The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is the longest off-pavement trail in the world. Stretching for 2,754 miles from Banff, Canada, to the Mexican border near Antelope, N.M., the GDMBR accumulates a total of over 200,000 feet of elevation gain. For even the most experienced of mountain bikers, the GDMBR’s unpredictable weather and rough terrain prove to put a fair amount of wear and tear on bike, body, and mind. Now imagine pedaling all of those 2,754 miles on a unicycle. Gen Shimizu from Charlottesville, Va., is one of the few to have done just that.“A lot of people said, ‘that’s really cool,’ when I first told them what I was doing,” says Shimizu, “but I’m sure behind my back they were saying, ‘this guy is nuts.’”Shimizu was by no means an avid unicycler when he first made the decision to ride the Divide. Having attended the University of Virginia to study mechanical engineering, Shimizu had lost touch with his childhood unicycling passion after high school. In fact, he hadn’t even touched the one-wheeled contraption in over a decade.“I don’t remember when or how I discovered the Great Divide Route, but when I did, I knew immediately that I’d be riding it some day,” Shimizu says. “I made the decision to ride the route about nine months before starting, and when I decided to benefit a charity I realized that I needed a way to draw attention and distinguish the ride. Getting rid of a wheel was the first thing to pop into my head.”Shimizu most certainly drew attention to his plans. During the months leading up to his trip, he attended outdoor events throughout the region and publicized his cause via social media. By the end, he had managed to raise $10,600 for the Polaris Project, an organization aimed at ending human trafficking. After donating the dough, Shimizu was ready to begin his self-supported (and self-funded) GDMBR ride.“I left on June 23, 2012,” he says. “It took me 89 days to reach the Mexican border.”The first few weeks in Canada proved to be challenging for Shimizu, especially given that he had done little to no training prior to departure.“I’d only tried riding the unicycle with a full load once before the trip and had done minimal off-road riding,” he says. “I approached the trip with the mindset that it was another long-distance backpacking trip, except with a wheel.”Despite Shimizu’s lack of mountain biking experience, he was well versed in the ways of the woods. Having thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004, traversed 1,200 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2006, and thru-hiked the Long Trail in 2011, Shimizu knew of the challenges he could encounter in the wilderness. The one challenge he had not prepared himself for were the long miles in the saddle.“Every day was a challenge,” he says. “During the first part of the trip, I was often counting by tenths of a mile and had to stop every mile just to get off the seat.”The discomfort did little to slow Shimizu down. Once he became accustomed to the routine, he was averaging 40 to 60 miles per day and resupplying every three to four days. Throughout the journey, Shimizu only suffered a sprained ankle; for him, it was more the mental challenges that were starting to take their toll.“The loneliness hit me about halfway through the trip,” Shimizu says. “I had to deal with that for a few weeks before finally meeting up with a few other cyclists in southern Colorado.”For the latter half of the ride, Shimizu seldom spent a night alone, which proved to be a comforting luxury given his fear of the dark. By the time the group reached New Mexico, Shimizu was able to keep up with his two-wheelin’ friends on steep climbs.“For me, New Mexico combined my longest mileage days with the biggest climbs, most challenging terrain, least daylight, and heaviest pack weights,” he says. “I was sometimes loaded with 22 pounds of water in addition to food and gear and trying to ride 50 to 70 miles a day over 10,000-foot passes. I was really pushing my limits.”Although Shimizu came across a few unicyclists who were riding the GDMBR, he was not exempt from the smiles and stares of disbelief whenever he cruised by a crowd. Once, Shimizu was coming upon an overlook in the Grand Teton National Park when he realized how truly spectacular a sight he was.“There were several people lined up along the road, and I realized they weren’t facing the amazing lake and mountains but the road,” he says. “I started looking around for a grizzly or some other sort of wildlife that they were photographing, but it turned out that I was the attraction.”Although Shimizu valued his time on the GDMBR, he says that he will probably forgo any future long-distance mountain unicycling trips in the future.“Every so often I’ll catch myself thinking about possibly doing another unicycle trip, but then I have to slap myself,” he says. “One of the things I value most about doing these trips is that my memories are so much more vivid. I can recall events from every day of my ride, but I’d struggle to tell you what I did two days ago.”See what it takes to ride a unicycle – and see if Jess can do it – on BRO-TV: Unicycling 101.
Ben and I have lived in a van for seven months now. Purposeful romance is usually last on the list of things we make time for, right after vacuuming our carpet and cleaning the bugs off the front bumper. Living in a van can really put a damper on the romance. Ben doesn’t fit lengthwise in the van, so he sleeps diagonally and I sleep in a corner. We go days, sometimes weeks, without a real shower. We have so many cuts and bruises and bug bites that shaving would be laughable. But somehow we still wake up each morning and say “I love you.”This did not come easily. We’ve had super low moments, where Ben has hiked in one direction, and I in the other. But for the most part, we’ve become a well-oiled machine, able to predict movements before they happen. I plug his phone in before he reaches for the cord, he sets my slippers below the bed before I lift my head from the pillow. We share romance in a different way when living in such close quarters, and in the backcountry. Here are a few suggestions for van living and backcountry hiking to help you and your sig-other adjust more quickly than we did!Bagged wine, boxed wine, doesn’t matter, just bring it.Whether you’re hiking 15 miles to your camp spot, or you are parked on the side of the road after a long drive, DO NOT forgo wine. It is essential and COMPLETELY worth packing in on long backpacks or taking up space in your tiny van. If you don’t have a half-drunken bag of wine laying around right before you set off on your trip, consider buying these. They pack down once you drink them, and are the perfect serving size at the end of a long hike day. While you’re at it, don’t forget dessert.ProTip: Bears LOVE wine. Almost more than I do. Don’t forget to pack your empty wine carriers in a smell proof bags or bear bin.Zip your sleeping bags together, just don’t forget to wear long pajamas.This applies to sleeping in the van, and also in the backcountry. A lot of brands make compatible gender specific bags, meaning the men’s zips along the left and the woman’s on the right. You can completely unzip them individually and then zip them back together so you have one huge sleeping bag to cuddle in. This is great for me because I am the perma-big spoon. With the bags zipped together, we can cuddle all night! Make sure to strap your sleeping mats together so there’s no cold hard spot between the two sleeping bags. You MUST wear long pajamas, nothing kills romance faster than sticking to the person you’re sleeping next to. Whether you’re in a van and five days out from your last shower, or a zipped together sleeping bag after a sweaty uphill slog, cover your gross, unshowered skin, and cuddle away.Pro Tip: On extra cold nights in the backcountry, make sure the area of the sleeping bag between your heads is closed so no heat can escape through space between.Skinny dip to get the hot spots.If you have the ability to get in a large body of water, DO IT! It saves you from being a sticky mess and having to wear long pajamas at night (see above). When you’re backpacking, it might be the most refreshing thing you can do. All you really need to clean is the ‘hot spots.’ Everything else is icing on the cake, and completely unnecessary. When you’re van’ing, try a solar shower if a large body of water is inaccessible or too crowded. If water isn’t available, wilderness wipes are the next best thing. And remember- hot spots!Pro Tip: There is no good way to travel with a full solar shower. Put it inside and it will absolutely spill. Leave it on a trailer or secured to the top of your van and SOMETHING will puncture it. Take it from the five solar shower fatalities we’ve had, a full solar shower is a dangerous thing.But seriously, kind words.This is the cheapest, and most effective way, to keep the romance alive when living in a van or hiking with your honey in the backcountry. There is no trick here, simply expressing your love and reminding each other you appreciate the small things they’re doing (carrying the wine so I don’t have to, and then letting me drink more than my fair share- you’re the best Ben)! You can try yelling encouragement to each other when you’re halfway up a mountain pass. Kind words can go a REALLY long way, especially when your pack feels like it’s getting heavier even though you’ve already consumed the chocolate you stashed in there just in case. Those are the times when it is most important. Especially because the chocolate is gone.Pro Tip: Kind words obviously help for us, but people communicate love in totally different ways, check out the five love languages if you haven’t already. Maybe your sweetheart would feel the romance most if you secretly stashed some chocolate for them and pulled it out at the right exact moment on that uphill climb. Okay– that works for me too.There are a few items that make romance in the backcountry a little easier. Check out this list from Elevation Outdoors for some more ideas!Ben and I finish our tour in one month and we can’t believe it’s coming to an end. We will have no idea what to do with a shower every day, food in a fridge, and sleeping in the same spot every night. If anyone has tips on how to do romance in a stationary house, we would love to hear them, because we have certainly forgotten how.If you like the gear we’re reppin’, or what we’re wearing, check out some of the sponsors that make this tour possible: La Sportiva, Crazy Creek, National Geographic, RovR Products, Sea to Summit, Mountain House, LifeStraw, and Lowe Alpine.
RelatedPosts Derby County want Jordon Ibe Ighalo: My best moment as ‘Red Devil’ Ings not interested in leaving Saints, Southampton manager says John Obi Mikel has revealed his plan to become a mentor to his Stoke City teammates as he looks to instil a long-lost winning mentality amongst Michael O’Neill’s ranks.The 33-year-old has become his new manager’s fourth signing of the summer after passing a medical on Monday afternoon. His arrival was met with much celebration amongst fans at the Bet365 stadium – but it could well be the club’s young players who have the most to gain from his capture.Mikel has played a vital part in helping Chelsea lift almost every club competition, including the Champions League, as well as leading Nigerian to African Cup of Nations glory.“It is good when you come into a football club having won so much in the game,” he said to the Stoke City website upon his arrival.“The players can look up to me and will want to listen to me so now it comes down to myself and what advice I give to the players during the game, and at training, and how I can help them at difficult times.“I am really looking forward to that.” he added. Stoke spent the 2019-20 campaign fighting at the wrong end of the Championship table but will now look to launch a push for promotion to the Premier League next term.Mikel did very little but win during his time at Stamford Bridge and it that mentality that he says he will look to instil in his new teammates.“There is always a way to win a game and we need to find that way. We need to win, win, win. It is all about winning,” he continued.“I did that all my life at Chelsea, we would win, win, win. If I can bring that mentality here then I will be very happy.”Tags: bet365 StadiumChampionshipJohn MikelPremier LeagueStoke City