Just before dropping us off to begin our ride of the Great Divide, our daughter, Rachel, asked “What is it you like about these rides?”

The answer seemed obvious to me at the time but it obviously wasn’t to Rachel. I’ve had six weeks to ponder her question as we have pedaled our way through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and now, New Mexico.

There is, of course, the element of discomfort: long hours in the saddle, muscle fatigue, days without bathing, exposure to the elements, etc. Many people zero in on that stuff when they consider doing something like this. Those people dismiss the whole idea out of hand.

And then there are the romantics who imagine our bicycles effortlessly transporting us through breathtakingly scenic landscapes, one picture postcard after the other. Those people would almost certainly be disappointed were they to give it a go.

That said, I think most people who complete these epic journeys are sustained by a healthy romantic streak. I am. There are six maps detailing the course of this route. We are on the fifth. I still look at that sixth map and wonder what I will see at those names on the map. I just know something wonderful awaits me. Call it curiosity. Call it naiveté. It sustains me.

But frames of mind alone don’t get you far when confronted by harsh reality. One habit that riders get into is “making your miles.” I’m guilty of this. The trip is broken up into discreet segments – days – and completing them gets addictive. The trouble with this is that when all is said and done, what was the point? I endured all that just to get from point A to point B?

No, like life itself, the real point is to partake of the experience, chew on it, smell it, reflect on it, and hopefully, in the end, enjoy it. I like riding a bicycle. I like the feeling of rolling along atop two wheel. I like the feeling of pushing on pedals – at least in the morning when I’m fresh. Late in the day when I’m just trying to make it to the designated camp site – not so much. Add to that the fact that I like drinking when I’m thirsty, eating when I’m hungry, resting when I’m tired and I can’t think of anything I’ve ever done where I get as thirsty, as hungry, or as tired as when I’m riding a bicycle over long distances.

Along this same line is the experience of finishing several days living rather primitively in a tent and sweating up steep hills and then arriving at a nice inn – in this case Abiquiu Inn in Abiquiu, New Mexico. We really weren’t expecting much since Abiquiu is a dinky collection of funky buildings. But someone has built a really nice inn here – probably to capitalize on the area’s association with the artist Georgia O’Keefe (if that name means anything to you.)

I was sweaty and tired when I asked the price of a room. I was originally quoted “$215” but when I said I’d have to check with my wife I think the woman took pity on me (this disheveled, tired-looking guy with a bicycle helmet on his head) and said she could let me have it for $165. That’s still a bit pricey for us but we really needed a place to rest up before the next few days when we will face “The toughest climb of the ride.” So I immediately said, “We’ll take it.”

What we got was no ordinary hotel room. It’s a nice little house complete with courtyard and fireplace. Have a look:



As I was saying, Rachel, I think what I like most about bicycle touring is the chance to really enjoy stuff. This room at the inn qualifies.