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Life Arts

Part 1: Bicycling coast to coast across America 2010

By       Message Frosty Wooldridge     Permalink
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Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said, " Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting ."

"Bicycle adventure: if the roar of a wave crashes beyond your campsite, you might call that adventure. When coyotes howl outside your tent--that may be adventure. When the wind rips at your tent pegs--that too, may be called adventure. While you're sweating like a horse in a climb over a 12,000 foot pass, that's adventure. When a howling headwind presses your lips against your teeth, you're facing a mighty adventure. If you're drenched from head to toe in sweat as you pedal across a desert, that's adventure. If you're pressing through a howling rainstorm, you're soaked in adventure. But that's not what makes an adventure. It's your willingness to struggle through it, to present yourself at the doorstep of Nature. That creates the experience. No more greater joy can come from life than to live inside the "moment" of an adventure. It may be a momentary "high', a stranger that changes your life, an animal that delights you or frightens you, a struggle where you triumphed, or even failed, yet you braved the challenge. Those moments present you uncommon experiences that give your life eternal expectation. That's adventure!" FW

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On June 3, 2010 at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, Bob Johannes, Denis Lemay, Scott Poindexter and Frosty Wooldridge lined their bicycles up at the viewing area on the north side of the legendary span. Ahead of them, Pacific to Atlantic, 3,300 miles, 50 miles a day in mountains, 80 to 110 miles per day on flats. Temperatures in the 80s and in the south heat indexes 110 degrees for 20 days. They anticipated being drenched in sweat from eight in the morning to six at night while pedaling through the heat and 95 percent humidity. They carried shower bags for our own hygiene and comfort after a long day's pedaling. Adventure is not always comfortable but it is still adventure. San Francisco, CA to Savannah Beach, GA.

"By now, a million pedal strokes have etched the muscles in my legs with a single purpose: to power the crank and move the bicycle forward. Movement is the lifeblood of bicycling. Food flows into my body, bringing it power and energy. It is no longer a question of struggle. Now the journey evolves into a spiritual realm--where the pedaling becomes incidental. Nothing I do on the bike encumbers my mind. It's a free-flow energy that comes through my body and expresses itself in the flight of the pedals." Frosty Wooldridge, on the road.

"Let's stop gabbing and get this show on the road," said Scott, clicking his brake pedals. "We've only got a whole continent ahead of us."

"Ready to ride," said Frosty

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"Keep it vertical," said Bob.

"Let's go climb Lombard Street, the curviest road in the world," Denis said. "And, and ride down it."

"Yippee ki yo ki yea," said Frosty

Starting at the Golden Gate Bridge, we crossed in front of Alcatraz, then on to the curviest road in the world, Lombard Street, but we had to climb 27 percent grades to reach the top. Later Pier 39, Chocolate Factory, artists and jugglers, street cars, Tony Bennett singing, "I left my heart in San Francisco"."

San Francisco proved crazy and loaded with gridlocked traffic and extreme people: one car driver on purpose ran down four cyclists the day we started our ride in the streets of San Francisco. I think one of the four he ran down died. All suffered severe injuries.

Californian John Muir the great original ecologist said, " Tell me what you will of the benefactions of city civilization, of the sweet security of streets--all as part of the natural up-growth of man towards the high destiny we hear so much about. I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found. If death exhalations that brood the broad towns in which we so fondly compact ourselves were made visible, we should flee as from a plague. All are more or less sick; there is not a perfectly sane man in all of San Francisco."

In my journal, "How do you describe the feeling of being on the front end of a grand adventure? I just thrilled to sheer joy of it, the fun of being with my friends, the expectation of amazing experiences. Today, fog covered the Golden Gate Bridge, but we gazed across the bay to see Alcatraz prison, the skyline of San Francisco, people walking across the bridge and people taking pictures. After a few minutes, we mounted our bikes and the pedaled into the mist flowing in from the Pacific Ocean. Our first stop: Lombard Street, the curviest road in the world. It's been the front for many a movie car chase from Steve McQueen to Clint Eastwood. But first, we hammered up a 27 percent grade that felt like climbing a vertical wall. Denis and Scott powered up the insane incline, but Bob and I suffered immediate exhaustion half way up the street. After pushing the final section, we reached the top. A line of people awaited their turn to ride down the cobbled Lombard Street lined with flowers and beautiful homes. In front of us, a fabulous view of the bay and shoreline. Vintage San Francisco! On the way down, we stopped and talked to many people. Later, we pedaled over to Pier 59 for a walk through food shops, outdoor markets and a sea of humanity on vacation. We met Bob's daughter Rexanna and her husband Lance. It all mixed together when we pedaled up to one of Bob's friends on yet another high street. Agnise shared her home with showers, food and conversation. What a great way to start our grand adventure. Tomorrow, we shall ride along the Pacific Ocean. P.S. Glad we didn't get run down by an irate motorist!"

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One thing about bicycle travel: we become "part' of the scenery instead of "apart' from the landscape. We merge with it in a most spiritual manner. Instead of taking pictures of the beauty around us, in fact, we become a part of the beauty surrounding you. We become like animals that eat, breathe sweat, stink, get rained on, snowed on, suffer the sweat of heat and gobble our food with abandoned. It's an amazing difference to automobile vacationers. At night, we camp out under the stars and sit by campfires. Motor home riders park their vehicle and watch TV while they eat an "instant' dinner from a package. During the day, they stay chained to their air conditioned cabin and take pictures from inside the motor home. They call it "camping'!"

"Most travelers content themselves with what they may chance to see from the car-windows, hotel verandas, or the deck of a steamer on the Lower Columbia; clinging to the battered highways like drowning sailors to a life-raft. When a excursion into the woods is proposed, all sorts of exaggerated or imaginary dangers are conjured up, filling the kindly, soothing wilderness with colds, fevers, Indians, bears, snakes, bugs, impassable rivers, and jungles of brush, to which is always added quick and sure starvation." John Muir, 1888.

We rolled south along the great Pacific Ocean to Santa Cruz. Beautiful sunsets, eternal waves, dolphins in the surf, craggy cliffs, rocky islands, sea birds, graceful pelicans and flowers. We met other touring cyclists at campgrounds and on the road. I dipped my small glass vial into the Pacific Ocean for a sample. That evening at sunset with mist rolling in from the ocean, we cruised along a bike pathway filled with flowers five feet high--like pedaling through a mystical dream.

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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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