- Riding east on Route 155, we neared a pass through the
-Greenhorn Mountains of the Sierras. Flat terrain near Delano,- California,
gave way to peaks that cut the sky into wrinkled shapes at the horizon.
Wildflowers bloomed along our route, which -grew steeper with every crank
of the pedals.
- John, Mike, Kevin and I pedaled on a cross-continent
journey. -John, hailing from the coastal town of Kiama near Sydney, -Australia,
proved a charmer. His voice and wit had gotten us invited into three families'
homes within the last -week. The night before, we sat in a restaurant
devouring the -"all-you-can-eat" salad bar, when a couple overheard
John talking about the southern California climate. Before we knew it,
John, -who could be as charming as a Koala bear on one of those airline
-commercials, had gotten us invited into Larry and Valerie Johnson's home
for -the evening. Our hosts couldn't do enough for us, and they loved
to hear about our experiences. It's as if the price of admission- was
sharing our lives.
- Being invited into complete strangers' homes may seem
awkward, even unheard of by most travelers, but we'd been asked- into peoples'
homes often during our tours. It may be the- vulnerability of a bicycle
rider. People feel we're honest, -sometimes giving us the keys to their
homes and cars.
- On one tour, a man stopped me on the highway and invited
me to his home. He tossed me his house keys before driving off to a ball
game. When I arrived at his home a half-hour later, there -were two bags
of fruits and vegetables on the table and a note saying, "Help yourself."
- I'm not sure why people think a touring bicyclist is
trustworthy. Maybe they believe it takes depth of character for -someone
to pedal a bike for long distances-that someone who -earns every mile with
hard work and sweat must be honest. Anyone with less character would never
tour on a -bicycle, because it's not a free ride. It takes guts to pound
the -pedals mile after mile, mountain pass after mountain pass. My legs
burn and I'm always hungry. I'm soaked in sweat and I'm -exhausted at
the end of the day. It's not for those with weak -physical resolve. Age
makes no difference because I've met men -and women in their seventies
on world bicycle tours. Attitude creates amazing strength and resolve!
- Being asked into homes also has to do with a cheery -disposition
and the sparkle in their eyes as well as my own. -Some folks get a kick
out of living and they can spot it in others. They enjoy connecting with
another life-force person who -returns the energy. For that and other
reasons, I've enjoyed many memorable evenings in peoples' homes around
- But that day, the heat and the climb had exhausted me.-
John climbed with ferocious power. Mike stayed with him. Kevin and I
-followed them. From flats to hills to bigger hills to mountains! I pushed
my bicycle into the Sierras. By the- afternoon, I had climbed 1,000, 2,000,
3,000 and was headed for- 4,000 feet. Even with my 24 to 34 gearing, (number
of teeth on the chain ring and freewheel) my legs took a -beating.
- The constant power strokes with no rest kept my muscles
-pumped and full of lactic acid. Kevin wasn't faring much better. -The
grade caused me to sweat profusely so I stopped to drink often. Each time,
the cool afternoon air-dried me quickly. -Minutes later, more sweat moistened
the dried salt. Passing cars threw dust on me, which locked onto the sweat.
At the next water stop, it dried again, leaving me feeling like a mud
covered dirt -ball.
- When I reached 5,000 feet, darkness crept over the- mountains.
A gray mist slipped down from the summit, cutting visibility. By that
time, we labored through tighter curves that -hugged the mountainside.
I was ready to call it quits.
- "John is probably at the top of the pass right now,"
- "I wouldn't doubt it," he said.
- "It's another 1,000 feet, but we'll have to do it
in the dark for the next half hour," I said. "I'm blown out right
now. -You wanna' keep riding?"
- "My knee is acting up," Kevin said.
"But I can do another -fifteen minutes."
- Kevin and I slipped our feet into the toe-clips and shoved
our bikes into motion. We continued upward into the mist. Sweat- soaked
my shirt. A few minutes later, a car passed us going down-hill. I didn't
think much of it until the car swung around and slowed beside us. The
electric window slipped down.
- "Good evening, mates," John Brown
said. "How would you boys -like a nice hot shower and dinner compliments
of my new friend -Ross?!"
- "Only if you promise never to drag me up a mountain
again,"- I said.
- "But you wouldn't be getting a hot shower,"
John said. "So -why would you be upset?"
- "Because you dragged us up this mountain all day
and I'm- gonna' die," I said.
- "If we hadn't gotten this far, we wouldn't have
met Ross and his nice shower," John said.
- "You're right, John," Kevin broke in. "We'll
just bend your spokes after the shower!"
- "Fair enough, boys," John said.
"Follow me another mile."
- "All the hot water you want, too," Ross said
from the far- side of the car.
- "I'm gonna live for it," I said as my body
continued -lathering up with mud-laden sweat.
- Ross and John drove away. I felt weary and
caked with dust, -but the thought of a hot shower kept me going. I dreamed
about -it as I pedaled the last mile up the dark, winding highway. -Even
though I was tired, that single thought kept me going. It seemed to make
the next fifteen minutes go faster, because I was -feeling the soothing,
hot droplets massage my skin. The cranking- seemed easier. Kevin started
talking about the shower. Sweating -like two horses and steaming in the
cool night air, we reached- the guest ranch sign John had mentioned.
- Ross operated a summer kid's ranch. He gave
us kitchen privileges. He led us to a row of six showerheads.
- "Plenty of hot water," he said.
- "God," I said, "is going to
give you an A."
- John, Kevin, Mike and I slipped off our shoes and walked
-into the showers. After adjusting the temperature, we walked -under them
with our socks, shorts, shirts and gloves on. I've -never heard so much
groaning and laughing. Everyone soaped up.
- Hot water steamed over my aching muscles.
As the first rush -of water doused my head, it cascaded over my face and
streamed down my shoulders. I tore off my shirt and slapped it down on
the tile. I peeled off my socks and shorts. The water ran down -my body
in waves, taking away the dirt and grime. Soothing steam- filled my nostrils.
I grabbed a bar of soap and lathered up my -hair.
- The soap and water did more than clean me.
The whole day's -hardship vanished in moments. I was in the middle of
one of the -greatest showers of my life. I had felt so worn out coming
up -the mountain, but now I felt tingling in every cell. As I stood -there,
transformed in the spray, I became aware of my friends'- shouts at our
good fortune of having this hot shower at the end- of a tough day. From
those gut-busting power cranks on the- pedals, to this ecstasy.
- As I stood there, I thought about my good
- We enjoy 70-80 years to fill up our lives,
and I want to -fill them up with the voluptuousness of living. Especially
on a -touring bicycle! It is being aware of pain, of joy, of potential
-within myself-of being excited for every leaf on a tree as it -flutters
in the wind, or watching a hawk rip down from the sky to -grab a mouse,
or the delight of discovering a ladybug landing on my leg -in the early
spring, or gazing upon a mountain as it pierces the- clouds.
- It leads me to a kind of rage too, which is the blood
-sister of love-because the people of this world make it a -charming, insane,
exciting and confusing place. I want to maintain the ability to deal with
them, with my mind, and -spirit-at full bore. To see is to know, and to
know is to fall in love with what is known.
- WHAT'S THIS?!? My shower just turned cold.
The hot water -ran out. I jumped back. The cold water shocked my skin.
My -four friends and I headed for the towels. We dried our bodies -and
gathered our belongings. Dinner awaited!
- The next day, we loaded our bikes with food
and water. -Within seconds, sweat glistened on our bodies. Was it a lot
of -hard work? Not really! We pedaled into another glorious day of adventure
across America on two wheels.
I made the right choice? -Is it worth the agony and sweat of climbing a
6,000-foot pass or -one at 15,500 feet through a blizzard in Bolivia?
You betcha! I- want to fill up my life with living. Even when I'm home
working- a five-day week, I make every day a positive experience. Daily
-life is an adventure. Weekends are a grand adventure. Each- sustains
- One night while sitting around a campfire,
John and I, both -being teachers, invented the ABC Concept. It fit our
-philosophies for happy living. The message is a simple attitude -that
anyone can choose to follow. With any life activity, a -person can "go
for it" and enjoy it before/during/after. That's -the strategy of
the ABC concept:
- A. AIM-Take aim on life like Terry Fox who
had cancer and -ran on one leg across Canada to attract attention to the
disease -before he died. Fight for what you believe in like David Brower
-or John Muir when they brought their environmental message to Americans
long before it was in vogue. Diane Fossey tried to save -the gorillas.
Ann Kanabe rode her bicycle from the top of North America to the bottom
of South America. -Anyone with a passion can work toward fulfilling his
or her dream.
- B. BUOYANCY-Keep buoyant in the troubled
waters of living. -Maintain motivation with a positive attitude. Keep
light hearted -against heavy odds. Lightness travels well and long. Bob
-Wieland, walking across America on his hands, epitomizes- buoyancy. He
didn't stop at that success, either. Later, he -completed the Boston Marathon
and the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
- C. CELEBRATE-Jump up and shout about being
alive. -Celebrate life! Don't be afraid to be counted. Show your energy
-and excitement. Jump into a cold stream when you want a bath. -Laugh
at the hill you are about to climb. Remember that riding -through the
mountains is like a dance. Let the mountain lead and- you follow. Blow
up that special photograph and hang it on your -wall. Relish your excitement.
Reach beyond your boundaries. -Finally, you need not be afraid of failing,
for that fear can -prevent you from ever being fully alive. Failure can
lead to -success if you never give up.
- "The secret of health for both mind and body is
not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate
troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."
- KEY POINTS FROM THIS CHAPTER
- 1. Always keep a positive attitude and cheerful
disposition; it will take you further.
- 2. Always write down your thoughts and ideas on
your notebook when they occur.
- 3. The harder the climb, the greater the reward
mentally, physically, spiritually.
- Excerpt from: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art
of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, publishes May 2011.