Sunday, June 27, 2010

102 Degrees

That's what the thermometer read in my Escape when I got to the grocery store this afternoon.  As I got out of my SUV and made the short walk into the Safeway the sun seemed to blast off the asphalt parking lot.  I thought to myself, Phoenix. 

I lived in Phoenix for three years.  I remember it reaching 100 degrees in late March.  My first trip to Phoenix as I walked out of the jet way and I felt that I had stepped into a blast furnace.  It just envelops you in a shell of heat. 

Sacramento won't hit 115 degrees but 105 is not uncommon.  It's much different than the heat I experienced living in Fort Myers.  It rarely got above 95 degrees.  But when you add in the humidity and dew points above 75 degrees it could feel like 105.  I'll take the 95 with a heavy dose of humidity, thank you!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Western States 100

I decided to take advantage of my new home and check out a race that I used to dream about running.  It's called the Western States 100.  It starts in Squaw Valley and ends on a high school track in Auburn.  The race uses old mining trails.  The climbs and descents are staggering with the ascents totaling more than 15-thousand feet and the descents than 22-thousand feet.  Runner's experience every kind of weather from the cool that mountains have to offer to desert heat.

Given that the course record was 15:36 held by the legendary ultra runner Scott Jurek I figured I'd be safe if I showed up by 8:30 p.m.  I left the house at 6:45 p.m. figuring it would take an hour to get to Auburn.  Much to my surprise the drive took only 35 minutes.  I stopped in the town's picturesque downtown for a meal.  I could hear the speakers at the high school track ringing through the hills as I walked from my SUV to the restaurant so I knew I was close to where I needed to be.

After ripped through a nice ribeye I made it to the track at about 8:20 p.m.  Much to my shock two runner's had already made it to the finish line, both having shattered the course record.  The winner Geoff Roes from Alaska was comfortably stretched out across the finish line enjoying his new found celebrity.
I decided to use my cell phone camera to record the moment.  I emailed the picture to myself marking another historic first.  I had never used my cell phone camera to actually email a photo.  I'm sure the Czarina won't appreciate the charge from Sprint since we don't have a data plan.  Roes shattered the record by almost 30 minutes.  It was still 92 degrees track side when I got out of my SUV so I'm sure the weather was pretty tough.

I stuck around so I could at least say I saw some finishers.  Shortly after 9 p.m. a 22-year-old runner from Spain came across the finish line followed about a minute later by a runner from Fort Collins, Colorado.  It was pretty darn neat.  There were probably 500 or so spectators in the stands and on the infield.  Tents were set up everywhere.  It was well worth the trip.

I wish I knew that I was physically capable of attempting Western States.  I think that time has passed.  But perhaps I can help out sometime in the future as a pacer.  I can't imagine as I sit in my air conditioned apartment at 10:19 p.m. what it's like out there on those mountain trails right now with only a flash light to guide your way.  The only word I can think for doing something like that is courageous.  By the way you get a coveted belt buckle if you finish the race in 24 hours or less.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I into the home stretch at my new job as far as producer training.  My patient teacher, Aram, is carefully walking through the tasks I need to complete in order to get a newscast on the air.  Day side executive producer James has been a big help as well.  I already knew the computer system we use, iNews.  But unfortunately an upgrade to the system wiped out all the shortcuts that would help make the job easier.

Another part of the learning curve is producing graphics.  We use a web based computer program called AXIS to make full screens, mug shots, maps and everyone's producing favorite, the over the shoulder graphic.  This is completely out of my wheel house but it's actually pretty fun.  My step-son, Andrei, an outstanding television graphic artist, would probably laugh at my feeble efforts, but I like what I'm doing.

All of this caused me to flash back tonight to the very first newscast I produced.  It was in October 1978 at KEZI in Eugene, Oregon.  I quit my job at KMBC that fall hoping to find a job somewhere in Oregon.  Ridge Shannon, my boss at KMBC, put me in contact with Peter Spears, the news director at KEZI. 

Peter met me at a bar where he introduced me to Anchor Steam beer.  Then we went to his house where he proceeded to roll a fat joint and invited me to house sit while he and his wife went to San Francisco.  The house sitting involved one bit of unpleasantness.  Peter's cat  (it was an outdoor cat) was run over by a car in front of the house while he was gone.  I was dumbstruck.  I put the cat in a box and slid it under the porch and gave him the bad news when he returned.  He took it all in stride.

He then proceeded to hire me part-time to produce the weekend newscasts.  I had never been close to doing anything like that in Kansas City.  So I popped my producing cherry in Eugene.  If my memory serves me correct, Dixie Whatley, another new hire, anchored the weekend train wrecks.  Dixie went on to bigger and better things, first with Entertainment Tonight then working in Boston.  The sports anchor was a woman, Debbie Segura.  Debbie went on to CNN.  An hispanic, she somehow managed to marry Lew Dobbs, go figure.  For the life of me I can't remember the weathercaster.  My favorite co-worker at KEZI, Tom Cassidy, became THE business reporter at CNN.  Tom died from AIDS, much too young, in 1991.

The Eugene experiment only lasted a month.  Peter didn't have the money to keep me on.  I wasn't having any luck finding a media job, so homesick, I headed back to Kansas, and to some good fortune awaiting me back at KMBC. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

900 miles and counting

The St. George Marathon is less than four months away.  I've got to get motivated and start doing some serious long runs.  We're talking at least two and a half hours.  I want to get up next Sunday morning and join a group that leaves at 8 a.m. from the Fleet Feet store.  I've just got to convince myself that the company is more important than sleeping in.

Running is tough right now.  I'm adjusting to the rigors of working eight to nine hours a day.  I'd gotten soft having been unemployed or under employed for 10 months.  I want to collapse on the couch when I get home at night.  So far I've only managed three to four mile runs most nights despite the great weather we're experiencing in Sacramento.  I did manage 11 on Sunday.

I'm hoping when my schedule shifts to nights I will adapt quickly to morning runs.  Currently I'm working days as I undergo training on the various systems it takes to produce a newscast and post stories, pictures, etc; to our Internet site.  A lot has changed in the three plus years I've been away from a newsroom.  Chief among them is the fact that our producers make their own graphics.  Those are the items you see in the newscast like maps, mug shots and those clever over the shoulder graphics that help explain a story.  I'm learning how to make those too.

Here's to morning runs and a return to 40 mile plus weeks.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Masha's New Best Friend

One of my concerns about the visit now underway in Fort Myers is how Masha would react to Rudy.  Her encounters with pets have been very limited.  But as you can see the two have become fast friends.

The Czarina had a basic fear of cats and dogs when we got married.  At the time I had two felines.  She quickly adjusted to my cats.  Rudy's been our only cat for the last eight years.  He's as friendly and mellow as any cat I've ever known and I attribute that to Andrei, my step-son, who gave Rudy plenty of attention when he was a kitten.
Masha's even learned our little trick to make Rudy work for his treats.  We put them on the narrow ledge just off the kitchen and he'll stand up and knock the nuggets off and gobble them up.  He's pretty smart about retrieving the goodies.  Of course, he's the only cat I've had that can open sliding doors and latch doors.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Road Warrior

Our European branch of the family are enjoying the sunshine and thunderstorms of Southwest Florida.  Vlad, Natasha and Masha arrived last night in Fort Myers.  After some initial confusion on the Czarina's part, she finally found them at the airport and their 13 hour journey from Riga was over.
Traveling across the Atlantic with a 3 and a half year old can take a toll on even the toughest parents.  It didn't take Vlad and Natasha long to find a comfortable position on our couch.  Meanwhile that left the Czarina free to do what she enjoys best which is being a doting grandmother.
As you can see Masha handled the lengthy trip a little better than mom and dad.  At last report the first full day in Florida was spent hitting the outlet malls and Wal-Mart.  The Czarina proudly reported that Masha insisted that grandmother handle all stroller duties.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


I thought it best to fire up the way back machine again and renew my series of blogs about my adventures in my chosen profession, television news.  The winter and spring of 1978 introduced me to the world of working in a newsroom.  I worked as an intern at KMBC along with another KU student Gene Slais. 

The newsroom was a page of script taken straight from Ron Burgundy.  Larry Moore was THE anchorman.  More than 30 years later Larry is still anchoring at KMBC after a couple of ill-fated detours to San Francisco and Chicago.  Larry was full of fun.  He would grumble at me, "Rinkenbaugh, working with you is like trying to make journalistic timber out of a twig.  I would cry when he announced later that summer that he was leaving Channel 9 for San Francisco, the "Big Time" as he called it.

The weather woman was Cheryl Jones.  She was a short firecracker from Tennessee with massive breasts.  Cheryl would sometimes come to work not wearing a bra.  Her globes would hang there in all there glory driving this 22-year-old to distraction.

Don Fortune anchored sports, right down to the tacky plaid jackets.  He was capable of incredible outbursts of anger, generally aimed at 10 p.m. producer Jerry "Pittsburgh" Plantz.  The fights were spectacular and it was from Jerry that I learned that once it was over, never let the anger carry over to the next day.

The other great teachers that I had in that newsroom were assignment editor Jim Overbay and producer Gerry Roberts.  Jim went on to be a successful news director at KCTV and Gerry is the assistant news director at KMBC.  Whereas Plantz could be volatle, Roberts and Overbay were cool, calm and collected.

Ridge Shannon was the news director.  He was in a tough situation.  Ridge ran the #1 news operation in town but the owners MetroMedia were constantly cutting his budget.  He was at the center of the biggest anchor sexism scandal in American television history involving Christine Craft, but that's a whole different blog.  Ridge and I became good friends years later, even traveling to races together and sharing a meal or two in Southwest Florida.

My favorite in the newsroom though was the weekend anchor, Corrice Collins.  Corrice was a bigger than life, man.  Corrice and I would take great delight at sitting at one of our favorite Westport watering holes and insulting each other with racist jabs.  Mr. Collins happened to be black right down to his massive afro.  Corrice taught me a lot by just letting me go out on stories and watch him operate. 

Ridge ended up hiring me as a part time associate producer.  I wrote stories, shot silent film (you had to be in the union to shoot sound), made graphics, and learned how to run the chyron, my favorite job in the newsroom.  That experience would lead me to bigger and better things.  But more on that later.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What a Week

I've been absent because I've been a little busy.  Last Saturday at 2:45 p.m. I set out on what I hope to be the greatest adventure of my life.  I accepted a position to work as the night side executive producer at KXTV in Sacramento, California.  The station is in a battle to be the market leader.  It is owned by Gannett.

The man who hired me, Tim Geraghty, has a lot of major market experience in the news director's chair.  We started talking more than eight months ago about the possibility of me making this trek west across the country and join him in his efforts to place the news operation firmly in the 21st century.

The drive to Sacramento took four days and covered more than three thousand miles.  I am happy to report that it was largely uneventful.  I had to sit in bad traffic for a crash in Mobile, Alabama and for another accident in New Orleans.  Once I hit Texas the drive was pretty unremarkable except for some stunning scenery.  Even parts of God forsaken West Texas offer a kind of lonely beauty.

The highlight of the drive occurred in Amarillo.  Beginning at the Texas state line these large billboards trumpeted the 72 ounce steak at the Big Tex Steak Ranch.  It's free if you can down it with the trimmings in one hour.  My buddy Dave Parks and I had enjoyed many discussions about that particular restaurant and what it must take to consume a hunk of beef that size.  Now every few dozen miles these billboards heralded the approaching piece of meat.  I called Dave in excitement about Big Tex and he convinced me that it was a must see part of my journey.

I rolled into Amarillo right at dinner time and as luck would have it Big Tex sits right along I-40.  The God's of all things steak must have been smiling on me because shortly after I sat down a young man stepped up to challenge the 72 ounce steak.  While I chowed down on my ten ounce ribeye I watched as this 20 something chewed his way into history.  I took some pictures with my cell phone camera but I can't download them yet.  I didn't stick around for the finale because with 20 minutes to go he still had half of the steak left.

The only other surprise was just how mountainous I-40 is west of Flagstaff.  Had the Czarina or I known this we would have sweated a lot more about Andrei's trip with his Jimmy pulling a trailer from Illinois to Riverside, California last year.  I don't know how the 11 year old Jimmy made it, although it should be noted the Andrei did put a new engine in the SUV somewhere in Missouri when it gave out in the early stages of the trip.  I tip my hat to my step-son for making it.

It was fitting that the first song that played on my great journey was Bruce Springsteen's "Ghost of Tom Joad."  It was amazing driving up the San Joaquin Valley.  It is a non-stop vista of American agriculture.   It was a fitting way to cap off my cross country journey.

Now I have a new home, a new job, and wait only for my wife to eventually join me in the Golden State. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Money Talks, Nebraska Walks

Money has corrupted collegiate sports, absolutely.  Nebraska is the shining example.  If all the sources and news reports are true, the Cornhuskers have decided to pick up their ball and go play with the likes of Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio State.

I can hardly blame the Huskers.  They could never really compete in the collegiate arms race against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma, especially the Longhorns, a school that generates endless amounts of money.  Nebraska got out of the Big 12 while the getting was good.

On a personal level I hate it.  Of all of the traditional rivals that play Kansas, the Big Red was the one I liked and respected the most.  Their fans were classy.  They traveled.  They used to fill up Memorial Stadium in Lawrence with a sea of red.  I'll never forget the antics of the late Huskers' hoops coach Joe Cipriano or the wonderful drama at the Big 8 indoor staged on Nebraska's then brand new track at the Devaney Center. 

This couldn't have come at a worst time for the Jayhawks.  Lew Perkins has been mortally wounded by a scandal.  Kansas desperately needs to either hook up with the Pac 10, which makes absolutely no sense, or better still, run headlong with the Huskers into the Big 10. 

God bless Lew for doing everything he could to build Kansas into a football power.  Despite my intense dislike for the man I think he could see this day coming.  He knew the Jayhawks would be hung out to dry when the big money squeeze came to college sports unless KU could bring a good football team to the table. 

Despite KU's basketball history the money that sport generates is a gnat on an elephant's ass in the face of football.  If Perkins doesn't work some magic KU is headed to the Mountain West or worst still to Conference USA. 

And that's what I hate about money corrupting collegiate sports.  I miss the old Big 8.  I miss the basketball tournament every March in Kansas City.  Texas and its money devoured the Big 8 and now that same money is destroying the Big 12.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"The" Coach

As a young boy growing up in north central Kansas my love of sports really blossomed in the fall of 1965.  It was a grand awakening to heroes like Sandy Koufax, Jim Ryun, and Wilt Chamberlain.  My wonderful mother fed my passion with a subscription to Sports Illustrated and I was hooked.

As much as I loved the Kansas Jayhawks I became a huge fan of UCLA basketball.  I was enthralled by their style of play and the fact that they won with all different types of teams.  The Bruins dominated college basketball for a decade in a manner we will never see again.  It was due in large part to their coach, John Wooden.  In my opinion, he is the best coach, for any sport, period.

Granted, Wooden was blessed to have two of the greatest centers in college history, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, but he also won with the likes of Sidney Wicks, Richard Washington, and Gail Goodrich.  His teams were cool and unflappable just like their coach.  Their full court press was fearsome.

My love for UCLA came at a time when college basketball was a rarity on television.  Seeing the Bruins on TV in the late 60's and early 70's was a real treat.  John Wooden embodied the best that sports had to offer and I rejoice in the passion for excellence in sports that he helped spark in this boy from Kansas.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

4 Months to Go

This is what awaits me four months from now.  26.2 miles starting just outside St. George, Utah.  Training for this endeavor is becoming a challenge.  I have even started getting up before 6 a.m. to do long runs on the weekend to make those efforts more bearable.   

Surprisingly, the last few weeks have been mild for compared to the sauna that usually descends on Southwest Florida.  It's been hot but dew points have stayed below 70 degrees.  That is until last Sunday.  I went out Sunday evening for what I thought would be an easy seven mile run.  By mile five I was wrung out.  I was seriously worried that I might have to do some walking.

The afternoon thunderstorms have started to build which is normal at this time of the year.  80 plus degree weather with humidity above 60 percent is doable.  But when you throw in dew points above 70 that's when it gets down right awful.  Not only do you have to cope with the oppressive weather you have to keep an ever watchful eye on the sky.  The storms can often produce deadly lightning. 

The training is going surprisingly well.  I topped the 800 mile mark for the year over the weekend and I've done a good job of keeping my regular training runs at four to six miles with a few tempo runs.  The next challenge is getting the weekend long run up and over two and a half hours. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A little LHS history

One of my favorite distance runners in the history of Lawrence High school ran his last race over the weekend at the Kansas State High School Championships.  Roy Wedge ran a big PR in placing 2nd in the 3200 run and ran a stellar second leg to help his team to a 4th place finish in the 4 x 800 relay.  The talented Mr. Wedge can also lay claim to an individual title in cross country last fall.  But more importantly he led the Lions to their first two team titles in 2008 and 2009.

This got me to thinking about the all time great distance runners at LHS.  The pantheon of great high school running programs is limited.  When I say great, I'm talking dominating.  Shawnee Mission Northwest, Shawnee Mission South and Wichita East would have to rank as the top three.  Year in and year out Northwest produces quality runners, both boys and girls.  South became a dominant school in the late 60's but by the 1980's it's hit and miss.  The same can be said about Wichita East but when one looks at the all time list of fastest times ever in Kansas, Jim Ryun aside, and Wichita East deserves its place among the very best.

Lawrence High has had its fair share of great distance runners.  As good as Roy Wedge was, he wouldn't even rank in the top three, but he would rank in my book as the school's 5th best ever distance runner.  Here's the rest of my list, which takes into consideration post high school accomplishments:
4.  Chris Williams:  He captured a remarkable three straight gold medals in cross country at state.  He also snagged two 3200 meter titles in track and field.  Williams was a great competitor, nicknamed, "Animal," but he never ran the kind of times one would expect of a multiple state champion.  He went to Duke where he had a good, but not great career.
3.  Doug Peterson:  Doug holds the school record for the 880 and mile (800/1600).  He was a state champion in the mile and ran one of the best distance medley relay anchors at the K.U. Relays clocking a 4:12.5 in a desperate effort to get the Lions onto the awards stand.  Doug went on to become a Big 10 champion at Northwestern and an Olympic Trials qualifier for 1500 meters at Northwestern.
2.  David Johnston:  It's hard to argue with David's five state titles, one in cross country and four in track.  David was the most versatile distance runner at LHS, running quality times from 800 to 3200.  He enjoyed an outstanding career at Kansas earning All-American honors in cross country.
1.  Kent McDonald:  What's amazing about Kent's position on top is that he is the only runner NOT to have won a state title.  Kent had the misfortunte of racing against one of the greatest distance runners in Kansas high school history, Randy Smith.  Kent still holds the school record for two miles running one of the state's fastest times ever in 1971 when he clocked a 9:08.9 at the Shawnee Mission North Night Relays.  He also held the school record in the mile since broken by Peterson.  At Kansas McDonald won four Big 8 titles in the steeplechase, an event that he was an All-American in, set and still holds the school record for that event, qualified for the Olympic Trials and finished second at nationals in the steeple to the aforementioned Smith.