determined that I had a pulmonary embolism in my lung. Interesting side note is that the procedure was done by Doctor Wholey who invented the equipment for the modern angiogram. Very serious! I was back in the hospital on the Heparin drip and eventually Coumadin therapy again. Forever. My doctor at the time said that this was the ” gold standard” of treatment and he didn’t want me to throw any more clots. He liked my activities and as long as I didn’t take the big hit with some blunt force trauma, he said my skiing and bicycling were ok activities as long as I was careful. I still take a generic form of Coumadin today which has been no problem for me at all. I get my monthly tests to determine that my current dosage is satisfactory. But my lifestyle has not been compromised one bit except for the fact that I wear a compression sock when I am sitting or standing because when I am not active, my calf still swells a little bit. Alcohol is not recommended but my current doctor says as long as the beer is cold, I can have one or two. I always say ” One and done. Or Two and through” Although I usually drink one beer with a meal and at most a beer and a half. I eat a balanced diet and don’t concern myself with any food issues. Enough of the details and the background. Now for the point of all of this.
I am a very active person as I believe my blog testifies.IMG00375-20110730-0915 I take a generic prescription which prevents my blood from clotting too easily. Yes, I have cut myself shaving. Yes I have crashed on my bike. Yes I have crashed while skiing. Being careful is a relative term. But I have been no worse for the wear. My doc recently suggested a new drug which requires no monthly testing. But it takes 48 hours for the INR( clotting measurement) to return to normal. With Coumadin, a shot of Vitamin K will bring me back instantly. I have had no issues for 25 years with Coumadin or the generic equivalent. I am staying with it. My point which again, has no medical background, suggests that if you have an issue like mine which is becoming more prevalent in athletes, your life is not over. IMG_0178.JPG Several friends have inquired about this after their episodes and I tell them frankly that it has not been an issue with me. I am a good designated driver. I cycle, run, ski, hike with no issues. I was fortunate that both episodes for me were caught in time. God is good.photo This post may be a little dark but if any of you who have an issue or any of you who know of someone who has an issue, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to chat and relate my story and how my life is better through chemistry, with…………rat poison.photo Thanks for reading.

The “Renaissance” Man

We had a former pastor say one time that there are people in this world who are “drainers.” ¬†People who will suck the living life out of you with their neediness and high maintenance ways. ¬†Then there are people who fill your personal cup to the brim and overflow it with kindness, appreciation, information, friendship, and other enhancements to your life that make you appreciate with wonder- why do they do it? ¬†How do they do it? ” Boy, am I glad that they do it.” ” They are a real force in my life.”Usually people like this have many talents and interests. ¬†I call them Renaissance men or women. ¬†They appreciate life and all it has to offer and are willing to share their talents, wisdom, care and friendship with those around them. ¬†One such person in my life is a guy named Don Cunningham. ¬†photo

Now I am not going to DWELL on the fact that Don is an accomplished freelance engineer for sports television or that he has traveled the world working events like the Olympics, the US Open Golf Tournament, the Masters, Steeler games, Penguin hockey games, Pirate baseball games, the Tour of California bicycle races, the US Pro Cycling Challenge. ¬†Nor am I going to DWELL on the fact that he takes his gear with him and gets a road ride or a mountain bike ride in, or even some slope time skiing. ¬†But Don makes the most of his travel and is not a “slam clicker.” https://chroniclesofmccloskey.com/2013/05/19/dont-be-a-slam-clicker/

Again, I am not going to BELABOR the point that Don is also a very accomplished mountain biker who has an enthusiasm for the sport that is infectious to others around him. ¬†When you see his fitness, and skill level in negotiating rocks, roots, stumps, steep downhills, and grueling uphills, you are amazed at his riding ability. ¬†Don has competed in some of the most daunting MTB races on the planet including the Trans-Alps in Europe as well as being a 10 hour finisher at the Leadville 100 garnering the coveted silver belt buckle. ¬†But he is very humble about his accomplishments. ¬†Kind of like a “ho-hum- yes I did that” ¬†response. ¬†But with all his ability on the bike, he is willing to ride with new riders and show them the ropes of the riding game with a smile on his face and a willingness to spend whatever time it takes to introduce a newbie to the sport.

I similarly am not going to PONDER on how he skis with fluidity and enjoys the winter months almost as much as the more comfortable months because he is willing to subject himself to the weather or any ski conditions. We went to Holimont last season in Western New York and had a wonderful day together at this private ski club and Don handled the cut up Lake Erie fluff with style.  His turns were strong and deliberate but his enthusiasm for the day was the most memorable thing to me.  We both are ski nuts and it was wonderful to share the winter wonderland with a friend like Don.  He even drove which was even more pleasant.  photo

The guy has been everywhere, done everything, and always seems to be in the mix of the fun events that mark our outdoor sports world.  If there is a big ride РDon is there.  If the skiing is good locally or out west- Don is there.  He makes friends easily as is evidenced by his recent meeting with a good friend of mine in Aspen on a mountain bike ride.  He was a bit lost and rode up to some folks on top of a ridge in Aspen.  With a smile, he asked for directions and the girl noticed the pronounced Pittsburgh accent.  After a few exchanges she found out that Don was a friend of mine.  Laughs abounded and now Don is a new riding buddy for Liz Talenfeld when he goes to Aspen.  He is like that.  Makes friends easily and people like to be with him.

Finally I am not going to GO ON SHAMELESSLY, about how Don makes absolutely the best beer in the universe. ¬†His skill as a craft brewer is legendary and at every mountain bike picnic whether he is there or not, his beer is there and the accolades ring far into the night fueled by the current Cunningham IPA. ¬†He is a Renaissance man, I tell you, in every sense of the word. ¬†Traveler, athlete, educator, brewmeister, but most of all…………Don is a friend. ¬†He probably has mastered that skill the best. ¬†He is truly one of those individuals who fills your cup or fills your spirit and when you have spent some time with Don on the slopes, or on the trail, or sitting by his keg of IPA, you feel so much better just having spent the time with him. ¬†He is compassionate, knowledgeable, energetic, and in most instances can grind you into the dust at his chosen sport. ¬†But being an enthusiastic friend is what he does best. ¬†If you can assemble some Renaissance men or women in your life, you are truly blessed. ¬†We all have our share of drainers. ¬†Oh, and one more thing………he does it all with a prosthetic leg. ¬†Be inspired. ¬†Thanks for reading.