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As our departure date for our upcoming ride of the Continental Divide approaches, we find ourselves having to make some hard choices. What most attracted us about this 2600-mile ride was the remoteness of it – rarely does the route follow pavement. The vast majority of it is on rural dirt or gravel roads. Several close brushes with speeding vehicles on our last ride convinced us that bicycles and cars should keep well away from each other whenever possible.

But remote rides have problems of their own. When riding across the country on highways (as we have on several occasions) we could always count on plenty of grocery stores and cafes each day, not to mention motels and WalMarts. The wilds of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico where we will be spending the next two months on our bicycles, are rich in beautiful scenery and vehicle-free roads but sorely lacking in shopping opportunities. We can expect many stretches where we will have to carry food and water for three or more days because there are no towns or taverns for resupply.

The system preferred by Continental Divide riders that we have read about is a one-wheeled bicycle trailer, most often the model called the BOB (Beast of Burden.) These little trailers can handle up to 75 pounds. I have long shied away from a BOB because Mary and I have noticed that we always travel much lighter than most other bicycle tourists so I doubted we would need one. We gave the problem of baggage a lot of thought and what with super-light panniers and hydration packs, we figured we could get by without a BOB. But considering those long stretches without resupply, I finally gave in and ordered a BOB today.

Two things convinced me: (1) We have had rear wheels fail on our tandem bicycle on two occasions. The extra strain of heavy loads in addition to the weight of human bodies can be too much for spoked wheels – especially on the rough roads we will encounter on this ride. Putting the weight on a third wheel (that of the BOB) will go a long way toward preventing wheel failure. (2) Mary is a trooper, as her 10,000 plus miles of bicycle touring attests, but, truth be told, she is not as strong a rider as I am. To help level this playing field, I need to carry a lot more of our gear than she does. The BOB will enable me to do this. Handicapped by fifty pounds of food, water and gear, I’ll be much less likely to look over my shoulder and see Mary disappearing into the distance on uphill runs.

While I wake up in the night with concerns over how to carry heavy loads, Mary’s primary concern seems to be bears. She has heard that there are bears aplenty in the mountains of Montana and Wyoming and no amount of reassurance from me about statistical improbability will change her mind. Toward this end she has purchased an industrial-size bear spray cannister. She wanted me to arm myself with large-caliber handgun but I begged off because of the weight factor.

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As to that other matter, Rachel’s house, I’ve been tying up loose ends, trying to get it ready for the drywall installation which will be done while Mary and I are on the road. I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing me bitch about building inspectors so I won’t go into the particulars but let’s just say that electrical inspectors are no less picky than building inspectors. A plague on both their houses!

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