Senior writer Bob Ottum, author of the story in this issue on U.S. cyclist Greg LeMond (page 50), is spending some time unwinding. He has got the perfect place for it, a split-level perched atop a hill outside Salt Lake City, more than a mile above sea level. It has been a notably busy year even for the fast-moving Ottum. He has reported on both the Winter and Summer Olympics, profiled racing driver Danny Sullivan, previewed, viewed and reviewed Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton, and in the line of duty has checked into hotels in Switzerland, Belgium, West Germany, England, Holland and Yugoslavia, among other places. "Right now I'm just trying to relax," Ottum says uncomplainingly.
For Ottum, 59, unwinding is a pursuit that has certain immutable ingredients. A full measure of exercise and a dash of writing are among them; so is the occasional vodka Gibson on the balcony. "I run in the morning, usually about four miles, and throw in a long one on weekends," he says, "and then I do some writing." This produces not only pieces for SI but also novels. His fifth, a suspense thriller entitled The Stone Fox, will be published next spring by St. Martin's Press.
In the afternoon, when he finally pushes himself away from the typewriter, "I go back and play some more." Ottum's favorite toys include hiking boots and Nordic skis. "It won't snow here till Thanksgiving, which is driving us crazy," he says, referring to his wife, Joyce. "You see, I've become an absolute nut about cross-country skiing. We go into the high-mountain meadows, with elk and deer peering at you from behind juniper trees. Marvelous."
Until the snow comes, Ottum will scoot up into the Wasatch Range on yet another favored plaything, his 15-speed mountain bicycle. "It's a new breed of bike," Ottum says. "It's designed to go off-road—it's got knobby tires, and the handlebars go straight up so you're not all hunched over. It goes on goat trails, cow trails, through streams. You can go up and down stairs on it. I realize that having done this biking story, it sounds kind of unusual to come back and unwind by riding a bike in the mountains. But, really, it's nifty."
September 2, 1984
Ottum knows nifty when he experiences it. Consider as evidence one more image from the mountainside: "I have a bunch of hiking buddies, and we take our rucksacks and pack a bottle of wine and some cheese and sausage. We ride to the Wasatch and then sit and contemplate the whole world. It's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon."
Even with the day's writing and other activities completed, Ottum isn't done. If it's his turn, he's off to the kitchen to fix dinner. "Oh, I've learned to cook one or two things," he says. "It's like learning to play one piece on the piano." Nevertheless, Ottum's specialty, bouillabaisse, earned him a write-up in The Salt Lake City Tribune last January.