Life Arts

Part 3: Bicycling coast to coast across America--heat, sweat, Atlantic Ocean

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"Time means nothing now. It slips away as easily as grains of sand on a beach. But those grains only trade places. On my bike, I change the same way--new locations in the passage of time. The pedaling becomes incidental now--like breathing. No conscious effort--only flow. The hills and mountains come and go--my legs powering over them in a kind of winsome trance. Grappling with headwinds only brings determination, while riding a tail wind brings ecstasy. I transform into a state of bliss, much like a seagull gliding over the waves or floating on updrafts. I see them standing on the beaches or soaring over the surf. Just living. Just being. Me too!" Frosty Wooldridge, on the road.

At Clovis, New Mexico, the road flattened! No more hard "play'! Never hit my granny gear for the rest of the ride! But a new challenge awaited: heat and humidity.

We pedaled into Texas for seven days crossing the Old Chisholm Trail, other cattle trails, Pecos River, Rio Grande. Nothing too much exciting about Texas! Lots of working oil wells and thousands of abandoned wells dotted and blighted the landscape. Additionally, I witnessed thousands of abandoned cars, trucks, tractors, trailer homes and junk of all descriptions along the roads I traveled. Really ugly! Sweat soaked my jersey and shorts every day from ten minutes into the ride until stopping around 7:00 p.m. at night. Shower! Yes, a Godsend, but only three minutes worth from my shower bag! Still, clean, dinner, sleep!

In my journal: in 150 short years--the new citizens of this continent that the Indians had kept pristine for a thousand years--have trashed North America. I witnessed hundreds of thousands of junked cars, trailers, tractors, metal, plastic bags, bottles, cans, glass and abandoned buildings thus far. We Americans have turned America into a giant junk yard. No personal responsibility, no personal accountability, no one cares enough to lift a finger! Our rivers run with chemicals and floating bottles and plastic. I've canoed the Mississippi and it's a junk yard replete with unending chemicals. At its mouth, it features a 10,000 square mile "dead zone' where vertebrate marine creatures cannot survive. I saw junk cars, junk trailer homes, junk of all kinds on the main streets of many little towns across the south. It's almost like the residents "can't see' the ugliness and therefore, ignore it and do nothing to change their environment. Even in Yosemite, Grand Canyon and Death Valley, people throw their crap out the windows of their cars. I swear that plastic proves the worst invention of humanity. It spreads like a plague across the planet, killing and destroying the natural world. While I have picked up over a half million pieces of trash in my life, humans continue to trash the planet faster than those of us who care about our surroundings--can pick it up. In a word, it makes me sick to my stomach."

In a small Texas town, I stopped at a Subway near dusk for a sandwich and lemonade. A tall, lean teenager, about 18, stepped into line with me, "Are you riding that bike with the sign "Coast to Coast'?"

"Yes, sir," I said. "That's my bike."

"Can I buy you dinner?" he said. "I'd like to hear how you made this ride."

For the next hour, this young man, named Davis listened like a sponge on how to live a life of adventure. He asked penetrating questions and declared that he didn't want to live a "normal' life and that he too wanted to travel the world. He planned on college and then, on to an exciting life of his own. I applauded his spirit and his energy. When I walked out, I felt tremendous encouragement that every human being enjoys potential for a fulfilling life.

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On to Louisiana with trees, old homes and poor folks dominating. Every town featured more house trailers than homes. Sometimes, a nice brick home would see its opposite across the street or next door in a broken down, gutted trailer home. Most disturbing to see. Folks proved quite nice and friendly, however. Mississippi pretty much the same with small towns along the road with poverty and broken down trailers and junk everywhere.

One fellow drove up to me in a nice van: "Hey, can I trouble you by buying you a nice pizza for lunch?"

"Sure, but why do you want to buy me lunch?" I asked.

"Because you're living my dream," he said. "And, I'd like to find out how you do it."

From there, he shared with me his life story for 1.5 hours! He said, "When I ride my bicycle, the whole world becomes perfect. I want to ride the entire peninsula of Florida on my bike. Can I do it?"

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"You certainly can!" I said.

I traveled into Alabama on the Selma to Montgomery freedom march route with Martin Luther King in 1965. I lived in the south at that time and knew about segregation, separate but equal and discrimination. Further along, I visited Tuskegee Airmen Museum in that legendary town. Again slow and poverty. I sweated from the moment I got up with 110 heat indexes to the moment I crawled into the tent at night. I drenched my jersey and sweated as I fell asleep. Essentially for 21 days, I lived in sweat in the South. Finally, I pedaled through Georgia with the same topography and poverty to the Atlantic Ocean at Savannah.

However, remembering the old cowboy that told me to "cowboy up', I didn't cry. I laughed hysterically! I may have whimpered a few times! I stopped at Subway Sandwich shops and ordered a six inch veggie sub and added "free fill-ups' lemonade. I drank 20 glasses of ice cold pink lemonade before stepping back out into the killer heat.

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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)

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