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Friday, June 12, 2020

STEWARDS OF THE TRAIL, Part One -- LEAVE NO TRACE



It never ceases to amaze me how our busy and hectic world seems to vanish from view when seen from the top of a mountain.  I know that there are cars and roads and houses down there...but Mother Nature always seems to engulf everything in her immense and raw beauty.  That beauty is what draws me, and so many  others, to our county and State parks and forests.  Just here, in Pennsylvania, our state parks and forests play host to about 40 million visitors each and every year.  All of these visitors naturally have some sort of impact on our state parks and forests.  Even if all of the rules and guidelines are strictly followed by every user, it is inevitable that there will be soil compression and litter from all of the foot traffic.


Looking out over the valley in Michaux State Forest from a vista on Blueberry Trail.  Photo by Alex Raymond -- April 10, 2020


This year, to escape stay at home orders, many more people have ventured into the parks and forests as a way to socially distance themselves and enjoy some form of recreation.  Seeing the vast number of  families spending time together in the outdoors makes my mind go back to my childhood and the family trips that my mother and father would take my brother and I on to Shawnee State Park and Ohiopyle State Park.  The extra visitors to the parks is an encouraging thing...and in my opinion, a GOOD thing.  It is, after all, human nature for people to want to be out in nature enjoying the best that our parks have to offer.  The recent influx of users on the trails in in the parks has, unfortunately has had a noticeable negative effect.  Park budgets, which are already being stretched to the limit, are now being used to clean up littler along trails, wash away graffiti, and repairing things like picnic tables, pavilions, and signs.  


PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND LEAVE NO TRACE -- DCNR


This sign was/is posted at the Big Flat trail head prior to getting on the Appalachian Trail.  Picture taken in Michaux State Forest. -- April 10, 2020


My normal parking lot near the old iron furnace was packed with visitors to Pine Grove Furnace State Park...so I found an alternative parking spot a few miles away right next to the trail head.  -- May 2, 2020


It takes a lot to really make me angry...but come on!  The effort required to dump this entire bag of trash this far in the forest had to have been significantly harder than finding a trash can.  Picture taken in Michaux State Forest.  -- May 25, 2020


I could have taken dozens of pictures like this one at Gifford Pinchot State Park.  Just like anything else, animal waste should be disposed of properly...not "hidden" along side of a walking trail near the lake.  -- June 4, 2020


There is absolutely no need for this.  Pole Steeple in Michaux State Forest. -- August 1, 2018


I"m sure the person who did this had good intentions and thought that they were helping other mountain bikers...but these yellow lines painted on the rocks at Rocky Ridge County Park are nothing more than an eye sore and graffiti.   -- May 14, 2020


I may agree with the message...but the vandalism costs money to repair.  Picture taken in Michaux State Forest. -- June 9, 2020

The world right now is a tough enough place without causing needless destruction to our natural resources or work for the people who have dedicated themselves to making sure that the integrity of our parks and forests is maintained, not just for us, but for future generations.  Personally, I'd like to thank those people and groups that take it upon themselves to make sure that the great outdoors remain great.  A good basic rule for all of us to follow is to make sure that we leave the trails, the pavilions, the campsites, the beaches, and the parks and forests in general, in better condition in which you found it.  Leave no trace so that others can enjoy it, too.  


Only a complete s**t head would go through the effort to haul an old port-a-pot three miles into forest to dump it instead of disposing of it properly.  Picture taken at Lake Williams County Park. --  July 1, 2019

Life is a journey...not a destination.




David A. Raymond -- May 12, 2020
If you want to know more about how you can help protect our state parks and forests go to http://protectourparksandforests.org.  


My wife, son, and I took a hike to the vista on top of Blueberry Trail in Michaux State forest.  It was the perfect place to enjoy lunch and take in the view.  Just remember...what you pack in you also have to pack out!  -- May 23, 2020


Feel free to FOLLOW me on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM
@mountnbiker73


Here are the links to the GARMIN maps and data from the rides and hikes featured in this post.  #OptOutside2020









All of my posts are available at ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM and, if you get the chance, be sure to visit the good folks at 
 and 


"WRITE SOMETHING WORTH READING OR DO SOMETHING WORTH WRITING..." Ben Franklin


Friday, May 29, 2020

COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK

The idea began after one of those Scholastic Book Fairs that we all remember from our childhood.  Elementary and Middle School libraries, all across the nation, were converted into mini-store promoting reading and selling books and other knickknacks to school aged children.  (As a side note...as times have changed these Scholastic Book fairs have gone the way of the Dodo bird.)  Sometime during my first few years of teaching I escorted a group of kiddos down to the mobile trailer that was temporarily serving as our school's library while the building was under construction and I spied a book of recipes.  What caught my eye was a children's book that outlined basic items that Lewis and Clark (and the Corps of Discovery) packed and ate while on their epic journey.  The seed for what would become one of my favorite parts of my school year was planted that day at the Scholastic Book Fair.

Three very nerdy middle school teachers...Eric Gimbi, Dave Raymond, and Mike Graham -- May 11, 2020

At first, COOKING WITH LEWIS & CLARK was nothing more than a small section of the bulletin board on the back wall of my classroom.  Each week I would hang up a new set of recipes and ingredients used by Lewis & Clark.  I got them mostly from the internet...but eventually got nerdy enough to take them from the journals kept by the explorers while on the expedition.  Stapled to the display was a manila folder containing fliers with the recipes for those students brave enough to take them home and try them. As time went on...COOKING WITH LEWIS & CLARK evolved into a lame Power Point presentation that I would deliver to my students.  I mean...I really tried to sell it.  I donned my Licence to Grill apron, wrapped hair net around my bald head, wielded a spatula, and made references to bad 80s music...all while prancing around my classroom presenting the ingredients and recipes.  Proof that you have to be a special kind of crazy to teach in a middle school.

Mr. Raymond presenting COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK. -- May 2014

In the back of my head, I had always wanted to turn COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK into something more.  The first time I tried to make a video out of it I really didn't put much thought into the process.  I had decided to try a recipe that just basically was a mixture of hominy and bacon.  Not only did I not put too much thought into it...there wasn't much effort either.  I just saved a couple slices of bacon from the morning breakfast and asked my neighbor, Mike, to record me on my cell phone as I mixed the bacon with a can of corn in a little skillet on my gas grill.  It didn't even resemble what the actual recipe called for...but when I showed it to the kids they were kinda into it.  So...I kept going.


After that first episode, I moved from the gas grill to my back yard fire pit to make the whole thing seem a little more authentic.  I even began purchasing the actual ingredients instead of cheating like I did in that first episode.  (I would never again think of using a can of sweet corn instead of actual hominy.)  Some things were easy to find at the local grocery stores...but for other things, like sunchokes...I had to to hit up local farmer's markets.  Each episode featured a different recipe (at first I stuck with only the things that I knew I would want to eat) a crackling fire, bad jokes, and a nerdy history t-shirt.  That first year, with the exception of the help that I enlisted to do the video recording, was a solo adventure.  But just as Batman needed Robin and peanut butter needed jelly...Lewis needed Clark.  Things are better in pairs...so the second year took things to an even higher level when I invited my colleague and one of my best friends, Mike Graham, to assist me.  Things were taken to the next level almost immediately!

I was solo my first year of making COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK -- April 29, 2017

Mike Graham, with his quick wit and timing, has the ability to make me laugh like no one else.  
We've known each other for over a decade, but in the Fall of 2017 he was placed on my team as our Science teacher.  It is uncanny how well the two of us work together.  He jumped at the opportunity to help  me with COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK.  Mike brings to the table, not just his amazing sense of humor, but his boundless knowledge of science.  What had started as a bulletin board had now morphed into a cool mash-up of science and history...laced with our own brand of really bad humor and even a little merchandise!  The first year that we filmed together I kept things really simple and recreated the same recipes that I had made the year prior...but by year two together we really tested the limits of our pallets with things like golden squash and fennel.  We even began channeling our inner MCU and started adding post-credit scenes and an outtake reel.  

Mike Graham and Dave Raymond.  Together we make up 1/3 of the NMS Green Team.  Mike is the Science Teacher and I teach American History. -- September 2017 


Dave Raymond and Mike Graham.  A super cool mash-up of history and science!  -- May 2019


Mike Graham and Dave Raymond showing off their new COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK merchandise. -- May 31, 2019


Mike Graham and I filming COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK with a special guest appearance by my principal Mike Alessandroni and my student teacher, Eric Gimbi. -- May 1, 2018
 

Of course, Mike and I could never have made COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK by ourselves.  Along on the journey is a huge list of neighbors, friends, relatives, and even students (who happen to live in my neighborhood) have helped film our antics.  Mike and I have enlisted the help of my wife, both of my neighbors, Jon Senko and Mike Alicea, my daughter, Blythe, and my son's girlfriend, Emma. We've even had a few guest appearances by our principal, Mike Alessandroni (who always makes a point that he has no responsibility in the episode and serves only as "eye candy.")  When he is home from school, my son, Alex (who is a videography major) uses his incredible talents to make us look more professional than we deserve.  We also added another colleague to the line-up.  And again...just as Lewis and Clark added (and needed) Sacagawea to the Corps of Discovery...Mike and I decided that we just couldn't do the Season Four episodes without my former student-teacher, now colleague, friend, and brother...Eric Gimbi.  


Eric Gimbi, Dave Raymond, and Mike Graham -- April 30, 2020


Alex Raymond directing and videoing Mike Graham for the intro to COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK. -- May 11, 2020


Over the years we've eaten some horrible concoctions...and some surprisingly good recipes.  Here is what the guys had to say about their favorite (and least favorite) foods that we have prepared.

MIKE GRAHAM

Mike Graham hiking in Michaux State Forest.  He truly is outstanding in his field! -- March 16, 2020

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
I really like just hanging out with my friends and enjoying a laugh or two.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE FILMED?
Smoked Salmon Soup.  I liked interacting with the camera man near the end.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Everyday Hominy & Bacon.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
The Simple Meat Soup.  I know it was a favorite of the crew BUT I found the meat to be tough.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
I was surprised that the frontier coffee turned out so well.  I was nervous that it would fail.


HAVE YOU MADE ANY OF THE RECIPES LATER FOR AN ACTUAL MEAL?
I made hominy and bacon while camping in Lake Placid, NY.  We had to first find a store that sold hominy.  Then it started to rain so the cooking had to be done in my tiny popup camper.  The camper smelled like bacon for days!




ERIC GIMBI

Eric Gimbi enjoying the view in Michaux State Forest. -- March 26, 2020

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
Combining history with my love of eating...and getting to see my brothers.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE FILMED?
Everyday Hominy and Bacon sticks out to me.  I never had hominy before and it was one of my first episodes.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
The recently made catfish.  I don't like a lot of fish and ever time I had catfish before it was not good.  I was shocked how good it was.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
I'm not a big fan of hazelnuts.  I thought it overpowered the rest of the dish.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
The simple meat soup was shockingly good for who easy of a recipe it was.


HAVE YOU MADE ANY OF THE RECIPES LATER FOR AN ACTUAL MEAL?
Besides the hardtack, I  have not made any at home.



ALEX RAYMOND

Alex Raymond (cameraman extraordinaire) in Michaux State Forest. -- March 19, 2020


WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
The surprisingly good food that comes out of it.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE FILMED?
Hominy Fritters...I guess.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
I'm between Simple Meat Soup and Hominy Fritters.  Simple meat soup is so simple (just beef and potatoes) yet the flavor is so good.  Hominy Fritters tasted just like a funnel cake in my opinion...so mega plus there.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
I don't think I tried any of the terrible ones...so I can't really answer this.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
Hominy Fritters were surprisingly good.




MICHAEL ALESSANDRONI

Mike Alessandroni in Devil's Den at the Gettysburg National Military Park -- May 19, 2017



WHAT DO YOU LIKE THE MOST ABOUT COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK?
The comic relief coupled with valuable historic facts and information.


WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE EPISODE THAT WE HAVE EVER FILMED?
Hominy and Bacon.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?
Catfish was the best.


WHICH FOOD DID YOU LIKE THE LEAST?
Hardtack.  Yuck.


WAS THERE A FOOD THAT SURPRISED YOU...GOOD OR BAD?
The bacon coated catfish was GOOD!

This episode proved to be a favorite of all of the guys!



As for me...I guess the reason that I enjoy making COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK so much is because it combines camaraderie, adventure, and food.  Alex and I have been camping and hiking together ever since he was a little boy.  Mike Graham and I enjoy hiking together.  He even got me out of my comfort zone and has taken me kayaking.  Recently, Eric has joined us on a few adventures.  Our trips resemble in no way, shape, or form the hardships that were endured by the members of the Corps of Discovery...but they are epic in their own way.  I've eaten my share of pretty disgusting things (golden squash and Salmon Soup come to mind) but some of the recipes that we discovered in the process of making COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK have become regular dinners on camping trips.  Simple meat soup, hominy and bacon, and frontier coffee have become campfire favorites on our trips.  Personally, the episode that I enjoyed making the most was Hoe Cakes.   I think it perfectly shows the chemistry that Mike and I have with each other.   Here are a few pics of our adventures together outside the classroom walls and two of my favorite episodes from COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK.


Dave Raymond and Mike Graham in Ohiopyle State Park -- June 20, 2018


Mike Graham and Dave Raymond on the Appalachian Trail  -- August 14, 2019


Mike Graham perfectly in his comfort zone...and me nowhere near mine!  -- October 24, 2019


Mike Graham and Dave Raymond on Blueberry Trail in Michaux State Forest. -- March 16, 2020


Alex is ever so confident while Mike Graham and I check the map.  -- March 14, 2020



A socially distant Mike Graham and Dave Raymond in Michaux State Forest -- March 26, 2020



Eric Gimbi, Mike Graham, and Dave Raymond -- March 26, 2020


Eric Gimbi, Dave Raymond, & Mike Graham stopping for lunch while exploring Camp Michaux -- March 26, 2020


All eyes forward while exploring the remains of the latrine at Camp Michaux. -- March 26, 2020


Dave Raymond, Alex Raymond, Mike Graham, and Eric Gimbi exploring Michaux State Forest. -- March 26, 2020






Just as everything else on the planet was cut short due to the pandemic that we are all living through right now...so was the end of our school year at NMS.  I, with every other teacher across the country, quickly became acquainted with "distance learning."  The directive our administration gave us was to engage  our students as much as possible.  Thankfully, we had already started putting together a few episodes of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK prior to Pennsylvania's stay at home orders issued by Governor Wolf.  The ironic thing is that this abbreviated season is our best so far.  My son's Junior year of college was cut short, too and he was home to help us film the episodes...in a down right professional way, I might add.  In a world that seems so different right now...at least Mike, Eric, and I (with the help of my son) were able to produce some super cool...and super engaging...lessons for our students.  It seems that everyone has had to rethink normal during a quarantine...and we are no exception.  We decided to each film an in-home, quarantine episode and make HARDTACK.  We gave the footage to my son and he pieced it together brilliantly.  By thinking outside of the box...what we ended up with is, in our opinion, our best work yet.  So sit back and enjoy our favorite episode of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK.  Bon Appetit!

Hardtack made in the kitchen during quarantine. -- May 11, 2020


Life is a journey...not a destination.




David A. Raymond -- May 29, 2020



The guys of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK...Dave Raymond, Mike Graham, Alex Raymond, and Eric Gimbi (along with another colleague, Russ Blake) hiking at the Gettysburg National Military Park while filming an epic (virtual) field trip for our students. -- May 12, 2020

Our shortened school year meant the cancellation of so many events that the kids look forward to...so the guys of COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK made a trip to Gettysburg National Military Park to film an EPIC (VIRTUAL) 8th GRADE FIELD TRIP.  We even incorporated a little COOKING WITH LEWIS AND CLARK into our trip.  So...if you've never been to Gettysburg...or if you would like to relive your middle school years...come along with us on this epic journey!





Feel free to FOLLOW me on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM
@mountnbiker73

Here are the GARMIN maps and data from the adventures featured in this post.  #OptOutside2020











All of my posts are available at ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM and, if you get the chance, be sure to visit the good folks at 
and

"WRITE SOMETHING WORTH READING OR DO SOMETHING WORTH WRITING..." Ben Franklin


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS, Part 2: BABA'S HILL

Babicka means grandmother in Slovak...which is why (I assume) my brother and I referred to our Grandma Raymond as Baba.  Just five short miles from the Morosky household in Richeyville, PA, my grandmother, Mary Raymond, lived in a small house on Lowhill Road near the Monongahela River.  Just as the water tank overlooking Richeyville heralded  that our arrival at our Grandma and Grandpap Morosky's house was imminent...descending down Baba's Hill was indication that we were close to Grandma Raymond's.  Baba's Hill (officially known as Gillis Road) is a sketchy stretch of Pennsylvania, tar and chip, back country road that, as I remember it, is BARELY able to accommodate any sort of passing traffic. Wooden posts, linked together with rusty steel cables, were the only barrier between the road and steep, wooded, ravine that was just a few short feet away.  Baba's Road ended at an obnoxiously steep angle when it intersected with Lowhill Road....indication that grandmother's house was just around the corner.

Mary Raymond's house on Lowhill Road. -- 1978

For as long as I knew my Grandmother, Mary Raymond, she lived alone.  My grandfather, unfortunately, passed away long before I was born.  I've never known a woman as tough as Mary Raymond.  Tough mentally, spiritually, and physically.  By the time I had become part of the story she had lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the death of her husband, and had raised four boys (my father being the youngest).  She was an active member in her church and rarely, if ever, missed Sunday Mass.  On her own she would mow her massive yard, paint the railings on her porch, and almost daily carry water up from the spring that cut through the yard.  Yet, she was always the optimist...seeing good and beauty in everything.  She would religiously root for her Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers...always hoping that they would "bring home a winner" but still loving them when they lost.  Mary Raymond never tried to rid her yard of dandelions...instead she would comment on how colorful they made the yard look.  Daily, Grandma would work on her crossword puzzles while she drank her morning coffee which, she would say, always "hit the spot."

My Grandmother, Mary Raymond -- Christmas Day 1986

Freshly baked bread was my absolutely favorite smell that came out of Baba's kitchen.  There was always a loaf waiting for us when we arrived.  I can picture the homemade bread sitting next to the knife and the crumbs on the cutting board on the kitchen table.  Grandma's homemade bread had a dark, tough crust...but man, the inside of it was so fresh and soft.  I loved it.  For breakfast, Baba would essentially fry eggs by floating them on top of a layer of sizzling butter.  Not the healthiest way to make eggs...but one of the tastiest!   There were also a few meals that I considered a little questionable...huge pots of sauerkraut soup and one of my father's favorites....something he loved, but even my mother turned her nose up at...fried mush.  I'm still not quite sure what that was.


Grandma Raymond allowing a one-year-old me to help clean up Christmas Dinner.  -- Christmas Day 1974

Mary Raymond cooking at her stove. -- November 24, 1984

Mary Raymond putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner.  -- Christmas Day 1999

Grandma Raymond did so much with so little and was brilliant at making sure that she took care of the things that she had.  In the corner of the living stood a multi-colored lamp post which now has a home with my brother (I'm so jealous of it).  Baba had the most amazing silver artificial Christmas tree.  I'm sure that it was purchased in the 60s or 70s...and was horribly out of fashion when I was growing up...but that tree was vintage.  To my wife's horror...I really want one just like it.   At Christmas time she also displayed mechanical toys (a tin Rudolph and a camel) that were surely manufactured in the 1930s or 1940s.  They were so delicate that we were only allowed to with supervision.  Parked in Grandma Raymond's driveway was a brown AMC Gremlin.  That was the only car I remember her having up until she upgraded to a blue Ford Escort sometime in the 1990s.


Not only is this a good picture of my grandmother...but displayed on the wall clock were her vintage Christmas toys.  Off to the right you can see her multi-colored lamp.  -- Christmas Day 1987

Love, love, love the silver Christmas tree with the revolving multi-color light that would shine on it. -- 1979

My grandmother's AMC Gremlin. -- 1981

For my brother and I, especially in the summer months, Baba's house was a place of outdoor adventure.  Not everyone has a spring flowing through their yard...but Baba did.  The water flowed from the hillside, through a filtering system, and then into a stream that dissected the yard...eventually flowing underneath the main road and...I can only assume...down the hill and into the Monongahela River.  The water from the spring was a source of drinking and cooking water for my grandmother.  Jake and I would spend hours playing in the spring catching crayfish and building small dams.  On rare occasions, my mother would allow us to crawl through the corrugated pipe under the main road in which the water flowed to exit my grandmother's property...which seemed to me, at the time,  such an incredibly fun adventure.

Grandma Raymond walking back to the house from the spring. -- 1982

A very skinny me playing in the spring. -- 1980

My brother, Jake, and I playing in the spring.  -- 1981

My Uncle Dan walking on the side of the road just over where my grandmother's spring flowed off of her property. -- 1982

The spring wasn't the only part of Mary Raymond's yard that was memorable. In my earliest memories, I remember my grandmother's dog, Alphie.  Like my Grandpap Morosky's dog, Duke, Alphie chained at the dog house in the yard.  I never had much interaction with Alphie and I don't recall when he died.  Behind my grandmother's house was a green block building everyone called "the foundation."  It looked and smelled like a basement with a roof on it.  I'm not sure who originally built the structure but I recall my Great Uncle Tim and Great Aunt Olga would come live in the foundation during the summer months.  Further up in the woods, behind the foundation, was the remains of the old Radvansky Farmhouse. (My grandfather changed the family's last name from Radvansky to Raymond.)  I only recollect visiting the farmhouse when it was still standing once or twice...with my dad and my uncles.  Even then I wasn't allowed to go too far into it because of how unsafe the adults considered it to be.  Later, during my college years, I would wander back there a few times to poke around...but by then there wasn't much of the old house standing.

Alphie the Dog. -- 1982

Easter Sunday 1986...my brother, Jake, and I with Grandma Raymond.  You can clearly see the foundation in the background.  -- March 30, 1986

Uncle Tim and Aunt Olga (holding me just months after I was born) were common fixtures at my grandmother's house during the summer months.  -- 1973

The remains of the Radvansky farmhouse. -- March 24, 1995

The remains of the Radvansky farmhouse. -- March 24, 1995

Unlike at my Grandpap and Grandma Morosky's house, at which my cousins were a constant presence, I didn't get to see my cousins, aunts, and uncles on my dad's side very often...which made the times that we were together extremely fun time.  I always looked forward to seeing my Uncle Tom, Aunt Ande, Uncle Dan, Uncle Jim, Aunt Jane and my older cousins Ramona, Monique, and Tommy.  As a young boy I especially looked up to my cousin, Tommy, and wanted to be around him as much as possible.  I imagine that I probably drove him nuts!  I also took pride in playing the role of older cousin to Mariaelena, Jared, Jayme, and Jordan.  Because Grandma Raymond's house was so small these gatherings usually took the form of back yard cookouts with my father and my uncles manning the charcoal grill.  It was the stuff that made for great childhood memories. 

Grandma Raymond with her grandchildren.  Front:  David, Jacob, Mariaelena, and Mary Raymond.  Back:  Monique, Ramona, and Tommy Raymond. -- 1981

Cousins:  David, Tommy, Jacob, Ramona, Monique, and Mariaelena Raymond. -- 1981
David, Ramona, and Tommy with Uncle Dan.  --1981

Mariaelena, Monique, Ramona, Tommy, David, and Jacob Raymond. -- 1982

Cousins ganging up on Uncle Tom.  -- July 4, 1986

Family wiffle ball game at Grandma Raymond's House.  Tommy is up to bat.  -- July 4, 1986

My mother, Kathy Raymond, getting a hit.  -- July 4, 1986

Celebrating the Fourth of July at Grandma Raymond's house.  David, Mariaelena, and Tommy Raymond. -- July 4, 1986


Grandma Raymond with my cousin, Jared.  My father is in the back with my Uncle Tom and Uncle Dan.  -- July 1988


Hanging out with my little cousin, Jared. -- July 1988


One of my favorite pics from Grandma Raymond's house.  Jared, David, Tommy, and Jacob Raymond. -- July 1988

My dad and Uncle Tom manning the grill.  -- July 18, 1993

Family gathering for Grandma Raymond'd birthday.  That is a 19 year old me on the right in the back. -- 1993

Looking back, the one thing I remember the most about my grandmother was how generous she was to me.  It's obvious to me now, as an adult, that she didn't have a lot of money to give away...but she always found a crisp dollar bill to give me after each visit.  She would offer to help, assist, or feed anyone who needed to be helped, assisted, or fed...and she did it graciously, with a smile, and with a sense of eternal optimism.  In the ultimate show of generosity, Grandma allowed me to live with her my senior year of college.  I won't sugar coat it...there were definitely some growing pains and adjustments that we both had to make...and we naturally butted heads a few times.  During the year I spent with her, my relationship with my grandmother increasingly became stronger.  I had always loved my Grandma Raymond...but the experience really helped me to understand her, respect her, and truly know her. Our days began and ended with conversations (something that still doesn't come easy to me) that helped bridge the gap between Generation X and the Greatest Generation.  By the time my stay with Grandma came to an end we had forged a close and unique bond that I still hold precious to this day.

I was a senior in college in the pic.  I enjoyed my free time playing my guitar on the bridge that crossed over the spring.  -- October 1, 1994

Grandma allowed me to convert her ONE extra room into my bedroom for the year that I stayed with her.  -- February 5, 1995

My grandmother, Mary Raymond, passed away in February 2006.  At the time I remember thinking that she, at least, got to see her beloved Pittsburgh Steelers win their 5th Super Bowl championship.  Even if they would have lost, she would have found the positive in it.  Baba had the ability to find the silver lining in any situation.  The day she looked  out the kitchen window to find her Ford Escort engulfed in fire in the driveway she just considered it a sign from God that she wasn't suppose to be driving anymore.  That's such vintage Mary Raymond!  That attitude and spirit greeted anyone who visited her and it was the reason why I liked the drive down Baba's Hill so much.


A picture of Mary Raymond with her four boys:  David, Dan, Tom, and Jim.  -- July 10, 2002



Life is a journey...not a destination.





I loved the bond I had with my grandmother.   This picture was taken in the summer of 1995 shortly after I graduated from college. -- July 1995

Feel free to FOLLOW me on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM
@mountnbiker73




All of my posts are available at ALL TRAILS LEAD TO ICE CREAM and, if you get the chance, be sure to visit the good folks at 
 and 


"WRITE SOMETHING WORTH READING OR DO SOMETHING WORTH WRITING..." Ben Franklin