When Bryce was a six-year-old and traveling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail down New Mexico on his father’s tandem, he would often resort to circus acts when he got bored. He would rise off his saddle and stand on the rear panniers, raise a leg in the air, or squat. His father was focusing on the road ahead, making sure he avoided any rocks or holes, watching that front tire, keeping the long bike steady and the rubber side down. Behind the circus child was a B.O.B. trailer, as in beast of burden. These were long rigs and we had to negotiate turns like a tractor trailer and stay focused.
You couldn’t blame Bryce. The little shrimp was only six and he couldn’t see around his dad’s big hunky body, which blocked the view. He could only look from side to side which got old, esp. well into the 650-mile trip down the state. Bryce’s crank case was lifted higher with a mechanism that enabled him to pedal with his dad in unison, push when he could or wanted to, or otherwise just spin. But circus acts were much more fun.
That was twenty years ago. Fast forward to present day and the current epic journey has been covering the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail (GDMBT) , the longest mountain bike trail in the world. This has been me and Todd’s adventure, suggested by my husband when I was approaching my sixth decade and wanted to do something epic to get extra fit and stay very fit into my autumnal years. “Why not do the GDMBT?” he asked. I was in. Two years ago, we began in the Canadian Rockies, tacking on the 200-mile Icefields Parkway which travels from Jasper NP to Banff NP, where the GDMBT began. It is considered to be the most beautiful bike ride in the world so why not.
The kids are now grown and into their own lives. But they have played a part in this journey, especially Bryce. (Sierra has been busy in grad school and living and working abroad and couldn’t get away as easily). Bryce made sure he was there for us every year to start us off. He cycled the first two weeks on the Icefields Parkway. Last year, in Montana, Bryce as well as Sierra and her husband Eben were there. And this past year, our last, Bryce was there to start us off right. He knew Todd and I would not having our cycling legs yet and be still working out the kinks. We also began at a particularly challenging spot- the Great Divide Basin- desert, long stretches w/o water, high winds. Bryce also was looking for an adventure, something epic, extreme. This would fit the bill.
Last year, we stopped just short of the Basin because I was struggling with second degree burns on my skin. I was on weeks of Doxycyclin for a bite I got the night before departing for the west and got very sick, resulting in staph and cellulitus that sent me into the Dillon, Montana hospital. We still managed to cover 500 miles of the trail that year despite the hardship, but when I walked into the Pinedale, WY pharmacy last year for burn salve, the pharmacist took one look at my blistered lips and said they were infected. Someone else told me that I “could lose them.” What does that even mean “lose your lips?” I didn’t want to find out. We would be dropping into the desolate Great Divide Basin a few days south of Pinedale and I was dreading it. Todd said, “Nope, we’re not going. We’re stopping here this year.”
And so we returned to that same town with our son this year, and with his help and wonderful company and assistance, crossing the Great Divide Basin was one of most memorable and positive experiences on the whole GDMBT. Bryce helped to carry the community weight; helped hoist up our heavy food bags in a tree to bear proof them, helped his dad laboriously pump bottle after bottle of water through a clogged water filter, walked up mountains with his mom when she was too tired to pedal, helped hold the bike in the air when his dad changed a flat, hugged and kissed his mama good night and good morning and bought so much joy to our trip.
Gone are the days when we had to reprimand him for doing his circus acts on his dad’s panniers. He still has that wonderful sense of adventure to choose to cycle the Great Divide Basin, one of the toughest stretches of the whole trail, and he still enjoys being with his mom and dad- the best gift of all.
Posted in: Travel Story