"Everyone in Canmore picks their nose. It's totally cool," said the bike shop guy in Canmore.
I nodded and laughed a little, twisting my new red blinky light in my fingers.
"Seriously. You need clear nasal passages if you're riding to Mexico."
My flight from Pittsburgh was a red-eye in the sense that my eyes were actually red when the plane touched down in Calgary at 2:00 a.m. Another Divide racer and I shuffled to the overweight baggage claim and crossed our fingers that our bikes had followed us to Canada. The doors opened. His box slid in. Another box. The doors closed. Oh god. The doors opened. My box!
We dragged the boxes over to Camp 1, a row of airport seats. I made a nest on the bench, lining my box alongside like a privacy screen. Another guy in a cycling kit wandered over and started unpacking his bike.
"Are you riding to Banff right now?" I asked. He looked confused.
"Oh I dunno. I hadn't really thought about it."
"Okay, we're sleeping right here." If he wanted to ride 80 miles right then, that was fine. But I hoped he'd get some sleep.
In the morning, coffee and bike building. Micah (bike box #2) and I set out to Banff.
Google routed us on every bike path in Calgary. It's a sprawling kind of place, which is the same impression I got when Montana and I drove past it on our way to Banff in 2014. I wish we could've seen downtown, but neither of us we're in the mood for sightseeing after a no-sleep airport night. The riding was good - sweet tailwind and sunshine all the way.
I hopped off in Canmore, where I'd planned to stay with Paul and Nola, who I met through Warmshowers. (Best site ever!) They're a really cool couple who've done all sorts of mountain climbing and bike touring around Canada. Since they're authentic Canadians, they know all about bears and they even put the hockey game on for me tonight.
From their place, I rode into Banff on the Legacy Trail.
Today Banff was full of nervous Divide racers. Riding their loaded bikes around town. Looking sideways at other people's gear. Discussing the pros and cons of bear spray. I hung out with Craig the Scatman Fowler and talked about cats. Josh Kato shook my hand. People asked what gear I was running. I know (32x20), beacuse I counted the teeth on my chainring at the airport. My brain doesn't hold onto numbers.
There was a brief collective panic when the SPOT trackers were late getting to the front desk at the YWCA. Then another panic when Banff ran out of the fancy Lithium AAA batteries recommended for max SPOT life. I checked at the camera shop in town.
"Oooh ya," the guy at the front desk told me, "Buddy came in earlier today and cleaned us oot. Another guy called a month agoo and ordered twenty packs, eh?"
People fixate on weird things when they're nervous.
I showed my face for a minute at Crazy Larry's pre race meeting in the bowling alley to meet some of the other women riding. Larry was jumping around, making balloon animals and hanging tinsel on things. I finished my drink and pedaled out of Banff.
The sky over Canmore was black. I called Paul for a ride as lightning forked across the sky and the wind whisked fat cold drops across the bike path. Paul wants to drive me to the start as well. I'll take it! He's the last SAG support I'll have till Mexico.
So there it is. Nothing left to do but pedal (and probably walk a bit too).
Cliche: As I'm getting ready for the race, I'm overwhelmed by all the support I'm getting from family, friends and random people on the street. Thank you, I love you all!