Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2010 Tour Divide

While I was interviewing with the good folks at Adventure Cycling, one person expressed his concern that I seemed to be very mountain-bike-centric, while the bulk of their organization was dedicated to road touring. I pointed out that my roots in bicycle travel - and, indeed, my roots in cycling itself - were firmly planted in the pavement and panniers culture of the open road. And today, while sorting through a box of old photos in my latest effort to purge, I found picture proof: Standing on the banks of the Colorado River near Moab in September 2002, just before embarking on a 600-mile loop tour of Southeastern Utah and Southwestern Colorado. I love finding (and making fun of) old photos of myself. For starters, I have no recollection of owning that jersey and can't fathom where I obtained it, but I do hope it went straight to the trash can after that trip. Secondly - zip-off pants? Really? Thirdly, I bought that Bell handlebar bag at K-mart and I still own and use it. Fourthly, four panniers and a tent and tarp strapped to the rear rack? Who needs all that stuff? Fifthly, that was the first time I had ever traveled fully loaded and I still vividly recall the 35 miles we pedaled out of Moab as one of the toughest days of riding in my entire life. Seriously. It's still right at the top in terms of end-of-day shock and fatigue. But the fact that I managed to rally for the next 565 miles proved to me that determination runs deeper than physical strength.

On that note, I'm taking off for a short tour of my own on Tuesday, but I wanted to write a quick post about this year's Tour Divide before I go. This year's race begins Friday morning in Banff, Alberta. Forty-eight people have committed to starting this year, including four women. I'm sure at least one of those women is going to absolutely shatter my TD race record, but it was fun to hold it for a year. Many people have asked me if I feel envious or sad that I won't be lining up for the Tour Divide this year. My answer is a genuine "no." Even before I started planning this huge move and job change, my head has been far away from the needed discipline and desire it takes to embark on a long, solo grind across the Divide. I have really enjoyed my unstructured time to have random adventures, and not having a big event on the horizon gives me the freedom to do what I want - go for a hike or join a group for a leisurely ride, rather than put in hours and hours of necessary training miles. I'm not saying I'm never going to train for anything epic again, and I'm not saying I'd never ride the Divide again. It remains one of the most incredible, self-affirming experiences of my life. But for now I'm content to do my small stuff and enjoy an armchair-adventurer stance in this year's race.

Race updates will be posted starting Friday at www.tourdivide.org. If you're interested in reading more about the experience of riding the Divide, Eric Bruntjen put together a collection of Tour Divide stories, interviews, poems and photos in a book called the Cordillera. I actually have not had a chance to order it yet, but I contributed a chapter for the project (full disclosure: it's an excerpt of a book I am working on.) The proceeds from the Cordillera actually go to Adventure Cycling, which I'm all for, since I'm going to be joining the payroll soon.

And just in case AC is still worried about my dedication to the organization, look what else I found:

It's a vintage Adventure Cycling map, from my Salt Lake City-to-Syracuse, N.Y. tour in fall 2003. We actually only followed a small portion of this particular map, dropping into the route about 100 miles west of the Missouri-Illinois border. Finally joining Adventure Cycling's TransAmerica route basically saved me from calling it quits on the cross-country tour, because in northern and central Missouri we found nothing but narrow roads, nonexistent shoulders, heavy traffic and belligerent drivers - i.e. "Misery." The TransAmerica route took us to our saving grace of farm roads and bicycle-friendly towns. I finished that trip happy and hooked on bicycle touring. Now I have a whole set of Great Divide Mountain Bike Route maps still caked in mud. Adventure Cycling really does do good work.