Twas A Dream – Reflecting on the Tour Divide 2018

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The feeling of finishing the TD is up there with Angela saying yes to my marriage proposal on the Great Wall and seeing my kids being born.  Check this one off the list!!

Wow.  It’s been a little over a month since it ended.  The whole thing is a blur.  A dream. 2,745 miles.  200,000′ of climbing.  An amazing, never to be duplicated  22 Days, 6 Hours, 43 Minutes of my life.  It’s amazing how much living can be crammed into such a short span of time.  Tied for 17th place with 5 others (we chose to cross the finish line together) in a field that started with 165 riders.  Not bad for “raoring“!

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June 8th, 2018.  The start.  Banff, AB – YWCA

Modesty aside, I’m pretty damn proud of myself for finishing as a rookie on my first attempt.  It’s icing on the cake that I finished within my secondary goal of 21-25 days.  The people, places, hardships, day-to-day achievements, and all the “little things” are etched in my brain forever.  I’m back in “civilian life” now – enjoying the fam, hustling in the bike shop, shooting Seal Team… starting to get the itch for the next one 🙂 – oh yeah, just ordered a unicycle… I’m hoping to teach myself at work and ride it around set…

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Stray Bullet Cafe – Ovando, MT

I’m stoked that other than soreness on my rear end, damaged taste buds in my mouth, catching up on much needed sleep, and my body and mind struggling a little with metabolism change / post-ride food consuption, I feel GREAT!!  A few sunburns, a little pealing on my ears, but hands and feet are fine (many riders struggle with numb fingers and toes for weeks or even months).  I started the race at 154 lbs, and although I didn’t get a chance to weigh myself right after, I’m sure I lost 10-15lbs. I’m currently back to 159 lbs, crazy!! –  the massive eating with slowed metabolism has been interesting.  Now I’m home from vacation, eating “appropriately” and feel like my body is settling back into it’s “normal” routine.

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At home, I play GO-RI-LLA with the kids.  Envisioning this moment also helped get me through the dark times.

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The obligatory “lift my bike in triumph” photo

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The gang – we all crossed the finish line together, tied for 17th (except Mitch – in the middle with no bike – he rode ahead and beat us all 🙂

Trackleaders shows that over 70 riders scratched.  That’s almost a 50% attrition rate.  Again, I feel blessed just to have completed this beast. Right after the finish, my family swooped me away to Crested Butte for recovery and 4th of July shenanigans.  I haven’t had a chance to process the experience until now, and don’t feel like I’ll ever fully “process” or be able to convey the mental and physical journey.  Slowly, I’ve been looking over photos, notes, and delving into thoughts that have been pushed to the back of my mind.  So, here we go…

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Sunny being taken away at the Reno Airport for the trip to Banff – my girlies!!

I’m not gonna bore you (or maybe I will ) or myself with a day to day recap, journal, etc – I’ll simply ramble off some thoughts and share some photos (in no particular order) that will help me remember that I really did achieve this goal (probably the hardest, most fulfilling physical/mental feat of my life) and make sure it doesn’t slip through the cracks of my brain, as my long term memory basically stinks.

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Sign that Crazy Larry made welcoming us at the YWCA Banff

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Unboxing Sunny the day before the start.  She’ll never be so fresh and clean again!

#1 – PEOPLE:

I met amazing people on this journey.  Other riders that I shared time with on the bike, and folks I met along the way.  Out of 22 days, I spent around 9-10 with just me, myself, and I out there pedaling for 12-16 hours a day.  So yeah, I was pretty stoked when I got to ride with others, and learn their stories.  In general, the type of people that do these sorts of things are gonna be positive, inspirational, and pretty cool cats.  It takes time, money, an adventurous spirit, and tenacity to do the Tour Divide – so TD riders tend to be intelligent, successful, and driven in their day to day lives.  They share the “I can do anything I put my mind to” outlook at life – so hanging with these gentlemen (and women) was a fantastic bi-product of this individual/ self-supported event.

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One of the best days of the trip.  Riding out of Salida, and climbing Marshall Pass with this group.  This pic says so much.  Dennis, Mitch, Craig, and Alexandra – wound up becoming the first female finisher!

I met many so riders, but am deeply honored to share indelible memories with Renato, Dan, Riley, Mike, Chris, Craig, Mitch, Alexandra, Dennis, Jesse, Paul, and Matej.  Sometimes a 3 hour, 3k climb can go by in the blink of eye with some good conversation.  It’s amazing how so many “different” people from “different” parts of the world can all gather in Banff with one common goal that becomes a common thread that becomes a lifelong bond of brotherhood/sisterhood.  The TD has this power, and it’s fantastic!  I’m blessed to be part of the “TD Family” and for every moment shared with kindred spirits.

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Kiwi Craig and I spent a lot of time talking about Seal Team and you name it.  This photo was taken on the last day.  The sunrise out of Silver City was breathtaking, and we knew we had done it.   His smile says it all.

Trail angels seem to jump out at you just when you’re at your lowest and need the motivation.  I don’t think they realize how important they actual are to us, but man, they are.  Here are a few that really stand out to me, and I don’t want to forget:  Barbara and John run a cyclist only lodging spot just below Stemple Pass.  They gave us beer and food and fellowship, and would not accept money for anything.  “Pay it forward” was all they asked.  Well I’ll do my best.  Kirsten at Brush Mountain Lodge – smiles and hugs and wood-fire pizza from “Vito” at the half-way point of the route.  Adam in Pinedale for buying me a beer and reminding me to keep my eye on the prize.  Tammy in Horca, for opening her cabin and her arms to us.  Sylvia in Canyon Plaza just outside of El Rito. The mechanics from Absolute Bikes in Salida that we had dinner with and then allowed us to camp in their yard (sorry I forgot your names!!).  The list goes on, but it’s the time spent with good people and good hearts that really keeps ya going and reminds you that there are good people in this world and it’s worth looking past the assholes and millenials and tailgaters to find and embrace the keepers in your life.

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Dinner in Salida – met two mechanics from Absolute Bikes that let us camp in their yard, right across from the bike shop.  That Ska Brewing Blonde Ale was sooooo goooood!!!

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Pinedale, Wyoming, Wind River Brewing – Adam (left) saw my blue dot, wanted to buy me a beer and hear stories.  His buddy, who’s name I forget talked a lot about Longmire.  Reminded me of Dale White.  My knee was killing me, and I spent the night here while many pushed on.  The next morning I felt better… rode 180+ miles and made it through “The Basin”.  Caught a bunch of people, and was somewhat of a turning point in my adventure, as I continued to pick up the pace.

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Haha!!  This one makes me laugh.  Jesse, Mitch, Craig.  Last meal of the TD – Brekky at McDonald’s in Silver City at 4am.

# 2 – PLACES:

Are you kidding me?  Every day was filled with beauty beyond belief.  Sure, a lot of them were also filled with rain, fog, and whiteout.  But hey?  Simply looking around at the majesty and soaking it in was mind-blowing at times.  I’d constantly think to myself, WOW.  This is so big!  Mountains that go on forever.  Endless views, that get better and better as I crest another false summit and another and another.  Until finally you reach the top of the pass, zip up the wind vest, eat a half pb&j and glide down the other side.  I can’t get over how “big” and diverse everything was.

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Yes.  There was snow.  I remember smiling and laughing all through this section.  Felt like home.  I kept sayin, “bring it Mama Nature.  This is why I’m here”.  After a couple hours, though… I was ready for it to be over 🙂

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Spirits high.  Tunes pumpin.

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Richard and Tony in the Great Basin of Wyoming.  120 miles of “this”.  It was hot.  Many people hate the Basin.  I loved it.  

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Day 2 – heading towards Fernie, B.C. – Simply magical.

From the 30 degree temps and snow-covered peaks in Canada and Montana to the 100 degree temps and desert of New Mexico, mother nature did not disappoint.  Countless mountain passes and Continental Divide crossings with birds-eye vantage points.  Seeing these sights, and doing what we did to get to those sights – that is the TD.

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Beautiful Banff.  June 7th, 2018.  The day before it all began.

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I’d just left Kirsten and the Brush Mountain Lodge.  Sunflower fields forever.

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Aspen Alley

#3 – HIGHS AND LOWS:

Everyone always asks about your best and worst experiences on the route.  Hard for me to say, but my “best” memories always seem to be late in the day, as the sun was setting.  I always seemed to be descending some amazing mountain, with gorgeous views around sunset.  Dropping from the sky on an endless ribbon of dirt over rolling hills shared with wild horses and elk… slowly seeing the faint lights of a quaint town coming into view as the last light of the day fades away.  A hot meal and a motel coming shortly.  Those are the memories that flood me now, and I’m sticking to it!

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Sun is setting behind us.  Moon is rising in front of us.  120+ miles of riding, and over 10k climbing, and we’re off the dirt and descending to Grants, NM for dinner at Denny’s and a motel room for the night.  10 minutes earlier, I was cursing the climb and my knee was screaming at me.  Unforgettable.

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Holland Lake Lodge.  I met my first “scratcher”.  Martin (by his bike) was figuring out how to get back to the Czech Republic.  He hurt his knee and achilles.  I tried to get him to wait it out, eat some food, spend the night.  But he had already decided in his mind.  The mind is so frickin powerful.  

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Places like the Holland Lake Lodge make it hard to keep moving.  Especially when you know you’re about to climb that snow-covered Richmond Peak up there yonder.

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Camping at Butt’s Cabin – night 2.  Be bear aware!

That is what kept me moving.  How funny!  Another example of how powerful the mind is… Since more often than not, my day actually ended with me exhausted, wet, and cold – camping off the side of the road – huddled into a damp, smelly sleeping bag, and scarfing down a snickers and sour patch kids for dinner.  Only to wake up 4-5 hours later after a restless sleep.  Throw on damp, stanky riding clothes, and start the cycle again.  Ride for a couple hours, warm up the sore knees and achilles, fight off the “Why am I doing this?  Why am I here?  I’m over this crap, this sucks! I just want to go home to my warm bed and cuddle with my family” thoughts.  The first couple of hours each day were always the hardest for me mentally.  Once I got through the mornings, I was ok.

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Sylvia!!  She’s famous from the Ride The Divide movie… her little snack stand in Canon Plaza is an absolute life saver after hours in the 100+ heat, and she’s such a gracious human being.  It was an honor to sign her guest book.

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Brush Mountain Lodge – Eating pizza from the wood stove “Vito” and getting trail beta from Jay Petervary.  Kirsten is an angel.  She somehow even had Sram HRD brake pads and saved me a trip to Orange Peel.  I didn’t want to leave!!!

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Made it!!  Hugs and cowbells and everything I dreamed and hoped it would be.

My darkest time was leaving Steamboat Springs, CO.  It was June 22nd.  My wife’s birthday.  I started feeling so guilty for being out here, and not at home to celebrate with her and the family.  I missed them so much and it got super hard to control the urge to quit that morning.  I called home and I must’ve been a wreck.  I will never forget that day.  I got off the phone, and it took a few hours for me to finally get back in a decent space mentally.  That was as close as I got to pulling the plug.

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Breakfast of champions.  Microwave gas station sausage sandwich before leaving Wamsutter.

Anyone can be physically in shape, and have the best gear for dealing with Mother Nature.  But harnessing the power of your thoughts is really all it comes down to in the end.  For me, the whole route was a roller coaster of emotions and polarizing thoughts in my head.  I cried almost daily.  I’ve never been so emotional in my life.  You have lots of time to think.  Lots.  All day and night.  Thoughts.  Putting a lasso around these thoughts and rangling in the most polar emotions is critical.  So yeah, lots of highs and lots of lows.  In the end they’re all part of the experience, and a confidence builder for life.

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Camping in the middle of cow patties.  Debbie offered, and I couldn’t refuse!  Caught in a horrendous storm on the way to Bannack Rd.  The next day was one of the most brutal.  “Embrace the grind” – the mantra that got me through this section.

I know life is going to throw many more highs and lows at me, and the TD experience has proven that we can all deal with all the highs and lows and maximize the hand we’ve been dealt.  I just want my kids to know they can conceive a goal and achieve a goal and appreciate every little blessing.  Now, more than ever, I sure do.

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Thank you Angela, Lucy, and Molly.  For letting me embark on this dream, and giving me courage and motivation to see it through.  Thank you Craig.  For capturing this moment that I had been imagining for 22 days.  My family and the thought of reuniting with them in Antelope Wells kept me going through the tough times.  There was no other choice for me.  I never let “scratching” creep too far into my thoughts (although it was a hard fight at times).  It was simple – I had to ride my bike to Mexico to see my family. 

 

I tried to journal for the first few days, than stopped because I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough at night. wish i had done it for the whole trip- here they are, unedited with iphone auto-typing and all… so I don’t forget…

6/7/18
Met Gary Meyer from bend Oregon at trailhead of spray lake trail/start line
Bought bear spray at Atmosphere with crazy Larry 20%off code
Pint of kolsh and buffalo chicken sandy at banff ave brewing before riders meeting at high rollers
Met some cats at the bar discussing buying bear spray- thought they were doin the td, but the banff marathon next weekend- when I told them I’m doing td they shit

Met up with Kevin – made plan for day 1 camp around mile 110 before climbing koko pass – don’t push too hard, ease into it
Grabbed salsa top cap – saw crazy Larry
Dinner at Greek joint with grumpy owner barpa bill banff expensive time to go!

6/8
Tube, sundcreen, rain pants, hat, tent poles- alll seen dropped on trail
New singletrack section is sick!
Sleeping under stars halfway up koko claims in just bivy with Barry Idaho magical – pushed a little more than I wanted but not too bad
Haven’t seen Kevin – resupply at boultpn creek awesome
Shooting star
Chick from Australia like a Jonathan singles bar trying every guy to share room in elk ford
Say a dude with a pizza box strapped to his backpack

Day 2
Got woken up by rain on my bivy at 4am – got packed quick and started riding/hiking koko claim ouch! Got dumped on but got to the snowmobile warmup cabin at the top and thawed out/dried my clothes / met up with renato and dan and rode to Fernie. Pushed on to butts cabin and rode with Jesse from Montana on the descent to flathead river so beautiful
Pitched tent in front of butts already full with people

Day 3
To eureka, cabin pass and galton pass knee hirting in am – scary- dropped saddle a little and took Advil
Wild horses coming down cabin pass were amazing- one albino
My birthday – stopped a little early got hotel – relaxed my leg/knee both passes had rain/sleet/Snow storms up high

Day 4

Big day – eureka to Ferndale

Mellow passes- whitefish divide and red meadow pass which had 1 mike of hike a bike thru snow- muddy and snowing up top- pizza in whitefish from there to Ferndale- whitefish lake is gorgeous – thought about fundraiser slideshow for new trail construction – both brake pads are toasted- must change before next big pass – used squeegee at gas station to clean drivetrain. Rura neighborhoods – a guy putting golf on his front lawn, deer hangin out back at bed breakfast candlewyck Megan took care of me Thai curry chicken soup and pbj’s for the road

Day 5 fern dale to seeley lake

Such a cold start! Threw every piece of clothing I have on – over 9k climbing
Descent was so cold from swan lake!!! Fingers numb
Met first scratcher at holland lake- sad, and a reminder that it can happen to any of us- Martin from Czech Republic – hurting knee and Achilles
Listened to hunters playlist all day, waited at Holland lake for Canadian friends to do Richmond with. Not too bad- only 40 min of snow hike a bike – share room and laundry in seeley and huge dinner at the bar- the filling station
Didn’t see bear, but tales to others who rode through just after me and they saw 2! I was sketched and singing through one area and my spider senses went off

Day 6 seeley lake to Helena
Longest hardest day yet. 130 miles, 10k climbing – left at 7:15 wasn’t in bed til 1am – 4 passes wow
Met Barbara and John at cyclist only camping / cabin- Pay it forward
Ward- broken chainstay
Anthony- broken wheel
I got really emotional climbing stemple pass – took photo
Riding up high at last light, seeing train, descending priest pass in the dark and hobbling in to Helena delirious at midnight!!!

To do: Advil
Brake pads
Check chain for wear/b-screw
Tighten Fred Bar
Check all important nuts/bolts
Put black sock on right foot

Day 7 Helena to butte
A little easier day put still had a grinder of a climb to lava mountain and a long ascent from basin to butte- but the reveal of butte from the “butte” was magical – the steep switchback singletrack into town was also fantastic
Shard a room with Riley

Day 8
Feeling pretty good- can’t wait to get out of Montana! Left butte earlier than Riley and made good time to wise river – all the views were amazing today, especially lookin down fleecer ridge !!

Good burger in wise river then climbed to polaris – it started raining so after eating some lasagna and getting a couple sandwiches to go, I pushed hard to bannack rd to get through before too soaked in rain- it’s known to become peanut butter and an instant hike a bike – it paid off- made it through – Agee Mike’s up the road, asked a lady Debbie if she new of any campsites up ahead and she offered me to camp in her cow pasture- done!
This adventure is amazing- the challenges and rewards are exactly what I was hoping for. Miss my family so much and I’ve been getting emotional and even crying sometimes. I can’t wait until we are reunited. They mean the world to me and a trip like this just magnifies those emotions. But hopefully in two weeks or so, it’ll all be worth the hugs inantelope Wells!!!

Greatest showman soundtrack 40 min long – last track was going home – got me up many climbs
The simple day to day life puts everything in perspective
The divide does change everyone
I was open to everything Mother Nature threw at me
Thunderstorm going into silver city – hill climb to keep core temp up and me from freezing
Straight to motel bath heater dominos order

Only ailments: ass, mouth, sunburn peeling

Mental is 80% of this adventure 10% physical 5%prep 5% luck

And finally, here are some more photos of the journey.  Feel free to hit me with questions/comments – especially if you’re thinking about doing the TD – all I can say is, DO IT.  Don’t put off life.

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An oasis in the Desert!!  We came across this about 50 miles into the Gila (a very tough section in New Mexico.  We were all running out of water, and this was a Godsend!  We actually met the people that put this out, and got to thank them personally. 

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Jim and Tammy’s cabin in Horca.  Words can’t express how important this was for me.  It was familiar, and I knew at this moment I was going to make it to the finish.

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Almost there.

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The Toaster House – Pie Town, NM

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Carried the Salsa top cap all the way from Banff to Pie Town to EARN a free piece of pie!!  Yes, it was worth it.

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Pie Town, NM

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Snowmobilers warming hut at the top of Koko.  Was able to dry off and warm up.  I was getting a bit hypothermic – so this was super huge!

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Great climb out of Breckenridge, CO – and equally great descent down the Gold Dust singletrack right after.  Yahoo!!

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Found this during “Magic Hour” just before descending to Silverthorne.  Magic is right!

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Good morning New Mexico.  New day, sunshine, last state.  Life is good!

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PB&J at the top of Lynx Pass.  

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“Bears with cubs x-ing rd” – Teton National Park.  Nuff said.

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This was another super emotional one for me.  Hammered by rain and storms all morning.  My mind and body were beat down.  Had no clue where I was.  Clutching to any positive hope I could find.  Then out of nowhere, the clouds parted for the briefest moment, and the Tetons smiled at me.  The switch flipped.  Life was good once more.  This is the TD.

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Big milestone.  Leaving Montana and heading into Idaho!

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Lunch break.  Somewhere in New Mexico

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Looking back over the Great Basin, Wyoming

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Another day, another crossing 🙂

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I came flying towards this old railroad tunnel in Idaho… and almost crashed when I saw it was boarded up.  Haha!  Made me laugh, so I stopped for a pic

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I like history.

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Finally the sun came out and the peanut butter mud on the infamous Bannack Rd started to dry up!!

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YESSSSS!!!

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Butte, Montana

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Riding into Butte after a long day in the saddle.  Civilization was sure nice to see!!

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Smell the flowers!

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On the way to Helena… Drinking beer, eating food, and shooting the breeze with Barbara and John at their “cyclist-only” lodging spot – she wouldn’t let me give any money for the food/beer… simply said, “Pay it forward” – I’ll do my best, Barbara!! another fantastic memory!!

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I was crying my eyes out behind the smile.  Overcome with emotion during this climb up Stemple Pass.  The music, missing my family, the beauty, the delirium, all got to me – so I decided to take a pic to remember.

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Laundry at Seeley Lake!!

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Deer in the backyard of the Candlewyck B&B in Ferndale.  Megan treated me with warmth and kindness… the Thai Curry Soup hit the spot!!!

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My room at the YWCA, Banff.  Packing up to start the adventure of a lifetime 🙂

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One of the few sunny moments in Canada 🙂

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How awesome is this!!?? The new section of singletrack on day 1 is fantastic!  Stoked for all future TD riders!!

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Day 1 – still fresh and clean – not for long… 

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where it all begins.  the official starting line for the tour divide

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TD life.  Wet wipes, jerky, vitamin water.  Simple pleasures.

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First taste of mud, on the way to Fernie – little did I know this was nothing compared to the drivetrain seizing mud I’d encounter over the next few days.  Thank gosh for coin op car washes!!

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This dude was stuck on a section that I just spent an hour hiking through- I offered to help him shovel out, but he declined.  Either way, good to see another human being (and a dog).

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Dan and Renato – at the top of Richmond Pass – two amazing guys, and a pleasure to ride with!!

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Singletrack descent from Richmond Pass 

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Stray Bullet – Ovando, MT

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Scenery like this.  Day in and day out.  Up and down.  Slow and fast.  I never felt more wild and free.

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Yep

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About to descend into Salida, CO – thanks for the pic Craig!

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Another shot sent over from Craig – thanks!

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That’s a wrap 🙂

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