Into the Valley of the Gods © 2012 Frosty Wooldridge
“A million pedal strokes etch memories into the muscles in your legs with a single purpose: to power the crank and move the bicycle forward. Food flows into your body, bringing it power and strength. Water drenches your cells with liquid life. Sweat cools your skin while it circulates back into the air. It is no longer a question of struggle. Now the journey evolves into the spiritual realm—where the pedaling becomes instinctive and a flight of fancy. The Great Spirit expresses through you and you express through it. You ride with universal energy pulsing through your being. You take flight without ever leaving the ground. A free-flow of energy radiates through your body and willingly expresses itself in the flight of the pedals.” FHW, Golden, CO
Into the Valley of the Gods © 2012 Frosty Wooldridge
Frosty Wooldridge riding off the mesa at Capitol Reef Park, Utah, and descending into the Valley of the Gods in the "Land of the Sleeping Rainbows" in the autumn of 2012.
As I left the campfire last night after telling the penguin narrative in Antarctica, a boy ran up to me, “Sir, that was a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us. But, I have a question.”
“Shoot,” I said.
“Why DO you ride your bicycle around the world?” he asked. “Why not drive a car so you can get to your destination easier and faster?”
I gave him a short version, which seemed to satisfy his curiosity. However, during the evening while I sat around our campfire listening to Gerry strum his guitar; I thought more about what it means to be a long distance touring rider.
Something special happens to your mind and body when you become a long distance touring cyclist. An undeniable spiritual evolvement meanders into your intellect and heart. You feel more attuned to your natural surroundings. Your emotional vibrations coalesce with nature in a way that gives you peaceful feelings throughout your body. At the start of a long day in the saddle, your mind eagerly anticipates the physical output generated by your legs, lungs and heart. Your quads and calves “do” become your wings. Every blood cell in your body charges around to bring your tissue life-giving oxygen, food and energy. Your muscles thrill to the challenges and work to power you forward into your special two-wheeled dance. The long distance bicyclist carries an insatiable desire to interact with possibilities that may emerge around the next bend in the road.
The bicyclist lives in that moment and then pedals forward to the next moment, always advancing, never in retreat. At the end of the day, with endorphins raging throughout your body (natural drugs produced in your system from long-term physical exertion), you feel that “sweet spot” of perfection. That physical elegance may last minutes or longer, but when it visits, you vibrate with emotional joy, physical pleasure and all things feel well in your world. Traveling “slow” beats going “fast” and life’s rhythms “center” you in the scheme of the universe.
On the road, a long mountain grade requires tenacity and perseverance. It takes guts and gumption to ride in 100 degree desert heat. Being drenched in a downpour tests a cyclist, but he or she knows the sunshine beckons beyond the clouds. To face an entire continent on your bicycle challenges your body, mind and spirit. Most won’t do it. Such a physical task reaches beyond their emotional comfort levels.
Those individuals who choose the easy way through life garner average results: no epic moments; no challenges to conquer; no great quests; no breathtaking successes. But that’s the nature of most of the human race. No judgment one way or the other: just observation.
When you see long distance touring cyclists, you now possess an inkling of why they ply the highways of the world on their bicycles.
(Stopping at Lewis Falls in Yellowstone National Park.)
Dave, Gerry and I headed toward Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the world. We crossed the Continental Divide at 8,391feet and at Craig’s Pass at 8,262 feet. We pedaled through the old burn from 1988 with thousands of gray tree skeletons still standing, but filled-in with verdant 30 foot tall pines. Mother Nature destroys and she rebirths again.
We rode the spine of a dragon with the Continental Divide providing us with ample testing of our bodies. Soon, we reached Old Faithful with all its fanfare. An enormous parking lot carried thousands of cars with license plates from all over the US and Canada. We noticed dozens of languages from visitors from all over the planet.
(Inside the all-wood-constructed, 130 plus year old—Old Faithful Inn. We enjoyed a spectacular lunch inside and walked out to see Old Faithful erupt for the trillionth time.)
Later, we joined 800 to 1000 people to watch Old Faithful blast its way into the warm summer air. Cameras clicked as the steam vent erupted with hot boiling water and soon, the entire geyser blasted its load over 100 feet into the air. Many such geysers dot the park.
We watched a movie on the Yellowstone Basin and how it sits on a thin spot of the Earth’s surface: a caldera. The entire basin erupted 640,000 years ago with a blast 100 times greater than Mount Saint Helens. It blew a hole in the ground that created the Yellowstone Basin hundreds of square miles. It will blow up again at some point and destroy everything we see today.
We ate lunch at the Old Faithful Inn. Dozens of people stopped to admire our bikes while we walked around the area. I heard one lady tell her husband, “I could never ride a bicycle across America.” In fact, anyone in good health could ride a bicycle across America. The oldest man and woman I met on the road: Californians Bob and Sarah at 78 and 74 years of age on a two year cycle trip around the world.
(Old Faithful erupting. I have watched that geyser erupt since 1959 when my parents took our family to Yellowstone. I never tire of seeing nature’s elegance in all its forms.)
After we got our “eruption fix” at Old Faithful, we walked all around the 130 year old--Old Faithful Inn with its amazing natural wood. Greats like Teddy Roosevelt walked those halls and many other presidents.
(Elegant Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park.)
We mounted our bikes and pedaled along the Firehole River. We saw elk, bison and moose grazing in the rich watershed. Later in the day, we reached Firehole Falls with its bubbling pools, steaming vents and beautiful designs coloring the runoff. Nature’s artwork captivates like few other sights on the planet at those pools.
At one point, a road crew stopped us for 15 minutes. The guy held a stop sign. A motorcyclist waited right beside us. Two SUV’s rolled up with their windows rolled down with the wives in the passenger front seats. That’s when Gerry told his story about how he and Dave had been wearing the same single pair of underwear across the entire United States—to save on washing. The motorcyclist took note, the DOT sign-holder listened hard and the two ladies in the SUV’s leaned their ears into the tale.
“Yes, I brought one pair of underwear when we started on the beach in Virginia 8 weeks ago,” said Gerry. “Each night, after a shower, I switched the outside in. Next night, the inside out. I did that every day for a week. Then, I threw them over to Dave and he did the same. Wear them all day and then, turn them inside out and outside in. After the two weeks, we followed the usual routine, but then, so as to save the one pair, we turned them front to back and back to front.”
By that time, the ladies in the cars couldn’t stop laughing. The motorcyclist checked his underwear and I could not contain myself.
“After a month,” Gerry said. “We would throw the one pair of underwear up against the motel room shower tile. If it stuck like velcro, we would wash the one pair of underwear. If not, I would take the next shift by wearing that underwear for that week. That way, we discovered we could cross the entire North American continent wearing only one pair of underwear.”
I asked Dave, “What did one of you wear when you weren’t wearing the underwear?”
“Commando!” Dave said.
The ladies in the SUV’s could hardly contain themselves, they laughed so hard. I about fell off Condor with a cracked face from laughing.
The motorcyclist said, “I need a drink!” The DOT sign-holder said, “I gotta’ find a new job.”
I told the women in the SUV’s, “After a week of this humor, I need special counseling.”
They roared with laughter even more! Finally, the DOT sign-holder lets us pass and we pedaled forward. As usual, Gerry carried a smirk on his face. I love those guys!
(Dave and Gerry at the Firehole Basin Geyser area.)
We pedaled to Madison Junction. For the past seven days, I enjoyed Dave and Gerry’s company more than I can ever describe. We shared from the heart and burst into laughter at every occasion. We laughed like kids and cycled like kids. Total frolic! We faced headwinds, mountain passes and rain. We shared campfires, singing, guitar playing and enormous distances with only our legs to take us through the tempest. We formed a brotherhood, a bonding of our hearts. I’m a pretty emotional guy, so I found myself saddened in the late afternoon when we approached the junction.
Within minutes after we reached the intersection, I knew they would take a fork in the road to head out of Yellowstone going west to the Pacific Ocean. I would be left on my solo journey again. I parked my bike at the campground entrance. Both Gerry and Dave stopped in the road. I walked up to each of them with a big hug and tears streaming down my face. We thanked each other for a terrific time shared, and for the laughter. Gees, I wished them well and thanked them for making my ride with them the most memorable in recent memory.
As they pedaled away, Gerry yelled out, “This underwear sticks to me arse worse than ever.”
“Go commando,” I said.
(Multiple colors created from the runoff from the hot springs all over Yellowstone.)
(Amazing colors of the runoff from geysers all over Yellowstone.)
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 2010, he cycled 3,400 miles coast to coast across America. In 2012, he bicycled the northern tier coast to coast across America. In 2013, he bicycled 2,500 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide, 150,000 vertical feet of climbing and 19 crossing of passes, 10 of the Continental Divide. 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,
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
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