Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Call the SBCA

I ran to the basement to get a screwdriver and there curled up in the corner lay Old Blue. Kind of half sitting, half leaning in the corner. Sad forlorn eyes gazing up at me. Trying desperately, and successfully, to make me feel guilty for the neglect. I’m sorry Blue, I know I should spend more time with you. You need to get out, run, get some exercise. Hell we need to spend some more time together. It’s good for both of us. I know that. I’ve just got too much else going on. Oh and the weather has been bad. I thought the kids would take you out for a bit. But no, they turned their backs on you too. I know, terrible excuses. All while you are cooped up in the basement. What did you say Blue? Blackie isn’t happy about the “arrangement” nor is Big Red. Come on Blue, you know they are fair weather pals. No. It’s you I worry about. You’re just a pup. Not even a year old. Full of energy. Full of spunk. You need to get out and feel your legs. So sad! I’m sorry Blue. The snow will melt and again we will play in the woods together. Don’t worry Blue, good times are coming again. Don’t worry. I know you are still the best friend a guy can have. I still love you Blue!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Who's with me? Alternative fuel I can BACK!

Maybe not Miller, but a good premise just the same. Blog update coming later discussing the first tasting of the new home brew.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Drowning Friend

As my ski trip is coming to an end, a brief chance to reflect on the highlights has occurred. By far the best thing to come out of this trip is the rekindling of two very important friendships.

You often here of the unbreakable bonds formed by men in war. How war veterans religiously make reunions to share stories and remember fallen comrades. There is something about extremely stressful situations that acts a catalyst to both create enemies and forge phenomenal friendships. My years kayaking were very similar. Of my best friends, the people I could call in the middle of the night, who would answer my plead for help without asking; most are kayaking buddies. Anyone who has kayaked long enough has had an experience where either you or a paddling mate's life was in eminent danger. What happens next, is what forms the unbreakable bonds to which I allude. The efforts I've seen to rescue a fellow paddle are nothing short of extraordinary . Certainly no less heroic than the Marine who carries a wounded buddy through enemy fire to safety.

I had the great privilege to ski with a couple guys who relied on me to protect their life while boating together and more than once my life was in their hands. Even though I haven't kayaked seriously in over a decade, that kind of bond does not erode with time. I am lucky to have this depth or relationship with these guys and so thankful to spend some quality time with them.

Just know that if my phone rings and you need me, I'm there. No questions asked or explanations needed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Well my vacation is going pretty close to as planned. This is the first time I've tagged along with a large group for a ski trip. Some pros and cons. Pro: lots of people to ski with. Con:Very few want to really ski. The trend for the bulk of the group is to hit the slopes at the crack of 10:30. Ski till noon take a long lunch. Then hit the showers at 2:00.

This "strategy" does not really jive with my normal vacation protocol and definately not a ski trip. Usually the game plan is catch the first chair when the resort opens and then bribe the lift operator with the promise of free beers in the bar for one more ride up after the place closes.

The good news for me is I am trying to take this oppurtunity to learn some patience. It's not really working so well. Even though I've recruited a small handful to stretch the daily ski limits to a more Mike acceptable time frame, it feels like hurding cats.

The other good news is that with my new recruits, I am getting a pretty full day. After they wear down and head for the obligatory after ski beverage, I've been able to crank out a couple runs before I find that beer lusting liftie to let me squeeze in one more run. I'm tired, a little sore, and very happy.

Plenty of time to relax when none of my body parts work anymore:)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lemonade Stand

I’m updating this blog from the Lazy-Boy in my living room with a cup of coffee in hand. Although that doesn’t seem odd, I’m supposed to be eating breakfast in the Lodge at Breckenridge this morning getting ready to hit the slopes. But as anyone within 500 miles of the east coast knows, we’ve been dealing with a little weather incident. So my early morning flight on Saturday has turned into an evening flight on Monday.

I’ve been planning this trip since August. At least that’s when I sent in my first payment. I began getting nervous midweek when the news started talking about a storm. But let’s face it we have all been conditioned by the weatherman who cried wolf too many times now. In an impromptu survey, no one I asked could remember the last time the forecasters underestimated the snowfall totals. They say 6-8 which always means 2-4 inches. Why would this time be any different?

Well it was. To make a long story short, 2’ plus of snow closed the airport and put my ski trip on hold. I was pretty bummed to say the least. Now I realize that is pretty self-absorbed to be whining about delaying a ski vacation and I’m sure there aren’t a lot of violins playing for me. There might be people reading this who are sick, have lost their job, have family issues or worse. Hell there is a lot of pain and sorrow out there.

Although it’s nice to vent, I didn’t write this just to bitch. But rather share a sliver of enlightenment that hit somewhere in the middle of my 6th hour shoveling on Saturday. I had already dug out a big chunk of our driveway before a friend came over and plowed us out. (that was nice) and had headed over to our neighbors next door. Dave had made it about 1/5 of the way down his 300’ driveway before his shovel gave up the ghost. I had brought my spare over and together we did the remainder over the next couple hours.

So my first epiphany came as we finished Dave’s drive. Damn, how long would it have taken Dave if my flight went thru. Glad I was here to help. Then Sunday morning I went skiing at our local hill with a group of good friends and had one of the best days ever skiing in Western PA. Came home to my wife and girls who were very excited that I was home for my birthday. Then off to a friends to watch the super bowl with the family. All in all what had started as a self perceived “disaster” turned out to be an almost perfect 24 hours.

I know its cliché to talk about making lemonade out of lemons, but there is really something to it. Every hardship, setback, struggle changes you somehow. Back when my father was getting older and later diagnosed with cancer, he had moved into our home where we could best care for him. What I didn’t realize at the time was not what we were doing for him but the gift he was giving me and my family. The time spent caring for him was repaid 10 fold by the bond grown between him and my wife and children and cemented with me. The strength of these bonds could never have fully matured, had that course not been forced upon us. Sometimes, in the thick of things, it’s hard to focus on how anything as diabolical as cancer can yield some thing so powerful.

Does a delayed ski trip compare with the loss of a loved one or some personal struggle in your life. NO. But maybe this blog can help. Not by turning lemons into lemonade, but rather by setting up a lemonade stand so I can share a little bit with you.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Prairie Dog!

This is a short story from a couple years back. WARNING: Do not read while eating.

Saturday morning started a little early at about 5:30 AM with a rather immediate need to evacuate my system. OK race day poop, out of the way, that might be a good thing. Always good to know that you’ll be a little lighter for the race;) The Tour De Strongland mountain bike race started at 10AM and being my home course, I wanted to have a good showing. Unfortunately, about ½ way through brushing my teeth that morning an audible rumble starts in my mid section and the urgent need returns quickly enough to force me to the throne, toothbrush still in hand. After three more angry contributions and some Pepto; I’m heading out the door around 9 AM to still attempt the race. I’m feeling slightly better and at least the cramps are gone. I don’t really feel sick or anything so I line up with the rest of the boys to start the race. Apparently there are no other bike races in Western PA today and about every fast rider, both road and mountain have lined up at the start of the expert class race.

I’m lined up near the front knowing that a bad lead out to the single track destroys any chance of a decent finish. I feel a little grumble. Ah, just race day nerves, it’ll be OK. The gun goes off and away we go. I’m sitting about 5th wheel on the express train to the single track. We are cruising along fast enough that no one can come around the outside to pass. Perfect. A little surge occurs and I hop out of the saddle to respond. That’s when I make my new friend. Sparky the prairie dog has made an appearance. I sit back down, clench up and Sparky hides away…for a little while. The entire first lap becomes a new game that really doesn’t involve cycling much. Sparky wants to come out and play, I try to contain him. Great fun!

Apparently when prairie dogs are kept inside they get bored. So to pass the time I guess they do what comes natural. BREED! It now appears that Sparky and his family are a rather prolific cross of Irish Catholic and Mormons. No birth control in that group. By about half way thru the second and mercifully the final lap, Sparky, his wife, his 12 kids, aunts, uncles, a couple cousins and some adopted refugee prairie dogs from China all want to come out a play REAL BAD! I’m now putting twice the effort into my sphincters than I am my leg muscles. Luckily I ride a perfectly clean lap (both literal and figurative) for the fear that a crash would undoubtedly release the entire clan. With about a mile to go I am fantasizing about the port-a-potty at the finish. I’ve got my gloves off, by camel back unclipped, and my helmet off as I cross the finish line and am now putting out the hardest effort of the day to outsprint the 70 year old women ambling towards the john. I power slide across her path to block her progress andbeat her sorry ass to the prize. Just enough time to return the Sparky and his kin to the wild….Shew! Close one!

PS: Although I had a rewarding finish in the mountain bike race on Saturday (I didn’t soil myself) my placing was abysmal. The good news is that I conserved enough energy to win teh Tour De Strongland Road race on Sunday.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

All Hail Me!

All Hail Me

I control the weather! That’s right you heard me I hold the power to determine if it rains. If it snows. If the sun shines. If it’s cold, hot, dry, damp whatever…it is all determined by me! Climate change, my arse…it’s me.

Let me explain. A steel bar is attracted to the magnet. A rock falls to earth. Water repels oil. The magnet does not necessarily want the steel rod. Nor does the earth desire the rock. The water does not dislike the oil. Like these forces, I control the weather. Unfortunately it is not subject to my will.

I’m leaving for a ski vacation on Saturday. That is if it doesn’t snow too much for the plane to take off. How ridiculous is that? I am praying for it to NOT snow. I LOVE snow, yet it may disrupt my ski trip to Colorado where they haven’t had a sizable snowfall in quite a while. So the man who loves snow, is trying to leave for a ski trip, in a potential blizzard, to go someplace where it hasn’t snowed. I control the snow.

Mike you say, this is a silly isolated incident. I wish this were so.
• 2005-ski trip to Banff/Lake Louise Ski area in Canada. Lowest snow total in 60 years.
• Crested Butte 2003-ski trip. Bare spots in February, unheard of.
• Glacier National Park 2006-Dryest summer and consequently almost the entire park on fire.

I can go on with floods during bike races, typhoons during triathlons, hail storms on motorcycles, hottest summer on record in Death Valley. By now I hope you realize that it’s true…I do control the weather. Just most of the time it’s the opposite of what I would wish for.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You know you can buy that in a store?

I’ve always teased my hunting buddies that for $10 bucks you can buy a hell of a nice steak in the supermarket. It’s always fun to razz my friends when they are getting ready to head into the woods on the first day of deer season. They already anteed up cold hard cash for licenses, hunting clothes, guns, ammo, hunting videos, scent masks ect. How many dollars did they shell out and how much time did they spend for the opportunity to perhaps see, potentially shoot, maybe kill and hopefully eat something?

As a kid I remember my dad taking me on a fishing trip, on a charter boat in NJ, for sea trout. It was a good day. We caught 5 or 6 each and as a little kid I was on top of the world. As we were cleaning the fish, my dad started running thru a little mental game with me, as he was prone to do. We added up all the costs of the little trip and divided it by the approximate weight of the cleaned fish. I don’t remember the exact figures, but it was high, $40 some bucks per pound.

Why the hell am I rambling on about the price of game? Well there is a reason. For some silly reason I decided that I wanted to brew my own beer. Did you know that I could buy a really tasty pale ale right up the street from me? As a matter of fact, there are a phenomenal number of really good beers out on the market now. Beers that even actually taste like something. So why would I bother to make my own beer. Well I wish I had an impressive answer. I’d love to write about this deep passion I have for exotic hops. Or a burning desire to study fermentation rates. Maybe even a dream to tweak a favorite recipe to bring about a nutty hoppiness or some bullshit like that. But really I just wanted to give it a try. Oh and the 54 bottles waiting to be drunk…$3.54 each!