A Great Story About A Great Guy.

Let me tell you all a great story about a really great guy. We all need stories like that don’t we? Especially in this time and place in our world. My friend Bob Reading is from the Villages in Florida by way of “Bahhhhhstan, Mass”. He and his wife Valerie, who is my wife’s good friend from Penn State, are some of the most active people I know. We get together with the PSU group several times a year and Bobby is always along when he can to join in the festivities. Mike Smith, Bobby and I are the only non-Penn State people and we kind of became friends because of that distinction over the years. Mike shown in the middle here with his wife Judy and my wife Janet. We laugh about it because the PSU fraternity is very strong. So Mike, Bobby and I started riding mountain bikes together up at Rothrock State Forest as a way to bond as the non-PSU guys and also to take advantage of the great terrain up in the mountains around State College, Pa.

Bob is an amazing athlete. A former college quarterback, he can do most things very well. We were all in the batting cages up at PSU one time for a contest that Kathy Ritchey put together for the crowd one homecoming. Bobby stepped in and had a stance just like a major league guy and started to make solid contact with the fast balls coming into him from the batting machine. He is great on the basketball court. Mike and I knew that he was a really strong road cyclist and when he first came to State College, we invited him to mountain bike with us. We took him into the famous/ heinous rock section on the John Wert Path up near Tussey Mountain and amazingly he kept up even though he had never ridden much on the mountain bike and never on the rocks that make up the advanced trails at the Rothrock State Forest. When we got to a fire road climb, Bobby was gone as he was like a rocket up the hill leaving Mike and I in the dust. The only way we could keep him in check was with the rocky sections but even at that, he was right with us and whenever a smooth section or a fire road came up, he was gone. I mean gone!!! Always has a smile on his face and in the middle of this PSU crowd, with former gridiron stars from the Nittany Lions, he was and is still the athlete of the group – bar none. But that is not the story really. Just a little background on a guy who started his own software company and then decided to do something totally different. He went to work for Samaritan’s Purse. http://www.samaritanspurse.org

We all started to get these messages from Valerie that Bobby was leaving for Africa, or the Carribean, or some other remote place where the Samaritan’s Purse reach extended. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian relief organization that provides healthcare, food, shelter, and other amenities to those living in desperate situations around the globe. The conditions in many of these places are deplorable but Samaritan’s Purse continues to provide much needed care with their teams of doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. Bobby provides assistance with logistics and also financial and accounting advice and the places he has seen in the last number of years is impressive to say the least. So, what makes a guy who is successful in business, lives in a beautiful home on a lake in Florida, has a wonderful life with a great wife, and all the summer weather activities he can enjoy, pick up and go to Somalia? A good heart- that is what. There are not many people in this world who walk the walk like Bobby. He even has Valerie involved now, but Bobby is gone for long stretches at a time. I am sure he misses home but to hear Valerie, Bobby has finally found his passion in life.
I often think what I would be doing if I really wanted to make a difference in life. Don’t you also think that? Especially now when we are all sequestered. I think often, what can I do to better the world? How can I contribute? It takes a special person to do what Bobby does.

The latest is that Bobby is now in New York City with Samaritan’s Purse Franklin Graham held Easter services there today and Bobby was working behind the scenes as he always does, making sure the finances work and the costs and payments are accounted for. He is the unsung hero for the organization and that is exactly how this humble guy wants it. Don’t you just wish you could have the courage to drop everything and follow your heart? I know that Janet and I think about it often. But some people actually make the move and do it. Bobby is that guy. Humble, giving, and when he returns, I am hoping to get thrashed on the bike by him again. He does it with a smile and we all say,” How does he do it?” Thanks for reading and pray for Bobby, Valerie and Samaritan’s Purse. They do such great work at great risk.

LOST!

Now I know in this day and age with GPS and technology that allows one to navigate from the seat of a mountain bike on any trail in the world, a map might seem archaic at best. Not for me. Being a little bit of a curmudgeon, I still depend on maps in my pack to get a good read on where to ride. Case in point are the Purple Lizard Maps which are available at http://www.purplelizard.com These maps are water proof, tear proof, peanut butter proof, beer proof, and generally a good way to get around. I just ordered my current version after using one for the last 20 years up in Rothrock State Forest near State College, Pa. These maps are great …….if you know how to use them. Like, read the trails and fire roads correctly instead of taking the wrong one and ending up 25 miles from my starting point at Tussey Mountain.

I got hopelessly lost after mis reading the map. It was getting dark, I was already an hour late to meet my wife and her room mate from college. I was out of water, my cell phone did not work, and my Cliff Bar situation was getting bleak with a fuzzball caked piece left. I pretty much figured I might be spending the night because I didn’t have a light either. There is a sign on the chairlift stanchions at Whiteface, New York, and Killington, Vermont that says,” Don’t ski alone. These mountains are as desolate and remote as they were 200 years ago.” So is the backside of Tussey and I thought of those signs as I was starting to get concerned about my lack of navigational skills. Fortunately, I met up with a couple camping near Greenwood Furnace who offered to take me and my bike back in their pickup truck to Tussey. They were the only people I had seen for hours. Had they not been there, I would definitely have spent the night up against some tree. Not that I could not do that, but my wife would have been out of her mind with concern. As it turned out, by the time I came back to the Ritchey house where my wife and her room mate Kathy were waiting, I heard an ear full and knew that I needed to study the maps a little more closely. After all these years riding there, I am pretty familiar with the area now and the map is more of an insurance policy than anything. But I am glad I got the current version to use on my upcoming trip there to do the Coopers Gap Epic with a bunch of great mountain biking friends.

I will tell you that I do a lot of adventurous things, but getting lost is a bit unnerving especially when you are running out of food, water, and light. Take the time I was mountain biking up in Ellicottville, New York riding away from the Race Loop Trail at Holiday Valley and into the Allegheny National Forest. I had a map of the area, although a bit outdated again, and I zigged when I should have zagged and voila, I ended up lost again- no water, sparse energy bar supply, and no lights. However I had cell service and called my friends at Mud, Sweat and Gears Bike and Ski Shop, who asked me about my location. I described the clearing with a potential of 3 different trail options that were not real clear on the outdated map. They knew and directed me to the right trail and as I made my way to town for something to eat, I bought a new map from the shop right before they closed for the night. They laughed at my old map and said, no wonder I was lost. Most of the trails are not featured on the old map.

My wife does not like me to ride by myself but if I am careful and have the right amount of food,water and the current version of the trail maps, I am pretty self sufficient these days. Most of the areas I ride are popular and you see a lot of people. But some are more remote like the Laguna Wilderness Trail System that I rode a lot back in the day. I had a good map for those rides but the signs warning about mountain lions was a bit concerning. Never saw one. Only the big blue Pacific Ocean. But without the map, you can get DFL on those trails very easily. And they get fairly remote quickly with the threat of the big cats and rattlesnakes.

Bottom line, good idea to always ride with a partner or on trails that are familiar and have bail out points. Secondly, a good map or better yet, a GPS that you can count on. I have to get one and get into the 21st century. But in the mean time, my maps are up to date and hopefully I will read them correctly and not cause my wife heartburn. Ride safely my friends and thanks for reading.

Road Trip!!!!!

You know the familiar call to battle? ROAD TRIP!!!!! I always love to take road trips because of the excitement that is causes. The planning is almost as much fun as the trip. ” What are you bringing?” “When do we meet?” “Where are we staying?” “Who all is coming?” The emails and phone calls start flying and the excitement crescendos when the vehicles are all lined up and rolling. Sometimes you join in the caravan of fun from another location – bike racks loaded, your favorite music blaring. Road Trip!!!!!
I like road trips also because I can spread out my gear. I don’t have to have it all consolidated on a plane and can take my time enjoying the ride with my top popped, sun glasses on, and my favorite music making me tap my toes and bang on the steering wheel. This past weekend was no exception as my mountain bike group converged on State College, Pa. to take on the heralded Coopers Gap and Tussey Mountain Trails in the rocky mountains of Central Pennsylvania.

23 really good riders began the weekend rolling out of Pittsburgh at the direction of Jeff Chetlin and Josh Royston, our spirited and heckling leaders. As people came screaming into the parking lot at Tussey Mountain Ski Area, the conversation became lively and the comical sidebars of discussion ensued. Chetlin needled everyone and as the merry band of riders assembled, and rode up the first climb, the cameras came out. My friend Mike Smith, from Philly, was amazed at the quality of riders in this eclectic group including some fast couples- Jeff and Julie, Darren and MJ Allworth, Tim and Barb Girone, Dan and Mary Moore, and Dave Gault with his new gal Stephanie McCague Hughes who was our MVP. She was riding a demo bike and is a new rider. The rocks on the trails punished her but her determination to ride as much as she could impressed the veteran group.
I told the guys who I was riding with that these women ate nails for breakfast. Their skill and speed over the heinous rocky sections of the trails was a sight to behold.  

 

We had two docs on the trip who can really ride the rocks with speed. Mike Smith and Syed Hyder. Along with the Chetlins and Steve Guertner who are fast riding dentists, we were set with any medical issues or if someone smashed their choppers on the boulders. The balance of the group was made up of highly skilled veteran riders- Denny Lovell, Mike Connors, JB Loughery( who gave me great visuals on how to get over some really rocky sections), John Casuccio, Matt Graver, Craig Matthews, our local guide and trailmaster from State College, and the Pittsburgh Ride Kings themselves- Bob Bannon and Garage Door Bob Kowalski.

The rocks and roots really punish you but this group handled them with style.

Jeff Chetlin seen here on his new IBIS dual suspension carbon rig,along with his wife Julie, seemed to relish the punishment. As with most road trips, the evenings are spent with some beers and good food and a raucous recounting of the day on the trail. ” Did you see that endo?” ” I thought I was going to barf on that rooty, steep climb.” ” How about Mary riding that section?” Riding bikes through the lobby of the hotel had the guests and the employees all laughing at our crazy band of mountain bikers. Popping out of the elevators on bikes surprised some but made all laugh. One thing about mountain bikers is that they all like to have fun. No egos, no unfriendly passing on the trails, just smiles and laughs all the way.

Brice Minnigh from Bike Magazine has an interesting article in this month’s issue where he states that his riding group are the “trees that make up my forest.” A little corny but when you stop and think about the camaraderie of the people who make up a road trip, they are indeed a close clan that share a common goal. They are your forest of close friends. We are once again planning a fall trip to Rothrock State Forest and Cooper’s Gap when the leaves are ablaze and the weather cools to a comfortable temperature. I can hear the call to arms now in my mind. Road Trip!!! Take a look at the following video to see the difficulty of the trails but the skill level of this very talented band of riders. I was honored to be able to ride with them. Thanks for reading.

 

Videos by Jeff Chetlin.  Photos by Tim Girone and Jeff Chetlin.