Date: May 29, 2001
Location: Grand Junction, Colorado
Title: Kokopellis 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 Id 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, Id 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 Id already met him. Mike
Curiak. Id seen his presentation last year and had heard about
how hed 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.
Thats 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
Too late now. Mike Curiak. Cassandra. The message had been lost
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 Kokopellis Trail..