Category Archives: What I learned last week

What I learned last week

With an incredible run of pleasant, warm and dry weather in Western Pennsylvania, just couldn’t get a recent letter to the editor submitted to and published by the Observer-Reporter out of my head.

In the letter, the author recalls how football used to be football – filled with hard hits, actual defense, suspense and unpredictablility. While the author may have a point (I still enjoy watching the occasional professional or collegiate contest), what cranked my mindshaft was his current preferences to watching sports.

Part of Thursday afternoon was spent walking around Twin Lakes, one of Westmoreland County's treasures.

Part of Thursday afternoon was spent walking around Twin Lakes, one of Westmoreland County’s treasures.

Walks on the beach.

The tide was high while vacationing at Swan Beach, N.C., in late Septmber, but walking along the beach was still worth it.

The tide was high while vacationing at Swan Beach, N.C., in late Septmber, but walking along the beach was still worth it.

Enjoying the fall scenery.

Strolling through town, talking to acquiantances and stopping by a few local shops.

Just couldn’t get out of my mind how spot on this letter was. It hit just the right nerve. And the recent run of whether provided a perfect backdrop to prove the point.

Technically, this wasn’t learned the past week, but there was certainly a reconnection with things like trimming trees, mowing grass, taking the dog for a 3-mile walk instead of a 20-minute outing and smelling the fall air. I didn’t watch a minute of the Pitt football game (thank goodness!) or pay much attention to the end of the major league season. I wasn’t parked on the couch for the Steelers-Bucs game, though I readily admit I pay a bit too much attention to my fantasy football and baseball teams.

When the weather worsens, the plan is to move the activity inside. As a homeowner, there’s always work that needs done.

  • A long-standing goal is to run a marathon and, hopefully, run it well. I’m a bit of a fitness nut, so it’s not a shock to the system to intensify training to accomplish this goal, which I put in writing on Facebook. Well, I recently committed to being part of a relay team for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and plan on running the entire race. I’m stoked for the challenge.
  • Acts of kindness go a long way. Don’t believe me? Just scroll down an entry on this blog to find out how.
  • Ace Frehley is coming to Greensburg! His gig is scheduled for Nov. 15 at the Palace Theater, an excellent venue without a bad seat. I’ll be there.
  • Having a head cold sucks for many reasons but the primary one, right now, is it slowed the search for the perfect pumpkin beer.
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What I learned last week

Every September, the family drives to the Outer Banks. Not the over-populated areas of Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Nags Head, etc., but the off-road beaches north of Corolla. The area is called Swan Beach. Four-wheel drive is needed to traverse the 3.5 miles from the end of pavement to Idle Time, which is owned by the in-laws.

So, every year during high school football season, I work a Friday night shift, which always lasts longer this time of year. From there, it’s a 45-mile drive home, wake up the wife and child and get loaded into a sports-utility vehicle for the 9-hour drive from Western Pennsylvania to our destination. (It should be noted that after crossing the sound into the Outer Banks, we turn left toward Southern Shores and drive and drive and drive. Takes about an hour of retracking.)

It’s a brutal drive, even if I only last until 4 to 4:30 a.m. most years. It’s also a stark reminder that tired driving should be avoided.

I employ every trick in the book I can imagine to continue the trek.  I give myself 15-minute goals. Maybe a 30-minute goal. I’ll slap myself in the face. I sit up in the seat and perch over the steering wheel. It’s a test of endurance as taxing as the runs I put myself through on a near-daily basis.

In 2013, I made it one exit past Winchester, Va., on Interstate 81. This year, I made it all the way to Route 17, near Warrenton, Va. From there, my wife takes over driving duties until we stop for breakfast.

Next year, the family needs to plan better. No more tired driving.

  • The Outer Banks is a wonderful place, particularly during the early portions of the offseason, but the place sucks when it comes to pumpkin beer selection. The annual September trip to Swan Beach has sadly yielded little despite stops at multiple beer sources.
  • Pitt football taught us long ago not to get too involved, to avoid having hope. Yet, those of us who follow the program can’t help ourselves. That hope bubbled over the surface as the Panthers steamrolled to a 3-0 start, which included a thrashing of a Boston College team that beat USC. So, Pitt reminded us in an all-so-Pitt fashion with Saturday’s loss to Iowa. Pitt gained nearly 450 yards, held a 10-point lead and found a way to lose. Let’s remember people, Pitt is Pitt is Pitt.
  • Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount can smoke all the weed they want. It doesn’t change the fact the pair are the Steelers’ most dynamic running back duo in 20 years.
  • Playing a September for the ages, the Pirates (twice considered dead this season after an 18-26 start and a summer swoon where they dropped to two games above .500) have a tenuous hold on the top wild-card spot in the National League. What the Pirates are accomplishing this season ranks as more impressive than the magical 2013 campaign. Consider all the injuries (McCutchen, Cole, Walker), Pedro’s follies, the bullpen’s woes and the need to rely on Josh Harrison and Russell Martin. Amazing stuff. Clint Hurdle should be the NL Manager of the Year.
  • Some Penn State fans just don’t get it. After the NCAA lifted sanctions, which included reinstating bowl-eligibilty and lifting scholarship restrictions, it isn’t enough for some Nittany Lions followers. Oh no, it’s now time to restore all of Joe Paterno’s wins, put the statue back, have the man canonized for Sainthood and make sure everyone realizes Penn State football is better than anything else in the civilized world. So, congratulations to all the Penn State football fans who participated in the “Joe-Out” last Saturday at Beaver Stadium. You’re blatant disregard for what transpired in leading to the NCAA sanctions and Paterno’s firing added further proof to the belief that it’s all about football in Happy Valley.