6: Bicycling the Continental Divide
—Mexico to Canada—into the mountains
By Frosty Wooldridge
“Ever bike? Now that's something that makes life worth living!...Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you're going to smash up. Well, now, that's something! And then go home again after three hours of it...and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!” Jack London
After passing two forest fires along the road yesterday, I slept like a rock alongside Route 285 heading into Colorado. I broke camp and pedaled onto the empty highway to see two hawks soaring above me looking for their breakfast. Immediately, I felt a cool tailwind. What a joy to pedal my bicycle with a “nature assist” behind me. Tailwinds bring a smile to my soul. They help me fly down the road. They lift me to the highest joy in my mind. Someday, I must write a poem about the joy of tailwinds.
(I met Wes heading south toward Texas for a new job. As you can see, Route 284 ran straight and true with tailwinds.)
Of course, whenever I face headwinds, they suck! I hate ‘em! I feel futile against them. I suffer a day of grinding the pedals when it comes to headwinds. Nuff said about those dastardly headwinds!
The road ran flat all the way to Antonito, Colorado. Once I arrived, a huge coal- burning locomotive greeted visitors and anyone can take a ride around the area on their collection of trains. Other than that, it’s a ghost town out of the 1880s with little vitality left.
After watering up my bottles, I continued northward to Alamosa. Pretty straight shot and easy pedaling with my tailwinds. Did I say I love tailwinds?! How do you give thanks all day long? I do, I do, I love you tailwinds!
As I rolled into Alamosa, I noticed an inordinate number of cyclists rolling toward me and turning into a huge grassy area with a band and a sea of tents along with a traveling carnival show with Ferris wheel.
One cyclist rode up behind me, “Where you coming from?”
“Mexico,” I said.
“Man, that’s great,” he said. “Why not stop and get a shower and lots of food.”
“What is this ride?” I asked.
“It’s Ride the Rockies with 2,000 cyclists,” he said.
“Great,” I said. “I’m in!”
Dozens of cyclists stopped to take a picture of my sign: “Across America” along with my website— www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com
(Ride the Rockies with a sea of tents stretching across a parade ground in Alamosa.)
Later, I stepped into an 18 wheeler 48 foot trailer for a traveling shower replete with hot water, a dozen showers, mirrors, benches and towels. First class!
Later, after being totally refreshed with the shower, I met people from 48 states and many different countries. Another band arrived on the scene to entertain a throng of cyclists and their families. The carnival provided rides for kids and parents. This shindig celebrated through a dramatic sunset over the mountains and stopped at 10:00 p.m. so everyone could get a good night’s sleep. I must confess that I enjoyed a great time with Ride the Rockies.
(Every cyclist decorates his or her bike to individual tastes. For me, I sport decals on my fenders from countries around the world. This cyclist features a little toy dog.)
Next day, I pedaled with 2,000 cyclists with all sorts of color-cartoon outfits, a vast array of bicycles and endless numbers of them passing me saying, “You’re living my dream” comments.
The ride provided 94 miles with a climb up 9,010 foot Poncha Pass, first of 19 passes on this ride from 9,000 feet to 11,307 feet, to end it and a long downhill coast into Salida. A heck of a windstorm blew up and nearly blasted me off Condor. I stopped to stick my foot out to brace myself. Rain hit. Wind blew harder. It calmed to allow me to crest the pass. At the top, the front passed over me. I rolled along a beautiful river for five miles, so clean, so pristine and refreshing. Nice to see such beauty before humans toss their bottles, cans, plastic bags, tires, trash and chemicals into it as it travels toward the ocean.
(Two ladies enjoying a moment of relaxation at a rest stop along the highway. You just can’t help but love bicycling life’s highways and stopping to smell the flowers along the way.)
At the high school campground in Salida, I pitched my tent along with the other 2,000 cyclists. Sitting there in my tent, I wrote a poem:
Spokes flashing, faces smiling,
we travel that highway through time.
Wheels rolling, minds probing,
the answers there are to find.
My friends and I, we travel far,
a spirit shared by two.
By a glimmering fire or shimmering lake,
the feelings felt are true.
With ups and down that come our way,
like mountains high and valleys low.
Each we take with a smile,
because inside we know.
That open road gives us life,
it blossoms in our minds.
Seldom do we ever shake dear feelings,
that do not bind.
So laugh my friend as our cycles ply,
along each passing mile,
And lift your eyes up to the sky,
and share with me your smile. FHW 2013
I call it “pedal magic” and only those who ride know the utter ecstasy of bicycling.
Pressing a pedal toward Earth gives flight to my fancy. Every rotation powers my traveling machine toward yet another date with destiny. The breeze clears my senses. The wind blows away my troubles. The sun shines upon my future. Spinning spokes create flashing metal upon an endless path—cycling feels like an infinite spiritual rush. It cleanses my mind. All my troubles fade into joy.
I slipped into my sleeping bag and fell fast asleep. A day well lived!
(The signs say, “Follow your heart and ride to your highest joy.” The mountains inspire and the scenery grows more breathtaking by the day.)
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, climbed 150,000 vertical feet and five states from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide with 19 pass crossings. 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
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