6: Bicycle Coast to Coast Across America
By Frosty Wooldridge
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
(Wayne pedaling through the early morning “cool” temperatures with mist rising from the snow from the early morning sun shining through the trees. Pedaling through the Cascade Mountains of Oregon.)
While on a long distance bicycle tour, the hills, mountains and valleys etch their memories into your thighs. Your skin tones, muscles thrive, mind clears and your body becomes a power dynamo. The terrain blazes into your eyes with a kind of knowledge honed by a slow-motion movie clip.
Next morning, the sun rose through a fading gray sky while we packed camp. Quickly through 46-degree temperatures, we cranked east toward another summit. We passed a huge burned area where millions of skeleton gray tree trunks poked into the sky. Below, an ice-covered lake awaited warmer weather to offer its sparkling waters.
Once again, our lungs gulped blimps of air and our breaths steamed while we pressed on the pedals. We cranked a higher grade of 7 percent. We covered the altitude gain in two hours to reach the top of the pass at high noon. Snow stacked itself in drifts everywhere.
(While bicycle touring the backroads of America, the past jumps out to greet you in every town, village and hamelt. This old truck carries a license plate of 1919. You could ask for any color Ford you wanted as long as it was black.)
We “rugged up” for the ride down into the Village of Sisters. The small town received its name from the three mountains that gave it a dramatic backdrop.
We rolled into a “Subway Sandwich Shop” with hot chocolate being served. When you bust up mountains, your calorie count burns like a California wildfire. We entered the shop with voracious appetites. As Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist anything but temptation.”
The next day, the ride toward Redmond, Oregon presented us with stately pine trees lining the highway, crystal-clear rivers rushing over red-tan bedrock. Here and there, deer grazed on the fresh spring grass.
The road dipped into one valley filled with volcanic rocks. We traveled through the “Ring of Fire” that comprises the volcanic activities of Mt. Saint Helens and surrounding volcanoes. We crossed over the Deschutes River. Like right out of a landscape painting, red bushes lined the water with green bursting from everywhere.
“Dang,” said Wayne. “I’ve never seen a prettier sight.”
“Takes my breath away,” Howard said. “It’s amazing that we pedaled through all that snow that ends up as water feeding these rivers. Oregon’s quite a beautiful place.”
Each river promised renewed clarity in the coming of spring. After punching over those Cascades, we enjoyed a relatively flat ride.
When you grind over difficult mountain terrain, your mind hardens to the task. Once over, glee takes over on the downhill side. After you reach flat terrain, your mind softens to a delightful mix of happiness and bliss. Every cell sparkles with energy. All triumphs represent effort over time. You celebrate in the corridors of your mind.
We rolled into downtown Redmond. Lovely old buildings! When you see 120-year-old architecture, it settles into your mind with a sense of wonder. When you visit Rome, you visit 3,000-year-old architecture with its grandiose facades and stallions pulling chariots. Statues of men of history adorn buildings like the Vatican. Waters gush like the “Fountain of Trevi” to inspire.
Today, in great cities like New York and Chicago, boring, billions of windows and zero-personality skyscrapers pierce the sky with little imagination.
But when you ride into old places like Redmond, history greets you with ornate buildings that heighten your appreciation for the past.
One of the reasons folks like to watch Bonanza, The Rifleman, Big Valley, Dead or Alive, and The Good, Bad and Ugly stems from the fact that things moved slower 100 years ago. Today, computers drive us faster, harder and cause greater craziness in this high-speed world. As woodland creatures, Mother Nature never geared us for today’s speeds.
I will present you with a little secret about my passion for bicycle touring: it slows you down in your mind, in your body and in your spirit. It feeds you with the Natural World’s grace of life. It fills your senses like a cloud fills your imagination. Slow, green, blue, rushing water, chirping birds, rat-a-tat-tat of wood peckers, a couple of deer ears turned your way, the smell of a skunk and the flight of a hawk.
After asking for directions to the best restaurant in town, we pedaled over to the One Street Down Café.
We reached a dark burgundy house with black iron fencing around it. A green lawn supported iron tables and chairs. Umbrellas covered each table. Pink apple blossoms exploded everywhere along the street.
We walked into a delightful café with square tables with black chairs and a waterfall running down a sheet of glass in the corner. An old 78 record player offered the Beatles in concert.
An attractive waitress, one of three sisters, presented us with menus. Their mother “chefed” the entire operation.
We ate like kings. For anyone visiting Redmond, Oregon, a must dining spot: www.OneStreetDownCafe.com
The one delight of that encounter: a string tied in a bow secures each napkin containing your silverware. I thought that presentation one of the classiest touches of all the restaurants in my travels around the world. I tied the string to my pack where it still follows me on my bicycle adventures.
“Can’t beat this eating,” said Wayne.
“You got that right,” said Howard.
(One of the few remaining outdoor drive-in theaters in America that still operates. I remember my first kiss in the front seat of my old 1957 Chevy by a girl named Kay. Never forget those lips! God bless America.)
As we pedaled down the road out of Redmond, I jotted a few things down about living life:
Learn what you love to do and do it for a living. If you’re not sure, dig around the corners of your life to discover your passions. If you don’t like something like your living situation, your friends, your job or activities—change them.
If you’re short on time, avoid television like the plague.
Travel to anywhere and everywhere to deepen your life, your mind and your spirit. Seize every day by throat and guide it like a captain of a sailing ship. Whether bicycling, backpacking, dancing or dinner with friends—love it, live it and share it.
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