"Why bicycle touring? Good question. Most cannot understand it. Most wouldn't try it. Out of 330 million people in the USA, only 60,000 people belong to Adventure Cycling Association as they follow riders from around the world telling their stories of bicycle conquest.
As a veteran cyclist, I cannot imagine a better way to enjoy an intimate relationship with the life and people of a region. A stranger may tell me to take a certain road to a delightful swimming hole. Another stranger might turn me on to a wonderful bistro with local cuisine. Still others might invite me into their house for the evening.
On a bike, you experience the world differently than someone in a car, train or tour bus, screaming down the highway at 70 mph. Instead, you're riding under your own power. You are face to face with Nature. You live a spontaneous life beyond most peoples' imaginations. You truly discover the world via your own mental, emotional, spiritual and physical energy. When you ride, you touch the world in a unique way and the universe touches you." FHW
As Tim rode eastward, we cut south on Route 287 with a climb up onto a vast mesa. Lots of antelope! Tons of hawks! Bounding rabbits! Chipmunks and other furry creatures crossed the road in front of us. Above us, Big Sky, blue, white and vast.
David called over to me, "It doesn't get any better than this."
"You got that right," I said, pressing on the pedals.
When you're pedaling through such natural wonders, other writers seem to feel that same 'pull' of Nature. John Muir, the eminent naturalist said, "Our crude civilization engenders a multitude of wants, and lawgivers are ever at their wits' end devising. The hall, the theater, and the church have been invented, and compulsory education. Why not compulsory recreation? Our forefathers forged chains of duty and habit, which bind us not withstanding to our boasted freedom, and we ourselves in desperation add link to link, groaning and making medicinal laws for relief. Yet few think of pure rest or of healing power of Nature. How hard to pull or shake people out of a city! Earthquakes cannot do it, nor even plagues. These only cause the civilized to pray and ring bells, and cower in the corners of bedrooms and churches." 1875, The Atlantic Magazine
We busted across vast expanses of prairie, mountains and valleys. It's like being out in the middle of nowhere, but you're closer to the heart- beat of the universe than any other place on Earth. We kept pedaling until we reached Fort Washakie where Sacagawea, the Indian lady with child, who saved Lewis & Clark from certain death, is laid to rest. That one woman changed the course of history. Without her, Lewis & Clark would have died at the hands of the Indian chief who was her brother.
In Fort Washakie, a motorcycle guy with his wife stopped to talk with us. He told us how he had sold his house to buy a Harley and ride across the country for three months. He suffered rain and horrible weather most of the time. That man could talk the ears off of Dumbo the Elephant.
We rolled out of Landers with statues of longhorns being driven by a cowboy. Really Western motif!
About 10 miles out of town, we cut left on Route 287: the old Oregon Trial, Mormon Trail, and Pony Express Trail. These routes all spelled certain death to the Native Americans. Soldiers and pioneers slaughtered them and drove them from their lands. The white man took their babies into orphanages and forced the Bible and the white man's ways. They never succeeded, and today, reservations hold helpless, hopeless and cultureless Indians in a drunken stupor. Very sad to see. Pretty unfortunate for 560 tribes that once flourished in North America. As in all of human history, nothing fair, nothing noble, nothing kind as humans conquer one another in a bloody path of conquest.
As we turned on the route, instant, magnificent striated red and tan cliffs greeted us on a downward incline through a narrow canyon along a river. We followed it for miles with gorgeous striated mountains laid down over millennia. Then, onto the open plains. We saw "Notched Mountain", a Pony Express station, and the "Ice Slaugh" where settlers gathered blocks of ice left over from the long winters under a covering of peat moss. Treeless for as far as the eye could see! One pioneer wrote, "I would give a fortune to see 100 acres of trees across this desolate prairie—for it feels lifeless to me."
However, life springs everywhere with birds, hawks, antelope, snakes, fish in the rivers, rodents, butterflies, dragonflies, deer and more.
As we rolled south, we saw the road snake upward along a canyon rim. It ribboned like a great snake out of the canyon and onto a huge mesa.
"Looks like we've got a two-hour climb," I said.
"Two hours," said David. "Wow, I can't wait. Let's get it over with before I need a nap."
And so began another climb like Logan's Pass, Towogatee Pass, and now this Rim Pass. It just kept going up and up and up. Not steep, but a constant grind. Thankfully, under a blue sky.
What do you think about while grinding up a pass? One thing's for sure: you give your body, mind and heart to the climb. You bust tailfeathers. You earn every mile. You take breaks. You eat a lot. You burn calories. We faced some side-winds, and then some headwinds, but still, we busted up that pass.
Along the way, we looked back toward the mountains behind us. Truly magnificent. You just never do such sight-seeing in a car. You scream through the terrain, but no investment. The engine does all the work as you speed along your course.
Two hours and eight miles later, we made it to the top.
"That's the worst pass of the trip for me," said David. "Just about killed me."
"You're a good man my friend," I said. "You will look back on some of these climbs as the greatest tests of your personal resolve. You'll feel very good about yourself. And, you made it. You conquered it. True grit. You got it."
"Thanks man," said David.
We reached a rest area about five miles down the road where David passed out under a protective awning for 45 minutes.
"Let's get moving to Jeffrey City for a bicycle hostel and showers," I said.
"We jumped onto some 30 mph tail winds for a one-hour ride to Jeffrey City. That abandoned mining town once held 6,000 men. We stopped at the only bar in town for a beer. Only 20 people still live in the town. It's a ghost town.
We pulled out near sunset to the edge of town where an Old Baptist Church offered hot showers, beds, kitchen, stove, microwave and fridge. Lots of writing on the walls from cyclist from all over the world who stayed there.
To all those who wander:
"To all those who mount their steel horses,
To the rubber spinning wanderers.
To the Sultans of the spinning spoke,
To the adventure seekers and wild ones.
To the chain crankers,
To the aesthetic voyagers.
To the starry -eyed mystics and eternal seekers.
To you the mystical wanderers.
Of the world's wonders,
Whose only true home,
Is the endless blur of
The relentless road:
Always keep chasing your authentic existence: Freedom, joy, creative expression, wonder, awe and the greatest adventure of all---your life!
After a hot shower, dinner and journal writing, to bed.
"Good night David," I said.
"Thanks for a day well lived," he said.
David and Frosty's Excellent Adventure: Bicycling the Continental Divide, Summer 2019
Newest book: Old Men Bicycling Across America: A Journey Beyond Old Age, available on Amazon or ph. 1 888 519 5121
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