FORT MYERS, Fla. ― Jory Markiss has become accustomed to traveling thousands of miles and hundreds of hours this summer as he continues to gain ground in the world standings by entering ― and double-entering ― Touring Pro Division events from coast to coast.
However, on Sunday Markiss took a different eight-hour road trip following this weekend's Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Big Bull Tour event in Fort Myers, Fla.
The 24-year-old decided to take a day off for the first time in weeks.
Instead of heading back to Stephenville, Texas, Markiss drove north Sunday evening to Panama City, Fla., where he, John Pitts and Cole Long will spend Monday fishing for some bass on a private pond and doing some alligator spotting.
"I told my agent I am not coming back to Texas," Markiss said. "'I am staying here for another day. Whatever you have going on has to wait. I have one day for myself.'"
Markiss, who entered the weekend 22nd in the world standings, has been doing all he can this summer to try and earn precious points as Built Ford Tough Series riders attempt to take advantage of this year's new points system.
The Longmont, Colo., native has picked up the pace recently by finishing in second place this weekend in Fort Myers, after taking home first place last weekend at the PBR Gonzales TPD event in Gonzales, Texas, while also placing second at the State Farm PBR event in Hidalgo, Texas.
Markiss's top ride in Fort Myers was a 90.5-point effort aboard a "slick" bucking Sucker Punch.
In just six days, the 5-foot-8 rider, who noted that he feels his muscles are getting stronger this summer, has ridden on both coasts of the United States and will be heading north later this week for TPD events in Idaho and Montana.
"We're gaining those points, ya know," Markiss said. "It's slow going. We're having to double enter everything and try and get as many rode as we can. This year is giving all those guys in the Touring Pro a chance of making it back on the (BFTS) or to move further down in the standings while the BFTS is off.
"I love the chance. I'm still tuned up and riding my butt off. I'm ready to go."
It's a long grind, one that features tireless rides and endless hours on the road. Hence, a day off is unusual for Markiss.
"My weekends, I usually end up hitting at least two events, so a lot of time I need to leave during the week to get to those events," Markiss said. "This is the first day I have taken off just for me. I'm pretty excited."
Riders are known for picking up a hobby or two along the way to help clear their mind from the mental drain that accompanies bull riding. Some will take a hunting trip, or others, like Markiss, will spend a day on the pond.
Markiss, who has never seen an alligator before, says Monday will be a good chance to get away from everything for a day and just spend some time to clear the mind. Plus, it's always nice when you don't have to set an alarm.
"I'm going to sleep in and not have to worry if I am catching a plane," Markiss added. "It's going to be nice. I haven't had many chances to get away this year. I am sure if I enjoy it as much as I plan on it I am going to make an effort to get away from (bull riding) more."
The mental aspect of the sport is something Markiss had to adjust to when he took up bull riding again as an 18-year-old after quitting when he was 14. The physical aspect and skill needed to compete at the highest level was something the third-year BFTS rider knew he always had, it was just the mental side he had to work on to eventually make the world's toughest bull riding circuit.
Markiss quickly adjusted, and made a swift rise through the bull riding rankings to become one of the sport's top young guns.
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"It's a lot like being a little kid and having a favorite country musician," Markiss said. "Then all of a sudden they give you a guitar and it ended up you are very gifted with the guitar. Now, you are surrounded by all of these guys."
It's also been a humbling experience says Markiss. The left-handed rider understands how lucky he is to have made it to the BFTS in such a short period of time.
"If you would have told me three years ago that I would be on the Built Ford Tough, and you would find me in the Top 35 in the world I would have just laughed," Markiss said. "I had been riding bulls for three years. Anything can happen. It just depends how much energy you put towards it."
Following his one-day vacation, Markiss will head back to Texas for some meetings with his agent and begin to organize another set of busy weeks before the second of the 2013 BFTS kicks back off. More hours will be spent traveling, and there will be less time to lay back and let his fishing pole do the work for him.
But those countless hours on the road are always worth it.
"Oh it's worth it," Markiss said. "I love these drives. All the effort I put out over these years is well worth it and it will continue to be in my future. It opens new doors up for me every day. The PBR is just the beginning as far as I'm concern."
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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