Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Great Divide - There & Back Again

Roads go ever, ever on,
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone,
Turn at last to home afar.
The Lord Of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein (1949)

We're ready to leave Rapid City, SD for our ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route presents many logistical challenges, some of which are known in advance. A significant known obstacle is simply getting to the start line at Roosville, Montana and getting from the finish line at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, neither one of which are populations centers with readily available public transportation options.

Here's how we got there and back again on the Great Divide.

Paul Brasby and his pilot Lawrence about to unload after their flight from North Platte, NE.

1. North Platte, Nebraska to Rapid City, South Dakota (Paul)

Cycling buddy Paul Brasby will start his ride of the Great Divide at the Montana border with me, ride as far as his vacation time allows, find his way home, and then return next year to continue his quest of riding the entire route. To do so, he first travels from his home in North Platte, Nebraska to mine in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Paul doesn't mess around. He enlists his pilot friend Lawrence to fly him and his loaded Salsa CutThroat. By removing the front wheel and a few packs, Paul squeezes the big bike into the cabin of a single engine Cessna and they're off to a flying start on his grand adventure. As a bonus, Lawrence's flight plan takes them directly over Badlands National Park, just east of Rapid City.

Paul flies over Badlands National Park en route to Rapid City.
(photo by Paul Brasby)

2. Rapid City, South Dakota to Roosville, Montana (Paul and Craig)

After picking up Paul from the Rapid City airport, we spend the afternoon and evening scurrying about, re-checking bikes and gear. Through the combined efforts of Lucas Haan, Christopher Grady and Two Wheeler Dealer of Spearfish, Paul snags a last minute replacement for shoes that suddenly look to fall apart. Not confident that the older shoes will hold up, but not really wanting to start such a big ride with new shoes, Paul takes both along and will decide by our start. Thanks, Lucas, Chris & Two Wheeler for scrambling for those shoes!

Early in the morning, we pile into my loaded Jeep for the 906 mile drive to Eureka, Montana, just 8 paved miles from the USA/Canadian border. We arrive 14 hours later to check into the weathered Ksanka Motel, which is more than a bit dated and rough around the edges, but clean. As a bonus, I meet George, who is walking across the country on trails and self-shuttling with two vehicles. He turns out to be just the first of many interesting people I meet on this trip.

The next morning, Colleen shuttles us the final 8 miles to the border and starts her long drive home. 

Meanwhile, Paul and I pedal south on the Great Divide.

At the USA/Canadian border, Paul starts to unload.

3. Rawlins, Wyoming to North Platte, Nebraska (Paul)

After 24 days and over 1,200 miles, we ride into Rawlins, Wyoming. Although Paul's just warming up, he's plumb out of vacation time. He suspends his Great Divide ride for now and will return next year to continue from here.

Paul's brother Matt meets us in Rawlins to start Paul's shuttle home. After fueling up on chicken fried steak and all the fixings, they drive to Fort Morgan, Colorado, where Paul visits his mother. The next day, Matt drives Paul all the way back to North Platte, Nebraska. By going many extra miles for his brother, Matt makes simple a shuttle that could have been much more complicated for Paul.

Meanwhile, I pedal solo toward Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Paul Brasby and his brother Matt, who drives almost 600 miles to take Paul home.

4. Antelope Wells, New Mexico to Rapid City, South Dakota (Craig)

Colleen originally plans to road trip to Antelope Wells to be there for my big finish. However, a few weeks into my ride, other family issues arise that keep her in Rapid City. I decide to just leave that issue open until I close in on the border. After all, I'm focused on one day at a time and not even thinking about the  finish. And I won't need a ride from Antelope Wells until I get there.

When I emerge from Polvadera Mesa near Cuba, New Mexico on Day 43, Colleen encourages me to at least contact my brother Cyler who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. I learn that he checks my Spot Tracker regularly, knows that I'm in New Mexico, and wonders how I plan to get home. After first suggesting that I ride my bike back to Rapid City, Cyler offers to drive 400+ miles one way to pick me up at Antelope Wells and take me to Phoenix. 

There you go. When you need a ride, call your brother. 

From Phoenix, I fly commercial directly to Rapid City. I leave my bike and gear in my parent's winter home in Sun City Grand and plan to pick those up when we drive there for Christmas. But then in October, Cyler road trips to Loveland, Colorado to visit his daughter and throws my bike and gear in his car. That's an easy pickup for me, as we regularly visit family and friends in the Denver area.

Cyler checks out my bike at Antelope Wells before loading it into his minivan.

5. Antelope Wells to Anywhere

Getting home from Antelope Wells seems to be the most problematic for Great Divide cyclists. It's hard to predict when you'll get there until you get close and it's a long way from anywhere. It's also just a closed U.S. Border Station, with nothing there for anyone waiting.

Many of the southbound GDMBR cyclists I meet along the way do not know how they will get home. Like me, they reason that they have plenty of time to figure it out. Several end up using one of the shuttle services identified in the Adventure Cycling Association maps, at least to get to a larger town for a ride from family or friends, car rental, or commercial flight home.

Although the idea of riding home from Antelope Wells may sound loopy from the outside, I find it tempting while waiting for Cyler to arrive. I certainly have the bike, gear, conditioning, and experience to ride a few more remote miles. And I'm not altogether sure that I want this ride to end.

There And Back Again, The Hobbit (2012)

1 comment: