5: Bicycle Coast to Coast Across America
By Frosty Wooldridge
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. Troubles slip into bliss.” ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Author of Sherlock Holmes
(Pedaling up a pass through the dense forests “too dark, too green, too silent to be real. Route 20 east through Oregon.)
As we pedaled into a 70 mile uninhabited stretch of the Cascade Mountains, a deeper silence engulfed us. We passed through thick woods with snow still piled up on the ground. None of us spoke. Gordon Lightfoot sang a song about it, “Long before the white man and long before the wheel, the green, dark forest was too silent be real.”
While pedaling, a certain spiritual magic encompasses me in the same artery that filled the writings of Thoreau, Muir, Abbey, Service and Emerson with lyrical poetry. While I call my iron steed “Condor” because he’s taken me to 16,000 feet in the Andes of South America, he’s also carried me across the sweltering heat of the Outback and into the steaming jungles of the Amazon. I could call him a magical, spiritual, soaring cloud steed. To me, he might be a mythical time machine.
(Frosty loves a downhill coasting extravanganza. Free gravity propelled ride.)
Each of us faces a journey in our lives. We can pursue our highest potential, or, like most folks, we escape to the couch. With 65 percent of Americans overweight or obese, they made choices.
How about this choice?
“Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o’er the ranges; have you roamed the arid sunlands through and through? Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know its moods and changes? Then listen to the Wild—it’s calling you.
“Have you suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory; grown bigger in the bigness of the whole? Done things just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story; seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
“Have you seen God in his splendors, heard the text that nature renders? The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things—then listen to the Wild—it’s calling you.
“Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betides us; Let us journey to a lonely land I know. There’s a whisper on the night wind, there’s a star agleam to guide us, and the Wild is calling, calling let us go.”
The Yukon poet Robert Service wrote that over 100 years ago. He touches my soul today.
(Pedaling through the magic of early spring in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Sheer meditative bliss.)
The question could be asked, “Have you ever listened to the trees?” I listened to the great Redwoods on the California coastline. I camped inside of a burned out one that still lives 2,500 years later. I felt an incredible sense of wonder that night inside that tree with my bike parked next to me. I curled inside my sleeping bag looking into the endless centuries of its existence.
“What are you thinking about?” Howard interrupted my thoughts.
“Do you remember that Gordon Lightfoot song about the woods being too green, too dark to be real?” I said.
“Verbatim,” said Howard. “Funny you should say that. I’m getting those same vibrations pedaling through these trees.”
“Me too,” chimed Wayne.
After pedaling hard for five hours, we reached the summit at 4,236. Cold! Six to eight foot snowdrifts decorated the shoulders of the highway. Tombstone Pass allowed us stupendous views across the backcountry.
We “rugged up” with Goretex, mittens and vests. The road dropped fast through snow-pack and pines. Super cold streams rushed under the snow. Down we coasted for six miles. Exhilarating, but we knew the more we descended, the more we must climb to reach the next 4,600-foot pass.
Now, deep into the Cascades, we looked for a camp spot cleared of snow. Near dark, we found a perfect nook on the forest floor with twigs, brown needles and fallen green branches. We pitched our tents among towering pines. We cooked up rice and beans along with bread for dipping. Hot chocolate warmed our souls.
“And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents like the desert people,
and silently steal away.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(Views from the road on Route 20 heading east through the Cascade Mountains of Oregon.)
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