DAY 51

May 4, 1999

This was the most difficult day of riding I've ever experienced.  The wind was blowing to the southeast as I went west on highway 2.   The road zig zags through the hills so I had combinations of headwind and crosswind.  It was the same when I turned north on 27, headwinds and crosswinds except the crosswind was at my other side.

Prior to leaving town I stopped at the small grocery store and bought instant coffee packets, gatorade, and 2 bananas.  The coffee for my anticipated cold night of camping in Gordon tonight.  Gordon is 85 miles away and I thought it would be no problem going that far.  It was really cold this morning so I stopped at the convenient store for a cup of hot coffee.  I was expexcting it to be warm again today, but the people inside informed me otherwise.  So I put on another layer of clothes in the bathroom.  Sharon stopped by to wish me good luck on my trip.  I had told her I'd send a postcard when I get to Alaska.  Come to find out, the streets have no names.  So I guess I'm in that place the band U2 sings about...   "Where the streets have no name..."  :)  The houses are unnumbered as well, so the address consists of the persons name, city, state and zip.   The postman obviously knows where everyone lives in the town.  But that was weird, nameless streets in a town.  Before I left the store, the lady that worked there told me that if I couldn't make it past Ellsworth, to stop at the Post Office and Cathy could help me find a place to stay.

Leaving at 9:45 am, I continued west on highway 2.  The wind was horribly strong.    My eyes were watering as tears streamed down my face from the cold wind.   My nose began to continuosly run like a river which lasted all day.  I could hear my flag whiping in the wind and cracking like a bullwhip.  the sun would occasionally pop out at times, but mostly remained very cloudy.  The trains were going by about every 20 minutes again today.  It was nice to have all the waves from the ..... hmmmm........  What do you call them? train conductors or something?  Anyway it was nice to have them waving to me as I struggled in the cold wind.  The gusts would occasionally push me out into the road, luckily there was barely car to be seen out here.  I was moving at an all time slooooow pace.   Now I started having my doubts about making it to Gordon today.  The previous 3 riding days were 100+ miles and I thought for sure I could go 85 miles easily.

About half a mile before Ellsworth, the rain started.  Making it to the Post Office in Ellsworth at 4pm, it was already closed, it closed at 3pm.  There was a general store beside it in the same building.  I went into the store cold and wet.  The guy inside seemed a bit standoffish and unpleasant towards me.  I asked about a place to stay or even pitch a tent nearby.  He offered no help except that Gordon was 55 miles away and if I couldn't make it, I could set up my tent along the road somewhere.   I could not believe what I was hearing.  It was already 4 pm with freezing rain and a 30 mph wind gusting to 40 mph.  I was expecting at least some assistance in finding a place to set up my tent close by.  When I looked around the store, I was going to buy a sandwich out of the refrigerator case but decided that I would prefer starvation over giving him any of my money.  Yes, I was very negative at this point.   I couldn't believe the lack of compassion towards another human being in need of a place to stay.  Frustrated and a little upset, I was determined to get to Gordon even if it will be 2am when I arrived there.  I pedaled into the rain which did let up for a little while, long enough for me to take a picture of all the cattle lined up along a fence staring at me.  My negativity soon dissolved as I told myself that it wasn't meant to be and there will be something better for me when I get to Gordon.  I also thought that it couldn't be that bad biking out on a desolate road way past midnight.   The rain soon began to get worse again and the wind was blowing the small bits of hail into the left side of my face. 

After cycling an hour and a half in the heavy downpour, a chevy pickup pulls over in front of me.   I pulled up to his window to see a gentleman about 55 years old with short graying hair and a robust look to his face.  His brown coat was beginning to get soaked as he sat there with his window down.  He asked it I wanted to put my bike in the back and he'd give me a lift.  I was sooooooo cold, wet and very miserable.  The sky was very dark and gloomy reflecting how I felt inside.  A part of me wanted to put my bike in back and get in the warm inviting truck.  But I told him that I really had to do this without "cheating".  I explained my trip and the importance of being able to bike the whole distance.  He smiled and told me that there was a church 12 miles down the road, " could go inside and ask the lord to forgive you for cheating", giving a small chuckle.  I told him how much I appreciated his concern and stopping to help.  He went on to say that his name was Larry and for me to go to the church  and tell the pastor he sent me there.  Larry said the church is always unlocked and anyone is welcome there.  By this time Larry was soaked on his left side as the rain continued to pour and the wind continued to gust.  I could tell this nice man did not want to leave me out here in the middle of nowhere in this dark rain.  After I thanked him, he started to pull away and then stopped again "If you can't make it to the church, stop at the Hamiltons ranch 4 miles before the church.  They are really good people and will help you."  I thanked Larry again and my spirits were lifted knowing I had only 12 miles to bike and that there was someone kind enough to stop like Larry.

By this time my fingers and toes have long passed the stinging and burning stage.  My feet were soaked and numb, feeling like blocks of wood as I pushed them down on the pedals.  I tried to sing "I'm only happy when it rains...", that song by Garbage, but I couldn't get myself to sing.  It was a difficult struggle for me as I kept looking for something inside to keep me motivated.  I thought about how much worse others have had it.  This struggle is nothing compared to what I've heard about others enduring. 

The rain soon let up and the sky brightened a little.  I reached the chusr 2 hours after my encounter with Larry.  And it was exactly 12 miles as he told me.  I parked my bicycle and knocked on the door of the house beside the church.  A relatively young lady, about 30 to 35, answered the door.  She was relatively tall for a female, maybe about 5'8" with shoulder length brown , curly hair and glasses.   I introduced myself and explained my dilemma.  She had a concerned look as she asked what she could do for me.  I asked if I could either pitch my tent or stay in the church.  And I was really hoping to stay in the church in this inclement weather.   She said I could stay in the church and went on to say that she'd prefer me to come in the house but couldn't allow it since her husband wasn't home.  By this time I had already noticed her two young boys peeping out the window.  Sheila took me over to the church and asked if I was hungry as she searched the refridgerator for food.   "How about some beef noodle soup?"  I said "Yes, that would be great."  At a time like this I would eat red meat even though it had been many years since I've touched the stuff.  But as it turned out it was chicken noodle,   cool!! 

As we stood in the kitchen of the church talking, I saw something at the window out of the corner of my eye.  I looked to see a young boy jumping as his head bobbed up and then down out of sight and another that was tall enoguh to peek in the corner of the window.  She has 2 boys, Bennett (5) and Christian (10).   Apparently her boys were concerned about their mother giving the history of other unusual people that have stopped here in the past.  One lady had claimed to be a witch and she cast a spell on them.  She had a worn look to her with a leathery face.   One could only wonder what someone like that was doing out here in nowhere land.   The temp that day was 110+ as she continued on and walked south on 27.  After hearing a story like that I could understand why her childrens concern when it came to strangers.

Sheila and I talked for quite awhile, discussing my challenges with being alone on this journey as well as her upcoming trip to Africa.  She will be going there through a literacy program at a college in east Nebraska.  This will be her first time going somewhere alone without her husband or family.  Going there will be with the group, but she will return on her own with several stops in other countries.

It was getting late and Sheila had to put her kids to bed.  "Is there   anything else I can do for you?" she asked before leaving me for the night.   I said "no thank you" and expressed my appreciation for all she's done already. 

temp - 45 degrees and dropped through the day
wind - blowing to the southeast 30-40 mph

Today - 50.79 miles
Total - 2704  miles
Avg. Speed - 6.5mph


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