Continental Divide

Approximately 80 million years ago, the growth of the Rocky Mountains in the United States was probably caused by an unusual subduction, where the, plate dove at a shallow angle below the North American plate resulting in creating the Continental Divide or Great divide.

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In North America, the Continental Divide is a series of mountain ridges stretching from Alaska to Mexico, marking the separation of drainage basins that empty into the Pacific Ocean or Bering Sea from those that empty into the Arctic or Atlantic Oceans or the Gulf of Mexico. So, depending on where you pour your beer on this great divide, it has five directions to go.

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Since I love motorcycles, beer and science, this sounded like a noble experiment.

I needed a guide that had been around since the beginning. Jim Hyde was the man. While Jim’s age wasn’t measured in geological time, his knowledge and experience of travelling the Great Divide on dual sport adventure bikes was solid.

Jim’s company, Rawhyde Adventures, offers its acclaimed “Adventure Camp” training program. In two short years, it became the #1 Enduro training facility in the country, a position it still holds to this day. RawHyde Adventures now offers many programs for riders from training to global tour opportunities.

Our 2,500 mile journey would start in New Mexico and travels through Colorado, Wyoming Idaho and ends in Montana. It has altitudes ranging from 4,000 feet to 13,000 feet. The Continental Divide or Great Divide controls weather patterns, which oceans receive outflows from thousands of water sources, dividing animal habitats and flora. 

With our team assembled and ready to go, we headed off into the mountains. Like all great missions, it started off perfectly. The usual throttle twisting through postcards was our ‘moto’ operandi.

Well…that lasted only one day. A crashing sound echoed through the valley and along the ridge. THUNDER…an ominous warning of things to come or Thor’s appreciation of dual sport motorcycles. Unfortunately, it was the warning.

Jim scanned one of his many GPS devices and noted that the current path of a storm cell is headed our direction. Now the BMW GS 1200 is fast, but not fast enough to outrun storm clouds along the Rockies. The clouds opened up with a deluge. The rocky little streams we crossed a day earlier were now rivers. The hard packed mud paths had turned in to a soft slippery slime with the consistency of frosting on cupcakes. We referred to it as ‘dragon snot’. Bikes were no longer modes of transportation in this condition, but rather mechanized two-wheeled bumper cars.

The rain did not give up for days and we had to make numerous alterations to the path. Six inches…seven inches…eight inches…the rain wouldn’t stop. We started gathering up the bikes two by two. We didn’t have tools to build an Ark and nobody knew how to measure a cubit. So I opened the Amazon App on my sat phone and planned to purchase the following. WTF!? No Prime delivery…this would never work.

With his years of experience, Jim deftly guided the team through mud, relentless rain and blinding fog. Scanning the group like a sheep dog, Jim noticed that two of the easily distracted ones were missing.

“What the flock… where is Brad and Evan?”, Jim mumbled under his breath.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Colorado…

Out of the soupy fog, two lone riders emerged.

“Eh…what’s up Evan…this doesn’t look like Albuquerque”, I quipped.

Not to be outdone by the softball I delivered, Evan quickly retorted, “I told you we should’ve turned right at Pismo Beach.”

“Great Evan… that is the last time I follow behind someone that uses My First GPS by Playskool. What do you think we should do?”

Now there is something you need to know about Evan Firstman. He is a nomad, a travelling minstrel, a bard on two wheels, if you will. It came as no surprise when he broke out in song.

Sit right back and I’ll tell you the tale of two explorers, Brad and me,
In a country wide, on the Great Divide, someone had to pee.
So I pulled off track, to have Brad’s back, while he helped to grow a tree.
The engines roared, as the pack grew bored, and headed down the trail
“Follow the black line and you’ll be fine”, shouted the leader to no avail.
After one last tug, like flicking a bug, Brad hopped aboard his steed.
What could go wrong, is the purpose of this song, in the land of legal weed.

Well there are strange things done, with no midday sun, and all I had was hope.
But I knew we were lost, at such a great cost, when Brad followed a Jackalope.

The weather turned cold, and let it be told, this wasn’t in the plan
That in order thrive, even survive, we might have to sleep naked man to man.

A sacred vow to my lovely wife was the only thing on my mind, so I jumped off the bike, and my heartbeat spiked, the trail home I shall find.

I put my head to the ground, to listen for a sound, which ended up a dud
For this movie trick, was not so slick, with an ear full of freezing mud
I feared the worse, and started to curse, as daylight turned to black
So long my friend, it’s near the end.

Hey Evan…I think I see a shack !!!

It wasn’t long before we were able to join the rest of team for our shelter for the night. Although nature threw its best at us, our spirits were never dampened even if our KLIM gear was soaked. The evenings were spent with great companions. There was much toasting to cheating death yet again and lies to be told. Musical instruments seemed to materialize from out of nowhere and riders sang the songs of their people – rock, rap and folk – It was an Epic Nomad travelling road show. 

The sun finally broke through the clouds and the remainder of the ride was sublime in its beauty. The forces of nature, man and machine conspired to create a memorable journey.

For those wondering how the experiment went, an adventure rider would never purposely pour good beer on the ground.

Brad Barker1 Comment