pedaled on to Kingman, Arizona. In the
middle of the desert, as we sweated our butts off, a man stopped Bob and me and
said, “What would be your highest wish out here in this blistering heat?”
could use a gallon of lemonade,” Bob said.
too,” I said.
fellow, an Austrian visitor to the USA, walked over to his trunk, cracked a
cooler and brought back two, ice-cold cans of
bless you!” I said. “You’re an angel!”
boys,” he said as he jumped back into the car and sped off.
swear the world is full of angels,” Bob said.
humans make the most intriguing creatures,” I said.
reaching Kingman, Bob, always the intrepid traveler, parted with us as he needed to take care of
other commitments back home. Then, on to
Route 66 for a trip through memory lane and what a few memories that route
provided! Old ‘57 Chevies, old gas
stations with .19 cents for a gallon of gas,
with pictures of John Wayne, Jane Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe alias Norma
Jean, the Beatles, Dale and Roy Rogers,
Everly Brothers, Clint Eastwood and so many more! Amazingly, in 1958, my mom and our family drove
an old ’53 Chevy from Chicago to Pier 59 in Santa Monica on our way to meet our
dad in Hawaii! At the time, this 11 year
old did not have any idea that he would be also traveling this same road on a
bicycle over 50 years later! Who woulda’ thunk it!
my journal, “Often, as I see this country spinning ever faster, ever more
frenetic, I wonder where our ‘high speed’ lives, work and living will lead
us. How can we continue on such a pace
as to race through our existence? To
what end? Makes me wonder.”
need the tonic of the wilderness, to wade sometimes in the marsh where the
bitten and the meadow hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the
whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest,
and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.”
to Grand Canyon with its vast panorama of 1.7 billion years socked into one
grand vision sunk into the desert in northern Arizona, the Painted Desert
colored with brush strokes only known to God’s creative angels, the Petrified
Forest where trees turned to stone, and Antelope Canyon where water turned rock
to New Mexico through her majestic mountains to Ft. Sumner and Billy the Kid
Museum. Denis departed as he suffered a
family emergency in Quebec. And, Scott
headed north toward interviews in Oklahoma and at his old college. www.fightobesityride.com
drove down from Denver and we shared dinner, conversation, and the museum. Nice to rest for a day and talk about the
ride and all the exciting things Sandi enjoyed back in Denver.
Sandi returned home, I faced three days of 30 mph headwinds. Horrible, miserable, mind numbing pedaling
and not too many miles. Yet, I continued
with tenacity because that’s what bicycle touring requires. Climbing, dropping, climbing, dropping. Hard play!
Up that mountain! Down that other
side! Legs churning the wheels as if
flying. Finally, over the last set of
mountains, the wind died.
my journal, “I stopped by a guard rail and sat down with great
consternation. All around me, wind raged
from the east. I had been battling that
wind for five hours. How can a man yell
at Nature? How can I beg for a tail
wind? How can I scream that I’m sick of
these head winds? Okay boy, calm
down! True grit! Either you got it or
you can break down and cry. Who me? Cry?
Man, I would hate to have someone stop along the road to see a grown man
crying. But just then, a pickup stopped
and an old man stepped out with a 10 gallon hat. He drawled, “You look like you’re about to
cry.” I said, “These head winds won’t
let me ride my bike with any kind of a break.
They punish me! They beat me
unmercifully and they won’t stop. I’m
crying because I’m a baby in adult clothing.”
The cowboy scratched his head, pulled down his hat, “Listen son, quit
feeling sorry for yourself. Ain’t nobody
cares about your iddy-bitty feelings.
If’n you ain’t tough enough for life’s hardships, then find
yourself a mule and ride him and let him
suffer, or git yourself a good pickup truck and let the engine do the work…but
don’t sit out here in the middle of nowhere crying. Did Genghis Kahn cry? Did Napoleon cry? Did Audie Murphy cry? Do you think John Wayne cried? Hell no!
Quit feelin’ sorry for yourself.
I don’t feel sorry for you! You
got to ‘cowboy up’ ya hear me?” I looked
up to the old cowboy, “Yes sir, I’m gonna’ cowboy up and get down the
road.” And, so I slipped my feet back
into the toe clips and headed into that nasty headwind. It still sucks, but I won’t let that old
cowboy see me cry! Besides, if John Wayne didn’t cry, I better ‘cowboy
up’! As I would find out later that day,
the old cowboy gave me much wisdom and an even greater gift.”
evening at dusk, I followed a dirt road to camp in a quiet area among a jumble
of gray rocks. The wind died. The sky slowly turned to strawberry hues and
streaks of clouds resembling horse tails ‘whisked’ across the gathering eastern
sky. The sun, just beginning to dip
below the horizon burned with a pink intensity too amazing to describe. I had faced a hard day in the saddle. I pitched my tent. But before I set up to cook my dinner, I saw
a large hawk ‘fluttering’ quietly above a spot not 50 yards away. I decided to investigate.
he lowered his wings and dove straight down toward the ground. I hurried to
where he aimed his body. I stealth-fully
crept up on where I figured he might
have landed. When I pulled myself just
over a large rock about six feet above a small clearing before me, I saw the
hawk confronting a three foot long rattle snake. The snake, coiled as tight as springs on a
1954 Ford Pickup, unleashed a strike at the hawk, but the hawk stepped back in
a blink. The rattler recoiled. Kicking up a little dust, the hawk flew up a
foot and dared the snake to strike, which it did! But the hawk dodged the strike with
ease! This dance of “air predator”
versus “ground predator” continued for ten thrilling if not magical
time, the hawk dared the snake to strike.
And, the snake complied as was its nature. By now, the last rays of the day limped
across the heavens. The strawberry sky turned pale pink while clouds turned gray, but just
enough light kept the drama before me incredibly clear. I watched in amazed, but quiet
excitement. In the last few strikes, the
rattler clearly lost his ‘zip’. But the
hawk appeared fresh as Muhammad Ali dancing around the ring.
another ten strikes, the rattler failed to recoil quickly. The bird hopped and flew over his head. The
rattler made two more strikes, but on the third strike, the hawk snatched the
snake right behind his head. He pecked
the snake on the head as he held the snake securely within his talons. Almost without effort, he lifted into the sky
with a limp rattler dangling beneath him.
Within seconds, he flew into the sunset and vanished into the night.
God,” I muttered to myself. “It doesn’t
get any better than this.”
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.” John Muir, 1869
returned to my campsite. I pulled out my
tripod seat and planted myself upon it.
I lit my one burner cooking stove and threw on a pack of rice and pilaf. As it cooked over the heat, I dipped a slice
of my new loaf of bread down into the broth.
I looked up at the stars. I gazed at the gray rock all around me. I watched the very last ‘tone’ of the western
sky surrender to the onslaught of the darkness. The tasty scent of my dinner wafted toward
my nostrils. Soon, the rice/pilaf dinner
and my loaf of bread made their way into my hungry mouth.
can a man be so lucky as to see a sight like I had just witnessed? What grace of the Great Spirit brought me to
that moment? While adventure is not
always comfortable, it allows for pure moments of untainted amazement
unavailable to city dwellers.
means nothing now. It slips away as easily as grains of sand on a beach. But those grains only trade places. On my
bike, I change the same way—new locations in the passage of time. The pedaling becomes incidental now—like
breathing. No conscious effort—only
flow. The hills and mountains come and
go—my legs powering over them in a kind of winsome trance. Grappling with headwinds only brings
determination, while riding a tail wind brings ecstasy. I transform into a state of bliss, much like
a seagull gliding over the waves or floating on updrafts. I see them standing on the beaches or soaring
over the surf. Just living. Just being. Me too!”
Frosty Wooldridge, on the road.