“Bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are over-domed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours, and was poured from the same First Fountain. And whether he at last goes to our stingy heaven or not, he has terrestrial immortality. His life not long, not short, knows no beginning, no ending. To him life unstinted, unplanned, is above the accidents of time, and his years, markless and boundless, equal Eternity.” John Muir 1871
“That profound statement by Muir resonates in me because because he understood that animals never know when they might die. They never think about their own mortality. They live each day as an eternity because it’s only the ‘moment’ that counts for them.
“I feel the same way on a bicycle ride, whether a day ride or a long tour across a continent. I get up, eat, break camp, pack my gear, and subtly slip into the pedals. That first rotation feels good on the crank. The chain tightens, the spokes flutter to life and the wheels start rolling down the road. The sun rushes into my face. The flowers dance along the highway. An eagle or even a crow might fly in front of me. A few antelope might saunter across the road. It’s just that moment that counts.
“Therefore, like the bear, my ‘eternity’ lasts for that entire day. For that entire tour for that matter. I don’t think about the time, because, as river rafters say, ‘it’s river time’. In other words, time doesn’t count while I’m on tour. I don’t care what day of the week it is, because a week doesn’t mean anything.
“In many ways, like the bear, I am more like an animal on a bicycle ride because I sweat, stink, eat anything I can get my hands on, power myself through the day by my own muscles, and in the end, I curl up to sleep on the ground with the thinnest of shelter. So, in so many ways, like Muir said, “my life unstinted, unplanned, is above the accidents of time, and my years, markless and boundless, equal Eternity.””
When we awoke in the morning, fresh, clean and green for 360 degrees around us. Clean air. Clear sky. Gees, we popped out of the tents with a sense of purity. Last night, David rode down a half mile to a restaurant that featured a band. He listened for an hour before coming back to camp. I’m sure I snored like a Burlington Northern Santa Fe diesel engine roaring down the tracks.
“David,” I said. “Let’s go eat at that restaurant and, then, go to the bathroom, where I discovered a shower last time I rode through here. You can take a shower and I’ll follow you.”
“Works for me,” said David.
Sure enough, we packed our gear and headed down the road to the breakfast place. We ordered food, and then, quietly slipped over to the bathroom, locked the door and took our showers. You must be creative on tour. Of course, if all else fails, I carry a shower bag at all times to make sure I’m clean. Nothing worse than more than a few days of sweat, dried grit and that grund-dunnie nasty feeling out on life’s highway. That’s what makes a shower so grand. I walked over, locked the door, and let the warm water rinse away all the grime. The hot water soothed my soul as it cleaned every pore on my skin. As I toweled off, just a big grin on my face to once again, enjoy every second of that moment in the shower. Just like a bear enjoys his days!
No question on a bike tour, the simplest things MEAN so much more because you ride into such extremes. You bust your butt pedaling up a mountain grade. Your muscles work overtime. On top, the road levels, you feel gravity take over, and then, sheer joy of that gravity-powered assist for miles at a time. Anyone ever ride a bike and not know that feeling of sheer joy and freedom?
David enjoyed his avocado/egg and potato breakfast with such delightful hunger. Ah, the road calls.
We set out mid-morning along that very beautiful highway. It traveled in a winding course along that winding Yellowstone River.
As I rode along, again, that question dawned on me, “What is life?”
I kept thinking about it: It’s a raindrop flying toward earth to make the flowers grow. It’s an osprey soaring on his breakfast patrol as the rippling river waters suddenly show him a fish, and he reaches down into the waters with his talons to catch a fish. It’ a butterfly landing on a columbine flower to pollinate it toward a new generation. It’s that firefly playing on the tall grasses to chase away the darkness if only for a second. It’s that loon’s haunting call searching for her mate. It’s a trout rising to the surface for a mayfly.
It’s the littlest cricket chirping by the pond. Or, it’s a box turtle sleeping on a log to catch the warmth of the summer sun. It’s a sunset over the mountains that transforms into an elegant multi-colored drapery across the sky.
As I ride I’ll think more about life and its implications on this bike adventure. For some reason, my mind wonders to its connections with Nature, and I feel a profound sense of creative energy pulsing through my spirit.
We pulled out of that haven onto a quiet Route 540 for our morning ride along the river. To the left, soaring mountain peaks, to our right, rippling river current replete with ducks, hawks and dragonflies. We rode into Yankee Jim Canyon, the Devil’s Slide and roaring white water as the incline of the river sharpened. Which meant, of course, we climbed toward Yellowstone National Park.
After pedaling all day, we reached Gardiner, and the gateway to the park. We took showers at a laundromat, ate dinner and snuck ourselves out to the fairgrounds to camp near a bull pen. Plenty of bullshit and horseshit to keep our nostrils active. Still not as much as a most politicians from Washington DC! We slept like rocks in a stream bed.
Life is good on a bike!
As David often says, “It’s GREAT to be us!”
David Christie and Frosty Wooldridge, riding the Continental Divide, Summer 2019
-- Frosty Wooldridge
Population-Immigration-Environmental specialist: speaker at colleges, civic clubs, high schools and conferences
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Six continent world bicycle traveler
Adventure book: How to Live a Life of Adventure: The Art of Exploring the World
Frosty Wooldridge, six continent world bicycle traveler, Astoria, Oregon to Bar Harbor, Maine, 4,100 miles, 13 states, Canada, summer 2017, 100,000 feet of climbing: