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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Great Divide - Goodbye, Hello

You say yes, I say no
You say stop, and I say go, go, go
Ooh, no
You say goodbye and I say hello
Hello, Goodbye, John Lennon & Paul McCartney (1967)

Paul says goodbye to the Great Divide, at least until next year.
I say hello to my solo ride to Antelope Wells.
(photo by Matt Brasby)

Like many endurance cyclists, Paul Brasby holds a long time dream of riding the entire length of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Also like many others, Paul has a full time job, a busy slate of family commitments, and a long list of community activities. He simply does not have the block of time required to ride the Great Divide in a single shot.

However, Paul recognizes that it doesn't have to be all at once or nothing. He sets out to ride the Great Divide in sections, as his time off allows. Paul initially decides to ride the northern half in 2020, but then learns of my plans to ride the Cloud Peak 500 bikepacking route in August 2020 as a big shakedown ride for riding the Great Divide in 2021. He joins me at Cloud Peak, where he rocks the entire route to become the first, and still only, official finisher of the Cloud Peak 500. See Cloud Peak 500 Wrap & Links.

The northern terminus of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route at Roosville, Montana.
(photo by Colleen Groseth)

Atop our first pass on Day 1 in Montana.

After the Cloud Peak 500, Paul continues to prepare for his Great Divide by riding the Pony Express 120 Bikepacking Adventure (Pony Express Bikepack), the Buffalo Bill Rough Rider Bikepacking Event (Buffalo Bill Rough Rider Bikepack), and the Black Hills Bounty (Black Hills Bounty). Those rides shape his thoughts on his bike, gear, and ambitions. Also, in addition to all the typical bikepacking stuff to sort through, Paul figures out how to carry and charge a C-PAP machine and batteries for multi-day rides. see Paul's Set Up & Gear List. He's ready.

Not all miles are full of smiles.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

Sweet single track through an old forest fire area.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

Paul cobbles together enough time off to ride for 24 days and we start our Great Divide ride together at the U.S. Border Station in Roosville, Montana on July 20, 2021. For Tour Divide racer-types, 24 days may be plenty of time to ride the entire route. That may be enough time for Paul, as well, except that he wants to ride it with me. And I'm not racing it. See my 2019 post Bikepacking The GDMBR.

Instead, we plan to ride 8-10 hour days, much like our Cloud Peak 500 and Black Hills Bounty. If we actually keep our trip going for 24 days, we think we may be able to cover the 1,200 miles or so to Rawlins, Wyoming. Maybe farther. It's hard to tell sitting at home looking at maps and a computer screen.

Topping a pass brings out the smiles.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

Staring down Fleecer Ridge. It drops. It just drops.

Right from the start and throughout the entire ride, Paul is a straight-forward, problem-solving, git 'er done guy utterly devoid of pretense or drama. Just ride, man. He's a great companion on a multi-day ride filled with long, difficult, unpredictable days.

We both are determined to ride the main route created by the Adventure Cycling Association, unless roads are closed or absolutely impassable. Early on, the biggest potential problem are wildfires in Montana. Fortunately, timely evening showers knock down enough of those fires and we slip through those areas without any road closures or breathing issues. Those same showers create some soft roads on occasion, but no serious detours.

We simply work through the fires, the weather, and whatever else comes up. Go, team.

Celebrating the top of Union Pass in Wyoming, the last big climb before the Great Basin.

Enjoying the Strawberry Creek Safety Shelter in big grizzly country near Union Pass, Wyoming.

Paul also takes exceptional pictures, even though he only uses a cell phone and adamantly refuses to edit or alter the images. His father was an amateur photographer who hauled his small legion of kids, including young Paul, up and down the mountains of Colorado on countless camping and hiking excursions. For a visual treat, just take a look at his images sprinkled throughout my Great Divide and Cloud Peak blog posts and on his FaceBook page.

Paul shares on social media a collection of images nightly, or whenever we have cell coverage. He often works into the night, well after I go to sleep, selecting images and drafting daily reports. He also tags me on his posts, so that my family and friends can follow along our trip. Many noted how much they enjoyed Paul's posts and missed them when I rode on solo.

An example of Paul's cell phone picture taking wizardry.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

After 24 days on roads and trails, we roll into Rawlins, where Paul's brother Matt shuttles him home to Nebraska. He'll be back next year to pick up where he left off on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. 

And know that he will git 'er done.

After 700+ miles, Paul and I celebrate reaching the Montana/Idaho border.

Hello, Goodbye, The Beatles (1967)


  1. What a great buddy and friendship. My husband and I plan to ride the whole route from mid July, taking lots of weeks. I'm hoping that when we finish, we'll still be buddies too! (I'm sure we will, having done some long rides previously) Loving these blog posts, thanks! Juliet & Grum, NZ.

  2. Thanks, Juliet! Best wishes on another long ride together. I'd love to hear from you about your journey. I've written Great Divide stories about a Tour Divide racer (Colin), an Adventure Racer choosing her own route (Kate), road/gravel racer (Paul), and me. I have not interviewed a husband/wife team (from New Zealand!). I'd love to add your story to this collection. Keep in contact, here or at my email,