Self deprecation has always been one of my strong suits. An Irish trait really. I have attempted some new ventures with humorous results and like Dirty Harry Callaghan says,” A man has to know his limitations”. Now I am pretty comfortable on a pair of skis and can ride a mountain bike fairly efficiently, but have not had success in some other ventures over the years….. like golf. A golf club in my hand never had a natural feel-kind of like a telephone pole, and when I would manage to par 3 or 4 holes and then launch a tee shot into an adjacent house near the golf course, I knew that my feel for the game was lacking. I was a good caddie back in the day. I understood the game and even caddied for Ben Crenshaw at the Open Qualifier at Shannopin Country Club in Pittsburgh when he was a student at the University of Texas. But when it came time for me to actually play the game, I really had no feel and was too nervous and jerky for golf. Fast forward and I found myself in recent years playing in scrambles tournaments to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities. Scrambles were fun in that you could just bang one off the tee and if it was not good, all you had to do was put your ball where the best tee shot was in your foursome and go from there. No pressure at all. But when I had to play my own ball at a place like Laurel Valley in Ligonier, I was exhausted and shattered after 15 holes due to many swings, lost balls, and generally a course that was way above my ability level. I have since given up the game and politely refused any further invitations. I always felt intimidated by that little ball staring at me on the tee and the possible errant trajectories that it could take after one of my swings. I am fairly athletic- but golf? No feel at all.

Then there was the time that I thought it would be cool to try kayaking. I took an adult continuing education class at the University of Pittsburgh with a lot of instruction rolling the kayak in a swimming pool. Another example of not having a feel for the sport. I always felt like I was going to roll the thing over anyway and was never seated comfortably in a kayak. Then came our final exam up at the Youghiogheny River. I had a rain suit on which was useless seeing how many times I tipped the kayak and to add insult to injury it was snow showering during the event. I eventually dragged my sogging body down river and unloaded the kayak never to attempt the sport again. I missed being a river rat at Ohiopyle because I thought I would have a home there with all the other pine cone eaters but it was not to be. I did take my wife and the in-laws white water rafting one time at Ohiopyle, but the result was basically the same with me flipping out of the raft at Dimple Rock and laying on my back in the Swimmers Rapids and floating behind much to the consternation of my wife and mother in law. They did’t realize I was out of the rear steering position until I passed them floating on my back. See you in a mile dear!!!

I was a “B” tennis player in my day with a self taught ” whirly bird” service motion that people found quite humorous. In one tournament, the opponent started laughing because he thought I was kidding. I said, ” No man, that is my real serve.” He laughed again and killed me in the tournament. I eventually gave up tennis for running and did that for quite a few years until I took up cycling which I still do today.

So, after several failed attempts at other things for variety, skiing and cycling have been my mainstay activities for years and at this point, I am not interested in trying anything else. I am often asked if I ever tried snowboarding or telemark skiing. I really have no interest seeing that I really like to alpine ski. Been doing it for 57 years so why deviate? Also, mountain biking has basically taken over my cycling world because I am a bit concerned about violent drivers and drivers who do not pay attention while texting. Road cycling is starting to get a bit sketchy for me. Riding in the woods is pleasant and no irate drivers throwing chipped ham sandwiches at me and yelling at me to get off the road. True story. Had mayonnaise on it too.

One last activity that has come and gone for me is fishing. I used to go with my grandfather a lot and had some outings with my family where we caught a fair amount of baby sharks. But for the most part, I am unlucky in the angling department and it came to a head years ago with unsuccessful attempts landing a fish at the ocean, I took to desperate measures. I went to Piggly Wiggly and bought a whole Red Snapper and put it on a hook and threw it into the ocean trying to please my son when he came down to the beach to see if I finally caught something. When I hauled it in, it was full of seaweed and my son said,” Dad- it looks dead.” I looked at my friend who came down too and I whispered,” Piggly Wiggly” He fell down laughing and that basically ended my fishing career.

So I figure- just stick with what you know and at this point I am satisfied with my activities that will take me into old age. Ski to live and ride to ride another day. Thanks for reading.

The Famous Bope Ham

IMG_1633 Sometimes people like me can be self serving. I wonder when I am going to get my next ride in, can I schedule a trail run, how many ski days do I have so far? It seems like life sometimes is a series of athletic events blended in with work, family, and obligations. Enter the Famous Bope Ham.

You are probably wondering,” What on earth is the Famous Bope Ham?” Well simply put, it is absolutely the most tasty baked ham you will ever enjoy if you are fortunate enough to have a slice someday. It is the creation of my mother-in-law and the recipe has been passed down to my wife Janet who prepares it flawlessly. The picture above is Janet and our good friend Mike Dunlay with the ham. Janet brought it over to feed Mike and his family during the time when they were celebrating the life of their father who had passed away. The ham is comforting. When people see it for the first time at a funeral or if someone is ill, a smile lights up their face when they cut into the baked outer crust and dip a piece into the sweet sticky juice at the bottom of the pan. Suddenly, all the sadness, discomfort of an illness, or other maladies disappear at least for the moment as one savors a bite of this tasty comforting food. The ham appears courtesy of my loving and thoughtful wife who bakes the semi-boneless delectible meat all day or all night in the oven at low heat. The ham is scored and cloves are placed at the intersections of the scores,and finally according to the recipe, brown sugar and orange marmalade are placed on top of the cooked ham to melt and blend with the ham juice to form a most wonderful sweet, gravy. When the ham appears at an event, things come to a screeching halt as the host graciously acknowledges the gesture of my wife Janet and like a magnet, the guests in the home march like Zombies towards the treat. It is mesmerizng to be sure and when the first people slice the ham, dip the slices into the sweet gravy and eat, their eyes close with unbelief. They are hooked under the power of the Famous Bope Ham.

Holidays at my mother and father in law’s house always include the ham and when I am particularly famished after a great day on skis, a great run or ride, I am always delighted when my plate is filled with slices of this most delicious and filling meal. But here I go again with the self serving. It is not about me and my hunger, it is all about the ham. The Famous Bope Ham is more than a tasty treat delivered to a grateful home. It represents love, caring, understanding, giving spirit, all wrapped up in a sticky, sweet, tender goodness that binds families and friends together.

Perhaps no illustration could be better than when we take the ham to serve the families at the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh. We bake the ham all day and get all the side dishes, drinks and desserts together and make our way to the House and get the meal to the penthouse where the families reside. If you ever feel like you want to serve people, look no further than the families who reside at RMHC. Oftentimes, they are there for weeks, months, and longer waiting for a liver transplant for their child. Perhaps their child has a debilitating illness that the good doctors at UPMC-Children’s Hospital treat over time. Oftentimes, these scenarios are life threatening and the families are not sure of the outcome. They only know that their children are in the best of care at Children’s Hospital and have a wonderful place to stay courtesy of the volunteers and staff at the Ronald McDonald Houses. There is no greater feeling than seeing a young person who is battling illness, walk into the dining room and partake of the ham. When they eat that first bite, the smile on their faces and their bright eyes looking at us brings out the bladder behind my eyeballs for sure. It is a most hearwarming moment and if only for a short while, we feel like we have made their life a little easier and their families are most grateful for the appearance of …….the Famous Bope Ham. It is more than a meal. It represents all that is good with not being self serving if only for a short while. Janet and I love those families and pray for them every day. And the ham……….once again,appears out of the oven to serve and delight the most grateful recipients. My mother always said that happiness is like a perfume that you can’t sprinkle on others without getting a little on yourself. When Janet serves the ham, and people enjoy, that perfume of happiness definitely is in the air. Thanks for reading and please support RMHC Charities.