Part 3: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada—desert contemplation
By Frosty Wooldridge
“To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man’s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm?” Angela Carter
After bidding good-bye to Cameron and Pamela in the morning, I pushed Condor into the morning coolness touching the desert before me. Funny thing about bicycling through the morning stillness in a desert: I get the feeling that my cells wake up to the freshness of the day. My legs feel vibrant beyond the normal morning of sitting in a chair, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper.
Before me, the newspaper of life spreads before me and I drink in luxurious sips of living in the present moment. Everything in a newspaper reports from the past. Riding my bicycle in the morning allows me to approach a new day with a living story, full of possibilities and “moments” worth recording.
John Wayne said, “Today is the most important thing in life. It comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.”
Last night, I learned about human kindness from a lady in a truck who warned me about the approaching storm, hail and gave me directions to shelter. At the Three Rivers Trading Post, Cameron and Pamela asked me into their home to share supper with me without thought of payment or reward.
Today, I pedal into an unknown future and like John Wayne said, it arrives perfectly new each new day and puts itself into my hands. What I do with this brand spanking moment stands in my hands. You bet I will make the most of this day.
I rolled through Lincoln County toward Carrizozo where Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett road, fought and finally, found their place in the history books. Billy shot 20 some cowboys before he reached his 21st birthday. Garrett killed Billy one night after cornering Billy in a sodbuster’s house. Not my idea of a long and prosperous life, but it made for myth and legend. Back in those days, the “Hole in the Wall Gang” along with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—made for hard living, but great movies with handsome stars like Paul Newman and Robert Redford. To be riding my iron steed through the desert over 130 years later gave me a “feeling” of riding through the land of the legends.
(Bicycle shadow while on tour. You can watch your shadow grow and diminish depending on the time of day.)
Flat, hot, so hot my mouth turned dry every 10 minutes. I guzzled water by the quart and carried three gallons with me to make sure I reached Carrizozo. Sweat, pedal, eat and drink!
Around 2:00 p.m., I reached Carrizozo at 5,400 feet, 1,200 people and broken down buildings along with abandoned ones over 100 years old. Quaint! At the south edge of town, I took a picture of an 1880s drug store made of brick.
A van pulled up with a lady asking, “What are you doing?”
“I’m pedaling from Juarez, Mexico to Canada along the Continental Divide,” I said.
“I am a professional photographer out of Santa Fe,” she said. “Jennifer Esperanza. I’d like to take some portraits of you if you don’t mind.”
“Click away,” I said.
Soon, I met her colleagues Laird, Mary and Gabriel. She had photographed environmentalist Bill McKibben and I said that I had met him at environmental conferences. Immediately, we talked about human overpopulation and environment. They equaled my passion on the subject. She wanted to promote my Australia trip next year on Facebook and Kickstarter.
Later, after they departed for a photo-shoot with Laird in the sand dunes nearby, I rolled to the corner gas station where I discovered a flat rear tire. I fixed it when a guy named Wes offered his bike pump. Excellent! Seconds later, another guy walked up to tell me of a man who pedaled from the bottom of South America, but suffered being run over by a car outside of town.
“Why tell me such a story?” I asked. “Should I quit cycling right now?”
“I’m not exactly sure why I said it,” he responded.
“Well,” I said. “I fly these flags on my bike to gain everyone’s attention while riding down the road. They can avoid me or use my flags as a target. But no matter what, I refuse to live in a rocking chair. I plan to live a long time and adventure with a bike for the rest of my life.”
I rolled out of town into the desert. After Carrizozo, the mountains became more personal, up close and the road began climbing and dropping, but with a steady altitude gain. As a cyclist, folks think it’s tough to climb, but climbing and descending mimic life. Everyone faces ups and downs. How do all of us handle those challenges? How do we deal with our downs? As with cycling, each teaches whether mentally, physically or emotionally. I embrace them all.
After 10 miles, I met a touring rider named Bob with a two-wheeled B.O.B. called a “Beast of Burden.” He carried a 50 pound dog named Maggie. He proved a jovial guy with a ventilated smile and firm handshake. “Vet with a Pet—all donations welcomed.” He cycled from Midland, Texas 500 miles up to New Mexico for a job, but it fell through so he traveled back to Texas.
Before he left, he replaced two one-gallon plastic containers on his handlebars because too much weight could break his B.O.B. He asked for an orange and I gave it to him. Before shoving off, he placed a little Skoals between his cheek and gums.
Once, I met a guy named Popcorn who rode up behind me on a coast to coast ride in 2012. He bragged about his Long Haul Trucker bicycle and how he had gotten it for half price. Later, he wanted to ride with me. I said, “Sure.” With that, he lit a cigarette and puffed away. I figured he did his thing and I did mine.
During the rest of the day, he chain-smoked while pedaling behind me. He lifted a cigarette out of his pack, light it and slipped the lighter and pack of cigarettes back into his handlebar bag without missing a stroke or a shift.
He said, “While cycling, I can eat any fried foods I want and smoke my brains out because all this exercise cleans out my body….”
“A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite, and it leaves one satisfied for the moment. What more can one want?” ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
On the road of life, I meet every kind of character and Popcorn proved quite the extreme character. That evening, I pitched camp, but he decided to keep pedaling. You gotta love every character you meet along your life’s journey.
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. 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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