The Great Divide Tour - September 2002



Gizmo and I spent about a month of on- and off-again work preparing for this tour.  During this time, a subject of continued discussion was how much of the tour we should pre-plan and how much we should improvise on the road.  The more planning we did and the more stuff we had 'in the can', the more smoothly the trip would go and the more sophisticated we could be with our presentation.  But we also knew how much fun it was to just let things develop on their own—let The Road determine what we'd talk about.

Gizmo tended more towards the pre-planned approach whereas I tended towards the wing-it approach.  And over the course of the trip, both of us grew to appreciate the other's point of view.  Having the routes laid out ahead of time is almost a requirement to gain some predictability in riding and writing workloads.  "The History of Whizmo and Gizmo", built largely from stuff Gizmo has been collecting the past few months, was a nice break from, "We rode X miles, crossed Y passes, and saw a brown prairie dog."   Gizmo pre-built the music contests before the tour and they were very popular.  Overall, I think we reached a good compromise.

Nevertheless, the things that amazed me most during this trip couldn't be planned and were never expected.  So, in no particular order,

1.  I never expected we'd hand our cards to someone one day and be corresponding over email the next like we did with Marc, Teri, and Diane.  This is just too cool.

2.  I never expected that I'd correspond with my 12-year-old son Zach on these pages and help him find his "guitar screws".  (If you recall, he asked the Psycle Psychics to help him find a guitar peg assembly that he had misplaced right before I left on this tour.  Zach and his mother had turned his room upside down but just couldn't find them.  Simply wanting to make an inside joke, I told him to look "behind the bookcases", the place where we had found his hamsters a month earlier after they had staged 'The Great Escape' from their cage.  When I called the next evening, Zach breathlessly told me that he had read my response and looked behind his bookcase.  Lo and behold, there was the peg assembly!  Heck, maybe we ARE psychic.)

3.  I never expected our pathetic, tongue-in-cheek "please sponsor us" bleating to have such legs that we could continue the joke over a third of the tour and make it the theme of our Grand Finale Contest.  And I certainly didn't expect that our hard-core contestants would put so much thought and creativity into their submissions.  There's some great stuff there.  I'm still laughing and clapping.

4.  I never expected my eight-year-old daughter Anna would watch me try vainly in Photoshop to spiff up our logo, then trot off upstairs to fire up KidPix and return 20-minutes later with the logo below.  I ended up sending my ill-formed logo scratchings to my brother-in-law Michael Lahr, a graphics art instructor, who, in virtually no time, did a great job with the logo you see on these pages, but when I showed Anna's work to Gizmo, he immediately replied, "Why are we screwing around with this - let's just use hers!"  We certainly could have done worse, a lot worse.

5.  I never expected that at the end of the tour, I would enjoy the process of writing a daily report more than at the beginning.  One of the keys to writing is to write each and every day, and while I've written throughout my life, I've never developed a daily writing habit.  I returned home with such a habit, which is quite a gift.

6.  I never expected to get along with Gizmo as well as we did.  We had a few times when both of us were tired and we weren't our normal pleasant and amusing selves, but when you spend three weeks straight on The Road with someone, big issues are bound to rise to the surface, yet none did.  He never even complained about my snoring, and my wife says that makes him either extremely deaf or extremely tolerant.  Thanks Giz.

7.  I never expected we'd manage to see as many passes as we did.  No, we didn't cross every hard-surface road across the Great Divide, but we came about as close as reasonably possible and we visited every named pass I could find.

8.  I never expected to be giggling like a seven-year-old at a slumber party nailing our little pieces of brass to fence posts and trees at our 'passes'.  I never understood why people get such a kick out of carving their initials into things - now I do.   If someone sees these plaques and drops up a line (hopefully not to accuse us of defacing private property or something), we'll be amused to no end.

9.  I never expected our first piece of nasty, name-calling flame mail, noting that I confused Helena and Missoula (true) while calling me a "BMW snob" for saying the Flathead Valley was suffering from urban sprawl (I'll let you decide on this one).  Oh well, it had to happen sooner or later.

10.  I never expected I'd convince Gizmo that having a paper map on a tank bag is a good thing, even if you have a whiz-bang GPS telling you when and where to make every turn.  But by the end of the trip, he was amazed that I could 'walk' each day in my head, remembering all the turns and stops, everywhere we ate and slept, and where we met all the different folks along the way.  I don't think I'm smarter or anything, I just think relying solely on a 320x200 pixels of GPS screen to give you situational awareness on a 6,500 mile trip is asking a bit much.  I was constantly glancing down and orienting myself to the big picture and this is invaluable.  By the same token, I really took a shine to his small GPS unit and how great it works to find the hotel each night.  With current technology, both paper maps and GPS technology have their place.

11.  I never expected that after 21 days on the road, that I'd be so completely and totally comfortable on my bike, even with its semi-aggressive riding position.  On the last day, I didn't have a single ache or pain after seven hours in the saddle, and while I was tired of the trip, I was not tired from riding.  In my mind, being comfortable on a motorcycle has a lot more to do with conditioning than the motorcycle.  Bicycles are excruciatingly uncomfortable, yet people ride them coast-to-coast.  You can get used to anything.  Don't obsess over the equipment—THAT you ride is a lot more important than WHAT you ride.

12.  I never expected I'd enjoy visiting with Gizmo's son Korey as much as I did.  While I was happy to make the big detour to LA for Gizmo to connect with Korey, I viewed it more as a favor than something I'd really enjoy that much.  But it was great fun to see father and son reunite and Korey's accounts of working on a cruise boat were fascinating.  Gizmo, you got a great kid there.

13.  I never expected I'd return home to a sick father.  But sickness is never something you really expect—it just drops in when it feels like it and stays as long as it pleases.  But I'm hopeful it will find my dad is fresh out of beer and chips and move on quickly.

14.  I never expected I'd come home to such a warm welcome from my wife, Susan and my kids, Zach and Anna.  In some ways, I talk and interact more with Susan when I'm doing these tours than when I'm home—we talk on the phone once or twice a day, and the daily reports tell her more about my daily routine than she gets verbally from me when I'm home.  So in a strange way, we're communicating more closely when I'm connected through the website than when I'm home.  (Not that I'd recommend long separations and online communication as a good idea for marital bliss.  The online reports just mitigate the problem.)

I could go on and on (insert groaning noises here) but you get the point.  A motorcycle trip is really a microcosm of life—you can plan all you want, but what happens out there is totally unexpected.  And the interaction with our W&G readership adds a wild card to the mix that is intoxicating and refreshing. 

Gizmo and I have discussed future tours and we're batting around ideas.  If we do this again, it will probably be shorter and we'd like to try something quite a bit different—maybe smaller bikes, maybe a little camping, maybe a change in daily format, and definitely another upgrade in our technology and processes.  But one thing that will not change is interacting with you, our readership.  You are part of the foundation on which any and all of our future tours will be built.  And for providing this foundation, I can't thank you enough.

"A 3-Bag Life: Riding and Writing"

Well, we did it.  Our ambitious goal to ride the Great Divide from Canada to Mexico unrolled without any major complications.  Whizmo's route planning paid off handsomely, with spectacular scenery and wonderful riding throughout.  I thought it might be appropriate to make a few notes about our process for anyone contemplating a similar outing. 

Gizmo's Top Ten Rules for Terrific Online Touring

10.  However many miles you're riding, get to your destination by 3pm.
9.  Keep your faceshield, windshield and mirrors really clean.  Keep that Lemon Pledge handy.
8.  Designate one person as the Route Czar.  Let them make the decisions about road selection and route changes, no matter how goofy or insane it seems at the time.  (Whizmo Note:  I think I'm supposed to be insulted here, but I'm not sure.)
7.  Allow 10% downtime.  If you're taking a ten-day tour, allow one day for contingencies like weather or maintenance.
6.  Allow for a 60:40 Riding to Writing ratio.
5.  Only bring as much stuff as you can comfortably carry up two flights of stairs and down a long hall in one trip. Three bags is my limit. 
4.  Develop a theme, a schedule and a plan, and stick to it. 
3.  Tour with people you know and trust, and who will share the load.
2.  Drink lots of water.
1.  Make your #1 priority having a worthwhile, memorable experience.  Everything else will flow naturally.

Tank bag, Clothing bag,
Stuff bag

Most everything I need
to tour for 3 weeks


The W&G Creative Process

We have developed a process over the years that works for us.  Here's a brief summary of what happens when we start writing:

  • Download email, update mailing list.

  • Review and name all pictures.  Delete unintended shots of pavement.  Consolidate photos in one place.

  • Person A writes today's column. 

  • Person B prepares contest section, daily map, other special editorial assignments as needed.

  • Upon completion of rough draft, Person B edits Person A's column, looking for the proper amount of adolescent humor, pathetic jokes and plagiarism.

  • Update pages with new links.

  • Upload new content to web site.

  • Final online review for typos and grammatical boo-boos.

  • Send notification mail.

  • Trade roles tomorrow.

This year we spent an average of four hours each day writing and preparing content.  For the record, we use Microsoft Front Page 2002, Microsoft Streets and Trips, Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Outlook.  In spite of our constant whining, all of these programs performed their tasks admirably.  In hindsight, it's really quite amazing that we were able to get connectivity every day of the trip without any serious technical failures.


As I sit here picking the tortilla chip crumbs out of my computer keyboard, I'm delaying the inevitable task of packing Gizmo away for another year.  A few short days from now, this will all seem like a vague memory, the bike will be stored away for the winter, and 'regular' life will be back with a vengeance.  But I'm actually looking forward to it.

If we've caught your interest along the way, we'd appreciate hearing from you.  Let us know what works, what doesn't work, and what you'd like to see more of.  We debate endlessly with one another about the form and substance of what we do, but hearing from you would add so much authenticity to our debates.  This isn't a contest or a challenge, just a sincere request for feedback to help us improve any future online adventures.  Here's a handy pre-addressed email form - tell us what you think.

Thanks are in order

So many people help us make this possible in so many different ways.  First and foremost, I want to thank my wife Janis for letting boys be boys. Without her unwavering support, this simply wouldn't be possible.  I want to thank our cast of W&G regulars whose contributions to these pages are abundant.  You make us look good.  And finally, I want to thank YOU for reading along.  Your presence and feedback keeps us riding and writing every day. 

The Daily Faces of Gizmo
(thanks to Pierre de Vries for the concept)

A Team Sport

Motorcycling is often known as a loner activity, with images of solitary riders on backroads seeking inner knowledge and growth through solitude.  For me, riding with a partner provides an opportunity to relearn skills of cooperation and selflessness.  We depend on one another to play our part.  The rhythm of The Road lays down the backbeat for the day.  When we're in tune with The Road and one another, that special thrill of teamwork in action is the reward.  You are part of an experience greater than anything you could create on your own.  My goal is to take from these special moments a sense of what can be accomplished with others and apply it to my daily life, from my relationship with my wife and family to my working relationships.  Every year I get a little better at mining the experience and bringing home some gems.

I don't have a clue what will happen next with the W&G experience, but I'm confident that there will continue to be opportunities to explore new areas that I haven't experienced before. 

Whiz, thanks for being captain of the team.  Your leadership and confidence are inspirational. 

And finally, thanks again to you for reading along and participating in this self-assigned creative writing excursion.  You're part of our team, and we couldn't do it without you.

We now return you to your regular lives, already in progress.  Thanks for riding with us.

Grand Finale Contest -- Pitch the Pitchmen -- We Have a Winner!!!

Ok, the ballots are in and YOU have made your decision.  The grand prize winner with 30% of the vote is:

Congratulations Glenda, we hereby anoint you with the title of 2002 Honorary Izmo of the Year.  (To see Glenda's superb pitch, click here.)  With your pitch, I think we're finally on the road to product endorsement success.  The mailing to 563 potential sponsors is going to the bulk mailer tomorrow.  Of course, we've included your home phone number in case any of them have any questions about our marketing efforts.

Honorable mentions in the Grand Finale balloting were J. Ozinski with 22% and Mike Leskin with 13%.  Nice job guys, but you've run into a advertising juggernaut with Glenda.

And here is a summary of the winners of all the other contests:

#1:  My Favorite Road Tunes  Ken Engstrom
#2:  Top Ten Side Benefits of Wearing Earplugs Terry Swain
#3:  Music From the Road I Dan Newell
#4:  Caption That Crazy Photo Harold Cohen
#5:  Ask The Psycle Psychics Jan Betts (judges' decision on best question)
#6:  Round Up the Roundels Glenda Revelle
#7:  Music From the Road II Tom Boyle
#8:  Caption the Contraption  Scott Ferguson
#9:  Motorcycle Trivia  Bruce Scott
#10:  You Be The Judge Whizmo
#11:  Creative Caption Contest Steve Dolan
#12:  Music From the Road III Glenda Revelle
#13:  Count the Clicks David Grady

In grand Whizmo and Gizmo tradition, the prizes are not yet made (or even decided on), but we ARE seriously thinking about beating our previous long-term average of 12-month lag time between the contests and actually sending the prizes.  So if you're a winner, please send us your snail mail address ASAP so we can think about it again during the holiday shopping season.

Ok, that's it, put a fork in us, we're done.  Y'all be safe out there.