Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wits' End

In the dark of an early October morning in Kansas, a television glows into a motel room. A man with a forced, phony smile explains the weather for the coming days. Like a chant, he repeats the phrase "South winds, 15 to 25 mph, South winds, 15 to 25 mph," for all the days into the forecast. For almost everyone in the state, this causes no particular emotion, just a shrug of the shoulders--Oh, well, so it's going to be windy today. For a lone cyclist in that particular motel room, these words are a meteorological prison sentence for which there will be no pardon, no time off for good behavior, just hard time in solitary confinement on a recumbent bicycle.

I set off knowing that I would be facing more punishment. Earlier is better, for as the day warms, the winds intensify, so I was rolling before first light. Always from the south today came the wicked force, the road straight and predictable, no surprises. Oh, look at that, a field of corn stubble. Wow, haven't seen one of those before. Oh, say, that's new, a grain silo. Such novelty. How can I bear it all? Here's something else to add to the list of things I dislike about cycling in Kansas: truck traffic. While the traffic in general is fairly light, most of the vehicles are big rigs, growling monsters stalking the highway. While I am plugging along, taking the general abuse of the cantankerous wind currents, getting pushed and nudged this way and that, I'll see a dragon approaching from the west. As it closes in, I brace for what is coming. The Doppler-shifted groaning of the engine reaches me first, and I instinctively grip the bars. For the wind my have its way with me, but what is soon to come is a full-on Gretzky body-check. The grill of the beast, its chrome teeth, swell in my vision, but at the last instant, I tilt my head down and close my eyes in preparation for the blast. Then it hits, a wall of roaring sound and turbulence that leaves me momentarily fighting for control. A second or two later, the event is over, and I may ride for several minutes before I even see another vehicle.

Part of the issue here, I'm sure, is the harvest season. The wheat seems to all be collected, but lots of corn and milo still stands. The hundreds of square miles of crops mean steady trucking for many days. I'll have to leave farming country to be free of all this. So it goes.

At one point, late into today's ride, I started to lose it. Something deep within me cracked. I had this overwhelming sense of how funny my circumstances were. Spontaneously, I yelled out to myself, to the insensate wind: "Wooo--ha! Fuck YOU!" The deep absurdity of what I was doing gripped me somewhere deep and I started to laugh, a genuine visceral rising of mirth that I could not resist. I was yelling and pedaling and rolling and laughing down the highway, a mad cyclist gone mad. This lunatic high didn't last long, but the after effects carried me the final miles to Tribune and my third Time Zone--yeah--Mountain Time. Tomorrow, it's Colorado. The West is almost mine.

Biker Scotty without coffee:

Biker Scotty WITH coffee:

Getting closer:

I purchased a bunch of real estate on my way through:


wombatgrrl said...

Hmmm, sounds like Ohio is looking better and better, rising quickly on the state list, as Kansas seems to be sure thing for the Lantern Rouge title.

cleveland, ohio
(ohio rules!!)

GleanerC said...

Hey Scott,

Now I'm feeling pretty bad about my BROL post "The infamous Kansas Headwinds God might just find you." I had no idea I had that kind of influence. ;-)

We've really been getting it the this last week and a half. And yes, we are right in the middle of fall harvest too.

Thanks for the blog.

Quinter, KS

Scott Wayland said...

Hey, Y'All: I'm firmly in Colorado now. The run from Eads to Ordway (my hang for today and tomorrow) was a bit tough. The winds started for the last 20 miles, but these little buggers locals call "Texas Tacks" have been doing a number on my tires. I didn't get ANY flats until west Kansas. And I've had two in Colorado. I'm gettin' slime tubes in Pueblo.

Ann: Ohio was delightful in comparison to Kansas. Actually, I quite liked the run from the PA border to Cleveland, and your hood was fantastic.

I'm finally getting a rest day, so I'll post a bunch of stuff tomorrow.


Spokehead7 said...

Hey Scott. I sympathize. Been there, done that. Spent 3 days with a dead-on headwind during my '76 crossng. Keep the pedals turning, my low-slung 'bent friend, the mountains await. Phil. Cleveland, OH

Rob Thomson said...

Mmmmmmm. Coffee.

I too can sympathize. But a good dose of saddle fever is good for the mind. I find acting out loud full theatrical plays (written on the spot by yourself, of course) with plenty of foreign accents helps keep me sane...or is that insane...

Keep on trucking!


Scott Wayland said...

Phil and Rob: Thanks for the boost, guys. I'm hidin' out from the wind today. What a treat! I'll try the theatrical plays with accents, Rob. Sounds like just the thing!