BICYCLE COAST TO COAST ACROSS AMERICA
September 11, 2014
Part 13: Utah, climbing into the Rocky Mountains
“Bicycling unites physical harmony coupled with emotional bliss to create a sense of spiritual perfection that combines one’s body, mind and spirit into a single moving entity. Bicycling allows a person to mesh with the sun, sky and road as if nothing else mattered in the world. In fact, all your worries, cares and troubles vanish in the rear view mirror while you bicycle along the byways of the world: you pedal as one with the universe.” -Frosty Wooldridge
(Within 150 years, America’s landscape has become a junkyard from sea to shining sea. Americans in every state fail to respect the natural world. They dump cars, trailers, tractors, houses, refrigerators, steel, diapers, bottles, cans and endless junk across the land.)
After staying a day at Judith Hooper’s house in Salt Lake City, we pulled up a river canyon loaded with colorful sedimentary rock walls, a small stream and beautiful homes blended into the landscape. The non-descript highway paralleled I-80 which we would intersect later in the day.
Riding up a gentle river canyon provides spiritual bliss. We passed many ornate and highly creative homes. I’ve found that rich people around the world find their way into beautiful places. They build in those places and segregate themselves away from the maddening crowd.
(Howard taking a rest break.)
To say the least, Salt Lake City buzzes like a beehive with polluted air, traffic jams and people crowded into high-rise apartments stacked in on each other like bees in a hive.
John Muir said it best: “If, in after years, I should do better in a way of exact research, then these lawless wanderings will not be without value as suggestive beginnings. But if I should be fated to walk no more with Nature, be compelled to leave all I most devoutly love in the wilderness, return to civilization and be twisted into the characterless cable of society, then these sweet, free, cumberless rovings will be as chinks and slits on life’s horizon, through which I may obtain glimpses of the treasures that lie in God’s wilds beyond my reach.”
Muir, the man who created our National Parks system, dialed into nature like a woodpecker into a tree. He understood the human dilemma and drama.
Tell me you aren’t happiest when you ride your bike, take a hike in the woods or sit by a white water stream? How about sitting by a lake at sunset with the sky morphing into its colorful grandeur? Life doesn’t get any better than that.
Wonder then, why do millions of people choose to stack themselves into tiny apartments in the city surrounded by glass, steel and concrete? I can’t figure that one out. New York City? What a spiritual and emotional nightmare!
We pedaled up Emigration Canyon that wound its way along the river and deep woods to the top where it cleared onto a 7,000-foot pass. Lamb’s Pass.
“That’s a hell of a view,” said Wayne. “I see I-80 over there.”
“Let’s sail down and then, we get to climb another 8,000-foot pass,” Howard said.
We tolerated truck and car traffic zooming past us on I-80 heading eastbound. At Heber City, we intersected with Route 40.
Heber City turned out to be a nice town filled with bike shops, surrounded by mountains and great restaurants. Beyond its city limits, ranches with horses and cows. We stocked up on food before heading east to travel 20 miles to the top of Daniel’s Pass at 8,020 feet. At the top, simply stunning with one of those European hotels that boasted a Bavarian look.
(Pope diarama showing a team of horses pulling wagon full of sacks of grain. His entire house provided a look into our not so distant agrarian past.)
Not wanting to afford $100.00 a night lodging, we coasted down to 7,000 feet to find a campsite near a stream with blooming pussy willows surrounding us. Several Canada geese took off and flew across the setting sun.
Something special about pitching camp on a swamp bog with crickets chirping, frogs croaking, redwing black birds singing and geese squawking.
“Do you hear a Whip-poor-will?” Wayne said.
don’t think they live west of the Mississippi River,”
“I’ve heard them before,” I said. “But it’s got to be some other kind of bird. They don’t travel past the Mississippi.”
“Go figure,” Wayne said, pitching his tent.
Steaming soup, veggies, potatoes and dipping bread along with hot chocolate made for a fantastic dinner.
Next morning, we pedaled to Strawberry Lake before rolling into Fruitland. From there, we cranked up hills and down hills until we reached Duchesne.
We stopped into the Pope Museum. This guy lived as a rancher, lawyer, judge and traveler. When he retired, he created dioramas of Western landscapes. A lady at the visitor center offered to let us into his home.
(Miner with pack team trailing behind him.)
Protected by plastic boxes, Pope created entire villages of working ranches of the 1800s. He made everything from scratch. Farmhouses, barns, silos, horses and buggies, horses and plows, horses and wagons filled with hay. He created everything to scale. He featured horses drawing a sleigh through the snow with lovers aboard.
As we strolled through his house, not yet opened to the public, I noticed a bookshelf loaded with Mark Twain’s entire book collections.
The lady said, “Do you see that open book?”
“Yes,” I said. “Oh my God…it says ‘This is the authorized edition of all my books…signed Mark Twain."
(We discovered the complete works of Mark Twain in leather bound edition. He signed one book: “This is the authorized uniform copy of all my books.” Oh my God, I felt like I had lived and gone to heaven. Twain remains one of the greatest literary giants of America.)
Twain stands as one of my favorites in American literate. I stared at his personal signature. To tell you the truth, it may be one of the most exciting moments of my literary life. I snapped a picture so I could prove I wasn’t dreaming. One of his many famous sarcastic lines, “Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress…ah, but I repeat myself.”
We strolled around the grounds of cabins built over 120 years ago. Large cottonwood trees bloomed green in the spring sunshine.
We rolled out of town to camp on the river. I marvel at our good fortune to discover Mark Twain’s entire works in an old rancher’s house.
It goes to show you that anything can happen on a bicycle tour. The only reason the lady took us to his ranch house stemmed from our riding bicycles. She got a kick out of our travels and wanted to share something she treasured.
During camp on the river, I said, “Boys, seeing Mark Twain’s original books and his signature is the highlight of this ride for me.”
“Hear you brother,” Howard said, scooping a mouthful of hot dinner into his mouth.
“Great way to end the day,” Wayne said.
Just before crawling into my tent, I looked up into a starlit sky to see the Big Dipper and a million stars. As the beer commercials say, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
© 2014 Frosty Wooldridge - All Rights Reserved
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 published books include: "HANDBOOK FOR TOURING BICYCLISTS"; “STRIKE THREE! TAKE YOUR BASE”; “IMMIGRATION’S UNARMED INVASION: DEADLY CONSEQUENCES”; “MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURE TO ALASKA: INTO THE WIND—A TEEN NOVEL”; “BICYCLING AROUND THE WORLD: TIRE TRACKS FOR YOUR IMAGINATION”; “AN EXTREME ENCOUNTER: ANTARCTICA.” His next book: “TILTING THE STATUE OF LIBERTY INTO A SWAMP.” He lives in Denver, Colorado.
His latest book. ‘IMMIGRATION’S UNARMED INVASION—DEADLY CONSEQUENCES.’