Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Great Divide - The Invitation

From: Mary
Sent: Sunday, 7/13/03
To: Friends and Family
Subject: We're going on a bike ride. Come with us.

Hi!

Jim and I are taking off for a biking adventure, riding our mountain bikes from the border of Canada to the border of Mexico along the Continental Divide.  Great Divide Trail mapWe'll start on July 21 in Montana -- grizzly bear country.  Nearly 2500 miles and 200,000 feet of elevation gain later, we should reach the Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.  We'll be gone three months, but with any luck we'll finish by the early October and have some time to sit on the beach in Mexico before we come back home.  Our terrific house/dog sitters will take care of things on the home front until October 15, so that's when our adventure ends.

Whose crazy idea was this?  Mine, I must admit.  Tia said, "Mary, do you hear yourself?  From one polar ice cap to another -- fleece to seersucker! Snap out of it!  Tell Jim you changed your mind!"

There have been a few moments when I've questioned my sanity just as Tia did.  I was intrigued by the idea when I first heard of the Great Divide Trail several years ago.  I called Adventure Cycling, the organization that mapped the trail, to find out about a mountain bike tour with van support, and they assured me there was no such thing.  The idea of carrying all my own gear on my bicycle did not appeal to me in the least, so I forgot about it for a while.

Last November I saw a film at the Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival that set the course for my upcoming year.  Uphill All the Way is the true story of five troubled teenage girls who ride the Great Divide Trail. The girls are students at a rehabilitative high school in Massachusetts for drug addicts, victims of sexual abuse, and juveniles that have had run-ins with the law. They signed up for the bike trip as an opportunity to prove that they can, for the first time in their lives, set a goal and meet it.   There was just one catch; they had to complete the trip as a group.  If one girl quit, the trip was over.

When the girls got on their rented bikes at the Canadian border, the trip leader had to explain to them how to use toe clips.  These girls were not athletes; they barely knew how to ride a bike!  The trip was halted three times to track down runaways.  The girls cried when they got too tired and too cold.  I cried when they succeeded.

After the movie ended I told Debbie that if those girls could do it with all their emotional problems, I could do it with my 50-year-old body and arthritic hands.  They had van support, so I figured we could do it with our motor home.  I told Jim what I wanted to do when I got home and he replied with an immediate "YES!"

Now we are ready to go.  Just in case you'd like to join us for part of the trip, I've attached our itinerary.  Ride with us or drive the motor home for a day or a week.  We've figured out how to handle the logistics whether or not we have someone to drive the motor home.  When we are on our own, we'll pack up each morning, drive to where we'll stop for the night, ride half the distance back on the trail, and then turn around and ride back to the motor home. If afternoon showers are likely, we'll ride first, then move the motor home.  We'll cover the same distance, do nearly the same elevation gain, see the same scenery.  When we do have drivers, they can do their own thing during the day and meet us each evening.  Either way, we're happy.

Our goal is to have fun, not necessarily cover every foot of this trail on a bike.  If the weather is bad, we don't have to ride that day – lightening on high mountain passes scares me almost as much as grizzly bears do.  We have flexibility to choose some exciting single track over the dirt roads of the trail if the mood moves us.

Keep in touch!
Mary

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