Part 1: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada 2013
By Frosty Wooldridge
Aristotle said, “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 destiny.”
Standing on the Mexican border on June 6, 2013, I pointed my bike “Condor” northward after the Border Patrol agent snapped a picture in front of the “Welcome to Mexico” placard. I faced 2,550 miles, 150,000 vertical feet of climbing, 10 crossings of passes on the Continental Divide, five states and a whole lot of sweat, gumption and grind.
At the same time, bicycling across America provides amazing sights, interesting people and new experiences a person cannot enjoy when stuck in the same “orbit” most of the year. Travel teaches. Travel enlightens. Travel offers creative process. Travel brings renewed energy by connecting with Mother Nature.
Mark Twain said, ““Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
With my panniers loaded with cooking gear, food, energy bars, clothes, map, cameras and extra tools, I looked northward. Four bottles lashed to my tubes brimmed with water. I shoved my feet into the straps and headed into El Paso, Texas from Juarez, Mexico. Temperature: 96 degrees F. Many car drivers waved at the sign on the back of my bike: “Across America” & www.HowToLiveALifeOfAdventure.com .
(Frosty on the Mexican border at the beginning of his Continental Divide Ride 2013)
That sign excites people because it depicts “freedom” via travel. Not ordinary travel, but self-powered travel via one of the greatest machines ever created by humanity. I think Leonardo da Vinci created the first prototype for bicycles. Later inventors added the chain, steel frame and rubber tires. In the late 1800s, intrepid guys on High Wheelers, known as Penny Farthings, pedaled those odd bikes coast to coast across America. One guy, Thomas Stevens, pedaled his High Wheeler around the world from 1884 to 1886. One tough, gutsy man!
Today, I enjoy panniers to carry my gear, derailleur shifting systems, plenty of clean water, food, paved highways most of the time, shower bag, cook stove, instant communication and a lot of support along the way. I also carry a very special book given to me by a dear and long time cyclist friend, Uwe Rothe from Germany, whom I met on my 1995 ride down the West Coast of America from Canada to Mexico. He had ridden from Alaska and headed for the bottom of South America. We shared a most incredible ride toward Patterson, California under a pink sunset sky filled with brilliant clouds tinged in pastels. As we followed the stream downhill, with high rocky cliffs on both sides of us and gliding into the dusk, Uwe leaned over, “I think this is a dream.” I responded, “And we’re riding in it.”
Later on the journey, we visited Yosemite where he surprised me with a gift from my hero, John Muir: In His Own Words. I ride with it to this day. Uwe wrote, “A little reminder to our common flight through the sunset on the way to Patterson. We are brothers in the spirit of John Muir.” I treasure that moment with Uwe to this day and I love his gift of John Muir, the man who created the National Park system for the entire world.
To this day, Uwe and I enjoy a lifetime friendship born of that one ride together. I have visited him in Germany with his wife Claudia and son Til. One day, we shall share the road again.
(Frosty in front of a Spanish conquistador and his horse)
Pedaling out of Mexico, I splashed sweat on the top tube in the intense heat. My flags flapped with from a 7 foot fiberglass pole vertically extended from the back rack with orange, lime green and white flags. My traffic flag extended 20 inches to my left to keep cars from skimming me. The orange flag stood at the end and the white flag positioned inside. On both white flags which I sewed, I wrote, “On Tour.” Gives me a kick to put a little personal touch to my gear.
Quickly, I pedaled onto Route 54 north to Alamogordo, New Mexico. Quickly El Paso at 3,700 feet, dropped out of my rear view mirrors. Soon, semi-arid desert with cacti, flat land and heat waves extended for as far as the eyes could see. As usual, along our nation’s highways, plastic bags, trash, bottles, cans, plastics bedsprings, used tires and junk of every description covered the landscape near the highway. Sickens my soul that humans continue to trash their own home. I continue to promote banning all plastic bags from grocery and other stores. And, as a nation, we need 10 cent deposit-return laws on all plastic, can and bottle containers. We cannot trust our own citizens to care about the environment. We need economic incentives to engage their need for money.
By the afternoon, I pedaled up to the New Mexico state line. I shot more video and still pictures. Remounting my bike, I rode 70 miles into the desert when I discovered an abandoned gas station. At that point, the sun settled low into the sky. I felt exhausted after a good day of pedaling in the heat. I guzzled two gallons of water.
As usual, I pitched my tent, inflated my air mattress, rolled out my sleeping bag and fell asleep around 8:00 p.m. About 9:00 p.m., a huge storm blew up from the north and ripped at my tent lines. It woke me up. I looked out to see an ominous black cloud bearing down on me. Winds tore at my tent, but it held. Sand blasted against my nylon dwelling. I could only hope it didn’t turn into a tornado that would suck me up into the sky like the “Wizard of Oz.”
Soon, I fell asleep in the middle of the storm because I was too tired to care what happened.
(All our favorite characters and puppets)
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,