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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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The Beauty of Dog Years

Posted by johnnieraz on December 8, 2018 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

By John Rezell

     I’ve often wondered about the concept of dog years, although never enough to actually research how or why we multiply an earthly number of years by seven to understand how old our canine companions might be.

     I never found need to do the math early in my black lab Ridgely’s life, relying instead on a simple visual evaluation.

     Once she appeared to be big enough to handle hiking with me, she came along. When it looked like she would be able to hang with me biking, she came for those outings, too.

      The first time I calculated her dog age — when she turned eight — I was blown away that she managed to continue to run wild like she had done at age two. Hmmm, a 56-year-old bounding through the forest like a 14-year-old. Impressive.

     Eventually I became the first to slow a bit. Super long hikes and bike rides were replaced by shorter ones, along with more time soaking in the experience rather than blazing to the finish.

     At 10, er, 70 years old, I’d look at Ridgely’s patches of gray hair and hope I’ll have that kind of vigor when I hit her golden age.

     Ridgely cruised to age 11, occasionally beginning to hesitate before leaping into the back of the Santa Fe. Her spirit wanted to, but her body questioned it. Eventually she always jumped in.

     Now she’s 12, er, 84. She still wants to hit the woods as often as possible. But once there, she doesn’t have the zip she used to. We take it easy. I get her out for her workouts, and leave the longer, tougher ones to myself.

    On those lone journeys now, I think about the outdoor adventures we’ve shared over the past 12 years.

    She has enriched my life exponentially.

    Heck, times seven?

    Hardly.

    More like a thousand-fold.

 

Remembering Paul Sherwen

Posted by johnnieraz on December 2, 2018 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

By John Rezell

     I just heard of the passing of Paul Sherwen. So sad. He was a class act.

     My primary interactions with him were back when he was the Media guy for Motorola as Lance Armstrong rose to prominence. He always managed to get me time with Lance, and was surprised when Lance would give me access other writers weren't privy to.

     My favorite Paul Sherwen story comes from the 1995 CoreStates race in Philadelphia, when Norm Alvis escaped from a late breakaway that included Lance to win. Lance disappeared immediately following the race, headed for the Holiday Inn. While every other reporter went to the press conference, I grabbed Norm right as he crossed the line for his quotes, then bolted for the hotel. I knew the true story of the race sat with Lance, and I wanted to get the scoop.

     Here is an excerpt from my book, "Taken for a Ride: Chasing a Young Lance Armstrong."

     RIP Paul

BEGIN EXCERPT

     Without question, the real story of the race would come from Lance. He held all the cards for the past six weeks, and held them again in Philly. It reminded me much too much of my first encounter with him in Altoona. As strong as he was, there was little doubt in my mind that Lance controlled this race. If he wasn’t going to win, he would certainly decide who would. So I ran back to the hotel, which is about a 15-minute walk from the finish area. I found Paul Sherwen in the lobby and asked if I could get the chance to talk to Lance. Paul looked stunned that I was at the hotel. He asked me, "Isn’t there a press conference going on right now?" I said, yep, it’s probably still going. "And you’re here?" This is where the story is, I said.

      He disappeared up the elevator and left me in the lobby, with all the autograph-seeking freds. We all stood there waiting. And waiting. And waiting. The autograph-seeking freds asked my advice on where to corner some unsuspecting Motorola riders, so, hey, I told them. I'd hang around the van if I were you. They disappear ... then reappear ... then disappear ... as time slows to a crawl.

      Paul comes down after 15 minutes and assures me that Lance said he will come down before jetting out of town. I believe him because, frankly, when he says it's impossible to get 30 seconds with Lance he's right, so in this case I'm confident the opposite will be true. I’m writing some of my story in my head. As time drags on I start to scribble some notes. Nearly everyone who is anyone has passed me by not once, but usually twice, en route to their rooms for luggage and then out the door heading to the airport. The only riders who haven’t come past are ones still at the press conference or drug testing.

       Paul, the quirky Brit he is, seems to be having a glorious time passing by every five minutes to see whether or not I will endure. I inform him I always get my man, just like the Texas Rangers. He tells me it's the bloody Canadian Mounties who say that. God save the Queen! Who am I to argue? For the 15th time he says Lance will be down soon. For the 15th time I inform him I'll get a cot and sleep here if I have to. Eventually I looked at my watch. I've waited an hour and 45 minutes for Lance, even though I have to write stories for six different newspapers. I know the only way out of the building is through this lobby, from the elevator. I have to take a leak something fierce, but I’m not backing down. It doesn't bother me to wait. In fact, it’s exhilarating. This, I tell myself over and over, is what separates me from everyone else. It's worth it.

      Lance eventually comes down the elevator, and we retire to the hotel pub. He sits down, orders a beer, and answers my questions, even the ones that offend him a little. He's Lance and I'm Raz, and he's just doing his job and I'm just doing mine. Lance tells me about his attack.

      "Certainly I felt strong on the climb," Lance said. "I got a nice gap, but with that distance to go, that's hard. I had four guys behind me with no teammate to neutralize them. I was doomed."

      He didn’t have a teammate because Steve Bauer crashed just at the base of Manayunk. The plan was to have Bauer bridge up to Lance. Still, Lance felt strong and wondered if he could pull it off all by himself. He held on for 11 miles, with the city of Philadelphia totally behind him. He saw the gap coming down, and eventually sat up — the cycling equivalent of throwing in the towel on that move.

       "I knew it was over," Lance said. "I was pretty tired at that point. I could have chased Norm, but then I would have just given the other guys a free ride, and frankly, I would prefer that Norm win the jersey.

      "It's hard because we made the race. We did all the work, we did all the chasing and I felt we deserved to win the race. But that's bike racing. That's the nature of the sport."

       Those are the quotes I used in my stories, which pretty much filled in the details of the moves that made the race. Including, specifically, the most revealing quote when Lance said he would prefer that Norm win the jersey.

      When Lance said that, he saw my glare that I'd been holding up my sleeve since Chann McRae won his national title in Altoona. Lance looked at me and started getting pissed right away. He knew where this was headed. So, I said, you let him win?

      "I wouldn't exactly say that," Lance said, rather snippy. "I wasn't alone, the other guys could have chased."

       You would have probably chased them down, too, right?

       "Hell yeah," he barked, not wasting a heartbeat, "because they didn't deserve it. Norm did."

       Just like Chann did? I asked.

       He stopped short. Then, he just laughed, calmed down and took a swig of his beer. He looked at me with that sparkle of respect in his eyes. We kinda looked around and realized most eyes in the bar were on us. They were watching, but keeping a respectable distance. No autograph requests. He let his look linger, then spoke up.

      "Why in the hell did you wait two hours for me to come down here?" he asked. "Why in the hell did you come over here in the first place? Why weren't you at the press conference? That was still going on when you got here."

       So, I said, you knew exactly when I got here, and you've been just testing me?

       He smiled.

       "You'd have waited another two hours if you had to, wouldn't you?" he asked.

       I nodded.

        "I don't understand you at all," he said, shaking his head again.

Listen, I said, I'm writing a story about the race. You can call me crazy if you want, but in my estimation, that race was decided the moment Norm attacked and you decided to let him go. Just like you did for Chann in Altoona. It's not quite as obvious as pulling over in the final stretch at Pittsburgh a few weeks back to let Andrea win, but it's still the same. There was only one man in that race today who had the sole power to determine who wears that jersey for the next year, and that was you. I wanted to hear your side of the story. The folks I'm writing for back in Austin want to know your side of the story. Anyone who reads an account of this race deserves to know the real story, and the only ones who will know the real story are the ones who read my story.

       Again, he just looked at me with his quizzical eyes, lost in utter disbelief, attempting to understand my perspective, but having more than a bit of trouble with it.

     END EXCERPT

Flashback: My Favorite Photo

Posted by johnnieraz on November 17, 2018 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

ABOVE: My photo from the 1981 Marquette-Notre Dame basketball game at the Milwaukee Arena.


By John Rezell

     Lord knows how many photos I've taken over the years.

     In the garage I have boxes of slides and crates of photo albums chronicling my life with Debbie up to the time digital photography took over, and countless bytes of photos floating in hard drives here there and everywhere bringing that story up to date — literally to the last hour.

     Growing up I wasn't much into photography, and the lack of photos from childhood back that up.

     Good cameras were really expensive. For most folks with budget cameras, film and processing costs were daunting. So much so that a roll of 24 or 36 shots would typically include pictures from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day and finally get developed after summer vacation.

     Immediate gratification and photography weren't mates back in those days.

     Once I took my class in photojournalism in college, everything changed. Not just taking photos, but how to view life.

     It's sad that future generations won't know the joy of fumbling in the dark to roll your film onto a cassette, then later under red light watching an image appear from the ether onto a page.

     Nor will they know the agony of losing a whole roll or two of pictures to the cumbersome process.

     Or waiting a week for film to be processed.

     There's a lot to be said about technology and progress.

     When Debbie and I were married, our first significant purchase was a quality camera that cost about a two week's salary.

     We worked that camera hard for 13 years — it becoming a key element of my freelancing days — until it finally died on the most inopportune of times.

     On one of my most memorable assignments covering the inaugural Tour of China bicycle race, it slowly gave way, with me lining up shots of cyclists racing past at 30 mph then holding down the button and frantically following them until the camera decided to engage the shutter.

     Those photos from China are among my most cherished.

     Yet, if I had to select one of my professional photos as my all-time favorite, there is no contest.

     My first job out of college was do-it-all sports editor for The Jefferson County Daily News in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.

     There I got to cover University of Wisconsin and Marquette University sports.

     So I sat courtside at the Milwaukee Arena on January 10, 1981, as the closing seconds of an amazing basketball game between rivals Marquette and Notre Dame unfolded before me.

     In the final moments, freshman Glenn "Doc" Rivers launched a 35-foot prayer.

     I clicked.

     I caught it.

     The place erupted and everyone went nuts. I continued to shoot away.

     Eventually Rivers literally climbed on top of the backboard. It was crazy fun.

     It was a Saturday game. Our paper was a Monday through Friday publication. Not only that, we had union guys who worked the darkroom.

     So I had to wait until mid-morning Monday before the film was developed.

     When they handed me the negatives, my hands were shaking.

     Please let it be in focus.

     Please let it be in frame.

     Please give me something.

     What I saw was an image that will last a lifetime.

   

DDWIL: Not Losing It When Lost

Posted by johnnieraz on November 3, 2018 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (2)


Oregon gold, a Chanterelle mushroom

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since I plan to live to 130 years old, I don't think about my mortality very often. But I do know one thing: Should the worst-case scenario play out sometime out in the woods while I'm hiking or biking, I want everyone to know that I Died Doing What I Love. I'll call this my DDWIL. It's something everyone should leave behind.

By John Rezell

     A steady shower tapped relentlessly on my not-very-waterproof cycling jacket that draped over my hatless head, the water cascading down to my soaked sweatshirt sleeve that dripped down to the ground as I stood on a gravel logging road somewhere deep in the Oregon woods.

    Looking down at the small cross of branches I placed there a few hours earlier, I felt strangely at ease and at peace with myself, even though this was the fourth, maybe fifth and quite possibly sixth time I've strolled past. The branches marked the spot where Ridgely and I first emerged from the woods so long ago.

    I paused to take inventory yet again. Three hours into our hike. Sunset another four hours away. I'm completely soaked save for my feet, which remain dry and cozy inside my boots. I have an apple remaining and three quarters of a water bottle. I have my usual provisions in my backpack for emergencies: First aid kit, firestarting tools and tinder, hammock and a cooking kit. As usual in the Oregon woods, my cellphone shows NO SERVICE.

     Although we've hiked 45 minutes on this road in each direction I have no idea which direction heads to an ultimate deadend and which will eventually connect to another road and a probable route to a more popular road.

      The fact that we are, in reality, completely and utterly lost, seems to have no impact on me whatsoever. All I know is one simple fact: I broke just one of my rules for hiking in the wilderness, and now I'm paying the price. The question is how steep the price will be.

     I do know that if we don't make it out of here tonight, it will be past midnight before anyone knows we are missing. My wife is working very late tonight. My typical goodbye comment when Ridgely and I head to the woods is, "Don't worry until midnight." Right now midnight seems days away in one sense, moments away in another.

     Stay calm. Be logical. Keep moving. That's my mantra.

     My years of hiking and biking around Oregon's wilderness reminds me that logging roads like this one usually climb to the top of ridge and dead end there, but climbing to the west got us to the top of a ridge with the road continuing back down the other side and disappearing into the woods. If I head back that way, and have to turn back, it's another long climb.

     My biggest confidence boost comes from the fact that I'm not tired in the least. I've got plenty of energy. I can keep hiking for quite a while. The question is just which way?

     After hiking up and down the road with no clues as to which way to favor, we made a couple of ventures back into the woods in spots where we could see a clearing of trees, hoping that could get us back to the lake. Each effort did not pan out, even though we followed a couple of creek beds down hoping they would spill into the area where I assumed the lake sat. Nothing. Eventually we ended up back on the road. Back at my marker.

     So, you're wondering how did I get here?

     Let's go back to the start

     Thar's gold in them thar hills!

     That's the call that rings in my ears this time of the year. My call of the wild. My call to escape to the woods.

     Since we now live an added 90 minutes away from all my secret Chanterelle spots — which were already 90 or more minutes away my starting point in Eugene — I've challenged myself to find some new hunting grounds.

     That's all fine and dandy. There has to be a bazillion Chanterelles out there just waiting to be scooped up. The gauntlet was thrown.

     So Ridgely hopped in the back of the Santa Fe, thrilled to be getting back to the woods again. Heck, it had been a whole week!

     We charged up a new highway, at least for us, into the Cascades, and blasted down a new logging road named for a lake. We stopped aside a couple of hunters getting ready to head into the woods and learned it was the opening day of deer hunting season.

     So I dressed accordingly wild and bright, and somewhat light. We stumbled upon a trail to a lake. It was a short hike to the lake. I didn't don any waterproof jacket since I planned to be out for an hour or so at the most, and my cycling jacket was the brightest thing I had along. Besides, this was just a scouting mission and it was only misting at the time.

     It was early for Chanterelle season, but we did have some rain, so I figured I'd get a good hike in first and then, well, if I found a new Chanterelle strike by wandering off the beaten trail, all the better.

     The trail offered nifty hike to a little lake. The path around the lake looked somewhat worn. Up in the Cascades, finding awell-worn trail all around a lake is a crapshoot. Sometimes it's there, sometimes not.

     So we ventured around the lake.

     After taking that nice shot from the far side, nearly three-quarters of the way around (we connected with the lake where the bright red bushes climb up the left side of that rock), we continued on for the final quarter. That's when we had to cross a small stream that trickled into the lake.

     On the other side of the stream, the trail ended. That wouldn't be much a problem most of the time, since we'd just bushwhack along the edge of the lake back to our trail.

     But dang if the forest hillside looked like prime Chanterelle grounds. So we ventured in a little bit, always keeping track of where the lake was in relation to where we were.

     We hit a dry stream bed, and figured it headed back down to the lake since it headed in that general direction. We hiked down it, but it never got to the lake. That's where I made my mistake.

     In 10 years of playing in the woods, my conservative side always took over at this point. I can turn to Ridgely and say, take us back, and she will turn around and sniff her way back the way we came. At that point I still have a strong sense of where we just came from — not to mention a couple of strategically placed markers to know we are on our way back. Instead I forged on, confident I had a good idea where the lake had to be, and we'd eventually head there.

    I was wrong.

    Almost certain that the lake was over the next ridge where I could see some clearing in the trees, we trudged up the hill and popped out on the logging road. A road is good. But no idea which way to go. At this point I realized in my excitement to blaze new territory, I didn't quite catch the actual name of the lake, or did I ever check the forest road number that took us there.

    Now, back to where I started our story, I opted to continue east on the logging road, past our 45-minute previous hike. Another 30 minutes farther we hit the gate for the road, showing that we were on a closed secondary road. Progress, for sure. It brought us to another crossroads. Again, which way?

     My safety net for the whole day was hunting season. There had to be hunters roaming around somewhere. The road looked completely unused, at least today in the rain. And I hadn't heard a gunshot all day. Come to think of it, in all my years of hiking during hunting, I've never heard a shot. Strange.

     I could see that hiking north led up to an overlook. I figured there could be a slight chance I'd see the lake there. So we headed that way. The weather worsened, but not my mood. I was neither freaked nor anxous nor upset, which really lifted my spirits. I had no emotion, really.

     I just kept plugging away, plotting a potential schedule if need be. As long as I'm on a road, I'll keep hiking. No need to hunker down for the night unless it gets wicked. Plenty of light left.

    If it gets bad, I'll set up a fire or shelter of some sort either on the road or right next to it. Before all that, though, I can try an emergency 911 call and hope for reception.

     Thirty minutes later, the overlook was a bust. Nothing but a magnificent view, and a strong intuitiion that I had to head the other direction. So I did. Once again I passed the gate and headed south.

     This is when I pondered the concept of being physically lost but not losing it. Once you've lost it mentally, it's over. Done.

     As we continued on the road I thought about the backpack filled with forest service maps, including this sector, that sit in the back of my truck. I carry my main backpack with my emergency supplies for even the shortest hikes, like today, but then make the mistake of not having waterproof clothing. I know better than that.

     I figure I can walk into the darkness, for a while, but eventually I need to warm up and dry out. I've played this scenario in my head countless times, and that it might soon become a reality neither lifts or dampens my spirits. Just like Dory, I just keep walking.

    I've noted the forest road numbers, and their intersection. If I can get some cell reception, I can simply ask for directions out. I have plenty of energy in reserve. As we near the five-hour mark of our excursion, Ridgely's gait increases to a trot. I look up. There I see the Santa Fe, parked at the trailhead.

     Yep, no doubt about it. It's a mistake I'll never make again. I hope.



M-M-My Generation

Posted by johnnieraz on October 27, 2018 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (4)


By John Rezell

      I've never felt old.

      Not when the first gray hair emerged.

      Not when my daughters turned 18 and 20.

      Not when I wake up with an ache or pain here and there ...

      Nor when I have to put on my glasses to read the not-so-small-print ...

      Nor when I have to say "What?" or "Huh?" or "Eh?" 50 to 100 times a day ...

      Not even when I woke up one morning and realized both my parents have passed away, ending a generation in our family forever.

      See that kid above? That's how I feel.

      I see the world through those same bright eyes.

      So many things to see, to touch, to hear and to learn. I can't wait to find out what's next.

      They say only the good die young. I say the good feel young when they die.

      They say life is too short. I say life is too long not to savor the simple moments.

      They say a lot of things that I just don't get.

      Thing is, my view of life appears to be so totally different from them. I'm OK with that. It's their loss.

      The Greatest Generation. Baby Boomers. Gen X. Millennials.

      I hear the stereotypical complaints fired from one generation to the next. But I think we're all a lot more alike than different.

      As a journalist covering sports most of my life, I see the different approaches over the course of time.

      I see today how so many kids run away from organized sports screaming.

      Did you know that 75% of kids quit playing organized sports by the time they are 13 years old? And we wonder why obesity seems to be the common bond for all generations of Americans.

      They quit around that age because that's when sports become a job rather than a joy. Parents and kids alike have visions of scholarships dancing in their heads. That's when they get down to business. Time to get serious. Time for the fun-lovers to leave.

      The money we dish out for this madness is crazy. I literally paid thousands of dollars to have two clueless coaches destroy my daughter's love of volleyball. It was painful to watch. Those coaches never batted an eye.

      While those coaches were screaming figuratively for their players to grow up, they were the ones who needed to do that.

      There is a lot one can do with a life. But if life isn't fun, then what's the point?

      I see a collection of generations scratching their heads, wondering what the hell is wrong with kids today. They'd rather be skateboarding or riding their bikes or playing video games than spending a few hours each day at practice with coaches orchestrating their every move.

      What we need is a new perspective on coaching and teaching. Have you ever watched those kids who spend all day with their skateboards and bikes and, yes, video games? They push their limits beyond what most crazy coaches would dare. They work on a trick for hours, days, weeks, months and yes, sometimes years — undaunted and seemingly never devastated by a setback, or two, or 10.

      They crash. They hurt. They dust themselves off and do it again. On their own. Until they get it.

      They don't need a coach telling them what to do or how to do it. They don't need someone reminded them of mistakes and how to correct them. They learn the way humans have learned forever. By experimenting. And that's where the fun lives.

       If I were a youth coach of, let's say for example, soccer. I would take my team to a local high school or college game to see how it is done. To see the excitement and thrill of playing. To hear the crowd.

       Then I'd go to the field and set up the goal. Throw each kid a soccer ball and say go out and play until you hear my whistle.

       I'd whistle near the end of practice, and just leave enough time for them to show each other what they learned.

       And if they didn't quite get it right, well, that's life.

       I wouldn't jump in and show them how it's done.

       I'd leave it up to them.

       They will find the fun.

       They will learn to live.

       And they might never feel old.



      

      

     


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.


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