DAY 52

May 5, 1999

This day I almost gave up and wanted to quit. The wind was unbearable and I could not understand why I was out here enduring such misery. I did not want to be in this desolate land offering no shelter from that God-awful wind! It was gusting 80-90mph and pushing my bike off the road and then me off the bike. At times it was difficult just holding my bike up without me and the bike taking flight. The tumbleweeds didn’t tumble across the road, they were usually airborne. I attempted to lean my bike into the wind when it gusted, but that always resulted in my front tire being swept out from under me. This was indeed a day I did not want to be on my bike!

The morning began with me getting up at 6am and Tom, Sheila’s husband, showed up soon after. He was in his mid to late 30’s and has been at this church for 4 years. He told me that since the church was built, 40 years ago, it’s always been unlocked in case someone needed a place to come to. This stretch of road is empty for 55 miles and others have stayed here in the past, like the family whose car broke down near by. We talked for well over an hour about our careers, people in the area, and my proposed route to Rapid City, South Dakota. He expressed concern about my route through the Indian reservation since there were few places to stay for about 150 miles. Plus, he told me of some of the parallels between the Indian reservation and inner city project areas. One well-known fact that I learned in anthropology is that the reservations have an exceptionally high incidence of alcoholism. Tom also confirmed that fact. If I could ride through during the day, I’d probably be all right. This is what I intended on doing since I will ride through any place during the day. After all, I rode through the Black community of Belle Glade, which may very well be one of the most dangerous places with it’s very high crime rate, drug abuse, and the highest Aids epidemic in the nation. So, the Indian reservation didn’t bother me, I was actually looking forward to it.

After Tom left, Sheila stopped by and asked if there was anything she could do or if I wanted any breakfast. She brought me yogurt, toast with jam, and an apple…mmm! I love yogurt and of course, bread is always a favorite of mine. We talked about the amount of confidence it takes to go on a solo adventure like this. Sheila loves the idea of travelling but thinks she lacks some of the self-confidence needed for a trip like mine. I assured her that I’m not an overly confident person and that’s what makes this a challenge for me. And, as Sheila put it, Once you do something like this, it just boosts your confidence. Her youngest son kept coming and showing me his bicycle helmet. He wanted to talk to me but was very shy. As he told me things, he always looked away, but was eager to make a new friend :-)

As I left Pleasant Point Church I thought, yes indeed what a pleasant point along the road that was. It was a bit of a struggle with the wind and the steep hills as I was starting out. Their dog followed and I kept trying to yell at him, telling him to go home. I tried my meanest voice but he just looked at me with those sad eyes and stayed with me. I tried for an hour then Sheila pulled up, with her two boys, to get the dog. When they realized he must have followed me, they drove out to get him. If they hadn’t, I told them, I was going to call first chance I got. I also mentioned how strong the wind was and how it had already blown me off the road several times. She said that it was very difficult keeping her Jeep on the road. I guessed the wind was gusting about 60-70mph and she agreed.

I continued north and the wind continued to blow from the northwest, hitting me at an angle. It got much worse and I debated my ability to make it to Gordon. Once, I was blown off my bike, and it was even hard to stand at times, let alone get on my bike again. I was so miserable that I just wanted the day to be over. If only I was headed in the other direction, imagine how fast I could go! I could surely go 150+ miles, no problem! 

Reaching Gordon, 7 hours and 35 miles later, I was very hungry and tired. During my 7-hour ride all I had to eat was two powerbars. Stopping at the first convenience store, I asked a guy about places to eat. He recommended the Hacienda Restaurant at the Hacienda Motel. I asked about the wind and he informed me that he was a police or fire officer (I don’t remember which) from Chadron and that the wind was dangerous to be in. He said there are 80-90mph gusts and will be for the next two days. He also told me that wind advisories had been issued and I should be careful out there. I thanked him and rode the half-mile west to the Hacienda. Walking inside, I saw a police officer sitting by himself at a table up front. I said, "Does it ever get windy around here?" He laughed and told me it was supposed to be like this for a couple of days. I asked if I could join him and he said "sure", then introduced himself as Ron, the Police Chief. Sitting at the table I told him of the ordeal I just went through during the past two days, and that out of 2700 miles this was my worst day yet.

Ron, a 40ish looking man with glasses, had an Indian look to him but he wasn’t (I asked). He asked me why I was doing this bike ride and I explained all the things that led to me doing it. I told him that this was the first time ever doing something like this and that it had indeed been a mostly positive experience. He asked what some of the good and bad experiences had been. As I told him about the beer can incident in southern Alabama he chuckled and said, "Sounds like you have some of the same things happen to you that happen to me." He told me about a time when someone drove by and threw a beer can at him while he had someone pulled over for a traffic violation.

Ron has spent most of his life here. He left a few times, once for four years while in the military, but he always came back here. I enjoyed talking to him as he was well versed on many topics…a very intelligent man. He warned me of my route to Rapid City. I would have to leave Gordon and ride close to 150 miles to get somewhere safe to stay. The Indian reservation has a high incidence of alcoholism and he asked if I carry much money on me. The road was in disrepair according to another and I realized that in this wind, it would take several days to get through the reservation and the badlands. I would be out there at night with a high chance of getting robbed. The best and most scenic route would be to head west to Chadron (47 miles), then north to Hot Springs (54 miles), then continue north to Rapid City (about another 50 miles). It is not only supposed to be scenic, but also offers short distances between cities so I won’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Guess the Badlands will have to wait. Ron helped me make up my mind to take this other route.

While sitting at the table Ron got a call about one of the storefronts downtown getting ripped away by the wind. Then, a few moments later, he got another call about a lady who locked her keys in the car. At this call he had to leave and told me that if I stayed in town to stop by the police station. There they could provide me with maps or anything I need. By this time I had eaten one grilled chicken sandwich ($2.50) and made three trips to the all-you-can-eat salad bar ($2.00). I went for one more trip to the salad bar then checked into a room. The total, with tax, was $27.43 and I had a big room with two double beds. I lay in a deep bathtub filled with hot water and just relaxed. Going to sleep, I could hear the wind howling outside, and I wondered if it would’ve even been possible to set up a tent in this. Surely the wind would’ve made that task almost impossible.

Temp - Low 40's
Wind - gusting 80-90mph, blowing to the southeast

Today - 35.01 miles
Total -  2739 miles
Avg. Speed - 5.5mph


Update 09/26/2002 - I decided to check the "official" weather report in the archives at and found this report for Chadron, Nebraska for this date. It appears that the gusts were 46 MPH, but it sure did feel a heck of a lot stronger than that! But I imagine that many people exaggerate and to be honest I feel like it was at least 60mph in the sandhills. There are no official records for that exact area. Chadron is about 70 miles away from the area of those really high winds I encountered.


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