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 – Don 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.

Bitten by the Ski Bug

Back in 1961, my mom and dad( who did not ski) took my sister and I for the first time to Seven Springs Resort here in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.  It was a terrible experience of travel that cold March night on the turnpike and I remember clearly my dad white knuckling our car all the way to the Donegal exit.  What transpired that weekend was a lifelong love of skiing that was made possible by the generosity and care of my parents.  On a subsequent visit to Hidden Valley the following year, my mom skied for two feet.  At the prodding of her friend Virginia Ruth, my mom put on the skis, slid for two feet, fell on her head and said,” That’s it- take the damn things off.”  She never skied again nor did my dad who had back surgery and skiing was not in the picture.

Fast forward and I was a regular on the Friday night ski bus from the little ski shop in the North Hills Village shopping center.  My dad made friends with the owner and she said she would look out for me with all the high school kids on the bus.  How I skied with my wooden skis, cable bindings, and leather lace up boots is still a mystery to me.  The slopes were icy, no grooming to speak of, early primitive snow making or no snow making at all, at night, cold as hell.  But I loved it!!!  The ski bug bit me and the venom of that bite still flows through my veins- 53 years later.  I spent weekends after that at the Rich cabin on County Line Road and the weekly trip to the Laurel Highlands was the norm for me.  I had a smile on my face the whole way.  Franklin Park-20130307-00105

I have skied in 108 different areas to date and still manage to take several trips per year out west and to New England.  If you look at my bio, it shows my history in the sport and people ask me why I still ski at Seven Springs when I have the opportunity to ski elsewhere during the season.  The reason is put best by a guy that I rode the chair with last weekend.  As we braved the new snow on opening day at the Springs, I remarked to him that people asked me why I was going up to ski 3 slopes this early in the season.  He said,” Why not?  You make the same turns here that you do at Jackson Hole.”  How true.  I love to make turns- whether it is at Seven Springs or elsewhere, skiing is fun.  What else should I do on a Saturday morning- watch cartoons?  My friends from 53 years of skiing are still there and we all get together on opening weekend to catch up, drink coffee and tell each other about the new equipment we have and trips we will take.  Skiing is addicting and it is a lifestyle not just something we do.  I like to consider myself a skier and not just someone who skis.  There is a difference.  I also noticed this past Thanksgiving weekend that there were as many gray hairs and beards out there as there were young kids.  When you are bitten by the ski bug, you are a skier for life.  Whatever metaphor you like- bitten, hooked, etc, skiing is part of your life and that opening day no matter where it is excites you.  I still can’t sleep the night before.  Just like when I was a kid.  Love the Laurel Highlands.  O'Hara-20130104-00081

Returning back to last weeks post, ” Pay it Forward”, the ski bug or hook can be set by someone bringing new people into the sport.  My friend JR who I work with, has taken the time to bring his son Isaac to ski.  Along with Kate, Sydney, Joey and Jackson, they get up early, make the trek to the mountains, and ski together.  JR is a good man.  He is not wild about skiing but sees that Isaac and his pals and cousins love it and so he puts himself out there as the sherpa much like my dad did with us when my sister and I started.  Sometimes a friendly word from an outside source such as yours truly helps the process.  JR was skiing at Hidden Valley last spring and called me to tell me that he had the group there.  I immediately went to my car, drove with my ski boots on( a real acquired skill as a skier), and located them at HIdden Valley.  One of the boys was struggling a bit and I saw the problem and asked JR if I could intervene.  He responded in the affirmative and with a few friendly pointers, the kid who might have quit for the day became hooked- or bitten, and this past weekend, he skied better than ever according to JR.  You need a good start in the sport and whether you take a lesson or you learn from someone who knows, the initial experience is crucial.  So many people go skiing with a friend, get hurt, have a bad experience because their start was not good.  Take the time to learn properly.  Kids acquire skills naturally and take to the sport reasonably well.  But a few well placed words of instruction can mean the difference between someone catching on or someone quitting and never returning to the mountains again.  Guys like JR, my dad, Bob Rose all took the time and made the sacrifices so that kids like me and this group, could take up the sport of a lifetime.  I will always be grateful to my dad and Bob Rose- and this crowd will always be grateful to JR.  In the immortal words of Oswald, the old mascot for Seven Springs in his Tyrolean hat and Leiderhosen- ” Leben Weider” – Live again!!!  The excitement, the passion, the fun all reside on the slopes for me and I can’t wait for each season to start.  850 vertical feet and 3 slopes- you bet.  I will be there!!!  Thanks for reading and be passionate about something.  IMG_20141129_122823049

Pay it Forward

Thought I would send the weekly post a little early due to Thanksgiving.  Speaking of which, I am thankful for people like Bob Bannon, the Lord of Lumens, for his friendship and being the glue to the local mountain bike community.  I am waiting for ski season but will still ride until it becomes a muddy, icy mess on the trails.  So last Saturday it was 18 degrees and I put out the message about the ride and only Bob, and a new young guy named Matt, and I showed up in the Family Dollar parking lot.  Our mission was to ride the fast and flowy trails of Deer Lakes Park here in Allegheny County in Western Pa.  Now Bob, being the Pied Piper of all mountain bikers here in the burg, was happy to show the new guy around.  Matt is a nice kid but really, I have socks older than him and Bannon is older than I am by a few years.  So it was Matt and the old guys heading out on the trails.       In true Bannon fashion, Bob makes the ride enjoyable because he describes where we are going to ride, what to look for by way of obstacles, and what trail maintenance he has done on the trails to make them flowy and enjoyable.  He puts a lot of volunteer time in and enthusiastically sends out weekly messages about rides in the area, where to meet, and when.  Getting back to the frigid ride, we were bundled up and as Bob went through his routine, we both noticed that Matt had a nice bike and was riding in running shoes.  Being the inquisitive guy that I am, I started asking him about where he was from.  Turns out he went to IUP and spent some time in forestry in the wilderness of Northern California.  Tough kid, good rider, but running shoes have to go.  Bob and I both gave Matt some advice about the virtues of clipless pedals and shoes.  The kid took it in stride and I think we may have made an impact because I think he sees the value and will get those items shortly.  photo

As the ride progressed, Bob and I were impressed at Matt’s fitness and his riding ability despite the handicap of running shoes. He also rode with no gloves.  Amazing!!! 18 degrees!!  We came across a guy we know from riding who was walking his dogs.  As I handed him my camera to take some pictures of the frozen trio, the big dog climbed up on me and barked in my face and the ratty little dog bit my shin.  I don’t have much luck with dogs.  I tell people that dogs like me………I taste like chicken.  You can have dogs, but that is another blog post followup.  We had lots of tales for Matt about local riding and riding in the west.  Matt met us through an organization called Meet Up. http://www.meetup.com.  Bob’s posting of weekly rides is on their web site and Matt hit it right when he had the opportunity to ride with Bob.  photo

The freezing rain started falling at the end of the Deer Lakes ride and as we ventured out into the parking lot, I gave some more advice to Matt to get back on the grass because the pavement was slick.  Too late.  Matt was down and I was a little late with more advice that would have enhanced his experience.  Bob and I were happy to have Matt that day.  We both like the opportunity to get people enthused about mountain bike riding and never miss an opportunity to “pay it forward” like people did for us back in the day.  Bob pays it forward big time every week……every day.  Good guy.  Lots of people like to ride with Bob.

An additional payoff was when I was tipped off at the OTB Thursday night ride that we would be stopping at the Deer Creek Diner for their famous pancakes after our ride on Saturday.  Matt was all in,  and we changed clothes and gingerly made our way our of the park on the glazed roadways to the diner in Russleton,Pa- right around the corner.  The coffee was hot and good, the service was very friendly, and the pancakes………….well…………..have a look.  Amazing!!!  I bring my own Vermont maple syrup when I have a chance to prepare like this outing and it is the only syrup that would do justice to these colossal cakes.  Matt had the chance to experience Grade A fancy syrup and Bob and I relished the morning knowing that we had given Matt a good ride, a good breakfast, and as a grand finale- Bob wrote down the exact specs for Matt to purchase a light so he could ride with our group on the trails after dark.  I hope that Matt reports back to” Meet Up” that he had a good experience with two knowledgeable, fun old codgers who showed him a beautiful trail system, fed him well, and gave him valuable lighting options.  photo

Really- this is what mountain biking or skiing is all about.  Sharing knowledge, enthusiasm, planning, and general frivolity in a relaxed environment.  Good exercise with the hopes that guys like Matt pay it forward some day soon.  The more riders the better the riding.  So, pay something forward.  Help out a new guy.  Share your experience and knowledge with someone.  I have done that and now all the people I have taught are killing me out on the trails.  Go figure.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We all have a lot to be thankful for- health, happiness, and friends like Bob.  photo

The Allegheny Crawl

There are a lot of distractions today for kids and their parents.  X Box, Play Station, soccer, baseball, organized teams, with all kinds of practices, games and meets.  So much more than when I grew up in a less harried environment.  Parents today rush around hauling their kids to multiple events and the logistics are mind boggling. Video games offer entertainment while parents tend to catch up on their own lives, but life is gas pedal to the floor in most households today. My parents did a lot for my sister and me back in the day, but the center of most of the activity was the community pool.  Moms tended to be stay at home in those days and as they lined up in their chaise lounges every day in what the guards called “hysterectomy row”, they cheered us on in our practices and meets with the swim team.  photo

I was a decent swimmer back then but only had a limited repertoire.  I could not swim the butterfly, backstroke was weird and I kept hitting the lane markers, freestyle was good for 25 meters and then I was fried.  But I could swim the breastroke all day because it was a natural stroke for me.  Problem was that I had some pretty good competition with the Rose brothers, Dru Duffy and Johnny Kane who were all talented breastrokers and I battled out the time trials in order to compete in the meets.  Sometimes I was successful and sometimes not but it was a good lesson for me that anything that you wanted in life, you had to work for and there were winners and losers.  Not everyone got a trophy, medal, or ribbon for just showing up – you had to learn to be a gracious winner and an equally gracious loser.  I swam in the winters too at the Allegheny YMCA on the northside of Pittsburgh in a rather rough neighborhood.  I saw fights, stabbings, police chases, and other various and sundry activities but my mom was steadfast in her belief that I should see all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.  My folks exposed us to a lot of athletic activities but interestingly, they were not athletic at all and had very little interest other than they thought these activities would be good for Molly and me.

The final activity of the summer/early fall after all the swim meets were over, was the annual Father-Daughter, Mother-Son relay where the parents had the opportunity to show off their prowess much to the delight of their kids and their friends.  As my mom lined up on the other side of the pool, she was on stage in her new suit and matching flowered bathing cap.  As the gun went off, she was the last one in the pool and began what she lovingly referred to as “The Allegheny Crawl.”  This was an odd stroke that was a combination breastroke/freestyle with a weak flutter kick that propelled my mom by the minutes instead of seconds as she flailed her way dramatically towards me.  She smiled at her friends and at me as if to say,” I will get there – be patient.”  Edna Kane had already touched the wall and John took off while I sat on the block waiting for my mom to “crawl” her way to the end of her lap.  With my little pot belly and Speedo at ready, I was amazed to see that the race was already over by the time my mom touched the wall and the silence of the crowd was deafening as I swam furiously to the other end of the pool.  The cheering was long over and my finish as an “also-ran” was a little humiliating.  But I smiled and congratulated my mom who was holding court and laughing with her friends.  But perhaps the most rewarding moment for my mom was to see my dad’s eyes as he hugged her with pride for attempting the event in the first place.  My mom and dad were always there for each other and my sister and I were always in second place.  They had a great marriage and it was evident in scenes like this when the pride in my dad’s eyes completely overshadowed the performance of the McCloskey mother- son relay team.  photoThe little guy holding the corner of the flag is me with my rival but good friend Johhny Kane to my left.  photo

Things were a lot less complicated in those days and the lessons learned at the community pool have lasted with me for a while now.  The competition, the practices, the atmosphere where all the kids and moms were safe and sound at the pool was comforting.  The lesson for me was that as much as we have tried to do for our kids and as much as generations will do in the future, the main thing is to put your spouse first like my folks did.  As the relays ended and the years at the pool marched on, I knew looking at my folks that all was well with the world when I saw the love in their eyes.  They rushed us to meets, practices, and all kinds of events like many of us do with our kids at great personal expense.  But the main focus was on each other.  I can imitate the Allegheny Crawl today and we all have a good chuckle out of that, but even though mom was not as fast as Edna Kane, she was stylish in her own way- crawling or not.  Long live Valley Brook Swim Club.  Thanks for reading.

Opportunities

Next week I celebrate 26 years of marriage to my best friend and wonderful wife.  The picture you see here of Janet has been altered because I did not want to dilute the beauty of my bride on that wonderful day with my countenance as I would show that picture for the next 26 years.  It has been a great honor to be married to her and if I had not taken the opportunity that was presented to me 27 years ago, I might not be in the position that I am today as her husband and father to our son.

Let me take you back to the days when I was a 33 year old bachelor, living a rather structured life. Typically, my life looked like this:

  • Wake up
  • pack my cycling gear or running gear
  • go to work
  • drive to North Park and either run or ride with my posse of friends
  • summer time- Tuesday night road cycling time trials
  • summer time- Wednesday night road cycling Criterium races at the Highland Park Zoo parking lot
  • winter- run trails with lights
  • winter- ski every weekend
  • eat at the “dump” ( a local greasy spoon) or the default Italian restaurant with my cronies
  • go home
  • lay on the floor and watch HBO until bedtime
  • get up and do it all over over again – the next day or weekendphotophoto

This was very easy to do and all of our crowd would know where we all were every night of the week or every weekend.  The routine was great and I was getting used to not doing much in the evening but resting for the next days athletic activities.  I had an old TV that I pilfered from my mom and dad and got pretty good at laying on the floor and changing the channels with my toes because I had no remote.  My townhouse was pretty low maintenance and whenever I left for a race or a ski trip, I just locked the door and went my merry way.  Life was good and my friends were faithful and held me accountable to work out.

One day, my future mother in law, whom I have known for many years, asked me what I was doing lately. ” How is your love life,Patrick?”  I would tell her I was like a cactus in the desert with an occasional tumbleweed passing through on a late night windstorm.  She laughed and said that Janet ( I have known her since she was 8 years old- that is another story), was going to a party with her flight attendant friends and maybe I should go to meet all of them?  I responded that I would like to do that and when the day came, I was laying on the floor, watching the tube, comfortable after a shower, toeing the TV, and wondering if I really wanted to go seeing that I had  big ride scheduled for the next morning.  But I thought, “what the hell, might as well go.  You never know who you will meet and take advantage of the opportunity”.  Well, I went to the party and sure enough, the most attractive girl was Janet.  I was a slave to fashion at the time( not) and picked up all the girls in my Blazer with my baggy shorts, my grandfather’s fishing shirt, and running shoes.  Janet later remarked that she called her mother and told her about my crazy outfit.  I still wear that type of stuff today.  But as we talked at the party, I began to scheme how I would attract Janet into going out with me.

The long and the short of it was that I took her cycling.  I picked up her bike at her folk’s house and when they asked me what I was doing, I told my future in laws that I was fixing Janet’s bike.  They asked if I knew that she was dating a guy she worked with and I said,” I will make her forget his name.”  They laughed about that for years and our dating career started at the Park.  Janet was a little intimidated when she saw the sea of lycra, helmets and road bikes but I assured her that we would take a little ride and then go get something to eat.  Fast forward, Janet has been subject to all of my passions at the park and on the slopes and has handled it with grace.  She has had some mishaps as of late with a broken elbow last summer while hiking and a broken humerus ( not humorous) on a rails to trails ride this summer.  I have taken her skiing in the freezing rain, blinding snowstorms out west, bullet proof conditions at Whiteface in the Adirondacks, and various other adventures that she might have never experienced had she not met the 59 year old kid.  But the best adventure for me was taking the opportunity to go to that party and experience how a kind and loving person could enhance my rigid life.

I guess the point of all this is that if you don’t take opportunities in your life and stick to the mundane and the routine, you might never experience life to it’s fullest potential.  The operative word for all of us should be ” yes” because you never know what might present itself, what great place to be experienced, what wonderful people you might meet, and what life changing experience might unfold right before your eyes.  I have had a lot of experiences in my day because I was crazy enough to always say “yes”.  But the best experience for me was the day that I took an opportunity and said,” I do.”  Thanks for 26 great years Janet.  Thanks for reading.

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To be…….”Trans- Generational”

     What does it mean to be trans generational?  I would explain it as being involved with activities and interaction with different age groups with a common purpose.  OTB at the North Park Boathouse

 

Take for instance when I was a kid, my mother would make me dinner early because ” my friends” were calling me to fill in for the men’s doubles tennis league at our community pool complex.  These guys were my dad’s age but respected the fact that I could play the game and was mature enough to handle the interaction with an older generation.  It was lots of fun and I did learn some things that taught me that I had maturity beyond my years especially when an argument would ensue.  I had first hand knowledge of how ” adults” handled these situations and sometimes saw the maturity level dip a long way when one of the guys hit another over the head with a racquet.  But for the most part- the trans-generational activity was positive for me as a young man.  

     Fast forward and now I was in my late teens and interacted with some older guys who helped me get involved with ski instruction.  Chip Kamin was only a few years older than me but Bob Irish and Larry Cohen were in their forties at the time and we had a great time skiing together.  Their wisdom and inspiration allowed me to pursue certification with the Professional Ski Instructors of America and together they taught a young guy the ropes.  Point being that sports like tennis, fishing, golf, skiing, cycling are lifetime sports that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities.  There are mentoring opportunities for older guys and also the interaction with young people keep that generation in the game.  IMG00227-20100731-0812

     In a recent article in the PSIA publication “32 Degrees” there is an article which references how some snow pros share their secrets to longevity.  The common denominator is to “keep moving”.  Each of the instructors that were interviewed were extremely active well into their 50s, 60s, and 70s.  They each talked about looking for opportunities to connect with other passionate people with diverse perspectives.  Oftentimes this results in older people interacting with younger people in a common passion like the sports mentioned above.  I can remember as I became a parent, how important it was to bring my son and my nephews and nieces along in the sport of skiing.  IMG00117-20100116-1123

As I got older, I made a point to bring along younger guys and girls into cycling and in one instance, I introduced mountain biking to Bill Kirk and his son Billy and young Bill and I still ride today- 20 years later.  To be trans-generational benefits not only the younger generation with wisdom and mentoring from the older set, but for us older guys, to have the opportunity to ride or ski with a younger crowd keeps us young not only in our mind but in our perspective on how the world is progressing.  You can learn a lot on a chairlift or on a mountain bike trail by talking to a younger person and see what is relevant in their lives.  Heck, I lost a musical perspective way back when ” money is for nothing and your chicks for free.” That’s where I lost track.  But keeping up with the times is important and to keep tabs on current musical talent via younger people is enlightening to say the least.  

     Skiing, mountain biking, road cycling and trail running all are good activities that can unite generations.  Oftentimes we have some good debate and try to solve the world’s problems but the key factor is the difference in perspective between professional people, teachers, students, and retired folks.  The common factor is the activity but the conversations and interactions are the result of having a common passion and the accountability to get together no matter how old or how young the crowd.  I used to laugh in a road cycling criterium race when I would hear,” Inside Mr. McCloskey” or ” inside Mr. Sagan” as a young guy would slip ahead of us older guys on the inside lane of the road.  I used to smile thinking that this was pretty cool that we all were racing together, people of different generations.  

     Currently I ride mountain bikes on Thursday nights with a group that for the most part is 25 -30 years my junior.  With the exception of a couple of older guys, this group has provided some fresh perspective on many subjects including the technology that has developed with cycling.  I like the ride and the people and even though we come from different generations, mountain biking unites us and our passion fuels us enough to come each week and be accountable to the ride.  So no matter what floats your boat, keep active.  Stay involved in the sports or hobbies that always sparked you.  And most importantly try to be involved with groups that are “trans-generational.”  That is the neat thing about lifetime sports.  They unite all of us.  Thanks for reading.  

 

Greenlees Mountain Bikes

NiteRider2photophotophotophotophoto There is a statistic floating around out there that claims that 90 percent of all mountain bikes sold are never taken off road. Consider what percentage are utilized on rocky, rooty, muddy, eastern trails coupled with doing it at night with lights and you have a small percentage of bicycles and riders. Back in the 90s, I had the good fortune of becoming associated with a group of individuals that took the sport of mountain biking very seriously and became almost legendary in their victories in local mountain bike races in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Their use of these off road machines put the manufacturers to the test every time they had a training ride and some of the best riders and racers at the time belonged to a group started by Chuck Greenlee of Prospect Pa.

Chuck had a small shop and prided himself on carrying the best equipment that could be tested on the rocks of the terminal moraine. The frame to have at the time was either a Merlin titanium or a Yeti and Chuck quickly assembled a group of individuals who supported his shop and ultimately made up his race team. Jonathan Moran, Ricky Haas, Eric Sauereisen, Bob Anderson, E.J Sigety, Steve Wahlenmeyer,Frankie Ross, and Bill Alcorn were all incredibly good riders and the balance of the group were in the older category as veterans which included Chuck, Mike Reidinger, Tim Sweeney and yours truly – truly bringing up the rear. Diane Blackburn was our lone woman rider who could ride most guys into the ground. I first got to respect Diane when she gave me a real ration of grief for getting lost on a Month of Mud course. She was in our group at the time and I ziggged intead of zagged and heard it from Diane for weeks. Jonathan and the boys rode the Pro Expert Division and their rides and routes taught me a lot about riding on the rocks. Of course, I was not able to keep up with this group but they all were kind enough to spend the time to teach me the finer points of riding in this treacherous terrain. Often there were several groups riding at Moraine State Park in those days that were associated with Chuck’s team and the fast guys were able to do their thing with the slower guys bringing up the rear and learning all along the way. I had many over the bars experiences much to the amusement of the “A” team but being part of that team of folks was not only an education, but an immersement into a culture of ride or be left behind. ” What doesn’t kill you makes you strong” was certainly on display on those rides and the fruits of the work displayed itself in the podium finishes for the Expert Group. Our Vet group held our own and oftentimes won our divisions in races like the 24 Hours of Canaan( see May 15th, 2013 post). The NORBA Nationals, 24 Hour races, Hidden Valley Fat Tire Fallouts and Stampedes, Month of Mud races, WVMBA Series races, all had podium representation by the Greenlee crew in all age divisions. Even our older guys like Tim, Chuck and Mike were always competitive overall as well as winning in the Vet and Master division. Like a blind squirrel who finds an acorn once in a while, I even had some good finishes at the time that showed me that with a little hard work and keeping momentum on rocks and roots, even a schlubb like me can be successful. I was happy to be a Greenlee Mountain Bike Team member.

Besides the victories, the better part of being associated with Greenlee’s Mountain Bikes was the culture created by Chuck and also the team itself. E.J and his wife Sharon would always welcome us back to their home for cookouts after rides and races. Steve’s girlfriend Julie ( now his wife) would always get her parent’s motor home to be the base of support at the races and her immediate family was always welcoming with a great place to rest and have something to eat. The mechanics from the local shops would all set up outside the RV and if there were any issues at the races, it was a communal repair pit for anyone who needed it.

I loved traveling to the events in West Virginia with Chuck and perhaps some of the more harrowing rides in the country were with Chuck trying to catch Sam Dyke and the “Parrot Man” with his super suspended van on the back roads of the Monongahela National Forest. We made it to Davis, Slaty Fork and other locations in record time. Chuck was always a pedal to the metal guy not only in his riding but in his driving. But the best part of hanging with Chuck was that if we needed anything by way of equipment, parts, etc, Chuck was always there at all times to provide and would work on broken bikes well into the night. When you are passionate about something, it becomes part of your life. You are not just someone who rides a bicycle, you are a mountain biker. It becomes part of your persona. It seems like a long time ago, but a lot of the skills and more importantly friendships have lasted to this day and my passion for riding a mountain bike was first fueled by a fun loving crew from the wilds of Butler County.

These days, my old Merlin hangs from a hook in my garage. I had it refurbished a little bit to accomodate the chance that maybe my son Jack would ride it. His current interest is not there but maybe someday, he might like to have a start in the sport that has given his dad so much enjoyment. If that bike could talk, it would certainly tell some great stories. There are many groups and teams like the old Greenlee’s Team and they all have several things in common- passion for a sport, comraderie, laughs, accountability, and great memories that last a lifetime. If you are involved in a group like this, consider yourself fortunate. Your life is enriched. If not, try to join one. One great way locally is to get plugged into Jason Miller’s site called ActivePittsburgh. http://www.activepittsburgh.com Jason has created a one stop shopping for all clubs, events, teams, organizations, in the local area and his site is an excellent resource for all of us who are active and those who would like to be including anyone who has moved into our area. Check it out and thanks for reading.