Skip navigation

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Editor’s note: This is a re-publish of a Facebook note written in January of 2009

By Reid Wright

 

My first couple days of detox were a blur. I wandered around the institute pale and dazed with a skull splitting headache, aching joints and intense pain in my kidneys where all the toxins in my body were being flushed out. I wasn’t recovering from addiction to cocaine, heroin, alcohol or meth – but the everyday American diet.

After learning of the return of my mother’s illness, my sister and I decided to fly with her to the Hippocrates Health Institute (aka “Hippy Death Camp” depending on who you talk to) in Florida for a week long stay, where I knew I would have to survive solely on unfathomable vegetables.

The day before we left, I ate a mountain of Mexican food and a Double Whopper to stock up on calories just to make sure I wouldn’t starve to death in the coming week.

The staff at Hippocrates however, are too smart to let me die. Many of them have a PhD, RN, MD and a slew of other capital letters after their names. Some of them have been with the institute for decades.

The program – described as “health boot camp” – focused on diet, juices, exercise, supplements, various therapies, and education of health issues. A long history of graduates of the program reported full recovery from everything from high blood pressure to cancer.

Lunch and dinner at Hippocrates consisted almost entirely of raw vegetables. Organic sunflower, pea, clover and mung bean sprouts made up the main entrée. Ken Blue, the executive chef, said that the sprouts contained enough vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes to make a complete meal by themselves. The other items on the buffet – such as dehydrated foods and prepared salads – were mostly just for fun and variety.

So me and the rest of the inmates sat down and ate our sprouts. Mealtime conversation usually centered around us assuring ourselves out loud to each other that we were doing the right thing and that this would make us better.

My first meal tasted watery and a bit bland, like a salad without dressing. My stomach grumbled at me politely as if to say “Thank you for the salad, now may I please have the rest of my food?”

At night, my sister and I talked about the food we were craving from the outside world, nearly reducing ourselves to tears.

As the week went on however, my taste buds came out of hiding from semester of salty campus food and the flavors of the food began to come out. By the end of the week, I found myself relishing the complex flavors of the juicy sprouts. The last couple of meals I was unable to finish a whole plate without feeling full.

The premise of a raw food diet is to eat food that is living and uncooked. Almost all of the seeds, nuts, beans, grains and lentils at Hippocrates were soaked and sprouted – allowing them to germinate and begin processes to alter their internal chemistry. In other words, the food is literally alive at the time of consumption.

The program not only fed us healthy food, but subjected us to a regiment of classes on how to take care of ourselves. It was a cruel and unusual joke that they told us to drink water all day and then subjected us to two hour classes without bathroom breaks.

Hippocrates Co-Director Brian Clement PhD L.N.C. walks and talks like a stereotypical self-help opportunist. He wears a crisp suit and tie with hair spray with a trimmed goatee. He is a master of the stage, and the patrons of his classes seemed allured by his presence.

He said that cooking food kills helpful enzymes and chemically alters nutrients into a form that is harder for the body to process. In contrast, living foods contain more nutrients, enzymes, oxygen, and bio-electricity.

While I would personally like to debate some of the finer points of Brian’s lectures (for example, he cited a common misconception that humans only use 3 percent of their brains, any neurologist will tell you otherwise), I agree with many of his fundamental arguments.

He said that we humans have strayed from the diet of our ancestors. We have altered our foods and eating habits so severely in the last hundred years that evolution is unable to keep up.

Food and drug companies are pumping foods full of cheap additives to make products more profitable. At the same time, the companies we work for are training us to spend more time working and less time taking care of ourselves which is more profitable for them at least in the short-term.

Overall, an unhealthy person is more profitable than a healthy one.

“Sometimes I think that what I do is important,” Brian said. “But then I realize that I’m teaching grown adults how to eat right and take care of themselves. There’s something fundamentally wrong with that.”

He also said that food is not a religion, and people should not judge each other as sinner or saint based on what they choose eat. Studies show that for the first time in history, people over 50 years old are actually healthier than those under 30.

The program also included a daily dosage of juices. We had 16 oz of “green drink” three times a day, which consisted mostly of cucumber, celery, and sprout juices. When we fasted on Thursday to accelerate the detoxification process, I was able to go all day on the juices alone – hardly getting hungry at all.

Wheatgrass juice was also taken daily as an important healing agent. It tasted like lawnmower mulch, but had a sweet and refreshing aftertaste (I overheard other people saying that store-bought wheatgrass juice is bitter and hard to drink). I found it to be a great stimulant – almost like a shot of espresso that lasted almost all day. Once, I took it at six in the evening and it kept me up past midnight.

Brian said the nutritional and medicinal properties of wheatgrass were not discovered by science, but by instinct. Hippocrates founder Ann Wigmore observed that cats and dogs ate grass when they are sick, so she did the same to recover from her own illness. She placed several kinds of grass in front of neighborhood pets and observed that they would consistently sniff the other grasses and then eat the wheat grass.

Decades later, scientists are finding evidence that wheatgrass is an excellent blood purifier, cleanser and detoxifier. Hippocrates is the only natural health organization to have large amounts of scientific blood test data on its patients showing significant improvements in illnesses and cancer because of wheatgrass treatment, Brian said.

Wheatgrass can also be taken rectally, where it helps colon health and is absorbed into the body more quickly and efficiently. They gave us a class on how to perform daily enemas and wheatgrass injections and then passed out enema bags to everyone. My sister held up hers to me and declared, “I was OK until THIS.”

I decided to go through with it for the sake of science. I’d come this far and felt I had to go along with the program 100 percent to see if it worked or not. After the initial unpleasantness of the enema (I’ll spare you the details), I felt quite good. The rectal wheatgrass injection gave an energy boost comparable to a double mocha, but it was more mellow and longer in duration.

The wheatgrass and sprouts are grown in trays on-site at the Hippocrates greenhouse, and they gave us instructions on how to grow our own. Obviously, this is exponentially cheaper than paying $10 a pound for the stuff at a natural foods store. Also, growing your own eliminates the need for environmentally harmful plastic packaging and the carbon emissions associated with shipping foods from places like Canada or Mexico.

The program also included a series of therapies at the spa. They zapped me with a series of infrared, electromagnetic, and crystal energies that I will never understand. What I did understand, was the Swedish massage, which was nothing short of divine. The masseuse pressed her fingers hard into my neck and shoulders, which were hard as wood.

“This is where you keep your stress,” she said merrily.
“Oh,” I said. “I was wondering where I put that.”

No matter what anyone tells you, a colonic is anything but “fun”. Unless of course, you think someone shoving a garden hose up your butt and cranking it on full tilt is your idea of a good time.

The bottom line:

At the end of the week, I felt great and didn’t want to leave. The pain in my knees and stomach were gone and I had a ton of energy. Was it as euphoric as the apex of a good coffee high? No. But it lasted all day and I was calmer, in a better mood and less jittery. For once in a good long while, I felt like someone my age should feel, instead of a cranky old man.

At first, I was confused because I hadn’t lost weight like most of the other patients had. Then I looked in the bathroom mirror and realized I had actually put on some muscle mass – something I had previously been told was almost impossible without animal proteins.

Overall, I found the staff at Hippocrates knowledgeable and genuinely motivated to help people. But even more amazing, were the other guests.

We grow up reading books and watching movies that chisel into our psyche the concept that heroes are people who battle and defeat the bad guys and external enemies. But in 25 years of wandering, I’ve never encountered a truly bad person. I have however, found plenty of enemies within.

We all have little voices inside of us that tell us we can get away with not taking care of ourselves – that other people will come to our rescue and we can just postpone our health until later in life when doctors or shrinks will simply ‘fix’ us.

A lot of the guests I met at Hippocrates had lived out this mentality, learning the hard way it is far from the truth. They are at the brink of losing it all – battling diabetes, drug addiction and cancer. Some had even been told that they had a limited amount of time left to live.

But instead of giving up, they took on the responsibility to learn how to take care of themselves – instead of blaming others for their unhappiness and unhealthiness. I watched as they turned and faced their internal enemies: addiction, weakness, depression and illness – to achieve victory over themselves.

They are all my heroes.

Advertisements

Attempt at plus-sized tire swings and misses

 

By Reid Wright

 

 

It takes courage and ingenuity to venture into the new frontier of plus-sized mountain bike tires. A plus-sized tire is expected to have the lightweight zippyness of a regular mountain bike tire with the Velcro traction of a fat bike tire. Thus far, manufacturers have mainly gone with thin casings, and low-profile knobs for fast acceleration and low rolling resistance.

Options are especially limited for the 29-plus wheel size. I first went with the jack-of-all-trades Bontrager Chupacabra, which proved to be a solid overall performer. It is not invincible on the sharp rocks however, and I managed to put a half-inch puncture between treads as well as an inch-long tear in the sidewall. The Chupacabra is also a little pricey: retailing for around $120.

Enter the Wilderness Trail Bikes Ranger 29X3.0. This tire is significantly more affordable, retailing for about $70 each. It also has TCS casing and a promising grid tread pattern that performs well on most terrains. The ramped and center-concentrated knobs make it fast-rolling and the outer knobs hook up relatively well on corners.

However, this tire has one fatal flaw: it doesn’t hold air.

wtf

I bought this tire direct from WTB without reading the fine print on their website. Like many, I assume all modern mountain bike tires are tubeless ready. Because tubes suck right?

I set the tire up tubeless using Stan’s sealant – mounting it on my rear wheel. From the beginning, I had trouble getting it to hold air. I dismissed it as a leaky valve stem as I was so excited about having a tire that performed nearly as well as the Chupacabra for almost half the price.

After having to re-inflate the tire for every ride, I decided it was time to change the sealant, which had all but dissipated from inside the tire. I washed the tire and put in 3 ounces of sealant (my standard for 29-plus). After inflation, this is what I saw:

sweat-beads

Sealant and air were bubbling out the abrasions in the sidewall. I went to the WTB website seeking a replacement only to find in the warranty microprint:

“WTB tires are designed to be used with tubes, unless specified as UST compatible. Use of sealant/tubeless conversion kits will void all warranty.”

 

Well poop. Since then, I’ve been through tubes like toilet paper and flatting weekly in the sticker-infested Southwest. WTB advertises the Ranger as a bike-packing tire. But I wouldn’t take it far into the wilderness knowing that I’m a sticker and a pinch-flat away from being stranded.

Moral of the story: Don’t buy this tire unless you want to put a tube in it.

In addition, the treads on this tire wore down a bit faster than the Chupacabra, which I continue to run up front.

grid

With some thicker casing and a tubeless-specific design in future models, this tire could be great. But I will not be buying another one any time soon.

I will continue my quest to find an ideal tire for the 29X3.0 wheel size and keep you posted.

 

A blind leap into the future of mountain biking

By Reid Wright

 

Pigs don’t fly, but my 29-plus Kokopelli Warthog certainly does. This is the fastest, most sure-footed, burly and versatile hardtail I’ve ever ridden. But it took a big leap of faith and a lot of mad science to build it.

cover

I knew the 29-plus Warthog would have superior stability and traction. What I didn’t know was how fast it would be. I was fortunate enough to have this one built by Kokopelli’s mechanical mastermind Pete Eschillier. I took it out for a first test run on our local play loops hoping for a personal record. The bike hadn’t even been dialed in yet, and I wasn’t used to it. I was astonished to finish with top-ten times on five different Strava segments.

That’ll do nicely Pete.

My whole life, I’ve waited for 3-inch-wide tire mountain bikes to become commercially available, but the first models were rigid-forked and a little on the heavy side. 2016 saw an explosion in exciting new models with suspension. And while mountain bike publications and well-respected bike gurus see the “plus-sized” trend as a passing fad, or something for beginner riders – I know in my gut it is the future of mountain biking.

tree

You’ve probably heard about plus-sized tires improved traction on loose surfaces, corners and climbs. The larger tires also roll over obstacles better and carry more momentum. While no substitute for shock absorbers, the plus-sized tires do take the edge of small bumps. With the larger wheel diameter, I feel like I ride with a lower wheel RPM and pedal cadence, but the overall speed is improved. Also finding myself standing on the pedals more to crush the climbs.

Long have I lusted after Kokopelli Bike Co’s titanium models, but was unable to afford a new frame and premium build. They are ahead of the game, and have been offering a 29-plus Warthog model for a few years now. So when a friend was selling a used Warthog frame, I jumped on the opportunity – even though the frame was a little smaller than what I usually ride. I told myself that the smaller frame would compensate for the larger wheels. When I sat on a fully-built Warthog of the same size, I knew I could make it fit. So I bought the used frame for about half the cost of a new one.

But I’d never actually ridden one.

profile

Building a bike from the frame up for the first time is kind of like losing your virginity – you think the parts will fit together and be compatible, but there’s always a shadow of a doubt haunting you. So you do some research from sketchy sources online, but walk away with more questions than answers. And no matter the research, you wind up making a few mistakes.

I knew the fork would be the biggest challenge. Although 29-plus wheels have been out for a few years now, there are still remarkably few choices for suspension forks. The Manitou Magnum is the only commercially marketed fork (that I could find) that is specifically designed for the 29-plus wheel size, but it was a little pricy ($680 and up), has a puzzle-like through-axel and consumers complained online about not being able to get the full range of travel. I’ve read that some Fox forks – such as the Float 34 27.5 plus model – could accommodate a 29-plus wheel, but a new one is cost prohibitive for me at $880.

So I settled on the Rockshox Reba RL 27.5 plus model ($550 and up), which is a solid performer for the money and allows about a half-inch of mud clearance on a 29-plus tire. I went with a 120 mm travel fork, because I occasionally like to ride the big-rock trails of Sedona and Moab. With the massive wheels, I could have gotten away with 110 or 100 mms of travel, as the front end of my bike does tend to to be hard to keep on the ground on steep climbs. This particular fork is “boost” compatible, and I did have to have my wheel rebuilt with new spokes around a wider hub (thanks Eli, the red nipples are sick).

fork

Finding a fork with good clearance is a challenge for 29 plus wheels.

Next came the hoops. Again there were remarkably few options on the market. Believing wider is better, I went with used pair of Velocity Dually aluminum wheels – opting for durability over light weight. If there were more money in the budget, I would have gone with the WTB Scrapers. Other 29-plus riders tell me carbon hoops are certainly the way to go if you have the budget and want lighter weight and faster acceleration.

There are only a handful of 29-plus tires on the market right now. All my research pointed to the Bontrager Chupacabra as the best overall performer as it is lightweight and small velcro-hooked knobs. Indeed, I find this tire to be a solid performer on many terrains, with particular excellence on loose surfaces such as sand, kitty litter, gravel and loose-over-hardpack. As an aggressive rider on rocky trails, I did experience a sidewall tear and a puncture in my rear tire due to the lightweight casing – both of which were which were remedied with tape and an inner tube. Next, I’m going to try the WTB Ranger in the rear and Chubacabra up front.

For components, I went with the ever-reliable Shimano XT 1X11 cassette and derailleur, SRAM X0 bottom bracket and cranks and XT brakes. I ordered the entire XT groupset for about $500 from a sketchy German website and sweat bullets for three weeks as it shipped – wondering if I’d been ripped off. But all arrived in good working condition. The drivetrain is a solid performer and the 7 inch rotors of the XT brakes wrangle the massive wheels with butter-smooth control on descents. With the 1X11 gearing, I do occasionally wish I had another gear for range on either end, but those moments are pretty rare.

The cockpit was a challenge for me, since I have longer arms and tend to want to lean forward, but also want to sit more upright for long rides. A friend convinced me to go “full ocho” on 800 mm Raceface carbon bars, which turned out to be a good fit with my monkey arms. Despite my desire to lean forward, I went with a short stem to provide maneuverability with the big wheel. The result is a nice neutral stance.

Wings

Wings over Fruita

The long-bar short-stem combo with the dialed geometry of the frame make for fantastic maneuverability on windy trails. Despite this, I do have a more difficult time “threading the needle” or weaving through rock gardens with the larger wheels and more rotational inertia than with my standard 29er.

Lastly, due to the smaller frame, I knew needed a long-and-strong seat-post. Everyone told me to go with a Thomson, but I ordered the wrong diameter and Pete set me up with an aluminum Origin8, which has yet to let me down. I hope to try a dropper post someday soon.

In the end, the build came in at about 27 pounds, but could have been lighter with more carbon parts. The estimated cost of this particular build is $3,200. For more information on custom titanium builds, go to http://www.kokopellibikes.com.

Last

War horse in pasture

 

By Reid Wright

Can a tire combination be fast rolling, but still inspire confidence in sketchy turns? This was the guiding question behind a test of the Specialized Butcher GRID 2Bliss Ready as a front tire and the Specialized Slaughter GRID 2Bliss Ready as a rear tire.

I paid $55 each for folding beads. I tested the 29 by 2.3 size for both, which when mounted on 25 mm rims, had a semi-squared profile of about 2.25 inches. The tires mounted tubeless with no trouble.

The first thing that struck me, is how quiet these tires are – a good indication of a low rolling resistance. Running this tire combination, I am able to get closer than ever to wildlife.

Indeed, these tires are predatory. In the dirt, the Slaughter purrs like a kitten on straightaways and claws like a lion when leaned into turns, while the Butcher loves to sink its teeth into sketchy corners. I found this combination to be ideal for ripping winding desert singletrack with loose edges and tight corners. Riders in looser terrain might try running The Butcher front and rear, while riders of hard terrain might try dual Slaughters.

The Butcher

IMG_20160327_160110

While sometimes billed as a downhill tire, the Butcher’s tread shows remarkable versatility. The large ramped acorn-shaped center knobs offer a large contact area that rolls smoothly and grips a wide range of hardpack, loose over hardpack and soft surfaces. The combination of center-gapped offset inner knobs and hooked outer knobs beg you to lean into the sketchiest of turns – which it devours ravenously.

Running my usual lower pressure up front, I found that the Butcher’s sidewall occasionally crumples unpredictably under the strain of high g-force turns and dips. Had to add more pressure than most tires before I was able to gain comfortable sidewall compliance. Future models could benefit from a stiffer sidewall.

The textured washboards between lugs on the sidewall are a nice touch and add added protection to an area that typically gets scraped on rocks. An interesting side effect of the Butcher’s center-gapped lugs, is they tend to pick up small rocks and fling them into your frame. A down-tube protector may be advisable if you are running carbon frame or value your bike’s finish.

This tire is ideal for:           

  • Unpredictable surfaces
  • Aggressive cornering
  • Hardpack
  • Rocky terrain

 

This tire is not ideal for:

  • Lower pressures
  • Anyone who uses a gram scale
  • Mud and slimy surfaces

 

The Slaughter

IMG_20160327_160243

 A tire of two personalities, the small and closely-spaced center knobs of the Slaughter reduce weight and provide fast-rolling tire, while the tall and hooked outer knobs dig into corners with confidence. What’s remarkable how smooth and predictable the transition is between the two as you lean into the turn. This is thanks to the graduated chevron pattern of the inner knobs. The trick is not to hit the brakes and lock up your wheel while cornering (which is easy to do with a small-knobbed tire). Instead, go easy on the brakes, keep the tire rolling and let the Slaughter transition smoothly and dig into the turn.

This tire is not without its tradeoffs, as it tends to slip while braking and climbing on loose surfaces. This can be assuaged by running a wider width, lower pressure and shifting your weight back further onto the rear wheel.

This tire is ideal for:           

  • Hardpacked singletrack with loose edges and corners
  • Slickrock
  • Gravel and packed-dirt roads
  • Speed

 

This tire is not ideal for:

  • Sharp braking
  • Steep climbs on loose surfaces
  • Mud and slimy surfaces

 

           

By Reid Wright

 

First, let me be clear: I’ve ridden the hell out of this bike. About 2,500 miles now since purchasing it in the fall of 2014. So this review isn’t just based on a day-long demo or ride around the block.

As advertised, the Crave is an affordable (retails for about $1,600) option for someone getting into cross-country racing who doesn’t want to pay $7,000+ for a carbon-fiber race bike. What’s surprising is all the other things this bike can do. Like ripping tight corners on single track, long-distance gravel grinders, dancing through rock gardens and bike packing the entirety of the Colorado Trail.

IMG_0639

My first impression of riding the Specialized Crave was that it makes me feel like a ninja. For a large-wheeled bike, it is remarkably agile and maneuverable. Without getting into the geometry lesson, the design of this frame is dialed and honed to perfection from decades of mountain bike evolution. Sure, you have to ride it more like a ballerina and less like a bull – but that goes for most hard tails. Dancing over the rocks on this bike has honed my technical skills, and I feel like I’ve grown as a rider because of it. I now clear technical climbs that I never could before.

The Crave provides the pedaling efficiency, mountain goat climbing, and stand-and-deliver acceleration you love from a hard tail, but still rolls remarkably well over large rocks and steps. I was recently tickled when some riders on six-inch travel enduro bikes did a double take at me as I was keeping pace with them on the rocky downhills of Sedona’s Highline trail. But this bike really shines on smoother single-track and dirt roads.

The Shimano disc brakes, SRAM X5/Shimano SLX 2X10 drive train, stock seat post and handle bars are all solid performers on this bike. I even kept the Specialized Body Geometry saddle and now prefer it.

Recommended upgrades, if you can find a good deal on parts (no use sinking a ton of money into a bike that isn’t worth much) would be to the tires, wheels and fork lockout. The stock remote lockout on the Rockshox Recon fork was nice while it lasted, but stopped working after about thousand miles. My mechanics were unable to repair it, so I just took it off and pumped up the fork firm for increased pedaling efficiency.

I’m afraid the Specialized Stout wheels and hubs don’t quite live up to the name. They are a nice compromise between lightweight, affordability and strength – but they are not bomb proof. Early on, I came around a corner and had to ride over a sharp rock because a guy was resting with his legs outstretched into the middle of the trail. It pinch flatted and put a nice dent in the rim. My mechanic was able to bend it back into tubeless functionality, but after bike packing the Colorado Trail, the rear hub came loose internally and started rattling. Specialized was kind enough to send me a new wheel assembly under warranty complete with hub, tire, tube, rotor and cassette (hurray for spare parts!), but the replacement wheel had a 9-speed cassette for a 10-speed bike and was bored for a Schrader valve (boo).

Despite the wheel setbacks, my Crave is currently set up for tubeless and is rolling as fast as ever. I’m currently experimenting with a 2.3 inch Specialized Slaughter tire in the back, and a 2.3 Specialized Butcher in the front (review to come) – in the hopes that a wider tire will better protect the rim. I’m also on the lookout for a set of used or take-off 29 inch race wheels. Lastly, I’m looking into upgrading to a 1×11 drivetrain.

I have also had to replace the chain, cassette, cables and brake pads, but I would definitely attribute that to normal wear and tear. Also had an issue where the headset started coming loose, and a mechanic had to install another spacer (worked fine ever since). The right crank occasionally has to be re-tightened. I like to think it just can’t handle the raw power of my pedal stroke.

I’ve ridden this bike hard, and used it in ways that were probably never intended by the designer. But like a scrappy underdog, it keeps fighting the trail and never letting me down. I’d recommend it for anyone on a tight budget that rides smoother terrain and wants to up their cross-country riding game to the next level.

For more information, go to https://www.specialized.com 

By Reid Wright

Approaching Indian Ridge, I ran out of water.

It’s a dry August in the Rockies and I hadn’t come across a clean stream all day.

With a 30 pound bike and 30 pounds of gear on, I chug in slow, jerky pedal strokes up the rocky staircase into the roiling sky — my lungs gasping for thin air.

Thunder rumbles and gray curtains of rain creep up the valley. I am but a dot on the naked ridge line, where there is no shelter from the lightning.

Electricity crackles in the air, and the scree stones shift under my tires like shards of broken pottery.

The first step to surviving the Colorado Trail is to realize that you really can die out here. The second step is to find something to live for.

IMG_0466

A year ago, I had flamed out of a promising newspaper career. I took a job as a cook at a sushi restaurant for $10 an hour. My relationship with my girlfriend is on the rocks. She says I have no passion in life.

I’m no athlete, just a weekend warrior. I finished eighth in my class at the home-town mountain bike race.

Nor can I afford gear designed for this trip. I have a heavy full suspension mountain bike, a backpacking pack with no saddlebags, and a 10-year-old sleeping bag with a broken zipper and hole burned in it.

At 72 miles long, with more than 10,000 vertical feet of climbing, the lower Colorado Trail between Molas Pass and Durango is epic — but not insurmountable. Some can do the stretch in a single day, where as I am overnighting. Just weeks prior, Jefe Branham had taken the trail more than 500 miles to Denver in just over four days and four hours in the annual Colorado Trail Race.

But to me, this ride is my Tour De France, my polar expedition, my Everest — the ride of a lifetime.

Against all advice, I ride alone. Among my friends and family, it’s hard enough to find to find someone to drive me to the trailhead, let alone someone crazy enough to come along. I am thankful for the solitude. Like so many, I am drawn into the wildness outside seeking answers to what lies within. It’s not about proving myself, it’s about finding myself.

IMG_0413

I start out on a sunny Saturday morning from Little Molas Lake across a mountain slope of purple flowers and yellowing weeds with angry grasshoppers snapping their wings as they float past.

At first, it isn’t as much of a solitary experience as I’d hoped. Joggers plod by and a burley mountain biker catches up to me I rest and asks me why I don’t have saddle bags.

One jogger halts with a warning, “About a mile, mile-and-a-half up the trail there’s a wasp or hornet’s nest,” she said. “I got stung four or five times. It felt like I was being shot by a BB or pellet gun.”

You never know what the Colorado Trail is going to throw at you.

Cranking harder until the wind sings in my ears, I don’t get stung.

Just a few miles from the trailhead, other users dwindle, and I am on my own.

IMG_0423

High above tree line into the boulder fields of a barren mountain basin I climb, experiencing a new sense of freedom.

That feeling is quickly overcome by fear as storm clouds darken the sky. I had never ridden this section of trail before, and every rise I think is the top of the pass turns out to be just another step higher.

Pushing my bike up one such rocky ledge, I think I hear thunder. It is another rider catching up and pushing over rocks. He said his name is Garen, and has his camping gear stashed at the halfway point along with some beer and tequila if I’d like to join him later.

I felt the heavy pack on my shoulders wearing a sore into my back. Why the hell hadn’t I thought of that?

Garen passed me and I caught up with him again where he had stopped at the top of Rolling Pass. Not wanting to risk being exposed in a storm to stop for a view, I roll on over the pass without stopping, burning up my brakes as I snake down through the switchbacks into the alpine valley below.

After a quick lunch of beef jerky and Clif bars, I reach the headwaters of Cascade Creek — a postcard beautiful mountain bowl with lush vegetation and waterfalls. No photo can do justice to how beautiful and how terrifying the Colorado Trail is. Only those who have been there understand.

IMG_0422

I fill up my water reservoir from a slight trickle of seeping from the mountainside. A bit of an experiment, I use Grapeseed extract (GSE) to sterilize it. It seems a blaspheme to add a bitter flavor to such pure mountain water, but at least I wont get sick from it. Some time after, I take the top compartment off my pack, and zip tie it to my handlebars to better balance the load. Wish I would have thought of that sooner.

It’s slow climb on to White Creek and Bolam Pass. Never am I so relieved to see the familiar Lizard Head peak. The sight lifts my spirits and sends me swooping down the meadow to Celebration Lake.

IMG_0426

After Bolam, the trail is carved less than a foot wide into a steep slope soaring high above the valley floor. If your eyes wander over the edge, your tires will soon follow and sending you tumbling endlessly down the mountainside.

I tell myself to look forward, not down. Look forward, not down. It becomes the mantra for riding and for life: focus on success, not failure. If you focus on failure, you’ll find yourself subconsciously steering your life toward disaster.

The North side of Blackhawk Pass is lush, green, streaked with cascading creeks and glacial boulders through which the trail switchbacks to the dizzying hight of 12,000 feet. On the way up, I find a mossy spring dripping from a boulder and fill up my water reservoir for the last time.
I reach the top of the pass, which towers over the Dolores River Valley and the small mountain town of Rico, Colorado. I’d ridden Blackhawk before and always stopped at the top for e-mails and text messages. This time, I can’t get a signal.

I reposition and try again. No signal. The battery is low, so I go to hook up my backup battery. I pull out the connecting cable only to realize it’s the wrong one.
I can’t charge my phone, or find any signal to let loved ones know I’m alright.

IMG_0435

Counterintuitively, I become more worried about their concern for me, than I am about myself.

I power down the phone, strap on my pack and bomb haphazardly down the south side of Blackhawk, my tires thundering across boulders and mossy logs in the fading daylight.

On the ridge above Scotch Creek, I am finally able to get a single bar of signal on my phone. Wary of my dwindling battery, I punch in a quick text message to my girlfriend: “Scotch Creek. Phone is dying. I love you. See you tomorrow evening.” After deciding the message is a bit grim, I add, “And GSE tastes terrible.”

After a failed attempt at riding in the dark with only a headlamp, I push my bike off the trail and roll out my sleeping bag on a cheap tarp — using a mossy log to keep me from rolling down the hillside. After a dinner of cold beans from a can, I’m too tired to stow my pack up in a tree where the animals can’t get to it. So I just throw it on top of a log fifty yards from where I will sleep. Earlier that day, I had seen a freshly scarred log where a bear — or something — had sharpened it’s claws.

Sleep comes heavy and dreamlessly under towering pine trees silhouetted against a night sky. At dawn, it’s too cold to ride, so I go back to sleep and set out when the sun climbs higher in the sky.

With a new day comes new hope. After popping an aspirin for muscle aches and rubbing lotion on my saddle sores, I roll out easily on the soft dirt down one of the smoothest sections of trail. Convinced I’m making good time, I stop to power up the phone and send out a message letting everyone know — only half joking —  that I am still alive.

Where the trail crosses Roaring Forks Road, I pass a group of overweight tourists in jackets climbing off their ATV’s. I shake my head and ride back into the wilderness —toward the La Plata Mountains, where scattered afternoon showers sprinkle, then retreat. The sun emerges and summons steam from the forest floor. It is peaceful here, with only the occasional duo of backpackers. This is the experience I imagined when planning this trip.

IMG_0441

Even with the rain, I cannot find a source of fresh water. My concern only grows as I climb back above tree line to Indian Ridge — an ugly jagged crag of rock that cuts into the sky.

At the top, the thunder begins to rumble. I had seen photographs of people split open by lightning on mountain peaks. The terrain is unforgiving, and  progress is slow. I have to dismount and push my bike over shifting rocks.

Lurching by a pair of backpackers, I am too proud to ask for water. So I drink from a puddle. A dot on the horizon grows into a passing V22 Osprey military aircraft. I stick out my hitchhiker’s thumb, but the pilot pays no heed.

In this moment, what matters to me is water, shelter and every single molecule of oxygen in my lungs. All the things I used to bitch about — a strong-willed girlfriend, dirty dishes, a low-wage job — I suddenly miss like I’ll never see them again. This is the draw of the wilderness — a reminder of what really matters.
Slowly, steadily, I push forward.

IMG_0484

Beams of sunlight cut through the clouds, illuminating stoic stone peaks, mirror lakes and the yellow-green slopes of a mountain basin below. The sound of howling wind and my own heavy breathing ring in my ears.

IMG_0482

Finally, I reach a rock outcropping overlooking Taylor Lake, Cumberland Basin and the familiar Kennebec Pass. I mount up and skid down the winding trail to the four wheel drive road, where I encounter an older couple with a pickup and ask them for water. They give me a plastic bottle of melting ice. I could not have been more grateful. Humility is nature’s greatest lesson.

Immediately after, I encounter my first clean stream of the day.

IMG_0486

The descent down into Fassbinder Gulch is winding, fast and surreal. With red dirt, lush vegetation and enormous trees, it feels like mountain biking through a fairy tale. I pass a backpacking couple washing in the stream. The woman is topless.

The trail climbs again, up steep winding switchbacks. I won’t remember much of this stretch. Only the haunting feeling that I would not make it in time. Over each rise, around each bend, I expect to come across the familiar High Point — the furthest up the trail from the other end I had previously been.

At long last, I pump slowly around a bend to find the High Point overlook. I eat my last Clif bar, and send a final text message to my girlfriend telling her I am almost home.

The ride down to Durango is fast and euphoric. I allow myself a few jumps and rear-wheel skids — careful not to blow a tube after traveling so far without a single flat or mechanical problem.

I imagine my girlfriend and family gathering at the finish line to cheer for me. But when I get to the Junction Creek Trailhead, there are no familiar faces to share my triumph. So I ask a stranger to take my photo, and ride the paved road into town as the sun sets over the vanquished mountain peaks behind.

It isn’t just the mountains I conquer on that trip, it is my fears, my doubts, my ego and my false priorities. I came home that night a changed man, to a world that is still the same.

IMG_0504

By Reid Wright

I have resigned my position at the Cortez Journal and will be taking an indefinite break from journalism to rest and refocus — leaving a troubled profession as a troubled man.

It was the only job I ever cared about.

But before fading into obscurity as another burned-out refugee escaping one of the hardest occupations of our time, I would like to share my thoughts and experiences in the hopes that they can be learned from.

The biggest pressure of course, came from a lack of time and resources. The crunch of the deadline and chronic understaffing left me stretched thin beyond the point of effectiveness. I was writing summary lead after summary lead, and without time to fact check, made my fair share of mistakes. One day, the realization came that I had become the very type of journalist I used to criticize.

I faced the decision of attempting to cover many stories poorly, or turn down coverage stories that are important to the community. I could do neither in good conscious.

***

We are raised from childhood to believe that in every story there is a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” Through indirect pressure from my superiors, readers and society as a whole, it felt like it was my job to find a “bad guy” for the front page. Be it a criminal, politician, flawed celebrity or average person who made a mistake — there is a human need to target a “bad guy” so we can feel like the “good guy” in the world.

In reality, we are all flawed and perfectly capable of being both.

Sometimes, I bore the label of antagonist. It was an unspoken rule that during hard times at the paper, “good” news was the first to be cut. At times, I felt like the grim reaper, only showing up when something bad happened. Over time, I began to be welcomed as such. It was subtle — a curl of the lip or an averted gaze — but I could tell when someone was unhappy. They would say that their lives had been ruined because I had written about them. Every once in awhile, I believed them.

In the end, I was too haunted by the mantra of “do no harm.”

From the perspective of a newsy, It seems our society is becoming increasingly negative and quick to blame. While it is human nature to want to attribute a tragedy to a single person or issue, the reality is that we live in a chaotic universe and sometimes the right combination of elements come together for shit to happen in a catastrophic way. The true complexity of an incident or issue can rarely be done justice in a short news article.

***

Lastly, I found it somewhat futile to be an objective source of information in an increasingly subjective world. I was flabbergasted to get several complaints on articles not for what I had written, but for how others had perceived what I had written. For example, I covered a stabbing case where the incident happened at a woman’s home when she had people over to help her move and they were in the kitchen having beer and pizza. I had described the event as a “gathering,” but her parents had read the article and asked her why she was having a “party.” Without ever reading the article, she called me and accused me of not having my facts straight.

I had a lengthy conversation recently with a gentleman who was concerned that my publication is too liberal in its political coverage. I tried to explain to him that there is a group of people down the street who would say it is too conservative in its coverage, and that if I write from the middle, both sides will accuse me of bias. But in the end, we both walked away unconvinced.

It was a common accusation during my time as a reporter that I “liked” certain individuals or groups of people and disliked others. The horrible truth was that I was indifferent and didn’t get close enough for them to get under my skin either way. In all my years, I’ve only encountered a handful of individuals special enough to get under my skin enough to truly like or dislike, and those people were never written about.

***

I don’t have any answers as to the future of journalism. Technology and social media such as that used during the Iranian elections, Arab Spring, and the Kony 2012 movements have proven that anyone is capable of getting their message out without traditional media. My only assertion is that we are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. The information pollution is thick enough, and only gets thicker higher up the political and economic ladder.

Traditional journalists will always have a role to serve, although it may not ever be the same. There will always be a need for those who take large amounts of information and process it into a form that is both understandable and accessible to the public. There will also always be a need for dedicated watchdogs and truth seekers.

As for me, I will always be a journalist, whether or not I get paid for it. I’m hardwired and the need to know the truth runs too deep in my veins — painful though it may be.

By Reid Wright
The shits are starving us.

Years after the war in Iraq began and we still don’t know exactly why we invaded and what went wrong.

In his book, “Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie,” Dr. Hunter S. Thompson wrote that being unable to find out who was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy was the failure of his generation of journalists — one that would always be looming over their heads.

Similarly, this generation of journalists will always have the failure to see through the Bush Administration’s sale of the war in Iraq.

Bush and his neo-conservative brains teamed up with the Pentagon to sell a war much the same way an eighth grade teacher sells a biology lesson: with key-terms, repetition, fear mongering, and over-simplified concepts.

When the drums of war started beating, I was just a carefree whelp of a college freshman who joined marches and protests against the war, but did so with a light heart and a smile, knowing that my government was not actually dumb enough to follow through with the military invasion of a sovereign nation in an extremely volatile region.

Imagine my dismay when sessions of Congress on C-Span turned into nightmarish episodes of “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader,” as one by one, members of congress stumbled and fell to the propaganda. But Jeff Foxworthy’s canned humor wasn’t there to take the edge off the horror.

Upon hearing the call to war, Republican hawks promptly choked down a bottle of Viagra with scotch, yanking down their pants to salute the flag and show everyone that their patriotism was bigger than the rest.

Democrat duds like John Kerry followed suit, not wanting to be out-measured. Together, they worked themselves into snarling bloodlust, nearly choking on their own saliva as they barked support for the war.

One by one, the remaining members of congress devolved into invertebrates, their eyes glazing over as they crumpled to the floor drooling – mumbling about weapons of mass destruction.

The minority of congress in opposition to the war were largely disregarded by the media in the sensationalism.

The neo-cons were confident in their ability to manipulate the U.S. media after the ‘big five’ corporate sluts (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX) had unanimously agreed to a White House request during the invasion of Afghanistan to censor ‘terrorist’ footage sent in from the area (aka THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY).

The news media should have been the first and last line of defense against the lies, but sadly they were drowned in the tsunami of misinformation.

They behaved like a flock of tweaked-out parrots high on their own hairspray, as they squawked the White House and Pentagon propaganda, reverberating off each other until the airwaves were clogged with feedback.

Elite media tools like Judith Miller were already snug in bed with their neo-con sources, spooning with their greasy carcasses, cooing promises to spread whatever they were told in exchange for ‘the scoop’.

Cable news splashed the invasion across screens like it was a Michael Bay film while tens of thousands died. They knew that news networks were made from wars. Meanwhile, reporters at home continued to eagerly suckle rancid lies from the hairy man-boobs of pentagon officials.

After the invasion, the U.S. Government, led by George “Mission Accomplished” Bush patted themselves on a back for a job well done and then proceeded to completely abandon the people of Iraq, the brave men and women of the U.S. military, and what remained of the truth.

Cable news reporters hid behind the safety of the green zone blast walls and counted the incoming caskets as thousands of troops began dying and chaos filled the power vacuum left from Saddam’s vacancy. Acts of heroism went unseen by the world, and cries for help went unheard.

A few reporters did venture out into Iraq from under the wing of Pentagon protection, only to be kidnapped or killed by either side. The U.S. government collectively shrugged and rightly claimed ignorance and incompetency.

And the American public lost faith in the media.

Will journalists ever be able to re-gain the respect and trust of the people? I don’t know.
But for now, the power of the truth lies in the hands of you – the disillusioned youth of America.

As perverse as it may seem, American media is a democratic institution, and consumers have a vote. News is a business, and newsmakers painstakingly watch the numbers to see who is watching.

Every time media consumers use their remote to change the channel, every time they click a link online and every time they subscribe to a publication, they are casting a vote for the media of the of their choosing.

It is up to the consumer to not forget that they have a voice. When news sources are lazy, stupid or incompetent, they can and should be called on it. When issues important to the community are being overlooked, it should be brought to the attention of reporters. Reporters are not omnipotent and rely heavily on tips.

If reporters still fail, individuals should take up the torch. UI has a student radio station, newspaper, magazine and state-of-the-art television station that are all hungry for new talent.

Traditional media is not the only way. In the internet age, news can and should be grassroots from the ground up. Young people blog, vlog, text, podcast, network, and send pictures and video by cell phone. Airtime and publication are no longer needed to get a message out.

Norman Mailer once wrote:
“Each day a few more lies eat into the seed with which we are born, little institutional lies from the print of newspapers, the shock waves of television, and the sentimental cheats of the movie screen. Little lies, but they pipe us toward insanity as they starve our sense of the real.”

Americans are starving for understanding of what the hell is going on in a world gone mad, and the mainstream media is fumbling the answers.

It’s up to you now, go forward, gather and spread information — but do so with a critical and analytical mind.

Let us never forget the lessons of Iraq, and the consequences of losing the information war, which can be as loud as the shockwave of a car-bomb, or as silent as the grave.

Photo taken by Reid's new smart phone

LG VX5300, known as “Elgee,” was lovingly assembled by malnourished Taiwanese children  Nov. 6, 2005. Little did he know he was in for a hard life of abuse, neglect, debauchery and a trip through Scottie’s Hadron couch into another dimension.

He took his own life April 20, 2011.

Elgee spent much of his time jammed with biting car keys into the pocket of a misguided journalist, who on various occasion, allowed the poor phone to be dropped in a gas station toilet, run over by a cattle truck in Dove Creek Colo., and forced to take photos of angry transvestites wrestling on the sticky floor of Johns Alley Tavern. On occasion, he was subjected to hours of explicit textual conversations with an older woman from Roswell.

After one such night of debauchery, the belligerent young journalist passed out on a ragged old couch at Scottie and Andrew’s apartment, where little Elgee slipped out of his pocket, fell through the couch cushions and was catapulted into another dimension.

18 hours later, Elgee was found neatly placed on top of the couch. Although no one knows where he went to, it was clear by his demeanor that Elgee had seen things no cell phone should have to see.

At the time of his death, Elgee’s directory contained the cell phone numbers of professional strippers, Mexican biker gang leaders and U.S. Congressman.

He will be forever missed. At least until his owner receives his new smartphone.

Rest in peace Elgee.

By Reid Wright

I have two confessions nine years and more than 100,000 miles in the making:

1. My family needs me, and sometimes I need them.

2. Colorado is the most beautiful state in the lower 48.

To say that I am stubborn in these realizations is a gross understatement. They come only after nearly a decade on the road moving from place to place — running.

It’s funny how you grow up home town thinking there’s no worst place on earth to live. So you hit the road in search of new horizons and new adventures. In an effort to fit in at every stop along the way, you realize one day that you don’t really belong anywhere.

I reached the end of my line in Carlsbad New Mexico. This is the closest I’ve experienced to the Wild West. Not so much the romantic horse and cowboy kind of way, but that feeling of isolation, lawlessness, danger, hopelessness and perseverance.

I’ve taken a job as a general assignment reporter at The Cortez Journal and will be returning home to where the sandstone swells of the high desert lap at the shore of the Rockies.

I feel like Odysseus, returning a changed man to a changed land. Now, I’ve got to string a bow, shoot an arrow through 12 axe loops and kick the shit out of a bunch of suitors.

The thought makes me chuckle.

I don’t really know awaits me, but I’ll put myself out there and see what relics from the past come floating to the surface. Not sure yet if it’s a permanent relocation or just another step along the way.

As I count down the days until I can watch the lights of Carlsbad sink like the Titanic in my rear-view mirror, I cannot help but feel like I have failed here.

My efforts to show the people something more than the world they’ve come to accept have fallen short.

There were resistances of course. Few people were willing to step up and speak the truth, and even fewer wanted to hear it.

Surprisingly, the most resistance came from those who could help the most. Scientists and PhDs imported from out of town by government labs and area industries were comically paranoid in their efforts to avoid even the most docile of press.

The Brine Well Working Group was baffling in their failed attempts at public relations. They would go before judges and state and federal politicians saying an enormous man-made cavern under the south end of town would collapse any year now, swallowing local infrastructure, property and human lives.

Yet they would turn around and tell the public the situation was under control.

Never had I seen a more clear-cut example of a public concern regarding public safety and public funds. Yet the group did not allow the press at their meetings or on the site of the well.

I lost sleep wondering if I had pushed hard enough.

To those who helped bring awareness to the community by speaking out, I thank you. Those who did not, I leave you to your own devices.

There was also resistance from within. My managing editor is shameless in her exploitation of crime and criminals to sell papers and boost web traffic. I don’t mind warning the public of situations or individuals who may be considered a threat to public safety, but to capitalize on the fears of the population and to ruin the lives and reputations of people who made mistakes during times of desperation is not going to solve any problems facing the community.

And then there were my own failures. I was the one who gave into the pressures. Little by little, she wore me down over time. After assembling the daily police blotter and regurgitating the police report about the criminal of the day, there was little time left to do actual reporting. Sometimes, when shown the path of least resistance, I took it willingly.

I also made some honest mistakes along the way, and burned a few bridges. Some who turned their back on me had good reason, others I will never know because they never told me of my transgressions.

It is my hope that my failures will serve as lessons for the next chapter. I learned how to play chess by losing and paying attention to how my opponent beat me. I look forward to a clean slate to begin anew.

Get ready Colorado, I’m coming home.