Part 4: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada—kindness of strangers
By Frosty Wooldridge
“When hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle . . .
When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” ~Arthur Conan Doyle
After leaving Bob and his dog Maggie, I pedaled hard toward Corona, but camped in a stand of juniper and pinions 12 miles short of town. I watched a magnificent sunset boil down into the desert. Horse-tail clouds swished their magic in grays, purples, strawberry and finally, gold. While I sat watching the sunset, I gazed around at the brush and cacti surrounding me. Nothing like being out in the middle of the desert to gain perspective. Do you like yourself enough to be alone? Do you open your spirit to the qualities of the wilderness? What glorious moments do you value in your life as you sit near your Walden Pond? Do you take time to contemplate your blessings?
In Corona, a very nice lady invited me to breakfast in the local diner and slipped me $12.00 to pay for the meal. “My gift for your ride,” she said. “I want to be a part of it.”
When people see me on this magnificent “flight” with a bicycle, they feel inspired while some think I am crazy. They say it, too. No matter what they think, it’s the energy within me that drives my love of cycling and the complete freedom enjoyed by “flying” down the road. In a way, cycling feels like flying as I pedal because my feet never touch the ground while I glide over it. I climb huge mountain passes, then, soar down the other side in complete freedom.
At the restaurant, I charged up my phone, cameras and MP 3 player. Because of the gift of the “gift” breakfast, I tipped the waitress abundantly. She blushed with gratitude. Pass your good fortune forward. I complimented her on her beautiful ear rings. A big warm fuzzy compliment makes anyone’s day.
Out of Corona, on route 84, the rocks and mountains closed in: up close and personal. The highway serpentined through rock cliffs for 20 miles, up and down, beautiful and still—a lot of desolation beauty. I hit Duran, a ghost town, and turned left on Route 3. I waited for a train and snapped some cool shots with Condor on the railroad tracks. They seem to travel into infinity. I traveled toward Clines Corner.
The road led onto a vast plain at 6,200 feet. Amazingly in the prime of spring in early June, brown-dead grass covered the view for as far as I could see. Yet cows grazed on the short, brown, dead grasses. One big water tank with a windmill but no live grass. What a pathetic life for those cows compared to the cows in verdant Michigan grasslands where rain fell all the time.
After swooping into the plains with a drop of 600 feet, I pedaled up and down for the next ten miles of mostly the road to myself. I hit Encino, another ghost town, and then took a left on Route 285 to Clines Corner. I reached an old café-diner of Route 66 fame at the Corner. Today, they still feature Elvis in a Cadillac, vinyl covered stools and milkshakes in steel cans.
My mother drove our 1953 Chevy station wagon from Chicago to California along Route 66 back in 1958. We stopped in Clines Corner for gas and lunch. Today, Route 66 remains a legend, but it’s mostly Interstate. The towns that still feature the highway bring back incredible memories of 57 Chevys, milk shakes and a by-gone era of America. To cross it again on a bicycle in the last portion of my life feels a bit “different” for my senses.
As I sat there in the diner, Laird, Jennifer, Mary and Gabriel walked up to me. We enjoyed a wonderful conversation before they decided to get down the road to Santa Fe. They invited me to stop at their place when I reached town.
After dinner, I camped out in a field behind Clines Corner. I met Bud, a Vietnam Vet, retired, recovered from a broken back in an accident and enjoying a motorcycle ride around America.
(For anyone who doesn’t know, that’s a 1961 Chevy Impala on Route 66 with Elvis’ swivel hips.)
Next morning, only 50 miles to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The road leading to Santa Fe proved flat, easy and fast. I rolled into the outskirts of the city at 3:00 p.m. A man named Evan engaged me at a gas station where I stopped to fill up on water.
“I can offer you a strawberry fruit smoothie,” he said. “Love to hear about your journey from Mexico. I’m only three blocks away.”
“Fruit smoothie!” I said. “Shucks, I hate fruit smoothies, but I’ll do it just this one time.”
At his house, his sister, with a personality tighter than a mosquito’s ass stretched over a rain barrel, charged on about how her daughter hung out with useless people and wasn’t doing the right things for her life. The mother offered that she suffered three divorces, so I understood that she carried a load of baggage. No wonder her daughter didn’t listen to her. Evan almost cringed that his sister would stay for a week. He proved a very smart and nice guy. I liked him immediately.
One of the things I discovered in life: everyone runs their own little engine that drives them down the tracks of life. Everyone makes their own mistakes. Everyone suffers their own disappointments. Some folks say that this life provides a “spiritual boot camp” for human beings. Sometimes life proves a rough road for some with many life lessons. If you don’t learn the life lesson presented the first time, you will face the life lesson a second, third and fourth time until you “get” the lesson. Once you “get” it, you may move forward with your life.
Why do so many continue to suffer difficult lives like Evan’s sister? For some reason, the lessons don’t compute, so that individual gets to learn again and again without learning. They “groove” their lives into the same track which they may not recover. Sad on multiple levels. It’s the difference of an Oprah with billions of dollars and another “Oprah” in the Chicago projects with 10 kids by ten different men. It’s Paris Hilton with beauty and billions to spend through no earning of her own: just the sperm-egg lottery lucky number of rich parents.
Only the universe knows the answers and it’s not speaking. Thus, each of us may learn or refuse to learn or can’t learn those lessons—thus we enjoy or suffer our lives. Again, I repeat the sage understanding of Aristotle: “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives—choice, not chance determines your chosen destiny.”
After enjoying the smoothie at Evan’s house, I pushed back onto the road toward Santa Fe and another destiny.
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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