“Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. Anyone who hasn’t experienced it wouldn’t understand it.” John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
If you ever read Travels with Charley, you may enjoy a firsthand account of America from back in the 50s before we changed into a different country. Back then, rural America dominated along with Norman Rockwell paintings that depicted the innocence of youth and country life. “Andy of Mayberry RFD” made us feel good.
You may still enjoy that “rural” feeling today in small backwater towns of America. Folks smile, shake your hand and invite you in for a cup of coffee and dinner. Big cities like LA, Atlanta, Detroit and New York—not so much.
As Steinbeck describes in the above quote, “a trip takes us.” When I started out on this journey from Mexico, I pedaled alone in the hot desert. I met some interesting people I shared with you on this bicycle adventure up the Continental Divide. Half way through the journey, I met up with the Irishmen Gerry and Dave, then Robert from Alabama. Also, two dozen other touring cyclists! Such a journey can never be repeated as to the characters that enter your life and leave it quickly, or, in some cases, remain friends for the rest of your life.
On my journey from Nord Cap, Norway on the Arctic Circle to Athens, Greece, I met Jan, Anneke and Marlose, whom I expect to remain friends with for my lifetime. My friendships with John, Uwe, Gerd, Doug, Denis and other travelers in my life bring a smile to my soul because what we shared cannot be duplicated. So yes, the trip forms us, it takes us, it guides us to our highest and best. Each new friend teaches valuable lessons.
As Steinbeck said, most folks never understand his quote until they too have traveled with others. It doesn’t take long on a bicycle trip to find out whether you get along with someone or not. You share such incredible emotional and physical experiences. Bicycle travel brings out the best and otherwise in others. On some of my travels, I lost friends because we found out we did not share the compatibilities necessary for a positive relationship on such an arduous journey.
(Traveling through history gives each one of us a sense of the enormity of the journey, but like Lewis and Clark, they took it one day at a time.)
Robert and I rose with the sun burning its golden rays across the Montana plains. Before us, magnificent glacier-filled mountains awaited. Amazingly, because of its latitude and mountains, Glacier National Park doesn’t open until July1st most years because of heavy snows and 30 foot snow banks. We discovered that it only opened a week before we arrived.
We packed and made our way into Browning to see the “Museum of the Plains Indians.” We also loaded up on food for our journey into Glacier National Park.
(At this field, we stopped to take our pictures in a flower bonanza. Near the fence line, a herd of 50 buffaloes ran up to see what we were doing.)
Out of Browning on Route 89, we busted our tail feathers over increasingly mountainous terrain that climbed, dropped and climbed some more. The further west we traveled, the mountains became more personal.
(Buffalo take you back to a by-gone era when a reported 1 billion of them thrived on the Great Plains of North America.)
Pedaling the fabled “Road Going to the Sun”
Late in the day, we reached St. Mary’s at the eastern end of Glacier National Park. We filled our water bottles and headed along Saint Mary’s Lake that stretched for miles beneath humongous mountain peaks. To ride along such stunning beauty, mile after mile, carried us into some kind of silent bliss. I looked over at Robert who smiled.
(Heading onto the “Road going to the Sun” into Glacier National Park.)
“We’re blessed my friend,” he said. “I’ve heard about this ‘Road going to the sun’, but to ride it, well, that’s tops in my book.”
“We are truly blessed,” I said. “This must be my 20th time over Logan’s Pass and it feels like the first. I feel like I’m traveling through ultimate wonder. I really think Glacier is the most wondrous of all the national parks.”
“No kidding,” said Robert. “Why?”
“You’ll see tomorrow when we reach the top with Mt. Clements, Bird Woman Falls, the Weeping Wall and the two canyons that suck the breath out of you,” I said.
(Mama deer along with her two babies crossing a river along our route. It happened so fast that I barely snapped this beautiful picture of Nature in action. When I see something like this in the wilderness, much like the grizzly bear taking down the elk, I am thankful that all is right with the world.)
After 10 miles of pedaling bliss, we stopped at the Hiker-Biker camping spot at the Rising Sun Campground. Sure enough, five other cyclists gathered around a campfire. We pitched our tents, prepared dinner and shook hands with three guys and two women on various bicycle tours around America. Two guys headed toward Alaska from their start in Key West, Florida.
(Frosty with Condor on the “Road Going to the Sun” along St. Mary’s Lake and monster mountains awaiting his journey the next morning.)
As the campfire flames licked the twilight air, everyone told stories from their trip and other tours. We enjoyed instant fellowship on so many levels. I swear that I wouldn’t be surprised if John Muir walked up and asked to sit down at our campfire. Those who love the wilderness find solace in its spiritual bliss.
To sit around a campfire and poke the glowing embers may be one of the most tangible of all visible mysteries of the universe. I have sat by thousands of campfires in my life and each time, I see God looking back at me. I see life sharing itself. I see living creation burning brightly. I see marshmallows, bubbling stew and hot chocolate waiting to warm my being. I share conversations with friends and strangers that have become my friends. I see Uwe Rothe, John Brown, Gerd Bollig and Doug Armstrong. I see Robert, Bob, Gary, Gerry and Dave. I see Sandi, Sarah, Ashly and Pam. I see the universe glowing with life, light, warmth and fellowship.
As we sat there beneath huge pines and gargantuan gray rock slanting down from the mountain side beside us, a giant Prevost motor home rolled into the campground. The driver pulled up two spots over from us.
“Have you ever seen anything so big?” Robert said.
“It’s going to be interesting how he gets 20 tons of steel backed into that small space,” I said.
Suddenly, the electric door opened and a woman stepped out with a walk-talkie. She walked to the back of their 45 foot traveling land yacht. While she directed his backing-up procedure, we made a few comments about global warming, carbon footprint and Peak Oil being accelerated by such monster vehicles. The diesel engine smoked up the campground very quickly.
Soon, the traveling mansion settled into its wilderness home. The lady walked back up to the door of the Earthbound Star Trek Enterprise. The electric door opened. She stepped back into the steel monster. The door closed quickly. Seconds later, an electric curtain pulled across the front windshield. A satellite TV dish popped up and oriented itself to the perfect “Nature Channel” station.
We never saw them again that night or in the morning. Meanwhile, the campfire offered us warmth, a starlit sky, a few coyotes howling in the distance, a couple of shooting stars and the moon rising over the waters of St. Mary’s Lake.
“I feel like this is a dream,” said Robert.
“Only difference,” I said. “You’re living it.”
Several travelers from India walked over to talk with us, and a couple with their kids from Australia.
Robert leaned over to me, “Man, I think we made the right decision in our lives to sit around this campfire instead of traveling in that motor home cage.”
“Roger that,” I said. “I’ve made it a lifetime choice and I wouldn’t trade one single campfire for watching TV in the middle of the wilderness.”
As John Muir said, “Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of Nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
(Racing rivers flow into three different watersheds that reach the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans as they rage out of Glacier National Park. Condor ready’s himself for the climb over Logan’s Pass the next morning.)
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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