ST. GEORGE – Two Ivins residents hope to be among the few Utahns to successfully bicycle the 2,500 mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail.
Craig Shanklin, 56, and Diane Shanklin, 49, left St. George on June 10 for the U.S.-Mexico border in Antelope Wells, N.M., where their pedaling will begin. They should reach the U.S.-Canadian border at Roosville, Montana after about 60 days. They will ride through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail, developed by the Adventure Cycling Association, is the longest off-pavement bike route in the world. The trail follows the Continental Divide as closely as possible and crosses the Divide 29 times.
The Continental Divide is the ridge along the Rocky Mountains that separates the rivers that flow east from the rivers that flow west in North America. It runs north-south from Alaska to northwestern South America.
Craig and Diane started pedaling from the U.S.-Mexico Border on Monday, June 11. Tuesday evening, Craig and Di emailed St. George News: “So far we have traveled 75 miles north of the border and expect to be in Silver City, NM (Wednesday) evening. … It was 113 degrees today!”
About 90 percent of the mountain bike trail is on unpaved roads, trails and single track. Many sections of the route are rough or unmaintained and require off-pavement riding skills. The Great Divide route also has over 200,000 feet of elevation gain and loss for riders to contend with.
In addition to the long distances, the Shanklins said they will deal with insects, severe weather and animals, including bears.
Another current challenge for the Shanklins is a fire in Gila National Forest, N.M. The fire is the largest in New Mexico’s history, which will cause the Shanklins to detour to avoid the fire zone, closed trails and the heavy smoke.
The Shanklins are avid cyclists and have bicycled throughout the world. Last summer they biked from Prague, Czech Republic, to Vienna, Austria.
At home, Craig is president of the Washington County Bicycling Advisory Council and vice president of Friends of Snow Canyon State Park.
In addition to cycling, Diane is an avid pickleball player. She is active with a steering committee that’s working with the city of St. George and raising funds to build a 24 court pickleball complex in Southern Utah. This would be the the country’s largest pickleball complex.
Alexa Morgan contributed to this story.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter Hashtag: #ShanklinGDMBT
Copyright 2012 St. George News.