Part 2: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada 2013
By Frosty Wooldridge
Edward Abbey said, “One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
The next morning, I arose with the first chirp of a desert chickadee. Then, a crow. I popped my head outside the tent to see a chipmunk scurry across the sand lot. Then, a lizard raced past on his daily journey.
John Muir said, “How many hearts with warm red blood in them are beating under cover of the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining? A multitude of animal people, intimately related to us, but whose lives we know almost nothing, are as busy about their own affairs as we are about ours.”
(Notice the flags. I love a tailwind. On the other hand, headwinds suck! New Mexico desert.)
I can’t read enough about John Muir. He lives in my head and his books line my shelves. He wrote a book about his dog Stickteen when they both almost died in Alaska on a glacier. The dog showed Muir his own fear when they faced a treacherous crossing that almost killed them, and after they crossed the danger zone, the dog leaped with joy and happiness that equaled or exceeded Muir’s. From that point on, Muir understood that all of us animals with human or four-legged—love, get frightened and wrap ourselves within our families and friends.
I ate an orange, banana, Cliff bar and peanuts. Didn’t feel like cooking up oatmeal. I packed the gear and head and headed toward Alamogordo. A few sandy gray mountains appeared along the highway. But the cacti and trash continued along the road.
(For all you pistachios lovers. I ate a fresh bag of them and drank some pistachio wine. At that point, I asked a desert gopher to be my designated driver.)
What’s it like traveling on a great adventure alone? Well, I asked dozens of friends and strangers to go with me. I put ads onto the Internet for retirees and into Adventure Cycling “companions wanted.” I offered to lead 10 persons as their trail guide with all my 40 years of touring experiences. But for many reasons, everyone lives different lives and they must pursue them to the best of their abilities. I’ve had friends pull out of “around the world” adventures because their girlfriends got pregnant on them. I listened to dozens of excuses. In my youth, my friends rolled through their 20s. One friend pulled out of a trip to Alaska. To this day, he hasn’t gone to that grand state. He’s got a lot of regrets. The adage, “Travel while you’re young,” holds true today. Every year counts and every choice makes a difference in the mosaic of your life.
No matter what, whether with friends, whom I prefer on an adventure, but if they don’t find the time, I go alone. I make friends along the way. I send receptive energy into the universe and it always responds to make my adventures fantastic on so many levels.
Never have I seen anyone brag about how they stayed late at the office for years as they lay upon their death bed. They usually say, “If I had to do it all over again, I would take more time for playing with friends and family.” Not much you can do with a heavily mortgaged house and new cars, but when you enjoy freedom, you enjoy a special flavor of life—living on your own terms.
The road to Alamogordo proved flat, hot and a bit of a tailwind. Nothing but brush, cacti and barren land. I pedaled the entire day at a steady 12 mph. Out in that vastness, I felt as small as a wart on a flea’s ass. The land swallowed up my references. Looking over all of it, I got a really deep feeling of the universe and my small speck and singular burst of life that extinguishes in such a short time.
(Birds flying all over the place. I usually count on birds to entertain me throughout the day.)
After riding quietly through the morning, soaking up the silence, I plugged in my MP3 player and listened to all my favorite tunes: Beatles, Beethoven, Bach, Elvis, Ray Orbison, Barry White, Ray Charles, Reba McIntyre, Bonnie Raith and many more. Also, I listened to NPR for the latest news updates and really good interviews.
In the afternoon, the “sweet spot” of cycling hit me with a tingling sensation of perfection. My blood raced to every cell in my body as it fed oxygen and food. My muscles pumped in a steady rhythm to the rotation of the crank. I felt free to fly, to breathe, to not think. My body coursed with energy. I became a thriving, living machine moving across the planet. I gazed at desert flowers, occasional buzzards, and plaintive cries of crows along the road.
(Abandoned buildings in abandoned towns along the way.)
I stopped at guard rails to drink, stretch and eat oranges, bananas and apples. Back on the bike, I felt the constant flow of every blood cell coursing along my skin.
Near the end of the day, a black front loomed on the road ahead. Scary actually, with lightning, thunder and wind. It headed right toward me. A lady in a pickup stopped and yelled, “That storm has quarter sized hail and 60 mph winds. You need to find a place to stop.”
“How far to a safe place?” I yelled.
“About a mile up to those trees is an outpost with a porch you could stay under,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said as I headed into the tempest.
“Good God,” I said as the wind picked up in earnest and blew a load of sand right into my face. I swallowed some grit. It blew so hard, it stung my face and tore through my Lycra jersey. Several gusts nearly blew me over. I pushed into it with the tenacity of a bison heading into a storm. What would take five minutes took me 12 minutes. Watching the storm advance down my throat gave me pause but with no other choice, I saw the outpost and pushed the pedals harder. My thighs groaned with the endless power strokes against the wind. Within minutes, the driving winds quickened, but soon, I reached the protected porch of the Three Rivers Outpost. A few minutes later, hail slammed onto the steel roof. Not long after that, rain ripped out of the sky and drenched the desert. I sat their eating a banana and thanked the lady for her warnings.
“Gees, I could have been hit by that hail if not for this shed,” I said to the proprietor as he stepped out to greet me.
Within 20 minutes, the front moved south, the rain stopped and the wind calmed.
The proprietor Cameron said, “Why don’t you pitch your tent on the grass near the picnic table—no charge. We don’t have public showers, but you’re welcome to stay the night.”
“Thank you,” I said. “You’re very kind.”
As I pitched the tent, Cameron asked me into the outpost for dinner with his wife Pamela, a beautiful Indian lady. She cooked a lovely dinner of tortillas, beans, and rice and shared a gallon of apple juice.
Cameron, a self-taught artist from Montana talked about his colon cancer and how he had it cut out and the doctor declared him cancer-free as of that day. We celebrated. Later, Pamela and he talked about UFOs in the area which New Mexico stands out for in the area of Socorro. He showed me picture books of flying saucers. He talked about four foot grays and six foot browns all walking around among us.
Well, folks, I figure if they don’t bother me, I’m not going to bother them. I said good night and dove into my tent for a fantastic night’s sleep. Not a single space alien bothered me the entire night! A-men to that!
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’ I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
(Life provides an endless road for all of us to travel by rail, by foot, by bike, by motorcycle, by car, by ship, by plane and by spirit.)
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,