Thursday, April 12, 2007

Part 8 Cross Country 1981

Part 8
The afternoon wind continued to gain force as I pedaled toward Pratt, Kansas. Cattle trucks were more common now. The wind was from the front left and occasionally a passing semi truck full of nervous steers would spray me with a mist of bovine piss. As I rode toward the western sunset the wind seemed to gain strength. I was used to the wind dying down at night. Not tonight. The flags in front of the local post office flutter straight out of the southwest.

Each of the towns were spaced a consistent eleven miles apart. A 200 foot tall grain elevator tower was the most prominent landmark on the horizon. A flashing red light on the top of the tower was my guiding beacon. Each hour I pedaled eleven miles to a new town. Each town was four blocks across. Then I rode out the other side of town and had 59 minutes to concentrate on the next grain tower eleven miles away.

I arrived in Pratt, Kansas at about midnight. Our crew had stopped in the vacant parking lot of the closed Pizza Hut. We all decided to stop and sleep a few hours. We set up the small tent on a patch of vacant lawn. The wind fluttered the nylon tent like it was being pitched on the side of Mt. Everest. I went in the motor home and crawled into the bottom bunk bed. The wind rocked the motor home as I dozed off for a few hours sleep.

We decided to try riding again at 3:00 AM. I got back on the bike while Susan and Dean Dettman followed me in the Dodge Omni support car. We rolled out of town in the pitch black of the night. The rest of the crew would sleep until sunrise and then meet us 50 miles up the road. The wind was still blowing but the road was quiet with only a few trucks per hour passing us in the night. The support car behind me cast eerie shadows on the tufts of grass that grew between the cracks on the road shoulder. I slalomed down the chip seal shoulder dodging the clumps of grass and looking for the best pavement. I was tired now and looking forward to sunrise. I had ridden 250 miles yesterday. It would be difficult to ride that far today if the wind didn’t change.



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