That Essay Project (Excerpt)

Posted by on Jan 13, 2010 in Bike | One Comment

The following is an excerpt (first draft) of an ongoing essay project that I have recently started to devote more time to. It is my hope that whatever it is that that project becomes, will materialize in its final, and public form sometime this year. As I have evolved in both my abilities (hopefully) and my vision as a writer (dare I even use that title, just yet?) I have found that the endgame I have in mind for this project has also evolved, and I hope improved. The more I read the authors and essayists that I hope to emulate, and the more I challenge myself at the keyboard and in the notebook, the more I find myself discovering my own, if imitating, voice in the world of naturalism, politics, religion and commentary. As the project continues I hope to share more pieces of it here in this space, from time to time.

The text below picks up mid-story, describing and contrasting the 2006 Kokopelli Trail Race to the bureaucratic boondoggle that, at least for me, defined the 2007 version of the same event – wherein BLM officers arrived at the trailhead, tried to shut the whole ride down, and ended up fining the group (in my name) $275.


That night in 2006 there were no government busybodies logging midnight overtime. Nobody to graciously and gallantly protect us from ourselves. No semantics to nitpick and no arguing our way onto lands that supposedly belong to “We the People”. Instead, that night unfolded as one of those rare and spectacular days on the bike. When the mythical and tangible of expectation and reality converged in a way unsurpassed and unexpected. It was the perfect manifestation of that independent and adventurous spirit that holds explorers captive, slaves to that alluring and dangerous and undefined notion of “out there”.

That night the moon was full and round. A dull and pale guiding light, leading us through the deep quakies and the steep ridges of the La Sal mountains and down into the sandstone expanse of the desert. We were ghosts creeping silently through the dark and calm and cold of the clear, western night. Grinning from ear to ear through the physical pain and the huffing and puffing.

Sunrise came among the hoodoo and fins of the Entrada Bluffs. A rocky, sandy, demanding ridge. The exhaustion of the night gave way to the light of morning. A new found energy and optimism that carried riders across the barren Cisco plains, and on into the shelves of Fruita, above the Colorado, through the heavy, significant, burdensome heat that sent people diving into Salt Creek, seeking refuge and refreshment and life where it seemed only oppression and death loomed.

It is quite remarkable what an individual can achieve. Certainly there is no greater agent of change, no more powerful force for prosperity, innovation, discovery and barrier breaking than the simple, determined, left alone individual. A meddlesome and impertinent government hinders that power, stalls that engine, and serves only to muddle and slow the development of the new and the meaningful and the imaginative. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in his libertarian proclamation, Civil Disobedience, “that government is best, which governs least”.

Such is the world of mountain bikers. Riding over and through States, Nations, mountain ranges and into history – pioneers, explorers, individualists who are independent and headstrong, creative and inventive. Living manifestos of that startling and refreshing notion of self evident autonomy and uniquely American curiosity about what might lie around the corner and over the horizon.

The only permission needed for such intrepid and resolute expeditionism springs not from the paternalism of Uncle Sam, but from that unbridled and egalitarian human spirit.

1 Comment

  1. Cartographer
    January 13, 2010

    It is an interesting contrast, indeed.

    However, we can’t forget that the reason the trail is open to the public at all is that it is public land. Otherwise, you’d be cutting through fences for all the private gas/oil/mining etc. companies (and individuals) who want to extract the hidden resources of the area.

    We need the freedom to suffer from our own mistakes as well as exceed beyond our own expectations. Public lands are, at least for me, critical parts of that equation.

    Keep writing 🙂

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