135 miles - Total: 1520 miles
I never knew how strong I was until the wind came.
Minnesota might be the land of ten thousand lakes but it is also a wide open space which attracts strong wind currents from the North. The rolling terrain and the cold air add interesting ingredients to the fray. Without exaggeration, this has been the worst day ever on a bicycle with a constant headwind which sucked every inch of joy out of my ride and sapped my enthusiasm. I groveled into Fergus Falls after 12 hours on the road with my fingers and shoulders almost in spasms. Utter frustration and sheer anger. At times, I questioned my purpose.
The good thing about today is that I had plenty of time to conjure up new swear words, all for the wind. I yelled them all just to make sure that it heard them well. You know what I wrote a couple of days ago about making friends with and loving the wind and all that philosophical gibberish? Well...forget it.
Okay, not exactly...here's the thing. This is non-fiction. The wind is like a life-threatening energy-draining disease, it makes feel like you are trapped because there is nowhere to hide. Unless you bury yourself before you are dead, which is always an option, your choice is to face up to it in whichever way you are capable of. Here I am, planning a whole new adventure, I daydream about it, I picture the beauty of it, the riding in the great scenery, the sense of freedom, the bicycle that will never fail me, the towns, the mountains, the smells, all the thrills that come with a long unpredictable journey. And then all of sudden the wind picks up and it is such a strong wind that hampers my movement, makes me weaker by the minute, fills me with fear. It is not a minor hiccup, not a chink in the armour, it is not a bad dream, it's the real thing. I feel the gusts of it stabbing every fiber of my being, settling inside my bones and creating a new me that I don't want, I wish I could expel it with a button. I cannot ride forward any longer, what was so easy and natural becomes unsettling, unknown, terrifying. So here I am in the middle of the prairie, totally exposed, having to work hard for every single mile. Until the wind blows against me, it is amazing how little I know about my brain, my consciousness, my reactions. What humbles me is the survival instinct that kicks in. In life rule number one is: always leave yourself outs. Now the wind has blocked all my way outs. And I am not used to that. I always like to know that I have a choice, who wouldn't? Now that the wind has me cornered the only way out might be a way through. Can I still ride in the wind? I guess. Slower sure! but it is my ride and with my mind and my eyes still functioning I can go on. The wind will continue to blow and possibly will blow even harder in the open spaces of North Dakota and Montana but that's the future and as far as I am concerned I don't know squat about the future, number one; number two, if it blows I will stand firm and will generate a response, I will create life whenever I can. And I can't...screw it, at least I have done it! It is certainlty a cliche but there is life until you are willing to ride on in your special way and you are willing to appreciate the things that you love. Only in the wind can we really see the naked soul of the man for what it really is. For me, more than ever, life is a highway hit by destabilizing gusts of wind. Let's see how resourceful and eager I am to deal with it.
I ride all day along road shoulders that are seriously messed up. Clods of dirt, loose rocks, lumber, sand, pancaked pets and empty carcasses, deep cracks and uneven surface clutter my path. However, since the traffic is generally light I have the luxury to ride inside the lane. This is tricky when the wind blows though as it muffles the sound of coming vehicles and it is impossible to judge when to swerve back into the shoulder.
I did not sleep well last night and, surprisingly, as it happened before on this journey, the lack of a full night's sleep does not compromise my ability to ride well. However, by the end of the day my body feels totally battered. The wind was so fierce and persistent today that when I left the hotel to grab dinner and walked to a nearby restaurant, my ears rang, my eyes were bloodshot, the head felt stuffed like if an entire bunch of drunken motorcycle riders had taken turns punching it. I find it difficult to walk straight, being at the mercy of the wind for an entire day made me feel seasick. it is a miracle that I can write the blog. Actually, it is the only thing I feel good doing right now. I cannot sleep because my muscles are still producing adrenaline.
There's the wind but there is also the ride, the journey, there's Minnesota. No matter how much wind comes blowing down, nothing will deny the beauty of this area. People from here are blessed with hundreds of parks, lakes, creeks, trails and just green, lush and glowing outdoors. If it wasn't for the wind, I would ride in a bliss today. I ride on completely empty stretches that don't meet any acceptable definition of a highway. I focus on the trees, on the vegetation that keeps growing thicker and darker, I focus on the cracks that run along and through the faded yellow line. Sometime I see old tractors coughing and sputtering and the noise echoes in the wind for several minutes. I ride past farmers that go about their business in complete calm and adoration of their life. Theirs is a way of life made with skill and routine that is applied with grace and patience. I listen to the sound of nature, the smells being flown all over, I glance at the clouds that play hide and seek all day, I watch cows and horses suddenly turn their heads in my direction and, unmoved, stare at me and I stare back as if we are about to start a conversation, I watch my tense arms and the veins that cover my muscles, I look at the messy paste of dirt and sunscreen on my sun burnt legs, I breathe in an I breathe out and I stretch my neck and hands and I twitch on my seat when my bum becomes too sore, I listen to my legs whooshing over and over and over and over. It is all too familiar by now. No wind can alter that. The wind might have brought me to the darkest places but my ride will sparkle even in the wind and the dark will be no more.
Pure torture the wind but the journey continues. I rode more than 130 miles today, which puts me within sight of Fargo, North Dakota, where I will be tomorrow night.
Minnesota road, note the cracks that run across the road. This is everywhere here.Why is that?? Are the roads built in blocks? Someone elucidate please!
These water spraying machines are long almost 1/4 of a mile
The fire station in the tiny town of Bowlus
View from the road
One of the many creeks that join the Mississippi
What the wind does
Truck for sale in the middle of a field
My beloved barns, here's another one
Urbank, population: 54
and the church is the tallest and prettiest building
Stop? No way!
These little orange signs will be relevant in three months when all the fields will be under heavy snow
The Otter Trail Byway
Do I look pissed? Well..I am, the wind makes my life hard!
Just one look to the side and the beauty of the scenery makes it all sweeter
Postcards from Minnesota
Minnesota, the sun is going down and I am still fighting the wind. I reach the hotel at 8:25pm