“When I was very young and
the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that
maturity would this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy
prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my
fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing
has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hair on my
neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even
the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry
mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the
rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease
incurable.” John Steinbeck
, Travels with Charley: In Search of
Thank you John Steinbeck.
I am thankful the disease afflicted every day of my life from the time my dad
took me on my first camping adventure in the back yard. My brothers and I
staked out military pup tents with wooden pegs and no mosquito netting.
Bugs crawled all over us and mosquitoes made our faces refueling landing zones
all night long. When it rained, our bodies suffered water damage and the
hard ground offered us no mercy. Strange animal sounds startled us
throughout the night. Our imaginative minds ran wild at the “creatures”
that might devour us during the evening hours. We discovered that adventure
promises no comforts, no security, no warm bed and most of all, no surety we
would live until morning.
“What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp?
Why, I would die of course. Literally shit myself lifeless.” ― Bill Bryson
, A Walk in the Woods
Later, we camped in the woods by
a lake, stream or river. We fished until the last rays of the
sun. We watched magnificent sunsets morph into color light shows
that vividly imprinted on our minds and hearts. On one camp night, I vividly
remember seeing the green Northern Lights sparkle across the night sky and roll
across the heavens like a gauzy curtain blowing in the wind. Pure visual
(How about dipping your feet
into a cool mountain stream after a hot day in the saddle?)
My dad heated up Dinty Moore
Beef Stew and hot chocolate on the campfire. We roasted marshmallows over
the glowing embers. Nothing like burning the heck out of a marshmallow and let
the gooey warm insides melt in our mouths and burn our
Dad told stories of his journeys
around the world. He kept us in rapt attention with his magical story
telling. Sometimes, we froze our butts off in the autumn. At other times, torrential rains
soaked us in our old fashioned tents. I’ve suffered my share of bug bites
over the decades.
(You cannot see this beautiful
sight nor can you camp by it if you rent a motel.)
But you know something, I love
to camp more than staying in a comfortable motel. I love the energy of the
wilderness. I love the sight of a sunset. I relish a starlit sky backed
by the ink black of the universe that stretches beyond my imagination. I
love the smell of rain-drenched fresh air. I love the crisp chill of
autumn camping in the colorful fall foliage. There’s something about
being close to the dirt and rock of the Earth that enlivens my spirit, my soul,
my essence of being a living, breathing creature upon this planet.
John Muir said, “Thousands of
tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going
to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain
parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of time and irrigating
rivers, but as fountains of life.”
Muir, Abbey, Thoreau, Stegner,
Emerson and others “get” it and share it eloquently with the rest of us.
Our connection with the wilderness and fellow creatures on this planet cannot
be underestimated. As our concrete-bound cities drive us crazy, up
the wall, into a kind of nervous psychosis, if not a kind of lunacy—our
salvation can be found by connecting with the wilderness.
(Camping in a bed of flowers may be the greatest sleep you
We must awaken from the stupefying affects of too much
luxury, too much ease, too much opulence and endless indulgence. I can
think of no worse fate than a “Happy Meal” with a plastic mug of “Open a can of
happiness: Coke.” As Muir said, “No American wilderness that I know of is
so dangerous as a city home with all the modern improvements.” One look
at the craziness of our biggest cities illustrates his wisdom.
We left the Lewis & Clark Center late in the
afternoon. The center kept us in rapt attention the entire day.
When we gazed upon the Great Falls below us, we imagined those rugged men of
history lugging those canoes onward toward their goals.
Needing a new tire, Robert stopped at a bicycle shop and
bought a first rate front tread for his bike. We bought food at the local
grocery store. On our way out of town, we stopped at a 1950s “Ford’s Drive-in”
fountain shop. A bright, cheery teenager ran around taking orders and serving
many customers. When she saw our sign, “Across America”, she talked to
the staff and they served us two large milk shakes “on the house.” I
tipped her the price of the shakes for her college fund. That young lady
will go far in the world.
We didn’t make it too far out of town before the sun began
setting fast in the West. We pulled up to a freshly cut church lawn and found a
niche in a corner of the building for our tents. We cooked up dinner and
quickly found ourselves in our tents and writing up our field notes for the
“You want to knock off a century tomorrow?” Robert asked.
“I guess so,” I said. “Why not?”
“Let’s do it,” said Robert.
In my sleep-fogged mind, I just agreed to a 100 mile day.
What possessed me to agree to 100 miles over severely long climbs and very
hilly terrain to Browning, Montana? Thankfully, my legs already climbed
18 passes, so they would keep up with a
young man half my age. I hope!
“I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have
admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is
love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”
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.
“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