Four years ago in 2015, I set off on an epic adventure to ride a mountain bike, solo, from Canada to Mexico, following the US Continental Divide as closely possible. Completing that 2,700-mile journey forever changed my perception of what an ‘adventure’ is, also giving me a hunger for more.
Those familiar with me and this blog know that the 2015 adventure is known as the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR). Since it’s been a while here’s a little refresher about that route. It was developed by the Adventure Cycling Association as an off-pavement adventure for those that like to do bikepacking.
With a quest to do more the question becomes how do I top the ‘Worlds Longest Mountain Bike Route’? Many options exist but nothing for a guy that has an aversion to riding a bike on a road shared with 2-tons of speeding madness. Maybe that something does exist by way of a quiet little race that was first run in 2017?
The little contest is called the American Trail Race (ATR), which starts at the Atlantic in North Carolina and traverses the US ending, at the Pacific in Oregon. The ATR is no ordinary Trans-America bike race, it has the exact same off-pavement flavor as the GDMBR traveling the back roads and trails of America. I was intrigued by this race but there is one little issue keeping me from throwing my hat into the ring… Ok, there are several issues but let me address the first one that came to my mind, I’m not a ‘racer’.
Following the 2017 running of the ATR, I also did some research about the route. I learned that it is based off the TransAmerica Trail developed by Sam Correro who charted an epic off-pavement cross-country trail for motorcycles and off-road vehicles. Then some crazy fools decided to do it by bike and see who can do it the fastest.
I ordered a set of Sam’s maps thinking some day I may tackle it just like the GDMBR… Not covering the states as fast as I can, against a running clock. Plus I didn’t want to adhere to the rules of being a self-supported racer.
As far as I can tell there was no 2018 ATR but when the sign-up came around for the 2019 event, I hesitantly emailed the organizers to see if there was a way to participate, not as a racer but touring? The reply was a resounding yes.
Oh Crap! Was that the answer I was looking for? A “no” would give me a valid excuse to say: “I’d do that but…” Spent several months of soul searching and looking out the window at work as if God was going to fly a banner plane past that said: “DO IT!”
Clicking the ‘send’ button on an email that said “Please include me in the 2019 ATR as touring” I’m pretty sure my heart skip a beat or two. Did I really just do that? Sending that reply meant a lot more than just getting on the bike again and riding 5,000 miles across America. It means many sacrifices: A job where my coworkers have become family, meeting my bills without a source of income, not seeing loved ones for over 3 months, and asking a woman who was looking forward to having a fun summer to wait for me. The list of sacrifices is quite lengthy making one wonder is it worth it? Well, I won’t find out sitting on the couch reading about other peoples adventures.
As I embark on this new adventure, starting June 1, past experience tells me trials on the trail are a guarantee, and there will be plenty of stories to tell. The plan is to post a daily account of my ride just as I did for the GDMBR. Be sure to subscribe to this blog in the right-hand column to get email alerts of when a new entry has been posted. Below that is a clickable icon to follow me on Instagram @manuabiker as a lot will be posted there too.