Bay Life

Vol. 8, No. 35
Aug. 31-Sept. 6, 2000
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Lawmakers at Play:
John Klocko —Biking for Brutal Challenges
By M.L. Faunce

Anne Arundel County Councilman John Klocko, of Crofton, loves a challenge. Plenty come his way as the county council deliberates, for example, the school board budget.

But sometimes the mental gyrations required of an office holder have to be balanced out by a hard physical challenge.

For the kind of challenge that exhilarates, Klocko has been turning "fairly seriously" to mountain biking. As a politician, Klocko competes to win, but as a mountain biker, Klocko says he's competing to "survive and have a good time."

"It's been kind of a long gap since I've done anything this physically challenging," says the 43-year-old lawyer and father of three daughters. "Pre-children," he says, he favored downhill skiing, hiking, backpacking and climbing for that elevating aerobic workout.

The switch from family biking outings to the serious stuff of cross country competition was a "progression," Klocko says, sped up when "he latched on to a childhood buddy who had been mountain biking for years." His buddy, Ward Street, also of Crofton, didn't twist his arm. "You don't talk people into this. They have to want to do it," says Klocko.

The Crofton councilman has been mountain biking for about a year. Riding seriously "lets me do two things I love," he says. "Be outdoors with nature and physically challenge myself in a way I find exciting."

In June, Klocko treated both those senses when he competed in a relay race at Snowshoe, West Virginia. Five hundred teams made up of some 2,000 riders competed in a 24-hour marathon, biking over an 11-mile loop to benefit the American Lung Association.

"Highly intense," is how Klocko describes the West Virginia experience. "We rode over a terrain filled with root ladders that was like riding on ice. It was a very difficult course; filled with obstacles, steep ascents and descents: 5,000- to 6,000-foot vertical climbs. It went beyond my expectation for brutality. It was very aerobic, very thrilling."

Would he do it again?


That's why he's signed up for next month's "Dirt Camp" in New Hampshire, where he'll learn from experts in competitive mountain biking. "What I completely lack is natural balance," Klocko admits, presumably talking about his physical skills, not his political skills. The intensive weekend course will get him to top skill for tough going on the trail.

Most often, Klocko finds his challenges closer to home. He and Street ride at Patapsco Park, a place he loves as "a trail littered with challenges: rocks, logs, streams in the midst of the trees and nature and animals." Loch Raven Reservoir is another favorite spot. More locally, you'll find the councilman pumping hard at the Odenton Nature Center behind Arundel High School.

“We rode over a terrain filled with root ladders that was like riding on ice,” said Klocko of his 24-hour relay for the American Lung Association. Above, his team.

It's no secret that John Klocko's family has always come first. While he may not bike with his three daughters as often as he used to, he says he's always on hand for their field hockey and lacrosse games and "tosses the ball around with them." Still, he says, Klocko finds it hard to teach girls. "Their motivations," he says, "are so different from boys'." He admires male coaches who are able to inspire girls in their budding athletic interests. It may be a little early to tell if any of the Klocko girls will develop their dad's love of challenge.

John Klocko the councilman has often evoked the word freedom as an inherent right, one of the fundamental principles: "freedom from government infringement, the right to use property, to own things and do business."

Does mountain biking gives him a kind of freedom? "Sure," says the young Republican.

Klocko was once quoted saying he has "thought about being county executive, governor, a congressman - and even president of the United States." When Bay Weekly reminded Klocko of those words, he said he's "real undecided. It all depends upon redistricting." About two things he was sure: "I won't run for governor or president," he said. "Besides, I want to stay committed to my [legal] business. It's the one that supports my family best."

Some challenges in John Klocko's life depend on political fortunes. During this presidential election season, Klocko will continue to do what he likes best: spending time with his family, working at his law practice, representing Southern Anne Arundel County on the county council.

What happens this winter when ice cakes the wooded trails he so loves, challenging outdoor biking?

"We ride," he says.

Dick D’Amato — Build First, Paddle Later
By Amy Mulligan

Maryland delegate Dick D’Amato is this kind of man: When he wants to go paddling, he first has to build his boat.

If you take that to mean he welcomes a challenge, you’re right.

A past adventure was a trip to northern Alaska a few years back. The challenge was going by himself. On his own above the Arctic Circle, he hiked, rafted and camped, even running into a few grizzlies.
On a very different adventure, he travelled the Atlantic Ocean, racing a sailboat down to Bermuda.

So when he settled full-time into Annapolis life upon retiring after 30 years as a staffer for the U.S. Senate, he wasn’t one to wish for a better state of life. Instead, he ran for — and won — a place in the Maryland House of Delegates. What better place to make a better Maryland?

Most people might go to a local outdoors store and purchase a kayak to start their hobby. But when D’Amato decided to try kayaking, he started from the wood up.

He says his decision to start such an ambitious project came with help from friend Scott Allen, a sailmaker who also recently took on the task of building his own kayak. “Scott and I made a deal. If I took on the project, he would help me,” D’Amato says. “He inspired me.”

So for nine months and with some help from Allen, D’Amato sanded, sawed and drilled his 17-foot-long, 23-inch-wide, 44-pound kayak. “It’s hard work. This took large amounts of elbow grease,” he says.

At least he had a pattern. Chesapeake Light Craft sells the kit that turns wood, sealant and instructions into a seaworthy boat. To get a kayak, you add 70 to 100 hours labor to the $600 kit. D’Amato has joined a popular project: Chesapeake Light Craft is having trouble keeping the kit in stock it has become so well known.

Also building the kit is Will Smith, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which starts the ever-outreaching D’Amato thinking. “I don’t know if I’m going to start a trend in the legislature,” he says. “But who knows, maybe a few of us politicians could have a kayaking fundraiser for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.”

D’Amato has not decided what to name his kayak yet, but he says “it will be named after a critter on the Bay.” This keeps with the theme of his boats: He already has a lobster boat named Green Heron. Easily stored, his kayak hangs from the ceiling of his porch waiting for D’Amato to take a break from the heavy work of writing legislation and work on a much lighter task: gliding the Chesapeake.

A few years back, D’Amato traveled solo to northern Alaska. Above the Arctic Circle, he hiked, rafted and camped, even running into a few grizzlies.

D’Amato has found inspiration and pleasure in the Bay since his days at the Naval Academy, when he first sailed the Chesapeake. Now he hopes to have a more intimate relationship with the body of water just steps away from his back door. As usual, he adds business to his pleasure. “We’ve got to work actively to get the Bay clean,” says the environmentally friendly lawmaker. “And when you go out in a kayak,” he adds, putting on his outdoorsman’s hat, “you really get an understanding for what needs to be done.”

And pleasure to his business. As well as his boat, D’Amato is currently building legislative support for a network of Bay area water trails. He hopes his kayak will help. “It may help me generate interest in this new legislation to do water trails,” says D’Amato. “The Anne Arundel County legislative district has the most shoreline [of] any county in the country. People come here because they like the water.”

There’s no better way than kayaking, D’Amato says, to feel the value of the Bay. “If we get into kayaks, we’ll really understand,” he says.

A kayak is highly maneuverable and allows for access into areas that boats can’t go, including the shallows and less-known niches of the Bay and surrounding rivers. These qualities are what attracted D’Amato. “You can get much more intimate with the Bay,” he says, “because of where it allows you to go and because of the closeness you feel with the water.”

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly