When it comes to picking a honeymoon destination, a 2,500-mile ride up North America’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route isn’t what most couples have in mind. That wasn’t enough to stop Hannah Maia (@maiamedia) and her partner Patrick, who not only rode the route in celebration of their nuptials but also made a stunning film of the experience.
Megamoon was shortlisted for the People’s Choice award at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival in 2014, and for is currently on its 2015 World Tour; it also won the Silver Award in the ‘Best Spirit of Adventure’ film category at this year’s Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, and it’s pretty damn good!
As of today the film is available to view for free on Vimeo, but before you dive into the adventure stoke, have a read through Hannah’s short story on the challenges they faced along the way…
“In the summer of 2013 I found myself pedalling and hauling a very heavy trailer along the desert roads of New Mexico. Our guide book suggested we miss this particular section out given it was monsoon season and there was a real danger of flash floods.
As it happened our guidebook turned out to be right and it proved to be the most difficult part of the trip. Not least because our bodies were in shock. We’d only just begun the adventure, it was hot (over 40°C) and it was the desert. On day two Patrick also dropped the GPS in the one and only desert puddle. On day three we suffered from 10 punctures and were left with no spare patches. And on day four we ran out of water.
The trip was actually our honeymoon, or megamoon as I like to call it, and we were cycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR). After ten beautiful years together Patrick and I decided to tie the knot and get married. Patrick had been granted a three-month sabbatical from work so that set our timeframe. I’d also entered a lottery to win a permit to paddle the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon… and won… which placed us in the Arizona desert in July. (I’ll skip over the gnarliest and most awe-inspiring white water trip of my life but you can read more about it on my website.) For the rest of the megamoon we decided to bundle all our clothes and camping gear into two small trailers and hop onto our mountain bikes to travel along the GDMBR from New Mexico to Banff in Alberta, Canada.
At approximately 2,500 miles the GDMBR is the longest off-pavement mountain bike trail in the world and officially established by the Adventure Cycling Association who are a brilliant organisation that support a whole network of trails in America and sell maps to people like us who want to ride them.
“This route is defined by the word ‘remote’. Its remoteness equates with spectacular terrain and scenery. The entire route is basically dirt-road and mountain-pass riding every day.” – Adventure Cycling Association.
In total there are over 200,000 feet of elevation which equates to something like cycling the height of seven Mount Everests (gulp…) – but for every Everest you go up there’s an Everest you’ve got to come down. Right?
Starting in a hot and dehydrated New Mexico we were to pass through four other states before reaching Canada. Each state came with its own challenges. Colorado contained the highest mountain passes but its lush green hills and flowing rivers were enough to spur us on. In Wyoming it was windy but we went ‘off piste’ to soak in hot springs and sample the beauty of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Montana introduced us to beautiful autumnal colours, then snow. Canada was another mountainous delight, peppered with grizzly bears.
One stand-out memory was celebrating Thanksgiving with a group of Canadian Hunters. We dined on turkey and drank beer as they regaled us with hunting stories while sitting in their tent. A tent which had been there every hunting season for 40 years. It was amazing! They told us about a hiker just the week before who had spent six days without food after being bluff-charged by a bear four times. The hunters fed him too. They told us that there are too many grizzly bears in the valley now. And it was that night, near the hunters’ camp, that Patrick awoke to hear heavy breathing snuffles just outside the tent. In good husbandly behaviour he remained wide awake until morning but let me continue sleeping soundly.
We’d given ourselves a relatively leisurely pace and weren’t too hung up about going off route when we fancied it. We set out in the middle of August – the height of the New Mexico summer – and we rolled into Banff towards the end of a snowy October, nine weeks after the start.
My five top tips for riding the Great Divide:
● Take a flexible collapsible water carrier. We took along the MSR Dromlite bag which was great. It will help you through the longer waterless sections of Wyoming and New Mexico.
● Hub Dynamo. Get one, it will make charging your electronics incredibly simple. We didn’t have one but wished we did.
● Have a holiday. Salida is probably the nicest place to have a holiday from your holiday. Be sure to stay downtown, float the river in rented tubes and drink the microbrew beer which is great paired with pizza. Visit the cool bike shops in town for any two-wheeled TLC.
● Travel with someone who will let you warm your toes under their armpits. I jest, as sadly I‘m aware not all of you will have such accommodating travel companions. But be warned you could hit 10°C and +40°C in the same trip, so make sure your clothing/kit is up to the job. Descending high passes without the need to pedal is when it gets brutally cold. When it comes to packing, versatility is the watchword.
● Puncture repair patches. Take as many as you think you will need, then double it, then double it again. Take that many.
My final words of wisdom are ‘don’t hesitate’. If you are thinking about this route then bloody go and do it. It’s brilliant!”
Megamoon was created by Maia Media and premiered at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival 2014 where it was shortlisted for the People’s Choice Award. It went on to win the Silver Award for the Best Spirit of Adventure film at SHAFF 2015 and is part of the Kendal Mountain Film Festival 2015 World Tour… next stop China!