ADVENTURE BY BIKE®
Today we continue with Part 2 of Sean Mailen's favorite spots along the Great Divide Route, following his tour earlier this summer. - Kid
Brett and I have finished our 2752-mile journey from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Even though I’ve stopped pedaling, I still feel like I’m taking the trip in fully. I’m constantly playing out different days in my head or looking at maps to figure out in more detail where I have been. I thought I would share some of my favorite “spots” during the trip.
Spot Of Weakest Mental Strength: My weakest moment was a very unassuming spot, but that usually seems to be where mental fatigue strikes the deepest. It likes to hit you when your guard is down or you feel like everything is going perfectly. For me it happened on day five just outside of Ferndale, Montana.
We had left that morning from Coram where we stayed with our friends Nick and Victoria in their very nice home. It was a beautiful morning and physically I felt fine expect for sore Achilles tendons and butt. From Coram to Ferndale, where we planned to eat lunch, it’s a fairly flat ride mixing road and dirt, and weaving through farms and neighborhoods. It was supposed to be an easy morning, and physically it was.
I had heard that if people drop out of the race or ride it typically happens around day seven. I think at this point you are feeling tired, somewhat overwhelmed because you realize you still have more than 2000 miles to ride, and are missing folks and all those comforts we take for granted are gone. All these things were building up inside of me.
I couldn’t name one particular thing but I knew that they were all bothering me. I knew that if I didn’t get my thoughts in control and simplify what was going on in my head it would snowball. It’s times like these where before you know it you are finding every excuse to quit. I didn’t want to say a word to Brett about how I felt mentally because I was afraid once I vocalized it would get worse. I was afraid it would consume me, the desire to quit. I kept telling myself I just need to keep pedaling, try to dissect what I was worried about, how amazing this trip was, but nothing stuck. I tried to break it down to the bare necessities: keep pedaling, eat food, drink fluids, plan your day. This is all I should be focusing on.
We arrived at the Ferndale Market and it wasn’t what I expected (another gas station) but I knew I should be thankful. We ate well and got birthday cake (apparently Casey the gas station attendant had a birthday!). I was able to text my fiancé Lydia and drink a Coke. All these things helped and I began to be hopeful that this would pass. Outside of town we began a long climb. I decided to put some music on and knew this would help me clear my head. By the time we reached the top I was feeling good, and knew that there would be difficult days but mentally I could keep it together.
Spot Of Weakest Physical Strength: As Brett and I rode out of Rawlins, Wyoming I figured the idea of leaving Wyoming that day and entering into Colorado would keep me motivated. I was hoping for the beautiful Colorado scenery to start off right away and I would be pedaling on pure exhilaration. This didn’t happen.
Instead we climbed out of Rawlins under cloudy skies into not-so-attractive ranch land. We were on paved road for a while but the headwind was killer with 15 to 20 mph gusts! After riding across the Great Basin in a day (127 miles) my bike and legs felt heavier than ever. When we finally made it to gravel we were greeted by a 15% climb up to Middlewood Hill.
It was a bit depressing because it just climbed straight up the hill and you could always see where you were going to be in 30 minutes.
After this we did a bunch of steep climbs and descents that left me a bit frustrated. I was totally lethargic. I felt drowsy and fatigued. I enjoyed closing my eyes for a couple of seconds and considered different spots along the road to take a nap. My legs felt like they had no energy. I just wanted to stop riding for the day.
Finally, sometime that afternoon, a combination of being in the beautiful Medicine Bow Wilderness Area, Cheez It’s, gas station cheese danishes, peanut M&Ms, and Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies helped me get to the Brush Mountain Lodge. I’m so glad we made it there too! Kirstein cooked us up the best dinner and breakfast of the entire trip while we were there. Thanks Kirstein!
Most Celebrated Spot: This one is expected – THE END! It’s an amazing feeling finishing something like the Great Divide Route and I was more than excited to be at the border.
Mr. and Mrs. Davis had been waiting there for about two hours. They had made a really cool sign that they proudly waved at us as we passed to finish the last 100 yards.
Brett and I walked around with renewed energy and were trying to take it all in! We had made it to the border! We were filled with half disbelief and half pure exuberance. We took pictures with the border sign and each other. I wish Lydia and my family could have been there but I knew they were celebrating for us where they were. We raised glasses of champagne and gave each other high fives. We did it, we finished!
Most Awkward Spot: Brett and I had been riding in pouring rain for something like four hours. Thankfully we were on Montana roads that for the most part didn’t get too muddy and drained water well. We were still covered in muddy spray but it could have been much worse.
We didn’t say much as we rode together just enjoyed the idea that neither of us were having to ride in this alone. We finally reached Highway 83 north of Seeley Lake. I was hoping to be greeted by a four lane highway and maybe a gas station and old hotel. Instead it was a two lane road with little traffic and no sign of a place to dry out. We headed north and found the Hungry Bear Restaurant.
45 minutes later we were putting our bikes on top of Chris’s drywall racking and moving more trash than I had ever seen from the passenger seat so we could sit down. We had just met Chris and Brandon at the bar where we eventually shared a plate of Rocky Mountain Oysters and discussed where we might be able to stay for the night. He suggested he would drive us up the road four miles to a friend’s cabins that he rented.
So there we were, three dudes packed tightly on a bench seat driving north to a place I wasn’t sure existed talking about Montana dirt roads. It was pouring outside and after about a mile Brett said, “Chris, you might want to turn on your wipers.” Chris agreed, turned them on, and then took another drink of his rum and Coke. I considered again if I should be in this truck but the rain outside convinced me I was playing the odds in my favor.
TO BE CONCLUDED...
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1. Yeah, I grew up in Soddy Daisy, and no, I don't drive the General Lee. 2. I've been in love with riding bikes off road since I first discovered the trail across my neighborhood to my friend Scott's house. 3. Not much better than seeing the world from a bike seat. 4. MacGyver really was one of my inspirations to become an engineer.