Saturday, September 15, 2012

The "Not So Great" Divide

It's been less than a week since I returned to State College from riding across the country on my bicycle.  In an effort to reduce expenses and my carbon footprint, I decided to take a bus from Newport, Oregon which is on the Pacific Coast all of the way to Pennsylvania.  Most people will shake their head and laugh at how stupid I am to choose a three day bus ride over a antiseptic, quick flight.  Greyhound buses have the advantage of maintaining stations in many small towns that you bike through and accepting any sort of items as luggage.  My bike is still in the process of getting shipped back, but I could easily throw things like a camp stove, a knife, etc. into my bags with nary a second thought.  Also, the more relaxed schedule and pace of travel by bus doesn't create the anxieties of TSA, tight connections and enclosed airline cabins that flights incur.

A cross country bus trip is not without its odd occurrences though...  For brevity's sake, I will only recount incidences of police being involved and leave out all of the other strange stuff:

Saturday 9pm Boise, ID  An extremely drunk passenger had repeatedly tried to open the emergency escape windows.  He is arrested and led off by the police.

Sunday 8:10am Ogden, UT  A man misses the bus when it stops at the station.  He catches up with the bus on a freeway overpass, drives in front and blocks the bus's lane.  After several minutes of standing outside demanding to be let on the bus, the police arrive and cuff him.

Sunday 11:45am Evanston, WY  Two state police SUVs are awaiting the bus at the next scheduled stop.  All passengers are ordered to exit the bus.  The police search the bus with dogs for drugs possibly left by a passenger that was arrested the night before.

Sunday 8pm Denver, CO  A guy yells across the bus terminal, "Hey!  That's not your f**king bag!"  The target of his outburst is an extremely drunk man urinating directly onto the first man's luggage which sits out in the middle of the terminal.  The urinater is put in an armlock by security, taken away and arrested.

Monday 2am Colby, KS  A woman starts verbally abusing the bus driver because she wants to smoke another cigarette before the bus leaves.  The police are called and they escort her off of the bus with her two children.  Some other passengers are irate over her treatment, however it was observed that the woman had loudly told her kids earlier, "I can't wait til I get you two home so I can go out and get drunk."

Despite these disruptions, I still made it back to State College safely and surprisingly on schedule.  After only approximately 12 hours, I started getting edgy.  After a day, I knew that I needed to give myself a new all encompassing goal to focus on and work towards.  I made the mistake of watching Ride the Divide, a documentary about the Tour Divide mountain bike race.  The race entails riding approximately 2,750 miles along the Continental Divide from Banff, AB to the Mexican border in New Mexico.  The route follows Adventure Cycling's Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.  The current course record is something like 15 days which works out to about a 180 mile per day average.  During my cross country ride this summer, I had paralleled the route on pavement for over half of it's length and I had often thought about riding the Divide.

I decided to (try and) race it next year.

Do I know what I'm in for?  No.  Am I in shape for it?  No.  Do I have the gear for it?  Nah.  Is this going to completely destroy me?  Yep.  Am I looking forward to the biggest challenge ever?  Yes.  Do I expect to place on the podium?  No.  Am I going to try and have fun with it?  Certainly.

The Great Divide Basin is one of many, many long desolate and lonely sections that the race takes you through.  I had the pleasure of riding through it this summer on the few paved roads that cross it.  So I have some idea of what I'm signing up for.  Scratch that.  I have no idea what I am signing up for.

I am calling my effort Not So Great Divide 2013.  The route is great mind you.  It's my style of riding it that will probably be "not so great".  But that's the fun of it.  Picking a seemingly impossible challenge and working towards it and hopefully making it look a little less impossible.  I will strive to document the process of starting from scratch, getting my equipment together, detailing the planning and logistics and training harder than I ever have before.  Actually I don't train for much so this will be a new experience too...

So join me for the fun and games.  It's gonna be a long, bumpy ride.


  1. Is this a supported endeavor, or solo? Do I need to be getting my crew stuff organized?

    1. It is 100% solo and unsupported. The race rules do not even allow friends or family to show up and cheer you on. I'm not kidding.

  2. I recommend riding a well used 26" Trek. Perhaps one that was in a rental fleet previously. Flat pedals for sure.

    1. I'll make sure to load up my schoolbag with lots of ham sandwiches and Mountain Dew too.

    2. I was almost certain you'd recommend a redline conquest pro frameset for this.

  3. Real subtle product placement there Tom with the Mtn Dew reference. I suppose you're trying to get PepsiCo to have their choice of sponsoring your race, or your new reality TV series "Gendarme Greyhound"? Mike

  4. Hi Tom,

    I highly recommend riding it (I'm just past halfway myself now), it is an awesome route. I do not see the appeal of racing really: being tired all the time, walking the fine line between injury and health, constantly worrying about food and water, no time to talk to people 'cause you're in a RACE-- not for me!
    But yes, please do this route.

    I wish you lots of wisdom and sturdy knees.

    Kind regards,


  5. dude, no way! I'm hoping to hike the CDT next maybe a friday the 13th somewhere we could meet up?