GDMBR Wrapping up our Border to Border Great Divide Ride

Tom and I wrapped up our southbound border to border Great Divide ride just a little over a week ago and have some final thoughts we’d like to share, some numbers and finally one last video. Thanks so much to family, friends, neighbors and followers for the love and encouragement along the way. It means the world!

Tailwinds,
Tom and Deb


From Tom:

I am sitting here in my kitchen thinking about this past couple months of riding the Great Divide and reviewing my notes from our Northern Tier from three years ago.  It all kind of seems like a dream, an experience of a lifetime and hard to put into words.  Here’s a list of my thoughts:

  • NT – It took about two weeks to peel away the layers of a lifetime of work and not think about work, emails, projects, etc.
  • GD – No layers to peel this time around.  I hit the ground riding with little sense of thinking about work. 
  • NT – Going to bed at night thinking about the upcoming weather, wind direction and knowing it is totally out of our control
  • GD – Same sort of feelings with this ride.  Added thoughts of grizzlies as we rode through grizzly habitation for the first few weeks.  Making noise during the rides was essential to our daily riding as was singing jodies, making up songs, reviewing states capitals as we rode through huckleberry patches on single track
  • NT – Looking at the maps and planning out our next weeks of riding with a goal of averaging 70 miles a day.
  • GD – same at daily looking at the maps and planning our next days of riding.  This time shorter mileage and checking out our climbs/mountain passes for each day’s ride
  • NT – Looking at the next day’s ride and planning out our second breakfast about 20 miles down the road
  • GD – Much the same here, but much less opportunities for second breakfast with the remoteness of our rides.  More looking for water sources to filter for our day’s rides
  • NT – Walking into the saloon in our spandex and every cowboy’s head turned at the same time to give us the eye as we walked through the front door
  • GD – Total different bikepacking set up for bikes and attire.  More relaxed attire when it comes to our bikepacking as we walked into breweries when we arrived to larger towns
  • NT – Pulling out of our campground the third day and going the wrong way, about 8 miles the wrong direction down a big descent. Turning around and now going back up in the right direction.  Learning to never start a ride without turning on my Garmin and finding the course first
  • GD – No issues of getting lost this time around.  We both had Garmins and much more experience using them 😊
  • NT – Getting our morning camping routine down:  1)Tom pack up the sleeping bags, thermarests, tent, 2)Deb fire up the stove and cook up coffee, and oatmeal with craisins and walnuts, 3) 100 pushups and 4 minute plank, 4) Prayers of gratitude for yesterday’s ride and prayers for today’s ride.
  • GD – Same routine, but no stove/pushups/planks this trip.  Get packed, do our prayers and get on the road.
  • NT – Eating Paydays and peanut M&Ms which are not on the post riding diet
  • GD – This trip was more cliff bars, protein bars, but also Twizzlers, and Sour Patch Kids 
  • NT – My 15 mile chats with God, praying for so, so many things that were absolutely answered
  • GD – Always wanted/needed my 15 mile chats with God which has continued daily since our NT three years ago.  Can’t start my day without them.
  • NT – Waking up each morning for the first few weeks with a little uneasiness of riding on the busy roads with little shoulder with semis/logging trucks. By the end of the ride, having no fear, and 100% faith that God is sheltering us from drivers, mechanical issues, and providing us with mental/physical strength to finish each day.
  • GD – The good news with this ride was the lack of traffic.  Some days we would ride with only seeing maybe one car.  We would see more side by sides/ATVs than cars this trip
  • NT – Applying layers and layers of sunscreen
  • GD – Got to wear the sun sleeves
  • NT – Getting the blog done at the end of each day (hoping we had phone connection)
  • GD – Same with daily blogs, but more remote ride and less cell service.  Deb did a great job getting them ready daily so she could upload once we had cell service
  • NT – The comfort of getting into the tent while camping and being so comfortable and the wonderful satisfaction of a good day of riding.
  • GD – The tent was our comfort quarters at the end of a successful day of riding. 
  • NT – Making the decision to get Deb a front rack and having her front bags shipped to us in West Glacier. Also getting her new touring tires:  A no brainer after the fact.
  • GD – Our bikes were perfectly setup from day one.  Of course we have had over two years of practice rides to prepare.
  • NT – Looking back at our daily videos and seeing our happy, happy faces totally enjoying our journey
  • GD –  Super happy faces/smiles 😊
  • NT – Doing a Fred Flintstone down the final short hill to our finish line, brakes fully engaged, but having to stop myself with my shoes. Perfect timing for my brake pads to expire with over 5000 miles on brake pads and tires
  • GD – only one Fred Flintstone moment getting ready for a large descent over Gore Pass.  I am a much more knowledgeable bike mechanic this time around and know how to adjust my brakes
  • NT – The greatest memory will be all the wonderful, kind people we met along the way!!!!
  • GD – Don’t watch the media telling us how screwed up things are.  Meeting the wonderful people and knowing how great things are in our country.
  • NT – It was an experience of a lifetime seeing God’s creation at 12 miles an hour with my true love.
  • GD – It was an experience of a lifetime seeing God’s creation at 8 miles an hour (with all the climbs/gravel roads) with my true love.

From Deb:

Transitioning home this time as opposed to when we returned from our coast-to-coast Northern Tier ride has been easier since I knew what to expect. 😊

Extended bike tours have a way of changing a person (if they are open to change) and some of the changes that came naturally during NT stayed with me so again, that transition home went more smoothly. For example, I learned to be more resourceful, waste less, live more simply, presume the best in people and not to sweat the small stuff. Time spent riding the Great Divide provided nothing new in these areas and instead confirmed what I’d learned riding NT. However, I’m still overwhelmed when I enter my closet and see more than five shirts from which to choose. It’s just too much to decide what to wear. #firstworldprobs

What I am most surprised about and learned about myself was that I could do hard things that I was super anxious about trying, which on this ride, was getting up and over all of the elevation. I mean, I’m an awful climber. But I did it! The fact that right out of the gate we averaged over 50 miles a day on ratchet roads and over 3,000 feet of climbing everyday was a huge surprise to me. And I never got sore. And there was never a day I wanted to quit and go home. And we only took two official rest days. And I’m 62 years old. That gives me so much confidence in other areas. What the heck? What else might I choose to do?

Couple other random thoughts:

  • Wish I would I have cut my toothbrush in half like Tom did not to cut weight but because the darn thing is awkwardly shaped and it was hard to pack in my small ziplock bathroom bag and subsequently stow in my sweetroll or fork bag.
  • The only things I lost were my buff (which I didn’t really need anyway as my bandana worked equally as well and was more versatile) and my Oofos sandal off the back of my seat bag. I lost it twice. The first time Tom recovered it and the second time it was lost for good.
  • I shouldn’t have sent my headlamp home with Dan and Christie from Salida. Ya just always need one, even though they are rather bulky to pack.
  • We live in an amazing country! It’s not without its warts, scrapes and scars. It’s not perfect but my hope is that it’s constantly improving. We have setbacks but I still love our country and proudly, yet humbly flew our flag on the back of my bike.
  • What state did I like the best? It’s like trying to pick your favorite child. Each are unique and their qualities bring out the best in me, when I choose that approach. And again, it’s a choice right?
  • What did I miss the most? Concretely loving all of our bigs, littles and making dinner for them. And I missed my buds. I also missed inside potties at night. Kinda missed those a lot.
  • I wouldn’t change my packing list and I’m super happy we didn’t bring a stove, fuel and all that goes with it.
  • As always, I’m so grateful for God’s remarkable creation… both the people he puts in our path and the trails he leads us down (and up on this ride😆). Having time on the bike to continue conversations with Him was the most important part of my day.

Tom and I always like to have adventures in the hopper, especially me. We keep a list, lol, and it’s frequently updated and added to. As far as solo travel, I could do it, but I sure wouldn’t want to. Planning, executing and reflecting on riding the Great Divide with Tom is something that we’ll savor together for the rest of our lives. We work, ride and worship exceptionally well together. I’m just so grateful we were able to share this lifetime “smilestone” (not milestone) with one another.



Click on the video below to view one last video from our border-to-border ride on Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

GDMBR Day 49 | Black Canyon to Lake Roberts | 29 miles, 2,175 ft elevation | A Short Ride!

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It takes way too much energy to be grumpy and it’s always best to live the present moment so today we put on our happy faces and started up the seven mile climb right out of the canyon. And you know what… it is wasn’t nearly as gnarly as anticipated. And it was so beautiful!

We are still processing what it’s going to be like once we finish. At times when I’m riding I have many, many flashbacks from the past weeks. No it’s not PTSD – they are all good flashbacks. Long term bike tours can be real perspective changers. #highlyrecommendthem

We’d planned a short ride to Lake Roberts today and are staying at a hobbit like cabin property just two miles out of Lake Roberts. Newest posse member Ethan was here when we rode up.

Tomorrow we will ride just another 30 miles or so for a three day stay in Silver City until our family uber comes to pick us up at Antelope Wells. Many thanks to Anne and John who are picking us up at the border! That’s a 23 hour drive for them. We’re planning on an August 27 finish. 🤙🏻

We appreciate all of the prayers, comments on FB and Insta and the blog. Means the world!

Click on the image below to view the video.

GDMBR Day 48 | Y Canyon to Black Canyon | 60 miles, 3,556 ft elevation | Separation Anxiety?

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We awoke to sunny skies and a dew wet tent. It was chilly out with skies their typical blue bird color.

Per usual we packed up quickly and got to it. Only 3.75 miles of cycling and I had to make a wardrobe change as it was getting warmer fast. Really Deb? You couldn’t be cold for 3 miles?

Once on our way we were in for a quick 35 mile mile ride to the Beaverhead Work Station for a water refill and lunch stop. We actually mighta had a tail wind for a bit of it. #shocker

Climbs came at the end of the day near Black Canyon. The second to the last, a six miler was 90% fluffy gravel and washboard and that’s hard. I was kinda ready to be done. It was just a grind but we got to it and found a perfect tent site right by a creek which made for the best night sounds and a quick “bath” before bedtime.

Both of us were in a bit of a funk today. Not sure if it’s Tom having to wait for me at the top of some of these climbs, if it’s cycling too close to one another up or down rocky roads (‘cause you need room to maneuver) or what, but we weren’t our perky selves and that’s rare.

It might be because we both realize the adventure we’d planned is almost over. It’s been life consuming for 48 days (less our two zeros) and soon it will be over.

We are both SO looking forward to seeing our family and friends, getting back to the garden and all but it’s that transition. And it’s dealing with the emotions. Sometimes emotions are hard to nail down and even harder to name and deal with. And sometimes they are difficult to communicate to each other. We’ve been each other’s constant companions this whole time. All day, every day, close quarters at night and that’s going to change. Well we will still be close companions at night but no more sleeping quilts and tenting for a while.

What in the world will it be like to be in a car again? How about planning and cooking a family meal for 19? Tom back to work? I think we are both beginning to separate from the trail as we are nearing the end point. Maybe it’s separation anxiety?

Click on the image below to view the video.

GDMBR Day 47 | Pie Town to Y Canyon | 64 miles, 3,166 ft elevation | Pie Town!

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Tom was the first one up today. Jefferson at the Toaster House (we ❤️ him) put coffee on early so Tom snagged a cup and took the map out on the front porch with his headlamp since it was still dark and everyone was as still sleeping. He felt a critter (maybe a kitty?) snuggling up to his leg and was getting all friendly. He looked down with his headlamp on and his first thought was how pretty it was. Then he saw the tail and realized it was a skunk. Startled, they both jumped and went their separate ways. #ptl

We got a bit of a late start today because we wanted to get some pie at the Cafe in Pie Town. I mean ya don’t ride your bicycle over 2,000 miles without stopping for pie. And oh it did not disappoint. We also got a burrito to go for later.

We’d have left earlier but our riding buds started rolling in from the Toaster House and it again was like another reunion even though we’d just seen them.

That late start tho… and the strong head wind today… and that 70 miler the day before with part of it being mud. All of it wiped us out a bit. We didn’t set up our tent until about 8pm and it was almost dark. We always find the best of dispersed camping when we aren’t looking for them. When we’re desperate we can’t seem to find anywhere.

When the wind was about the strongest and we were feeling uber tired we came across this kind rancher who put water and snacks out for Great Divide riders. So kind and so appreciated!

We both agreed to plop down just short of another Continental Divide crossing. Tent up, quick dinner, brush teeth, hang food, route rap and done! We were asleep in no time.

Heading towards Black Canyon tomorrow about 60 miles away with most of the climbing the last 25 miles. Dang that’s tough on the legs at the end of the day. Food and water are scarce on the route however we have plenty of food including beaucoup oatmeal pies. 👌🏻

Click on the image below to view the video.

GDMBR Day 43 | Cuba to Chaco Trading Post | 50 miles, 1,604 ft elevation | Just A Taste

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From Tom:

We must of really got lost to end up in Cuba last night. Just kidding, Cuba, NM. I had the opportunity to talk to a couple guys riding their off-road motorcycles northbound from the border on the Great Divide (opposite direction of us) so they are just getting started.

I also ran into a motorcyclist this morning as I was walking to Speedway to get us a couple of coffees. He was limping and had a box of Advil in his hand. He and three other buddies also started in Antelope Wells (our destination) and were headed northbound to Canada. Two of the four bikes broke riding in the mud and sand and had to drop out. The third went down in the mud and the rider broke his foot. A farmer let them borrow a car to drive him to hospital. That left just the one who went down in the mud yesterday and hurt his leg although he is still planning to head north solo.

There is an alternate route out of Cuba that is all asphalt for 120 miles to Grants, NM. After hearing these stories and others on our ride and checking the forecast, Deb and I opted to ride the alternate route today which is all pavement.

There are stories of riders just leaving their bikes in the mud and hiking out. Not the way we want to risk our ride since we have heard from other riders ahead of about all the rain 😁👍🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️.

We enjoyed our 50 miler to the Chaco Trading Post with Convenience Store, laundry, and a place to camp. Soon after we arrived a late afternoon thunderstorm blew in. We threw in a load of laundry, grabbed a bite to eat and hung around under the front awning until they they shut down at 8 and we had to go out back and set up our tent for the night.

The rain stopped just in time and all we had to do is deal with a little mud on the shoes walking to the tent site. This mud in NM is clay that sticks to everything and hardens quickly as we got just a taste of it walking our bikes 100 yards to our campsite and having mud clumped on our tires and shoes. Now we understand how those motorcycles went down and broke.

We look forward to our 70 miler into Grants tomorrow and a bike ride on Route 66 for a couple of miles. Also looks like Junkyard on 66 Brewery in Grants will be within walking distance. 😁👍

Click on the image below to view the video.

GDMBR Day 41 | Abiquiu to Canone Creek | 35 miles, 5,187 ft elevation | Are We Hiking or Biking?

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Oh man… one of the toughest days. But still grateful! There is a stretch on the Great Divide between Abiquiu and Cuba that is known for its ratchet road and elevation. Most riders on tour take two days (which we did) but some ride that 77 miles in one day. #respect

We had such a delightful and unexpected respite at the Abiquiu Inn. It’s that juxtaposition that gets ya. It’s like BAM! Here you go… do this 25 mile climb on ratchet roads after being served homemade lemonade and ice cream on the patio in the shade.

I will say we are getting better about food procurement. Tom secured a breakfast burrito to go and we made it last until dinner.

We met a rider from Midland, TX while climbing up Indiana Pass. His name was Clif and he had a heart as big as Texas. He was also a southbounder but rode that section of the GDMBR before to scout it out. His comments were so helpful. He said the route would be ok for a while but would quickly deteriorate and it would repeat that scenario for a good while.

I won’t bore you with the details but Clif was absolutely spot on. We only rode 35 miles today but we (especially me) were spent. Lots of hike-a-bike and technical climbing.

Not sad we did it. We saw some beautiful sites but dang… so much respect for riders and racers who complete it in one day.

Riding to Cuba tomorrow on the hunt for Mexican food and tall boys. And maybe even a Catholic Mass because you know… it’s Sunday!

Click on the image below to view the video.

GDMBR Day 39 | FR 87 Summit to Hopewell Lake | 46 miles, 3,793 ft elevation | Rockfest As Expected

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From Tom;

What a wonderful night “wild camping” at 10,600 feet at the summit of a big climb. We awoke to a tremendous sunrise looking out over our feet in the tent.

As we packed up for our ride a huge herd of noisy sheep came over the hill heading our way directed by several sheep herding dogs. Off we went before we were trampled 😁👍.

During the first 15 miles New Mexico greeted us with some gnarly, steep, roads that involved some hike-a-bike. After that our day was spent as usual with some ups and downs and several climbs. Our day ended with a five mile climb to our campground.

PS from Deb:

We are working well together as a team and learning more as we go forward. There are a couple things that cross the line however: washing each other’s bike shorts out by hand and carrying anyone’s used TP but your own. 🤣

We’re learning we also need to be carrying a lot more food and water here in New Mexico. We’re about out of food now with a 55 miler ahead of us tomorrow before we resupply in Abiquiu. There might be a C-Store in 25 miles. Fingers crossed. 🤞🏻

Old grandpa and grandma are holding up well though, and so is our equipment. If you want to know more about our light weight, compact sleep system, see below. It’s not your standard sleeping bag. #alwaystheteacher

Headed to Abiquiu tomorrow for a hotel stay and resupply!

Click on the image below to view the video.

GDMBR Day 38 | Platoro to FR 87 Summit | 42 miles, 3,490 ft elevation | So Far We’re Enchanted

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New Mexico is known as The Land of Enchantment. So far we’re enchanted! Maybe it’s because of the sweet camping spot we have at 10,600 feet. Such a beautiful view after a semi-easy day. Or maybe it was the stellar views you gave us on the way in during our twilight ride.

We started the day eating breakfast burritos with our cycling buds Jonathan and Lauren. We met them just after Boreas Pass while camping in Como. They are section cycling the Great Divide and finishing up in Abiquiu, NM. They are another example of interesting people to chat with. Lauren has completed several Ironman Triathlons (and podiumed some) and they are both training for the Pioneer 400 bikepacking race in Idaho in September. We’ve been leapfrogging with them ever since Como when we all camped in the pouring rain.

Jonathan let us know there was a place nearby with wifi and smoothies – less than two blocks away. Actually there aren’t any paved streets in Platoro, only dirt roads. Good thing too. They get over 30 feet of snow a year (not at one time) and most everyone leaves town in September and does not return until May. The cute little cabin we slept in gets covered up with snow. 😳

We stopped in for a rare second breakfast and met some more folks from Kansas, Rachael and her family and also enjoyed chatting it up with Joe and his son Jake who happened to be in the cabin next to us the previous night. All great peeps to visit with.

Next we got on the road toward Horca. We’d heard it was a lovely 20 mile ride down through the valley along the Conejo River with spectacular views. And that it was! Sometimes ya don’t put the GoPro on or take pics. Instead ya just enjoy the ride.

Once in Horca we stopped again for another long break. The Red Bear Welcome Center is particularly welcoming to Great Divide riders so we took advantage of a nearby Amish pie vender and the welcome center’s robust bandwidth to get caught up on the blog. The days begin to run into each other while on extended bike tours so if we didn’t blog we’d not have some of the details of our ride to look back on.

LaManga Pass started right after Horca and once that was complete we started looking for the New Mexico state line. It was a simple welcome.

With plenty of much needed downtime in Platoro and Horca we finished our shorter ride with a climb to our camping spot.

Below is a 180 degree look. The view is wicked awesome and at times we even get one bar of cell service! 😂

Click on the image below to view the video.

Happy to have made it to the last state line on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route!

GDMBR Day 36 | Storm King to Cow Camp | 50 miles, 2,438 ft elevation | A Little Bit of Everything

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Ya just never know what you’re gonna get on the Great Divide. The places, the people, the route, road surface and weather are most always unpredictable.

We woke up in our tent at Storm King Campground and it was so, so cold. However the tent seemed dry so we quickly packed up, including retrieving our food bag on top of the privy.

It was a beautiful ride into La Garita. Bummer the cafe wasn’t open though. We could have used some hot coffee.

Prior to hitting Del Norte there was a double track segment that was fast and flowy. Tom had the GoPro on and mighta had a little crash – take a look at the video. He’s all good although we had to mute the vid.🤣

Once in Del Norte we decided since it was Sunday Funday we’d stop at Three Barrel Brewery and take a mid day break with a couple local IPAs, salad and pizza. We could have eaten twice the amount.

Sometimes those midday bevvies and pizza work out and sometimes it’s a little rough. We decided to go another 10 miles or so to shelter at Cow Camp. That would also give us a 10 mile head start on Indiana Pass the following day.

Cow Camp was so out of the ordinary from any place we’d seen. The owner’s great grandfather homesteaded the property years ago. We had a lot of questions but there was a party going on so we went on our way to the shelter, but not before Tom picked up a golf club and whacked the golf ball almost into New Mexico. Apparently the owner built a 7 hole golf course and he wanted Tom to take a swing. So he did!

We slept so soundly… ready for Indiana Pass tomorrow – the highest pass on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and it’s my birthday.

Click on the image below to view the video.

GDMBR Day 35 | Sergeant to Storm King | 78 miles, 5,052 ft elevation | Rising Up

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For a “no news” blog day, it ended up a bit newsy for us. There was considerable forest fire smoke so the views and the ride were a bit off.

Early in the morning I was riding along, uphill, listening to Garth Brooks singing Rodeo (and singing aloud), when I got bucked off my bike. Actually I downshifted to climb and the chain popped off. No chain. No power. Going uphill forward motion stops. Couldn’t get my foot out of the clip so down I went. Onto the gravel road. Not on the derailleur side though so all good there. But ouch! Nothing hurt but my pride. 😂

Right before Cochetopa Pass we met Apple who has been a trail Angel for 18 years. He posts up with shade, food and water and waits for hikers on the Continental Divide Trail, and riders on the Great Divide and Colorado Trails. Again, the man is a patron saint of bikepackers. He lives in Cincinnati but comes out to stay in Gunnison for two weeks every year to support riders and hikers.

We finished Cochetopa Pass at 10,067 feet and arrived to Luders Campground but it was too early to quit cycling. The plan was to press on to another campground at the base of the next pass which was was Carnero Pass at 10,166 feet and tackle it first thing the next morning.

Just before entering Rio Grande National Forest and about five miles from our planned campsite two ladies in a car stopped us and informed us there was a bear ahead. Just one they said, but it looked hungry and it didn’t appear to be scared of people. She showed me the pic they took while sitting in their car. Yep, it looked skinny. And I didn’t want to meet Mr. Friendly Skinny Bear so up we peddled.

We’d seen a grizzly bear our third day out near Swan Lake Wildlife Refuge. That bear, however was not skinny and very big. He was as afraid of us as we were him. No we didn’t get a pic… we pedaled on putting distance between us.

Once again we continued riding as we wanted to put as much distance between the bear and us. We peddled up and over Canero Pass and cruised into Storm King campground. We like to call it our twilight ride.

The campsite was sweet! We were pretty tired and had to dry the tent and fly out from the night before because it was dew wet. Simple dinner, stow food, set up tent, tuck in the Cuttys and we said good night.

Click on the image below to view the video.