The most frequently asked question it seems when people first learn the rigors of the upcoming Tour Divide centers around food; as in how do riders stay fueled? It’s a good question. Pedaling remote fire roads and single track for thousands of miles and weeks on end makes eating an interesting challenge. With no sag wagon or support vehicles, the option of carrying more than a day or two’s worth of supplies isn’t viable; too much weight. The answer ironically lays in the marriage of the words ‘convenience’ and ‘gasoline’.
Of course this is a running joke in our household: gas stations and Canadians. My wife happens to believe that there is a love affair between those living north of the 49th parallel and gas stations. Perhaps she’s right. I suppose it could be genetic. Canadians are certainly more accustomed to traversing big wide open spaces where an empty tank could spell disaster. Traveling across the barren expanse of prairie states and provinces on the recruiting trail for the past 40 years was a constant reminder just how critical paying attention to your gas gauge can be. There’s not exactly a lot of AAA services on the road to Flin Flon or Fort McMurray.
Of course for anyone in their 40’s or older, gas stations used to be just that. I’m old enough to recall when we more commonly referenced them as ‘service stations’ complete with the attendant who asked you if you wanted to ‘fill ‘er up’? Checking the oil and getting your windshield washed was just part of their routine. What wasn’t common was to have access to every snack under the sun. At best in those days you might be able to tug a soda or a bad cup of instant coffee from a vending machine. That’s if you had the right change.
Once the 70’s and 80’s arrived that all magically changed. It may have been gradual, but seemingly overnight the old ‘grease monkey’ service stations disappeared and in their place were an array of shiny convenience stores with gas pumps. I’m not so sure about ‘convenience’ but clearly gas was the magnet luring hungry patrons into aisles of endless junk food. It worked. In short order a $5 gas stop became a $20 coffee, soda, snack, cigarette and beer stop. It wasn’t long before Subways, Dunkin Donuts and McDonalds started appearing next door to add to the “convenience”. Eventually they came up with hybrid stations housing all of the above under one roof. Convenience.
So when I discovered that the majority of Tour Divide riders used the small towns dotting the fringe areas of the official route as their oasis, I was unfazed. Made perfect sense to me and my Canadian riding partner, Brad. The quality of this ‘convenient fuel’ might not register at the top of anyones menu, at least not if their personal healthy was a priority. But riders on the Tour Divide quickly come to realize that the challenge is more about quantity than quality. You need calories and you need them fast. After reading the blogs of many participants, it’s obvious that riders adjust quickly to stocking up on gas station junk food. That shouldn’t be a problem for us Canadians. According to my wife, we’d prefer to dine at the local 7 Eleven anyway.