There’s a magic to the universe.
I can feel it, more than ever when I’m on my bike.
It thrives in Oregon, land of fairies and elves and wild imaginations.
For many folks, the problem is, in my humble opinion, they often overlook, if not downright ignore the magic that’s out there. They simply think too much.
I could spend this whole column giving you mysterious spine-tingling grandiose examples in my life, but I’ll focus on the recent past and more mundane reflections.
I’m talking about things like grabbing my cellphone to text my daughter only to have a text from her arrive before I could start typing.
Or my uncanny ability to be at a stop light and out of the blue countdown 3-2-1 and it turns green. My older daughter says my accuracy rate with her in the car is about 95 percent, and frankly, she says, it freaks her out.
I can’t count the number of times my wife and I are sitting together when a thought pops into my head — often something we haven’t discussed in months or even years — and before I can bring it up, she does.
Living in a small town (pop. 15,000) in Oregon allows me to spend countless hours away from the endless distractions that keep most minds occupied throughout the day.
I hop on my bike and in 20 minutes I’m in the woods, chugging up logging roads where I won’t hear a car or bump into another person for the next two, three, four or more hours. That’s a lot of time to not think, just be.
You see, Oregon is the land of secrets. Everyone has their covert utopia.
Maybe that killer bend in the river where the salmon rest …
Or the ridge where huckleberries make their first appearance …
That deep woods ravine where Chanterelles pop in the fall …
And, of course, that unmarked trail carved ever so thoughtfully into the woods.
We uncover these places not by word of mouth — ah, that’s why we call them secret — instead by tapping the pioneering spirit nestled deep in our DNA.
So I headed out to one of Oregon’s sweet collection of mountain bike trails as I attempted to keep my well-toned summer fitness for as long as I can.
The good part of being this fit is being able to head out for four or five hours without killing myself. The bad part is being on a bike for four or five hours eventually becomes rather boring for me if I do it too often.
I pull my mountain bike out of the Santa Fe only to find I have no rear brake. The hydraulic fluid, if there is any, won’t respond to my disc brake.
Time to make a decision since, of course, I’m a mechanical moron with no idea how to remedy this malady even if I had access to things like tools and, well, hydraulic fluid.
To get to this level of fitness means I do a lot of climbing.
A LOT of climbing.
More than most normal folks would consider sane (I’m not talking to you serious cyclists, but us average folks who ride bikes).
There’s something about being alone out in the boondocks, plugging my way up an hour climb, that I enjoy. I do mean plugging. By no means do I set any speed records. I’m the tortoise. If there were others out there, say young fit hikers, they’d probably leave me in their dust rather than vice versa.
What comes up must go down, and I pretty much wear out my brakes every few months because I descend like a baby, born out of 13 years riding with my Black Lab when I had to descend at 5 mph as to allow her to survive for the next ride, and now the same for my Golden Lab, who’s still a puppy at 17 months.
At this particular set of trails the consensus would be that you have to be an idiot to ride them without a rear brake. Then again, I’m used to doing idiotic things not to mention, as I said, descending like a granny.
So, I went for it.
Truth be told, I went for it because there were no other cars at the trailhead. I do have an ego. Probably why I ride alone.
After about 90 minutes of climbing and descending on the perfectly designed flow trails, well, I got bored. So I hopped onto the nearest logging road and just started climbing.
I hit the summit about 45 minutes later. Once again, yawn, I’m bored. Then something hit me, out of nowhere.
Some rain had fallen recently in Oregon, kicking off autumn. I heed that as a call like sirens to find Chanterelle mushrooms in the forest. I’ve never hunted this area. But, I’m in the Coastal Mountains, so what the heck?
I hide my bike in the brush and begin slipping my way in bike cleats down the mountainside with about a 50-degree pitch. I see an older abandoned logging road covered with brush, and know I’ve struck gold on one of these before.
Understand that over the past 17 years I’ve also spent the equivalent of weeks foraging in the forest coming up completely shut out. It’s never a sure thing, finding mushrooms, even at their peak.
Just 10 steps down the hill, literally from 20 yards from my bike, a sliver of gold no bigger than an almond catches my eye. No way, I say out loud, somehow knowing it isn’t a fall leaf.
Sure enough, upon further inspection it’s the edge of a Chanterelle emerging from beneath the fir needles. Since they are communal, there must be others.
For the next two hours I hug this rich, steep, mountainside, filling a grocery bag with my precious gold.
I’ll smother my homemade pizza with them when I get home.
I’ll eat Chanterelles, onions, garlic, red jalapeño and eggs each morning.
Chanterelle chili, Chanterelle pasta and other delicacies await.
Ahh, just another magical day in the Oregon forests.
Where, you ask?
I’ll never tell.
Time to ride
Raz’s Chanterelle Hazelnut Blackberry Stuffing
Raz’s Rule: Cook like you ride. Choose more of what you like and less of what
you don’t like. It’s pretty simple.
Brown 1-2 cups of chopped hazelnuts in olive oil.
Saute 0.5-1 cup chopped sweet onion, 3-5 cups broken (I prefer hand breaking/
ripping to chopping) Chanterelle mushrooms in olive oil, seasoned with salt,
pepper, smoked paprika and chili powder, along with 1-2 garlic cloves. Add 1-3
cups of chopped celery (add it early if you want celery soft, late if you want it
Put 1-2 bags of stuffing bread in big bowl. Mix in cooked ingredients including
oil. Add 1 cup of frozen blackberries. Cover and chill overnight. Add vegetable
broth if you want your stuffing wetter.
Stuff your turkey with part of stuffing, bake the rest in Corning ware.
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