After a long flight and some fretting about my bike making the connections, I am finally here in Banff, Alberta at the YWCA, the official lodging for Tour Divide riders. It’s a little surreal to actually be breathing the crisp, clean, Canadian air. It smells like the coniferous forests of Southeast Alaska I remember from my childhood—a little wild.

This whole adventure started a couple years ago when I stumbled across Mike Dion’s film, “Ride the Divide,” on Netflix. Who knew there was a way to combine backpacking and cycling? Two of my great loves. And now I’m just a day away from heading south on the Tour Divide myself. Thanks for planting the seed, Mike.

It’s difficult to leave Kate and the kids behind, but Kate swears to me that she’s okay with my adventure—despite the possibility of my being eaten by bears. I promised her I would send her the pre-programed “I’m OK” message from my Spot Tracker each night. “Done for the day,” it says. “No bears. No crashes. Miss you!” Let’s hope I can live up to that. Thanks for being such an awesome, understanding wife, Kate.

Last night, while packing up my bike (which was quite unnerving, by the way, having never taken it apart to such an extent), Anna snuck downstairs, as she does, and talked my ear off. She said the most amazing thing. She told me that she was happy about my trip and that she was glad I was being brave. And that if I miss her and her brothers I should think that they are with me as I ride my bike. That’s some sensitive stuff for a 5-year-old. Wow! Quite the little pastor. She also drew a picture of the family on my bike box.

As I got on the bus for Banff today, I met my first Tour Divide riders ever. Yes, there are others out there like me, people somehow crazy enough to take on this monster of an adventure. They actually exist in the flesh—not just in Mike Dion’s movie. Kate tell’s me I’ve “found my people.” After arriving at the YWCA, several of us found an empty room downstairs and put our bikes together. We helped each other with mechanical issues, shared tools, and swapped advice. Great folks with plenty of humility to go around. I met a guy from Australia who had attempted the ride last year but was foiled by weather and ran out of time. I also ran into a Virginian, originally from Arkansas, believe it or not. He even went to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway—just across town from my alma mater, Hendrix. Small world, eh?

My bike is in business, by the way. It came through the travel perfectly despite my fretting. To test it out, I did about a mile of the Spray River Trail today, the official start of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Absolutely Beautiful.