A Best Friend and Your Worst Enemy
Many of you know that I have bike toured a ton. Some of you may even know that in the mid nineties, I spent 18 months cycling from Alaska to Argentina, right to the very tip of it, in fact. So when I tell you about the one thing that can be your best friend or your worst enemy on a bike tour, I know what I'm talking about. What is this sometimes magical thing that can turn on a dime and make you almost want to cry? Wind. Every cyclists knows how a tailwind can make you feel like superman when in your favor or like you are trying to push an invisible brick wall when against you.
I'm not particularly superstitious, but I still do not want to say it outloud, so I hope that writing this does not change our luck. But we have either had manageable breezes to very favorable winds. It is in fact one of the reasons why we are riding west to east. I biked across the US in 92 and I only remember having a few days when the wind was agaisnt us.
But on this trip, we did have one day when the wind was so strong that we were hardly moving. It was just this past Sunday, in fact. Things started out just fine that morning, We got an early start to beat the heat and really didn't notice any wind when we started pedaling. All seemed totally fine, we were headed more south than east, and then we turned left onto a previous nemesis, the Oregon Trail. But this time I confirmed on satellite view that the trail was now a paved road. Still, as soon as we turned, I could feel it. There was that little push-back, the one you barely notice, and if you do, the one you hope doesn't build.
But this one did. It grew little by little. It was still at a manageable pace when I saw on the horizon a bad omen; in the distance I could see rising out of nowhere a huge wind farm. It was like an army was invading us, except that we were the ones moving directly for them, right into a trap. As we passed under them for a few miles the wind had surely picked up, but it was still manageable. Then we tucked into a small community to get "second breakfast" and while there, we could hardly feel a breeze. All seemed Ok while eating, we had cold water, and were being served a delicious meal.
However, when we came back out and headed east again, the feeling was un-escapeable; the wind was now a formidable beast. Also, did I mention that by the time we came out it was also about 95°? It soon reached 100. We had about 30 miles to go to our next destination but we were not making much progress. The terrain was rolling, we were going up hill at about 4mph and down at about 10, while pedaling full on. And then the wind picked up even more, it was demoralizing. The heat and the thrist didn't help either, but there was no shade and there was no water.
It had been about two hours since we had left second breakfast and we then decided to change our end point and go for a town that was 14 miles closer than our morning goal. But the wind grew and grew, the heat rose above 100, and we were really not making progress. We climbed a hill that was about a mile long and it took forever. When we got to the top, I could see Sarah was worried, I was worried. We hadn't seen a car or more importantly, a pickup truck heading in our direction in about 30 minutes. So, as we were there for a few minutes, i was still standing over my bike, looking east, I didn't hear a car coming from behind. This can happen when the wind is so strong against you all you hear is the sound of wind.
All of a sudden, I saw was Sarah stick her thumb out and I realized what was happening. To my surprise, the truck stopped. I could hear Sarah tell the driver we'd take a ride anywhere further up the road, ANYWHERE. Turns out the guys was only going about three miles up the road to go fishing, but, Sarah wasn't letting that ride go. After all, 3 miles, with all the stopping was taking us about an hour. So we unload the bikes and the girls jump in and I ride on the bed holding the long cycles. And all if a sudden, we pass the turn off for the lake. Sarah worked her magic on the driver and he drove us to our destination.
When we arrived, the wind still howled, but we were safe and no longer had to worry about heat related issues. We ducted into our AC controlled room and collapsed, incredulous of our change in luck, like that of the wind sometimes