Nature Has Its Moments Back to Bike Stories // Back to the Weeville Home Page
The Herald Friday, Sept 1, 1989
Nature has its moments
There I was, straining my way up to Cameron Pass in Colorado.
THe climb to 10,276 feet above sea level was becoming continually steeper. My rest stops in the thin air were unreasonably frequent, and on this particular breather I was ready to give up. Maybe I could coast down the mountain and assault the summit the next day after some rest.
In my exhaustion, I sagged against the handlebars and stared blankly into the roadside ditch. The deep snow drifts were melting and the runoff trickled down the mountain in a small stream. I watched the water as it paused in a tiny whirlpool before cascading on.
Perhaps the lack of oxygen at 10,000 feet causes strange delusions, but I was greatly inspired by the melting snow. Mother Nature is amazing. Water had been running off this mountain for millions of years, and I had ridden my bicycle nearly 2,000 miles to see it happen. With renewed vigor and positive attitude, I rode the rest of the way to the top and completed my biggest personal accomplishment ever.
Mother Nature quickly sought retribution for her inspiring little puddle. During my descent into the valley behind the pass, I was tailed closely by an ominous thunderstorm. I stayed one mile ahead of the havoc as the storm's downdraft pushed me into Walden, Colo., at 30 mph. During my hotly contested race, I had another abstract thought. What if my microcassette voice recorder was a "Star Trek" transponder? I could whip it out right then and there and say "Scotty, beam me up. And hurry."
I thought about this for the rest of the trip. There are several more times when I would have preferred to be beamed up, but I would never haven chosen to be beamed all the way back home. I was simply having too much fun.
Take what you get
When you leave home on a bicycle, you're actually begging for whatever ol' Mom cares to dish out. A bicyclist would be wrong to complain about foul weather, and a pretty day is a true blessing when you have endured then stormy ones.
My ride to Utah taught me one thing about weather - we don't have any in Carolina. Weather lives further west from here.
A Kansas weatherman typically says, "Winds are out of the northwest today at 25 mph, so it's a beautiful day to get outside and do something!"
Did you catch that? THe "25 mph" slid so eloquently by it was hardly noticed. In fact, that is an unusually calm day in Kansas. One of the worst mistakes I made during my trip was trying to ride on a day when the Kansas weatherman said, "Look out guys, because today it's going to be very windy."
It was. The wind blew 50 mph, and road signs were twisting like Chubby Checker. It looked like a scene from a hurricane movie. I dodged tumbleweeds that were flying directly at me in this gale force headwind. "Very windy," the weatherman said.
I asked for it when I left my perfectly good car at home. I admit that riding a bicycle across America is an uncommon pursuit, and some people refuse to understand. In Charleston, MO., I met a truck driver who insisted upon giving me a ride. He said, "Good grief, boy. You don't have to ride that blame bicycle all the way to Utah. Just throw it up in my truck and I'll take you west. I could use some company."
I politely declined his offer and he got more serious. "Come on, now, I'm not kidding. Just toss your bike up in there and we'll go." I told him thanks again, but this was a bicycle trip and I intended to finish it. He looked at me and thought real hard. He finally said, "It's gonna rain."
To that I answered, "I know." The trucker snorted loudly and stomped off shaking his head. He had added me to his list of complete idiots. I'll bet every time the trucker turned on his windshield wipers, he laughed and thought about me.
Wait a while
Midwestern weather is properly summed up by a phrase the locals use on tourists: "If you don't like the weather in the Midwest, just stay a little while. It'll change."
In Hill City, Kan., I was safely parked when there came a sudden hailstorm that dumped 2 inches of ice on the streets in a matter of minutes. The man who ran the inn casually waited for it to stop and then went out to clear the sidewalk with a snow shovel.
In western Colorado, I was in the middle of a 50-mile void without buildings when the next hailstorm hit. I huddled behind a road sign as the pellets rattled off my helmet.
It was freezing in Nebraska and 95 degrees in Missouri.
I took a day off for rest in Walden Colo., and watched that day's weather out the window. During that one daylight period, I saw lightning, rain. sleet, snow, hail and thunder-snow. Great claps of thunder accompanied the silently floating snowflakes. I was glad I wasn't riding.
You can look at the maps and figure miles all you like, but you can't see all this stuff on the squiggly lines that represent highways. The maps supply the facts, but Mother nature is in charge of color commentary.
An east-to-west ride across America is simply too difficult. There's always a headwind and it's uphill after you cross the Mississippi River.
My finished trip, though, is not for sale. If I had accepted a ride in a trailer truck, what could I honestly say while relaxed in a comfortable rocking chair?
Back to Bike Stories // Back to the Weeville Home Page