118 miles - Total: 1031 miles
An utterly punishing day because of one thing, yes... you guessed it: the wind. I had a headwind the whole day save for about one hour when I negotiated my way in and around Madison which is a pretty town and its relaxing streets momentarily made up for the sheer frustration caused by the wind.
Aeolus woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I didn't. I was ready for a long, pain-free ride. My legs felt fine and strong and I was in confident mood to challenge the hilly roads of Wisconsin. Yesterday I chewed up miles up Lake Michigan grinning like an idiot but guess who was grinnig today? I spent the night at the Ramada Inn, a low-budget hotel. The shabby room did not make for a comfortable stay.
I am on the road at 8am and I take one quick look at the flags outside the hotel in downtown Milwaukee and judging by the direction and by the intensity they flap I can immediately tell it's going to be tough going. Whenever you think it is going to be a cake walk...it is not. The moment I hit the road I find myself riding in a fierce headwind and route 18 to Madison is relatively flat and exposed to the elements. I hit two towns before Madison, Waukesha and Jefferson- but I hardly stop. I clench my teeth to make it to the top of the hill or to keep a straight course to cycle safely.
What to do against the wind? At some point the wind was so strong that it would stop me dead in my tracks on a slight descent. How upsetting is that?? There is no way to master cycling in the wind, there are a few tips you can follow but it is mainly a pointless attempt at damage control. I try to divert my thoughts and focus on the scenery, on taking pictures, on thinking about the support I got for this ride, the fundraising, etc. But nothing really works. Today I was thinking that days like today make me earn those 20 thousand dollars for the LLS. Because it is thanks to days like these that I think about the cause and I am reminded of the patient struggle to get things done. Speed or quantity may not necessarily mean something, you have to take the bit between you teeth and the end result might just be an inch, another pain-free day, a smile, a mile, a new town, anything.
I reached Madison way too early in the day to stop so with much despondency I left the shore of Lake Mendota westbound. Luckily for me the wind decreased in the afternoon and the hilly terrain provided some protection against the gusts. The afternoon ride saw me cycle through lush farmland with lots of cattle and almost nonexistent traffic, the scenery did allow me to enjoy the last part of the day. But all in all the ride was tough and I did fight a lot to reach my destination. Almost 120 miles in a headwind is quite a feat and by the time the sun was about to set I called it quits crawling into Sauk City after more than 10 hours on the bike.
I find writing a bit difficult at the moment. It is late, the internet connection is slow, which is expected here at this middle-of-nowhere motel, I eat completely unhealthy food because I have no alternative and my scabbed arms and hands are typing furiously. I am mentally tired and I need to relax. Today aside from the time spent in Madison, I held my head down most of the time and I did not take in the world as much as I would have liked. I am focusing on my back tire that is not holding air. I am 25 miles from the next repair shop so if I cannot fix it I will get behind schedule tomorrow. Regardless of the tire, the wind will be the game decider, it will swing it either way. If it continues to blow like today I will not make it to Vancouver on Sept 1. But I won't think about that now, I need to recapture my groove and just "enjoy the show", let's leave the future to the future.
I would like to mention that the City of Madison is an absolutely charming university town. It has a 25000-strong student community and it is the second city in the USA in education. It has the lowest unemployment rate and the less gun use and gun ownership rate. It has one of the widest bike trail networks in the country and it has a cool, hip feeling with its art scene and many museums and young population. It straddles two major lakes and several other water basins which give a romantic touch to its pretty skyline. Cycling in Madison provided a needed respite after hours of pure frustration fighting the wind.
Today I clocked the first 1000 miles, less than a third of what I am proposing to do. When I left DC I was completely unaware of how my body would respond to this challenge. Now I am more confident about my chances but I also know that the elements are out there to stop me. I am out here to make it to Vancouver. The fight is on.
Peanut butter bagel for breakfast
The wind, the continuous cracks on the surface, the hilly road, this morning was tough going
I haven't seen one of these in a few days
Proof of the wind: the flags are flapping wildly
Entering Madison on one of its many bike trails
Madison downtown skyline
Madison, entering downtown on the bike trail
Capitol bld from one of the many schools streets
Lake Monona in Madison, my smile conceals anger at the wind
The bike lanes in Madison are large enough for a car to drive in
I did not get blown away as I clock my first 1000 miles!
The neat colors of rural Wisconsin
Scenery of this afternoon's ride