Cyclists Trek Down the West Coast with Kourage

Spinnaker

The asphalt blurs below you as you hear a rhythmic sound.  Click, click, click. The persistent sound of this grinding chain-sprocket tango sends you into a nearly meditative state.  The clicking continues while your legs begin to feel warm and tingly.  The feeling of the sticky bar-tape on your palms begins to fade as your hands steadily grow numb. … Click.  This strenuous dance continues as your eyes remain transfixed on the tire of the rider ahead of you. You try to maintain those delicate couple of inches between his tire and yours as to stay in his wind-shadow, and again the clicking catches your attention. You know you will be up front soon, pushing to make the ride easier for those drafting behind you. Chris Markl, a UNF alumnus and professor at Florida State College of Jacksonville, will be pushing for more than just the cyclists behind him July 1, when he grinds out a 1,800-mile journey to raise money for entrepreneurs in Kenya.  Upon first meeting Markl, one would not guess this tall, quiet and relatively ambiguous character would soon be leading 16 riders on a 1,800-mile journey down the West Coast. The goal: Raise $50,000, from people all across the country, $10,000 of which has been raised so far. Each rider has a personal goal of $4,000. Kourage Rider Brian Hunter, a UNF alumnus, reported he is about half- way to reaching his quota, noting that all of his funding thus far has been from coworkers. The money will go to Kourage Inc., Markl’s nonprofit devoted to aiding Kenyan entrepreneurs. Markl founded Kourage Inc. in February, as an outlet to help the less fortunate in Kenya. The name Kourage relates to the courage needed to help others and to push oneself, Markl said. The 27-day bike ride begins with a grind through the mountainous, winding and scenic highways of southwest Canada into Washington, through the redwoods and rocky coast of Oregon, over the Golden Gate bridge and finally ending in sunny San Diego, Calif. Rather than stressing over reservations  and itineraries, Markl and his group of followers plan to rely on churches and people they meet along the way for places to crash, noting that such an approach could save more money for the charity’s beneficiaries. “You would be amazed how willing people are to help when you say your riding for charity,” Markl said. “Whether it’s a place to stay, replacement parts for your bike, even a drink at a bar.” Cycling first wheeled into Markl’s life as a fun way to get around campus when he got his first road bike as an undergrad at UNF. What started as a fun way to pass the time quickly transitioned into an addiction which would ultimately lead him to his first cross-country ride from Seattle to Boston in 2006. Drawing inspiration from Dan Pollatta’s international AIDS vaccine rides, Markl hopes to turn the Kourage gig into a full-time endeavor, combining his academic experience, love of cycling and tremendous passion for ending world poverty. Markl said he is starting an apparel line that is designed, manufactured, modeled and photographed in Kenya with Kourage athletics. By supporting industry and paying fair wages, Markl believes creating jobs through Kourage Inc. will ultimately cultivate a sustainable solution to help fight the
war on poverty. Though the registration for the inaugural ride is closed, registration for the 2011 Kourage Ride is open.  So if you’re tired of throwing pennies at some 50-year-old white guy awkwardly holding a malnourished child, check out www.KourageRide.org.