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