Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Countdown to The Great Divide

Tomorrow we'll be one week from our departure for Canada and the beginning of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Here's a little info (okay, a lot of info) as I don't think I have mentioned this in a post. There are three of us doing the ride. Originally, it was just going to be my son, Connor, and I. Connor is currently thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. We'll pick him up at Manning Park, then head straight to Banff. Then, my friend, Derik (one of the owners of Joy Ride Bicycles, and the guy who built Tilmann), expressed interest in going. Honestly, at first, I didn't put too much stock in him actually going, even when he asked if I had any ideas of how he would get him and his stuff to Banff (my oldest son, daughter-in-law, and grandson were going to take Connor and I to Banff--there wasn't room for another person). But then, he started telling other people he was going to do The Divide! That sounded like a commitment to me! In the meantime, my oldest son accepted a post doc in Minneapolis. They would be moving the beginning of September. Although they were still committed to taking us to Banff, I wanted to find another way to make it easier for them. 

What we needed was a truck that could haul three bikes, us, and all our gear. I looked into U-Haul. That was going to be prohibitively expensive. Flying was not an option because of having to pick up Connor. Hmmm...I thought, doesn't Derik have a pickup? And doesn't that pickup have an extended cab? Why, yes it does (although, Derik was a bit dubious about the truck making it to Banff and back). We had a vehicle, now we just needed a driver. At the end of a ride one day, I pulled into the parking lot at Joy Ride and saw Derik standing by a shiny black pickup talking to Luke (former co-owner of Joy Ride). Turns out the shiny black Toyota Tacoma was Derik's new pickup! I turned to Luke and asked him what he was doing the end of August. He said he had nothing until he was leaving for Europe on Sept. 5th. He had never been to Banff, and would like to go. 

Meanwhile, on the PCT, Connor was making his way north. His projected finish at the beginning was Aug 29th, but he thought he could finish around the 27th. However, as these things often happen, he was falling behind schedule. Various reasons, but I think the main reason was because he had hooked up with a group that was not doing quite as many miles. He was having a great time with them, but eventually had to start doing more miles to make it to the end in time. I felt bad for him having to leave the group. At one point, he was about 8 days behind (like I said, various reasons, including a fire). If he continued at that pace, we would need a different driver (for awhile, Connor thought he might not finish until Sept 5th). But, he still seemed to think he could make up some time in Oregon, and finish around the 31st of August. Still, I thought I'd better line up a backup driver.

I was talking to the guy painting our house. Brent is also a cyclist, and has done some touring. He was interested in how the plans were progressing for The Divide. He even knew Derik, as he had painted the bike shop a few years back. I was telling him how Connor was possibly not going to finish in time for Luke to drive us. Brent casually says, "I could drive you."  I couldn't believe it! The sense of relief was tremendous! Now I didn't have to worry about Connor finishing in time for Luke to drive.

However, Connor did, indeed, make up time in Oregon. He hiked all of Oregon in just two weeks! That was with several 40+ mile days, and even a 55.45 mile day! I was really amazed that anyone could hike that many miles in one day! Now he was projecting to finish Aug 30th, 31st, or Sept 1st. Plenty of time for Luke to drive us.

I was about to send Brent a text and tell him we wouldn't need him, when I thought I'd better have Derik check with Luke first to make sure he was still on board. Turns out Luke is not available, so Brent is going to drive us afterall. Connor is now saying he will finish the evening of the 31st. Brent, Derik, and I will make our way to Manning Park in British Columbia the morning of the 31st. I want to be at Manning when Connor finishes (it's a 5 1/2 hour drive from Olympia). Then, the next morning, we'll head to Banff (an almost 8 hour drive). 

The bikes are ready to go. We will all be riding Surlys, but all different models. I will be riding Mama Cass, my Surly ECR. Connor will be riding his Surly Ogre (which I have named "Mike", even though Connor says it doesn't have a name). Derik will be riding his Surly Disc Trucker. Derik and I will be using panniers. Connor will be using frame bags from Revelate. I've tried really hard to minimize my gear, but MC is still pretty heavy. I did cut down on some clothing. I wasn't even going to take an extra pair of shoes besides my Crocs, but Derik said, "What if we want to do some hiking or something?" Okay, I'll take the shoes. One luxury item I refuse to leave behind is my chair. Derik is taking one too. Here's a few gear photos. All this will be packed into my Ortlieb XL Pro panniers (rear), and Sportpacker Classics (front).
Clothes--only two t-shirts, two pairs of socks, no swimsuit, two bike shorts, and one bike short "underwear"
Rain gear--did swap out waterproof long finger gloves for warmer, waterproof gloves. Waterproof socks will double as warm socks.
Cook set including Ursack bear proof food bag.
Bike repair including extra chain which Derik says we'll need. Also a spare set of pannier hooks. Of course I also have tubes, patch kit, and a spare tire.

This is not all of the gear, of course. There's the usual stuff, sleeping bag, pad, liner, tent...etc. I loaded everything onto MC (including 5 water bottles) and took her for a spin around the neighborhood. She feels pretty heavy, but no worse, and maybe even a bit better, than last summer with the BOB trailer. I'll get used to it. 

Derik texted me about getting nervous. I thought about it. I'm not really nervous about the ride. I'm, perhaps, a little nervous about being able to cook enough food for the three of us, but Derik is also bringing a stove, so that should be okay. Mostly, I would say I am more nervous...but that's not really the right word...about getting Connor. Once I have that boy in my sight, I will relax...I think.

I think the three of us will be the perfect team. Derik has the bike mechanic experience, Connor has the backcountry experience, and I...well, I have lots of touring experience (including off-road), and if nothing else, Derik and Connor will get to stop and admire the views while they are waiting for me to catch up!


Lynn said...

I'm so happy for you, able to do this great adventure. Best wishes! I'll be following you via this blog, sending thoughts of happy trails your way :-) Lynn

Colleen Welch said...

Thanks Lynn! I'm excited!

Derik said...

I guess I had better start getting ready!

Colleen Welch said...

Uh...yeah, Derik!

Bob Tichich said...

Colleen- We met on the 4th of July last summer (2015) in Stanley ID - you were doing the ACA Idaho Hot Springs loop - I was doing a Trans Am. - You mentioned that you and your son were planning on doing the GDMBR next summer after he finished doing the PCT. I then thought that this was either an impossibly ambitious project or you and your son were superhuman. I now believe the latter to be true. I have great admiration for your spirit of adventure and boundless determination. I wish you and your companions the best of luck.

Bob Tichich- Minneapolis MN