Story Behind The Trip

Riding the Continental Divide of the Americas, from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, solo on a motorcycle. That's the essence of this two week journey of man and connected machine rising and falling with the elevation changes of the Rocky Mountains and embracing the elements that are easily cutoff with urban life.

The Great Divide is the primary continental divide of the Americas and is defined by which way the water runs on either side of it, either draining into the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean. There are exceptions defined by other hydrological divides with water draining into the Arctic Ocean and other bodies of water. The Great Divide runs along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and thus starts up in Alaska, running through Canada, America, Mexico, all the way down through the Andes of South America and ending at Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The "great" in its name comes from the great number of elevation changes and its great length. It came into being as plate tectonics slowly collided the massive Pacific plate into the numerous plates under the Americas and pushed up the land creating the Rockies, Andes and other mountain ranges along its route about a 100 million years ago.

Getting the opportunity to motorcycle down the Great Divide, one must give thanks to the many others who have toiled in plotting the route, as there isn't one single road but instead is a connection of numerous trails and roads. It begins with the hiking community in the 1960's and the US National Scenic Trails program that provides long distance trails through natural beauty for hiking, equestrianism and bicycling. The Continental Divide Trail is a 3,100 mile hiking route that can take upwards of 6 months to complete on foot and is still being fully defined. For those that don't have that much time, the Adventure Cycling Association has put together the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route that is different from the CDT, but crosses paths with it along the way. It's the longest and most challenging off-road bicycle route in the world and is highly regarded by bicyclists the world over. The route connects various national forest roads and takes about 3 months to complete.

For those of us that have discovered the joys of long distance motorcycling through remote lands, have been granted a boon by Mark Sampson when in 2005 he put together a GPS route based on the above mountain bike route and shared it freely on his website for all riders to enjoy. With motorized two-wheels, the route can be done leisurely in 2 weeks.

With my South America plans pushed back a bit, I was looking for a good 2 week off-road trip and initially thought of tackling the famous Trans-America Trail, but the time needed to successfully do that trip and the off-road expertise required in some sections pointed me to the more benign CDR route. Another factor in picking the CDR and its mild off-road routes was that I tore my right ACL in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado in January 2009 and had reconstructive surgery a month after with a minimum 6 month recovery period and wanted a trip that wouldn't put too much stress through the healing muscles and joints. I figured I would give myself as much time to recover as possible and squeeze in the trip before the end of the riding season through the high altitudes.

Just as on my trip to Alaska last year, I was looking forward to spending time in vast beautiful wildernesses and hoping to camp as much as possible. I love the idea of being as self-sustaining as you can be within your means and wanted to have the freedom of providing my own shelter, warm food, clean drinking water and electricity, which I achieved by carrying light-weight camping equipment, hydratable foods, a water filter and powering my electronics through the motorcycle. I would also be using this trip as a test run for all my gear before I embarked on a bigger trip.

Next: The Route Plan

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