Cyclist lives dream on epic journey

Gary Spaulding rides from Texas to Montana in four months following the Western Cattle Trail -- as well as his dreams.

"It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living."

-- Gus McCrae in Lonesome Dove

These are the words that inspired Parkdale resident Gary Spaulding as he set out on his bicycle last April, attempting to ride from Brownsville, Texas, along the Mexican border, to Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana -- a total of 3,123 miles in four months.

Even before he had his colon removed in 1994, Spaulding had dreamed of following the Western Cattle Trail he read about in Larry McMurtry's timeless novel, Lonesome Dove. It wasn't until after the operation that he decided it was something he must do.

"I did it as a tribute to all the people who supported me throughout my ordeal," he said. "Plus, I wanted to see if I had enough moxie to finish another long journey."

Spaulding, 48, is no stranger to long, grueling bike rides. He rode around the world in 1989 and like another American cycling hero -- Lance Armstrong, who recently won his third straight Tour de France -- Spaulding wasn't going to let a nagging health condition prevent him from realizing his dreams.

The degenerative condition is ulcerative colitis -- the same disorder that recently ended the football career of Arizona Cardinals tight end Chris Gedney -- which weakens the entire digestive system and usually requires colon removal.

Spaulding has proven that one can live without a colon, but its absence also means his body can't absorb moisture. Water in typically means water out.

He battled heat exhaustion and dehydration the entire journey as he slogged his way through the Texas heat, riding as much as 80 miles a day.

"I thought about quitting a couple times," he said. "The heat was almost unbearable, but I was driven by what I read about in Lonesome Dove. That book is my bible."

Spaulding was determined to see for himself the many rivers, railroads and historical landmarks described in the novel. He also wanted to find out if this adventurous tale of grit and courage was merely a legend or based in truth.

Much to his surprise, McMurtÿry was spot on in his description of the Western Cattle Trail, and Spaulding couldn't have been more pleased. He witnessed every railroad depot, slaughterhouse and saloon described in the novel.

"This was by far the best experience of my life," he said. "It was more work than fun, but this trip gave me closure. Now I can put my adventurous nature to rest with no regrets.

"When I'm on my death bed, I'll look back on this with a true sense of accomplishment."

To Gary Spaulding, his epic cycling journey from Texas to Montana was just another chapter in a long list of life triumphs.

To the rest of us, the monumental achievement of living a life dream is a true inspiration.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners