The Reluctant Angler

downsized_0715091352 I told my wife Janet that this year I was not going to bring my fishing rods and tackle to the beach because I have not had much luck fishing at the South Jersey shore in recent years. I don’t have the patience that my friend Dean Denmead has who is an experienced fisherman and has learned to wait for the catch. Most years I buy at least four different types of bait from old man Moran at Moran’s Dockside in Avalon and when I ask him why I am not catching anything, he always says that this is not a good time of the year to catch fish. So why sell me the bait? I guess a sucker is born every minute. I brought the rods and tackle again this year. I should have known that the same luck would happen when ten minutes into our first beach day, a seagull zeroed in on me at 60 MPH and launched a fecal torpedo at me which blew through the mesh in my hat, splattered my hair, my shirt and dislodged itself on my beach chair. Bad omen for the trip and a definite “Welcome to New Jersey” from the real fishermen- the gulls.

I have had more successful outings with my grandfather and his buddies in my early years who were all real good anglers. I drove them to Oregon Inlet in North Carolina, fished with them in the Everglades, and at a fishing camp several times in northern Canada above North Bay. There is nothing like being with experienced fishermen and eating a fresh fish dinner on the shores of a crystal clear lake or landing a state record snub nosed dolphin in the Carolinas. The alligators floating in the canals in Florida provided adventure for the young guy and the veterans. I still use my grandfather’s tackle and rods and although I have been marginally successful expecially when I have taken my son Jack, I am sure that he has a smile on his face in that great fishing hole in the sky.

A couple of years ago, I took matters a little more seriously and went on line to find a fishing service in South Carolina off the coast of Hilton Head. I found a site by Captain Dave Fleming When we booked the morning and arrived at the dock, Dave told me that the fishing was really not that good. Imagine that? But, he added, if we wanted to catch shark, we could do that. I jumped at the chance and my wife and son reluctantly boarded the Mighty Mako with wide eyed wonder as to how this was going to go. Dave used mackerel heads and instantly Janet’s line tugged ferociously as she hooked a shark and Captain Dave helped her bring it ot the side of the boat. Janet was not at all thrilled at the prospect of touching the sand shark and Dave brought it up for her to see and then cut it loose. The next snap of the line was Jack’s and the same protocol was observed by bringing the beast in view and then cutting it loose. My grandfather spoke in my ear when my line snapped and he wanted me to land it myself. After all those years with Judge Miller, Bill Marcus and George Beran, and my grandpap, I better net and land the shark myself. Dave sensed that I had some experience and let me net the small shark and instructed me to grab it firmly by the back of the head and he would take a picture. I had never held a shark before and was amazed at the sandpaper feel of sharkskin. After the picture, I cut it loose and we continued to land shark after shark until a bull shark snapped Janet’s steel leader and Dave smiled and said, ” That was one we would not have wanted to be in the vicinity of the boat.” As I gazed off into the sound, I remarked to my son that we were only about 800 yards from where he and I were sitting on a sandbar the previous day. Little did we know that we were surrounded by sharks curiously looking at us from the depths of the sound. Needless to say, my fifteen year old at the time never went back in the water.

An interesting sidebar to fishing is that you can have the opportunity to have some good family time and conversations that will be remembered for a lifetime. Even when I fish with my friend Dean, we laugh about our time at the beach and the friendship of dropping a line in the water to see what happens is intoxicating. Captain Dave told us aboard the Mighty Mako that he was born and raised in the Hilton Head area and that his father is a successful attorney. His siblings were all successful stockbrokers and professional people working in New York and he was the only “black sheep” of the family who chose fishing as a career. He was a little sheepish in his description of himself and his very tightly wound family, but I assured him that in my mind, he was the smart one. People come to a beautiful place and pay him money to take them fishing. He makes a living at what he loves and lives in Paradise. The stressful lives that most people live trying to take that one vacation to where he lives all the time is a testament to Dave’s good judgement. Personally I believe he is the most successful one in his family. What really is important in life? I may not be the most successful fisherman in the world, but the quiet time on the water either by myself or with my family is worth its weight in gold. I need to be more patient. I need to get better at being a fisherman and the sport will teach me what Dave already knows. Slow down and enjoy what life has to offer. Whether you catch a fish or not. Wish me luck. Probably buying some more bait from old man Moran tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

The Snow Day

IMG00117-20100116-1123photo Do you remember when you were a kid in school and the weather forecast began telling tales of impending snowstorms? First it was a watch, then a warning, and then the big heavy flakes started to fall and the snow began piling up in the yard, and on the street. You started to hear about school closings and you wondered and watched if your school name would come up on that little moving line at the bottom of your TV set. You went to bed hoping and praying that your school would have the sense to call a snow day because of the hazards that heavy snow could do to kids standing at the bus stop, and getting to school. Heaven forbid you would ever be stuck at school. From your knees you said, “Please God, let my school be closed tomorrow.” ” I want a snow day.” Your parents watched the news and got the scoop often after you went to bed and they greeted you in the morning with the most fantastic news. ” No school today kids.” ” It is a snow day and they called school off for the day.” You jumped out of bed with glee and couldn’t wait to get your winter gear on with your boots, grab your sled, pan, or whatever, and you rocketed out of the door to the neighborhood for a day of fun on the local hill in the snow. Man, they were great days and if you have kids today, or grandkids, you still live those marvelous hours of watching the weather and hoping for your kids, that they call school off……….for a snow day.

When you live in a winter environment you get used to the snow and the cold, and snow days are like gold because they not only mean no school, but in my case as a kid and as in the case of the Hasley kids seen above, it was the signal for a parent to blow off work and pack you in the car to take you skiing. The Hasley boys went this past week with their uncle and left the school days long behind in the rear view mirror as they rocketed towards the mountains. Smiles on their faces and facing a perfect day of powder on the slopes and ……no school. Funny how the roads are impassible to school kids and buses but ok for a trip to the mountains. When I was a kid, we couldn’t wait for Bob Rose to call us and tell us to be ready in 10 minutes. We would all pile in the car for a day which was a bonus to the weekend trips that were the norm with Bob Rose at the helm.

Fast forward to high school for me, and I was given permission to drive my mother’s 1964 Buick Special to ski. My folks were pretty lenient and trusting because they seemed pretty confident in my abilities to drive especially when my dad loaded sand bags into the trunk and had installed some pretty hefty snow tires on the rear wheels. In those days it was all rear wheel drive and it was important to have some weight in the trunk. I piled the skis down the middle of the seats along with my sister’s gear and whoever else I could pile into the yellow Buick and off we went oftentimes to a harrowing drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike up into the snow covered roads of the Laurel Highlands. Parents today are so protective including me, but my folks always said, “Drive safely and come back in one piece.” Snow days were awesome because there was no question that my mom’s “Ski Bus” would be utilized for the day by all of us teenagers. It was real interesting one day when the convertible roof would not go back up. Why we put it down in the first place was pretty stupid, but pelting our friends with snowballs from the seats of the convertible was pretty amusing. That particular ride back on the Turnpike was pretty cold and we had a fair accumulation of snow on the floor and the seats. My dad was not too thrilled. But he got the roof fixed and off we went on the next…………snow day.

We always seemed to make the most of those cancelled school days. Either the skiing was first and foremost, or we just went sledding or tobogganing. When I was real young, I remember my dad building an ice rink on the back patio. He took two by fours and some plastic sheeting and made a rink and filled it to the brim with water. It would freeze and my dad would always test the ice before we could skate so that we didn’t sink through and cut the plastic. Once we got the green light, we skated every night after school and on the snow days, he would help us shovel the rink and the neighbor kids all came in droves to the McCloskey Ice Palace. Even my mother tried a few times and we have her recorded on a Super 8 film skating head first into the back wall of the house. My mom was a great mother, cook, wife and nurturer. But she was far from an athlete. Her skating skills were sketchy and she skied a grand total of two feet before she fell on her head and told us to take the damn things off. But they were great parents and seemed to revel in the fun of the winter especially ………the snow days.

Those teenage days of driving the yellow Buick taught me to drive in the winter and my current days of driving a four wheel drive almost feel like cheating. I learned how to feather and pump the brakes, control a slide and not panic, and know how fast was ok and how fast was dangerous. But snow conditions never keep me from skiing and even today as the 59 year old kid, I revel in the days when the doom and gloomers tell us how bad the weather is going to be. I take it all in stride and like the Hasley boys, I can’t wait to get to the slopes and enjoy those first tracks. The Jeep has taken over for the long gone ’64 Buick but those memories of all of us piled in the car headed to the slopes will always be cherished. Thanks Mom and Dad for the opportunities. I know you are looking down from the heavens,and shaking your head and saying,” He’s still crazy.” “I hope he comes back in one piece.” Thanks for reading.

“The Sherpa”

photophotophotophotoGoogle Image Result for One of the things that you may have gathered from reading my blog posts is that I live in guilt ridden hell. Growing up Catholic among other things, I have always tried to keep the peace around my house and also keeping the peace on an everyday basis. I am not a confrontational person and usually I would rather inconvenience myself to get the job done, and make sure everyone is happy. That is why I call myself – “The Sherpa.”

If you look at the picture of the gentleman above with the huge pack and the smile on his face, you will see an actual Sherpa. This tribe of individuals is indiginous to the mountainous regions of the Tibetan Himalaya and they are hard working folks who haul all the gear, tents, luggage for alpine climbing expeditions in the Himalaya. I am sure you have seen and read about these individuals and their feats of strength always amazed me as they made it to the summits with those tremendous loads that they carry. I have always admired the Sherpas and have read a lot about them. In my Walter Mitty way, I am a Sherpa. Take skiing for instance. When I was first married, my wife Janet skied but I wanted to make sure that she always came with me so I took it upon myself to carry her boots and mine in a backback. I hauled her skis on my shoulders along with mine and often walked to the lodge loaded down with equipment. Not that she would not do it, but I wanted to minimize inconvenience. When Jack came along, I bought a bigger pack and loaded three pairs of boots in the pack and hauled three sets of skis on my shoulders and asked them timidly to take the poles. I took it upon myself to help them with their ski boots in the lodge or if we had the opportunity to park near the trail head, I would help them put the boots on kneeling on the frozen ground to minimize any inconvenience or possible complaints due to the definite “pain in the ass factor”of skiing. The sport can be tedious at times schlepping all of the gear in the cold, getting everyone ready with the usual litany of making sure that we had all of the equipment. I was the equipment manager as well as the Sherpa and it worked out well even though I was sweating like a wild man before I took my first turn- even in arctic conditions.

Sometimes, my nieces and nephews would come along and the process became a little more involved with more Himalayan quality schlepps to the slopes. But the smiles were worth it and if there was any inconvenience experienced, I took care of it. Like when my son wanted me to take his socks off because he didn’t like them in the ski boots. I stopped where I was, got down on my hands and knees and took the socks off and he skied the rest of his day with bare feet in the boots. Taking the boots off at the end of the day, they were steaming like a cooling tower at a power plant. Amazing about kids but whatever it took for comfort, that was my motto.

Perhaps the ultimate Sherpa experience besides my family ski outings was the time that I had 13 visually impaired skiers to look after at the National Blind Skiing Championships( read about it in my post-February 17th,2013) I took two of our guys with me but because of weather and a lack of volunteers, I was put in charge of 13 competitors. Congo lines to dinner and the slopes were the norm and my Sherpa skills were sharpened by hauling all of their equipment to the slopes and making sure that I had it all in the van at the end of the day. All of this in below zero temps in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Sherpa family experiences did not take a hiatus in the summer. Hauling beach chairs, umbrellas, pack and plays, coolers, and all sorts of beach toys became a ritual in the early days of the McCloskeys at the beach. Things are a little better now that Jack is grown but the guilt ridden hell still pervades as I haul all of it into the garage after a trip just like in the old days.

One thing you learn being an aspiring Sherpa is that you get used to frozen fingers, bloody knuckles, balancing unwieldy loads, and doing it all with a positive, ” ain’t this great to be out here” attitude. My family likes to do the things that I do to an extent. But they are not as maniacal about the outdoor pursuits as I am. So I have always taken that into consideration as I try to make these outings as pleasant as possible. I am sure many of you have had similar experiences with getting the kids to the mountains or the beach. But I will tell you one thing, every loaded up day on my back was well worth the smiles of my family. Being a Sherpa has been well worth the while. Someday, it will probably be round two with grandchildren. I am hoping the back holds out. Otherwise, I may have to go to the Tengboche Monastary for some guidance by the Tibetan monks to encourage me to keep hauling and keep smiling. Thanks for reading.

The Lost Ski Areas

800x600px-LL-cf36c16a_DSCF4404800x600px-LL-dd1752d2_DSCF4395800x600px-LL-53de19e0_DSCF4407newaerialLaurel Mountain Ski Resort will be quiet this season  TribLIVE If you peruse the internet, and look up, you will find a site dedicated to the preservation of the memory of ski areas in New England that have been closed due to financial and weather related problems. There are many pictures of these “lost” little areas and the site has expanded from New England to New York State, New Jersey, Quebec, Alberta, Colorado, Washington, and Pennsylvania. The sweat equity of the founders of these areas and their passion for skiing was oftentimes not enough to overcome the financial pressures of taxes, electricity, diesel costs, maintenance of lifts and lodges, and payroll. I remember and have skied a lot of these little areas in my time and one of the most memorable was Laurel Mountain in Ligonier, Pa.

Laurel was founded in 1939 and opened to members of the Rolling Rock Club in 1940. The Mellon Family built a beautiful lodge which subsequently and tragically burned in later years. The area opened to the public in 1958 and eventually was turned over to the state in 1964. The Department of Natural Resources ran the area for a number of years until some private management firms tried their hand at running the resort. Weather and financial difficulties forced closings in many ski seasons and the last attempt was made by Seven Springs Resort in the 2004-2005 season. Unfortunately a warm winter accompanied by low skier visits forced the closing of Laurel Mountain up until the present day. There are rumors of re-opening but at this point- only rumors.

Laurel was always a mountain adventure to me. When I was a kid, I remember going up Route 30 and making the right onto Laurel Mountain Road. It was like entering a winter wonderland in a forest setting with snow covering the trees and forming a tunnel all the way back to the ski area. I was mesmerized as a kid with all the snow and the family atmosphere of picnic lunches in the lodge, hot chocolates on the deck, and the fun of being in the mountains in a non-commercialized environment. In college, I taught skiing there as part of the Ski Academy and became friends with many of the state employees who ran the area. The State ran a pretty spartan ship at the time but the trails that meandered in the wilds of the Pennsylvania forest on the Laurel Ridge were a scenic trip back in time. This was how skiing was supposed to be. Family oriented, small snowy area with local charm pervading the scene. The big draw was Upper and Lower Wildcat which was one of the steepest runs in Pennsylvania. At only 900 vertical feet, it still packed a whollop as a challenging run that you could ski all day and never be bored. Occasionally, you would take the surrounding trails for variety and make your way to the main chairlift that serviced the Wildcat slope. There were times when that chair stopped and if you were unfortunate enough to be at the bottom of the mountain, you either had patience and waited, or you began to walk up the trail to the top which was one heck of a workout.

When my son was first learning, I took him to Laurel frequently and made a day out of skiing the trails and then eating lunch and stopping at the Pie Shop in Laughlintown at the bottom of the mountain. Coupled with trips to Fort Ligonier, I had a captive audience with him as I explained the nuances of the French and Indian War which was fought in the very woods that we were skiing. As we ate our apple pies the conversations were either about his skiing progress for the day or the battle at the fort and how George Washington, and Generals Braddock and Forbes played a significant role for the British in the area. I often said that aside from skiing a great little mountain with my son, the better part of the day was the travel to and from Ligonier. It was good father and son time and I will never forget that opportunity that this lost ski area gave me as a father. Many picnic lunches were eaten by the McCloskeys at that lodge at the top of the mountain and the Midway Cabin with its hot chocolate and goodies from the Pie Shop oftentimes was the highlight of the ski day at Laurel Mountain. The snow, the views into the Laurel Valley, and the family atmosphere will never be forgotten.

We often see and ski the big major resorts in the west and New England. We marvel at the money spent on lodging, snowmaking, high speed lift expansion, grooming, and the marketing of the ski experience at a large ski area. Skiing has become a huge commercial offering with investments being made by large firms outside the ski industry. Every year, ski areas compete for the business of families, singles, couples, and company outings. The pressure to be competitive and profitable is intense as ski areas are run as a business and not out of that family oriented, local community ethos that started the “lost’ ski areas of old. I love the opportunities and ammenities of the big areas but I get nostalgic for the history of the sport that was honed in the smaller areas with the slow chairs, limited snowmaking and grooming, and that family atmosphere that was created by the founders of the original ski areas. Skiing Laurel Mountain was like traveling back in time. It was how skiing was meant to be and I can only hope that someday, someone will recognize the value of that gem in the Laurel Highlands and think about overcoming the odds and investing in a worthwhile skiing experience. I can remember asking Herman Dupre (former owner of Seven Springs) why he would not develop Laurel Mountain and he said,” Pat- sit down here and I will give you 38 reasons why.” I listened as Herman was a very successful engineer and businessman. I can see how the area could become one of the lost because of the varied encumbrances that halt its development. But someday, there will be someone who will take the challenge, even if it might not make economic sense, and reopen Laurel and reopen that portal to the past. Think snow and thanks for reading.

The Married Bachelor

IMG00251-20100811-2242NiteRider2IMGP1917 I was out the last two nights on the mountain bike in absolutely beautiful, starlit conditions riding the trails with my new Cree light. Amazing technology for a very low price. But, as I rode along the trails and daydreamed a little bit, I thought about the seasons of my life as the 58 year old kid. I was a bachelor until just about 34 years old, then I was engaged, married to a great gal, became a new father and currently just celebrated 25 years with the bride and 18 years with our son Jack. One of the interesting seasons was when I was first married and Janet still was a flight attendant for USAirways. Jan had to get used to living with the bachelor. For instance, when she spotted my toilet in the bathroom in my townhouse, she wondered what the hanger was sticking out of from under the lid. I said that it was to shim up the float device so that it wouldn’t leak. I said all she had to do was remove the hanger, do her business, and then replace the shimming device. She said,” This isn’t going to fly Mr. Bachelor.” We laughed and I had to figure out how to replace the device with a new device. I became an expert at toilet repair.

When Jan would go out on a trip, I was basically back to my old ways in riding after work and coming home after eating with the boys. My neighbors called me the married bachelor and laughed at my life having it both ways. Night mountain bike riding was a staple and I had several crews. The one group liked urban rides in the city parks of Pittsburgh with an intermediate stop at the Penn Brewery. After a couple of nice micro brews, we ventured to some more parks and over some rather harrowing railroad bridges. The lights are great but sometimes you couldn’t spot the holes in the boards that were the catwalk alongside the tracks. If you were not careful, the front wheel could nosedive and the ultimate over the bars onto the wooded walk was the result. Also, the final uphill at 180 BPM on the heart rate monitor with the beers in you was a little unnerving. But these guys were fun and by the time I came home, I had a good workout, some good comraderie, and my neighbors who were still up marveled at my life.

The other night riding crew was a more non-traditional crew to say the least. Mountain bikers tend to be free spirits and I ended up out in the woods in the eastern part of town later at night than I usually intended. This crew was fun, good riders, but stopped often to light up a few fatties and sit and look at the moon. Being a non-partaker, I liked the company and the ride, but was anxious to get rolling( not the fattie) and get back to my car and back to my house before it became insanely late. Again, the neighbors would laugh as I returned even late at night because from out of their window or out for a late night stroll, they lived vicariously through me as the married bachelor. ” What would Jan say if she knew you were out mountain bike riding at night, on railroad tracks,in city parks or suburban parks, drinking beer and carousing until now?” I laughed and said, ” she knows I ride. She just doesn’t know all the details.”

The Married Bachelor also went on ski trips when the bride was working. We had no children at the time and if she was working, sometimes I would get a wild hair and use my airline pass and book a flight to see some of my skiing buddies. I would run into some of her flight attendant friends who would ask where Janet was and I said…..”working.” They would laugh and say “nice life you have because of her labor, McCloskey.” I said,” Marry me, fly for free.” Only sometimes I took it to the extreme. But all in all, the neighbors would see me packing my ski bag and just shake their head and say, “what are you going to do when you have kids?” I said, ” I will cross that road when I come to it” and headed to the airport. Lots of powder, groomed trails, and fun with the ski buddies.

I was always dilligent in keeping in touch with my flying bride and oftentimes it was from somewhere out on a trail or in some watering hole with the dirtheads. But the transition from bachelor to married life was a little easier than most guys have it. Looking back, poor Jan had it worse than me. Gone during the week and coming back to a leaking toilet, or surprises in the basement because of the hole in the foundation that allowed visitors into the basement unattended. In my usual bachelor ways, I promised my bride that I would have that fixed and while she was away, I got an old 8 track tape box and jammed it up against the hole with some cement blocks behind it. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t much to the dismay of the bride doing wash in the basement and being greeted by either a living species or a dead one in a trap. She was a trooper and the married bachelor slowly came around to being a respectable human being.

When Jack came along, things changed a bit. Jan was no longer flying and my riding was confined to the butt crack of dawn during the week before work and on the weekends. The skiing was altered in the same manner but married life was wonderful especially with the new boy in the house. Lots of adventures since then that included skiing, riding, baseball, basketball, and now the boy is 18 and off to college next year. We all wonder what happened to the time and as we look back at the seasons of our life, Janet and I have a lot of laughs about the married bachelor days and the transition to fatherhood and settling in with the bride. I am so glad I did it. I had a lot of fun in the single days but nothing compares to being married with a son. Now the rides are in the evenings again because the time constraints have eased a bit. As I make my way through the leaves and the cooler weather on the trails, I enjoy them with friends, or by myself, or better yet………with the bride who saved the married bachelor. Thanks for reading and …………..think snow!!!

How to torture your relatives.

Saltlick-20130109-00082IMG00242-20100809-1556IMG00243-20100809-1600photo My father had a great saying whenever I returned from one of my adventures. I told him about the event, the adverse weather, the rain, the snow, the cold winds, whatever. My dad said, ” Kind of sounds to me like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. It feels so good when you stop.” He was right in a way. For some strange reason, I like foul weather. I have all the Gore Tex gear. I was always fascinated with weather and for reasons that I can’t really put a finger on, I always did better in events when the weather and the conditions went to hell. Snowstorms in the Month of Mud Mountain Bike Races, torrential rains in NORBA events, wicked cold weather and snowstorms on ski trips. I liked it when the weather was a factor. Even today, I try not to let weather ruin my fun. I put on the foul weather gear and go for it. Around here, if you don’t ski or run or ride in the rain, you don’t get much activity. Even when you go away, you run the risk of bad weather in any season and I always try to prepare for it and enjoy it in a quirky way.
Now that attitude does not necessarily apply to my family. Take my sister for instance. She is game, but I have tortured her in many ways on many different trips. We stood at the top of the Cirque at Snowbird in a raging snowstorm and our friend Mike Smith took a header down the slope and didn’t stop till he hit the bottom of the run. I looked at Molly and said,” You’re next.” She also gave me the deer in the headlights look when she started to see the snow slide on High Rustler at Alta after a harrowing trip accross the High Traverse. I made her ski on bullet proof ice at Killington,VT, then drive 5 hours to Sugarloaf, Maine to ski on ice balls the size of baby heads. It’s not that I am a tough guy or anything like that. It is just that I like to ski and will do whatever it takes to slide on snow. My sister likes it too but not to that degree. But she was a trooper in all that adversity. One year I took Molly and her husband Ray on a charity bicycle event which seemed tame enough except when we were about 5 miles into the event, the heavens opened up. They were soaked and hadn’t ridden a bicycle very much. As they were sopping wet, they faced a daunting hill and Ray quipped,” Looks like a walker to me, Molly.” I felt badly as they pushed their bikes up the hill while I tried to lift their spirits telling them that the rest stop was not far away. Yes- I tortured Molly and then her husband had the good fortune of being tortured by the jagoff brother in law. Again, not that I am vindictive or tough, or anything like that. I just try to make the best of adverse situations. Sometimes my positive attitude gets me a “Go suck an egg, Pat.” But eventually after the day is over, the furor dies down to a few laughs and good memories of athletic and meteorological torture.

You have seen the picture before of my wife skiing in the freezing rain. I have also had her and my son out in raging snowstorms in places like Eldora, Colorado. They try to smile and embrace my zeal. But oftentimes it generally breaks down eventually and a trip to a fire and a hot drink is in order. I have taken my wife on 4 hour hikes here in the Laurel Highlands to see a scenic overlook between Rt. 653 and Seven Springs Resort. She also was subject to a 6 hour hike in Nevada with the master of athletic torture, Eric Durfee, only to be comforted by Eric’s wife Helen and the teenage comments of my son Jack who endured the hike as well. But the views of Lake Tahoe and Reno were spectacular. Those views were a little lost on them at the time, but the pictures that are on our coffee table remind them that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you strong. They laugh but they think, ” What a putz.” Unfortunately I put the icing on the cake two weeks ago when Janet and I went hiking on our local trails and she fell on a rock and broke her elbow. I am not mentioning that the leaves will be changing soon and the hiking will be spectacular when she heals. I also am not mentioning that it is not far from ski season around here. I might leave that one alone while the poor soul is still in a sling. You see with not much effort and a lot of positive energy, you can torture your family on outings to the point where they question whether they will ever go anywhere with you again.

Maybe I do hit myself in the head with a hammer? Maybe I torture my family. But even my cynical teenager says, ” Dad- I know your heart is in the right place.” He will be off to college next year and I will be limited with potential torturous outings with him. However, my lovely wife will always have the opportunity to participate in “fun outings” only if she wants to do it. Sometimes I have pushed her and she responds in a positive way and has a good time in the great outdoors. But I will be discerning in the future. But, then again, our good friend Debbie Sagan says,” Hey Pat, we are active people. Things happen.” She just got over some broken elbow issues herself and is back on the trails running with her pal Mary Jo Neff. Deb fell and got hurt on her bike a few years ago and now competes in and wins triathlons. Torture is a state of mind. You either embrace adversity and grab the experience for all it is worth or you punt. Nothing wrong with punting, but you might just miss a good time in the rain, snow, or heat. One thing I know, my sister, my son, and my wife will always have memories of the crazy outings that they have participated in with the 58 year old kid. They did real well. They just don’t want to know details of the amazing adventures I have had in really crummy weather. “Hey- my head feels good now?” Thanks for reading.