Every time I’ve ever ridden the Kokopelli, there’s been some big central event that winds up being the standout memory for the whole trip. After the first day of riding, I wasn’t sure what that standout memory was going to be. The heat and thirst? My pride in the way Lisa powered through the first day, getting stronger as she went? Jumping into the Colorado after the ride? Relaxing and eating in the shade at our camp?
All good memories and stories. But none of them would wind up being the big standout. That would — surprisingly — come on day two of the ride.
Why “surprisingly?” Well, provided you ride the Kokopelli Trail the way we did — start from Moab, camp at Dewey Bridge, finish in Loma, CO — the second day’s riding is much easier than the first day’s. Where the first day feels like nothing but huge climbs — 9000 feet of climbing in 60 miles or so — the second day has only a few thousand feet of climbing, spread out over 80 miles.
So the second day should be the day where we just spin along, taking in the big desert views, putting lots of miles on our bikes.
As it turns out, things sometimes don’t go as you’d expect.
We got started fairly early in the morning and began the day with some of the funnest trail on the Kokopelli; the section right after Dewey Bridge is rolling hard-baked desert doubletrack with occasional short, technical, ledgy climbs.
On a singlespeed, you have to go full-tilt into these kinds of moves; you won’t get to the top without considerable momentum at the bottom. So, as I attacked one of these moves, the move . . . counterattacked. Specifically, I took the left line and misjudged the flexibility (or lack thereof) of a scrub oak’s branch. I hit the branch with my left arm; the branch didn’t give, and I bounced to the right, madly pinwheeling my arms and kicking out of my pedals.
It was a decidedly ugly save, but I celebrated anyway. I remained on my feet, with nothing but a trivial cut on my arm.
Sadly, my new FattyFly SS — my beloved bike with the custom paint — took a little more damage than I did.
When this happens, you have the choice of getting upset, or not. A long time ago, I developed the philosophy of not. It’s a bicycle. A tool. A means to an end, not the end itself. It will get beat up as I use it the way I like to ride it.
So I only cried a little bit.
We crossed the pavement that led back to camp — our 90-minute ride on dirt could have also been an easy 10-minute downhill road ride, but what what fun would that be? — and started yet another section of desert singletrack. As Kenny and I rode side-by-side for a few minutes, I asked: “So, now that you’ve had it for a while, what do you think of the belt drive instead of a chain?”
“I like it, but I don’t love it,” said Kenny. While you don’t have to lube it, he went on, you do have to maintain it in other ways, and squeaking and popping were a problem for him.
By the way, that’s foreshadowing right there.
Lisa and I rode ahead for a little while. After losing sight of Kenny and Heather, we stopped and got something to eat while we waited.
In a few minutes, Heather rode up to us. Alone.
“Kenny’s belt just broke,” she said. “He has another one, but it’s probably not the right size. He’s trying to make it work, but if he’s not here soon, he’ll have to go back to camp for a different belt.”
“Don’t worry,” I replied. “I’ll use The Secret to bring him here.
And sure enough, Kenny appeared, about ten minutes later. But he wasn’t on his bike.
Which goes to show, I guess, that I needed to be more specific when using The Secret.
But Kenny had used his time running over to us to come up with a plan. A really good plan.
You should pay attention to this part, because the plan’s a really good one, as I believe I have mentioned.
“I’m going back to camp to get a new belt for my bike,” Kenny said. “I’ll fix my bike, then drive Elden’s truck over toward Westwater. You guys go on ahead and I’ll meet you there, we can fill up with water from the truck, and we can keep going from there.
Kenny then elaborated, “I’ll drive to the railroad trestle right before the ranger station — since that’s where the trail meets the road — and then get on my bike and ride on the Kokopelli back toward you. But if you get to the trestle before me, continue on to the Ranger Station so you won’t have to wait to get water.”
Here, I’ll draw a helpful map, for those of you who like hand-drawn maps:
So, Lisa and I were to look for Kenny at Meeting Place #1 (or just be intercepted by him along the trail), and if we beat him there, take the 3/4-mile-long road (or, for those of you who prefer metric, that’s 2640 cubits) to Meeting Place #2 and wait there. Kenny would check Meeting Place #2 before coming back to Meeting Place #1 and riding up the trail.
We all agreed this was an excellent plan.
Heather volunteered to go along with Kenny; Lisa and I took off.
My Math Skills Are Defeated By My Exaggeration Skills
My two sons are both extremely gifted in math and sciences. I am very proud of them. I, on the other hand, am gifted at the opposite end of the spectrum: I am good at making things up and exaggerating.
So it shouldn’t really come as too big of a surprise when, after making good time on the trail, Lisa and I rolled up to the “Meeting Place #1” and she said, “Oh, I thought you said that was supposed to be 40 miles away from camp. It’s only been 33.”
“I may have rounded up,” I replied.
In any case, Kenny and Heather had not yet arrived. So we continued on to “Meeting Place #2,” where we filled up our Camelbaks and bottles (each of us carrying extra water this day, not wanting to relive the stress from the previous day of not knowing whether you have enough).
Kenny had not shown up yet. Not that we had really expected him to. It could take a while to make that repair, and we didn’t know how long it would get back to camp anyway. Plus there was the drive.
So we took off our shoes and walked down the boat ramp, standing in the Colorado River. 61 degrees (12.89 Reaumur, for you fans of the metric system). Heaven.
No Kenny yet, so we sat at a picnic table and had lunch.
A Quick Aside About Eating
You would think that as a cyclist with years of experience on long rides, I would be very smart about food to eat during big ol’ epic rides.
I have just discovered that I have been a fool.
While I have always loaded my pack with things like energy bars and energy gels and energy inhalants (OK, I haven’t actually heard of energy inhalants, but the idea is interesting), Lisa brings things like turkey and swiss sandwiches. And salt and vinegar potato chips. And Swedish Fish. And Mountain Dew.
Her food is better than mine. And so I’m very happy to report that it was her job to put food together for us for the day, which means that when we sat down to eat at the picnic table, it was not too different from actually having a picnic.
Though I’m a little disappointed she didn’t pack potato salad or a watermelon.
We finished eating. An hour had elapsed since we arrived.
“I’m ready for Kenny to show up,” Lisa announced. But we had no phone signal — which we knew was also the case back at our Dewey Bridge camp — and so there was no way to find out where he was.
Stubbornly, Kenny continued to not show up.
We laid down on the picnic table and took a nap.
Kenny did not show up.
Two hours had now gone by, and began to speculate on what could have gone wrong. We considered the following possibilities:
- Kenny had needed to drive into Moab to get a part for his bike.
- Kenny had discovered that The Bikemobile is a fantastic vehicle, and had stolen it.
- Kenny had been in a car wreck
- Heather had poisoned Kenny
We gave each of these the serious consideration they were due, then tried to figure out what — in the absence of any information at all about where they were and what had happened — we should do.
Should we get on our bikes and ride to the freeway, where we might be able to make calls or check voicemail? No, if we did that, Kenny might show up at Meeting Place #2 while we were gone, compounding the problem.
Should we go to Meeting Place #1? No, there’d be no point to that — Kenny knew to come to this place, which — after all — had trees and picnic tables and drinkable water and a river to cool ourselves off in whenever we wanted.
How did anyone ever connect up with anyone else before cel phones existed?
The thing is, apart from growing concern about Kenny and Heather, we were actually having a really nice afternoon. As two usually-antsy people who are normally incapable of just sitting around, there was literally nothing for us to do, so we relaxed. We opened the Kindle app on Lisa’s iPhone and read aloud several chapters of A Race Like No Other, a book that talks about the NYC Marathon.
And in short, we basically had an enjoyable, lazy afternoon. Exactly the opposite of what we had expected from the day, but awesome in its own way.
By the time three hours had elapsed, we had become worried. I persuaded Lisa that we needed to start making calls and figure out what’s going on before it got dark.
We decided we’d ride our bikes out toward the I70 freeway, where I was pretty sure we’d get reception.
Then, just as we were putting on our helmets and strapping on our Camelbaks, Kenny drove up. Looking visibly relieved to find us.
The Second-Hand Part of the Story
When Kenny and Heather left us to go repair Kenny’s bike, Kenny rigged a tow-rope made of his busted belt and an inner tube, and Kenny and Heather took turns pulling each other on the road back to camp.
They got to the camp in good time, fixed Kenny’s bike, and drove out to the trestle (Meeting Spot #1).
“There’s no way they could have gotten here yet,” said Kenny (except, of course, we had).
“No,” agreed Heather. “They’d have had to ride 30 singletrack miles in less than two hours.”
Unfortunately, Heather was working from my “40 miles from Dewey Bridge to Westwater” assertion, instead of the actual distance: 33 miles or so. My superpower — exaggeration — was biting me in the butt.
“Then there’s no point in us checking the Ranger Station (Meeting Place #2) to see if they’ve arrived, is there?” said Kenny.
And so they got on their bikes and rode up the Kokopelli Trail, on what they thought was an intercept course with us, but was actually in the opposite direction.
After riding for two hours — almost all the way to Cisco (about 5 miles from where Kenny broke his belt in the first place) — they agreed Lisa and I could not have been that slow and turned around. At which point they discovered how much faster that trail was in the opposite direction.
Even then, they didn’t think Lisa and I would be at the Ranger Station. Kenny only came and checked it as a “cross your T’s” type measure.
We all agreed, once we were together again, that it was too late, too hot, and too windy (and I had become too lazy) to try to finish the ride, so we headed back to camp.
As we drove to Dewey Bridge, Kenny looked at me. Questioningly. Beseechingly, even.
I knew what he was asking. And I had my response ready.
“Damn straight this is going in the blog.”