These days, my desire to be informed is conflicting with my desire to remain sane. American politics, racism, oil spills, ISIS, shootings, kidnappings… it’s enough to make you want to stop the bus and get off.
So next month, I am doing just that: Getting off a plane and onto my Super Sherpa, and I’m riding the Great Divide, an off-road trail from Banff, Alberta, down through the United States, to Antelope Wells in New Mexico, on the Mexico border.
Back in June, motorcycle racer and author Guy Martin rode the Great Divide in 20 days on a mountain bike: 4,365 kilometres, and 56,000 metres of ascent — the equivalent to scaling Mount Everest seven times.
Following Martin’s “When You Dead, You Dead” philosophy from his new book, I’ve decided to ride the divide on a new-to-me Kawasaki KL250, along with two serendipitous friends: Molly Nelson of Maine on the “Ratty Pigeon” TW 200, and Michelle Lamphere of South Dakota on her newly-acquired XT 250.
Some, like Martin says in his book, are all about the speed, breaking yourself, and “how you come back from it.” The physical and mental challenge of speed and endurance is life-changing.
Life has dealt some stinging blows this past year. Three friends and three family members died, so this immersion into the ruggedness of nature isn’t as much about doing it fast, but going slow, getting grounded, and taking the time to enjoy the basics of life. In the words of the Tragically Hip, “fully and completely”.
Leaving from Banff, Alberta and riding the divide in 30 days, give or take, we will camp, hike, sight-see and putter around taking pictures and disconnecting from the onslaught of the world news. We will be checking out curious side roads, getting lost, wet and dirty, visiting tiny towns, and engaging with local personalities. I’ll be trying out my Sherpa for the first time in late August, and as a former KLR rider, I’m anxious to see how I adjust. After I cross into Montana from British Columbia in September, I’m sure to have some pictures and a story or two, so keep an eye out for an update.
I’m giddy with excitement, and looking forward to seeing how I come back from it.