Brian Venable is used to being on the go. As the guitarist for the alt-country band Lucero, he tours constantly. He fields phone calls from a dozen music journalists every time the band drops a new album. On the side, he paints and designs t-shirts to sell on the band’s website.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that his idea of a vacation is biking over 2,600 miles from Canada to New Mexico.
Described as “a painstaking test of endurance,” the Tour Divide starts in Banff, Canada, and traces a path along gravel roads and trails, through grasslands, the Rockies, and the high desert. The ride ends in Antelope Wells, New Mexico, near the Mexican border. There are no prizes for finishing except sore legs, blisters, and the satisfaction of having spent weeks on the open road and survived to tell your tale.
Brian readily admits he has no idea how this whole thing will turn out.
“That’s the humor in it. I grew up riding bikes, being a punk rock kid. But I have no training.”
His lifelong friend, Chuck, is a bike enthusiast and convinced they’ll do 100 miles a day — with stops along the way to see certain rock formations (Chuck’s a geologist). But if they don’t make their goal, that’s okay. The ride is not a race in the traditional sense. While some riders will go hard, forgoing sleep and showers to complete the course as fast as the can (the record is 13 days, 22 hours and 51 minutes), everyone takes it at their own pace. Brian looks forward to enjoying the scenery, the fresh air. The simple act of peddling, away from the daily grind of band life and household activities.
“I’m camping and hanging out with my buddy, that’s how I look at it,” Brian shares. “This is the first time in so many years that I’ve gone somewhere that didn’t involve the band or my family.”
Brian has another mission on the Tour Divide: raising money and awareness for the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America.
His good friend, Meredith, was diagnosed with MG in November 2021. He watched as she, a young woman who “had it all together,” experienced a confusing array of scary symptoms without an understanding of what was causing her health problems. He admires her strength, and that of her husband Derek, as they’ve navigated her illness.
Raising funds to support MGFA’s mission is important to Brian, but so is using his platform as a well-known musician to shine a light on MG.
“A lot of our fans are like family. When I bring up something, my people step up. It’s crazy how many people MG affects but how so few people know about it.”
For Meredith, having a friend’s love and support through a hard journey has been invaluable.
“When you’re first diagnosed, your friends and family respond in myriad ways. It’s easy to find yourself wondering whether they’re embarrassed or uncomfortable with some of the changes you’re undergoing. But the level of support Brian has shown has been amazing.”
When she first heard that Brian wanted to raise funds and awareness for MG through his ride, she cried.
“I believe my exact words were, ‘Crud! There goes my mascara!’ But in all seriousness, I am both humbled and proud of his choice to use the Tour Divide to support MG awareness, and I can confidently say that such a selfless and loving act is entirely keeping with Brian’s character. I couldn’t be more thrilled for him to undertake this adventure.
“Over the years, he’s taught me so much about the freedom in living authentically, and with my diagnosis in particular, he’s inspired me to not let preconceived limitations slow me down. He’s given me the courage to keep going in my MG journey, and in return I’ve given him a large can of Bear Spray to keep him going in his!”
The Tour Divide begins June 10. More information about the race can be found here. Brian aims to raise $10,000 during the month of June – you can make a gift here.