If you saw a
woman sitting on a covered wagon behind
a single horse going down U.S. Highway
191 last week, there is no need to check
Setting off April 30 from Antelope
Wells, N.M., and rushing to Roosville,
Mont., in time to greet an anticipated
grandchild due Sept. 20, Bob and Rani
Merz began the adventure of a lifetime.
Following the Adventure Cycling Great
Divide Mountain Bike Route, the couple
from Salmon, Wash., followed a path that
brought them through Pinedale on Thursday,
July 18. Sitting on a miniature covered
wagon that carries food, water and
shelter behind her 16-year-old Icelandic
mare named Chirpa, Rani plods along nine
hours a day.
Bob in a slightly more modern truck and
trailer scouts the way, picks up groceries
and prepares a place to stay in advance of
her arrival each night.
“We are just trying to encourage people
get out there and do whatever gets them
moving,” Rani said.
“For the most part, we’ve met the nicest
people,” Rani said. The exception would
be a few drivers who are impatient about
the slow but steady pace that Chirpa maintains.
On her website, Rani posts, “I have
dreamt about a journey on (the Adventure
Cycling Great Divide Mountain Bike) route
since my dad was an Adventure Cycling
Member – waayyy back – and I first read
of its proposal. I’ve watched it become a
reality – and nearly gotten too old to go.”
Not new to adventures, Rani maintains
a journal online of many hiking adventures
in the past.
She was in the Guinness Book of World
Records, at the age of 14, for the longest
continuous time spent on a horse – eight
days, seven nights.
She rode her horse from White Salmon,
Wash., to Madeline, Calif., in 1978.
She hiked 1,800 miles on the Pacific
Crest Trail in 2008, starting on the Mexican
border and ending up at Crater Lake,
She hiked the Wainwright Coast to
Coast Trail in 2010.
Despite snow in Colorado and New
Mexico, inconsistent Internet service and
struggles to keep moving, Raini and Chirpa
passed through Sublette County on her
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
is Adventure Cycling’s premier off-pavement
cycling route, crisscrossing the Continental
Divide in southern Canada and the
United States. The route is defined as remote
and features spectacular terrain and
scenery. The entire route is basically dirtroad
and mountain-pass travel every day.
In total, it gains more than 200,000 feet of
elevation. Nearly 2,100 miles of the route
is composed of county, Forest Service and
Bureau of Land Management public lands.
The trail includes 60 miles of singletrack
trails and 950 miles of paved roads,
including close to 50 miles of paved bike
The route continues into Canada, but
Rani is putting that section off for a future
“I can’t backpack anymore,” Rani said.
The wagon with a little walking and a little
riding is her alternative.