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The thoughts of writer John Rezell, who will write about anything, anytime, anywhere. So pay attention.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Visit the ONWard blog at OutdoorsNW.com for Raz's latest writing

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Memories of Harvey's Wallbangers

Posted by johnnieraz on October 19, 2018 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

By John Rezell

     The thundering roar of 54,968 screaming fans literally shook County Stadium to its core, the din echoing down into the bowels of the structure where anixous sportswriters sat in the basement press room watching the TV as Rod Carew grounded out to Robin Yount completing one of the most improbable comebacks in baseball not to mention igniting one of the wildest celebrations in Milwaukee's history.

     It doesn't get much better than watching your hometown team earn its first trip to the World Series, unless, of course, you get to be there in person.

     And you have the opportunity to write about it.

     But I'll never forget that moment when every hair on my body stood at attention, and I gazed across the press room with a goofy pinch-me grin on my face, then locked eyes with my high school pal Bud Geracie.

     We just slowly shook our heads in disbelief understanding the astronomical odds of that moment becoming reality, not to mention us sharing it.

     Two young pups barely removed from college not to mention the halls of Brookfield Central High School, where we both wrote for the student newspaper, Tyro. Tyro, of course, meaning beginner, or novice.

      Little did I know what story had begun.

      Bud would ascend to become one of the best baseball writers in America, eventually covering the Oakland A's for the San Jose Mercury News.

      Me? That would be the last Major League Baseball game I covered.


      A distasteful experience just two days earlier pretty much erased any desire to cover Major Leaguers (more on that later), but as I scrambled to find my sportswriting voice over the next few hours I came to realize my true destiny.

      When the Brewers' lockerroom opened and champagne rained from everywhere, reporters crammed around the lockers of Cecil Cooper, who drove in the winning runs, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and any number of Brewers who had a hand in the day's success — Jim Ganter, Charlie Moore, Pete Vukovich, Pete Ladd.

       As I geared up all day in anticipation for this winner-take-all event, I spent a lot of time reminiscing about the countless games of my youth spent in County Stadium, typically with my best friend Jack.

       We would sit in the upper deck with maybe a thousand others, seldom making our attendance guesses exceed 20,000 as we popped empty beer cups to listen to the echo in the empty rafters.

      Or we'd spend a sunny afternoon in the bleachers with as many empty seats as those filled. The Brewers losing more often than winning, but it didn't matter.

       We would skip school for Opening Day and never, ever miss a Bat Day.


      Our heroes were names that only the most dedicated baseball fans outside of Milwaukee might know. Danny Walton. Tommy Harper. Ted Kubiak. Jerry McNertney. Phil Roof. Mike Hegan. Skip Lockwood. Davey May. Johnny Briggs. The Boomer.

       Only one player on that '82 team represented that long ride to get to this moment: Stormin' Gorman Thomas.

       In what would become a signature move of my reporting style, I turned my back on the pack journalism and headed to a table filled with champagne bottles, cans of beer and snacks.

       There, alone, Gorman Thomas limped to belly up to the bar, so to speak. So I bellied up with him.

       Stormin' Gorman kind of tilted his head like a curious dog, his thick mustache already dripping from his first couple of trips to the table, wondering, no doubt, why I found him more interesting than the rest.

      Stormin' Gorman wildly shook a fresh bottle of champagne as I neared, and grinned with wild eyes as he laid down the law.

      "If you want to talk to me, you're going to get wet. Oooh, are you going to get wet," Stormin' Gorman chuckled.

       I said you've been around long enough to experience this long ride to the top. How does it feel?

       "How does it feel?" Stormin' Gorman said, preparing to make good on his word as another writer came to crash the party. "You'll notice that I'm being very deliberate in taking this wrapping off this cork. I'm savoring each moment, taking my time, loving every minute. And as soon as I get it off, I'm going to hose you guys to the bone. Ooh, boy, am I going to get smoked tonight!"

       Moments later, the cork popped and I got hosed down as promised. The burn of champagne in my eyes never felt so good.

       We continued the interview, and Stormin' Gorman admitted, "I don't have to tell you guys I stunk up the place with my hitting, but it didn't matter ..."

      Stormin' Gorman talked about the  journey.

      "It feels so good because we worked from the bottom up to make a winner here," Stormin' Gorman said, adding, "It's like planting an acorn and watching it grow into a tall, mighty oak."

       Eventually I made the rounds. I caught Paul Molitor, alone, walking out of the lockerroom in the hallway outside, the euphoria left behind.

       "You sit and watch each year and you see others trying to explain their feelings in words, and they just can't," Mollie said. "And you wonder to yourself what it's really like. You can't imagine then, and I can't explain it now."

       Back then reporters had no portable computers. I dictated my story over the phone for the previous two games. Luckily, I worked for an afternoon paper, so my story wouldn't be due until the next morning. I'd make the three-hour drive back to Dubuque later, spending all night writing.

      While the rest of the sportswriters hammered to meet deadlines, I walked out of the stadium, up the hill to Wisconsin Avenue, and followed the congo line of inching cars toward downtown.

       From that moment on I made sure I always soaked in the ambience of the moment, to let myself savor the experience and have that drive the tone of my stories. And I found you might find the true essence of the moment in the most unlikely places.

      With bumper-to-bumper cars honking horns packed with screaming fans stretching 50 blocks to downtown and filling half of the Wisconsin Avenue viaduct, I saw a lone figure walking down the other side of the bridge.

      I literally did a double-take as I realized it was Reggie Jackson. Irritated to be stuck in a traffic jam on the California Angels team bus, Reggie decided to walk back to the Pfister Hotel. I followed at a polite distance. Occasionally a kid would recognize him and approach for an autograph, only to get a fierce glare.

      By the time we go downtown, he hit some side streets. But for the better part of 20 minutes I saw the two sides to every game. Interestingly enough, when Reggie got off the plane the next morning in LA, he had a shiner. Someone has a great story to tell out there ...

     Despite all those wonderful memories, the fact is I also remember that playoff series for showing me how much I never wanted to spend time around egomaniac professional athletes.

     Here is an excerpt from my book "A More Simple Time: How Cycling Saved My Soul"

BEGIN EXCERPT

     I got the opportunity to cover them in their home games of American League Championship Series in 1982. The old Harvey's Wallbangers who, of course, began as Bambi's Bombers.

       They hobbled back from California down 0-2 to the Angels in the best-of-five series. No team had ever come back from 0-2 in a series in baseball. No matter, I was thrilled with the prospect of my assignment, even if it might turn out to be just one game. Like most reporters, I went down onto the field during batting practice. The pack of reporters surrounded Brewers manager Harvey Kuehn, asking worthless, lame questions that reporters ask.

      I wanted to just soak in the ambience of the moment. It was the first time I had set foot onto the grass of County Stadium, after years of sitting in the far reaches of the upper deck, or the sun-soaked bleachers in the outfield with my buddy Jack. It was one of those moments where, yes, I actually looked down and watched my shoe step onto the grass as chills rushed up my spine. I turned away from the pack, to head back up to the press box, when Cecil Cooper emerged from the dugout for his turn in the batting cage. Cooper was a fan favorite. County Stadium would echo with "Coooooop!" whenever he came to bat. He replaced a Brewer legend at first base, George Scott. The Boomer. Cooper was so damn talented that Milwaukee fans fell in love with him, too. I had no intention of doing anything but strolling past. I did, however, make eye contact. That's when the reality of professional sports reared its ugly head.

       "Don't even fucking think about it, you mother-fucker," Cooper snipped under his breath, pretending not to be speaking to me, yet glaring from beneath his visor with eyes afire. "Don't you fucking dare ask me a fucking question."

       I lost all desires to ever have a pro beat at that moment, although, I really never thought about it much. Even watching the Brewers magnificently battle back to win the next three games and advance to the World Series couldn't change my mind.

END EXCERPT

    So I sit here 36 long years later wondering if this latest group of Milwaukee Brewers can match that magical ride with a sweep at home to head off to another World Series, ready to spark new dreams ...


    

I Get That You Don't Get It

Posted by johnnieraz on August 16, 2018 at 4:15 PM Comments comments (1)

By John Rezell

     When something goes haywire on my bike — something as simple as adjusting a brake — it's like rocket science to me.

     I can pull out my sax and mimic a solo from a song, but for me the core concepts of music and as difficult to decipher as Einstein's equations.

     I can shoot a free throw, throw curve with a whiffle, kick a 40-yard field goal and still run an 8-minute mile. But I'll never elevate beyond average in anything athletic.

     No, when God handed out those types of gifts, he skipped me.

     But when it came to objectivity and the ability to be unbiased — the pillars of practicing journalism — I received my gift.

     In this time when the freedom of the press is under attack it's easy to see where the disconnect comes.

     There are countless writers on the Internet and talking heads sitting at a desk on TV, but there's a huge difference between most of them and journalists.

     Just as engineers, musicians and athletes are born with gifts, so, too, are journalists. We view life through a different perspective than most people. We do have the ability to separate ourselves from forming opinions and coming to conclusions as we search for the facts. It's just the way we are wired.

     But just as it is simple for me to be unbiased and objective, I can see how someone who isn't would have difficulty believing anyone could be like that.

     I can see it everytime I take my bike to the shop for repairs. Or watch a concert. Or turn on sports.

    


Holden Turning Up the Heat

Posted by johnnieraz on April 6, 2018 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an excerpt from my book "A More Simple Times, How Cycling Saved My Soul"

CHAPTER 68: Holden Pattern

 

     “Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.”

— Steve Prefontaine

      Without question, my favorite Steve Prefontaine quote challenges you to look at athletics through a new perspective. When the women’s 1996 Olympic Trials opened in the searing heat and humidity in Martinsburg, West Virginia with a time trial, there really wasn’t any other way to describe what played out. The best women in the land creating something beautiful.

     As the temperature soared toward triple digits the question became two-fold: Who would survive the day, and what impact would it have on the rest of the Trials?

      The drama began with another star from the 1984 LA Olympics looking for a rebirth. Rebecca Twigg rolled onto the course, and a fairy tale began. Twigg flew through the course, passing riders at an unbelievable pace. The PA announcers shouted updates, riling up the sweating crowd at the start-finish line. Twigg even passed riders who started eight minutes before her! She hit 30 mph on the rollers. Would Twigg steal the show?

      Mari Holden couldn’t allow that to happen. She wouldn’t allow that to happen. Holden’s only chance to steal the automatic Olympic berth would have to start with victories in her unabashed specialty — the time trials. Then she needed to combine those wins with some luck in a road race or two, which might not be difficult since the road races just might stick together for pack finishes.

      Something special fills the air when the tiny Holden gets onto her time trial bike and drops into an aerodynamic position. She transforms into a powerful machine — a human engine perfectly integrated with the bike — willing speeds from a bicycle that others simply dream about, or only manage on extreme downhills.

      With the crowd buzzing from Twigg’s sensational reports, the shocking news hit — silencing everyone for a moment, followed by a collective “ooohhhh.” At the time split, Holden zipped past 12 seconds faster than Twigg. The two-time defending champion creating art from athletics.

      Holden’s art displays raw heart for the beholder to absorb. She gets on her bike and leaves nothing to chance. Absolutely nothing. While many athletes push themselves to their limit, most appear to have a governor that won’t allow them to extract that last 1 or 2 percent, least they inflict physical damage to their finely-tuned bodies. Holden pushes beyond that, some how, some way.

      Her relentless charge, combined with insane heat and humidity, began to hit her in the final miles. Her usual steady straight as an arrow, efficient line became a squiggle. She bounced all over the road as she milked every last ounce of her essence out of the ride, delirious from the hellish conditions. When she crossed the finish line, she collapsed. She got placed on a stretcher, and left in an ambulance. Amid the chaos, she didn’t know that she won, topping Twigg by six seconds even though those in her support car estimated she lost about 40 seconds in the final 5K. In fitting tribute, her mother stood atop the podium to receive flowers and a medal.

      “I’ve never had anything like that before,” Holden said the next day, relaxing, at her hotel after getting hospitalized for dehydration and heat exhaustion. “I can’t remember the final 5K. Afterward, in the van, I was just freaking out.”

      Hearing her split invigorated her. She pushed harder. Deeper into the abyss others back away from.

      “I just felt like I was going hard, but nothing really out of the ordinary,” Holden said. “I pushed myself, but it was a course where you had to keep pushing because there weren’t any opportunities to just settle in. I thought I was going great, especially in the final 5K. I didn’t even know I wasn’t riding that well.”

 

Sun Downer

Posted by johnnieraz on March 18, 2018 at 3:20 AM Comments comments (0)


Drift Creek Falls

By John Rezell

     The marine layer drifted in and smothered the near full moon, extinguishing what little light that slipped through the trees slightly illuminating the trail, leaving Ridgely and I to hike the final stretch in complete darkness.

    It figures, I chuckled to myself. That marine layer already ruined the sunset, why not mock me some more? Having spent most of my life as a sportswriter, I should have been keeping score — this being two strikes and all. But no.

    I grabbed my cellphone and swiped it to bring up the flashlight app. Nothing. Strike three.

    I guess when I did a little cellphone maintenance the other day I zapped that app. Luckily I had reception, barely, so a few minutes later I had a new app and enough light to finish the hike.

    When we cleared the forest and returned to the parking lot of the Cape Lookout Trailhead the moon beamed brightly again, lifting my spirits. Just another day of adventure. I love it.

    We got a later start than usual, but the clear skies and temperatures nearing 60 called for action. Debbie had the truck for the day, so that meant I didn't have my usual collection of equipment for outdoor exploration — including my emergency flashlight — but we couldn't let that slow us down.

    Instead, some trucker in a hurry to the coast slowed us down. We lost nearly 45 minutes as traffic crawled past his overturned rig.

     We still managed to hit the Drift Creek Falls Trailhead with some sun peeking through the mist. A mile-and-a-half later, we enjoyed a spectacular view of the falls, raging in all its springtime glory — the sunlight creating a beautiful rainbow in the mist.

     I figured we could make it to a nice spot on the coast to grab a sunset shot. My initial goal was Oceanside, but along the way Cape Lookout grabbed my attention.

     I wasn't familiar with the options, but for once the trailhead signage offered everything you needed to know. There are three trails, the North Trail, South Trail and Cape Trail. North and South lead to overlooks. Cape leads to the beach, 1.8 miles down. Way down.

     With just one other vehicle in the parking lot, I knew I'd get a good secluded beach shot. So we went for it.

     The clock showed it was after 5, so time was of the essence. We had three miles under our belt and it's early in the hiking season so I don't have mid-summer fitness. Packing a healthy 15-20 pounds in my backpack didn't help either. But we went for it.

     We double-timed it all the way down the trail and made it to the beach in plenty of time. There I saw the driver of the other vehicle. I knew he had to be down there from the fresh footprints in the muddy trail only heading in that direction. We moved down the beach and were alone.


     A pinch of blue sky offered hopes for a decent sunset, but by the time the sun dipped below the horizon, the marine layer swallowed everything up to cast just a dreary gray across the landscape. It's not the kind shot that will make a postcard, but that doesn't do it justice.

    With Ridgely and I alone (the other dude headed up while he still had light) we listened to the waves crashing on the rocky cape, felt the Pacific mist on our cheeks and savored the solitude of sunlight disappearing for another day.



No rest for the weary with her around

Posted by johnnieraz on February 24, 2018 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

NOTE: There is a somewhat disturbing photo below. Do not view while eating. Just sayin'

By John Rezell

     Coming off a tiring stretch of a long string of work days, my favorite chair called to me like ancient sirens. A day of chillin' sounded perfect. Time to recoup and regenerate.  In a word, I felt exhausted.

     Ridgely had other ideas.

     Let me preface this by saying that when it comes to getting outdoors and enjoying nature, Ridgely is beyond obsessed with it — as noted in the photo above. She's still like that today, even at the ripe age of 11.5.

     She grew up with us hitting the woods at least twice a week as I wrote an outdoors column for the newspaper. So her most recent role as a stay-at-home-during-the-week-while-I-work-in-my-office-dog doesn't sit well with her.

     She's the true athlete of the family. I'll ride my mountain bike for 2, 3 sometimes 4 hours and she'll run along. We'll hike for 8 hours and she's there every step of the way.

     Wait, let me rephrase that on hiking. She'll run 50 yards ahead, then run back to us. Over and over. So hiking, well, she usually covers about 1.5 times the mileage compared to the rest of us.

     How much does she love getting out? I have this red shirt I wear for most hikes. If she sees me put it on, she goes nuts. Absolutely crazy. Check out this video:


 

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     Back to my rest day. No red shirt. But that doesn't mean she wasn't going to drop some big hints of what she had on her mind. In essence, she looked around and saw Debbie and I sitting at home. That means no one was going to work. So it's time to play.

    She politely sat up straight in front of me and gave me her puppy eyes. I laid down on the floor to pet her. That's when she went full throttle on me.

    She literally did everything in her power to get me up. She grabbed at my hands with her paws, trying to pull me along. She shoved her nose, then head, under my arms to pull me up. Eventually she tried to squirm her entire body beneath my back to life me up.

    She gave an amazingly entertaining show, yelping and begging the entire time [again, watch the video above to get an idea]. Eventually, like all the girls in my house, she won.

     I pulled on the red shirt, and things got really crazy. I opened up the truck and had her hop in the back. She'll sit there for hours to make sure I don't leave without her. She got her wish.

    We drove up outside of Oakridge and hit the Middle Fork Trail for some mountain biking. It's my favorite trail next to the McKenzie River Trail. While the McKenzie River Trail is often populated, the Middle Fork is generally all mine. Especially this time of the year. 

     A few years back, round about this time during a winter with more snow and colder weather than we are having, I hit the trail with Ridgely.

     We climbed a steep hill, and when we got to the top. Well, take a look at what greeted us:


     When you are in the middle of the woods, miles from your truck, it's the kind of sight you expect to see in a horror movie. A typical horror movie would have a clean Elk skeleton. Nope. This was half-eaten. Only half. Something planned to come back for seconds. Or thirds. Or Ridgely and me for dessert.

     Every hair on my body leaped out of my skin. We stuck around long enough to snap this photo, then spun and vanished in a hurry. I kept Ridgely close to my side, and started singing quite loudly.


     Back to this year's ride. We were climbing the hill about to enter the Elk Zone. I noticed that some other mountain bikers had been on the trail within the past few days. Their tire tracks were clear.

     Walking up a steep section with water trickling down the center of the trail, I saw a very fresh, very large paw print. Cat print. Knowing what we know, Ridgely and I turned around and headed home. More than enough excitement for one day.

Making of a Cover Shot for OutdoorsNW Magazine

Posted by johnnieraz on January 20, 2018 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

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This appears complicated, but it's actually a blast.


Best Mountain Bike Trail in Wenatchee, Washington

Posted by johnnieraz on January 6, 2018 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (0)

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Glacier View Trail outside Wenatchee, Washington is a wonderful experience, especially when spring wildflowers are in bloom


Sneak Peak at What's Coming to OutdoorsNW in 2018

Posted by johnnieraz on December 30, 2017 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (0)

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It's really kinda weird to spend most of 2017 running around the Northwest and saving the stories and video for 2018, but that's the life of a magazine editor


Walleye Fishing in The Dalles

Posted by johnnieraz on December 23, 2017 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

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I don't fish often, but when I do, I like to fish for Walleye


2017 Total Eclipse in Dallas, Oregon

Posted by johnnieraz on December 15, 2017 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

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Watching the total eclipse in Dallas, Oregon will be remembered forever. Wow.


Gear Review: Orange Screws

Posted by johnnieraz on December 15, 2017 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

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I'll never use regular old tent stakes again


Gear Review: Seattle Woolly Clothing Co.

Posted by johnnieraz on November 11, 2017 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

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OK, so I'm hooked on wool now ...

Bavarian Dancing in Leavenworth, Washington

Posted by johnnieraz on October 15, 2017 at 1:50 AM Comments comments (0)

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My Austrian roots show


Review: Osprey Aether 70 Backpack

Posted by johnnieraz on July 29, 2017 at 10:15 AM Comments comments (2)

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My review of the Osprey Aether 70 Backpack

Review: Amphipod

Posted by johnnieraz on July 22, 2017 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)


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My review of Amphipod hyrdation choices.

Finding the Middle Fork Trail

Posted by johnnieraz on July 15, 2017 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By John Rezell

Here's my video [also on outdoorsnw.com] to show how to find the Middle Fork Trail and a great place to start an out-and-back.

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Middle Fork Trail in Oakridge: One of My Favorites

Posted by johnnieraz on July 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (0)

By John Rezell

The Middle Fork Trail outside of Oakridge, Oregon is one of my all-time favorite rides.

Check out this videos of the section beginning at Indigo Springs:

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Drift Creek Falls a Worthy Stop

Posted by johnnieraz on June 24, 2017 at 2:20 AM Comments comments (0)

     By John Rezell

    There are a lot of great hikes along the Oregon Coast, and Drift Creek Falls outside of Lincoln City is one of my all-time favorites.

    https://www.outdoorsnw.com/2017/05/razs-picks-drift-creek-falls-top-to-bottom/" target="_blank">You can read my story on the ONWard blog on OutdoorsNW.com

Cape Lookout Sunset Hike

Posted by johnnieraz on June 17, 2017 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)

     By John Rezell

     Eventhough the marine layer didn't fully cooperate, hiking down to the beach at Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast for sunset provbed to be an enjoyable adventure. You can https://www.outdoorsnw.com/2017/06/raz-picks-sundown-at-cape-lookout/" target="_blank">read my story in the ONWard blog on OutdoorsNW.com

Sightseeing on the Oregon Coast

Posted by johnnieraz on June 14, 2017 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

    By John Rezell

    Ever wonder what happens to Lagerhead from Wisconsin when he travels a famous Oregon Craft Brew Ale Trail?

    You can https://www.outdoorsnw.com/2017/06/smooth-sailing-to-find-rugged-coast-beer/" target="_blank">read my story in the ONWard blog on OutdoorsNW.com

     https://www.outdoorsnw.com/2017/05/sightseeing-on-oregons-north-coast-beer-trail/" target="_blank">You can view my slideshow here


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