It’s 7:57 am on a Monday and I’m sitting in the bike shop where I work having a cup of coffee with a customer. He is excited by the quality of coffee our Rocket Espresso machine makes us, and he has a new appreciation for what he calls the little things in life.
You see, Alexis has just returned from a 28-day adventure where he rode self-supported on his bike from the comforts of his home in the Bow Valley 4,400 kms south to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the great divide route. An adventure that was sparked by the movie Ride the Divide, which his girlfriend introduced him to about a year and half ago. With a mix of mountain terrain and surfaces (80% gravel, 10% trail and 10% pavement), the ride is no small feat.
On this day, I had a chance to catch up with Alexis to hear about his adventure, look at some pictures, and, well, simply dig a bit deeper into the journey he had. The first thing everyone wants to know about such big adventures is: why? He responded with a multi-faceted answer, but the main reason was he wanted to do something challenging and memorable for his 40 birthday, which happened to be smack dab in the middle of his ride. He rode a Canadian-made mountain bike called the Kobain, a 650+ wheeled hard tail bike from Devinci, equipped with the bare essentials in a variety of bike packing specific bags. He spent months gathering gear and information from local shops and other bike packing enthusiasts in the area.
His journey started off at the grand depart in Banff and he had the company of his girlfriend for the first few days. They parted ways just shy of the U.S. border and his solo journey began. After two weeks of riding solo, he met an American rider who was on the same path to New Mexico. They decided to ride together and bonded very quickly. Spending two weeks alone was hard, Alexis told me, but once he found a riding buddy, everything just seemed easier. All the logistics of finding food, water, and shelter and calculating the gaps in resources was made easier with two brains thinking it through.
When I asked Alexis what his single biggest challenge was, he told me it was the logistics and how you had to plan every move around what resources you had. Finding water and food further south was a big challenge, which forced him to carry more than in the north. Eating was also a challenge for him; trying to find high quality foods in gas stations for almost three weeks was not easy. He was always hungry and quickly realized he needed to find real foods and meals as opposed to the junk foods and bars most riders take on board. Subway was one of his favorites on this trip and he sheepishly admitted to me that he developed a real addiction to red bull. It became his late afternoon pick-me-up and his morning coffee when coffee was nowhere to be found.
Upon finishing the grueling ride, he said he felt a huge sense of relief, as opposed to the sense of happiness he thought he would feel. Shortly after hitting the border and taking the honorary finish photo, he collected his bike and headed to the airport with his newfound friend Dana. Dana, an ex-military officer, had become a forever friend, explained Alexis. He said, “It was an emotional moment saying goodbye. I get goose bumps just talking about it. We bonded and spent two full weeks together suffering and laughing.”
Once back on Canadian soil, Alexis was happily reunited with his girlfriend who had started the journey with him and who followed him daily on the live GPS tracking system. “She was the thing that I was missing the most on this adventure and it is so nice to be back in her company. My life has changed since this adventure; I now appreciate the small things we take for granted on a daily basis like food, water, shelter, a shower and a comfy bed.”
When I asked him if he would do it again he said, “No, this is mission accomplished, but if I had not completed it this time around I would probably go back to take care of unfinished business.”
This year the grand depart saw 160 starts and approximately 80 finishers, a 50% finish rate.