J.D. Pauls
Great Divide
After Dinner with Mike After Dinner with Mike it was straight to Madison to find a place to stay. I had a hard time finding a hotel. I drove for 2 additional hours past construction missing turns on unmarked streets and being generally frustrated after 13 hours in the car for the day. Finally got settled around 1230 am, then up with the sun.

Drove to downtown Madison, parked the car, pulled Rita 2.0 off the bike rack and started exploring. I had no idea what to expect with this town.  I had only heard of it when I met 2 racers on the Tour Divide in 2012. We were stammering through the snow up Red Meadow Pass near Whitefish MT. for several hours that day. That was a really hard time for me but I remember having those two there at that moment was very helpful. They were doing their best to make short work of the snow but what I remember most was their positive attitudes. We had a lot of time to talk during that cold and frustrating walk. Brett got married 5 weeks before the TD that year!  Then took off for a month to tackle the monster. He and Chris worked at a bike shop in Madison and surprised me with how affectionately they spoke of riding there. "Really? In Wisconsin??" I remember thinking to myself. So when I was planning this trip, it really seemed like the perfect place to visit and I was excited to get there.

I was hoping to get out on some trails but in waiting for the shop that I had planned to visit to open, I decided to change plans and tour the city for a few hours. What an incredible little place for riding!

The whole town seems to be built around the bike. Fantastic bike lane and trail networks, bike racks at nearly every business and cool people. I had coffee at a neat little place with a community art garden in the yard that backed on to a bike trail. I had a nice chat with the 'caretaker' of the garden who was setting out some colorful displays that some school kids had put together. She was scattering them along the outside to 'add some color to the place' as she put it. The art was slightly unimpressive on its own, the sort of work you may find on a bulletin board in a school hallway but in that garden they did seem pretty special and the art took on a life of its own.

10:00 a.m. came and as I was waiting out front of Revolution Cycle, Earl pulled up on his bike to open the shop. I had only met him through email and was pretty happy that he seemed excited that I had made the trip to see him. Very cool guys and gals working there, fun little shop too.  I was blown away as I walked in the door. There were dozens of used bike crammed side by each that the team was building till the wee hours of the morning getting ready for a sale on the weekend. Had a great time talking bikes, we talked about touring, and we talked about dreams. It’s so awesome meeting people for the first time when you share a common interest.

Brett was unable to make it in before I had to leave but we did catch up on the phone as I drove out of town. Again I spent a few hours with him on a bike (or walking a bike) in 2012 but we talked as if we had grown up together, again trading stories and memories. Found out he's a Daddy now!  Also found out that he going back to ride the Great Divide again next year!  Bike packing really does become part of your DNA.  He will make his family proud!


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J.D. Pauls

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J.D. Pauls
  • What was the genesis moment or inspiration for your upcoming adventure? Like many TDR veterans, the trail became part of my DNA, an experience so personal and unique that it actually changed me as a person. Salida, CO was a highlight of my trip last year because it was the point at which I knew I would finish the race. I had several really tough days leading up to Salida and as I crested the last climb before town I turned around and the storms I had been running from were lifting, and the sky behind me produced the largest double rainbow I had ever seen. I descended into the setting sun, the changing landscape was glowing in magical yellows, reds and browns. The pain of the previous hours and days, were instantly and unexpectantly replaced by joy and a truly satisfied soul. The Colorado Trail crosses the Great Divide and runs through Salida. This route is a beast, but pushing myself beyond what I thought possible has become a comfortable and necessary part of how I want to live my life. I don’t think there is a more beautiful trail to experience this on. Discovering the wild world at the intimate speed of the bike really can change the speed at which we live our lives. Oh, and sipping a morning coffee at Cafe Dawn in Salida is definitely worth planning a bike trip around!
  • Have you traveled by bike in the past? I had a bike growing up, but an accident when I was 15 (1990) ended my childhood cycling career. I didn’t own a bike again until Dec of 2011 when I heard of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and decided I wanted to take on the challenge. I made my first attempt at the Tour Divide in June 2012, and due to lack of cycling base, unpreparedness, lack of knowledge and intense weather, wisely pulled the plug in Butte MT after 10 days and 750 mile complete. I worked hard to return in June 2013 ready to go and completed the 2800 miles in just over 25 days.
  • What do you hope to get out of this journey? A little different expectation this year. On my divide ride I was truly out to find myself and discover a new J.D. that I always wanted to know was out there, and I think I accomplished that. This trip, since I found that guy I was looking for last year, will be more like visiting an old best friend. It is going to be a blast. Sure I will be racing, but a smell the roses type of racing. What is the point in climbing a mountain if you don’t look around when you get to the top?


  • Sour Patch Kids
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  • Arm Band
  • Big Agnus Seedhouse SL1 Tent
  • Glowstick Necklace

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