Words and photos by Morgan Taylor.
Montana, oh Montana. In Montana we battled the desire for stillness with the impetus to keep moving. We sat and watched animals, we spent time in new places that excited us very much, we batted away mosquitoes and fled from them. We pedaled day by day, sometimes through remote terrain, not seeing anyone else for hours or possibly days at a time. We found our way.
This leg of our trip was inevitably going to be the one where things beyond our gear setups settled down, where our minds and bodies decided what our days would look like. No longer did we worry that others left camp early, and that we preferred to linger over another coffee; being in the outdoors is your own experience, and not one that needs to be dictated by how others travel.
We rode largely without maps, planning no more than a day or two in advance and sometimes no more than an hour or two. Having ridden far from home, we were in an unfamiliar yet somehow comfortable place, still at the beginning of a trip that at this point seemed as though it might never end. We were pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of others, whether locals or tourists, inquisitive of our journey and often wondering how they could help.
Days came and days went and we were given the time to work through long conversations about the rest of our lives both past and future. We sat with strangers, staring into embers, sharing food, understanding their approach to life. Many desire to escape to the wilderness though few carve out more than a few days at a time to do it.
In Montana we came to conclude that as bicycle travelers it was a bit like being everyone’s children. We shared campsites with people whose own children were older than us, whose curiosity about our chosen form of travel led them to be generous with their space and belongings. By no means were we needy – our bikes were as expedition-worthy as any of those motorized vehicles – but the appearance of vulnerability from an outsider’s perspective was unavoidable.
Despite our “follow your nose” approach, there’s something to be said for following an ACA route: we met more bike travelers when our route intersected one of the many that riders follow with detailed, waterproof maps. We honestly don’t feel alone out here, yet there is still a sense of comfort in sharing a picnic table and a bottle of wine with others who are pedaling the days away.
Groups of Divide riders on their plus bikes with gear strewn about. The former ultra-runner with a degenerative neurological condition, riding for possibly the last time in his life. The family of four – kids nine and twelve – traveling by bike for the past eleven months. The friends who set out annually to tackle a different ACA route for a month or so. The road riding car campers from Colorado who shared their state park campsite. The lawyer who rode the TransAm in ’76 and was driving the route doing day rides. There are so many ways to spend your days riding bikes, and all of them are worthy.
We landed in Missoula and were greeted with familiar faces, friends from around the continent who had all planned their own journeys to land in this place at this time. We soaked it in, we became comfortable, we felt at home. We could have stayed there forever. As the #DFLtheDivide crew slowly dispersed, back to their respective corners of the continent, we felt some feelings of loss. It had been so memorable, so wonderful, and so easy to fall back into the life of having a roof over our heads. We knew we had to set out yet again, to reach out into the unknown and find our community.
Our community is now the people we meet, who come into our lives sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes for a few days. We spend more time than ever with strangers, listen to what they have to say, offer and receive advice. Even short interactions can change your life course – but you have to reach out and make those interactions happen.