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World bicycle adventure: I'm happy bein' ugly!

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"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.

Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine

flows into trees. The winds will blow their own

freshness into you, and the storms their energy,

while cares drop off like autumn leaves."

John Muir

Heading toward Glacier National Park in Montana, I had camped out at Flathead Lake on Route 93 the night before. It was cool sleeping in late July. The day warmed up as I headed into Kalispell. I spent an hour in town picking up a new tube and chain oil. The past two weeks had been terrible flat tire luck. Every thorn in Montana decided to claim my rear tire as the perfect resting-place for its sharp personality. My spare tube had so many patches it resembled the suction cups on an octopus' tentacles.

After loading up on bananas and a watermelon, I was ready for the 35-mile climb into Glacier Park. Before getting started, I gobbled four bananas. That made me hungry for the watermelon, so I cut it into sections and ate them. People walking past laughed as I hung the banana skins on top of my rear pack under a bungee cord. It looked like a fresh kill of bananas.

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One couple with their teenage daughter asked a lot of questions as to how much I ate. I told them on a 100-mile day on the flats, I burned around 7,000 calories. But my average daily distance was more like 60 to 70 miles. In the mountains, I average 50 miles per day, but still burn a lot of calories because of the foot pounds exerted in the climbs.

The highest mountain I ever climbed was a pass in Bolivia at 15,500 feet on a gravel road. That burned a lot of calories in the thin air. But the craziest day of my life was when I was talked into an insane 200-mile day in New Mexico and Texas. My friends and I calculated that we each burned a total of 14,500 calories in 17 hours of riding.

While I was talking, the girl's spirit brightened and I could see a sparkle in her eyes. I may have converted her to world bicycle touring. As they walked away, she tugged on her mom for permission to go on a tour someday. I heard the mother reply,

"That's for people with wanderlust, not you dear."

I wanted to catch them and correct the parent by telling her that I had met dozens of women bicycle touring in countries around the world. I wanted to say that everyone has that "wanderlust" and all they have to do is act on their dreams before they are convinced by their friends or parents to do what's normal. What's normal usually means settling down and getting a job. I was told when I was a teen to "Do it while you're young, because once you settle down, you've got to take care of responsibilities." Whoever made that statement was right.

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I wish everyone could reserve their early 20s for world travel, to give them greater perspective about people and conditions around the globe. They would come home richer in spirit and understanding. They would have a greater environmental appreciation for our fragile planet. Furthermore, anyone can ride a bicycle around the world if they choose to do it. However, long ago, I decided the best thing I could do was keep quiet and let people make their own choices. I have a secret wish for that girl: follow your thoughts and live your dreams.

After gorging myself with watermelon, I looked four months pregnant. I waddled over to my bicycle. Moments later, sweat poured from me as I climbed a hill out of town. I was excited to make Glacier by nightfall.

Up ahead, right in the middle of a side road, I saw a man waving his cowboy hat at cars. As I drew closer, I saw that his thin features were covered in a red plaid shirt, worn jeans, and pointed boots topped off with a ten gallon, black Stetson.

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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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