Those who have seen the documentary Ride the Divide are probably familiar with Adrian’s vegan diet on the Tour Divide. I distinctly remember watching a bleary eyed Adrian aimlessly wandering the aisles of one of the tiny convenience stores along the route trying to find something animal free to eat.
Fast forward to Tour Divide 2015, Lima, MT. The town, if you can call it that, is not much more than a truck stop on I-15 in the Montana Basin. It’s early morning towards the beginning of the race. The gas station opens at 7 AM. I am waiting eagerly with my lycra’d kin, waiting for the door to unlock to resupply for the day, as there wouldn’t be much on route til Flagg Ranch near Yellowstone. I knew my options, mostly high fructose corn syrup garbage, or hydrogenated oily chips. Not many healthy options, Cliff Bars and bananas would be about the best I could get.
The doors opened, the crowd of cyclists pours in. Everyone else’s options were just as slim in this four aisle store. I see them grab for jerky, creme filled pastries, and of course all the stuff you never realized wasn’t vegan (dry roasted Planters peanuts have gelatin, why?). I have to move much slower than that, I go for Lays’ Classics to start, get my salt, move over to the candy, find some picked over Cliff Bars, but some. It’s still not enough calories for a full day. I start grabbing little candy and bar things I’ve never seen before flip them over and start reading ingredients lists. This is what it is. After a while you start to become pretty good to scan for words like “casein”, “lard”, “animal shortening” or whatever it may be. I find a few more things, but still don’t have enough calories. I start going for the heavy calorie hitters, Keebler Vanilla Wafers, Apple Pie snacks, more chemical than food, but energy is energy on the Tour Divide. I reach the counter with my haul and begin packing up and out.
Sugar is easy to find on the Tour Divide, too easy. By the time I hit Pinedale, WY my mouth was sore from all the sugars eating away at my mouth, but that’s the Divide on a vegan diet. There are some shining moments of good vegan food; the Breckenridge Whole Foods, the hippy cafe in Del Norte, and even the gas station in Abiqui had some great vegan treats, but for the most part, it’s gas station junk food for miles on end. Compared to the Trans Am, which I also completed vegan, this race was much tougher, mostly because the resupplies are fewer and farther in between, but it’s possible. I promised when I gave up animal products that I would never let it keep me from doing things I wanted to do, now with two big trips putting me out in the back country living on gas station food, I made it work.