Lightning, bears and … BMX? Adventuring duo hits Steamboat Springs
July 15, 2017
Dario DiGuilio certainly didn't come to Steamboat Springs to ride a BMX race, and he certainly wasn't equipped for one.
Dozens of riders young and — in a few cases, anyway — old crowded into the starting gates Thursday at Steamboat Springs' BMX track, part of a weekly summer ritual for the town's dirt-loving set. They did it with special helmets and particular BMX bikes.
DiGuilio, on the other hand, had a dusty mountain bike, and it was loaded down with all the gear he's needed to ride the Continental Divide trail, from the Mexico-New Mexico border to Banff, Alberta, Canada. He was loaded with everything from a sleeping bag and pad to a paperback book, all dangling off the back of his rig and connected by a bungie.
"This," he said, gesturing to his loaded down ride, "is a tremendous pain to unload."
Diguilio and his friend, Ben van Hamersveld, are tackling the 2,745-mile trek together, south to north, and Thursday, nearly halfway through, they rolled into Steamboat.
They stopped a Orange Peel Bicycle Service on Yampa Street that evening, and from there, they could hear a bellowing announcer from across the railroad tracks and Yampa River.
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They decided to investigate, found the weekly Steamboat BMX event and, with only a little cajoling from an organizer, DiGuilio was in the race, even if he was unwilling to unstrap his equipment.
"The extra weight, I figured it gives me some extra boost through the turns," he said with a grin.
The pair, both from California, are entering their fourth year at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. DiGuilio is pursuing an architecture degree and van Hamersveld a degree in mechanical engineering.
That's hard, they said, but they were looking for harder, for a real challenge.
"We wanted a good challenge," van Hamersveld said. "Our life is too comfortable. We don’t struggle enough. School's hard, but it's not really a struggle. We wanted to struggle to survive."
They've had a few moments that fit that ambition. They spent one stormy afternoon in New Mexico with their chests pressed hard into the dirt at the bottom of a ditch, a thunderstorm booming overhead. A crack of lightning struck close enough that, hundreds of miles later, they're still a little spooked by it.
Along the way, they've had plenty of great experiences, too.
"We've met so many people," van Hamersveld said. "People are just so nice to cyclists. They've just been letting us in their home."
Pedaling 60 to 100 miles per day, they've made their way into the Rocky Mountains.
They allowed themselves six weeks for the trip, and with three weeks to go, they're right on schedule. When they return, more adventure awaits, though of a different kind. Van Hamersveld will be off to a semester studying abroad, and several weeks later, DiGuilio will follow. For the time being, however, they're simply focusing on the next mile — or, for about an hour, a BMX race.
DiGuilio ended up placing third in his division, which meant he had a trophy to take home. That's easier said than done on a cross-country mountain bike trip, of course, but with some dedication and a role of electrical tape, he found a solution, lodging the trophy under his seat before he pedaled away Thursday.
"This guy, he's coming with us," DiGuilio said of the trophy.
It was another story to tell on a trip that's already provided plenty.
"Hundreds of people do this. It’s not like we’re doing something that amazing," he said. "But for us, it’s a really good challenge."
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