SOUTH MOUNTAIN, PHOENIX, Arizona - Anyone can run the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and replicate the famous training run by Sly Stallone in the original Rocky. Dedicated fans to the world's greatest heavyweight boxer have to be much more committed to pay homage to another classic Rocky training montage - climbing a mountain to scream, "DRAGO!"
The South Mountain range in Phoenix provides such an opportunity, even without the KGB following you. It was 29 years ago this year when Rocky Balboa trained in the USSR to fight Ivan Drago.
I set out for the peak in this photograph - the one at about 11 o'clock; the top here is approximately 33,000 feet, give or take.
Like any great mountain climber - I was prepared with the hiker's checklist:
* T-shirt, basketball shorts, and running shoes - check.
* No water - check.
* No food - check.
* No real experience climbing rocks, or steep terrain - check.
* Don't tell anyone you are going to be there, just in case something goes wrong - check.
* Cell phone with 10 percent battery remaining - check.
* No identication cards - check.
* Begin your climb late in the afternoon, so you the sun will go down during your adventure - check.
* The ability to ignore signs that read, "Don't walk here" - check.
* No map - check.
* Ignorant ambition to simply climb a peak because it's there - check.
All of the ingredients for an exciting episode of I Shouldn't Be Alive on the Animal Planet.
Two hours in, and lots o' huffing/puffing/cursing later and the journey was complete. A wonderful view, a nice breeze, a pretty sunset and total isolation; it's a good way to remind yourself just how small you are.
More importantly, I could do this:
After completing my stupid journey, a voice from waaaaaay down on the ground screamed back, "Hey buddy?! - Are you OK?!"
What is misleading about Rocky's run up the mountains in Russia is not the difficulty of his climb, but pain of the descent. It's a recipe for a sprained ankle, especially when you have no clue what you are doing.
All that's left is to drink raw eggs, take a ton of steroids, and undergo plastic surgery and my homage to Rocky will be complete.
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