Frosty Wooldridge


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Part 24: Bicycling the Continental Divide—Mexico to Canada—Lewis and Clark expedition

White Sulfur Springs faded in our rear view mirrors, but I kept watching Robert look back. I think Sarah made an impression on him.  As for me, I rarely see a woman of her dynamic caliber in little towns.  A big city girl from Connecticut might find the men-folk a bit different in such a western village.  Mostly, they drink, spit chew, wear scuffed boots and drive dented pick-up trucks.  Ah, but we each choose our situation in life, our town, our friends and our environment.  God bless America!
We quickly found ourselves hammering up a long, two hour climb to the top of a pass, my 18th of the trip.  We reached Show Down Ski Area at 7, 398 feet.  We coasted down and cranked up another pass to find ourselves on high plains with verdant fields.  A small change of elevation can turn a desert situation into green fields with flowers paradise.   We found ourselves riding along tree-filled mountains and a clear river running beside the road.
After a long descent, in Niehart, 6,000 miners once lived in that city, but today, a whopping 37 live in the few buildings left in the area.  To see a picture from the past and then see it now, really sobers a person as to what can happen in 100 years.  We noticed a few 130 year old buildings with bent roofs and bent sidings. 
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(In Niehart, Montana, a town of 6,000 miners dropped to 37 in 2013. One look at this 130 year old building shows what time does to all of us. We sag, drag, bend, wave and pretty much fall apart.)
We climbed again to the high mountain plateau, where our eyes wandered across valleys that engulfed us with their vastness.  Enormous mountain summits yielded to dark green pines that faded into grasses speckled with mountain flowers.
We soared over mountain landscapes like eagles.  Soon, we dropped down into a river canyon with white water that turned to wide, thin, glistening liquid until we reached a picnic table rest area and camped for the night.
That night, the Hawaiian rider with his 50 year old Fuji bicycle and little two-wheeled golf cart and bag popped into my thoughts.  I found myself wondering what adventures my two Irish mates might be enjoying at that moment.  A lot of folks popped up in my mind from the ride thus far. Funny how the mind wanders to the past and the impressions some days pronounce on our thought patterns.  Quickly enough, I fell asleep.
Back up at 6:15 a.m., Robert and I packed our gear, gobbled some trail mix and hit the road at 7:15 p.m.  We pedaled 35 miles down a river canyon, up another big climb until we reached high plains again to travel all the way into Great Falls, Montana. Along the way, lots of hay fields sectioned off in the rolling plains surrounding us.
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(Lewis & Clark Interpretative Center, Great Falls, MT on the Missouri River.)
Outside of Great Falls, we reached the Missouri River and followed it all the way to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center located along the cliff rock overlooking the river.  If you ever find yourself in Great Falls, their Lewis & Clark center must be one of the finest renditions of history as I have ever witnessed.  We enjoyed movies of their travels, the story of the individual men on the journey and the enormous task before them.  How they lived through it from 1804-1806 must be a miracle in itself.  They traveled from St. Louis, Missouri up the rivers all the way into Montana and west over the Bitterroot Mountains and on to the Columbia River and out to the Pacific Ocean.  Along the way, they collected and investigated animals, plants, geography and geology.
(Lewis & Clark Expedition. Men hauling the dugout canoes up and over the falls. Backbreaking work, injuries, thirst, heat, snakes, thorns, pain and misery.)
One visitor said, “This is a great museum!  It does everything right.  Since the whole center exists to explain the Lewis & Clark Expedition, the museum does exactly that.  It starts at the beginning and literally walks you through the expedition, drawing you through exhibits explaining the environment, native people and various hardships the expedition experienced on its way to the Pacific.  
Everyone basically knows the outline of the expedition - most importantly that it got there and back again successfully - but most of the trip is a sort of blur in the modern imagination.  Lewis and Clark left, Sacagawea guided them to the Pacific, and they somehow came back.  By filling in the gaps, the Center is basically telling us a story we don't know before, and in so doing creates inherent drama that drives you forward to want to learn more.
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“I really have to commend the center on how they stress the importance of the native people with whom the expedition interacted.
(The description of the Mandan was especially interesting and informative.)
 Although relatively sparsely inhabited, the interior of the country hosted a wide variety of people who facilitated the success of the expedition, and learning about their integral part of this chapter in American history made me feel like I was totally relearning it in a more fulfilling way.”
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(A statue of Lewis & Clark, Sacajawea and the black man York, who accompanied the Corps of Discovery on their epic journey.)
In your life time, have you ever committed to something epic?  Have you set your sights on a great project?   Will you be remembered for it?  As I travel via bicycle across this historic North American continent, I am forever inspired by the men and women who risked life and limb to create something great.  George Washington, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Jane Goodall, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and many more carved their names into our history books.   The mountain men like Jim Bridger engraved amazing moments into the history books. Who doesn’t know Buffalo Bill Cody and the Pony Express?  How about the suffragettes? Dr. Martin Luther King and civil rights?  
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(Men struggling to pull the canoes up the cliff banks at Great Falls, Montana during the Lewis & Clark expedition.)
While I am painfully aware of the Native Americans’ loss of their land, water, spiritual foundation, cultures and languages—I understand the march of humanity and battles among tribes for thousands of years.
While I read so much about Lewis & Clark in college, I never “understood” the enormity of the journey.  By visiting the interpretive center, I gained deep and wide comprehension of what those men did, and what that Indian woman did to save their lives from certain death.
Everything in history turns on a “moment” and a dime.  As you read this bicycle journey, from a couple of Irishmen to a young man from Alabama named Robert, and an amazing woman named Sarah Colhoun, I hope you plan your own grand adventure as defined by you.   Emerson presented all of us with this aspect of success:
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”
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(Struggling to pull the canoes up the Great Falls during the Lewis & Clark expedition.)
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 from Mexico to Canada on the Continental Divide, 150,000 vertical feet of climbing and 19 crossing of passes.  He presents “The Coming Population Crisis facing America: what to do about it.” .  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:
Live well, laugh often, celebrate daily and enjoy the ride,
Frosty Wooldridge
Golden, Colorado
6 Continent world bicycle traveler
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