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Atlantic - A Bicycle
1: The beginning of a Grand Adventure
“How does it feel to be on the front end of a bicycle journey that promises hardship, true grit, the unknown, and it’s bound to test your body, heart, mind and spirit? Long distance bicycle touring challenges you in other ways: patience in dealing with fellow riders who haul their own emotional baggage. Everybody travels with a delicate bag of tricks in their personal backpack. You face constant emotions. You may cry thinking about the loss of a loved one while pedaling. That event may burn deeply into your mind—and the only way to release it—to cry.
“You face hunger like never before in your life. You face laughter like few times in your life as you watch the ongoing human drama play out at every stop, store or campground. You face fellowship and love/or anger with fellow cyclists. You face decisions that may change your life’s trajectory.
“That’s the magic of long distance bicycle adventures. You renew your mind, you tear down and build up your body, you choose your path to the end of the ride. You face crotch rot, sore butt, cramping legs, sweaty body and a voracious appetite. With the magic of bicycling, you become the adventure. Let’s see what happens on this ride with this bunch of enthusiastic cyclists—as they pedal their way into their own dreams of riding a bicycle from one ocean to another.” FHW, summer 2017, 4,100 miles, Astoria, Oregon to Bar Harbor, Maine
Robert, Frank, Gerry, Don and Frosty met at Fort Stevens Park, Astoria, Oregon on July 2, 2017. I met Frank on a ride up the Continental Divide years before. Great guy who completed the Ironman Triathlon and other rigorous sporting events. Father, husband and athlete. Gerry, an Irishman with a guitar—sang and played most every day of his life. He provided humor, wisdom and musical energy at the sublime moments. He loved a good meal with ample beer. Don, funny, serious, lean, clean and a man of happy countenance. He loved the sense of freedom he found on his bicycle. Never saw a man happier than when he grinned from ear to ear while riding his iron steed. Robert, writer, marathoner and thinker. Writes novels about Icarus and other Greek myths. Philosophical and introspective. A man testing his legs for a cross continent ride. Frosty, well, I love to ride a bicycle around the globe. What makes me happy? Each day that allows me the gift of life and the ability to charge into any kind of adventure, especially bicycle travel.
As we stood with our bikes packed up against the metal hull of a wrecked ship on the Pacific Ocean, waves rolled into the shore with the timing of a clock. Pelicans and seagulls soared on the currents above us. The blue sky melted into the gray ocean horizon. Sand created endless mosaics on the beach as the eternal winds danced with the universe. For that one moment in time frozen in the pictures we snapped, five guys struck out across a continent with high expectation to follow their dreams.
As we stood by the wrecked ship, over 100 yards long, it reminded us that we stood near the mouth of the mighty Columbia River in northwestern Oregon. We stood where 700 ships met their tragic fate over the past 200 years. Once the Columbia reached the ocean, it created dangerous shoals, sandbars and rip currents. Many a sailor lost his life in those waters. Historians call Astoria the “Ship Graveyard of the Pacific.”
name “Astoria” stems from John Jacob Astor, one of the “Robber
After the pictures, everyone began pushing their loaded bikes toward the road to start the journey. I pulled a small vial out of my panniers to scoop up some Pacific Ocean water. I would repeat that ritual on the Atlantic to put those two vials on my memory shelf back home.
As I pushed my bike through the ankle-deep sand, I remember that quote by J.K. Rowling, the woman who created Harry Potter. She said, “Let us step out into the night to pursue that flighty temptress---adventure!”
Adventure becomes the temptress. She lures us into her mystical chamber while most of humanity sleeps. She presents us with challenges and opportunities to succeed or fail. That same temptress frustrates the hell out of us at times! She especially lures bicycle riders into her concoctions of heat, sun, rain, cold, sleet, snow and mountain passes. She’s got a way of fooling with our minds and spirits. She can make us miserable at any time she chooses. She also dazzles us with astounding sunsets and mountain majesty. All in all, she’s a hell of a temptress.
At the same time, she serves each of us tremendous emotional and intellectual freshness. On a bicycle adventure, you will dig deep on many levels.
On the beach, we met a family that expressed their astonishment at our journey. To those who feel comfortable traveling in a car, the thought of pedaling under your own power totally disarms them. They can’t believe it! They don’t understand it. Many times, I’ve heard, “You’re crazy! You’re totally mad!” Nonetheless, you cannot escape that maddening smile on every cyclist’s face as he or she pedals into an amazing adventure on two wheels.
Why do we smile? Simple: each day on a bicycle tour, we enjoy passion, purpose, freedom and destination. Every life process simplifies down to eating, sleeping, washing and pedaling. What time is it? Who cares! How far will you get? Don’t know! Where will you stay? The perfect camp spot!
From Fort Stevens, we pedaled over to Fort Clatsop, the winter home of the Corps of Discovery of the famous Lewis & Clark expedition of 1803-1806. They traveled 4,000 miles by boat, horses and on foot from St. Louis, Missouri to the mouth of the Columbia River and back. President Thomas Jefferson ordered them to meet the Native Americans, map the Louisiana Purchase, catalog every plant and animal, and try to find a river to the Northwest Passage.
Interestingly, 33 men built the fort in 14 days. They stayed for four months. During that time, it rained every day but 12 and only six of those 12 days provided sunshine. By late March of 1806, they abandoned the fort and paddled up the Columbia to the Clearwater to Lolo Pass and back across the plains to the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers and made their way back to St. Louis. It’s a miracle they lived as they faced grizzly bears, hostile Indians, starvation and disease. All in all, they became some of the biggest champions in American history.
We pulled out of Fort Clatsop with an eye on Astoria over the river.
began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the
world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all earn to ride, or fall
into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me
succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure
of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to
begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the
patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had
failed. And so, I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can
commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in
gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of
Frosty Wooldridge, 6 continent world bicycle traveler
FB page: How to Live A Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World
FB poets page: Bicycling Poets
FB Unique page: Bicycle Touring Unique Moments
Latest book: Living Your Spectacular Life by Frosty Wooldridge , Amazon and/or 1 888 280 7715