The Gales Of…..October?

Soggy, real soggy.

“Superior it’s said never gives up her dead.”

I was singing that song about the Edmund Fitzgerald out loud, into the wind as I packed up my stuff this morning. It’s fucking howling out there. And I’m in the relative shelter of Springfield with it’s trees and buildings to slow the wind down.

I had kind of forgotten what it’s like to be out in the plains surrounded by miles of nothing but empty fields with a steady wind pushing into you. There’s nowhere to hide from it, nothing to slow it down. It just comes sweeping along. Out here there are homesteads on every few hundred acres or so. Those farmhouses are always buffered on the northwest side by a swath of forest and undergrowth, and sometimes a row of very purposefully planted evergreens. They are that way so that when the worst winter weather comes screaming in from the northwest the wind won’t come blowing right through their houses and barns.

I’m sure 150 years ago it was obvious to most people why farmhouses had a natural forest buffer on the northwest. But I find it interesting that something so simple and elemental as shelter from the wind has shaped how we’ve manicured the Earth. How something that’s been done for hundreds of years shapes the modern landscape.

Yesterday I rode into a real strong south wind. I had to work pretty had to make 10 mph on slight downhills. The bike, loaded, weighs about 100 pounds, and the paniers are kind of like sails in that kind of wind. When I would get 100 to 200 feet on the leeward side of one of those farmsteads it was amazing how much those clumps of trees buffered the wind, and I could make 14 miles an hour or so for a couple hundred feet. Getting into towns is also an amazing contrast from the open fields in terms of how much shelter from the wind they offer.

I stopped in Springfield after 3 hours of pedaling into that wind making an average of 8 mph or so. The next town with a grocery store was another 30 miles or so, and there’s nothing in between but soggy, muddy fields and wind. I couldn’t camp in those conditions if I wanted to. I’d be sleeping in a puddle, and the fly would get blown off the tent. It was also demoralizing struggling into that wind, with gloomy sky pissing rain, and nothing but mud to look at.

I asked the first person I encountered in Springfield about finding a spot to pitch a tent. Turns out there’s a real nice park (remember now, everything is relative: it has a couple of trees and a stream) in town with a campground. The camp ground was closed, but I spoke with someone at the chamber of commerce, she made a couple of phone calls and said it wouldn’t be any problem at all to camp there. She did ask me if I knew there wasn’t any water, and that the bathrooms were closed. Shee-it. It had a couple of trees and a stream, looked pretty damn nice to me. The town and those trees offered shelter from the wind.

Boy did it rain though. It rained real hard for over 6 hours, the six hours prior that it had just been raining lightly. I fell asleep so I don’t know when the rain subsided. When I woke up it was just sprinkling, but the wind was howling. It sounded like a freight train at treetop level. The tent would get buffeted every now and then, but for the most part I was sheltered. I really don’t want to find out what it’s like in the open fields right now. I just rode my bike 4 blocks through town and nearly got blown over.

I guess they load their .22's while walking downtown along the sidewalk in Springfield.

The police chief stopped by last night about 7 or 7:30. He said he had arranged for me to stay in the hotel for free if I wanted to. Since I was already set up, and I didn’t want to spend an hour and half packing up in the rainy darkness, I chose to stay put. But I think the offer still holds, and I’m going to let this wind pass before I set out again, so I might not be able to leave until Thursday. It would be real nice to have a place to dry out. I have some dry clothes, and my sleeping bag is dry, but my tent is soaked and covered in mud, all of my socks and jackets and shoes are soaked.

I suspect they think I’m a derelict and they just can’t let me stay out there. I’m not sure they know that I’ve chosen to do this, and that I have enough gear to be OK, if not comfortable. But as I’ve said, it’d be real nice to have a place to dry out, so if they offer to set me up, I won’t turn them down.

I have to go, I have a meeting with the police chief in 15 minutes.

    • Richard
    • October 27th, 2010

    Best of luck to you. Someday, I plan a continental divide ride. I just need to get my dream in motion, almost there! I look forward to reading your posts, and living vicariously through them.

    Take Care, have fun and don’t quit!

    • Nick
    • October 28th, 2010

    Nice, I’d take the night in the hotel for sure. I’m glad I found your blog early in the trip, sounds fantastic. It looks like you’ll have a nice tailwind on Thursday, 20mph or so. Enjoy!

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