A cycle journey across the Great Divide
Some books engage you in the first few lines, others take a few pages, and yet others never make the grade. I have a simple rule of thumb: if a book does not engage me within the first 50 pages, I consign it to the heap of the ‘great unread’.
Be brave, be strong by Jill Homer, however, had me intrigued from the first few pages. I had heard about the reputation of the Great Divide Race which, unlike the RAAM (Race across America), is a north to south adventure, following the upper levels of the Rocky Mountains, crossing the continental divide several times en route. This relatively new adventure (it’s only be going for about 15 years) starts at the Canadian border in Montana, and heads down to the Mexican border. The route that Jill Homer tackles has a 270 mile extension, starting in Banff (Alberta), following high altitude tracks for 2,740 miles, and frequently climbing over 10,000 feet.
Of the 42 starters in 2009, only 16 managed to finish, the fastest taking under 18 days, and a couple on a tandem taking only 14 hours longer. Jill Homer was the only solo lady to complete, and she set a female course record of just over 24 days. If you do your maths you will see that she averaged over 100 miles per day on rough mountain tracks, climbing over impossibly long ascents and ploughing through some of the worst weather imaginable.
The story of her derring-do is set against a backdrop of her recovery from frostbite on an earlier adventure across the frozen Alaskan plains, her uncertainties of leaving a secure job behind, and the break-up of her 8 year relationship with Geoff, a fellow-adventurer who had been her life-support system on previous escapades. Alongside her battles with self-doubt, anger, exhaustion, appalling weather and injuries, we see a person pulling through and completing the course, triumphantly arriving at the Mexican border where her parents are waiting for her. This is not a venture that commands the attention of the world, nor even the attention of anyone other than a small band of Great Divide enthusiasts, and there are no prizes other than the self-satisfaction of completing the course………. and being able to tell the story afterwards.
This is a great read for anyone (even non-cyclists) who loves the spirit of adventure. I read the Kindle version, which cost less than £2.