And that was my first day. Elkford was my tiny Antelope Wells. I had my first bad, muddy, snow-melt mountain pass to contend with. I had my first bonking experience. I had my first moment of desperation as I continued on in the dark, desperately watching for whatever light that the tiny town would emit. I had my first run-in with the wildlife, to which my trusty whistle (compass/thermometer/magnifying glass) scared back into the darkened woods. In one day I experienced a slew of emotions, tribulations, and trail conditions that would become like a trusted companion during the trip. I could always count on bad conditions, wildlife, and most of all, a sense of being all alone.
But if anything, that first day gave me hope. As I pitched a tent in an RV park at 12 AM by the light of my headlamp, I felt something incredible. It wasn’t my legs, because I couldn’t really feel them. It was pride. Here I was, second youngest person attempting this race, and I made it to Elkford, CA. As I hit my SPOT GPS, sending a message to my family and friends saying “I’m safe!”, I could reflect on what I had done.
Then I woke up. Huh, that was weird. Didn’t I just lay down? Apparently, sleep had come shockingly easy that night.
I ambled over to the local diner and ordered a huge breakfast of pancakes. I didn’t care about making it out of town right at 7 AM. I cared about pancakes. Pancakes take care of me.
I watched a bit of news while waiting for my order. Fires in the South, New Mexico and Texas ablaze. The fires were close to my home town. I said a prayer, scarfed down a stack of pancakes (Made a few of the big local loggers and miners gawk at my pancake-gobbling ability) and headed out. A big climb and then back into the mountains.
I felt fantastic. I didn’t feel like I rode 115 miles the previous day at all. I think that the weariness of the road/trail can be overshadowed by the shear sense of adventure that one obtains from starting a new path. And that’s really true with anything, at least in my life it tends to be. No matter how run down I can get, the prospect of blindly pushing through a new path always excites me. As I cruised quickly down old mining roads and over bridges onto places I have never seen, I lost any sense of forboding I had in Banff.
“I’ve met people that have ran 100 mile marathons and done Tour Divide in under 20 days. This is the biggest thing I have ever done. I can’t wait to start. “
The second day I went through at least 4 places to get food. And let me tell you, A&W’s stock price went up that day. And I actually ate at McDonalds for the first time in years. The chicken sandwhich went down easy enough. I made it to Fernie and stopped into a bike shop to pick up some lube and rest a bit. Fernie was a quaint place. It seemed older than the other towns I had gone through that day, but not in a bad way. I spoke with the mechanics on duty and asked about the other riders ahead of me. I learned that the 21 year old had quit the race. It’s official, I’m the youngest. Oh the pressure.
I pedaled my bike. The route today took me through lush forest roads of British Columbia. After following a river for awhile, My route took me up a steep road into a small community. I found a roadside ice cream and burger joint shortly after, close to 6PM, that I’m fairly certain was sent there by the angels. I consumed enough grease and sugar to push my way to where I thought I was going to be camping. But, as my journal notes,
“I planned on camping in a town 11km from the border, but I kept going. I went to the border, but kept going. I was fueled by the inticing allure of a motel room bed.”
So in the dead of the night I made it to the border of Canada and the United States. Took a picture of the sign and everything. I flashed my passport to the nice border patrol agent (Nicest one of the trip, unsurprisingly) and started in the wrong direction to Eureka.
Thankfully, I checked my GPS and saw that I was to head WEST, not SOUTH. Perfectly intuitive.
After navigating back roads, peeing twice, finishing the last bit of trail mix, and getting very cold, I made it. A motel. A glorious bastion of civilization, its neon sign chased the darkness away and stood as a beacon of all that is good in life. I walk into the gas station to reserve a room. The time was 11:49. Store closed at 12. The man at the counter said if I had been a few minutes later, he would have had the doors locked.
So many trail angels to thank for that one.