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Six Major Passes:
By Frosty Wooldridge
"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. And then, there's the joy of the moment!
"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 across the Rocky Mountains." FHW
"You guys are nuts," one man said at the base of 12,000 foot Loveland Pass.
At the top hours later, one man said, "Did you two just pedal up the pass?" We said, "Yes sir!" He said, "You guys are crazy!"
Another tourists chimed in, "You guys are 'crazy nuts' for sure."
"If you can see the big smiles on our faces," Robert said. "We're happy crazy nuts!"
On any bicycle touring adventure, many people wonder why such intrepid souls launch themselves into arduous self-propelled adventures. It's some kind of a spiritual, physical and mental calling. It pulls us. It inspires us. Marco Polo knew it. Amelia Earhart felt it. John Muir lived it. Jane Goodall understood it. Each in his or her own way, answered that call. Some became famous, but for each person who strikes out across the planet on his or her individual quest, there's a certain emotional gem of understanding that supersedes everything else that is ordinary, common and mundane.
You cannot know it in an automobile. A train ride takes no effort. You cannot feel it in an airplane. Even a motorcycle doesn't help you understand what your body must do to engage the landscape. Those who backpack the terrain...know it. Certainly, those who pedal two wheels know the great courage it takes to climb steep passes in the Rocky Mountains.
Robert and I packed our bikes at the house in Golden on the side of a mountain. After a few pictures, we launched into a sunny, warm day for our six day ride over six passes to end up in Aspen, Colorado.
We cranked up-hill to Exit 254, the Buffalo pasture on I-70 west of Denver. Sure enough, about 40 buffalo grazed on the mountain grasses off to our right. We caught the bike path along the freeway and headed toward Evergreen. The path led to Route 74 toward the cutoff leading up to 11,300 foot Squaw Pass. As we turned onto the roadway, several aspens thrilled us with their golden leaves.
For the next five hours and 20 miles, we passed elk, deer, and hawks soaring overhead. Smooth road, hundreds of curves and constantly moving upward toward an azure sky. It's a cool feeling to start at 8,000 feet to see the mountain peaks above you. We rested every 10 minutes to drink and munch on energy bars.
Robert and I met while riding the Continental Divide eight years ago. We enjoy an easy-going friendship of give and take. We talk about our wives, about travel, about the times we've shared. At one stop, a hummingbird flew right in front of us and started feeding on the wildflowers along the road.
"What a treat that is," Robert said.
"Doesn't get any better than this," I said.
Late in the day, we summitted Squaw Pass at 11,300 feet. We could have turned left on Route 5 for a 14 mile trip up to the highest paved road in America on Mt. Evans at 14,200 feet. But that would be for another day.
Near the top, we pedaled around Echo Lake for a campsite off the trail. Beautiful diving ducks, grebes and Canada geese worked their magic on the still waters of the lake. The sun set turned purple with backlit clouds and amazing golden leaves shimmering in the twilight. Nice to cook up dinner, listen to the trees rustling and feel that sense of balance with the Natural World.
"Good day," Robert said.
"You got that right," I said. "I'm hitting the sleeping bag and will be asleep within seconds. I need to give these legs a night's rest. What was our vertical climb today?"
"We did 4,400 feet of vertical," Robert said.
"Oh, that's why my legs feel like jelly," I said, as I passed out.
Next morning, we woke up to 35 degrees, squirrels chattering, geese honking and elk 'bugling' for their mates. That indicates the rutting season in the Rockies. Some of those big 12 point elk bulls make for monumental photographs. Grand, beautiful, graceful!
After breakfast, we hit the highway for a 14 mile coast into Idaho Springs on the Clear Creek. We glided from high mountain peaks into deep, green canyons rippled with aspen tremulous, meaning 'trembling leaves'. Some gold and some still green. Each family of aspen groves turns at a different time. In the end, they all turn gold/yellow/red/crimson and bronze.
As we rolled downward into a steep-walled canyon, a whitewater stream rushed along with us. We love the sound of "white music" of the whitewater rushing down alongside us. It's poetry in motion. You can enjoy such a profound lyrical quality of Nature on a bicycle. Your bike's speed matches the speed of the rushing water. Makes for a union of spiritual bliss and mental harmony with Nature!
Nearing Idaho Springs, we rolled past old junk cars, trashed out buildings and abandoned gold mines. Humans like to destroy Nature's beauty wherever they can build their 'civilized world'.
In Idaho Springs, we filled up our water bottles and rolled up the frontage road 13 miles to Georgetown. The highway paralleled Clear Creek, which gave us more whitewater and beautiful views of the mountain peaks. At the beginning of the morning, we were equal to them, and now, we looked back up to them.
In Georgetown, we ate a pizza before visiting a few art shops on Main Street. The buildings stand from the 1850's when the town exploded with a railhead and mines all over the place. We met Mark who left the big city to become a wildlife photographer.
Soon, we headed up a bicycle path that led past the narrow gauge railroad. We talked to one of the conductors before continuing toward Loveland Pass. Late in the day, we found a great camp spot. We added 2,500 vertical feet that day.
Next morning, we jumped back onto the bicycle path. Just before we started climbing Loveland, a guy told us, "You two are nuts." Then, three guys rode their bikes up behind us. One of them said, "You guys are doing it the right way."
Michael, Jamie and Craig were riding across America from Connecticut to Oregon raising money for rare cancers affecting children. Reach them at www.cycleforsurvival.org They take donations.
I said, "We really need to ban Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Chevron and Bayer from forcing all their Roundup poisons across the world along with their deadly GMO's that destroy Nature's balance."
Michael said, "Yes, we need to all go organic, period."
"Good luck guys," Robert said as they sped off in front of us.
Under a clear sky, we cranked up Loveland Pass with a plethora of 18-wheelers blowing by us both ways as they drove tankers that were not allowed through the tunnel.
Several hours later and 2,500 feet of vertical we reached the top where the sign read, "Loveland Pass 11,990 feet". We talked to Vietnam War vets, a Chinese Couple from Beijing and numerous tourists who said we were...nuts, crazy, crazy nuts and other monikers. Made us feel really special!
We coasted down the western side through enormous canyons of such mesmerizing beauty. We passed the famous A-Basin Ski Area. They featured the highest ski lift in the country at 12,500 feet.
At the bottom, we rolled the bikes onto a bike path around Dillon Lake and into Frisco. We tried to see one of my friend Judy, but she wasn't home. So, we rolled up the bike path seven miles to Copper Mountain Ski Resort. We pedaled through a tunnel of green along another whitewater river. About 4,000 vertical feet this day of climbing.
That night, we slept in a field near the stream...not figuring on the temps dropping to 19 degrees. I froze my butt off until I climbed out of my bag and pulled on three extra layers of clothes. Ah, sleeping in comfort while being warm. What a concept!
After breakfast, we busted up Vail Pass along another mountain stream. Wildflowers still offered their colors and golden aspen decorated the path all the way up to the top at 10,400 feet.
The ride down into Vail featured massive mountain cliffs with huge groves of turning aspen trees.
"It doesn't get any better than this," Robert said.
"That's a 10-Roger on that one," I said.
We ate lunch on Main Street Vail that replicates European architecture. You really need to be rich to live, eat and play in Vail. We enjoyed fountains, art shops, statues and endless tourists.
Continuing west, we rode along a bike path onto Route 24 into Minturn along a river. That river led us up to Battle Summit Mountain Pass. We faced a long, slow grind in the late afternoon. Another 2,000 vertical feet and we reached the top. Coasted down into a campground. Met some really nice people who loved the thought of us pedaling our bikes to Aspen.
After a hot dinner, we hit the tents.
After breakfast next morning, we traveled through Hale Valley, the WWII training area of the 10 th Mountain Division Army soldiers who fought in the Swiss Alps. No one can imagine the hardships they faced. Many markers give tourists an idea of their travails.
Once again, we busted over Tennessee Pass at 10,500 feet. By now, our legs had gotten used to severe and constant climbing. At the top, we took more pictures.
We coasted down onto a flat valley floor that featured multiple 14,000 foot peaks off to our right and left. I have climbed all of them, so I have left a little bit of my emotions on the tops of each one of them.
With Robert in front, we pedaled for 30 minutes in a "Zen-like Trance" of the "Perfect Speed" or some call it "Eudemonia" in Greek, known as the meshing of your mind, body and spirit in a state of bliss. Some get it in powder skiing, or windsurfing, or any constant state of aerobic movement. You simply dissolve into the "moment."
We reached highest city in America at 10,152 feet, the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. It's a junkie town of abandoned buildings, trashed out vehicles and appliances littering yards and fields. A huge open dump west of town stands as a monumental disaster of humans colliding with the Natural World. As ugly as it looks, the townspeople won't clean it up. The city council cannot move because of the C.A.V.E. people. (Citizens Against Virtually Everything.) Essentially, they are Neanderthals who make sure the city remains a dump.
Total vertical over 3,000 that day of climbing.
Late in the day, we rolled into Twin Lakes for a campsite near the water. Sleep came easily and quickly.
On the sixth day, we faced the MONSTER Independence Pass at 12,100. At the bottom of the 20 mile uphill run, we ate breakfast with a guy who sold breakfast goodies out of a 1974 VW van. He offered a table out front for his customers. People lined up! Great summertime gig!
"Well, that mountain awaits," said Robert.
"Yes, as John Muir said...'The mountains are calling...and I must go," I said. "I actually have that quote on a plaque in my office."
"Let's git 'er done," Robert said.
We mounted the bikes for the long hard climb up that mountain road. It followed yet another mountain stream. It wound its way through endless pines and golden aspen trees. Entire sides of the canyon featured giant patches of golden aspen...along with some totally red and/or orange.
What was it like to climb that final pass? Well, our legs felt strong from the previous five days. Of course, we trained before the ride, so it wasn't like we were struggling. We just kept a steady, slow, methodical pace up that majestic canyon. So often in the mountains, it's so beautiful that the pedaling seems incidental. When you combine that with a river that flows alongside you, well, the hawks, mountain goats, elk, deer, beaver dams and colors-create an emotional pageant of spiritual bliss. In other words, you ride through a cornucopia of visual, mental and physical joy. Some call it, "satori."
At the end of the canyon, the road gets serious...it CLIMBS! I mean, it really climbs. Some videographer at the bottom took a great deal of footage of us climbing up to his spot and then, raced up the mountain in his car for more footage. A lot of people in cars signaled their approval by waving their hands and shouting encouragement.
After five hours, we reached 12,100 feet and Independence Pass. It was first ridden over in wagons drawn by mules in 1879. It would take three days just to get to the top. Then, another three days to get to the bottom. Rocky, dusty, bumpy, jolting and treacherous!
At the top, we high-fived. Everything around us was rocky because we were above the tree line. Soon, the cool wins drove us off the top into a steep and wild roller coaster ride along mountain cliffs. After that, we rolled through deep pine forests lined with golden aspen trees.
We made it into Aspen by five o'clock where we met Sandi and Laurie who came to pick us up. We packed the bikes on the roof of my car and stowed all the gear in the trunk.
"Let's eat," Robert said.
"There's a fabulous Thai Restaurant across the street," Sandi said.
"Let's do it," I said.
We ate a celebratory dinner with toasts all around. Later, we drove back up the pass to see a dramatic sunset splashing endless golden colors across the sky. A perfect ending to a perfect ride!
Robert Montgomery and Frosty Wooldridge on adventure highway, Autumn, 2021
This video graphically and dramatically illustrates America's immigration-population crisis as well as the world's. I wrote it and narrated it. Tim Walters of Cleveland, Ohio directed and produced. Please forward it to all your friends, networks and beyond. Place it on FB, Twitter, Linkedin, Parler and more. Just click the link below to see the video.
Immigration, Overpopulation, Resources, Civilization by Frosty Wooldridge
Share these videos all over America:
In a five minute astoundingly simple yet brilliant video, "Immigration, Poverty, and Gum Balls", Roy Beck, director of www.numbersusa.ORG, graphically illustrates the impact of overpopulation. Take five minutes to see for yourself:www.NumbersUSA.org
-- 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: