Part 16: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada—Towogatee Pass
By Frosty Wooldridge
What is adventure?
“Adventure offers every human being the ability to live ‘the’ moment of his or her most passionate idea, fantasy or pursuit. It may take form in the arts, acting, sports, travel or other creative endeavors. Once engaged, a person enjoys ‘satori’ or the perfect moment. That instant may last seconds or a lifetime. The key to adventure whether it be painting, dancing, sports or travel: throw yourself into it with rambunctious enthusiasm and zealous energy—leading toward uncommon passion for living. By following that path, you will attract an amazing life that will imbue your spirit and fulfill your destiny as defined by you alone. In the end, you will savor the sweet taste of life pursuing goals that make you happy, rewarded and complete. As a bonus, you may share your life experiences with other bold and uncommon human beings that laugh at life, compare themselves with no one and enjoy a whale of a ride!” FHW, Golden, Colorado
Two lean dudes, sporting jingling-spurs with sweaty Stetsons on their heads—walked into the Cowboy Café the next morning in Dubois, Wyoming. They stank of cigarette smoke and horseshit fresh from the rodeo arena. They took one look at us with our bicycle cartoon jerseys tight against our bodies and specifically my black runner’s tights and muttered something that I can’t really repeat on paper.
(Cowgirl feeding a young colt in Dubois, Wyoming.)
Dave and I meekly ate our oatmeal and yogurt while Gerry wolfed his granola with blue berries.
“Did you hear what he said about us?” I asked Gerry.
“I couldn’t hear anything above the jangling spurs and smell of cow shit,” he said. “Best we keep a low profile in this western town.”
(Hunting party in the 1880s in Wyoming near Dubois. They shot turkeys, rabbits, antelope, buffalo and bear. They sliced them up, cleaned them, gutted them and ate them. Today, we non-chalantly walk into a grocery store for our packages of fresh chicken and steak with no blood or any of the messy stuff of killing food for ourselves.)
After we paid our bill, we pedaled over to the “Biggest Jackalope in Wyoming” and took a few pictures. As you might know, a Jackalope represents a mythical creature, the result of a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope. They hop and run at blazing speeds. They spit, growl and dash around devouring women and children. At the display, they threw a saddle on one of those eight foot furry monsters and invited us to ride one. Amazing that we got away with our lives!
(Dubois proved to be western, feature great art galleries, cowboys everywhere along with cowgirls and Jackalopes.)
After getting out of town, we faced some stiff headwinds on our 76 mile quest to reach Colter Bay in the Grand Tetons.
(Gerry and Dave eating breakfast at the Cowboy Café. City folks prefer granola and yogurt. Cowboys demand bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, black coffee, toast and jam. They add a little pinch of Skoals between their cheek and gums as they walk out.)
“You boys face a nasty climb to the top of Towogatee Pass,” I said after stuffing my front panniers with fruits, veggies and energy bars from the local grocery.”
(Gerry with his head up the bears…well, you know what I mean.)
“Ready to ride over that big pass before we get to the Grand Tetons,” Gerry said. “Why do they call them the Grand Tetons?”
“When some French trappers first discovered them in the 1800s,” I said. “Those magnificent peaks rose into the sky with all the grace of a Playboy model lying on her back. One of them exclaimed, ‘Sacra bluer, la grand tetons’! Or, in today’s vernacular, ‘enormous breasts’.”
“Works for me,” Dave said.
Riding with Dave and Gerry provided me with fresh insights. They represented a loving website for the elderly in Ireland: www.daveandgerrystransamcharitycycle.wordpress.com and http://youtu.be/DV4j98beWyM ; Charity number CHY 19636
They raise funds for elderly folks who cannot ambulate or care for themselves in old age. Since I’m nearing my own “elderly” stage of life, I recommend their work.
Route 287 wound through the mountains and crossed the Wind River numerous times. I find it refreshing to see pristine mountain rivers untouched and uncontaminated before humans toss their cans, bottles, plastic, trash and tires into them as soon as the river reaches civilization.
We encourage the trashing of our country with fast food bags of garbage that folks fling out their car windows. Beer and soda drinking Americans toss their empty bottles and cans by the millions daily. It’s amazing how we wouldn’t allow one single piece of trash on a major league base ball, football or hockey arena, but we dump more crap onto our land than anyone can imagine. I’m disheartened at the level of irresponsibility, lack of personal accountability and lack of pride in our surroundings.
John Muir said it best, “The great wilds of our country once held to be boundless and inexhaustible are being rapidly invaded and overrun in every direction, and everything destructible in them is being destroyed. How far destruction may go is not easy to guess. Every landscape low and high seems doomed to be trampled and harried.”
I might add, “Every landscape, mountain and river along with our oceans suffers rampant destruction as we inject chemicals, trash, bottles, cans, oil, tires, baby diapers and every item of human crap onto the terrain without pause. I’ve often said that God’s worse mistake: inventing humans.”
We devolved from .02 cent return laws for bottles in the 50s to a total throwaway society by the mid seventies. You may find the end result in the 100 million ton, floating Plastic Island the size of Texas out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It kills millions of creatures annually. Worse, not one national leader or international leader will address it and promote a 25 cent deposit-return law on all plastic produced in the world to insure their responsible return. Makes me sick to my stomach because I’ve seen what we’re doing to the planet. It ain’t pretty.
Somehow, Gerry and Dave fell behind me. What’s it like traveling with Gerry and Dave? Too funny to describe! Gerry makes me laugh just looking at him. He quips at everything. Dave tells outrageous stories that make me laugh out loud. I wake up in my sleep laughing. I laugh hysterically throughout the day.
(Frosty standing at the base of Towogatee Pass with 4.5 hours of climbing ahead of him. Those distant mountains beckon. Let’s git ‘er done!)
I began the long climb into the Bridger-Teton National Forest up to the top of Towogatee Pass at 9,545 feet. Ahead of me, a dramatic climb at six percent that seemed to reach into the clouds. Hellacious gray rock summits faced me on the skyline. When I see such a climb, I put my head down and drop Condor into granny gear at 24 front chain ring to 34 rear freewheel.
I asked Dave how he climbed big mountain passes. “I know I can get up that climb,” he said. “I focus on a sign or bush or anything I know I can make it to that point. If it goes well, I focus on another point and keep going up to the top.”
He added, “At home in Ireland, I have music in my ears so I don’t feel or think about it. I’m not at the top until I get to the top. Even if I feel like crap, I know I still have to make it. It won’t get done by itself.”
Me? I steel my mind to a long climb. It just “is what it is” and I deal with it. It could be an hour or six hours. The one thing I know while I climb: I see more beauty and breathtaking sights the higher I travel. It becomes a spiritual dance. On the surface, most people think, “I couldn’t do that.” When in fact, yes, they could if they chose.
The road serpentined through magnificent gray rock corridors, enormous pine and aspen stands garnished with white water rivers falling down from distant snowfields. Each sweeping curve carried me higher, still higher into cooler temperatures. Four and a half hours later, I reached Towogatee Pass. Later, my Irish mates made it to the pass.
(Dave and Gerry reaching the 9,945 foot top of Towogatee Pass.)
Topping a pass presents a person with incredible elation of spirit, mind and body. Every cell in a person’s body loves that moment of triumph.
However, we didn’t make Colter Bay.
Frosty Wooldridge has bicycled across six continents - from the Arctic to the South Pole - as well as eight times across the USA, coast to coast and border to border. In 2005, he bicycled from the Arctic Circle, Norway to Athens, Greece. In 2012, he bicycled coast to coast across America. In 2013, he bicycled 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide, 150,000 vertical feet of climbing and 19 crossing of passes. He presents “The Coming Population Crisis facing America: what to do about it.” www.frostywooldridge.com . His latest book is: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, copies at 1 888 280 7715/ Motivational program: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World by Frosty Wooldridge, click: www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com
Live well, laugh often, celebrate daily and enjoy the ride,
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
Order these unique cards today: http://www.howtolivealifeofadventure.com/