Sunday, July 29, 2012

How old is too old?

Age is a state of mind; there's no such thing as too old...except when it comes to chamois. This is not a post about the magic of a young spirit; it's a post about when it's time to let that little bacteria farm go.

I know a good chamois is expensive. And I know that a good chamois can be hard to find. But it's the most important part of your ride.Think about what your chamois does for you; it's an important job, not to be taken lightly. It's a matter of comfort and hygiene. Your chamois can mean the difference between pleasure and pain (for you, and for your riding companions).

A few rules of thumb to decide what is "too old":
- if it's the 199x TdF Cofidis team kit, your shorts are too old. They are also too pink to tastefully conceal your treasures. Let them go.
- If the person riding behind you can make out the birthmark on your left butt cheek, your shorts have expired. Let them go.
- If you are "double shorting" to prevent the person behind you from making out the birthmark on your left butt cheek, both of your shorts are too old. Let them go.

As a matter of fact, if you are thinking to yourself, "are these shorts too old?", it's probably time to head to the bike shop and treat yourself to some new ones. Happy (and clean) riding!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Other Lessons from the divide

I've got another thing to add to the list of lessons from the divide. Appreciation.

Even in the comfort of the company of your friends, there are challenging moments on the Divide. There is no way around that. Whether you are like Leon from Missoula and you're breaking your knees hauling lazy-boy comfort on your bob-trailer or Benjamin Syress and leaving the dead weight of a second wheel and drive train to do the journey by unicycle, the Divide is just hard and that's all there is to it.

Most of the time, it feels as though the reward from the hardness comes after the riding is over. But, sometimes, the amazingness is right there in front of you; little pieces of joy in things that you never would have imagined. If you can look past the distractions, like the uncomfortable sunburn on the back of your hands or the deep longing for a good cup of coffee…you will discover joy in the most menial or unextraordinary parts of the journey. And that's what brings the adventure to life. Reflecting on my notes from the last week on the trail, here are a few examples:

1. The tap water from the bathroom of a shitty small-town-hotel. It has been swishing around in a water bottle that has a thin film of slim from some energy drink that I put in it a few days ago. I don't normally drink water, let alone manky water from a dirty water bottle. But, on a hot day, when the heat has sucked every remaining bit of moisture from my body and my tongue is sticking to the inside of my cheeks, that tap water is better than a glass of Veuve Cliquoe on the Champs Elysees. Thank you, tap water from the bathroom of a shitty small-town-hotel.

2. The subway sandwich that has been squished in my backpack for 8 hours. It has become almost unrecognizable in the heat of the sun. Despite being toasted and having no sauce, the sandwich has somehow merged together into a single, moist sausage-like entity. The sight of it should repulse me, but I can't wait to sink my teeth into that mushy goodness. I savour the slight crunch (I'm using my imagination today) of the not-quite-completely-wilted cucumbers inside. One of the jalepenos inside still has a stem on it…I don't mind; I could use the fibre. Thank you, subway pseudo-sausage.

3. The sweat that has drenched my jersey and shorts. It's probably doing some nasty things in my chamois but, right now, I'm focused on the magic of evaporative cooling that is happening up front. I unzip my jersey to let the breeze rush through my undershirt. Such relief. It's like jumping into a fresh lake and laying in the hot sun at the same moment. The sun is kissing my face and arms while the breeze keeps my core fresh and cool. It's an amazing combination of contrasts and I can regulate the intensity by going faster or slower. I'm a self-powered climate control system. Thank you, sweat.

Most of us are lucky to live in a time and place in which we can binge on all of the luxuries of life. We can control the temperature of our living spaces such that we are never too hot/cold. We can access almost any food that we desire at almost any time of year (no matter how absurd it is to eat dragon fruit in Calgary in the middle of winter). We can go to sleep every night feeling relatively safe, enjoying a peaceful, worry-free slumber. What is there to complain about? Nothing, really. Yet it seems that we all find a lot to complain about. We are so comfortable that is uncomfortable. All of this bingeing has made us nauseous. But if bingeing begets nausea, I guess that hunger begets appreciation. In fact, I would argue that hunger is a necessary condition of appreciation. Since, by and large, we don't need to experience hunger unless we choose to do so, that would imply that we need to seek it out in order to experience appreciation. I guess that there different ways to make this happen…but bikepacking must be one of the most enjoyable.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day 19. Bad news. Good news.

Last day. Brush Mountain Lodge to Steamboat Springs.

The pass after Brush Mountain was barely recognizable to me; dry and smooth riding, compared with a long slug though the snow last year. I took my time going up and then down. Kim and Anders needed to get to Steamboat Springs early for some bike repair, but I wanted this ride to last forever; I wasn't ready for it to be over. We found a nice balance of progress and pleasure that included a relaxed chocolate milk break at Clark's convenience store and an efficient pace line to get through the busier portions of paved road.

Amazingly, astoundingly, awesomely, two friends (Scott and Paul) from our Africa trip drove out to Steamboat to join us for the evening. A different continent and a different context, yet, the bond between us has not weakened at all. The shared memories are too many to list, but we tried anyway. It was fun to go hear which experiences stood out after the distance of time. More interesting was to consider how the experience has impacted us after it's had a year to settle in. How it has affected our priorities and perspectives. What we do differently now. I think the biggest thing for me is that I'm in less of a hurry. It has good and bad consequences (I'm now perpetually late, but I now take more time with people).

The reunion was bittersweet because it also marked my final day of the trip and my farewell to Anders and Kim. The riding and the time with friends has made the last three weeks incredibly fun. And revisiting the route in a different physical and mental state has been cathartic. It is disappointing to return home early when we have passed the halfway point and have developed a good rhythm. It is such a different feeling than I had last year.

So, the bad news is that I just want to keep going. The good news is that I just want to keep going.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day 18. A Conversation with the Dalai Lama.

The depth of my reflection today was nowhere near what I experienced yesterday, as I kept having flashbacks of a moment when Kim and Anders rode up behind me singing "Who let the cows out? Moo! Moo! Moo!"

Having this on repeat in my head was a meditation breaker. But, I'm always happy to break for a laugh. 

The plan was to ride from Rawlins to Brush Mountain Lodge. I knew that Matthew Lee and his family were taking care of the Lodge until a few days ago, but I understood that they would be long gone by now. In an unfairly brief nutshell, Matthew is the director and seven time finisher (including five wins) of the Tour Divide. He is a living legend.

I also knew that Kirsten, who normally runs the lodge and who showed me incredible hospitality last year, was out of town. Would there be anyone there when we arrived? I had some communication with Kirsten last night, but it was not clear what to expect. We took a gamble and made it our destination anyhow.

We hit a long stretch of road construction at the midway point. It felt like man versus machine as we zig-zagged through the trucks. Before we knew it, we were in Aspen Alley, the final part of the main climb for the day and a beautiful spot for "lunch". Gummy rattlesnakes and melted chocolate. It's a good day.

"Who let the cows out? Moo! Moo! Moo!"

About 10km from the lodge, we spotted an ATV coming down the road. It was a man and his daughter. They were driving pretty slowly and I figured it was to be polite...and then I realized....

Holy shit, it's Matthew Lee!

Amazing. It's a great day.

There is not a cyclist in the world who I admire more for his achievements. What an incredible honour to meet him. When we finally arrived at the lodge, Matthew, his lovely wife, Katie, and their awesome kids made sure that we were well taken care of. Bean burgers, watermelon and a sunset drive around the property. It felt strange to be in a vehicle; suddenly gravel and hills seemed easy. The day keeps getting better.

Kirsten made it home in time to join in some of the fun as well. We must be the luckiest guests this summer, getting to enjoy the company of the Lee family *and* Kirsten.

As tomorrow will be my last day and I will no longer be around to impart my "wisdom" on Kim and Anders, Matthew was kind enough to offer some tips for the remainder of the route. We pulled out the maps and he started going through the route, inch by inch. He remembers every turn, every hill, every house. He even remembers details about business owners, what to order on the menu, when things are open. And he has a story for everything. This was the most exciting part of the night.

There is not a person in the world that knows this route better than Matthew. Have you ever received advice from the undisputed world expert on something? It's amazing. On this road, there are so many details that feel uncertain. And here we were, speaking with the man who has all of the answers. It was like having a conversation with the Dalai Lama.

He's really passionate about the Great Divide. It's contagious. He has the sort of enthusiasm that inspires one to think of doing this again. Was he like this before? Or is this something that came from making the journey seven times? Is there some sort of enlightenment that comes from the experience you have on this ride? I'm beginning to think so.

After my experience yesterday, and after hearing Matthew talk, I am finding more reasons to come back. I wonder what I would discover if I crossed the Basin five more times...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 17. The Basin.

The air dries out and begins to suck the moisture from my skin as the sun peeks over the horizon. It is going to be hot today. I'm five miles out of Atlantic City and I'm already thinking about water. But, that won't last long. Soon, my mind will be fixed on other things.

I have set out alone this morning to face this stretch of road that I find so daunting. There is nothing to be scared of. There is nothing at all. No trees. No people. The sounds and sights of the Divide that have surrounded me to this point have disappeared.

Everything stands still in the basin. It is a vacuum. There is no movement or noise. There is only the sound of my tires pushing through the rocks below me. I can hear every rock, every grain of sand, push over the surface of the road as I roll forward. 

Time dissolves into now. 

My preoccupation with my own mortality fades.

Twelve hours in 37 degree heat and only 4 liters of water; there is no easy way to get through this. I have no choice but to leave the comfort of the livingroom of my mind and wander down the unexplored hallways of my psyche.

Amid the isolation and loneliness of the basin, I wander down a dark hallway. I open a door and I find a good friend. I recall so many amazing moments that we have shared. Conversations. Laughter. Silence. Adventure. Understanding. 

It is a connection that I have not shared with anyone else in my life. Every shared experience and emotion is compressed into an instant. My sense of gratitude is so intense that it hurts. It hurts! 

I try to ease the pain by separating each memory. I want to savour each wonderful moment. Still, it is overwhelming. How am I so lucky to have someone like this in my life? How could I ever feel lonely or scared when I have a friend like this? 

I need to spend some more time in this hallway. There are more doors and there is more to discover, but the road eventually leads to Rawlins and this is where I will rest for the night.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 16. Certainty is my enemy.

1 bowl of chili.
1 pizza.
2 orders of onion rings.
2 bottles of water.
3 loaded burgers, with side salads.
3 ice cream cones.
4 beers.
6 hard boiled eggs.
6 grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.
18 cans of coke.

Miners Grubstake in Atlantic City is one of the few places that I can think of where three smelly, dirty strangers in matching spandex can walk in and place this order and the hostess won't bat an eye.

Atlantic city is a charming little town of about 50 people. It is situated perhaps 10 miles off the highway, on a dirt road at one side of the Basin. Tomorrow, we will ride 214km in intense heat and dryness, across the great void to Rawlins. As we have approached this point, my anxiety has grown. Despite the fact that it is relatively flat and non-technical, the Basin is, for me, the most psychologically daunting stretches along the route.

Normally, I would assert that uncertainty can make things more difficult than they need to be.

Uncertainty is a vicious enemy.

Not knowing where you will sleep, how the terrain will be, where or when you will get food. Uncertainty tortured me last year. It also kept me going. My naiveté allowing me to hold out some hope that it would be ok. That I could make it. That, somehow, the road ahead could not be as bad as that which I had just survived.

There have been points along this second-time-through where I have thought that if I had known how hard the road-to-come would be last year, I wouldn't have found the courage to keep going. Now, even though I have done this before and, therefore, I know that I am capable of doing it, I worry.

Certainty is now my enemy.

I have felt the gravity of the Basin draw me for days now; the gravity and tension has grown stronger as I approach it. I imagine the continent folding in on itself as I make my way through it. As I naively attempt to pass through again, I imagine the basin swallowing me whole; the emptiness smothering me as I sink inside of the void.

Mother nature did not intend for a cyclist to take this path.

How can I feel this way about something that I know that I can do? How does it have this power over me? But what can I do? There is no escape. The gravity is too strong. I must do it.

We are camping in a teepee in front of one of the town's 3 bars. The faint sound of country music that is emanating from the building is interrupted occasionally by a woman's voice shouting '3-2-1!!' as the men inside challenge each other to an old fashioned arm wrestle. A couple of drunks just walked out and peeked in the teepee, commenting that we looked like mummies. 'There's a mummy. And a daddy!'.

At least for the moment, my anxiety is replaced with a giggle.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 15. Emotional scabs.

I've started riding away from Kim and Anders a bit more lately. It isn't that I'm bored with them, rather, I have felt a longing to pick at my emotional scabs and it is hard to do that with people around (yet a bit dangerous to do it without people around).

I'm not sure why I need to pick at them. It is a strange combination of pleasure and pain. I just know that I can't stop myself.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

Sometimes it liberates some unnecessary blemish from my psyche, revealing a fresher, newer me. Sometimes it just bleeds again. I never know which way it will go. Still, I pick. It is strangely pleasing sensation.

Pick. Pick. Pick.

Maybe I feel safe doing it in this environment. With Kim and Anders here, I know that, before I get carried away, they will unwittingly do something to make me forget what I was picking at.

Cresting Union Pass this morning, I was in the middle of picking and I looked up and saw Kim and Anders doing the macarena. I don't even remember what was on my mind before that, but the combination of discomfort and comfort was satisfying.

It isn't just their trail antics that bring amusement, the fact that Kim and Anders are from Denmark is a continuous source of entertainment. My favourite is the response from strangers when hear that these guys are from Denmark. A few of the best lines have been:

"Cool. You've got the red light district and can smoke dope and all that, right? Or is that Copenhagen?"

And..."That's in sweden, right?"

We arrived in Pinedale for the night, narrowly escaping a nasty looking storm. We are keeping relatively good time; not to fast that it is breaking us down, but steady progress nonetheless. The pace isn't quite quick enough for me to continue the whole way to the border with these guys (I will need to return home early), but we will make it through the Basin together. I'm starting to get anxious about that day. Mostly flat and non-technical, it should be an 'easy' day, but it's probably one of the most psychologically difficult stretches of road on the trip. I will need to be careful with the picking that day. In any case, it will be nice to ride it with friends; I will be interested to see what they think of it!
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 14. Beauty, bunk beds and beers.



I love Wyoming; I'm so glad that I'm riding the divide again.

The detours last year took us on the other side of the Tetons (I think...actually, I don't really remember, as I was too busy feeling sorry for myself last time). This stretch from Flagg Ranch to Union Pass is ridiculously nice. It is the kind of place that Jehovahs Witnesses put on their marketing materials as proof that God exists. It is so nice to see it now.

The Tetons. Togwotee Pass. Union Pass. The day was one beautiful sight after another. I snapped a few shots with my yogurt-camera. Hopefully some of them turn out.

We stopped for dinner at a place half way up Union Pass. Crooked Creek. I was worried that it would be closed down because it is essentially in the middle of nowhere, but it turned out to be crazy busy and full of stuffed animals. Not the kind that kids play with. The kind that you shoot with a gun and then hang on the wall.

After a steak and a liter of coke, we decided to stay for the night. It means that we can ride fresher tomorrow and enjoy the day. John-not-Dave was there, too. We shared some beers and bunk beds with him.

Another lesson for the list: beers and bunk beds don't mix.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Day 9. People and Places Revisited.

Revisiting passes, towns and roads brings back memories and emotions from my trip last year. Elkford, shattered. Eureka, shattered. Columbia Falls, disappointed and tired. Holland Lake, after dark and on my last legs. Lincoln, after dark and shattered.

Most of my memories from the first part of the trip last year are dark, and most of these places I never thought that I would see again. It is therapeutic to come back and see these places from a different perspective. It is empowering to feel some control now as I pass through or choose to stay, rather than desperately search for food/water/shade/company, unable to think past whatever was urgent.

And, it isn't just places that I revisit; there have been some familiar faces. In fact, I had an unexpected and wonderful blast from the past this morning. On our way up the first climb, one of the guys (John) who I had the pleasure to ride with a bit last year came to pay us a visit. He lives in Helena and has been watching our progress on trackleaders. It was so cool to have a chance to see him again. So many memories. I thought back to our conversation going up the pass after Del Norte and our thoughts of dropping out. I wish that he could feel the enjoyment of the divide as I am doing now.

It is nice to reach each summit and have some energy left to have some fun. I wonder how much energy Leon will have when he gets here. Some of these trails are going to be tough with that big bob trailer of his.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 13. So many lessons.

Long distance riding offers so many lessons. Patience and persistence are two of the most valuable for me.

But, there are other lessons to be learned. A few that I've had so far on this trip include:
- Blackberries are not waterproof
- blueberries don't travel well by bike, especially offroad
- neither do raspberries
- cameras should not be stored next to yogurt
- especially yogurt that only has a foil top

The ride south of Island Park was as pretty as I remember from last year, with a nice descent down to a river. People complain about the surface of the track on this section because it is hard to ride in some spots...but I think it is worth the effort. Leon might struggle with it though.

We eventually crossed into Wyoming this afternoon. So long, Idaho. The official state border sign was slightly less impressive than the last; however, we weren't bothered, as the momentum that arises from a one-day state crossing is enough to lift spirits high. Also, the magnificent Tetons at sunset were like an enormous welcome sign to Wyoming.

I'm excited for this next section. We missed out on these next passes last year duue to weather detours. It will be nice to experience some new terrain in such a great area.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Day 12. John, not Dave.

At breakfast in Lima, we ran into another divider, Southbound-Dave. We first met Southbound-Dave in Eureka (and then on Whitefish Divide and then again in Seeley Lake). We call him Southbound-Dave to differentiate him from Northbound-Dave, the dude on the fixie that we met near Holland Lake. Southbound-Dave looks a bit more cheery, but I think that he's had an easier go so far. We discovered that his name is, in fact, John not Dave.

It is funny how some details get completely lost on a trip like this. Or maybe it is just that you only remember the important details; I remember that he was riding a Karate Monkey.

The road from Lima was much nicer this year, with the rain holding off until we were past the Idaho border. Kim and Anders seemed excited to get out of Montana. It's a beautiful state, but this is progress.

My 'fly' bite seems to be healing, replaced now by some mosquito bites. After that fly bite, mosquito bites don't seem like a big deal anymore.

Rain and lightning started shortly after we entered Idaho. This may be the only time that I say this about a lightning storm during a ride, but it was a nice way to finish the day.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 11. You don't get to be bored.

We have moved far enough that the landscape has changed. A lot. The soil has changed. The flowers have changed. The trees have changed. Still, somehow, these geographical milestones are sometimes not enough. Passing through an invisible line that has been conceived of by man remains somehow significant.

I can see the enthusiasm fading slightly from the boys. I know part of it is that we've just had two slightly longer days of riding. But, also, I see that the boys are feeling that Montana is taking forever. I remember having that same feeling last year.

A good friend of mine recently sent me a quote from my favourite comedian, Louis CK. It was handy to keep this in mind at the slightest hint of a thought like 'I'm bored of Montana'.

"I'm bored" is a useless thing to say. You live in a great, big, vast world that you've seen none percent of. And even the inside of your own mind is endless. It goes on forever inwardly. Do you understand? Being the fact that you're alive is amazing, you don't get to be bored." - Louis CK

I couldn't agree more. I didn't even need to go inwardly to enjoy today's ride over Medicine Lodge - Sheep Creek Divide. The descent from this pass, down into Lima, is one of my favourite stretches along the route. It begins through an enormous, desolate bowl, with seemingly no exit in sight. It is like you are stuck in a crucible waiting for mother nature to smite you with a big storm for having the nerve to think that you are worthy to try and pass through this sacred ground. Eventually, the road takes you through a canyon, with a river running along side the road. It is quiet and remote and absolutely one of natures most beautiful accomplishments. It is almost enough to make you forget how much your ass hurts. Almost.

Tomorrow we will cross into Idaho. I'm hoping that this restores some of our earlier group enthusiasm. At the very least, I'm looking forward to the road through Lakeview. Last year I got caught on this stretch in the cold and rain. This year I'm hoping for something different.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 10. Ups and Downs and Moving on.

On the Divide, distance loses its meaning. It's not so much because of the length of the ride (though that is part of it)'s more like, the character of the road varies so much, depending on the location and weather conditions, that 10km can be a 20 minute ordeal or a 2 hour ordeal. To simply measure in kilometers is a recipe for frustration.

But, it is impossible not to try to measure progress. That's what we do. That's what we are conditioned to do. I usually measure my progress on the climbs in vertical feet. 100 feet. 200 feet. 300 feet. Yes! I'm a collector!

There are a lot of vertical feet to collect on this ride. I realized today that what this unit of measure means to me has changed as the days have passed.

There is a stretch on the first pass in Canada - Elk Pass - when you are just about at the top, where the road goes down for a while, before climbing again to the top. I remember feeling frustrated at the descent...because I knew that I would need to make up that elevation again. And on the big descent after cresting the pass, I thought of the huge climbs ahead. I didn't want to go down. I wanted to hold on to the work that I had done.

But this is not a productive mindset. If you focus on that, you won't get anywhere. You have to let it go and move on. Keep going. Build again and enjoy the ups and downs. After a few days of the ups and downs, I am no longer feeling frustrated with the downs; I can just enjoy them. It feels good to be moving along.

We made it from Butte to Polaris today, through Fleecer. This was a big milestone for me, as it was a turning point for me last year. It was at the top of Fleecer that I met some other riders (luke and dan), who I would then see many more times before I made it to the Mexican border. Today, we didn't meet any cyclists on the mountain; however, we met a couple on a dune buggie. This seems to be the recreational activity of choice for many people around here. This particular couple seemed to be stoned out of their minds.

In other news, I was bitten by what looked like a fly yesterday. Tonight, I'm amusing myself tonight by watching the swelling continue to grow. It's alive!
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Day 8. Finding balance.

Three passes today, and three crossings of the continental divide. We were lucky with the weather and felt like we could have kept riding for a while longer. Kim even had some energy left over at the top of the last pass.

We made it to Helena in time to get our bikes fixed. This was important because tomorrow is July 4 and the bike shops here and in Butte are closed...and it is a long ride after that for good bike service. Fortunately, the Big Sky Cycling shop was willing to service our bikes on the spot. We are not even a quarter of the way through the journey and the list of repairs is shocking.

On my bike alone: broken front shifter (new, 10 speed ultegra) and deraileur, broken chain (new, sram 10 speed), damaged cables/housing both brakes and a broken pedal (almost new, crank bros candy 3). I'm not used to needing things fixed so quickly, so I can't help but think that 'they just don't make things like they used to'. Scratch that, it makes me feel old to say that.

Kim's brand new fargo has a crank that has come off several times and a rear skewer that doesn't want to stay closed. Anders was in need of some tuning also (it was satisfying to watch as his bike was fixed by the girl at the bike shop). We are looking forward to some smoother rolling on the miles ahead.

We needed the time at the shop; however, we probably could have kept rolling after things were done. But we didn't. it feels strange to stop cycling so early in the day when the weather is good. I know that we are having fun precisely because we are choosing to ride at this pace. On the other hand, I have an undeniable urge to cover more distance. Apart from the first day (through the rain and snow), I don't think that any of us have pushed beyond the point of enjoyment.

At some point, I think it will be good to throw a few mega-days in, so that we make sure that we don't take these fun days for granted. You can't appreciate balance unless you know what imbalance is like.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Day 7. People make the difference.

This stretch through Montana was arguably the toughest part of my ride last year. I was lonely and cold and full of negative thoughts. As I roll through it this time, more slowly and with friends by my side, I am thinking of all of the ways in which the experience is better because my friends are here.

The most compelling benefits of riding companions include:

1. There no space for bad thoughts. When the heat or the cold, or the grade or surface of the road begin to get to you, there is someone there to fill the space in my head and prevent the bad thoughts from getting in. Sometimes, it is Anders tapping his hand over his mouth like an indian. Sometimes it is Kim blowing his whistle in the style of DJ Babba's Blow My Whistle.

2. The joy of a different perspective and something new. It turns out that gophers, squirrels and deer are not so common in Denmark. Even the products available at gas stations are different than in other countries. While I appreciate these things, I am past the point of getting excited about them when I am on my own. Having someone around to point out the extraordinary things that you take for granted makes everything more exciting.

3. Things that are uneventful, or even scary, when you are by yourself become funny when you are with people. Losing your bib shorts. Applying chamois cream. Breaking a chain. Farts. Getting chased by a dog. The list continues to grow.

4. Funny things are even funnier when you can share them with people. For example, when we stopped in Ovando today and there was a dog barking at his own echo. RUF. ruf. RUF. ruf. RUF. ruf. RUF. ruf. RUF. ruf. RUF. ruf. RUF. ruf. RUF. ruf. This lasted for several minutes. My stomach still hurts from laughing.

If the beginning is any indication, this is going to be a great ride.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day 6. Losing it.

We took a rest day today, starting with a fancy breakfast at Holland Lake. Our goal for the day was Seeley lake, which is less than 60km away, over Richmond Pass. Riding through the same trails and roads as last year, sometimes I can remember certain details so precisely. A rock. A bush. Then, sometimes, its like I'm going down the road for the first time.

It is nice going through some parts a second time and seeing it in a different way. What I remember from going up Richmond Peak last year is the clouds and singletrack. This year, I will remember the spectacular view and furious descent.

Through the singletrack, I kept thinking of Leon (the guy that we met two days ago, between Eureka and Whitefish who was carrying a tank on his bike). I'm not sure that he will have as much fun going through this section.

We crossed paths with a couple from Vancouver island who were heading southbound. It is nice to see so many people out on the trail. I wonder if there were just as many last year and I just didn't take the time to notice or to stop and talk to them.

In other news, Kim seems to be losing it. When you are packing as light as we are, it is kind of a big deal to break something or lose something. Frustrating for Kim, amusing for me and Anders. Here is a list of things that Kim has lost or broken so far.
- bib shorts (lost)
- camera (broken)
- headlamp (lost, then found)
- gps (broken)
- pocket knife (lost, then found)
- one leg warmer (lost)
- water bottle (broken)
- rain jacket (lost, then found)
- front fork (now fixed)
- one compression sock (lost, then found)

At least he still has his bear spray.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.

Day 5. It's better on your own terms.

Heading out of Columbia Falls, the boys spotted a couple of girls ahead of us on touring bikes. Naturally, they decided to try to catch them. In the process, we managed to miss our first turn. It seems that a GPS and a map are no match for male hormones. I can't imagine what it is going to be like two weeks from now...though the guys seem to be equally enthusiastic about fireworks, so perhaps that can fill the void.

We pulled into Swan River for second breakfast and Kim ordered a coffee, a chocolate milk, a coke and two sandwiches. The waitress thought it was a joke. A few Northbound Dividers were at the same restaurant; Patty and Gary from Del Norte and Mike from New Mexico. Their advice on the conditions of the next stretch of road (obstructed for miles by piles of fallen trees) led us to take a detour. We are here to ride, not to carry our bikes.

Deciding to take on this challenge on our own terms, rather than those of the Tour Divide (as we had initially planned) has given us a lot of freedom to make this ride enjoyable. The ability to take this detour was a good example. And our Fernie detour. And drafting when we've had a headwind. And just riding together at a fun pace. I guess that it should have occurred to me before now that doing things on my own terms brings me a lot more enjoyment.

We encountered another northbound rider when we rejoined the normal rout. His name was Dave and he was on a fixie (maybe fixiedave?). He said that he'd been out for 28 days so far. He looked rough; sunburned and worn. Like he'd lost his spirit along the way. Maybe it was just the moment. Maybe it was a bit of what I felt last year. I'm glad that I don't feel that way this time around. it's better on your own terms.

We made it to Holland Lake after dark and found a nice spot to bivy. A beautiful night for sleeping outside. We are breaking up the next 3 days of riding into 4 days to ensure the fun continues; good weather, or bad. I hope that we will have a chance to use some fireworks along the way.
Sent using a Blackberry that I'd better not lose.