In just a little over three weeks this past summer (ending quite properly on the 4th of July), Jay rode a mountain bike from Banff (Canada) to the Mexican Border. Along with a handful of other seemingly crazypeople - he completed this 2,700+ mile journey which included over 200,000 feet of climbing (the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest seven times).
Jay had one gear and no suspension (re-read that last sentence ... go ahead, we'll give you a moment). We recently sat down with him to ask WTF!! and learn more about this epic journey. Enjoy-
Aside from working at a bike shop (and riding bikes vigorously every day), was there anything else that helped you get prepared for this journey?
I think I had a good idea of what it took mentally going into the race. I have participated in a lot of endurance gravel events in the midwest before moving out to SoCal and have gone to that dark, dark place in my brain several times during these events. I knew the divide would be similar and different. I had no idea how my body would hold up to the day to day physical nature of the ride and tried to prepare for that more so than the mental aspect. I never ride with music and bought an iPod Nano for the trip. I had at least one earbud in even while riding in a group and talking to people, while I was alone I would put both in and jam out to some classic rock. Having music with me helped so so so much. Normally I find that listening to music helps me keep track of time subconsciously, 5 minutes for this song, 3 minutes for that song. On the divide we had nothing to do but ride our bikes all day long and I was lost in the beauty of the areas we were riding in and happy to have a soundtrack for the ride. I also camp a lot and probably camped more than most during the race. Having a comfort of being "out there" was huge and I looked forward to setting up camp every evening and watching for shooting stars.
Ballpark a dollar value that you spent to make this happen (transportation, food, lodging, etc)
I would estimate that the race cost about $5,000 all said and done. You can't really put a price on this race, it's truly life changing. We also had car issues during the race. My girlfriend was taking a road trip in my car and we got bad gas along the way to the start of the race. The oil company ended up paying the expenses but we had to put a lot of it up front to cover costs. Good times!
Describe your average meal plan - what were you eating/drinking? How much were you eating/drinking?
The first week I feel like I was eating similar to how I normally eat and a similar quantity...that didn't last long. The second and third week was eating as much as I could find. The best days were when you would wake up in a town or close to a town and get a nice breakfast to kickstart the day. It really is true that breakfast is the most important meal. There were days where we would wake up and have 90 miles to cover before we hit a gas station or town. Most of the time on those days you felt hungover and slow from eating junk and not getting a solid meal in. A lot of the time we were eating pretty unhealthy. I am guessing the diet varied from rider to rider. I was eating a lot of beef jerky, pop tarts, powdered donuts, Naked juices, chips, and those delicious fruit pies that have 400-500 Calories per pie. Basically I looked for the best bang for your buck as far as a Calorie to dollar ratio. Lots of Coca-Cola was consumed, Red Bull, Naked smoothies as I mentioned earlier gave me some vitamins and have close to 400 Calories. When we would stop at restaurants I would eat whatever sounded good....biscuits and gravy, pancakes, burgers, anything you can imagine. It was really fun and exciting to go into a restaurant and eat anything you wanted to. Several meals we ate 2-3 plates of food or entrees while we were there and got hot food to go. When we were in Pie Town, NM we got two pies to go and had them for dinner that night during a 200 mile stretch with no services.
Scariest moment? Most thrilling moment?
Three scary moments stick out. We saw a grizzly on day two of the race. Thankfully we had bear spray and loud emergency whistles to scare it off but I heard of several grizzlies getting aggressive with several friends after the race was over. Another moment I rode through a thunderstorm on all directions for 50 miles and managed to stay dry the entire time...very crazy. The scariest moment was watching a customer at a gas station we were stopped at pass away in front of our eyes. His mom was driving and he was released from the hospital earlier in the day and had a seizure or heart attack and stopped breathing in front of our eyes. We tried to help pull him from the car as the paramedics arrived. One friend I was riding with assisted with CPR and a defibrillator. An ambulance showed up and he was shocked over 30 times all together and didn't come back. It was a very weird day and set an interesting mood for the rest of the ride that day.
One of the most thrilling moments was being offered two trouts from a fisherman in a kayak at a lake we were stopped at in Wyoming. He cleaned a brown and mackinaw trout and put them in a bag of ice for us. We cooked it over a fire in some aluminum foil that night and managed to grab a six pack of IPA from the gas station. It was a great night and we woke up with a view of the Teton's in the morning!!
Describe the craziest person(s) you met along the way
My friend Seth and I were stopped outside of Radium, CO and were having lunch by a river that was known for rafting trips. We saw several rafters float by and all of a sudden an older man with crossed eyes, a white ponytail, baggy sweatpants, and a beer gut hanging out of a worn white t-shirt approached us. He asked us if he could check out our rides and we told him absolutely. He then sat across from the table we were eating at and proceeded to tell us that he was a licensed massage therapist and as a special offer for our efforts he wanted to "do our feet". I told him that my feet were pretty gnarly and had some blisters going and that I would pass. Seth politely declined as well. The guy was bummed/mad and stormed off into the distance. Several minutes later he was standing on the bridge the rafters were paddling under and was creepily staring/heckling them. Crazy times! Trust me that we had a lot of laughs about this guy during some of the dark moments of the ride.
What advice would you give someone who's just starting to think about doing Tour Divide?
Do a lot of research. Train hard. And have your gear dialed in. You don't need to know the route by heart or even be familiar with any of it at all. The maps work well but be sure you trust your GPS and know how to use it. Be comfortable feeling "out there" and able to take care of yourself in a desolate situation. Ride with others if possible. It is truly an amazing experience and I think everyone needs to experience an adventure like this at some point in their life. Get out there and do it, buy the ticket and everything else will fall into place!
... and of course, did you get to drink any good coffee?!
I'm not a coffee drinker but ended up drinking a bunch of coffee and caffeine on the ride. A lot of the coffee I did drink was at hole in the wall diners along the route but tasted pretty darn good to me!