Traversing The Great Divide to provide Service Dogs to Injured Veterans: One Man’s Journey

This Summer, school teacher Alexander Funnell took a rest from marking papers to undertake an arduous bike ride along the Great Divide Mountain Route to bring attention to and help raise money for non-profit Vets Helping Heroes. Vets Helping Heroes helps provide wounded war veterans with the service dogs affording the best opportunity to return to the life they knew before their injuries.

Alexander ventured forth from Eureka, Montana...pedaled through the states of Idaho and Wyoming...and finished in Como, Colorado. He rode a tremendous 1,500 miles in just over 30 days, raising at least $1,500 for Vets Helping Heroes.

This week, we caught up with Alexander to learn more about his adventures.

What was the most exhilarating experience of the bike ride?

Two encounters with wild bears on the same day certainly got my adrenaline pumping, not to mention that I accidentally sprayed myself in the eye before the second encounter. Every day was exhilarating, every second was an adventure and every drop of sweat was a testament to the toughness of this ride.

Were you ever tempted to give up? Or at least, what was the hardest part?

The toughest point came in the Wyoming Basin: I had less than a cup of water and a flat tire. I made the choice the keep going - in hindsight, not the best choice - without a reliable water source. Sixty miles from the nearest campsite, I had to push the bike off-route 45 miles to Jefferson City. There was no written answer to my problem, just determination.

What was the most beautiful sight for you along the way?

There were numerous occasions were I had to pause to take in the scenery, from the mountains of Montana to the tree-less openness of Wyoming. Every sight was amazing.

Any advice on doing undertaking such a challenging journey?

Obviously one has to be confident in their ability before setting out on such an expedition. I would recommend that you research the route as much as possible. Reading books and blogs gave me a multitude of information and resources. Even looking at photos that others have taken helps to know the terrain. There is also a documentary that has been made about the Great Divide Race. Granted the race is a whole different story, but it is reassuring to see the places on the actual route and know that others have been in your shoes.

How did you train for the bike hike?

As a full-time teacher, I had little time, but I did my best to "get in shape" physically. More importantly, I was mentally prepared for anything. To complete the ride takes 50% physical ability and the rest is mental.

What message would you impart to your students about tackling challenges?

There is no test in life that anyone else can hand you which truly tests your ability. Setting a challenge such as this does not require certain answers - only you know whether you were right or wrong. If you write your unconventional test and take it yourself, then you have all the answers and figure the rest out along the way.

We hear you plan to continue the trek at your next opportunity. Any updates?

Haha, yes hopefully, I am earnestly looking forward to finishing my initial goal. And plan to finish the ride this Summer. Oddly enough and to my own surprise, I also thought that I might enter the Great Divide Race sometime in the future!

Check out Alexander's beautiful photos and a detailed Blog of his adventures at Please also look around our website for more information about Vets Helping Heroes, Inc.

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