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People of the Tour Divide

On Day 8, when I encountered Mike Dion taking a breather under the only tree in southern Montana for miles, I couldn’t help withhold my excitement.

“You’re the first person [from the Tour Divide] I’ve seen in a week,” I exclaimed. We chatted and rode together for about 10 minutes before I took off, only to see him one more time later in the evening in Lima. If I had known he would be the last Tour Divide racer I’d see for the rest of the race, I might have stayed back just to talk with him longer.

While it is true that riding along the world’s longest mountain bike route (2,700 miles) of which >85% is off-road entails more periods of being alone than not, thank goodness I wasn’t completely isolated from human beings.

Below is a photo gallery of the folks I encountered along the journey. All of them offered words of encouragement, and some of them outright saved my butt during various crises. To all of them: thank you!

Photos not created by Felix Wong may be subject to copyright.
Stephen Gleasner all set to go moments before the start of the 2,700-mile cross-country mountain bike race.
Day 8: In Butte, MT, I wandered into The Outdoorsman bicycle shop to pick up some tubes.  I was promptly greeted by Rob, Levi Leipheimer's older brother.
Day 8: Later that night, I passed by Wise River and stopped at a bar to get a Coke.  These friendly guys cracked a lot of mosquito and bear jokes.
Day 9: In Grant, MT, I stopped by a restaurant that was permanently closed.  Thankfully, the residents nearby -- including Mike (center) and his wife Barbara (right) -- inivited me inside their home for a toast, bacon and egg breakfast.  I also bought some food and water from them.
Day 9: Mike used to live near Sacramento, CA but moved out to southern Montana 10 years ago.  He pointed out a baby coyote to me behind his back yard.
Day 9: Ten minutes after I pedaled into Lima, MT, Mike Dion (sitting, right) arrived.  Then, his mom's friend who was coincidentally passing through Lima from Salt Lake City handed me her phone to talk to his mom!
Day 10: Just as I rode across the Idaho border, I encountered this cyclist named Rich wearing a Fat Tire T-shirt.  ("Hey, the town where Fat Tire beer is made is where I'm from!" I exclaimed.)
Day 10: Rich and I rode a little bit together to where he lived in this beautiful part of Idaho.  Here he is with his brother-in-law Todd and Todd's lovely daughter Chelsea.
Day 11: In Flagg Ranch, I met Tom Cutler, a septenarian riding the TransAmeria cycling route from Portland to Virginia.
Day 11: Also in Flagg Ranch, I met these mtb tandem tourists, Angie and Colby, riding the Great Divide MTB Route south to north.  They were from Boulder, CO.
Day 13: In Atlantic City, WY, I met Clif and Andrew (seated), two motorcycle tourists at the Mercantile diner.  They were riding south-to-north so we warned each other on what to expect for our respective directions.
Mary Collier and her Siren 29-er.
Day 16: In Steamboat Springs, a local cyclist named Paulie generously bought me bagels from Bagel Works.
Day 16: At the Orange Peel bike shop, Zach did a great job working on my bike, replacing both tires, rear rim strip, rear tube, brake pads, and cables.  He also cleaned the bike and lubed the chain.
Day 16: Much thanks goes to Assam of the Orange Peel Bicycle Service for offering to free up his staff to work on my bike for free labor.
Day 17: At a knee-deep creek crossing, I encountered John Nobile, the eventual winner and record-breaker of the concurrent Great Divide Race.
Day 17: In Silverthorne, CO, a local cyclist named Dave met and rode with me.  He was following the Tour Divide online and rode with Leighton White the day before.  (Blurry photo due to camera malfunction.)
Day 20: I encountered David and Julie, two cyclists from Minnesota on hybrid bicycles who had just ridden the Bicycle Tour of Colorado and was biking up to Denver by way of the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Day 21: Miles from the New Mexico border, my cyclometer broke.  I was unable to find a replacement that night but these vacationers, Judy and her mother, fed me chili and cookies in their cabin.
Day 21: Their entire family, including Jean (left), Judy (3rd from left), Judy's mom (far right).
Day 22: I waited at an intersection very near the New Mexico border for any cyclists to come up, hoping to buy a cyclometer off of them.  No cyclists came, but Patti from Arizona (riding to Alaska) on her "police bike" gave me some Santa Fe trail mix ("from Wal-mart," she said.)
Day 22: This local cyclist, Janet, in Chama, NM introduced me to "the biggest cycling enthusiast in town" for a cyclometer.
Jenn Hopkins from Great Britain was going to race her single-speed in the shorter Great Divide Race instead of the Tour Divide race, but was here to see us off.
Day 22: Sure enough, Joshua (right) had a Cateye cyclometer two blocks away in his garage that he gave to me for free.  He saved my butt -- thanks!
Day 25: Shortly after Pie Town, NM (where there was no pie or food otherwise), I encountered northbound cycle-tourist Tim Saelens.  I was bonking badly and he very generously gave me some pasta, oatmeal, and Heed powder.
Day 25: Also helping stave off a dire starvation crisis when I ran out of food, Jim and Maureen (not shown) invited me over for tacos and also gave me some tortillas and canned food.
Day 27: The friendly folks at Gila Hike and Bike in Silver City, NM sold me some Slime tubes and also helped me clean up the rear shifting of the bike.
Some of the other racers moments before the start, including eventual winner Matthew Lee (center).
Felix Wong and his Cannondale F700 at the start.
Photo: Adrian Stingaciu
Day 2: At a roadside dairy, Kevin Hall and I stopped for food.  Left to right: Denise (staff), Kevin, Jordan (staff), Britney (staff), Felix Wong and Scott (a motorcycle rider going from Calgary, AB to Whitefish, MT).
Day 2: Kevin Hall and I camped behind an old church near Barnes Lake, BC about 30 miles north of the British Columbia-Montana border.
Day 7: I encountered Don and his friend Chris (not shown) on their BMW dual-sport motorcycles early in the afternoon.  Three hours later, they had made no more progress than I over Lava Mountain.
Day 7: Elizabeth -- the owner of the Merry Widow Health Mine -- kindly opened up a rental unit for me even though I arrived in Basin, MT after office hours.  She even brought me food!
The night before the start of the race in Banff, MTB legend John Samsted gave a talk to the racers.