Days 16-20: photo journal

Day 16: around Umpqua Lighthouse State Park

  
  

         

Day 17: Umpqua Lighthouse State Park to Sawyer Rapids RV park – 33 miles

 Elk at Dean Creek   

Sawyer Rapids  

   

Day 18 Sawyer Rapids RV park to Richardson State Park, Fern Ridge resevoir – 66 miles (and stayed there day 19)  

Cycling the territorial highway     

Day 20: Richardson State Park to Friendly RV park, Mount Shasta  

Days 11-15: photo journal 

Day 11: Triangle Lake Park to Jessie M Honeyman State Park – 46 miles  

(Moss hanging off the trees that is supposed to look like 11…)

Triangle Lake Park  

Christmas tree farm  

  
Suislaw River 
Bridge in Florence  

Reggie hits the coast  


Day 12: exploring Taylor Dunes at Carter Lake trailhead

     
     

Day 13: spent in Florence

 

Cleawox Lake at Jessie M Honeyman State Park  
  
Day 14: Jessie M Honeyman State Park to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park – 26 miles

 
Cougar siting!  
Site of the cougar siting  

Umpqua lighthouse   

 
Day 15: at Umpqua lighthouse state park   

 

Dune buggy  

Name That Dune 

I’ve reached the coast – not quite the 1,000+ mile cycle it should have been to get here but never mind!

The 36 is a good route to get to the sea: very little traffic, often paralleling a river and passing a lot of Christmas tree farms.   

 

Two major incidents of note on the way: being chased by a chihuahua and witnessing a car crash of sorts.

It’s common to have dogs bark at you as you cycle past so when a chihuahua came running out its driveway not barking, I slowed down to engage in what I thought would be a friendly greeting but no, the baby-faced assassin was out to get me, running alongside, growling and snapping at my heels. I expected to easily out-pace it but blimey, these things can SHIFT! A frantic turn of pace saw Reggie hit double figures and all I could hear was the whirring of wheels but when I looked down, I saw the Mexican was still on me. 

The cold dead eyes of a killer…

  
It was getting to the stage where I thought physical encouragement might be needed to get him to retreat but when on a bike it’s hard to control a kick and how much force there’ll be on contact. Get the execution wrong with a chihuahua and what’s meant as a gentle warning nudge could easily end up as “I’m terribly sorry, I’ve just killed Pepe”. 

Stamina eventually won the day and we parted ways with my ankle still intact.  

The incident with the car was odd. I’d pulled over to the side of the road in Triangle Lake, a tiny lakeside town that’s an excellent example of why inbreeding is not a good idea. Shortly after, there’s a squeal of brakes and pieces of wood fly up in the air followed by a cloud of dust. My fellow kerb dwellers and I ran/pedalled round the corner to see if anyone was hurt and a blatantly bra-less woman, overweight and under-supported, parents quite possibly cousins, was running around arms flailing with a car now parked in her garden. It had driven straight through the wooden fence and was just sitting there with 2 guys slowly climbing out of it trying to avoid the splintered planks that littered the place. No one was hurt in what turned out to be a local dispute, a carefully planned yard raid rather than an accident. The car would have had to do a sharp 90 degree turn to get from the road to its resting place.

A more peaceful shot of Triangle Lake, most lakefront houses having steps or a slide into the lake:  

Anyway, back to the sea and here I am on the dunes on the banks of Cleawox Lake:   

 

The dunes are amazing and go on for miles inland so it’s quite a trek to reach the sea which is maybe why many people seem not to bother so it’s just you, gulls and plovers on miles of otherwise empty beach.

There are loads of cyclists on the coast going down highway 101 which is mixed blessings: lots of people to hang out with but, conversely, locals aren’t that interested in talking as you’re not the exotic species deviated from its normal migratory path that people elsewhere treat you as. Here I am just a pigeon.

Plus I think a lot of the cars and RVs are tired of having to shift over to give cyclists some room so I don’t feel particularly welcome on this section of highway (although I’ve only done 20 miles of it) and am looking forward to returning inland via quieter roads and my more natural habitat.

Days 6-10: photo journal

Day 6: day off in Sisters waiting for the doctor’s surgery to open the next day

  

I think that’s 2 of the 3 sisters (mountains)
Day 7: Sisters to Cold Springs campground – 5 miles

 Muffin from Sisters bakery       

Day 8: Cold Springs campground to Scott Lake campground – 20 miles

  

 
Snow on the Sisters  
Lava flow and Mt Washington 

  
Pioneer tree

   
Day 9: Scott Lake campground to the Regency Inn, Eugene – 60 something miles

  

 
 Day 10: Regency Inn, Eugene to Triangle Lake Park – 49 miles  

Off to a bad start with a puncture    

 

 

Days 1 to 5: photo journal

The quality of these photos – both visual and, for the day numbers, content – deteriorates as:

A) the adaptor to get photos from my camera onto my iPad has stopped working and I’d only downloaded a couple of days worth. The rest are photos I took with my phone of the back of my camera display screen

B) there aren’t many wild flowers for me to illegally pick and there’s only so many fir cones anyone wants to see, so I’ve had to be a bit more creative with my day numbers and some aren’t immediately clear

Day 1: Best Western, Boise airport to end of the Boise spur – 32 miles

  
A depressing sign to see on a Wednesday when you’re hungry…

  

 
 
 
Day 2: end of the Boise spur to Motel 6, Boise airport – 32 miles

  

Even more depressing to see at 1.30pm on a Thursday on your way back to where you came from with a gash in your leg…  

 
Day 3: Boise to Cliffside campground between John Day and Dayville – many miles in a car

  

Contents of my restocked first aid kit purchases in Walgreens, Boise  

Day 4: Cliffside campground to Sisters campground, dropping car off in Redmond on the way – many miles in the car, 21 miles cycling

    

A good sign to see on a Saturday



 Day 5: day in Sisters   

   

  

Back in the saddle…

If you injure yourself and have to hole up somewhere for a couple of days, there’s a lot worse places than Sisters. One of them is the Triangle Lake Park where I am now. Dear God, please let the night pass quickly…

As well as eating multiple donuts from Sisters bakery, I got my leg seen to after initially being told they had no free appointments and I needed to go to the walk-in clinic in Bend. That was at 8am with no buses until 4pm. A very nice woman I’d been chatting to you in the queue who knew what had happened offered to drive me the 40 miles after hearing I was being turned away. This act of warmth seemed to defrost the doctor’s receptionist who ‘miraculously’ then found a free slot at 2pm. So several hours later it was confirmed that I have a hole in my leg and was supplied with various bits of kit, including horse bandage. I have no idea what that is but it sounds good so I’m writing it down.

Unfortunately, no one has stolen Reggie yet despite me repeatedly leaving him unchained in public places so I had to cycle, not drive, over McKenzie pass. It is a gentle 2-3000ft climb which on the Great Divide you’d do to warm yourself up in the morning before stopping to have a snake for breakfast, wrestle a bear and then carry on to hit the REAL hill of the day but in my current state, I definitely noticed there was an incline! It is beautiful though and lives up to the claim of being one of Oregon’s most scenic roads and a couple on their way to Sisters’ folk festival handed me a bottle of ice cold water at the top which was very welcome.

The next day turned out to be an unintentionally long one. Despite there being no campsite or motels marked on the map for some distance, rather than calling it a day, I carried on thinking “there must be somewhere“. Confidence buoyed by a day back on the bike and feeling fully in the swing of things, I saw myself as some sort of Crocodile Dundee character who can instinctively ‘read’ the land for where one might find food or shelter.

Turns out I am not Mick 😦

For the record, there is naff all accommodation opportunities for about 30 miles east of Eugene, so I had to plough on for ages before I found somewhere and it was a motel way too close to an exotic dance venue for my liking but needs must!

After spending a ridiculous amount of time titting around the next morning getting out of Eugene (post puncture I might add despite spanking new tyres!), I hit the 36 to ride to the coast. Time to even out the cycling short tan lines and explore the dunes!

(No photos for now as the device that gets photos off my camera and onto my iPad is broken)

Abort, abort…

Long story (which I did write about in some detail but decided not to post it as I found it majorly dull reading it back and I was actually there!) but mission aborted on the Idaho Hot Springs loop. A combination of roads closed in both directions, injuring my leg and my heart not really being in going up MORE hills (as last year’s trip suddenly felt quite recent plus I’m not fit at all) meant that when I was at the decision point to continue or not and I was staring failure in the face, I gave him a quick kiss and we eloped back to Boise for a wonderful night in a Motel 6.

For the record, I did do the full 32 miles of the Boise spur and each one felt very hard-earned and then had to do 32 back the next day which was pretty depressing. I did see a Pronghorn antelope though, and a snake and some turkey vultures feasting on the dead remains of the Chinook salmon run.

  
Back to Boise…

  
I think it was Shackleton who once said ‘in the face of adversity, hot foot it to the Hertz rent-a-car desk’ so I did just that. The loose plan had been to cycle North west from Boise after finishing the Hot Springs loop to join the Trans Am route. I would have been fit post-loop and done it in about 3 days. But having skipped the loop and not yet being fit, it would have taken me forever and wasn’t on a great road for cycling on so I rented a car and went up highway 26 then along the Oregon Scenic Byway to Redmond. 

The drive was via a Walgreens as, seriously, my leg is pretty bad and I needed some more bandages etc. as I’d used up the ones in my first aid kit and I discovered the use by date on the antiseptic cream was 2007. I have some photos of the gash (first action in an emergency was to take a leg selfie) but they are disgusting so I won’t post them. Let’s just say it’s down to a layer of tissue I’ve not seen A-level biology rat dissection class. Moreover, it’s a really unflattering angle of my calf that makes it look like serves 12 joint of ham.

I also went to REI to pick up some camping gas and, after hearing what had happened, the assistant said “if you’re ever in trouble, come into an REI and we’ll look after you”. I could have cried. 

After ditching the hire car and a massive bottle of TCP equivalent (which I had to buy as they don’t seem to sell antiseptic wipes – come on America, get with the programme!), I cycled west to Sisters. It’s Labour Day weekend so I was a bit worried about everywhere being full but the town campsite has a hiker-biker (i.e. you just show up) section which I currently have all to myself whilst the RVs are nestled bonnet by grill. 

I might be joined tonight by a Pacific Crest Trail hiker – trail name the White Knight –  I met in the launderette making his brown T-shirt white again. We clocked each other as non-locals by the fact I was wearing a down jacket with nothing underneath and he was in his rain jacket, whilst all other clothes were in the wash. The choice of down jacket was naive as nothing makes you hotter than wearing one in a room of 12 washing machines and dryers pumping out heat!

The current plan is to spend a day or two in Sisters sleeping and recharging all kinds of batteries before heading over Mckenzie Pass (i.e. over the Cascades to the strip of Oregon in between sea and mountain). In theory, that shouldn’t be that hard but, right now, it feels more like a spirit-sapper than a lung-buster so I think I might split it into two and spend the night halfway up. 

The good news is that Reggie made it, albeit in a very battered bike box, and the weather forecast is good so (hopefully) that’s a sign of things looking good from here on in!

And the capital of Idaho is…?

Not Chicago. 

Although they did cruelly edit this to make it look like I thought it might be the right answer rather just saying something for the sake of it. (Please see minute 11.29, person standing on a box behind the desk so the contestant skyline didn’t look too jagged) . 

The correct answer is Boise (and even CJ, evil Egghead, wasn’t too sure about that). I’m here in Boise because it’s one of the entry points to the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route, 500 miles of forest roads that take you past 50 hot springs, 10 of which are commercial and the rest aren’t so you can just hop in on your way past. 

Conveniently, the route is mapped out with directions from Boise airport and I love the idea of being able to fly over with your bike and set off into the mountains from outside the terminal.  

That was the idea but we have a Code Red and REGGIE IS MISSING!!! 

My bike was last seen in transit at Phoenix airport and is apparently still there, due to arrive in Boise at 11pm. After years of successful travel (bar thinking I didn’t need a visa to get into Vietnam – turns out I did…), I feel it’s ‘my time’ for a hiccup and, all being well here on in, will set off tomorrow as planned.
I’m currently holed up here waiting for Reggie: 

Never happier than when in a cheap motel with a Denny’s next door:

 
Aside from not having a bike, I’m just about ready to roll after having ticked off most of the must-dos on a trip like this:

  • Get interrogated by US Homeland security – check
  • Tell lies to US Homeland security about whether you have any food or not and how much cash you’re bringing into the country – check. I don’t even know why I lied about the cash but they automatically make you feel like you’ve done something wrong so I did!
  • Distribute cash in separate locations so you can’t lose it all in one go and then forget where you’ve put it – check
  • Go to Walmarts and buy too much food – check
  • Ensure your food cache is a triumph of sugar and junk food over sensible slow-burn carbs – check
  • Look at the small selection of clothes you brought and think ‘seriously, is that it?!!’ and ‘I don’t know why I packed that top as I don’t even like it’ – check

If anyone knows how to set up a new blog category using the Word Press app, please let me know as I should file this separately from my other posts but not sure how – thank you.

Bye for now!

Days 65 to 70: photo journal

Day 65: about 32 miles south of Pie Town to just past Wall Lake

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Lunch under a juniper tree

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Bark of Alligator Skin juniper

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Gila National Forest

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Day 66: Wall Lake to Mesa campground

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More Gila National Forest

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Arlene and Bill who were camping at Mesa campground, half-emptied their camper of food and gave it to us, then we chewed the fat over a Gatorade – they were lovely!

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Day 67: Mesa campground to Silver City

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Old town of Pinos Altos

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Day 68 and 69 (done in one day): Silver City to verge halfway down Highway 146

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Riding through the Yucca desert

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Riding across washes

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Dead town of Separ (now just a single shop)

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Deserted Highway 146 (that’s Mexico in the distance)

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Dodging Border Control Guards stealth-camping on the edge of the highway in the Chihuahua desert

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Day 70: 10 miles down Highway 146 to Hachita

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Miles of road on Highway 9 to Columbus with very few cars bar Border Police (and one in a bullet-proof vest going up and down the barbed wire fence on a quad bike)

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Should be illegal but isn’t:

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Finally…

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Some bins at the border

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Going to cheat and end on this one (actually Colorado) as my border shot is dead boring but it’s not really *air punch* territory

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Escoozie, are you Mecheeco?

Done it – made it to Mexico!

Got there 1 night, 2 days after leaving Silver City. Day 1 you’re mostly riding through Yucca desert until you reach Separ (which is a shop, period) and take the road directly south to Hachita (a couple of houses and a dog), where you hit Tarmac with not a lot either side of it.

Well, in the day time there’s not a lot. In the night time, there’s me in my tent on the side of the highway trying to hide behind a bush. I fear I was unsuccessful but the Border Control Guards patrolling up and down in their cars left me alone and it was quite a peaceful night with just them and a small hot air balloon drone in the area as there’s no real reason for anyone else to be there unless you’re an illegal immigrant making a run for it, drug or people trafficker.

View from my strategic hideout:

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I didn’t see any illegal activity but I did see THIS:

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No exaggeration to say it’s mandibles were at least a foot long and as thick as my arm. Seriously.

Day 2 you just put The Best of Fleetwood Mac or the Les Miserables West End cast recording some cool tunes on loop and ride down a near empty road towards mirages and endless false horizons before the tiny town of Columbus appears, 3 miles north of the border.

I’m including this sign as proof as the border shot below could be taken anywhere but it is in fact at the Mexican border between Columbus and Palomas.

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Border shot:

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The Latin flair for knowing how to throw a proper party obviously rubbed off on Daniel and I (who showed up a few hours after me despite haven’t ridden an extra 50 miles or so!) as we drank a couple of beers, ate tortilla chips and sour cream dip, got pissed off with the mosquitos and retreated to our tents at about 8.30pm.

We did go across the border in the morning to see what Mexico looked like, riding about 200m down the main street, the buildings petering out into empty desert so turning around and riding 200m back to the border. The Mexican border guards waved us through on our bikes without even looking to see if we had passports, let alone opening and scanning them. Predictably, getting back into the US was tougher and involved a 15 minute wait in the waiting room without my passport nervously contemplating whether they were right, I am a terrorist, I just don’t know it yet.

So that’s it for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route! Vital statistics are:

Total number of miles: 2,900 (well, not really given the route is 2,700 but an extra 70 to El Paso, off-route campsites, going the wrong way a few times and a weaving front wheel up steep slopes means the odometer has both accurately and falsely upped the mileage)
Days: 67 days in total, about 8-9 of those being rest days
Longest day: 77 miles paved road, 74 dirt roads
Total climbing: over 200,000 ft, more than 7 times up Everest from sea level
Punctures: 6. Let’s not talk about them
Fellow runners and riders: 4 DNFs out of 13 other riders met (excluding those who only ever planned to do part of it)
Calories consumed: at least 40 billion. Seriously.
End tan: is that the girl from Ipanema I see?
Leg muscle tone: think the sculpted limbs of a wild mustang
Falls: 1 proper one in sand in New Mexico, 1 minor slip after being indecisive in mud and 1 minor one when exhausted and going so slowly up a hill I toppled over sideways
Most listened to music: Invisible Touch (Genesis) for pushing up hills in Canada and Montana; I Am Woman (Helen Reddy) for similar hill pushing; my Random Spotify playlist; Best of the 80s; Reggae Legends (long, not too steep Colorado hill climbs); Best of Fleetwood Mac and, shhhhh…., Les Miserable West End cast recording when knocking out the miles in the flat bits of New Mexico
Favourite towns: Fernie, Steamboat and Salida
Worst towns: Rawlins and Grants (sorry Grants, part of me does like you really…)
Favourite bits: Richmond Peak, stretch round the outside of Glacier NP, Fleecer Ridge, first few days in Canada, Boreas Pass and stretch from Cuba to Grants
Highest scoring animals: Grizzly bear (with hindsight, that was previously under-marked) and the beaver

Finally, thanks America, you’ve been a great host! Thanks to the people for their unfailing kindness and generosity, gifts of food and drink, verbal encouragement or a simple thumbs up out the window of a passing car – you made my trip – and thanks to the land for putting on an amazing visual display!

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(It says ‘The End’ in Reggie’s map holder but you can’t see it that well)

Kit list

Cycling shorts, Cycling leggings, 2 x merino sleeveless tops, Merino t-shirt, Long-sleeved hooded merino top, Down jacket, Windproof jacket, Waterproof jacket, Waterproof trousers, Cycling gloves, Wool gloves, White skirt, Pink shorts, Cream top, Sunglasses, Buff, 2 x pairs of socks, 2 x sports bras and one normal bra, Knickers, Eye patches, Flip flips, Five Ten cycling shoes, Travel towel, First aid kit, Toiletries, Face scrubber, Bear bell, Bear spray, Mosquito repellent, Suntan cream, Chamois crème and Sudocreme, Bowl and spork, 2 water bottles, Platypus water bladder, Foldable rucksack, Water purification tablets, Neutralising tablets, iPad, Camera, Adaptor, Power Monkey Extreme solar charger battery pack, SPOT GPS tracker, Garmin GPS, Spare batteries, 7 x Maps, Cycling the Great Divide book, Bike repair kit (2 x inner tubes, Puncture repair kit, Chain lube, Chain links, Multi-tool, Zip ties). Sent home: Second pair of cycling shorts, Long-sleeved top, Leggings, Trousers, Socks, Stove, Plate, Saucepan, Washing up cloth, Kindle, Bear canister. Purchased on tour: T-shirt and water bottle from Steamboat Springs, Fleece leggings, Sun sleeves, Leg warmers 

Interview given at end of the trip

http://www.josiebikelife.com/2015/01/women-on-bikes-series-anna-w.html

Women on Bikes Series: Anna Williams

I’m 37, live in London and work in Market Research – I’m a freelancer, hence I gave myself a bit of time off to ride the Divide!

Day-to-day I enjoy outdoor activities but am not over-achieving sporty type (in fact, I’ve come in the bottom 10 of a triathlon TWICE!). In terms of cycling, I didn’t have a bike until the start of 2013, which I bought as I’d entered a 100 race on a post-Olympics high, not really expecting to get in but I found out in January I got a place through the ballot.

So I trained for that, enjoyed cycling and, with a natural love of travel and of the US, an extended bike trip out there seemed a good idea. 
Plus I love animals and the thought of seeing bears, wild horses and antelopes was just too enticing! And I like burgers…and fries…and milkshakes…so, all-in-all, there was a big draw to do the Divide and, aside from fear of losing clients having a career break, not too much holding me back. I figured life on the road would be cheaper than day-to-day London living. 

What motivated you to start cycling? 

I’m an Olympics baby! I watched the London Olympics Road Race live and that, coupled with all the buzz in London post-games made me enter the ballot for a place in the Ride London 100 mile event, a public race which follows the Olympics course, just with fewer climbs of Box Hill. I was lucky enough to get a place, bought a bike and that was the start of me cycling.

I didn’t really start combining adventure and cycling until I did a few overnight microadventures a few hours from where I live in London. Around the same time, a good friend of mine (http://uninspiredramblings.com/ )got quite into bike touring and his enthusiasm rubbed off a bit!

You recently rode the Divide, what made you decide to take on that challenge? 

Interesting you use the word challenge as I wasn’t looking to challenge myself, just enjoy a fun ride somewhere beautiful, although I suppose there are far easier routes I could have chosen!

The Divide ticked all my important boxes:

I’m not really a planner and didn’t feel I had the time, patience or inclination to pour over maps and plan a route of my own: I fancied a route I could do pretty much straightaway or I felt I may go off the idea (then latterly regret it) or life would take over and my plans would never materialise. Being able to buy easy to follow maps of a route and a book from the American Cycling Association  with a suggested 70 day breakdown of the route was perfect for me

     It’s off-road but not mountain-biking: I had an accident on the roads that actually put me off cycling for 15 years!  I was forced to overcome that fear whilst training for the 100 mile race but a mild fear of cars still lingers. I’m not a MTBer so didn’t want too off-road – the Divide is the perfect mix of not much tarmac but not too much standing on the pedals, white-knuckle stuff either

     I love that sort of scenery and am a big animal fan: the sun shining off glacial streams, Grizzly bears going for a wonder, miles of pristine forest, colourful alpine flowers, wild antelope… enough said!

     It’s in an English-speaking country: I went on my own and, given it was a short break rather than immersing myself in a longer, global tour, the idea of being able to readily converse with the locals appealed. Not that I’m adverse to non-English countries – far from it! – I think it just felt that at least one element would be familiar when engaging in an activity I hadn’t done anything like before and sometimes I think you need a little comfort factor

What was one of the most difficult experiences you encountered while riding the Divide? 

Physically, mud in Wyoming and some rocky climbs in New Mexico!

Mentally, it was one when someone I met early on in the trip pretty much I implied I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was furious at him for being so de-motivating  and crushing someone’s dreams before they’d really got going in even trying to make them true!

What was one of the most exciting experiences you’ve had while riding the Divide? 

Some of the thunderstorms were epic!  One struck when I was on a particularly primitive road which soon turned to clay and I was literally stuck in the mud, so had to dump my bike by the side of the road, pick up my panniers and make my way to a few square feet of rocky ground that could support a tent. I spent the night there with an unpegged-down tent being rolled in the wind like a tumbleweed ball with me inside it. Next morning, I saw some Grizzly bear prints in the mud not far down the road – exciting night!  

How did you prepare yourself for the journey? 

I tried not to get overly caught up in preparation and get carried away reading too many forums etc. where you read contradictory things which mean it can take you ages to make any kit-buying decisions! I bought Tom Allen’s Essential Gear for Adventure Cycle Touringhttp://gearforcycletouring.com/?from=13 which is great for, in the author’s words, “non-gear-nerds”.

Deciding which bike I wanted was the main thing but it didn’t take me long to settle on a Surly Troll. Physically I made sure I was reasonably fit but figured we simply don’t have the same scale hills in the UK as in the Rockies so there was no point in trying to get myself up to Divide-level fitness before I was out there as it simply wouldn’t happen!

Most of my prep was psychological, telling myself I only had to try it, not finish it.

Was the ride everything you had hoped it would be? If you were to do it again, would you change anything? 

It was more than I hoped it would be! I wasn’t really sure whether I’d find the Divide too physically and mentally challenging, or too remote, but it wasn’t at all.

I’d love to do it again. I was glad I did it on my own and would actually recommend others do so too: contrary to what you might expect, you can have more fun as I think local people are more prone to approaching and offering a meal, accommodation etc. to people on their own; you come across plenty of other riders to not feel lonely; and challenging conditions – hills, fatigue etc. – can put a real strain on relationships so, if you started the route with the wrong person, I think you’re unlikely to finish it with that person!. However, if I do it a second time, I’d consider riding it with someone else purely to change the dynamic from my first experience (and cut down the number of selfies taken).

What did you learn about yourself on the trip? 

I learnt that if I do things my own way, there probably is quite a lot I can achieve in life and if I try and follow what works for other people, the opposite may be true!   

Doing the Divide my style was really important to me and I didn’t follow a lot of the ‘rules’ about travelling light, training etc., but I followed an approach that intuitively felt right to me. I don’t mean I ignored the advice of experienced people or didn’t make what-to-take decisions without a sensible head on, I just felt that if I was to have a fighting chance of reaching Mexico, I’d have to travel in a way that I knew I could deal with and enjoy. So I followed my instincts about what I felt was an ok fitness to go into it with, how much researching the route to do beforehand etc. and, sure enough, it worked for me!  I think that if I’d been steered too much by other people, I’d have got overwhelmed and not even started it.

Which location during your ride did you feel was your most favorite and why? 

You can’t ask that – that’s like asking a parent which child is their favourite when they see equally great things in their whole brood!

If I had to pick one bit, I’ll say Fleecer Ridge which is notorious for an extremely steep, hike-a-bike DOWNhill section.  I’d been dreading it but it was beautiful and I loved the idea that it had totally blown my expectations out the water. 

What should people know about the Divide before they make the decision to go on their own journey? 

That it’s not as hard as some people make out! I think people in general (especially blokes 😉 ) have a tendency to over-dramatize how hard things are as it makes for a better story than saying “it’s fine”.  Get in the right mindset, and it’s really enjoyable and not too physically challenging at all! It becomes clear over time that there is no flat on the route (end of New Mexico aside), just less steep versions of up or down – but accept that fact early doors and you’re laughing!  

And be prepared for bad weather – the temperature fluctuated by 35oC when I was out there – so don’t leave the bulky cold / wet weather gear behind thinking you’re willing to chance it.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all? 

I actually use flat pedals. I know they’re not as efficient but after my accident I have a mild fear of being attached to my bike, even though I know it’s unjustified as you can release very quickly!

What do you love about riding your bike? 

It’s hard to put into words but there’s something quite magical in manoeuvring a heaving beast of a fully-laden bike off the ground into the standing position, swinging your leg over and then, with one simply foot stroke, you glide away almost effortlessly!

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them? 

I’ve got a Trek 7.6 which was a fairly light-weight but not too expensive bike for my 100 mile race. I wanted a hybrid bike as I’m not familiar with drop handlebars and they scare me!  

For the Great Divide I got a 14” Surly Troll as they have a great rep as an off-road touring bike and, being 5ft 2, 29ers aren’t a great option for me so that rules out a few models.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends? 

My FiveTen Freerider shoes are fab – so comfy and better than proper cycling shoes for when you need to get off and push – and Assos shorts cost a fortune but I love them!

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? 

If you’re talking about cycling touring specifically, I’d say it’s a fear of not knowing enough about the mechanics of bikes. I did a basic maintenance and still don’t know a lot about how to fix a bike but I knew enough to stay safe on the Divide. Unless you’re really, really remote, the chances are you can have a mechanical failure and someone will rescue you in a few hours so you don’t need to know how to fix anything but the basics of puncture repair and brake tightening are invaluable. 

What do you feel could happen to make changes and/or encourage more women to ride? 

I think blokes get a kick out of a bike being a machine to love and tinker with. I’m not sure women have the tinkering gene to the same extent and it’s more just a medium of transport! If more women felt comfortable in the fact that you don’t have to be part of a bike-loving, gear-nerd crowd to enjoy riding, there might be a few more female bikers.