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Friday, April 2, 2021

Keep It Simple - Food on the Great Divide

And be a simple kind of man,
Oh, be something you love and understand.
Simple Man, Gary Rossington & Ronnie Von Zant (1973) 

Sometimes, an answer arrives that is so simple, so elegant, so obvious, that you simply shake your head in disbelief. Really? That's it? How hard was that?

It's always easy to see it afterwards.

I've been deep into analyzing the caloric quandary for an undertaking such as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. How will I obtain, carry, and consume enough calories to sustain the effort of pedaling 50-70 miles and 4,000-6,000 feet of elevation gain on remote, rough roads every day for weeks? 

How much to rely on towns along the way? How much to carry? What kind of food to carry? Where to resupply? What food is even likely to be available? How does this work?

To further complicate things, the demands on carried food are high for such an endeavor. High in nutritional value. High in calories. Low in weight. Low in volume. Slow to spoil despite wide swings of temperature. Able to survive rough transport. Available at remote outposts. And even though I have the taste buds of a buffalo, it must taste at least OK.

I eventually realize that there are no easy answers to that quandary. There are too many variables stacked up over too much time. So, rather than a specific, structured schedule, I need to develop an approach.

Table for one. Anytime of day. Anywhere.

Here's the beginning of my approach. Each day, know what's ahead on the route and seize opportunities to eat during the day's ride. That is, eat in town what you can, when you can. For food on the fly and for those occasional 2-3 day stretches between towns, I'll identify some go-to foods to carry, recognize opportunities to re-supply, and stay flexible to carry what's available. 

On the first day of the ride, I'll carry my typical assortment of energy bars, gels, jerky and Peanut M&M's, along with some electrolyte drink and tablets. But it will only be a 2-3 day supply that must be replenished regularly at convenience stores and general stores along the way. That should be pretty straightforward. The bigger issue is obtaining more substantial food, both for meals on the fly and in between towns.

So, I need to develop a menu of go-to meals to carry. Ok, here's my simple, elegant, obvious start of such a list. Tortillas, peanut butter, and honey. Here's the result of an admittedly lengthy trip to a local grocery store.

Mission Tortilla Caseras, 12 count, 28 ounces, 2280 calories, $2.49
Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, 12 servings, 16 ounces, 2,470 calories, $2.89
Nature Nate's Raw Unfiltered Honey, 12 servings, 12 ounces, 970 calories, $5.49

Total for 12 servings = 56 ounces, 5,720 calories, $10.87

Each serving = 4.7 ounces, 477 calories, $0.91

That's a lot of hard working, portable calories in a small, readily available, convenient, inexpensive package. And I like it. I see this PB&H tortilla as a regular snack or light lunch, maybe eating 1 or 2 servings a day, when available. In a pinch, two servings could also serve as dinner, maybe with a hot chocolate chaser. I also see substituting the honey with local jams found along the way.

None of this is ground-breaking or game-changing. And it's not the only item that needs to be on my go-to menu. It's just a solid pedal stroke at the beginning of a long ride.

Keep it simple. Lynyrd Skynyrd shows how it's done.

Simple Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd (1973)

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