A customized hell

You know by now how mother nature has it in for me, right? It (she) had no recourse but to finally yield on the hills and give me the plains. "You want your flat roads?", she said, "Here's your f**** flat roads". And with that the winds picked up with such steady gusto that it made for a most miserable day of riding. According to the weather channel I turned on just before leaving I was looking at 20-30 mile an hour winds coming from the west. Hmmm... great, I thought with sarcasm. Maybe the weather guys are exaggerating or wrong altogether.

They weren't.

I fought the eastbound winds for several miles and then, when I had had enough, veered north onto an impromptu detour of my planned route. I now see why cyclists refer to headwinds as an invisible mountain. They're not kidding. Even though the going was over level grades my average speed dropped to a mere six miles an hour - barely a jogging pace. Crosswinds on the other hand while not fun are at least tolerable. So I managed for a few hours going straight north on a road that had no services of any kind. I was elated to finally hit a town that had a gas station where I could eat something, anything, because I left this morning on a cup of orange juice and a donut from the motel lobby. The gas station, ah cruelty, was closed for easter. I stopped to ask a lady working her garden where I could find something to eat and she told me I had to go west six miles to a little town called Bronson. There, she said, was another gas station (whether also closed for easter, however, she did not say). Really, I wanted to cry. I wanted to offer her $5 for a sandwich but didn't work up the courage. Plus if she didn't get my hint chances are she wouldn't have been receptive to the idea in the first place.

So I started riding west towards Bronson and encountered a long hill (yes, Kansas has them). Along with the brutalizing effect of headwinds half as strong as a hurricane, going uphill was simply too much. I stopped to catch my breath halfway up and briefly closed my eyes while slumped forward on the bike. Suddenly, I started seeing a curious light pattern projected onto my inner eyelids that I thought was kind of amusing. It was a lightshow that resembled my eye's own iris and in the middle there was a bright cloudlike patch that kept getting bigger and bigger. It really was kind of entertaining in a hypnotic sense but after a few seconds I realized that I was going to pass out. That light effect must have been high or low blood pressure and I felt feeble. I collected myself and got off the bike for a break. For the first time on the trip I craved something to eat. Luckily, I had half a bag of Cheetos in a side pocket on the trailer. I munched these along with some hot Gatorade (I hate Gatorade now. The 'Lime Rain' stuff tastes exactly like bathroom cleaning supplies smell. Yuck). Anyway, hardly a feast but I recovered enough to begin riding again. At 6mph it took me a full hour to get to Bronson but I was very happy to arrive in one piece.

I was very happy also to find that in addition to the gas station Bronson also had a restaurant, the Chicken Shack. I devoured some bland food and spent the next half hour or so chatting with the waitresses about my trip, life in the country and the rest of the usual subjects that come up. It turned out that no one would have a problem with me tenting at the park for the night. Just in case I ever forget, I want to repeat here that people out in these areas are exceptionally friendly and helpful - I can't get over it!

Day 35