Rocky, The Karmic Black Hole

03.13.2009 | 3:00 am

When you go on an endurance ride, you’ve got to choose your partners carefully. You’ve got to have similar endurance and strength, sure, but that’s not really what I mean. You’ve got to pick people you are not going to get sick of. If you don’t like knock-knock jokes, don’t go riding with a guy famous for his knock-knock joke-telling prowess. If you don’t like complainers, don’t go riding with a guy famous for finding fault with everything.

If you don’t like someone paying attention to every little thing and eventually writing a story where you’re the punchline, maybe don’t go riding with me.rocky1.jpg

Amazingly, my brother-in-law, Rocky, is one of those guys I can ride with all day. He’s interesting. He’s smart. He’s a good rider. He’s curiously devoid of annoying habits.

Above all, though, Rocky is a good guy to ride with because he has such remarkably bad luck that you know — know — something interesting is going to happen when you go riding with him. I’m not just talking about a tendency to have occasional mishaps. No, indeed. I am talking about a special gift for bad luck. The Bad Luck Continuum warps and shifts, just so it can find Rocky.

If you were fated to have bad luck today — your horoscope, fortune cookie, and priest all told you so — ride with Rocky. You’ll be just fine.

Kokopelli: Round 1

When Rocky and I first tried riding the Kokopelli Trail — a 142-mile desert trail connecting Moab, UT up to Mack, CO — neither of us had any endurance experience, so I guess we deserved anything that happened to us.

Within the first hour, we had missed a turn on Sand Flats road. We didn’t figure this out for about another 45 minutes, by which time we figured — wrongly — it would be better to continue on Sand Flats road until it connected up with the La Sals Mountain road.

Riding on a flat, road in deep sand is harder than a hard climb. We were both cooked by the time we got to the paved road, at which point we still had a long additional climb ahead of us.

And it was summer. I’d guess it was about 90 degrees.

Rocky was running out of water fast, because his superpower is to sweat faster than he can drink, but he didn’t complain. That’s not his way.

We kept going, and I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that Rocky was slowing down. Or that his speech was starting to slur. Or that he no longer was raising his head to look around. I was too busy having the best day of my life. I was discovering I loved long rides. I was discovering that the view from Beaver Mesa into Fisher Valley was impossibly beautiful. I was discovering that there was nothing I would rather do in the world than mountain bike in the wilderness.

Hey, where’d Rocky go?

To my credit, I gave Rocky half of what water I still had when he ran out. To my shame, I gave him the Apple-flavored Cytomax, which was just a flawed concept in sports drinks. So no extra good karma points for me, I guess.

Rocky got progressively worse as we rode toward Fisher Valley. By the time we finally got into the valley, he was no longer fully lucid. He couldn’t ride his bike anymore, and could only barely walk it. His head lolled.

This is, to this day, the benchmark I have for bonked-ness. Yes, Rocky is the gold standard by which all other bonks must be measured. For example, if you were very, very bonked, you might say, “Oh, I was pretty bad off. You could say I was at about a .82 on the Rocky Bonk Scale.” I have never ever ever seen someone as cooked as Rocky was.

Just bad luck, really.

Kokopelli, Round 2

The next year, we tried the Kokopelli again. This time, we had no trouble finding the turn we had missed the previous year, and the first day went swimmingly. Rocky, Bob, and I rode together in the lead group (quite a few people joined us this second year, in spite of how the first year went) and made it to camp without any problems. I think all three of us would agree it was about as perfect a day as could be had on a mountain bike.

Of course, we were all starved when we got to camp at Dewey Bridge. My dad was acting as support, and had everything all ready to go, including a massive spread of food my sister Kellene had put together for us and sent along.

I ate my share of the chicken enchiladas — and your share, too — but the salad looked a little . . . I dunno . . . wilted. I skipped it.

Rocky had three helpings.

He spent the night barfing, ‘til there was nothing left to barf.

Then, just to underscore his point, he spent the rest of the night convulsing in dry heaves.

I, on the other hand, slept better than I have ever slept while camping.

To my amazement, in the morning Rocky said he would continue on. And he really was something to behold. He was like the little engine that could. He’d ride for five minutes, stop, put a foot down, and heave. Then he’d continue on.

Then, just after passing the Westwater ranger station, Rocky sat down. He could no longer ride. He made a call, got a ride, and the rest of us continued on.

Man, that Rocky. He has some bad luck.

Kokopelli, Round 3

The next year, we tried again. This year, though, it rained. The whole day. Sand Flats road showed us that there was considerable clay under that sand, and jammed up our bikes. Then we froze riding down the La Sal road. Beaver Mesa was a soupy swamp. I finally made the no-go call just before we dropped into Fisher Valley, where we could easily have been trapped in muck without the benefit of a support vehicle.

Too bad about the rain for Rocky, especially, since he seemed stronger and better prepared for a long ride than he ever had.

Kokopelli Round 4

The next year, Rocky declined to do the by-now annual Kokopelli trail ride, saying it was cursed.

We completed it without incident.

Leadville, Round 1

I’ve gone on and on in this blog about my experiences with the Leadville 100, but Rocky’s are perhaps more dramatic.

Rocky and I tried the Leadville 100 for the first time the same year. We trained the same, and we talked about the ride constantly. We had agreed that we would ride together if we could, but wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, because we have different strengths — I climbed fast, he descended fast. If we each held up for each other, we’d be slower than either of us would be alone.

And so, after the first climb, I expected to see Rocky catch me on the first descent. But he didn’t. And in fact, I didn’t see him until we crossed paths on the Columbine climb.

Rocky looked cooked. It was that can’t-drink-as-fast-as-I-sweat superpower, coming out in force.

Dug, Brad, and I all finished the race with times pretty close to what we had targeted, which is surprising, since none of us had done the race before. Then we waited at the finish line, expecting each rider to be Rocky.

And we waited.

And we waited some more.

Then Rocky tapped me on the shoulder from behind and said, “Hey, guys.”

Evidently, at the final aid station — after he had ridden 75 miles that day — Rocky was so pale and dehydrated that the course official yanked him off the course, put him in an ambulance, and sent him off to the hospital, where they loaded him up with two bags of glucose and sent him on his way.

I tell you, Rocky has some bad luck.

Leadville, Round 2

That next year, Rocky came back to Leadville with a new Camelbak: the HAWG. It holds 200 ounces of water, which is way overkill for a race that has aid stations no further apart than every ten miles.

But Rocky was making a point: this year, he would not be dehydrated.

This was not the only new equipment Rocky brought to the table. He also had a bright yellow riser handlebar.

Dug noticed it immediately. “Where’d you get that Taiwanese piece of crap?” he asked. Dug’s gruff, yet curiously unloveable.

Rocky replied, but none of us heard him. We were all looking askance now at this strange-looking handlebar. Well, it’d be fine, right?

I contend that the handlebar would in fact have been fine if either of the following were true:

  • Dug had not singled it out for ridicule.
  • Anybody but Rocky were using it.

It almost seems beside the point to say that at mile 85 — yes, with only 15 miles left in the race, after all of the really hard climbs were behind him, Rocky’s handlebar snapped in half as he was descending the only singletrack — and there’s only ¼ mile of it — in the entire course.

Okay, can we all now agree that this is not just random chance? That Rocky, my super-nice brother-in-law, has somehow angered an evil, ancient spirit?

Rocky, I hate to tell you this, because you’re really and truly a great guy, but…you are a Karmic Black Hole.


  1. Comment by TigerMouth | 03.13.2009 | 4:22 am

    Funny. Posting about bad luck on Friday the 13th.

  2. Comment by tim | 03.13.2009 | 5:08 am

    Elden, get that pic working, gotta see what the poor guy looks like…..


    Arrrgh! I can’t find the picture. It’s vanished. More Rocky-related bad luck. – FC

  3. Comment by Jake | 03.13.2009 | 5:11 am

    Poor guy, I sympathize, since my luck is sometimes similar.

    You did however, on Friday the 13th, as noted above, put in the local path to your image of Rocky.

    Cheers, and Keep Ridin!

  4. Comment by Mike Roadie | 03.13.2009 | 5:58 am

    Cute, very cute…..poor Rocky.

    Do NOT go anywhere with him today!!!!


  5. Comment by David | 03.13.2009 | 6:41 am

    Is Rocky riding leadville this year? If so the rest of us should be ok right?

    No, I believe he’s done with Leadville for the time being (i.e., the rest of his life). – FC

  6. Comment by WheelDancer | 03.13.2009 | 6:51 am

    So sorry for Rocky but I’d ride with him anytime, today in fact might work out well since Friday the 13th has traditionally been a very luck day for me and together we might just cancel each other out. This wouldn’t be great for me of course but but to cancel out his bad luck would be sufficiently lucky for me.

  7. Comment by Weiland | 03.13.2009 | 6:56 am

    Hmmm, the common variable between the Kokopelli rides and Leadville is you Fatty. It would appear Rocky is able to ride without incident on his own and with others. It is only when the combination of Fatty with Rocky when his rides turn bad. Maybe you are Rocky’s Kryptonite? To prove this Rocky needs to ride Kokopelli or Leadville without you being within 300 miles.

  8. Comment by Tinker | 03.13.2009 | 7:18 am

    Rocky, I’m sure, considers Fatty a jinx. Blame it on Dug? I don’t think so. And Rocky, just start the IV going Before the trail, braze on an IV holder to your bike, Jack in, start up.

  9. Comment by Jenny-Jenny | 03.13.2009 | 7:27 am

    Rocky’s Kryptonite. Hmmm. You were recently dreaming of being a superhero. Could your power actually be to give others bad luck?

  10. Comment by BikeCopVT | 03.13.2009 | 7:46 am

    I sympathize with Rocky, as I often feel his pain.

    Win Susan

  11. Comment by Boz | 03.13.2009 | 7:58 am

    Friday the 13th? Story about Rocky?

    I’m going down in the bunker for the day…..

  12. Comment by SurlyCommuter | 03.13.2009 | 8:26 am

    Maybe endurance riding isn’t Rocky’s sport – and just think THINK of the calamity that might be waiting for him on the dual slalom or the downhill circuits – FC my friend, that’s a YouTube goldmine!

    They have published the course for the Seattle Livestrong 100 and, as far as I can tell, it involves climbing Cougar from the Issaquah side at around mile 75 – gonna be epic!


  13. Comment by Jon | 03.13.2009 | 9:03 am

    I need to ride with Rocky.

  14. Comment by Mikeonhisbike | 03.13.2009 | 9:11 am

    Being that today is Friday the 13th I’m thinking that Rocky should stay off of his bike today.


  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.13.2009 | 9:42 am

    i dunno, his luck seems ok to me.

  16. Comment by bikemike | 03.13.2009 | 9:52 am

    dude never gives up…freaking awesome.

  17. Comment by KanyonKris | 03.13.2009 | 10:35 am

    Rocky’s more determined than me. If this 3rd triathlon doesn’t work out (the previous two were called off because of bad weather), I’m giving up on triathlons.

    Seems like a good course of action regardless of the weather. – FC

  18. Comment by KanyonKris | 03.13.2009 | 10:37 am

    “Dug’s gruff, yet curiously unloveable.”

    Did you intend to say loveable?

    No. – FC

  19. Comment by Philly Jen | 03.13.2009 | 10:58 am

    You know, now that you’ve explained all this, I’m starting to wonder about Kellene’s big crash. It gives the phrase “she fell for him” a whole new meaning…

  20. Comment by GenghisKhan | 03.13.2009 | 11:43 am

    Poor Rocky, thought the fact that he continues to get up each day makes me think that he should not be pitied as much as revered.

    P.S. That’s one sweeeeet ORANGE jersey Rocky’s wearin’ in that pic. Not that I’m trying to stir up anything here, I’m just sayin’…

  21. Comment by MOCougFan | 03.13.2009 | 11:54 am

    I met Rocky last summer at FC’s Triathalon. We were waiting at the water slide. He is as nice a guy as you’ll ever meet. He made it very clear (several times), that he was FC’s FREIND more than his Bro-in-Law. Class guy.

    Tho if I recall correctly he had crashed pretty good that day which is why his ride was short and we were waiting at the water slide.

    Mine was short cause I am slow. And Fat. And I crash A LOT. I am Rocky to my good friend Chris. I had to go to the ER for xrays on my wrists ruining last years Kokopelli ride. Sucks.

  22. Comment by Weiland | 03.13.2009 | 12:39 pm

    My theory is proving itself, see MOCougFan, Fatty and Rocky in the general vicinity… Kryptonite I say.

  23. Comment by CoolScreenNametoCome | 03.13.2009 | 2:33 pm

    What’s the significance of the picture of someone riding down the entrance to Horsethief bench from Mary’s? Is that Rocky?

    Yep. I lost the picture of him slouching against a Kokopelli sign marker, so went with this photo instead. Nice job recognizing the trail, btw. – FC

  24. Comment by CoolScreenNametoCome | 03.13.2009 | 5:49 pm

    Its only a 1.5hr drive for me, so it is a favorite in the late fall and early spring when the local trails are mostly mud. I have never had the, ah, cajones, to try to clean that particular stretch. Did he make it?

  25. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 03.13.2009 | 9:09 pm

    About 3 years ago a guy visited me fleetingly. He seemed strangely familiar. All he said was “yes” and then disappeared behind a stone pillar. I saw him in the garden a few days later, he said “yes” again and faded behind a hedge.

    Then I met Rocky via this blog and Joe Black stopped visiting me. Coincidence?

  26. Comment by Steve | 03.13.2009 | 9:20 pm

    I have riden with Rocky and he is an awesome rider! The picture doesn’t do justice to the difficulty of that rocky knarly down section entering Horsethief from Mary’s Loop. Rocky handles that section very well.

  27. Comment by buckythedonkey | 03.14.2009 | 5:10 am

    Mey Rocky, ever thought of offering your services to Cadel Evans?

    Good luck with the experiments today Fatty and…

    …WIN SUSAN!!

  28. Comment by Andy | 03.14.2009 | 5:27 am

    Does this poor guy only have bad luck on rides with you Fatty or does this black hole of bad luck follow him when your not there? If I was Rocky and my bad luck was only with you I might think it was sabatoge to give you some great things to write about. Either way it was a great post.

  29. Comment by Brian | 03.14.2009 | 1:34 pm

    That’s one of the funniest stories I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for the great laughs.

  30. Pingback by Rocky, The Karmic Black Hole | Stephen's Personal Blog | 03.15.2009 | 7:48 am

    [...] Rocky, The Karmic Black Hole [...]

  31. Comment by Rocky | 03.15.2009 | 6:50 pm

    A few things noteworthy:

    1. The Kokopelli 2 handlbar was silver, not yellow. C’mon man!

    2. It has been an interesting fourteen years of riding. Nothing has been easy. Ever.

    3. Re-living all of the unfortunate riding events of these years reminds me just how stupid it is that I continue to love mountain biking.

    4. Not realizing what day it was, my wife, some friends, and I set out to ride Gooseberry Mesa in St. George, UT on Friday last, the actual day of this post. True to form, my usually plush long-travel bike was converted through yet another series of unfortunate events to a hardtail due to — you guessed it — my cursed nature. Gooseberry on a bike that is intended to have six inches of rear-wheel travel, that has none, is a hard ride, indeed. The angles are all wrong, and that being the case, it is hard on the knees, the back and unexpectedly the shoulders.

    5. Yes, I cleaned the drop into Horsethief bench as pictured with today’s post.

    6. This catalog of grim luck events doesn’t even scratch the surface. Really.

  32. Comment by Rocky | 03.15.2009 | 8:11 pm

    Strike item 1. from above. Leadville 2 handlebar was silver, not Kokopelli, though it is the same bar that was on the bike for the Kokopelli 2. It was the same year, just 2.5 months apart. I still fault dug for having pointed it out.

    It’s nice to be a punchline. I’m glad I could be of assistance.

    I did not wreck on the triath – alon. Both of my daughters that rode that day crashed, within seconds of eachother. I, proudly, did not, though I cut my foot pretty badly on the rocks at the bottom of the waterfall.

  33. Comment by Glenna | 03.15.2009 | 11:48 pm

    Well, I am proud to say that Rocky is my brother…REALLY!

    I had no idea he had such luck! I do have a sneaking suspician that some of what is written here is partly due to the ‘eye of the beholder’:-) but, that said…
    We will continue to pray for Rocky when he rides…just in case any of this is true:-))

    Rocky really is a nice guy (but, what’s a sister to say?)…and I know he rides hard…and loves it…at least I think he does?

    Win Susan…and Rocky!

  34. Comment by kiwi | 03.16.2009 | 2:50 pm

    My Kokopell is Assault on Mt Mitchell in Spartanbury N.C…..104 miles last 26 miles up hill….I saw God on that ride!
    she is very nice…

    Win SUSAN!


  35. Comment by kiwi | 03.16.2009 | 2:54 pm


    DRINK….PEE….No I.V.


  36. Comment by Glenna | 03.16.2009 | 3:23 pm

    P.S. Did I say how very handsome Rocky is??? Well, he is!

  37. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Help Me Help My Sister Help Her Son Get a Kidney, Win a Bike (or Two!) | 02.23.2010 | 10:47 am

    [...] tried to figure out what the problem was. They never diagnosed it, and when he was eighteen, Rocky — Dallas’ dad — donated a [...]

  38. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » 2011 Leadville 100 Race Report: Part 1 | 08.15.2011 | 3:13 pm

    [...] see, unbeknownst to everyone in the whole world, my brother-in-law Rocky had signed up for Leadville for the fifth time, and had brought — in addition to my sister [...]


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