It happened in Montana. Last summer I was pedaling along, just as I had been for the past 20 days of June and would be for the next 20 days to come. I was atop my cherry red Lemond, the bike that was beginning to feel to me like a lover that I knew I had to let go. My panniers were nearly bursting with all the gear I had brought along for my cross country bike trip and I eyed my Converse shoes as they threatened to wiggle out from under the bungee cord lashed across my front rack. I was somewhere in Montana when a car whooshed past me, and I decided that enough was enough- I was done with pedaling on the roads and I wanted to pick thorns and squirrel teeth out of my tires, not shards of glass and spiky wires from car tires. I wanted to hear the clattering hooves of Bighorn Sheep, not the honking of countless Escalades.
When I reached Missoula, I stopped in at the Adventure Cycling Association office and lamented to them that I was sick of biking on roads. I told them my “plan” to sell my Lemond, get my hands on a mountain bike, and bike across the country on dirt. It was surprising to hear these words come out of my mouth, because I am by no means a mountain bike rider. In fact, when I joined the cycling team in college and was convinced to try a few mountain bike races, I spent more time pushing my bike over “scary rocks” and “scary roots” than I did actually riding. I have ridden the roads of the Bay Area and the California Coast since I was 16, but my tires know no surface other than pavement.
My visit with the helpful folks at Adventure Cycling informed me that there is no continuous dirt route across the US west-east, but I learned of a route that sounded straight-up mythical to me, the 2,700 mile long “Great Divide” from Canada to Mexico that snaked along the mountainous spine of North America. I ended up continuing my push eastward on mainly roads (I did seek out a few dirt fire roads, which my Lemond handled like a champ), but I promised myself that one day I would tackle the Great Divide.
I can’t believe that I am riding the Great Divide this summer. Only one year ago did I begin to dream about riding the Divide, and I am so thankful for this opportunity from Blackburn to realize my dream. This fall, my plan is not to race the Divide but to seek adventure along the way, which sometimes means taking detours or taking the time to chat with the locals. I will jump in as many lakes as possible, meet cowboys in Wyoming, and experience a state that I have never been to before (New Mexico) from the seat of a bicycle.
My goals for the route are to find a natural hot spring, conquer my fear of descending steep slopes, and convince at least one person along the route with a dusty mountain bike sitting in their garage to ride with me for an hour. What I hope to get out of this journey is a greater sense of connection with the mountain range that features so prominently on a topographic map of the United States but that I have yet to experience or understand. I am looking forward to becoming familiar with high altitude flora and fauna, and meeting others who share my appreciation for the land. I can’t wait to get out there, and share my journey along the way!
- Great Divide Milestones -