Every year, riders who plan on tackling the Tour Divide send in a Letter of Intent to the race website declaring their intention to race. Some are a few words long, some are poems, some express fear, other letters bubble with excitement. The Letter of Intent is not required; many just show up to the start line in Banff, AB to follow the Adventure Cycling Associations route tracing the spine of continent down to Antelope Wells, NM. Some have lofty goals of completing the route in a certain number of days, others want to finish ahead of others, and other people don’t care how long it takes them, but all just want to finish.
With the start of daylight savings time and the slow melt of the winter snow promising the coming of spring, here is my Letter of Intent.
Dear Tour Divide,
Barring catastrophe, broken bones, or other life changing events that take precedence over bike riding, I will be lining up to tackle the 2,700 miles that is the Tour Divide on June 8th, 2012. I will do so fully prepared to ride as fast as I can from Banff, across Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico to Antelope Wells. I hesitate to guess how long this will take me, knowing that an untimely rainstorm could halt me in my tracks in knee-deep mud or a broken bike could send me walking for miles. I realize that my body could break down, that things happen, but if I knew I could finish this beast of a race, much of the appeal would be lost.
I have to admit, I’m excited about this prospect of this race. The idea of this ride feeds my soul on so many different levels, I hope the experience lives up to what I am expecting.
What am I expecting? I’m not sure, but I do know that I am happiest when I am out on the trail. After all three of my traverses of the Colorado Trail, two of them fast, I return home to feel cooped up, to find myself wasting absurd amounts of time on FaceBook, all while knowing that there is life outside my doors that I’m busy not experiencing. I’ve finished the final miles of most of my multi-day races and tours with a profound sadness that I have to reintegrate into the real world. By setting out on Tour Divide, I’m giving myself the gift of three weeks outside.
Will it be hard? Of course, but in my mind, nowhere near as hard as making sure that bills are paid on time, or that I show up to work on time, or that I keep the rapidly multiplying dirty dishes in the sink at bay. Pedaling for 18 to 20 hours a day pales in comparison to maintaining the perma-smile that is so common in the service industry.
Will there be times I want to quit? Of course, but quitting means going home. Quitting means the end of an adventure. I’m sure there will be moments that I am bored to tears following a never ending dirt road and I’m sure there will be moments where I’m bogged down in the infamous mud, wheels not turning, where there will be a legitimate chance that I will curse and scream. Tears will follow this fit and then I will tell myself to pull it together and I’ll keep moving. This is how I function.
Will I be scared? Of course, but I plan on carrying bear spray through the northern Rockies and shaking my shoes out in search of scorpions in New Mexico.
What am I looking forward to? I’ve never been to Banff and I hear it’s amazing. I’ve never been north of Wyoming and I’m excited to see the great states of Montana and Idaho. I’m excited for the crossing of the Great Basin in Wyoming, miles upon miles of desolate plains only to enter Colorado and cruise through Steamboat where I first learned to ski two decades ago. I’m excited to pedal over Boreas pass outside of Breckenridge and know that Absolute Bikes in Salida is near and then to pedal over Marshall Pass into Sargents to the quirky little gas station that also has a bar and restaurant. I’m exited for Pie Town in New Mexico where I’ll forget that gluten makes me sick for a delicious slice of pie. Sitting from the comfort of my home, I’m excited at the prospect of all the food I’ll be able to eat, but I’ve done enough of these events to know that food loses its appeal a few hours into journeys like these, but I can still dream of enjoying Reeces Peanut Butter Cups, Sour Patch Kids, and ice cream sandwiches.
Why am I doing this? Because it makes me giddy to think about preparing for it, researching for it, making sure I have all the gear for it, and then knowing that when I set off, I’m in for an adventure that may not change me, but will be one for the memory books.
Tour Divide: I think we’re going to have a good time together this summer.
As with some of my previous races (Colorado Trail Race, Arrowhead 135) I’d like to document my preparation for the event. Sitting here, I am 87 days away from the start in Banff. A new bike is in the works, maps are being acquired, and I’m making a list of brains to pick about the route and gear.
This should be good.