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journal-082Hi! My name is Bill Wagner and I live with my dog in rural NC. I hope to pedal my Mountain Bike from Banff, AB Canada to the US/Mexican border at Antelope Wells, NM in an effort to raise money and awareness for the MIMA Foundation.  MIMA is a small, grassroots non-profit that is involved in a variety of humanitarian projects in both Africa and South America.  I'm a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and have worked extensively with their Surgical Program and can personally vouch for the necessity and quality of their work.  Each year MIMA screens hundreds of poor and remote villagers who need surgical procedures but have no means to pay.  If it weren't for MIMA, thousands of children and adults would be denied basic surgeries merely on the basis of access to health care.  Not a single member of MIMA receives any monetary compensation and EVERY volunteer has to generate the funds necessary to travel with the group each year.

Please join me in my adventure along The Continental Divide by opening your heart and your wallet for a great cause. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is the longest off-road bike route in the world. It is over 2700 miles long, has over 200,000 feet of elevation gain (equivalent to summiting Mount Everest from sea-level 7 times) and crosses the Continental Divide 30 times. Take a moment to explore the site if you'd like and I look forward to seeing or hearing from each of you! Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I'm sure I'll need them.

NO SPONSORS: Please know that I had to personally buy the bike, gear, maps, airline flights, etc for this fundraiser.  ALL the money goes to MIMA.

Blessings,

Bill

Final Thoughts About Ride The Divide PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Wagner   
Sunday, 12 September 2010 09:46
  • No matter how many times you check on a long climb, trust me, you're already in the lowest gear. You've been in it for over an hour now.
  • Pushing uphill you go about 2.8 mph.
  • Riding a steep or difficult climb you go about 4.6 mph.
  • The most likely underrated piece of furniture in our modern time is the picnic table.
  • While cycling in NM a can of wasp spray is as useful as a functioning water filter. Actually, it may be even more useful depending on how many loose dogs are around.
  •  Regardless of the outside temperature, kind people in Montana campgrounds that ride ATV's offer beer as the first supplemental beverage.
  • In Montana and Wyoming the battle against the mosquito is a fierce one. The way I see it there are two options: Spraying DEET about your skin and hoping the sunblock you caked on hours before is still there as a thin layer of toxic protection. Or...getting eaten to anemia!
  • If you ring the garage-door-opener button at the front desk of any hotel for more than 15 minutes and no one comes, consider it a blessing in disguise.
  • I am baffled by the fact that as the price of a hotel room goes up, the freebies go down. Example: I payed the most for lodging (ironically I guess) in Tucson at the end of my trip and the cost of the room DID NOT include Wi-Fi (that was extra if I wanted in my room) nor a free breakfast. I previously stayed in spider-infested dumps that ALL had free Wi-Fi and likely included a free breakfast. OK, so the breakfast was stale and likely months after the expiration date, but it was still free!
  • I have this vivid memory in Colorado of eating some packaged pear pieces in juice and reading the expiration date was only a few days prior. I felt so cool and tough not caring the least as they were a major portion of my liquids that night. Too bad it wasn't the same year.
  • I've said it before and I have to say it again; there's just nothing that great about the Great Basin.
  • Don't believe ANYONE who tells you that it rains in Colorado every afternoon for about 20-30 minutes. All you need to do is find shelter for the daily thunderstorm and then you can ride for many more hours after it passes. I believe now that it is a conspiracy by the Dept. Of Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce. Be afraid, be very afraid! They are lying!
  • If I had a penny for every time I ran over Cow Dung...
  • The tiny whistle I carried (and never used even once) along the whole route is proof that bears are afraid of me.
  • The coolest and also scariest animal sighting occurred for me on the very last day. About 30 miles from the border a HUGE cat crossed the road about 50 yards in front of me. This was no "here kitty-kitty"! In that one, I'm the prey, no contest. It was likely a cougar or Mt. Lion. God that was cool and sucked the air right out of my lungs.
  • As an alternate route for most all of NM, the map could read: "...or simply follow the stream bed down to the bottom".
  • Frosted Raspberry Pop-tarts are a luxury item not to be taken for granted. Montana turned out to be the only state where they were reliably acquired.
  • As for border crossings, The US Customs personnel at Mexico were more heavily armed than those near Canada but gave away ice cream sandwiches. They were also much nicer at the Mexican Border which might explain the 1 mile long line of cars trying to get back into Canada vs. 2 cars trying to get into the US. Just a hunch.
  • Taking a nap or spending a night on the floor of a bathroom might sound awful but sleeping on gravel or getting wet sounds a lot worse to me.
  • The greatest thing I was reminded of on this trip is to have faith. Faith in what one may ask? Faith in knowing that I am deeply cared for. That I can afford to worry less and trust more that all things, everything, will be alright. Tangibly feeling that kind of care and support is the greatest reward I can imagine. It was an awesome feat to bicycle the Rocky Mountain Chain but my favorite prize is to have been given that simple yet profound reminder. Of course this isn't unique to me, each of us are cared for in so many ways. Maybe living on a bike out of a tent is what I needed to be reminded of this truth? I hope I don't forget.
  • Being able to go to the sink and have endless water at the turn of a knob is a great thing. Water filters clog and bleach tastes pretty bad.
 
Day 56 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Wagner   
Thursday, 26 August 2010 18:02
Day 56--45 Miles 

The end of the pavement--Snakes, Spiders, Windmills and a van heading north...eventually

I forgot to mention the reason we all had a great position and sleeping arrangement to finish today was because of the kind generosity of Hachita local Sam Hughes, and his dog Bear. Not sure what number angel that is but you get the point. The six of us turned his front yard into a small Tent City and we planned to store all the gear in the largest tent and head to the border on mostly empty bikes. Most of us agreed that riding the empty bikes made us feel like Hercules (or whatever the cycling equivalent to that is!). We had a plan to get each of us from the border, so that made the final 45 miles even that much more enjoyable with no more logistics to work out. Half of us needed to get to Tucson and the other half to Albuquerque. One of the guys (Jerry) is from Eastern NM and kindly arranged a way (with the help of his step-brother) to get us shuttled with a couple different vehicles. One group would have to wait while the other got on one vehicle back to Columbus, NM where the other van was waiting.

You know where this is going right?!

After a mostly monotonous ride (except for the snakes, spiders and windmills) we arrived at the International Border. Congratulating commenced and then we headed to the sign for the photo-ops. Border Patrol was unusually friendly (nothing like my entrance into the US those many weeks earlier) and the "head guy" gave all of us ice cream sandwiches to celebrate with. I was truly impressed with the kindness bestowed upon us. We sat there glowing in our tiny moment of victory, fame and grand accomplishment and began the final particulars of everyone's transport "the hell out of here".

That's when someone noticed the van...

We had heard of theses occasional "gypsy" buses that transport people North to Phoenix (via Tucson) but knew it was literally a hit-or-miss thing that was unreliable at best. But this van looked as legit as anything, in fact there were two of them, each toting a trailer behind. A trailer simply "made" for bike hauling!! Again the border control guy's kindness shined as he knew three of us were heading to Tucson and would rather not wait the 2-3 hours for Jerry's brother to come back if possible. He spoke to the woman in charge and it was agreed that one of the vans would take us three "smelly's" and our bikes to Tucson for a shockingly low price of $25 bucks each. You could say we were ever-so-slightly ecstatic. It took a while for both of the vans (and all their passengers) to clear customs and we were to meet them "up there" when both vans got through. We took our bikes a few hundred feet past the border back into the US and proceeded to watch all the passengers get off one van and get onto another. My first thought was "oh, look how nice and accommodating they are to make room for us three and our bikes". We loaded the bikes into the trailer and hopped on the now empty van, man this was so easy!! The other van made a U-turn back to the border and ours followed. "What the...?"

As we watched the other van GO BACK into Mexico the driver stopped ours and said he can't take us to Hachita. Three jaws dropped open. but we just made the arrangements with two interpreters about 77 seconds ago...what changed in the meantime? He asked if we could call our friends, who had now left us thinking, as we had, that we had a ride to Tucson. no cell coverage. Now we sat with no ride back to get our stuff since our new ride had changed plans and our original ride thought we got an upgrade.

the guy got out and went back towards customs to talk to his other van-people. There we sat in veritable limbo-land. After what seemed like a short eternity he agreed to take us up to Hachita, pick up our gear from Sam's yard, and come back to the border and get to Tucson via another border crossing. What? Why? Only two of the three of us had a passport and we weren't comfortable going into Mexico with this arrangement so when he got us back to Sam's we paid for 1/3 of the $75 total and said that we would rather wait here. If he were to come back through in an hour or two we would be waiting, otherwise we have to find another way to Tucson. He said he had to go back to the border and get the remainder of the party and would be back for us...we didn't hold our breath. We figured it was about a 50-50 chance that we'd see him again as we now started formulating scenarios that would get us to Tucson. Nearly all of them involved MORE PEDALING as my mind almost couldn't imagine a more cruel joke.

At nearly two hours to the minute when we unloaded our stuff the van pulled up in front of Sam's place as we all sat there hot, exhausted and irritable. "Gentlemen, our ship has arrived" I remember saying as we were ecstatic to see the sight of that thing. We re-loaded the bikes and all our gear, hopped on, and in minutes were FLYING down the road. In an unplanned synchronicity we all looked at each other in shock at how FAST we were ZIPPING down the road!! as quickly as it all seemed to fall apart it got put back together, it felt almost make believe.

Watching the landscape whiz by at 75 mph was kind of frightening at first, good God he's driving fast! At the first stop for pee and gas one of us bought some Dramamine form the remaining two hours to Tucson. We got dropped off where the interstate meets a main road headed North to Downtown and South towards the airport. We had different ideas of where to spend the night so it was here that we parted ways. I spent the next HOUR, now almost dark, before I found a hotel! Apparently the adventure had one last laugh to get out of me!

So I'm in Tucson resting and waiting for a few days for my flight out to Syracuse. I need to find the bike shop to box up my bike and then the grocery store for pop-tarts.

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Day 55 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Wagner   
Thursday, 26 August 2010 09:14
Day 55-81 Miles 

A lot of miles but an enjoyable day in the saddle. Steve and I have increased our group to six as others have caught up to us. It's a good thing as there is strength in numbers as we head into the land of drugs and thugs. We passed a bunch of border patrol trucks today which reminds us all that the problem with illegal immigration is huge and likely not going away any time soon. I talked with a USDA guy for a while before I crossed over I-10 and he said to..."Y'all definitely don't want to go south of here by yourself. All along the interstate you're gonna see abandoned backpacks, bikes, shit maybe even cars. Just keep pedaling, them's all the drug runner's crap. The problem is that people up here use the shit; if they didn't there wouldn't be all this mess. They want to legalize it but I think that would make the problem worse by ten-fold".

Yesterday was a day off and both Steve and I had some work that needed to get done on each of our bikes by the local shop on Silver City. as always it was good to gave a day out of the saddle. Today's ride was great for a number of reasons. They have had quite a bit more rain here than usual which turns the desert a delicious green over an otherwise bland brown. Major overcast skies: This likely dropped the temperature 15 degrees or more which makes a tremendous difference in the amount of water I need to consume and carry. Unique Terrain: Once I got up on the Divide it felt like I was on another planet. Rolling hills with Yucca scatter all around and huge mountain ranges filling out the horizon in every direction. Really beautiful visuals for miles on end. And the group, it's nice to be traveling with others. The miles go by much easier and we are all anxious to arrive at the final destination equally...and in one piece.

The grasshopper's here are somewhat indescribable. They are everywhere, huge, disgusting and cover nearly every surface of the earth! Simply put, while pedaling along, considerable crunching and splatting is occurring endlessly.

We crossed the Continental Divide for the last (29th) time and it seems NM does get the last laugh as sufficient sand and mud was part of today's--one more day to go--ride.

Tomorrow I will reach the Mexican border and stop pedaling. I could write that 34 more times and not tire. I need to get to Tucson and I will, come hell or high water... or sand or heat or rain or mud. Just watch me.

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