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August 11, 2016

Bikepacking the Great Divide

by Drew Haugen

Bikepacking From New Mexico to Canada along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

Words and Photos by Mat Thompson

Edited by Drew Haugen

 

In January of 2015 I decided I wanted to try out a fat bike. A close friend had just purchased one, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I rolled into a local bike shop with tire kicking intentions and started looking around to see what was available for rent.  My attention was immediately drawn to the Alubooyah because of the obvious bamboo tubing, but deeper than that it represented creativity and sustainability which meant everything to me.

So I decided to rent the bike, and the following morning I hit the fresh snowy trails. It took no more than 5 minutes before I was genuinely hooked on this bike and fat biking as a sport, so I made the bike my own. Those 5 minutes would ultimately change, shape, and redevelop my love for cycling and, in turn, lead to the greatest challenge and journey of my life thus far. This is my story.

THE PREPARATION

 

Fat bikes are more than just bikes with fatter tires. To me, fat bikes represent all-around capability. They were created as expedition bikes, and that idea ignited my imagination to its fullest. It was a mere matter of days following my purchase before I started looking up frame bags and seat bags and harnesses to fully equip my Alubooyah for winter bikepacking adventures.

From there, it was articles and blogs and inspirational stories written by amateur cycle touring adventurers living all across the world. I would learn about the best components and the best bags and the greatest journeys. Before long, I became overly-informed and during that time I stumbled across the documentary “Ride the Divide” which seemed unarguably to be the Holy Grail of bikepacking and cycle touring as a sport.  And, although I didn’t put much of any thought into it at the time, the idea of riding the Great Divide never left my mind.

I began doing my own small bikepacking tours and, when I look back now, I think every decision I made with regard to tour location, distance, and component selection was in some way consciously (or subconsciously) steering me towards riding the Divide as more of a reality than a consideration.

9 months later in September of 2015, I met a fellow who had ridden the Divide the year before, and picked his brain for well over an hour.

From that conversation forward I made the decision that I was going to try and ride the Divide from south to north in May of 2016, and the next 9 months of my life would be dedicated to preparing mentally and physically, while nailing down the perfect bike setup for a hopefully successful tour. Here’s my setup and why I chose what I did.

  • 2015 Boo Bicycles Alubooyah frame. Size: medium
  • Boo Bicycles custom fat bike aluminum fork with bosses for Salsa Anything Cages
  • Jones H-Bar with ESI silicone grips and 50mm shorty stem
  • Race Face seatpost
  • WTB Rocket V saddle
  • Truvativ PF30 fat bike bottom bracket
  • Sram XX1 11-speed carbon crankset (36-tooth)
  • V-Fifty sealed bearing flat pedals
  • SRAM PC1051 10-speed chain
  • Front SON Schmidt dynamo hub laced to a Surly Rolling Darryl rim with Sapim double butted spokes and brass nipples
  • Rear Rohloff XL internally-geared hub with 16-tooth cog, laced to a Surly Rolling Darryl rim with Sapim double butted spokes and nipples
  • Surly Singleator used for tension and Cycle Monkey monkey bone used for hub stability
  • Front and Rear Avid BB7-S mechanical disc brakes with Avid brake levers
  • Full Revelate bag set including front harness and large front pouch, Viscacha seat bag, medium frame bag, Gas Tank, and Jerry Can
  • Salsa Anything cages with Outdoor Research 5-Liter dry bags and straps
  • Surly Larry 3.8” Tires with Bontrager 4”-5” tubes injected with 2 ounces of Stan’s/each

My selection of frame, parts, components and bags was based on functionality and ultimate durability which is the name of the game when cycling 2700 miles over extremely variable terrain.

I chose the Jones bar for comfort as it put my body in a very comfortable upright position which placed very little stress on my hands, wrists, shoulders, and back. The ESI grips are great for vibration reduction and they will form to your hand over a period of time which helps with ergonometry. The Jones bar paired with the WTB saddle was a nice match, as I was sitting up straighter and which puts more pressure on the ass, so you need to ensure you are somewhat comfortable as you’ll be spending unimaginable time in the saddle climbing and cruising on flats.

Every person’s sit bones and comfort levels are different, so make sure you spend a ton of time choosing a saddle that fits. Forget reviews–just test a lot of saddles, as this may be the determining factor in success or failure. The SRAM crankset was an easy choice for weight and durability, but be aware it creaks when dirty so you’ll have to pull it apart and clean it a few times. The Truvativ BB seemed a basic and low cost bottom bracket but I kept it clean and dry and never had any issues–still running strong and smooth.

I ran the 10-speed chain as it was a little heavier than the 11-speed option and fit better with the width of ring on the Rohloff. A 10-speed chain also offers the opportunity to push pins in and out to fix links in case you run out of quick links; 11-speed chains are nearly impossible to push pins back into.

Avid BB7-S mechanical brakes are the way to go. They offer stainless hardware and the braking power was great. They are easy to fix, adjust, and maintain if you run into any problem. I did not have to replace the pads over 2800 miles.

The SON dynamo was an easy choice and I ran this with a Sinewave Revolution inverter and a splitter to effectively charge 2-3 electronic devices at once. Be forewarned that doing this can put strain on electronics if you are not cycling at speeds of over 15kph for prolonged time. For solely charging the GPS or phone, this setup worked perfectly.

The Rohloff was also an easy choice, as these things are indeed bombproof. I put 1500 kms on it before I left on the GDMBR to minimize the drag and changed the oil before I left. Rohloffs are not necessary for cycle touring but they sure take the maintenance game out of the equation which was really nice–I just cleaned the chain, chainring, and cog, added some chain lube, and away I went.

The Alubooyah comes with vertical dropouts, so in order to maintain chain tension I chose a Surly Singleator which was a very cost effective option that was incredibly easy to adjust. You can also run an eccentric bottom bracket on the Alubooyah which works exceptionally well.

Finally, I chose to run the Rolling Darryl rims, as they were narrower than the Clown Shoe rims and I wanted wider than the Marge Lites. The Surly Larrys were chosen as they offered minimal rolling resistance, a center channel for the road sections, and a 120tpi casing to roll strong and with hopefully minimal damage.

The components were all carefully selected, and I spent a lot of time investigating each and every option to give myself the best opportunity for success. Once everything was nailed down and put together, it was time to start the journey. Here’s how it went down.

 

THE START

I read an article in which someone mentioned the Geronimo Trail from Douglas, Arizona to Animas, New Mexico and, because the trail had so much historical significance, I thought this would be my starting point.

Now, the logistics of coming from Canada and getting to Douglas are a little tricky, and involved careful planning and a lot of patience. I packed up the Alubooyah using two regular bike boxes and cut and taped them together carefully, making sure to write “fragile” all over the box, knowing any sort of repairs in Douglas would be non-existent.

I flew from Calgary to Phoenix, and from Phoenix I found a shuttle company that would take me to Douglas the following day. They mostly spoke Spanish and I speak no Spanish, so at times I wondered if this shuttle would fall through or if I was gonna end up in a ditch, but it ended up working out really well.

I had successfully made it to my starting point, got a hotel room, put the bike together, and got settled for an early morning departure. I was terrified in every sense of the word. I was very far from home, I was alone, I had 2800 miles of cycling to get back home, and I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. So, I started cycling.

 

ARIZONA

Coming out of Douglas, Arizona I would be entering a stretch of dirt road known as the “loneliest highway in America” which was covered with Border Patrol vehicles and cameras.  The entrance of Coronado National Forest was littered with Travel Caution signs informing me that this was a well-known area for human and drug trafficking. I paid no attention and kept on pedaling with an overwhelming feeling like I was being watched the entire way through the canyons and heavily-forested sections.

I made it through, set up camp, and had never felt so alone in my life. At that moment I was scared shitless and knew I had no way out, no way back, and that there was no one to turn to for help or even to talk with. I asked myself “what am I doing here?” and “why am I doing this?”.

It was a long night and somehow I managed to fall asleep. The following morning I entered Animas, New Mexico and spoke with a shopkeeper about my trip. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I mentioned that I came through the Coronado National Forest.  The first thing she said was “are you packing?”

Apparently, that area is notorious for cartel activity and there have been multiple incidents recorded involving crime and abduction. So I put my leg over the bike and put the hammer down to get as far away from the border as possible, and in doing so completely forgot about the loneliness of such a desolate setting.

 

I made it to Lordsburg that afternoon and then the following day pushed on to Silver City and Piños Altos to link up with the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route for the first time. As I climbed towards Piños Altos, I started to feel a pre-existing knee injury make its presence known, and I knew right away that my tour may be compromised.  A flood of emotions began to creep up and encompass me again.

Again, I kept on pedaling.  Luckily, to my surprise and elation, I saw another rider at the top of the hill I was ascending. The timing could not have been better and this moment surely changed the outcome of my journey. His name was Mike and he was with a group of 5 randoms from the ACA website who were also travelling northbound and had very similar daily goals as myself. It turns out Mike was quitting as he had frame damage, but the remainder of the crew was heading to Piños Altos and we agreed to share a cabin. That evening I splurged on dinner knowing full well that, given my knee pain, the following day may have been my last.

But with a renewed sense of joy through conversation, I considered solutions and began googling potential fixes for my knee. So before bed I crafted a support brace using a Salsa strap, some cut-off bits of bike rag, and electrical tape. I figured if I took some extra strength Ibuprofen, with the help of this strap I should be able to get another day or so out of this trip and see where I could make it to.

 

The next morning I headed out with the group full of Ibuprofen and sporting my fancy knee strap. Starting north out of Piños Altos you get your first taste of the magical Gila National Forest, which is incredibly beautiful and physically punishing at the same time. Steep ups and steep downs represent New Mexico forests very well, and 4000ft climbing days are an average accomplishment to say the least.

It was great to share the views with others, and riding with conversation was a perfect way to avoid thinking about the pain while stacking up the miles and just enjoying the ride. The strap worked well when paired up with painkillers and the day was a complete success. Now it seemed I could focus on the ride and the incredibly long journey ahead.

 

NEW MEXICO

 

New Mexico was an incredible mix of vast wide-open desert, followed by huge mountains and expansive forests, and then more desert, followed by even bigger mountains and more lush forests. My ride through this state was at a time of record heat and every day hit close to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) by 10AM, so it was the norm to be up and riding before 6am to try and get the majority of the miles in before the devastating heat.

While travelling the open desert sections, it was rare to find any water sources and carrying 6-7 liters was not uncommon. Cattle tanks proved to be the best choice for potential water supply, and once the layer of scum on top was pushed aside the water could be well-filtered and then “re-flavoured” using Kool-Aid or NUUN tablets.

The roads were less than optimal and proved to be some of the roughest of any of the states. That, in combination with the heat and the constant climbing, would result in lower mileage days but still relentless forward progress in hopes the heat would subside.  But it never did.

 

Before long, the coveted Pie Town was in range and this alone would be a huge accomplishment as it meant completion of stage 6 and one map down. Pie Town is best known obviously for its pies, but also for the “toaster house” which is right along the trail entering Pie Town and easily recognized by its fence lined with toasters. This house is a must-visit and is generally full of hikers and bikers, as it is a resupply point for most CDT travellers. This also means it is full of food which is all fair game.

Continuing out of Pie Town the scenery remains very diverse but still full of forests and deserts and the incredible heat. This stage is where I came face to face with the dreaded goathead thorn and started to realize the drawbacks to my Surly Larrys, as the width and profile of these tires would literally scoop up multiple thorns at once.  

At the same time, it offered a reason to come up with a solution that would combat punctures for the remainder of the trip. The goathead thorns have one blunt head and an arrow looking point. They will stick in your tire tread and most times break off, while at the same time puncturing your tire with such a small hole that you won’t notice till the next morning when your tire is flat.

Trying to find the puncture is nearly impossible unless you go over the inside of your tire with a finetooth comb before installing the patched tube.  You may never notice the goat head still lurking in your tread, which will result in a repuncture of the new tube.

The solution if you’re running fat tires with tubes is to inject 2 oz of Stan’s tire sealant in each tube so as to plug the thorn hole right away. It works, and even worked on a larger flooring staple that I noticed rolling out of Fernie.

With that being said, the remainder of New Mexico was thoroughly enjoyed. The sunrises and sunsets were absolutely incredible and were unmatched anywhere else on the route. Enter Colorado!

 

COLORADO

 

I’ve always wanted to visit Colorado, as it has been closely compared to my province of Alberta, but I never expected my first visit was to be by way of a bicycle. It did not disappoint at all, and it would be my most enjoyed state of the entire trip.

As badly as I hoped the roads would increase in quality, they did not.  At some times they actually felt worse and even more heavily travelled. This put heavy stress on the bike, as the washboard texture felt like it was gonna knock my teeth loose so I could only imagine what was resonating through the bike frame.

The mountains grew larger and the forests became even thicker and greener. Snow was still atop many of the highest peaks and the route was partially covered in a few sections but was easily navigated. The views throughout Colorado were beyond real.  Multiple passes, namely Marshall Pass, Indiana Pass, and Boreas Pass, offered incredible sights and panoramas as far as the eye could see. The ascents to these passes were generally punishing but they were always worth it and the killer descents made the extra effort easy to forget.

 

I remember coming down from Indiana Pass (11,910 feet) the descent into Del Norte, Colorado was 23 miles and under a tail wind. It felt like forever, even though I was reaching speeds of over 55 kph (34 mph) down the very loose forestry roads. It’s times like those where I was really glad to have the stability of the wider tires and the fat bike platform to truly blast full speed over these sketchy roads.

Each and every descent was a permanent smile ear to ear just cruising and floating amongst the rocks while stacking multiple miles and attaining daily goals in the process. Can’t beat that.

A namely highlight in Colorado is the Brush Mountain Ranch which is just south of the Colorado and Wyoming border before you reach Savery. The owner is Kirsten and her lodge is an iconic piece of GDMBR history which should never be missed. Her hospitality is unforgettable and the lodge is very beautiful and well-kept.

 

The road northbound to the lodge is less than desireable, consisting of a very rocky and rough ascent before descending incredibly steep and loose rock, gravel, and washed out dirt. Again, it was amazing to have the stability of the Alubooyah on sections like this as it was tough to slow down and a successful descent of this section meant attacking it head-on and holding on for dear life.

I was able to float over the majority of the loose rock and easily drift the loose sections to make it down safely before taking the rollercoaster to the lodge. Totally worth it. Colorado was an exceptional experience and incredibly challenging with substantially diverse terrain and which definitely made me feel like the worst was over. I couldn’t be more wrong, welcome Wyoming.

 

WYOMING

 

I had mixed feelings entering Wyoming, where all anyone talked about was the dreaded Great Divide Basin. There seemed to be so many potentially exciting locations throughout Wyoming, but all I could think about was this damn Basin.

Luckily, straight out of Colorado you get the full experience right after exiting Rawlins, so you don’t have much time to worry about how it’s going to treat you, and instead you go head-first. My experience was not delightful by any means, but I’ve been told very few northbound riders ever experience delight through the Basin as the winds are notorious for coming out of the west and blasting you head-on and in a relentless fashion.

This would be my experience, and it truly was an experience to say the least. Straight out of Rawlins at 5 AM I was gifted with a stiff crosswind as I headed north and I knew right away this was not going to be my day. As I exited the highway and began heading west all felt calm, as if there was something mysterious waiting when I crested a gentle hill. And there it was, what everyone had talked about–the notorious headwinds of 15-30mph that plagued the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming.  I was headed right into them with 127 miles to go before Atlantic City and a hopeful ceasefire.

It was a day I will probably never forget, as it was, and still remains, the longest distance I have ever travelled under my own power in one single day.  Not because I wanted to, but because I felt I had to get the hell out of this wasteland of northbound cycling misery.

I pushed on and on and made it to an A&M reservoir, which would be one of my water supply spots. The reservoir was off-trail and a tailwind took me the 1-mile distance effortlessly. But once I filled up and turned around it felt like the winds had become even stronger, so I took cover behind a large earth-mover machine. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat there and kept peeking out from behind the machine to see if the winds had mysteriously stopped or slowed, but they did not.

This is unhappy Mat. This is Mat after he has traveled 90 miles with a 20 mph headwind through the devastating vast wide open and waterless Great Divide Basin of Wyoming. Mat still had 35 miles to go to the nearest water source, and another 85 miles after that to get out of the winds and the basin. DON'T BE LIKE MAT. I wanted desperately to hitch a ride the fuck out of the basin(even though there were no vehicles),but all I could think of was "I won't be able to look Lucas and James in the eyes and tell them I completed this journey" so I rode, walked and crawled the fuck out of there. Beast mode achieved. #bikepacking #fatpacking #cycletouring #fatbikes #gdmbr #freedom #wyoming #relentlessforwardprogress #neverstopriding #neverstoppedmoving #nevergaveup #greatdividebasin #continentaldivide #needadayoff #friedtaint #bicycles #ridethedivide

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I figured I had to get the hell out of that place so I checked the maps and set Diagnus Well as my target, gritted my teeth, and trudged on into the headwinds. It was one of the toughest experiences of my life, as there was no escape and the Diagnus Well felt so far away.

There were no people, no animals, no water, no trees, and no ways to escape the wind. So I just kept on moving well into the day, and then well into the evening. I would continually check back on the map and be frustrated with my progress, knowing the winds were sucking the life out of me and my efforts to make it to the well, but I knew I was making ground.

And then it happened.

It was probably very similar to seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert.  Seemingly out of nowhere, there was a flowing water spout and lush green wetlands covering approximately 1 square kilometer (.38 sq. mi).

It felt completely out of place, but it meant the end of my day and I was exhausted and happy to have water at my disposal.  2 days later, I entered Pinedale and mentally put the experience behind me–I was out of the Basin.

I took a day off in Pinedale, which was a great way to get excited about the next section; entering Grand Teton National Park, which I knew was sure to please and did not disappoint. The views were amazing and with a good section of highway it seemed that I exited the park as quickly as I entered it and headed towards Idaho feeling pretty strong and determined.

 

IDAHO

Idaho would be a short and sweet section of the tour, but was still incredibly challenging and I think is most recognized for the infamous Rail Trail. Most people avoid this section of the main route and instead take the much longer and higher alternate route, which is mostly road.

I figured I should see what all the fuss is about and away I went with no idea what I was getting into. The Rail Trail is an old railway line that shoulders a river through a valley in between a small range of mountains and hills which was reclaimed as a scenic trail, now mostly travelled by ATVs.

The first 9 miles of the trail heading northbound were a joy to cycle and were in really good shape, which made for easy travelling and excellent views. That’s pretty much where the fun ended. The following 12 miles were heavily tracked from ATV use and the soft, silty sand base was now a perfect example of dreaded washboard trail.

 

I kept on pedaling but hated every minute of it and just wished it would end. I saw some ATVs that seemed to be on a gravel road which paralleled the Rail Trail, so as soon as there was a crossing on the Trail I skirted off to the side and hopped onto this road. I checked my maps and gps to see if the road would work and sure enough it would help me in avoiding the final roughest section of the Rail Trail.

Most would assume that the fat bike platform would be perfect for this section of the Rail Trail but I honestly don’t think any bicycle would be a good match for how bad of condition this trail is in. I heard some other northbound riders refer to it as the worst riding of the entire tour.  That says a lot, as there were many very rough and tough sections.

I had defeated the Rail Trail and headed towards Macks Inn for a root beer and ice cream before continuing on towards Red Rock Pass, which would mark my entrance to the final state of my tour. I didn’t realize at the time, but Montana would be much bigger and tougher than I had expected.

 

MONTANA

 

Coming up and over Red Rock Pass I headed straight for Lima, which would feel like my introduction to Montana and what I assumed would be the home stretch.  As such, it seemed like a great reason to increase my mileage per day, as home seemed so close now.

Passing Lakeview I ran into a few riders heading southbound and one gentleman mentioned Montana as being “big”, and in my head I chuckled thinking “what does this guy know, he hasn’t even hit Colorado or New Mexico yet!”

It didn’t take long before I started to realize what he had meant, as the massive valleys led me into some huge hills and massive mountains. Each day in Montana seemed to be a great battle of rolling hills, huge ascents, fast and loose descents, and big wide-open skies sending rain cloud after rain cloud in combination with punishing head- and crosswinds. This wouldn’t be a home stretch at all.  It felt more like a final test of my patience and endurance in determining if indeed I would be successful in my tour.

 

Coming out of Bannack State Park a man waited for me at an intersection and informed me of a July 4th pancake breakfast at the firehall north of Polaris, so i boogied to meet the 11AM cutoff and it was an excellent opportunity to eat some real breakfast food instead of Clif bars. Montana was full of excellent people with big hearts, and it seemed that every single stop I made to rest or camp was greeted with incredible kindness and hospitality.

I made camp at Holland Lake Campground after passing over from Ovando and Seeley Lake, and a family from Missoula invited me over to their campsite to share s’mores and beer over general conversation. They ended up leaving for the night as the rain set in and I was then greeted by a lady from Kalispell who was curious about my bike, and our conversation ended up carrying on into National Forests and National Parks and the kindness of the American people.

Travelling alone gets very lonely at times and I don’t know if these people really understood just how grateful I was with their donated time and invitations or hand-outs. These meetings and this generosity were definitive factors which I now know made the ultimate difference in boosting my morale towards continuing on every single day.

 

Following my rainy stay at Holland Lake I felt I had a renewed energy, and although the weather was the pits I felt very confident and kept on pedaling toward my goal. I stopped in Whitefish to visit an old friend and set myself up for a long journey to Eureka the following morning. Heading out of Whitefish the Trail takes you towards Glacier National Park and past Upper Whitefish Lake and the incredible Red Meadow Lake.

 

It’s places like Red Meadow Lake which are the reason I bikepack, as I would most definitely have never known this beautiful spot existed had I not been on the Great Divide Route and had the opportunity to see it with my own eyes under my own power.  Places like these exemplify for me the reason to get out and explore by bicycle. It was an excellent ending to Montana and I will surely be back to spend more time there, but Canada awaited my arrival, and away I went.

 

CANADA

It was an amazing feeling to cross the border back into Canada and it felt surreal to be so close to home.

Shortly after crossing the border I was greeted with open arms by a wasp which decided it wanted to fly right into my mouth. Upon struggling to remove the wasp from my mouth and to stay on two wheels i was stung inside my lip and within 10 minutes i had a grape-sized upper lip.

Oh the joy.

My destination was the alternate to Fernie and I knew I had to beat the rain, which would be plaguing my entire journey home. Fernie was an easy goal and I stayed the night to rest up with intentions of taking 3 shorter days to Canmore. When I pulled my bike out of the storage i noticed a huge flooring staple in my rear tire and was incredibly frustrated, as the last thing I wanted to do was fix a flat that morning as rain clouds hovered above.

I remembered the sealant I had jammed into my tubes and this would be the ultimate test. I yanked the staple and heard the hissing, followed by a bubble, followed by a burp, followed by silence…… Glory!!!  I added some air and I was off.

Out of Fernie I made a gamble on the rain and turned 2 days into 1. I crossed over Elk Pass into Alberta and left myself a 75km sprint to Canmore for the following morning. I was welcomed into a group camp at the Boulton Creek Campground where I had dinner and beers served to me all evening. Just incredible the hospitality of the people on this trail, they truly appreciate the accomplishment and feel honored to share it with you. Great ending to a completely insane journey. #bikepacking #fatpacking #cycletouring #fatbikes #gdmbr #alubooyah #freedom #freshair #getoutthere #forests #rethinkliving #livingthefuckingdream #continentaldivide #alberta #bicycles #neverstopriding #mountains #successmotherfucker #quittinglastsforever #ridethedivide

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It took no time to reach Sparwood and when I arrived a lady asked if I was one of those crazies heading to Mexico, and I replied I had already been there and was almost home. This is about the time where people look at you in disbelief and I think they start to question their own lives, or question mine, but the smile on their face says it all and makes you feel really good about what you have accomplished.

She had mentioned the Tobermory Cabin, and I started thinking about the weather and considering my options. I decided I would make a break for it and challenge the weather and rain clouds and try to make it to Kananaskis, and have Tobermory as my backup if weather moved in too soon. It was the perfect gamble and although it made for a long day it went perfectly and I skirted the rain the entire day.

I made it to Boulton Trading Post before 5PM assuming the store would be closing, but apparently it was open till 10PM and cyclists were a big reason for this. I sat down to enjoy a Dr. Pepper and the Alubooyah was like a spectacle of disbelief and amazement amongst the tourists.

 

An older gentleman on a road bike asked where I was coming from and that conversation turned into a full-on invitation to his group’s campsite for dinner and free camping. The group was a cycling club from all over western Canada and they were doing a supported ride over a 2-week period.

They made me dinner and gave me a spot for my tent and in turn I fixed whoever’s bicycle was experiencing problems. It was the perfect trade-off and couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to my journey.

By gambling with the weather I not only met an incredible crowd and had an amazing dinner, but I also set myself up to arrive in Canmore a day earlier and avoid an extra day of heavy rain.  Although the entire 50-mile sprint to Canmore was through pouring rain, I knew it didn’t matter and all I could focus on was the end and finally a chance to rest and relax.

After dreaming of this day for weeks and weeks, a whole range of emotions flowed through my body.  I couldn’t really comprehend that this was the end. I entered the Canmore Nordic Center, which was my final destination, and just sat down next to the fire.

It felt like nothing had actually happened and I had just started the tour the day before.  My mind was blank and my body was at ease, almost as if I had never completed the journey at all, like awaking from a dream.

I waited for my family to pick me up and placed my bike up next to the Kananaskis Country sign and looked at it and just stared. Did this bike just take me from the Mexico border back to my beloved Kananaskis Country? Did this really just happen?

At that moment I just nodded and smiled knowing that’s exactly what happened and this bike was the perfect companion which never gave me any trouble the entire trip. Even though I put it through an amazing amount of abuse, it never once faltered. It had forever become an extension of my body and will never be a just a bike.

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