The new bike rolled fine. But soon I had pain in my neck and therefore I was constantly busy changing my saddle position. But it did not help much at all.
What bugged me the most was the lack of a kickstand. Surly doesn’t seem to see the need for a kickstand and haven’t built into their frames the option to mount one. If you attach a kickstand yourself, Surly gives you no guarantee for any frame damage.
One thing is certain, I need a solution for this, because in the long run this annoys me too much.
My new setup instead made me happy right away. The steering response is much better. The weight distribution is now much more sophisticated and gives me real pleasure on the trails. Surely I will still be working on bits and pieces, but the idea of bike packing has already convinced me.
For now I saw my last bear, or better said I saw the bum of my last bear who ran away from me with an incredible fast pace. He was brown. But unfortunately, I didn’t see his face, so I don’t know if it was a black bear or a Grizzly.
Montana was at first a little too settled, but after a short while the country became far more interesting and the route turned into great fun!
On average, I rode about 80-90 kilometers a day. It didn’t stress me much, so I still could enjoy it and later in the day I had enough time to make a fire in the forest. My campfire is still the most relaxing and somehow best moment of the whole day for me. I can look back to the day and the experience while enjoying the warmth of the fire.
The Great Divide is a well-known route. Every year many cyclists ride at least sections of it. Therefore, I am not the fascinating unknown person around here. People see cyclists all the time. That makes me one among many, and that is totally new and also relaxing somehow.
But that also means that people hardly invite me into their homes. I’m suddenly part of a group, even if there is no group. That also means I had somewhat less access to ordinary people than usual, something which I think is so important.
But a super nice family invited me to their vacation house. We washed gold and played table tennis together. In addition, they asked me tons of questions, which I really enjoyed. Because here in the American West, people seem to have little interest in other countries.
In a bar a 65-year-old man with a 10-year-old son invited me to his house for the night. The son was adopted. A couple of times by now I have noticed that relatively old people still adopt children. The boy was from Russia.
It was a tiny town and I was wondering that no one knew the two in the pub. But he had invited me home, so he certainly must live somewhere. I followed him and shortly afterwards he stopped in front of a hotel.
He said to the owner, that I’m going to sleep with them in the room, while the lady of the hotel starred at me as if I was from Mars. Admittedly, I was a bit surprised myself.
The lady motioned me into a side room and asked what was going on and then offered a bed in another room that I gratefully accepted.
The further south I went, the more of the forest disappeared. Which didn’t bother me much, because I have seen enough woods by now. What I missed, however, were the trails that the route supposedly should have.
The Canadian part of the track and also the northern part of Montana was full of beautiful small paths, but now further south in Montana they all disappeared. The route consisted of interconnected forest roads, and those ones were not all so pretty.
What I was totally impressed with was the tremendous kindness of motorists. Even the usually so ruthless 4×4 drivers took care that I didn’t get the stones thrown around my ears and that the dust didn’t totally enveloped me. A woman even apologized to me: “I am so sorry for the dust”. A completely new feeling of cycling here in the US.
I joined a “group”, which was formed out of individual cyclists. Although I was always the last in the morning who rode off and the last who arrived at the appointed place in the evening.
They all spoiled me and I was also very happy about the interesting discussions that we had.
One evening we all camped behind a restaurant. I woke up in the middle of the night because I heard a noise. I immediately opened up my tent and saw a giant moose cow with her calf sniffing the neighboring tent.
Wow, that was a great theater performance, but sadly before half of the campground was awake, they were unfortunately already gone again.
The Great Divide MTB Route parallels the Great Divide hiking trail and from time to time, the paths intersect.
An Israeli with his American buddy came along. They were completely at the end of their rope, and already counted the days until they finished. I had the impression that the Israeli would have liked to thrown in the towel immediately. He was thin as paper and he had difficulties to laugh when I took a picture of him. They had started in Mexico 4 months ago.
I met other hikers who were all equipped ultralight. Partly they had tinkered their backpacks themselves.
Most of them reminded me of the scene in Forrest Gump, when Forrest stood in front of Monument Valley with a long beard and totally disheveled hair and said to his followers, after he had run many thousand miles: “I have enough, I want to go home.”
Compared to the hikers we cyclists appeared as if we had just started from home, which triggered in me the thought of going on such a long hike one day myself. They were all very calm and relaxed. The slow speed seems to be reflected in their characters.
Shortly before the elections here in the US, the topic of who will be the next president is present everywhere. Even if Americans in the West have a hard time talking about politics. You do not want to hurt the others. The conservative nature of Americans is to be cautious of what you are saying. It is always present in everyday life.
Occasionally, as being a German, I am used to answering a question as honestly as I was asked, therefore I sometimes struggle to say the right thing. Americans are not nearly as direct in their statements.
Or they exaggerate tremendously and say things like “awesome, great, cool and wonderful”, which corresponds in German as a simply nice.
Actually, I don’t really want to know how many times I might have “hurt” one or the other Americans with my direct words. I always try to consider the soft nature of English speakers, but to talk around the bush is just not my style at all, but still I try my best.
Americans who’ve been to Germany, see the positive side of the direct type, because I have been told many times that even among friends and family they simply don’t get to the point.
In the election, this means that opinions are rarely exchanged. Since one does not sit in a pub and discuss or expresses his opinion and expect the next morning still have all their friends. Like we do in Germany. No, I have the feeling that Americans rather avoid jeopardizing the confrontation to keep their friendships.
Some are also surprised how much I am interested in the election.
What strikes me here in the West again and again is the lack of interest in the outside world. Half of the world is watching the upcoming election, because they all know that the election does not only effect the US.
The Americans on the other hand often fear only about their taxes, jobs and their gun control, because unfortunately many do not have a global view.
I have also been asked several times for my opinion, because people are torn. Neither Hillary nor Trump seem to be the suitable candidate. Although I must say that I have not spoken with the extreme Republicans. This world is just too strange and too extreme for me.
Certainly, there are also one or two of thoughts like: “8 years Democrats with a black president. And now even a woman? And again the Democrats? That is probably for some just out of principle way too much. But this is my personal thought and no one ever told me that. I can also not imagine that an American would actually say this so openly even if he would think this way.
But I have been repeatedly told in Montana: “Do not think, even though we’re a Republican State that we will vote for Trump”.
I like Americans very much and I really hope that at the end they know what they are doing.
Some “trip angels” were again on my side. A bar owner who treated me for dinner and breakfast, and for overnight camping behind his house.
An old woman, in a totally secluded house where I was literally cyclist number five hundred to ask her for water this year.
I met an organized bike race group that was traveling with Sherpa service. Their mechanics checked my bike, so to speak, the first check-up after purchase.
In a small town in Idaho, I didn’t really trust the area and I didn’t want to just camp somewhere on the sports field. So I went to a church, not knowing that it was a Mormon Church.
Mormons want to be super friendly to everyone and I could not convince them that I quite simply could throw my pad somewhere in the lounge on the floor of the church. No, they paid for a hotel room.
A forest fire blocked the way from Idaho to Wyoming, so I had to cycle over to Jackson and from there back up north to join the route again.
The group had parted through the fire issues and most of them pulled out anyway, which was a real shame. I liked them all very much.
In Jackson I bought a new stem to raise my handlebar, which helped immediately in lessening my neck pain. Jackson itself wasn’t my place. Wealthy, arrogant people and everything is more expensive than elsewhere.
The drivers in Wyoming were the exact opposite of those in Montana. Super ruthless. Every time the stones flew around my head when they speed past me. One driver whom I motioned to from afar to please drive slowly, instead showed me the finger and thundered with full speed past me.
From Wyoming on, the Great Divide route seemed to have the talent of bypassing interesting places, because the designers of the route, oriented it around the actual Great Divide and not necessarily to great places.
However, I personally don’t really care for the Great Divide itself, because I am seeking for the experience. I wasn’t really happy with the route any longer, there were still some great spots here and there and I initially was really thrilled about the route.
In the long run I also struggled with the red line on my map. I found this predetermined daily distance somehow bland. I’m just not one who follows the crowds. It was all too easy. I knew up front when there was a supermarket and a bike shop. Even tent sites were located.
It is also spoken of how remote the route is. This is all relative, of course. It is and remains the United States and at the latest after 3 days there is a supermarket. My self-searched route through Nevada last winter was more remote and much more appealing to me.
The Great Basin was an extreme windy area. Wind speeds of 45 mph whipped my ears day and night. Thunderstorms and a lot of rain. Encounters were with cattle and pronghorns and not much else.
The initial enthusiasm that I had for the trail was unfortunately no longer the same. But it didn’t ruin my mood. I just felt I must leave the route to have more fun again. But I was torn between my thoughts, because I somehow wanted to finish it.
I met Kirsten in the Brush Mountain Lodge. She is, what I only learned later, widely known among cyclists. She immediately gave me two hugs and cooked a perfect omelet for me. I was also given snacks for the road.
“Each cyclist is very welcome. “You’re all crazy, that’s why I support you! What do you think about sending me a postcard?” Before I knew it, she gave me her address.
Everywhere in the lodge there were pictures and posters of cyclists and I asked her how often she had cycled the Great Divide.
“Me? Not a single inch of it, I’m not nuts.”
In Colorado, the hunting season began. Bow and arrow was accepted from now on and hunters ran everywhere in camouflaged hunting clothes and bright orange hats around searching for their prey.
That’s right, they all wear camouflaged clothes and orange caps while on the hunt because they know very well that now and then hunters mistakenly shoot each other.
I wasn’t very comfortable at all. Although bow and arrow hunting is less dangerous than hunting with rifles which will start a little later in the year.
Along the mountain roads stood pickup after pickup and all were hunters. Yuk. I sent one hunter purposely in the wrong direction when he asked if I had seen any deer, even if I knew that’s totally silly.
The autumn colors were superb and the days were getting significantly colder.
In Steamboat Springs I saw my twelfth and final bear. In a parking lot. He being carved up by a woman.
A boy watched with a sad expression the scene. I could not resist to ask who killed him. The boy said nothing, but the mother: “My son.”
I immediately had images of the cute bear faces in my head. Faces which had looked at me out of the woods with their sweet noses and their huge ears posed, ready for me to cuddle them as super cute as they were. Pictures that I will never forget. Encounters that are so intense.
How is it that these people don’t see such things? Seems they don’t see it on purpose?
But luckily and obviously the boy was not happy about what he had done. The only thing at the moment that somehow reassured me.
With tears in my eyes I left the car park and the route had had its final mile for me, because I knew I would constantly be meeting hunters the entire way through the mountains.
The Great Divide has entertained me for almost 2900 KM (1800 miles) and I certainly do not regret having started it. If I’ll ever be sorry for not having cycled it to the end, I don’t know.