“My bike takes me places school never could,” or so says the bumper sticker on my car… As a middle school teacher, this is probably heresy, but at times I’ve found it to be true…
This is not one of those times…
Last week, one of my 7th grade students brought me a letter. Being the week before Christmas break, this was not out of the ordinary, but this one was different… There were no Starbucks gift cards, chocolate caramels, or homemade cookies, often a sign of Mom’s influence more than the student’s. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very much appreciated, but it just doesn’t have the same “magic” as when you know it comes solely from the student themselves.) This was simply a piece of paper, folded in half as a “card”, with colorful kid scratch on the front: “Feel better Mr. Schuhmann.”
She even spelled my name right!
And I was wholly unprepared for the thoughtfulness and pure, innocent kindness of what was inside…
* * *
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to a wet morning, and found my muddied coat hanging above the table where I had eaten dinner the previous evening, now a world away. I pause, pursing my lips and staring at it vacantly, before snatching it off the hook with equal disgust and relief. As I went through the motions of packing my possessions, I didn’t speak a word to my cabin mates, especially the midnight flapper, whom I had developed a considerable hatred for throughout the night. Instead, I geared up for a rehashing of last night’s endless ten mile slog over Cabin Pass. Again…
My legs have nothing for it though, and I’m forced walk many of the climbs that I easily rode yesterday. My achilles grow tighter and tighter with each step, like a wound rubber band pulled from both ends.
And rain: Over the pass. Down the pass. Beyond the pass. Another pass.
It’s amazing how quickly fortunes can change on the Tour Divide. One minute, the sun is shining and life is beautiful, and the next the clouds in your own head are darker than the ones threatening above…
(Continued from Canada you’re alright! And I think I’m getting the hang of this!)
Redesigned my stickers a bit today, and I love the new look! If you’d like one, send me a line and I’ll send you one! Also, I’ll be down in Crested Butte for Vinnetok with them over the Sept 20th weekend.
Of course, the wife wanted a pink one…
Rolling out of Sparwood on day 2, after a great feed, a bike cleanse, and a successfully fixed frame bag, I felt good. So I strategized. “Time to make up some easy miles on pavement to catch up with Tanner and Steve. Then hit Flathead Pass, then Cabin Pass, and call it a day at Wigwam campground, roughly 100 miles away. Then a hard push over Galton pass and out of Canada in under 48 hours!” Boom. Plan. Initiate.
I made it about 30 feet before my knee thought otherwise. Stiffness. Ache. Pain.
“Ok, let’s go slow instead and ease into this…” I redacted. I pedaled the next twenty miles of flat pavement painfully slow (in that it was very painful)… I didn’t let it get to me though, knowing that it would loosen up sooner or later. “Energy goes where attention is given.” Besides, the sun was shining, and I was actually able to ride with bare arms and legs for the first time since leaving Banff, and it felt GREAT!
After about an hour, the knee began to loosen up, my speed increased, and I caught Tony, Tanner, and Steve, (the complete Arizona crew), just as they were beginning their climb up to Flathead pass. Perfect. I felt great by this point, and climbed confidently, despite the mucked up trail. Life was good, and getting better. Flathead conceded with little fuss as we topped out, greeted by a sad, small remnant of snow to the side of the road. But the real fun was about to begin!
Minor snow at the top of Flathead pass. Actually warm enough to expose some skin!
The act of getting on a bicycle and pedaling for hundreds, if not thousands of miles, through every kind of wilderness in a solo, “self supported” fashion is a truly honorable, glorious, and self-fulfilling act. And due to recent forum discussions, it may be surprisingly more profound and insightful than even that!
In short, how one races the Tour Divide (and now the TransAm) could be reflective of their moral views and political affiliations… Who knew that racing a bike could be so (gasp!) political?!
Hear me out on this one….
Lately there has been a great deal of discussion on the forums regarding cheating in this year’s Tour Divide and TransAm races, and in bike-pack races in general. What constitutes as cheating, and what does not? Where is the line drawn between moral diligence and moral turpitude, and who determines it? There have been calls for more rules and more governance in order to quell the perceived flood of “immoral” racing, and counter arguments against such actions as being “un-policeable”.
Overall, the question seems to be: is there a choice in how to “Ride the Divide”? The easy answer is sure, you can choose to race it or tour it. But 130+ riders aren’t lining up in June to tour the Tour Divide. They’re lining up to race it, (and for the exhilarating experience of riding 2,700 miles with other like minders riders.) And it’s becoming quite clear that that experience means different things to different people…