In the long shadow of Evel Knievel, daredevils still risk it all

Every modern motorcyle and extreme sports daredevil since the 1960s and  1970s stands in the long shadow of stunt rider Evel Knievel. The Butte, Montana, native and international showman built a legacy of thrilling audiences with death-defying leaps on his motorcyle over long distances. From the grisly televised crash at Caesar’s Palace in December 1967 to jumping 15 buses in Wembley Stadium in London in May 1975, Knievel conquered the public’s imagination. He had spectacular failures and reportedly broke more than 400 bones in his battered body over his long years as a showman extraordinaire and one-of-a-kind daredevil.

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

Knievel completely invented himself, his persona, and his brand of entertainment from the ground up, with his imagination knowing no boundaries. His first recorded jump, according to the new documentary on his life called Being Evel, was over two cougars and a box of rattle snakes in Moses Lake, Washington, and he crashed open the box of snakes who got away. He then built up his reputation the hard way, show after show, and also crash after crash. His greatest media stunt, and failure too, was attempting to jump in a specialized vehicle over the Snake River Canyon on Sept. 8, 1974, with him crashing yet again in the canyon floor. But he got back up and kept at it.

As a kid, I likely fell under the Kneivel spell, and saw him many times on TV, on lunch boxes, and on tabloid newspaper covers. He made more than half a dozen appearances on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 1970s, when I was growing up. He personified a type of fearless recklessness that excites nearly every young boy, and inspires a few to try such feats later in life. The current climate of Red Bull fueled stunts, jumping from outer space to leaping from cliff faces in wing suits, owes it all to him. Knievel proved you can become a legend if you are willing to put it all on the line and entertain the masses while doing it. Knievel died in 2007 at 69 years of age, a badass to the end, being totally himself.

The photos above were taken at the Omak Stampede in August 2013. I took these shots during practice for a great half-time event at the stampede later that night. Three daredevils, whose names I now cannot find, put on a show with multiple leaps on their dirt bikes and four wheeler. The best rider did a back flip during the show on his bike and totally nailed the landing. They had all of their gear in trailers they hauled by trucks, a bit like Knievel. All three of these guys were accompanied by a trio of totally beautiful women, who stood proudly by their sides. In that way, nothing has changed since Knievel’s day. The daredevil is made of different stuff, and it is the stuff that still appeals to women who like dangerous men. As Knievel may or may not have said, “bones heal, pain is temporary, [and] chicks dig scars… .”


Testimony to my love of running

I can never seem to get rid of my running shoes after their intended purpose ends, usually around month six. But they still work fine for walking and other sports. And so my stack of shoes is alive and well by my door. I actually just dropped off four pairs at Goodwill too. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Missing those ubiquitous ski trails of Anchorage


Skate skiing used to be a part of my life in a major way in Anchorage, Alaska, for six winters. Now I have to drive 60 miles to some decent trails, which are not as well-groomed as what I had at my fingertips at one of the nation’s best cross-country ski areas–urban Anchorage. The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage is the major reason why Nordic skiing in Anchorage was always way, way, way above average. A lousy winter this year has put a damper on the ski community (it was 38 degrees F on Friday, Jan. 16). I do miss those trails living so far away. I took all of these photos with a consumer-grade point and shoot Canon–a tough little workhorse that was easy to slip in my pocket and snap quick pics during a ski outing. And there were many ski outings.

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Extreme Nordic at Mt Hood’s Teacup ski trails

On the last day of 2014, Mt. Hood finally had great ski conditions. I headed up to Teacup Nordic, the closest groomed nordic trails near Portland and got my last good runs of the old year. To anyone out there who thinks Nordic is for geezers or losers, you should give skate skiing a try. It will kick your ass into shape on the flats and uphills and will have you grinning like a bear in a salmon stream when you rip down a groomed trail. Happy trails, skiers.

Skate skiing at Teacup on Mt. Hood

Teacup Lake is a groomed cross country ski area on Mt. Hood. Trails are groomed and maintained by Teacup Lake chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club. The season opened early last weekend, but the snow was the typical Cascades wet, heavy glop. This week, warm weather will delay the re-opening. Here is a video I put together of the Hood River Road Trail, one of the few groomed trails open when I skied (Nov. 23). One reason I love skate skiing is because I get to combine screaming downhill fun and hard work required to skate ski and particularly climb hills, or the lung-busters. Hope you get out of town whereever you are and enjoy winter.

Surfing in the rain at Oswald beach, Oregon

Oswald West State Park is a popular surfing beach in northwest Oregon, south of the more upscale and popular Canon Beach. You will need a wet suit, as we are talking water that is always less than 60 F. The day I visited (Nov. 9, 2014), I saw a lot of novices and not a single clean ride. The ocean was choppy and the surf erratic. No one seemed to mind. Everyone was enjoying the vibe. You can see a bigger version of the video here.

Seattle industrial typology study

I have always been fascinated by the forms that our modern building systems display. Exhaust, air, heating, and cooling systems are about as basic systems as one finds, and they usually have a place of prominence on rooftops, unadorned and standing like metallic animals and sculptures. Bernd and Hilla Becher called these forms typologies and made a career highlighting them in their master prints and publications. Check them out if you have never heard of them. They, more than any photographers in a long while, have influenced how I see the world and how I think about the ways we construct our physical environment to suit our economic system. (Click on each photograph to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.)

Germany completely destroys Brazil at the World Cup

I cannot believe what I am watching via the multimedia extravaganza semi-final game. As of the 75th minute, Germany is up 6-0. I have to ask, is this a fix? Did the big-time crooks somewhere in a Macau casino throw this game, or is Brazil that bad without two of its star players. We will soon know. Here is how the Twitterverse, web, and football world is experiencing the game today. Note, I do not have copyright to any of these images, and these are great examples of media showing how not to play el jogo bonito. (Click on the images to see larger versions on a separate picture page–all of the images do not belong to me, and are taken from the Internet.)

Final note: Germany rolls over Brazil 7-1. I am glad I was not really watching this and just watching others watch this event.

A tribute to all of those race day volunteers

I love running. I have run numerous marathons, half marathons, mountain races, and even an ultra. So I support running and races. Always.

However, I am a bit dubious about massive marathons these days and who they benefit, like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Seattle today, June 21. They clog city streets by closing major arterials for hours, outside companies who do not report their earnings pocket profits using public property and disrupt local businesses, and no proceeds from the event go to support local community sports events that cater to lower-income people who can’t afford race fees that are now $75 and even more.

I think cities need to support healthy events, like races. However, they can and should establish memoranda of understanding with companies, like the organizers of the Rock n Roll Marathon Series, and require that these companies share some of the earnings made from public resources to support sports activities for the general public. Perhaps there can be a fund to support trail development and safer streets in areas that do not have nice parks for people of all ages. That way those inconvenienced by for-profit events can get future health benefits and the city can show its residents that the public inconvenience contributes to a public good.

Always these for-profit events have volunteers. These are the unsung heroes of any race. Anyone who has hit the last water stands loves those smiley faces, oranges, and water. The Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, which is almost entirely off-road and on trails and dirt roads at Joint Base Elmendorf-Fort Richardson, is my model of a great marathon. It is locally run (albeit supported by large corporate benefactors), supported by fund-raising groups like Team in Training, and well supported by local volunteers. Go Mayor’s. Here is a photo I snapped while running at about mile 9 as I ran the half marathon at Mayor’s in 2009, when I had a nasty pulled muscle and had to pull the plug on the full distance. I loved those cheery volunteers who lined the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to make my race day a memorable experience. Thanks volunteers!

(Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)


The beauty of a World Cup meme, starring goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa

I am a soccer fanatic. Yes I am. I played all my life, back on defense, until I tore my ACL for the second time in 2005. But I still love “el jogo bonito,” as the Brazilian hosts call it. And I love great sportsmanship, great team efforts, and great displays of soccer excellence (yes, I will use the Americanism, not the universal term futbol, as I am writing mostly for an American audience).

On June 17, the Mexican keeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa put on a  show that dazzled the world soccer community at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Mexico tied Cup host Brazil to a heart-thumping 0-0 draw. Miraculously, every time the yellow jerseys looked certain to score against the Tri, the defiant Ochoa said with a block and deflection, not today, you shall not score. I would say nearly every Brazilian old enough to watch television regrets that this amazing, young Mexican sports star had ever worn the Mexican jersey, and every Mexican knows who he is and why he suddenly became a national hero.

Ochoa showed that a great defense can beat even the best offense. You do not play like this every day. You have to be in the zone, when everything happens slowly, deliberately, as if in pre-ordained fashion. And so it was written, 0-0, with both teams grabbing a single point and left to wonder at what happened on the pitch at Fortaleza, Brazil. It was magic, and thanks for the show Memo.

A day later, of course, or likely in real time, the social media world was ablaze with Ochoa memes. Here were a few I found online, and to me they represent a brilliant form of creativity and enthusiasm for a game that, well, is more than a game. Also, this is one of the rare times I am going to republish material that I did not create. These images are by their instant distribution and fusion of different forms collective art, and now part of the global media landscape. (Last I checked, they also are not copyright protected. I’ll take them down if someone points out these are.)