Watching the Portland Timbers – A Traveler’s View

Portland Timbers, Ajax, Jeld-Wen Field
It's a perfect day for the Beautiful Game in Portland. And the noise is already going long before the match begins.

The kickoff is 30 minutes away. But already, loud voices chant and sing. Trumpets blow. The sound of drums bounces off the concrete.

Where am I? Manchester’s Old Trafford? St. James Park in Newcastle? Liverpool’s famous Anfield?

No. I’m in Portland, Oregon, at Jeld-Wen Field. And yes, these people are chanting mightily for soccer.

There’s a friendly match (or exhibition) on tap, with Dutch champions AFC Ajax making a visit to the Rose City. They’ll play first-year Major League Soccer franchise Portland Timbers. They might not have a pedigree to match that of Ajax. No reputation for Total Football or as a breeding ground for top players.

All the Timbers have are Sal Zizzo, Kenny Cooper and the fans – most notably the Timbers Army. Oh, they also have Timber Joey, a bearded, smiley colossus on patrol with a gas-powered chainsaw. He’s there to make sure you’re cheering. Not that he needed to prod the crowd much. Timbers have a relatively long soccer history  (for a U.S. side, anyway) dating all the way back to 1975.

Throughout the match, I wondered what the Ajax squad thought of the Timbers. They issued a 2-nil beatdown that wasn’t anywhere as close as the scoreline. Ajax showed smooth, assured control of the ball. Their formations morphed with astounding liquidity, rapidly changing to match the situation. Their second goal? Midfielder Demy de Zeeuw could’ve just hammered it in – but no. He opts for a more complicated and stylish scissor kick. It’s the sort of move you won’t see at even 10 percent of the matches you could watch. That’s the Ajax way … soccer should – no, must – must entertain.

No matter how Ajax regard their opponents, I hope Jeld-Wen Field, the Timbers fans and the city of Portland made an impression. It’s a very nice stadium, the fans are in great voice and it’s a terrific city.

I also love that Portland ardently supports the Timbers. Throughout the city, you’ll see people in Timbers regalia and bars urging people to watch matches there. I saw about three people wearing Trailblazers NBA shirt. Contrast this with Washington, D.C. or Denver – there, I saw barely an signs outside the stadium that MLS existed. In Portland, people are abuzz about the franchise.

I notice a funny little habit of the Timbers fans during the Star-Spangled Banner: After every few lines, they’d wave their scarves or banners in the air and make a whooshing, rocket-like noise. Kind of funny, and very unusual.

Good luck to the Timbers, and thanks for turning this visitor from the desert into a fan.

 

Tucson Mountain Bikers Up for $50K Grant

Fantasy Island, Tucson, Mountain Biking, Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists
The Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists are a force in improving Tucson's mountain bike culture.

Some of my mountain bike buddies in Tucson need your help: Your votes can help the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists win a $50,000 grant through Reinventing the Outdoors presented by Ford Motor Company and Good.is.

All you need to do is vote once a day through May 20.

Their mission is to make Tucson a world-class mountain bike destination. They’ve got the drive and the know-how to do it – and they can make that $50,000 go a long way.

They’re envisioning more trails for all levels of riders, a bike park and improved facilities at trailheads (who doesn’t love bathrooms and maps?), just to name a few things.

You can find more of the nitty-gritty info by reading my story on Examiner.com. You’ll find out about their support from Specialized racer Todd Wells, along with their ideas for making mountain biking part of the social and economic fabric of Tucson.

Best of Arizona – Pima & Dynamite Trail Network

gila monster, wandering justin, arizona
A gila monster!

I almost don’t notice it. But the slow, wiggling movement catches my eye. A splotch of black and orange among shades of brown.

Yes! It’s a gila monster!

Thirty years of living in Arizona, and this is only the second one I’ve seen in the wild.

This is exactly what makes the trail network near Pima and Dynamite in Scottsdale one of the city’s best outdoor activities. You can rip through more than 50 miles of great trails. You can enjoy stark-but-beautiful high-desert scenery.

And you can come face-to-face with wildlife. Here at Pima & Dynamite, I’ve seen more than just this gila monster. Add to the list rattlesnakes, juvenile bald eagles, chuckwallas, jackrabbits and coyotes.

pima and dynamite, mountain biking, wandering justin, arizona
The entire area is riddle with trails.

About my pebbly, leathery gila monster friend: He moves slowly, but quickly enough to get away. I get a bit of video on my Fuji XP-10 (a nice complement to my handlebar-mounted Helmet Hero) before he scurries under a bush. He is venomous, but too shy and slow to be of much danger. The encounter puts a grin on my face for the rest of the day.

Ripping through a tight corners. Short bursts of power to muscle my way up climbs. Flying up and down rolling sections of trail -- these are all great. But a glimpse of nature puts an extra shine on the day.

santa cruza superlight, pima & dynamite, mountain biking, arizona, adventure bicycle company, wandering justin
Fully loaded for a day at Pima & Dynamite.

Speed, excitement and fitness are great reasons to ride. But so is seeing the bigger world around you. There are few better places to bring it all together.

About Pima & Dynamite

  • Most of the trails are on Arizona State Trust Land. You need a permit to legally use the area. Check the State Land Department website for more information.
  • A map helps. And Dale Wiggins is a map master. Check out his offering for Pima & Dynamite.
  • Park at the intersection of Pima Road and Dynamite Boulevard. I usually park on Dynamite just off the westbound lane.
Another example of the crazy wildlife you'll find at Pima & Dynamite.

Rattlesnake Encounter – What Should You Do?

Photo by Tigerhawkvok/Wikipedia.

I’ve already written about how to deal with rattlesnake encounters. The folks from the Maricopa County Parks Department gave me some great advice.

Turns out, not everyone agrees with it.

I recently encountered a rattler curled in the shade of a creosote bush right alongside the Desert Classic Trail at South Mountain in Phoenix. Some other riders had stopped to warn people.

They were just warning people. Which is great for the amount of time they’re there.

What about the people who walk or ride by after everyone else is gone? Chances are, they’ll never see the rattler. And they might take that wrong step that results in one nasty, painful, dangerous, potentially life-threatening wound.

That was my logic behind tossing a few stones near the rattler, as I’d learned to do from the ranger I interviewed for my last piece about rattlers. The stones got progressively larger, but I made sure not to actually hit the snake. I was hoping to cause enough vibration to make it slither away. The snake wasn’t having any of it – too comfortable in the shade, I guess. And there were no sticks long or sturdy enough that I’d use to herd it.

"That’s stupid. You’re just going to piss him off," one other rider said, anthropomorphizing far too much. Anger doesn’t make a snake bite – feeling threatened makes a snake bite.

I told him that this is the advice I got from people who know what they’re doing. He rode away muttering about how much he knew about snakes. Probably not as much as a county ranger, I’d guess.

I tried my best to move the snake, but couldn’t. It didn’t even rattle or hiss. And I wasn’t willing to get any closer. Nor was I willing to kill it … it was just being a snake.

I felt we were at least responsible for trying to make the trail safer.

What do you think?

The Warrior Dash – Things to Know

warrior dash arizona
Spartans! Eat hearty, for tonight we dine on … MUD! (Yes, I know I’m mixing my warrior classes, what with the 300 reference and the faux-viking headgear.)

LOOKING FOR TIPS AND “HOW TO” INFO FOR THE WARRIOR DASH? SEE THIS UPDATED POST!

So who out there did the Warrior Dash? What did you think? Was it really "a hellish 3.4 miles" of running, obstacles and mud?

I took a shot, as you might guess. It’s too fun to be hellish – but it is challenging -- and quite a spectacle. I ran in the Arizona edition on May 1. It ran for two days in Florence, just southeast of Phoenix. (Find a Warrior Dash near you) Here are a few thoughts from being part of the 1:30 p.m. wave. Check these out, and let me know about your Warrior Dash experience!

  • Don’t wear anything you plan to wear again.  And if you sink a lot of time into some sort of costume, be willing to destroy it. And have it hinder your performance. Except for the dudes I saw running in dresses – they were fast, and looked well-practiced at running in dresses.
warrior dash arizona
Somebody needs a shower.
  • Run the second day. The first day will help organizers work some kinks out. On Saturday, the Arizona race only had one water station. The organizers wisely added a second for Sunday.
  • Bring towels and spare clothes. Don’t overlook this. A portable camp shower isn’t a bad idea, either.
  • There’s a very convenient bag check. Drop your spare clothes/towel/keys/whatnot off there. Run. Come back and get it. Save yourself a long slog to the car.
  • If you have time, enjoy the atmosphere. The electronic timing tag on your shoe gets you a free beer (though it’s beer fit for frat boys rather than warriors, so I skipped it).
warrior dash arizona
Hose before Bros: Participants get their sins -and slime- washed away with a Warrior Dash baptism.
  • I understand that not everybody is super-fit. I know that not everyone is charging hard for a good time. But please, people, this is not a Toys for Tots walk-a-thon. At least look like you’re trying. Jog bits of it. And do not, for the love of Odin, walk three abreast. Stay to the right and leave room for the faster people. Earn your plush Viking headgear! If you are not willing to get out of breath, sign up for something else.
  • There are lots of scantily clad fit people. Just sayin’.
  • We had to pay $10 to park. That was kind of grating.
  • Speaking of parking -- it smelled like the Rastafarian Army was camping near our parking spot. Both arriving and leaving, the smell of skunkiness filled the air.

So if you did it, would you do it again?

warrior dash arizona
Yes, I’m muddy. What of it?