The Adventuremen

The Adventuremen plus Julie!!

Organized mountain bike rides are usually a lot of fun, especially when they are in the Laurel Highlands. Great trails, sunshine, beautiful state forest greenery, and challenging rock sections. But this day was special among the scores of organized rides at this time of year. http://www.adventuremen.org was the host with the founder Greg Nass at the helm. Adventuremen is an organization of Christian men who enjoy the outdoors together. The signature event is Adventurefest which is a camping event the weekend before Father’s Day. Great speakers, bonfires, mini-bike riding, fishing, Harley riding, mountain bike riding at Raystown, basketball, air cannons, drones, and a plethora of other activities that make the weekend a blast. The venue is at Agape Farm and I have posted on it before. Great group of guys and a great event. But Greg and I decided it was time to branch out from the fest and perhaps schedule some outside events like the ride at Laurel Mountain. It was special on many fronts.

Our fearless leader- Greg Nass.

First of all, my pal Jeff Chetlin came with his wife Julie- even though technically it is a men’s event. Julie rides the rocks better than anybody though, and she was a welcome addition. Jeff, as I have posted before, is returning from a stroke about a year ago and this was his first ride back on some technical trails. Our buddy Pete and Jeff rode together and it was amazing that Jeff has made the comeback due to a lot of hard work on his part and answered prayer. Julie rode the rocks with us. Jeff will ride them soon.

Next amazing story was my pal Tom Tiernan. He has come back twice from cancer and was in terrific shape. Tom pays a lot of attention to his fitness and it showed on the ride in the Laurels. He is an amazingly enthusiastic guy despite some pretty major health setbacks. He enjoys life and really likes mountain bike riding as well as road cycling. He is back and his health and fitness show it. And he talks the whole ride- can’t figure it out. He must have lungs of iron. He and I wouldn’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. LOL!!!

The group was rounded out by the dentists- Steve Gurtner, and his pals Brad and Sean. All great riders with whom I have ridden many times. Along with Steve’s son Dan who decided to ride with the old guys this day. Julie and Jeff were in the dental field as well and if any one of us had any issues with our teeth on the ride- well we were covered. Roger Evans brought his posse up from West Virginia. Roger and I ride at Adventurefest every year at Raystown and it was great to see him again. My pal Sandy McKee came along and all in all- 16 riders of different backgrounds, faiths, believers, non-believers, and general good guys all hooted and hollered as we left the parking lot after a thoughtful prayer by Greg asking for protection. Greg also asked for prayer requests which were numerous in coming.

The West Virginia Boys and Pete.
Steve and Dan at Wolf Rocks- watching for rattlers.
Sandy taking a breather.

The cool thing about the outing was that even though it was sponsored by a faith based outdoor organization, there was nothing uncomfortable about it. Everyone, no matter if you have faith or no faith, likes to have a prayer said on their behalf. Greg handled it with grace and it was well received. The misnomer about a lot of Christian men is that they are extremists, right wing, condescending when nothing could be further than the truth. Real Christians recognize that they are sinners and in need of the Savior. There was no uncomfortable discussion, no shoving anything down anyone’s throat, just plain fun in the mountains on our bikes. Christian guys are not weirdos. Just come to Adventurefest and see for yourself. They know the good news of the Gospel and are willing to share it, only if asked. Just normal Joes like the most of us. No need to be intimidated by Christian men whose battle cry at the front of the pack was “Halle……….then the back of the pack responds ……..lujah.” And the whole group chuckles and keeps riding.

Mountain biking is a cool way to get 16 guys together and 1 cool lady for some exercise and fun in the woods, with some great dialog. People have issues, or have friends and family with issues, and no better people to discuss them with than the guys from Adventuremen at what they call ” Dirt Church.” I am happy to be associated with them and in fact Greg asked me to be on their board. I was truly honored. So guess what he gets out of me? An enthusiastic guy who organizes fun rides or as I call them Pleasant Pat Peddling. I am going to try to organize some more rides, hikes and even a ski day or 2. Check with me or http://www.adventuremen.org. Adventuremen on Facebook and Dirt Church on Facebook. If you have interest, join one of these FB groups and get all the latest information on rides and events. Greg, Shark, Pete and I invite everyone and it is amazing who God puts together. Normal people – mountain bike riders – in the woods, discussing life and its ups and downs, and how faith in the Lord can fuse it all together. Thanks for reading.

PPP( Pat’s Pleasant Peddling)

With Hank and Samra- Wolf Rocks Overlook- Laurel Mountain, Pa.

So, when we pulled into the parking lot at Laurel Mountain, the snake hunters were getting ready with their long tongs, long pants and boots. We all chatted briefly and the conclusion was that there probably would not be much to look at because of the cool temperatures and cloudy conditions. This suited Samra just fine as she commented, ” I thought this was going to be a pleasant ride?” “If I see a rattlesnake, it is not going to be pleasant.” Hank and I chuckled as we explained that rattlesnakes are fairly docile. If you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you. Yes they are in the Laurels as well as black bear, but again- just leave them alone. We all were up for a pleasant ride and although Samra and Hank are in great shape, they were content to ride at my pleasant pace. I find that the older I get, the more I like ” pleasant rides.”

My mantra-LOL!!!!
Blooming Mountain Laurel

I am not in the “blast out of the parking lot at full speed” crowd anymore. I need to warm up. Probably a good half hour or more. I had my stint in bicycle racing for 25 years and although it was a lot of fun with it’s share of suffering, I am happy in these last several years to back off a little bit and enjoy the rides. See things like blooming mountain laurel instead of focusing on the guy or group ahead of me. Samra and Hank don’t like big groups and were perfectly happy to have me show them my favorite place to ride at a reasonable pace.

If you live in Western Pennsylvania or are thinking of visiting, the Laurel Mountains have some great options for hiking and mountain bike riding. The trails are well marked and can be found on Trailforks and MTB Project. Maps are also available at the DCNR office in Laughlintown at the bottom of the mountain on Rt. 30. I usually ride the trails up near Laurel Mountain State Park Ski Area. Even at a pleasant pace, there are challenging sections like Wolf Rocks and Spruce Run Trail into the Summit Trail. I still like the challenge of riding the rocks but they can be done at a pleasant pace and not necessarily race pace. They will work you and your suspension but definitely worth the effort. The view from the Wolf Rocks overlook is not to be missed as well. But be aware of the rocky overlook where above said rattlesnakes tend to sun themselves if not too many people are around. But if there are riders and hikers present, no worries at all.

I still have friends who are very skilled riders and like to push the pace. I admire them for their fitness and when I ride with them, I tend to go at my own pace and sometimes take short cuts in order to make the ride pleasant. They will push me oftentimes and I have to get out of my comfort zone, but more and more as they age, they appreciate the opportunity to sometimes ride the PPP pace. I think we still get a good workout and as I always say, ” nobody is going to the Olympics.”

The fall is coming.

Another good thing about the PPP pace is that it is good for some of my friends who have had some recent health setbacks. They are trying to work their way back and you don’t have to hammer all the time to get the benefits. In fact, it is amazing to me and to some of my pals, that if you back it off just a little bit, you don’t kill yourself and you have a lot of energy left to enjoy more of the ride. This weekend with Hank and Samra, we worked the rock sections but rode at the PPP and completed the whole enchilada of my Laurel Mountain ride and I did not collapse in the parking lot. I could have ridden more. My fitness at this time of year is best, but I think the pace of the PPP helps me and can help others too. I like to think of it as an aging guy’s program. Ride to ride another day.

So if you see me out there on the trails, or you want to ride with me, you will know that I will ride at a pace where I can talk to you. I am learning to listen more and I would like to hear more about you, than telling you about me and my worn out stories. The PPP is a fun mountain bike ride. You will always smile. Thanks for reading.

Go Nordic!

Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins,

Years ago, I met a young lady who was a member of the Middlebury College Nordic Ski Team. She was recounting her workout routine while quickly demolishing a half gallon of ice cream right before my eyes. She had to pay close attention to her diet and make sure that she was eating enough calories to fuel her practices and meets. In many cases, they just can’t eat enough. You see, cross country ski racers are a rare breed. Among endurance athletes, they have the most impressive VO2 data and their engines are unmatched in the endurance sports world. We have a real superstar right here in the U.S with Jessie Diggins who is a member of our U.S Nordic Ski Team and a gold medalist from the most recent Olympic games in Korea. She has had tremendous success on the World Cup and is a favorite for gold in the upcoming Olympics in China. These athletes are amazing and their skill and endurance is worth watching on the upcoming coverage of the Olympics in February. Check them out.

More gold in China?

If you take it down several notches, there are opportunities out there for the mortal man to participate in this winter sport. I am an alpine skier and rarely get to go cross country skiing any more but I have always had respect for people who make use of Nordic ski centers like the one we have at Laurel Mountain right here in Pa.

Laurel Mountain Nordic Ski Center

The cool thing about cross country skiing is that you can enjoy it casually like a nice tour through the woods or you can make it a real workout. Traditional skis can be used in the machine made tracks and the feeling of gliding along with your skis floating though the tracked trail is spectacular. Shorter skating skis are also available and you can skate your way along groomed trails which is another great workout. Finally, there are wider touring skis that have metal edges which allow you to break trail on a freshly fallen snow landscape like a golf course. Many ski touring centers offer rentals and if not, most outfitters like L.L. Bean. Public Lands, and REI have equipment for sale or rent. With the recent big snow in the East, I see many people out on the golf courses and on the groomed trails these days trying to make the most of the winter weather.

Tracked Trails.

Years ago, I had touring skis and would ski at night on the golf course near my home with a light on my head. A fun workout on clear, cold nights. Oftentimes in those days, I would also visit my friend Eric in Vermont and as a diversion from alpine skiing at Killington, we would take cross country equipment out of his garage and head to the quarry near his home in Bethel, Vermont. It was there that we skied up and down gravel and sand piles showing off and usually crashing and burning many times until we either had destroyed his equipment or were so stiff and sore and snow covered that we left and headed home for a cold beer. Fun times in those days in Bethel.

I often joke with my friends who cross country ski. I call them communist skiers. They laugh because they know that I associate cross country ski racers with the Eastern Bloc. Most of the success in recent years has been with skiers from the Baltic countries or Russia as well as the usual suspects from the Scandinavian countries. But look out for the Americans. We are coming on strong and the term communist skier jokingly will be a term of the past for me.

As much as I like alpine skiing, I do miss the days when I used to cross country ski. I may take it up again although Janet and I like to snowshoe when we are not skiing. We take advantage of the snow when it comes. If you are looking for a good day in the woods, there is nothing like a sunny winter day with cross country equipment in hand. Try it and perhaps look up your local Nordic ski center or consult with L.L.Bean, Public Lands, or REI and enjoy the winter. Thanks for reading, watch the upcoming Olympics on NBC and Peacock, and think snow.

The Return of the Ride King

Jeff Wuerthele- aka ” The Ride King”

You know, you have to be a special kind of enthusiast to get two knee replacements and then come out on a 28 degree morning to bounce around on the rocks and roots of Laurel Mountain in November on a mountain bike. Jeff Wuerthele is that kind of person. In fact this whole crowd of guys who are in their 50’s and 60’s are enthusiasts who think nothing of weather and just appreciate the opportunity to ride in the Laurel Highlands on one of the last nice, sunny days of the year. From this point on, the weather here gets a little sketchy but these guys take it all in stride. They are also skiers and snowboarders so it stands to reason that they are not inhibited by weather that would make most people shy away and just sit on their couch watching SportsCenter. These are fun guys and I am happy to call them friends. In fact, my doc who is also in this group, commented that we all are good friends united by the sport of mountain biking. Guys like Jeff Wuerthele kept us all together for years with rides in the mountains and I am happy to have him back on the trails. He said it was the first group ride he has done in a while and he was happy he showed up.

Just to give you a snapshot of how these guys tick- lets take a quick look at this group, of which I am the elder statesman soon to be 67 years young.

Jeff Wuerthele- retired, former bike industry luminary and overall fun guy who lives full time in the Laurel Highlands and enjoys snowboarding and riding a mountain bike- again after two knee replacements.

Angelo Ross- the youngster in this crowd. A true renaissance man who is a retired school teacher, is currently on the Alpine skiing education staff for the Professional Ski Instructors of America. He has his own podcast, his own clothing business, and is also a guide for Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle, Pa. Very talented in a lot of areas.

John Cassucio- successful businessman and mountain bike and skiing enthusiast who is in excellent shape and fuels himself on Hammer products and vitamins. He is a testament to living cleanly and respecting his health as he ages. Not to mention a fun guy with a great sense of humor, and a skilled videographer.

Mark” the Shark” Sauers- mentioned many times in this blog. A true character who is a successful sales guy in the medical field, a certified snowboard instructor and excellent mountain biker. Perhaps his greatest asset is his willingness to share his faith on the trails with all those who ride with him. He walks the walk for sure.

Steve Gurtner- dentist and enthusiastic skier and mountain biker. Great sense of humor and a really skilled rider. His famous self deprecating line is ” Pat- we are bringing our B game to an A ride.” Not quite true in his sense because he is a fit, skilled rider, but funny all the same.

The Doc- Syed Hyder- seen here on the right. Syed is always on a busman’s holiday on our rides because he is always patching up people. The story of him inserting a presta valve into some guys chest on a ride to relieve air pressure is legendary in the medical community. An excellent and skilled rider and a really funny sense of humor always entertains us on the rides.

5 old ding dongs trying to repair Syed’s tire. Jeff working hard- LOL!
The Doc prior to Wolf Rocks eating his tire.

While we were all out in the woods as far as we could be from the cars trying to repair Syed’s tire in many different ways, we all remarked that just hanging around in the sunshine in the Laurel Highlands was enjoyable enough. Nobody cared that we were temporarily dead in the water as it was all part of an adventure for old guys out in the wilderness. That is the cool thing about mountain biking. Probably more than any venture I do outdoors, this community is responsible for fostering many lifetime friendships. Hard to explain – you have to be a mountain biker to understand. But, the adventures, the laughter, the camaraderie and the ability to participate as we all get older is fantastic. Most of my friends are either mountain bikers or skiers or in many cases, both. Lots of gray hairs under those helmets.

The wonderful end to the day of adventure was eating at the Out of the Fire Cafe in Donegal with our good friends – Julie and Jeff Chetlin. Jeff is very much like the Ride King in that he is the lynchpin of many cycling groups. Currently rehabbing from a health issue, Jeff is anxious to rejoin this group of merry men as well as others in the expansive network of Chetlin ride partners. He and Julie were so happy to see everybody and hear the stories of mishap on the trails. He is missed and we are all sure he will soon return to full health. Like Syed, he remarked that he has met all his good friends through mountain biking. Again, there is something about this sport that is uniting in many ways and we all feel it one way or another.

Angelo, the Ride King and Cassucio- just hanging around.

So, as I finish my rambling this week, I guess the point of all of this is that there is value to being active outdoors that extends beyond the health benefits. To participate in a healthy, challenging sport and to foster life long friendships as a result, is a real plus as we all age. I always remember Scott Nichol, of Ibis Bikes, stating a simple encouragement. When I asked him how long did he think we all could do this at this level as we age? His simple remark was,” Pat- don’t think about it- just keep doing it.” That has been my mantra for sure- just keep doing it. And if I can do it with friends like these guys, I will be a happy man living a long, healthy, fruitful life. Thanks for reading.

Paturday

Wolf Rocks at Laurel Mountain with the Paturday Crew- Photo by John Cassucio

My friend Jeff Chetlin calls my rides Paturday rides. Kind of a reference to the fact that my mountain bike rides as of late are more relaxed and the theme is to enjoy the ride. I also refer to my rides as PPPP. Pat’s Pleasant Park Peddling. You see, I have chased people on road bikes and mountain bikes for 40 years. This year I decided to just bring it back a notch and ride at my own pace. When my pals come on a Paturday ride, they know they will have a good ride, good mileage, good route and a good time. We don’t have to kill each other, we just need to enjoy the ride. Ride to ride another day, don’t get hurt, and well……………have fun. Nobody is going to the Olympics.

Take this weekend for example. The Paturday ride was at my favorite place locally to ride a mountain bike- Laurel Mountain. I don’t know what it is about the Laurel HIghlands but I feel truly relaxed up there. I like the Laurel Mountains at all times of the year, and I have a couple of good mountain bike routes that challenge the best and allow for the more casual to also enjoy. Paturday means when we come to a particularly tough rocky section- I let the tough guys go and I meet them at the end of that particular section. They have had a challenge, and if I don’t feel like killing myself, I just ride an alternate trail and meet them. They are all smiles and breathing hard and getting what they need. I have a more relaxed section and that is just fine with me. The people who ride with me get their share of the rocks and roots that make a Laurel Mountain ride classic. But I/we don’t have to do all of them. The tough younger guys on the Paturday ride do them all and I admire them for sure. But I get enough skipping the real killer sections. Paturday- something for everyone.

Enjoying the ride.

One of the benefits of the PPPP pace is the ability to look around and see things that I really never saw before. I see the huge ferns that line the trails at Laurel. I take the time to go out to Wolf Rocks Overlook and see the Laurel HIghlands in all their splendor. In a couple of weeks, that overlook will yield spectacular views of the gently rolling ridges with the leaves blazing with color. I never took the time to notice that before. I was too busy chasing the guy in front of me. I also notice that when I ease into a ride instead of blasting out of the parking lot and redlining my heart rate, I do much better on the ride. It takes me a good 45 minutes to warm up. I guess that is a function of getting close to 67 years of age. I am like a diesel. I am not fast anymore, but if I can warm up, I can ride for longer periods of time. If I try to follow the tough guys and blast out of the parking lot- my ride is basically over. Ease into it, enjoy the flora, the things you can see on the trails, and the ride is much more enjoyable if you just take it down a notch.

I have been blessed with a lot of fun friends who ride. The cool thing about mountain bikers is that they are relaxed and the emphasis is fun on the trails. Sure, there are some that still race, or ride race pace, and want to use the rides for training. That is great. But even those guys like the ” chill” atmosphere of a Paturday ride and know that every ride does not have to be a training ride. Mountain bikers are fun people where the apres ride is as important as the ride itself. People bring snacks, beers, chairs and a general state of comradery exists.

So, I guess the point here is no matter what you do, run, ride, hike, or walk, – try a PPPP pace or make it a Paturday pace. I think you will enjoy yourself and see things that you never allowed yourself to see before. Thanks for reading. Fall is coming. A wonderful rime of the year here in Western Pa.

Seemed Like a Vacation

Ok, so we all are getting a little cabin fever, right? Vacation plans are on hold, getting together with friends is typically by phone call or text. The walls of the house are kind of closing in and it is important to get out and get some fresh air and exercise for more than the need to boost the immune system. We need it to also boost us mentally as we plow through this Covid-19 issue. We think back to how it was before when we could go somewhere and have a change of scenery. That option, for the moment, has been limited to local venues like parks, and local trails for the mountain bike set. But last Saturday, we called an audible and it seemed, well……..like a vacation of sorts. A few of us, trying to be socially distanced, met at Laurel Mountain State Park in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and rode on the trails that are lined with mountain laurel, spring wildflower growth, and in general, bathed in brilliant sunshine.

The enthusiasm in the parking lot was felt among all of us as several of us had not seen each other in a while. We all have our little socially distanced riding groups of a few people but this time, a few more people showed up under the threshold of what is acceptable. The laughs, the mood, the stories about how we all are coping were well received and set the tone for a Saturday ride in the Laurels. My friend Jeff dubbed it a ” Paturday” ride because of my pleasant route through the rocks and roots at a relatively acceptable pace. A couple of the fast guys and gals(Everyday Dave and Eric and friends) took off and did their thing which was fine but my race pace days are over as well as many of us in our group. Jeff even brought his drone and took some really cool footage of all of us socially distanced on the Wolf Rocks. The important thing was the camaraderie that is always present on mountain bike rides. This day was exceptional because of the extenuating circumstances and I think we all recognized the value of the change of venue and the need to socially connect in person.

But if I could put my finger on the one thing that made “Paturday” special besides all the good folks who showed up to ride was the fact that we all can appreciate something right in our own backyard. Sure, we can’t wait to get back to Bend or other far away riding places. But for the moment, we all appreciated the chance to get away about an hour and a half from our closed in walls and enjoy something local. Appreciate something local. Maybe like we have never done before? I kind of take riding at Laurel for granted but not anymore. Even the obligatory stop at the Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown for the home made pizza and delicious baked goods was appreciated more than most stops. This Covid thing will teach a lot of us a lot of lessons. One of them is to appreciate all that you have. Thanks for reading- and riding.

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