Frosty Wooldridge

CONNECTING THE DOTS

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Part 7: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada—pounding over high passes


Because of runaway mountain wildfires, Ride the Rockies changed course to avoid them and maintain safety for the riders.  At breakfast, I ate my share of “all you can eat” pancakes.  I slugged down three quarts of water in preparation of a hot day. Better to tank up on water before the heat sucks it out of every pore in my body.
 
Route 285 headed north while the rest of the crew rolled east.  I enjoyed unique energy riding with so many people the day before.  All of them loved cycling for the delight of pedaling—expressing themselves physically and emotionally.
 
Riding through downtown 1880s Salida offered  good photographic possibilities.  The architecture inspired me to appreciate the past more than the present where we see sterile buildings pushing into the sky with glass and granite, but few facades, frescos and ornaments that truly bring character to buildings. 
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Today, you cannot tell one car from the other, but in the 50s and 60s, cars featured dynamic personalities.  Today, people become more excited about seeing a 1957 Chevy or Cadillac than a 2013 BMW.
Riding through Salida felt like riding through the past. I soaked up the energy and visual delights.  I followed 291 bypass out of town toward Route 285.  At the edge of town, an old rubber tire swing with a single rope hanging from an old tree caught my attention.  I used to swing on such tires as a kid.
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(Everybody loves to bicycle when they are children. Does that mean our inner child continues in our adult years when we jump back on a bicycle?  You betcha!)
 
Back on Route 285, it carried me through a line of mountains along the Arkansas River. Several rafting firms offered day and week-long trips on relatively calm river flow.  Still, running a river offers spills, chills and lots of laughter. Good for your spirit.  I rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek takeout 10 years ago and wrote a book about it: Rafting the Rolling Thunder: Journey Through The Grand Canyon.  An old friend named Gary Hall made that trip possible. I found that raft trip to be one of the greatest, most enthralling river trips on the planet.
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The road continued to a split at Johnson Village where Route 285 meandered northeast.  I followed it over Trout Creek Pass all the way to Fairplay past several 14,000 foot mountain peaks—Mount Sherman, Mount Antero, Mount Princeton.   Magic against a cobalt sky!
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(Notice the personality and energy of those old buildings.)
 
Darkness threatened as I pedaled into Fairplay. I pitched my tent in back of a church that overlooked a wide open field.  I witnessed a mind-blowing sunset with thunderheads lit up in pink, white and grays.  I fell asleep quickly with temperatures dropping.
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Next morning, I awoke at dawn with a herd of cows munching down on me. I broke camp, ate some bars, drank water and filled my bottles at a spigot.   A fellow talked to me as he lifted his backpack onto his shoulders as he prepared for the day’s hike along the 468 mile Colorado Trail.  I’ve hiked portions of it and one day will finish it totally.  On my bucket list:  Appalachia Trail, Pacific Coast Trail and finish the Colorado Trail.  Have already completed the Inca Trail in Peru and many other great backpack trips around the world.
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After Fairplay, I pedaled straight toward Kenosha Pass at 10,000 feet.  After a flat three miles, the road swung up the flank of the mountain with me following it. My thighs understood the grade, started powering Condor and me up that mountain and let me know I lived.  As I climbed, the valley grew more spacious. That’s the nice part of climbing out of and above a plain you just pedaled.  You can see 20 miles back to where you originated your journey.
 
The road wound into a dense pine and aspen forest.  Within two hours, I reached the top to meet a crew supporting a group of cyclists riding from Denver to Aspen in one day at 180 miles and several significant passes at 12,000 feet, notably Independence Pass which I have pedaled many times. It’s a heart pumper. I could use a few other words, too.  Bitch comes to mind! 
 
From the top, I rolled into a beautiful valley which led into another climb that dropped into a river canyon. I never know what the mountains expect of me.  But I did know that Guanella Pass awaited with a 11,500 foot altitude.   I coasted downhill for miles until I reached Grant to turn left on Guanella’s approach. Unfortunately, it featured three miles of corrugated, rutted, soft sand, jarring rocks and bone rattling bumps. Mind you, I carry 70 pounds of gear and water on Condor.  He never complains, but he lets me know that we share a rough ride.
After an hour, I reached pavement. Thank you kind bicycle gods. I looked upward to one devil of a climb.  Over 11,500 feet and 14 miles faced Condor and me.
 
“Well dude,” I muttered to myself. “Only one choice and that’s forward. Let’s go boy.”
 
Always the iron steed and steady on adventure highway, Condor responded with Granny gear, up 6, then 7, then 8 percent grades. As we climbed through the thick pines, a river appeared that became more violent with each passing mile and more altitude.  Soon, it raged in white water.
 
I stood on the pedals harder with sudden jumps in incline of the road. The grade steepened enough to make me stop for a rest every 100 yards.  Hauling 70 pounds of gear, 30 pounds of bike, 16 pounds of water and my own 185 pounds of body make for a challenging day in the saddle.
 
The higher I climbed the more awesome the scenery evolved. At 9,000 feet, the pines gave way to large tracts of aspen trees fluttering in the breeze, hence the name “Aspen tremulous.”  The higher I climbed, the cooler the air. With each grinding mile, high altitude tundra decorated the scattered rock ramparts that gave way to racing white water streams cascading over rocks on their way to lower altitudes.
 
While climbing sucked oxygen out of my lungs, the mountain scenery took away my breath in another way—multi-colored rocks, textures and an expanding blue sky with puffy white clouds decorating every rising mountain summit that seemed to pierce the sky like sharks teeth turned upward.
 
Eat, drink, rest and pedal.  Repeat. One mile became two, then five, then eight.  The hours passed. I wore into one, two, three, four, five hours of climbing.  The sun kept shifting over the sky.  Snowfields appeared at 10,000 feet to cool my body as I passed them along the road.  Tiny mountain flowers decorated the sides of the tundra hills.
Late in the afternoon, I felt pretty spent.  A driver stopped, “You’ve only got a mile to go.”
 
“Thanks,” I said.
 
Five hours of climbing burns so much energy. Another 15 minutes brought me to the summit of Guanella Pass.
 
“My God,” I gasped.  “Glorious!  So stunning!”
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When I summit a pass or a 14er, my mind races into a new dimension of glee, joy, triumph and freedom.  A true sense of accomplishment tingles through my body. My blood charges around to every cell giving nourishment, oxygen and a certain sense of happiness.
 
I pulled Condor over to the side of the road and sat on a rock next to a sign depicting the pass.  A huge bowl of gray rock surrounded me to the east.  Mount Bierstadt at 14,100 feet dominated the sky. A gorgeous green lake settled into the bottom of the bowl before me. To my west, rolling peaks and sheer tundra grass dominated the skyline.  A pica squeaked to take me out of reverie. Those little rodent creatures live at high altitude.   I sat on the rock with a peacefulness brought about by exhaustion and a relaxed body where my muscles didn’t have to do any more arduous work.
 
Again, the “sweet spot” of knowing I made it to the top pervaded every cell in my body. Effort over time creates results in any human endeavor.  I felt grand inside.
 
Later, I rolled downward until I found a campsite along a white water stream. I pitched my tent, and set up my stool and camp stove.  Hot chocolate never tasted so good as temperatures dropped with the setting sun.  Rice and lentils filled me with energy and welcome warmth. 
 
About the last thing I remember before I passed out in my tent: white water rushed past my campsite.  I call it “white music” offered as wilderness prose to my peaceful mind and body.  Another day of chosen destiny on this grand Continental Divide Ride.
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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,
Frosty Wooldridge
Golden, Colorado
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
 
   
 
Order these unique cards today: http://www.howtolivealifeofadventure.com/
                         
 
 
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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,
Frosty Wooldridge
Golden, Colorado
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
 
   
 
Order these unique cards today: http://www.howtolivealifeofadventure.com/
                         
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

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