65 miles (105 km) – Total so far: 1,841 miles (2,963 km)
Wind. Not the playful zephyr that zipped us along yesterday. Not the strong breeze that has me set short sails on a close tack with a certain dangerously gleeful look. No, this was a driving, relentless monster to wrestle for five hours. At mile 10 I turned from West to North into the wind. The 19 miles north were a gruelling, grinding chore, heading into 20-25MPH winds. Pushing through was harder because up ahead the cloud cover went from surly to angry.Not too long after that turn I was riding under dark, oppressive clouds so close to the ground it felt like I could reach up and touch them. Not that I would, because clearly, they would retaliate by blotting my existence from the Earth. They looked pissed off. Like an older brother who gets hurt by his younger sibling while roughhousing pissed off. The kind of pissed off that sets out to teach a lesson.

The fear in my gut disagreed with Radar, NOAA, and everybody else. They all said: no big deal: not thunderstorms; no tornado warnings. Just a regularly horrible day of weather in Kansas. Don’t get too excited. Only one other time in my life have I been that scared of weather, and that was sailing a 50 foot boat in 30 foot waves during a thunderstorm in the Bermuda triangle. I had the exact same response this time as then: I prayed. Not light, gentle, prayers. Fear of God prayers. Like as in ‘make my peace’ prayers.

And again, much like that time on the ocean, adrenaline can only last so long. Terror is not a stable emotional state… it downgrades. I began to think about the situation seriously. Clearly, the weather was bad. But was it dangerous? No, but cars are. So, I began to get off the road to let every car pass. Was there any kind of shelter? No: this is Kansas, everything is flat, there’s a good 20 miles between towns. So, what are my best options: pedal like a monster… no holding back, just power through for three hours and get this ride behind me.

When I got to Rush Center. I looked around for hotels, restaurants, whatever… but every shop in the town was abandoned. The whole place said, ‘Nothing to see here, move along stranger’. So, I made a left and started rolling out of town. Immediately everything got calmer. The head wind was now on my starboard aft quarter (4:30 if you look at a clock) It was pushing me along and only occasionally trying to swat me sideways. But, this mixed blessing was a mixed blessing: the clouds finally opened up and started drenching me pretty thoroughly. Fortunately earlier in the day, I had bought a bandana, complete with flames and skulls, so I was pretty much prepared for this torrential downpour.

The wind was whipping from the North. This is after I made the turn West at Rush Center and felt a little safer about taking a few minutes to pull out my camera.

The wind was whipping from the North. This is after I made the turn West at Rush Center and felt a little safer about taking a few minutes to pull out my camera. 

Geared up against the wind and rain.

Geared up against the wind and rain.

This wind direction lasted for about 20 miles, then the wind backed Northerly and intensified to 25-30MPH with larger gusts. It swept across the plains of Kansas and slammed perpendicularly into my right side. I had to lean at about a 5 degree angle to the right to keep my equilibrium. With 10 miles left, and no other options, I kept pushing through, but I unclipped my pedals and pulled over for cars going BOTH directions at this point. With just two miles left, one particularly nasty gust almost pulled my bike out from under me, and I considered walking, but decided to just get this damn ride over with.

I finally rolled into town. Camping was out of the question. The owner of the first motel I called was out and would be able to let me in in about an hour and a half. No chance I was waiting for that. Fortunately, the Derrick Inn was open. And they have a hot tub! I’m not sure why my response to being driven by wind and rain was to then dunk myself in a frothy tub of water, but after about half an hour, the tension finally left my shoulders.

To be fair, the day wasn’t all terrible. The first 10 miles had been quite nice. Paul, Terry, Johnathan, Jerry, and I ran into a group of bikers doing ride across Kansas just outside our motel. They were strutting like peacocks about their long ride, and one of them mocked me for being a beginner and having to much stuff to ride across Kansas. Ha!

3 of our crew talk to one of the bike across Kansas guys.

3 of our crew talk to one of the bike across Kansas guys. 

A little later down the road we visited Fort Larned, which was a real treat. The fort has a lot of original and replica buildings from the mid 1800s when it was an important part of protecting the great wagon train migrations to the West and Southwest, especially after the civil war. While the reasons for my journey and those settlers trek are vastly different, I feel a kinship with them that grew stronger today after such brutal weather.

A howitzer and the barracks at Fort Larned

A howitzer and the barracks at Fort Larned

3 coffins and enough rope to fill em. --at Fort Larned, KS

3 coffins and enough rope to fill em. –at Fort Larned, KS

Howitzer range chart. --at Fort Larned, KS

Howitzer range chart. –at Fort Larned, KS

Quatermaster's supplies --at Fort Larned, KS

Quatermaster’s supplies –at Fort Larned, KS

An Army supply wagon. --at Fort Larned, KS

An Army supply wagon. –at Fort Larned, KS

A National Park board detailing the history of the wagon road to the Southwest --at Fort Larned, KS

A National Park board detailing the history of the wagon road to the Southwest –at Fort Larned, KS

A locked storm shelter at Fort Larned, KS. I found myself thinking of this spot as the day progressed and the weather deteriorated.

A locked storm shelter at Fort Larned, KS. I found myself thinking of this spot as the day progressed and the weather deteriorated.