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Part 7: Bicycle Coast to Coast Across America
Living & Dying

By Frosty Wooldridge


“Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion. Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers. Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history.” P.J. O'Rourke


(Wayne Oberding riding through a beautiful river canyon with rocks, pines and spring blooms.)

We pedaled out of Redmond on Route 126 toward Prineville. During the night in Redmond, Howard drank one too many beers that set up another arrhythmia attack on his heart. As we pedaled out of town, his irregular heartbeat turned him into pedaling jelly. I saw severe distress on his face. I wondered why he did such a stupid act to himself by drinking too many beers—knowing that the alcohol and soda pop created the condition whereby his heartbeat in palpitations.

As I followed him, I started crying. My brother nearly died a couple of months ago, and now, here he pedaled in front of me with no ability to maintain any kind of a pace. To compound my pain, my youngest brother, 50, died of a heart attack in February two months after Howard suffered a stroke. Talk about anguish churning inside my belly, heart and mind! To lose a second brother would knock me for a loop.

Something happens to your heart when you lose a close friend or family member. It happened to me early in life with the loss of my father at the youthful age of 46. My college roommate suffered death in Vietnam along with several others. Then, you live through life and friends start dying of old age diseases. John Denver’s early death devastated me along with Elvis Presley’s passing. I’m not sure anyone understands the pain or plans for it.


(It’s great to see 1910 rusted automobiles for the early part of the last century, old logging tools, carts and buildings where people lived.  Outhouses dominated and hard times befell most settlers.)


“Howard,” I said. “We need to go back into town and get a motel. You can’t take a chance with your heart fluttering. Damn it bro, you could kill yourself.”

“You got any more of those fish oil tablets?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ve got a half dozen,” I said.

After Howard’s stroke, I researched a natural way to stop further arrhythmia events. It’s called The Sinatra Solution, , created by an MD who also earned a Certified Nutritional Specialist degree. He created a nutrient system that includes fish oil tablets to “calm” the heart back into rhythm. Within 10 minutes of taking the fish oil, Howard’s heart dropped into regular rhythm.

“No more beers and no more soda pop,” I said. “For God sakes, are you trying to kill yourself off?”

“I got the message,” he said. “I can’t fool with this thing.”

“No shit Sherlock,” I said, relieved that he understood his danger.


(A lot of people toss their trash along the road. It stays there until concerned citizens pick it up. I always wonder what kind of minds commit such heinous acts against the natural world.)


My brother’s cavalier attitude toward his heart condition reminded me of millions of Americans who eat and drink themselves into countless physical consequences, i.e., cancers, heart attacks, obesity, diabetes, lung cancers from smoking, knee and joint pain from being overweight, and so much more. Life proves to be so precious. Why do they do it? Perhaps they live unconsciously instead of with passion. I swear that most of them who watch 29 hours of TV per week must not give a darn about pursuing any kind of a devotion in life or productive hobby or rewarding purpose.

Why Howard drinks his beers daily does not compute, but I cannot talk him out of it. He’s as stubborn as a cop, which he still “is” even though he retired after 20 years in a patrol car. You never know what goes on in a man’s mind who thinks he’s invincible.


(Paul Bunyan’s rocking chair along the road.)


We rolled through 20 miles of cows, farms, horses, sheep, chickens and goats until we reached the town of Prineville. We pedaled off a long flat plateau for those 20 miles before descending into a beautiful green valley that led into the quaint 9,900 population of Prineville.

“Misty and I bedded down right over there in that cove,” Howard pointed, just outside of town. “Next morning, we trotted into town where I enjoyed a great breakfast at a local diner.”

We decided to stay. Little towns like that one show the best and most personable across the nation. I pedaled down to the grocery store to buy some bread, peanut butter and bananas. I walked out of the store and sat on a bench in front of the grocery. Wayne and Howard followed me.

An old man drove up in a 65 Ford pickup truck with silver hair and beard flowing over his face and shoulders. He sat heavy in the front of the seat seemingly unable to move. He proved so obese he squeezed in or out with great difficulty. He honked and waved at the cashier in the store. One came out to see what he wanted.

“I can’t walk miss,” he said. “Could you buy me all the goods on this list? Here’s a $50.00 bill to pay for it.”

He sat in the truck for 20 minutes until she walked out with bags of groceries.

She threw them in the back of his 300,000 mile rusted heap. It featured spots, dents, a horse with wings on the hood and a plastic Jesus on the dashboard.

“Thank you miss,” he said, handing her two bucks for her troubles.


(Wayne waving as we take a water and food break during the ride.  We also stretch our muscles and rip off a dozen pushups on the guard rails.)


That night, at a park in town, we camped under towering pines, clear sky and sparkling stars filling the ink black of space. We pitched our tents, cooked our dinners and sat around a barrel campfire.

“Howard,” I said. “Are you going to pay attention?”

“Yeah, brother,” he said. “I am going to follow that Sinatra Solution protocol to a T.”

(Special note: since he followed it, he hasn’t suffered an arrhythmia event since that day on the bike.)

Later, I threw my head back inside my tent and crossed my fingers in back of my neck. Living and dying run such a thin line through our lives. Best to make every moment count.

Realizing my brother rode his horse Misty through this town in 2003, I thought about Napoleon Hill who talked about the metaphor of life and a horse.

THE TWO WAYS LIFE RELATES TO A HORSE: “Life is like a horse. Life will ride you if you become the horse. Or, you can ride while Life becomes the horse. The choice as to whether one becomes the rider of Life or is ridden by Life is the privilege of every person. But this much is certain. If you do not choose to become the rider of life, you are sure to be forced to become the horse. Life either rides or is ridden. It never stands still.” Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich


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