This is the true story of Jill Homer’s challenge of “the world’s toughest mountain bike race,”
a 2,740-mile journey from Canada to Mexico along the rugged spine of the Continental Divide.
It was two days after Halloween 2005. The timing stands out thanks to a macabre memory of a jack-o-lantern frozen on my neighbor’s porch. Temperatures had thawed just long enough to melt the pumpkin’s grin into a pained grimace, and then the ice returned to encase its zombie face in frost. I was riding my mountain bike from my new job at a weekly newspaper in Homer, Alaska, to a ridge high above town, where I lived in a large single-room cabin. The streets were already packed with snow in early November, and likely to stay that way until spring. I figured it would likely be my last bike commute of the season, and I remember experiencing a moment of panic, looking into the hollow eyes of that ghoulish jack-o-lantern and wondering what winter might bring. I had been living in Homer for two months, and the strangeness of everyday life in that small fishing village was beginning to take hold.
At the cabin, I climbed to the loft to write an update for friends and family. Since I moved thousands of miles away, I made a point of staying in touch via e-mail. The letters usually contained quirky stories about my Alaskan neighbors and co-workers, as well as accounts of stormy kayaking trips or the time a bear stomped all over our car as my then-boyfriend and I were backpacking to a snowbound wilderness cabin. In this particular letter, I mused about ways I could continue riding my bicycle through the long winter. To illustrate what I was dealing with, I attached a photograph of the cabin, blanketed in more than a foot of snow, with a backyard surrounded by nothing but spruce forest and the distant white peaks of the Kenai Mountains. Several friends wrote back to comment on the incredible setting, and requested more photos. I found I enjoyed writing these letters, and my friends’ comments sparked an idea that many people have when they want to reach out to the world at large — I should start a blog.