I first met Californian Brian Steele, literally the day before this years TOUR DIVIDE race had kicked off. It went down like this if I remember it all correctly - Myself, and a few other fellow cyclists just so happened to straggle on over to the Banff YWCA hostel together. Looking to kill some time before the big pre-race meeting was set to commence, made this seem like the most fun thing to do at the time. Many of the participants, were staying over there because it was the cheapest place in town. Also, this same location would serve as being the official starting location as well, which made it even more popular with many riders. The place was like an active bee hive I tell you. Riders in, and riders out like clockwork. Mountain bikes were everywhere you looked. Coming and going, the sounds of shifting and brakes being applied were endlessly heard. Any spot that a bike could be propped up against, they would be placed. Directly out front, they were lined up next to one another like horses tied outside a bustling honky-tonk saloon. Certainly an exciting air about the surrounding atmosphere for sure. Me, I was just kind of mulling about and enjoying the vibe myself, when I noticed this tall fella come walking out alone from the front entrance. He caught my eye right away because of his towering stature in height. He was a giant of a man I tell you, standing head and shoulders above all the rest. He stopped right next to me and we ended up chatting almost instantly I recall, hitting things off just the same. Moving quickly through the basics - as in hey my name is, where are you from, and are you excited about the race kind of stuff, went down in no time flat. The exchange between Brian and I just felt so natural, that it came effortlessly. We continued chatting on in conversation, laughing at times as though we had been old friends for sometime now. Brian must have been feeling the same connection too, because within just a few moments time he said to me, "Richard, somehow I sense that you and I are going to ride into Antelope Wells together my friend. I just got that feeling," he remarked.
Several days after I had made it across the Canadian/Unites States borderline, I learned from another rider that Brian had been injured in some sort of crash. The incident apparently, had happened shortly just before he exited Canada on day two of the race. Information given, was that he had suffered a broken arm from what I was initially told that morning. I remember being quite disheartened after hearing of this news. The big man whom I had just gotten so acquainted with only several days prior, and had expressed full expectations of making it to the very end, was now looking at an early exit to his effort. To make matters worse, later in that same day when I happened to stop into a lodge for lunch, it turned out that Brian was already there. He had checked in earlier that day. From what I was told, he was resting up for the following days journey in order to properly receive medical treatment for his injuries suffered. I was also told that he was officially scratching from the race too. I thought to myself, man that really sucks! Soon after, I finished up my lunch and grabbed some food to go. As I readied for my departure, there still was one last official deed that I felt needed to be done. I asked if the relaying of a personal message could be delivered to him at first chance - that being simply in that I hoped for the best and that I was sorry he had to exit...
As I neared the end of Montana only days later on, I heard the exciting news that Brian had not scratched, and that in a most unbelievable fashion of true grit and determination was soldiering on. Having received medical care for a broken wrist, Brian was outfitted with a soft cast/splint, which allowed him to continue onward in the race. Though slowed by his injury and suffering a great deal of pain, he felt driven to carry on, he would later explain to me in conversation. Certainly within himself, he must have known what was at stake here. Internally knowing that for whatever discomfort he was now currently experiencing, would only pale in comparison to the unhappiness in having to go home early. The thought of not finishing the monumental task he had so had sought out for himself, and leaving unfinished business aside would certainly not float for him. The TOUR DIVIDE race will do that to you. The main, and only object being to fully finish the entire distance required within your mind. [At this stage of the race, each time our small contingent of riders stopped at a new locale for supplies, we would end up running into other cyclists. Cyclists whom would either advise us on their own scratching from said event, or tell tale of other riders who've already had done the same. Upon hearing of this news, Myself and fellow riding mate Brian Jett would always look at one another and recount the same phrase. Saying in unison - "Somewhere out there, there is a man. A very large man cycling with a broken wrist, who just keeps pedaling on and on." Without fail, every time we stumbled upon another rider who was quitting, or complaining about something hindering them from pressing on, there was always the example of one Brian Steele to be given.] Entering the state of Idaho a few days later on, Brian and I finally would cross paths once again. In the following weeks, Brian and I would play an endless game of cat & mouse while out on the TOUR DIVIDE route. Sometimes, I would get updates on his location from fellow riders, who he had either stayed with or just recently had seen him somewhere out on the trail. Though his riding was slowed a bit, he was in overwhelmingly great spirits when I saw him. The only thing that was still of worry to him, was that his cell phone had sustained damage during the crash. He had no way of contacting love ones back home, and that certainly was waning on him a little. Such a small worriment was easily fixed though with the lending of a cell phone. It was always nice to see him so visibly relieved, after talking with his love Quincy Lee back home. That verbal contact in letting all those supporters back home know his status, did wonders for him as he eagerly jumped back out on the trail afterwards. It wasn't until the state of Wyoming sometime, that our paths started to cross a bit more frequently. Either he was coming, or I was going. By now though, it was all about timing. Either one of us could have chosen to push on a little longer into the night, or opting to stop much earlier on. Regardless of the separation between us, somehow we always ended up running right back into one another again.
When I arrived in Atlantic City, prior to my own entrance into the Great Divide Basin, I learned that Brian had only left early that same morning. He wasn't that far ahead now, and he was in sight. Much to my amusement when I went to sign the guest log myself, that I saw that Brian had left a funny message for his good old buddy "The Lorax." Of course, it eluding to our little stalk, hunt & capture game that was humorously taking place.
On the steel horse he rode! Brian's rig used for the TOUR DIVIDE, was a steel frame, affixed with a rigid niner carbon fork, and equipped with a Rohloff internal hub. He had a unique handlebar set-up as compared to others which was interesting, and went with what looked like to be the same aero-bar design as I had - note in the photo of his rig, that you can see how his aero-bars were broken and bent down. This came about after he suffered the crash early on in the race. Their usage, totally negated for the remainder of the trip. The tires he ran though, would become, and go on to be a constant thorn in his side. Thank goodness for Walmart of all places though, as they were able to deliver in a time of need when it came to tires. As for his little orange bear whistle, I don't know and I didn't ask. I guess there was a part of me that felt he was to big of a man to need a bear whistle, so I tip toed lightly around the subject with him. I mean c'mon seriously, what bear in their own right mind was going to try and screw around with him? The remainder of his system was kept relatively light gear wise, from what I remember. He didn't carry a bunch of extra items, only essentials. His navigation was handled with an eTrex 20, along with added cue sheets. For outdoor camping, a simple bivy sack was his choice of sleeping quarters.
I didn't stumble upon Brian again until the small town of Abiquiu, New Mexico. It was another one of those chance meetings, that had been happening to us throughout. As usual once settled, we caught up with one another's travels endured in the recent days prior. It was here, that I learned Brian had suffered a mechanical issues somewhere back along the trail shortly before reaching Del Norte, Colorado. Apparently, he broke one of his pedals completely off his bike, and was forced to hitchhike roughly some 70 miles or so in order to get the situation remedied. Still unfazed and highly intent on finishing the race no matter what, he procured the new parts needed, and traveled back to the original spot he ventured off route. Officially rolling again, he pursued on. Abiquiu, would turn out to be the proverbial rounding of third base and the heading of home, if I was going to use a baseball analogy in explanation of. There were still a couple days left to finish, including several 120+ miles days that needed to be cycled. The end was near, and it was coming on fast. From that point on, I ended up riding with or around Brian for the remainder of the trip.
Those remaining days featured a lot of awesome moments, fun times, and of course some bad weather to boot. I really came to appreciate these days riding with Brian, simply because it was all about the pure enjoyment of it all now. We both knew, and had talked extensively about the long journey that was soon going to end. We were going to do it, we were going to finish the entire distance required. Each day from then on, things got a little more loser than the previous. We took full advantage of every little moment to indulge in just that little bit more now - you know, take breaks, observe the scenery, order a little more food & drink, just simply laugh and have the most fun. At one point on a lonely and deserted road in sleepy little Coyote, New Mexico, I remember that we stopped to sit in the shade and totally admire the natural sounds of what flourished around us. Not noise, but sounds people. Something so small to think about, but massive in actually experiencing it individually. On and on we would go, like two peas in a pod, having fun on the remainder of the TOUR DIVIDE.
This picture below captures a most incredible scene being depicted. Yes, it shows two new friends exchanging some final words before bidding goodbye being shown. A captured glimpse into the culmination of one incredible journey had. What it doesn't show, is what actually happened leading up to this moment. It all came about, when Rick Ashton, who was sitting beside me in the back seat, had asked our shuttle driver to stop in order that we may congratulate and say goodbye to Brian. As we pulled off to the side of the road, quickly hopping out, Brian continued in approach. As I walked around the back of the truck gingerly in my socks, my legs and feet stiffening up, I moved towards Brian. At that moment, I noticed that Brian was traveling on a totally flat front tire. Not an ounce of air pressure in it. He was none to happy about it, and voiced his opinion so loudly. He angrily exulted that since leaving Silver City that very morning, he had suffered five separate flat tires. He had had enough, and so much as so demonstrated in tossing his bike down to the ground in disgust. He was pissed! For me, hearing and seeing it all unfold like this - expressed in his I've had about enough as I can take tone of delivery, was to much to take. I lost it! I mean, how much can one man take I thought. Being so close to finishing this thing, and still having to deal with so much god damn adversity. I had been privy to so much of Brian's issues suffered, while out on the TOUR DIVIDE route, many firsthand. I witnessed time after time, how one individual would be required to deal with so much and overcome, as compared to myself who basically had none at all. Not even once had I come close to the sort of setbacks and hurdles having to be faced by him. Enough was enough I thought to myself, just let him finish for Christ's sake! All I could do was turn around and not face anyone. The two of us, having experienced so much after 30 full days, had reached each others specific points of release I suppose. You know what I mean, the moment reached when you can't control your emotions no matter how hard tried. For Brian, it was obviously frustration, and me...well the total opposite. Two grown men, having been through so much separately, but together as well, being so close to finally closing the door on this thing before fully letting go. The picture below, was literally snapped by a friend of Brian's at the exact precise moment, when I was finally able to turn back around and face him. Me surviving the sudden and unexpected tsunami of the flood, and the ever so positive and humorous Brian now fully returned in place. I love this picture! It means so much to me in being able to fully know the story, behind that one little moment captured. Overall it really isn't about the sadness being explained, but I guess more of that in being extremely proud. So proud of him in being able to stick it out no matter what, and being able to taste the sweet victory of individual success and accomplishment. We did end up riding into Antelope Wells together, well almost together I suppose Brian. Separated by just a mere hour or so being the difference. You most certainly called it that day back in Banff, when you said that you could envision us getting there together.
It is funny as I sit here and write this now thinking. Thinking how just a few short days ago, I chatted on the phone with fellow TOUR DIVIDE rider Peter Kraft Sr. We talked for sometime about our experiences had, troubles faced, and so on. We laughed aloud in the remembrance of little bits and pieces, that had somehow settled into the cracks of forgetfulness, under all the much larger events having taken place. At one point amidst the laughing, a question came through loud and clear. Simply put, "did you cry at all," Peter asked? Pretending as though I didn't quite fully hear his question over the laughter, I responded with a puzzling response of "what did you say?" Once again he asked in the most clearest tone and voice, "I asked, did you cry at all?" With no place to run or hide this time, I responded immediately with a strong response of "yes," instantly thinking back to that moment. The exact time of which I could not hold back the approaching wave of emotion that was coming in. Having been through such an incredible personal journey up to this moment, filled with the most amazing trials and tribulations into the rigors of completing the TOUR DIVIDE, now made this finale to it all a most appropriate ending I had thought.
If I told most people reading this specific blog that they had seen Brian before, perhaps even several times possibly, most likely they'd raise an eyebrow or two and say probably not. "Don't think so I reckon, or he doesn't look familiar," could be several of the responses given in return? Well, if you look at the picture below, and it looks even remotely familiar, than yes you have seen him before. As a matter of fact, if your a fan of certain types of Hollywood movies that feature memorable creatures in them, well now you have the face behind the mask. Yes that's right, the one and only creatureboy is none other than one Brian Steele.
I could go on and write a lot more about actor Brian Steele's other life inside the suit so to speak, but I would much rather guide you to his official web site for all that. To learn more about his personal story, see even more cool pictures and videos of him, please click on the link provided and visit CREATUREBOY.COM. There, you will find tabs where you can get the full wrap on Brian's FILMOGRAPHY | GALLERY | BLOG | BIOGRAPHY | STORE