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Date: May 29, 2001
Location: Grand Junction, Colorado
Title: Kokopelli’s Trail

I was paying some kind of penance, I guess, by dragging and pushing my heavy, unwieldy bike up a steep slope of loose dirt. I was sweating freely and scuffing up clouds of dust as I tugged the seatpost and aimed the handlebar upward under the hot desert sun. Penance? But for what sin? I was guilty, surely, of taking the summer off to ride my bike instead of buckling down into a job and a home and a routine. But since I’d been pretty much doing that for a year and a half anyway, it was hard to feel a direct connection between the crime and the punishment.

So what, then? Maybe it was for ignoring messages sent by unsuspecting messengers. Earlier in the week, I’d been out muddling through a maze of local Grand Junction trails and had met up with a guy. I asked if I could join him and did. As we rode up the nice, nasty trails, I slowly figured out that I’d already met him. Mike Curiak. I’d seen his presentation last year and had heard about how he’d won the Ididasport 1000 mile race across Alaska in February 2000 on a bike with a 21 pound gear bag. Riding 1000 miles in 15 days through snow, ice, and forty-below temperatures, through mountain ranges and over pack ice is impressive. But the thing that really impressed me was the 21 pound gear bag.

That’s exactly the detail that kept running through my head like an outlaw mantra as I reset my sweat-slick grip, dug my feet into the rubble, and dragged my bike another few feet. I was obviously carrying too much. Between food, water and luxuries (a luxury being anything besides food and water, maybe) I was dragging along about forty five pounds of gear on a nearly thirty pound bike. Maybe my brain was a little whirly from insufficient lunch, but there were visions of how fast I would be going with a super-light bike and only twenty-one pounds of gear. Twenty one? Heck, that amount of gear was fine for Alaska in February, but in the desert in May, I could probably get by with ten. Replace the tent with a thin sheet of plastic. Lose the self-inflating mattress. Did I really need a change of clothes? And what the hell was I thinking by bringing along things like tweezers, a novel, three pairs of spare sunglass lenses, hand lotion, a cute little camping pillow, and a six-foot cable lock?

Too late now. Mike Curiak. Cassandra. The message had been lost on me.

Probably it was no more than this: I was just paying the price of admission. And for the price, I was getting the complete experience of being exactly where I was, dragging my clumsy self upward, past eroded multi-colored bluffs, past sandstone ledges, dark canyons, bright lizards, cactus blossoms, and a Colorado River panorama. A stunning view that was lost on me at the moment.

Step, drag, grunt.

Day One on Kokopelli’s Trail..




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