Brett and Sean have been riding for almost two weeks now, but they sent in this report after about 8 days on the trail. -Kid
Epic. That's what I would call this tour so far. We've averaged about 100 miles a day in sun, rain, sleet, snow, mud, and on dry, dirt roads. Its been amazing so far, and also very tiring. I've definitely found new limits for myself and continue to push myself mentally. Some hours come easy, others come like a wave of emotion. I've had times of utter pure enjoyment and times of suffering. It's only been a week but I already have tremendous respect for Tour Divide racers. Way to go Kurt!
Here are some key memories and moments so far:
First day: The first day was beautiful. Leaving Banff is amazing and I'm jealous of the northbound riders who finish here. What a great place to finish. Absolutely gorgeous. The sleet and snow at the top of Elk pass were a rude awakening of what the tour has for every rider.
Meeting a pack of horses: Also on the first day we came on a pack of horses. At first i thought I was making them mad but then realized they were just curious. They blocked the road and I was careful walking through them in fear of getting kicked. I soon realized they just wanted to see what we were doing and began to follow us. They hired Brett and I as pack leaders for about 10 minutes as they trotted behind us. I think they considered coming to Mexico.
Flathead River Valley: This is some of the most beautiful, remote terrain Canada has to offer. It's worth every pedal stroke and every post hole I made climbing through the snow on Galten Pass. It was absolutely gorgeous. I couldn't believe it the entire time I was there. I feel so sorry for the the Divide racers who missed this area.
Swan River Valley: Brett and I got caught in a steady downpour for 4 hours. It was tiring but luckily we didn't get cold, just tired. Along a piece of singletrack we met Craig, second place northbound Tour Divide racer from the UK. He was a great guy and was riding a first edition Salsa Fargo. He looked tired and ready to be in Banff. Brett and I made it to a small Montana cabin for the night but Craig ended up spending the night somewhere out there. Great meeting you Craig!
Eat, sleep, ride the Divide…those few words accurately describe our days in a nut shell. After seven and half days and 709 miles, Sean and I are in Butte, Montana. Yesterday I had my most grueling day on the tour as we rode from Lincoln, MT to Basin, MT - ninety plus miles of up and down. We climbed and crossed the divide numerous times (9000+ feet of climbing on the day) and encountered blood thirsty mosquitos along with several mechanical issues (flat tire, broken chain, damaged shifter, and intermittent GPS signals). At 9 PM we finally rolled into Basin where we found dinner and a place to stay at the Earth Angel Mine (more on that one later). Needless to say, we were both ready for a hot shower and a night of much needed rest.
I write this at The Outdoorsman, a bike shop owned and operated by Rob Leipheimer (older brother of pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer). Rob and his crew (Rick and John) epitomize the friendliness and helpfulness of the people we have met during this journey. From Ron, the Canadian who offered us a cold beer after a hard day in the saddle while riding the remote Flathead River Valley, to Chris, who gave us directions and a ride up the road to our cabin (so that we didn't have to ride another four miles in the pouring rain), we have only had positive experiences with humanity. The women in Elkford, Canada who kept their resturant open for us to get dinner were full of graciousness for our plight even though they probably never ride a bike or could even understand why we would want to attempt something as physically demanding as riding to Mexico on a bicycle. When we were in our deepest time of need after riding in a relentless downpour for four hours, the people of the Hungry Bear restaurant near Condon, MT fed us and got us set up with lodging for the night - Lord knows we didn't want to have to crawl under our tarp and into our down sleeping bags caked in mud as we were. The list goes on and on. It is being shown to me again, that these types of journeys are just as much about the people you meet as they are about the environment you adventure through. The existence of both of these elements usually makes for a very memorable trip - one that is worth leaving the comfort of your own couch for.
More later…It is time for us to venture down the trail and hopefully say “good bye” to Montana and “hello” to Wyoming in a couple of days. Special thanks to Rob and everyone at The Outdoorsman (check them out on Facebook at “The Outdoorsman”).
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Sean 'Mailman' Mailen
I was born and raised in the hills of Tennessee. I decided in high school I wanted to design the best bikes and parts possible; I’ve been following my dream ever since. I love about every possible mode of cycling, mountain biking is the most fun, but if I’m on two wheels I’m happy.