The Right Spot, S&K's Tour Divide 2014
What a precious moment, when something hits, something strikes deep within your heart, when you want to jump up and down and cry and laugh and crumple and beat on the chest of the world with your fists while feeling so elated that this thing, this feeling, has found you.  My brother Sam and sister-in-law Katie are walking uphill into the light snowfall with their bicycle, and I am careening downhill, blinking furiously, unsure what to do with the pressure in my chest, and yet giving voice to barbaric yawps and whoops of giddiness and love.
Going up

I’m staring into the trailing cusp of four wonderful days trading glances and moments with Sam and Katie as they ride their tandem mountain bike along Montana back roads, on route from Banff to the border station of Antelope Wells, New Mexico, a distant 2,745 miles and 200,000 feet of climbing away.  Four days of sleeping in the back of a car, short sleeps tucked into some random corner of a forest road as Sam and Katie slept for 4 hours in some other random corner.  Four days of driving dirt roads furiously fast to find photo opportunities and then waiting patiently on high alert for the black beast and colourful riders to suddenly appear in my lens.  Four days of rain and grit and sun and stars and gravel and cow poop and trees and monster potholes and crazy fog and pitch dark and more rain.  Four days of eating out of a passenger footwell scattered with containers of grapes and tortilla wraps and almond butter and granola bars and blueberries and who knows what else.  Four days of navigating by Gazetteer and phone-tethered laptop, estimating time and distance from me to a pink “KS” bubble pedalling 140 miles a day along a red GPS track.  Four days of seeing the grins appear as Sam and Katie caught sight of their precariously perched photographer, ensconced up an embankment or down in a ditch, on top of the car or out across the fields and ponds.  Four days of trading places, of me setting aside my busy life and coming to Sam and just being here, not playing a main role, not being an older brother, just being a photographer and an insanely quiet cheering squad.  I’ve had two really special hugs from each of them.  Yesterday, today?  It’s all blended into miles and hours and passes and potholes.

Climbing in Canada Cresting Avalanche debris Big trees and long roads Wet and loving it

There comes a time when a moment can feel so long, and yet life so short, and that life can be full of a multitude of doings and people and events and yet sometimes feel so sparse with doings and people and events that really, truly stop you in your tracks with awe.  Maybe it’s a simple joyful awe arising from a few minutes looking into someone’s eyes thinking “is this a lifetime?”, or a simple question “do you want to get there first?” that spawns a moment to last a lifetime.  But whatever that moment strikes with, out of it comes a clarity, a desire, a knowing.
Katie and Sam make a great pair Farmhouse Singletrack Freight train Flying

I’m supposed to leave Montana today, supposed to go to work meetings and home and be a wedding photographer and solve plastic puzzles of draft and shape.  Supposed to sit in my chair at home while Sam and Katie continue to pedal.  Supposed to watch the pink KS bubble traverse Wyoming… Colorado… New Mexico…  Supposed to.  Snort.  No freakin’ way!  I shouldn’t miss the meetings, it will be nice to be home for a few days, and as much as I’d rather be here, unshaven, dirty, wearing the same clothes for the fourth day in a row, I do look forward to the wedding photo challenge.  But sit in my chair patiently after that?  Uh uh.  Nope.

Down from the snowy pass Montana view 1 Montana view 2 Aero, before Ovando One end of the black beast

Sam is almost seven years younger than I am, and when we shared a room growing up in Alaska he was a mere pipsqueak.  He was still in elementary school when I graduated high school, my days full of music and AP classes and fencing and riding and then moving to Vancouver BC to begin another stage of life.  A decade later, we began to talk about the same things.  About family, about relationships, about difficulties and challenges and joys.  But I was still buried in a world of my own making, running a product design consultancy in Vancouver and Seattle, not sleeping much, living a big city life.  Busy.  But even with that busy-ness distracting me, there was a gathering sense of realization that this pipsqueak is actually rather important to me.  Now, another decade later, I finally got to show him what he does mean to me.  I finally got to wait for hours on the side of a rocky mountain road somewhere south of Banff and north of Whitefish, mildly sleep deprived, getting rained on and setting up camera equipment in the dirt, patiently waiting for Katie and him to appear.  I finally got to just listen to what his and their goals were for the next few days, where I could fit in and how.  I finally got to just tell them I’m blown away by what he and Katie are doing, and that I love them.  Pure and simple.  I’m with them, even when I’m not.  And here I am, leaving that adventure, leaving them, leaving in the midst, not done, not finished, not enough.  Ouch.  I know I have to find them in the woods again, I know deep in my heart that somewhere before the end they’ll come around a bend and I’ll be there with my cameras, wildly happy to be back in the right spot.
Heading towards Huckleberry Pass Katie, Sam and Stoker

It’s interesting, how the right spot is assumed to be a place, but sometimes it’s a someone or someones.

My phone still hasn’t found reception.  These backwoods are deep.  More patience, more accelerator, the trees fly past.

Bleep-buzz!  “Hi Mom!  What do you think about flying to Albuquerque next week and driving the back roads of New Mexico chasing Sam and Katie?”

Surprised smiles north of Abiquiu North of Grants 1 North of Grants 2 Through Hachita Long flat hot miles to the border
19 days and 8 hours later

See Sam and Katie's Pedal 2 the Sky website because they were racing not only for adventure, but to raise money for a wilderness therapy fund that helps get at-risk youths into the programs they vitally need to transform their life into something they feel is worth living.

Also, see photo albums that cover some of their 19 day and 8 hour ride: Montana and New Mexico.  And another album of other Tour Divide riders and scenes.

Peter Newbury's Published Adventures