South from Banff to Antelope Wells

Photos by Terry Allen

No antelope and no wells

For U.S. Army veteran Shawn Cheshire, representing the USA as a Para-Cycling Olympian at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro had been the crowning achievement of her recovery from an injury in 2009 that eventually left her 100 percent blind.

Along the way to Rio, she had competed in indoor rowing at the Invictus Games in London, Nordic Skiing World Cup in Alberta, Canada, biathlon championships at Soldier Hollow and many international and national cycling championships.

Now she was in Pinedale, Wyoming, with her team, Jesse Crandall of Michigan and Scott Drum of Flagstaff. They were riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route which was established in 1997 and goes 3,083 miles from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

This is not a tandem bike adventure. All three riders ride their own single mountain bikes fully loaded with gear. Jesse and Scott take turns being the lead biker. The lead bike has a speaker that plays music that Shawn hears and follows. All three riders wear bike helmets fitted with headphone and microphones so they can communicate. They average 50 to 60 miles a day, but their biggest day so far has been 86 miles.

Shawn understands how a sighted person sees a blind person.

“I wasn’t always blind,” she said. “I am simply interested in breaking the norms of what blind people look like and what we should and shouldn’t do. When people tell me I shouldn’t do something, I just tell them – I’ll be the judge of that.”

They rode down Union Pass over the Wind River Mountains and out of the last of bear country, to have a shower, a nice meal and a bed at the home of a local Trail Angel in Cora. The next morning, three bikes pedaled into the sunrise toward Antelope Wells.

Chihuahuas lead the way

Baboi and Fiona are from Brooklyn, NY. They ride in little baskets attached to the handlebars of the bikes. Humans Mae Wood and Re Chang do the pedaling. They began their trip to Antelope Wells, from Whitefish, Montana, near Glacier National Park on the Canadian border.

Antelope Wells is listed as a town on Wikipedia, with a population of two (2). Wiki says there are no wells and no antelopes and the two people that live there, live in a trailer behind the border shack. The nearest other community is just across the border to the town of El Berrendo, Mexico. Wiki says it has a population of one (1). El Berrendo is Spanish for pronghorn antelope, of which there are none.

This is the destination all riders of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route aspire to reach. It is in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. It was here in 1520 A.D. that the great Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes wrote in a letter home about how plentiful the little dogs were, and that they were raised for food. Wiki says it is the historic home of the Chihuahua.

Photos by Terry Allen

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