Thursday, April 16, 2009

The nature of wind

Since it was only 30 miles from Delta to Grand Junction, I took my sweet time sauntering through the town on a flawless day. Since my map-reading skills are garbage, I didn't realize that it was actually 40 miles to GJ. The day wouldn't be quite as lazy as I had envisioned...

The pedaling started off innocently enough. Since I was now riding on Hwy 50, the main road connecting Montrose to GJ, traffic was much heavier than I had experienced in the previous 130 miles and on a 4 lane divided road. Luckily the shoulder was ginormous, so I was constantly glancing at my nerdy rearview mirror out of terror. I left the blooming trees behind for dry dry hills splashed with the colors of gold and grey. Behind these hills, the amazing Grand Mesa was still looming high high above, a natural feature I will never forget after having cycled past it for 2 straight days.

About 25 miles into the ride and across from the Uncompaghre Plateau on the other side, to the south, I was blasted by constant sidewinds. Ah, this is part of the wind advisory I had heard on the radio before leaving Delta.

Note to self: never cycle if you hear on the radio that there is a high-wind advisory for the entire western part of the state you are riding in...

At first I didn't care too much, if it's not a headwind, who cares??? Well after I got a sustained blast while flying downhill at 25 mph, I changed that tune. The bike started to wobble nearly uncotrollably, probably not helped by the fact that I had a huge compression sack lashed perpendicularly to that wind. I slowly applied the brakes, and had to stand still in amazement. If the wind continues this way, I knew I needed to be a bit more cautious on the descents. Note taken. No the wind didn't stop. Sometimes I'd go around a bend and it would turn into a fun fun fun tailwind. Then crosswind. I decided to take a break from this insanity at a pullout complete with an interpretive sign about a visible wagon road, when the wind blew my bike completely over from it's resting place. sigh. time to ride a bit further, find a safe spot for a tent, and get the hell out of the wind.

I thought I had found this spot when I noticed a cattleguard defending a shoddy road onto some ranch property that looked like it had the first nearby hill oriented in the right direction that I could hide behind. So I crossed the cattleguard, carefully parted the barbed wire fence, and hopped on this "road". ha, some road. It was incredibly rough with volcanic rocks in shades of black complete with bubbles in them from their formation and punctuated with tiny cacti. yikes! Time to push the bike and not risk putting pressure on the tires and getting a flat from evil cactus spines. Although the road meandered to the right, I needed to head left to try to find some leeward action behind the hill and pitch my tent. Leaving the road, I pushed my bike over uncountable amounts of rocks trying to find a flat spot for the tent. The wind was still howling, and I had to get quite a ways away from the hill to find a flat spot to rest. That meant away from wind protection and onto flattish ground. After tossing some rocks around to clear out a spot, I had to fight the wind to get the tent pitched. This was without question the worst conditions I had ever tried to pitch the TT in, and it caused lots of cursing at the wind. Finally I got things together enough to use the wind to my advantage, got the stakes in the ground, and took a triumphant victory breath.

And then the wind yanked all of the stakes out of the loose soil.

What a joke, right. It didn't take very long at all to decide that I wouldn't camp here. Even if I had the tent pitched, the wind would have caused me to lose my mind. I lost a tent stake, an absurdy overpriced Titanium one, packed up, and got the hell out of that spot. It was a really beautiful spot though, even with a few spots of trees along an area where water obviously flows from time to time.

I had no clue where I'd be able to find a spot to camp after this. The hills were all wimpy, or all really really far away from the road an on private property. I had long since passed all of the BLM access points, so I was wondering if I'd have to go all the way in to Grand Junction. And then I came across a big cross on top of a building. My positive experience camping inside of the church in Haines junction last year made me think that his would be the spot.

Apparently the Mormons don't like to leave their churches unlocked. With the wind still raging, I knew I didn't want to go further, so started to stalk the area looking for flat ground and wind-protection. Found it on the front side of the building, sort of visible to the traffic on the Hwy, and didn't care. Despite the incessant traffic, I had no problem slipping into sleep after a good cup of ginger tea...

Now I'm taking a few days off at Randy and Nancy's place in Grand Junction. I found these guys through Randy actually started this website as a community of hosts for cycle touring folks like myself. Both nancy and randy just returned from Argentina after cycling there from Arctic Canada. Naturally they are planting all sorts of seeds into my head about travels in south america: Southern Patagonia, the rough roads of the Bolivian altiplano, the Salar de Uyuni, Guatemalan hospitality, etc.

Tomorrow I'll do chores around town and get all my stuff lined up for the race in Fruita on Saturday. Can I even complete 50 miles in 13 hr (cant figure out question marks on this spanish keyboard!)...I really hope so.

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