Crossing For Cancer

The wind at my back…

Posted by crossingforcancer on October 1, 2008

September 22

Hi there.  To pick up where I left off, rolled out of Wells, after the office bought my lunch.  Of course the wind was coming very strong out of the south, with a touch coming out of the west, so I altered my course to head more north by east, that way the wind was more behind me.  I’ve been watching the weather and am expecting a northern front to come through, and bring a more northerly wind so I’ll try to head south.

There’s no way to describe the strength of the wind.  If I were at sea in this kind of wind, I would more than likely have no sails up and be running on bare poles.  I can see thunderstorms moving across the plains and many times I find myself just sitting by the road, rain and lightening free in one spot, yet a mere three miles from a storm passing in front of me from the south.  I enjoy the fresh smell of the rain in the distance as the 30-mile an hour wind blows it to me.  I just watch in amazement and listen to all the sounds.  I made a 60-mile run today and am now in a small motel.

To set up a tent in this would be brutal.  Not impossible, but a terrible pain in the “you know what.”  As I cycle, I find I’m seeing the flowers sprout through the cracks of the road, feeling the flying grasshoppers cling to my shirt as I pass by, or maybe a caterpillar rolling across the road.  I’m looking at all the details of life and realize how simple they are and how complex our minds seem to make it sometimes.

September 23

When I wake up in the morning, I realize that I must be at the border of a time change.  The town has refused to switch the clocks and my cell phone still says different.

My chess move to take the route to the south, in this constant game with Mother Nature, was a good one.  I did get that northerly front and for one day was able to have the wind strong at my back.  It’s always the first thing I do when I wake up, is check the wind direction.  So now I’ve been rolling hearing the steady hum of my tires at 22 miles an hour.  I know it will only last today and probably switch to the east, at which point I’ll be chewing on it again.  But at least I get one day of what seems to be rest on the bike.  The silence is so nice with the wind at my back.  Normally it’s so strong I can’t hear anything – even with earphones (for music) in.  It’s almost weird – the silence, so quiet, the wind with me.

I can see for miles.  There’s something special about being able to see and smell everything from this bike.  One thing though, I won’t have to eat for a while.  It seems as though I’ve eaten about five million bugs, they just fly right into my mouth and I probably have enough protein to last me for the next week. 

One thing that I’ve noticed through Kansas is how much I like that most towns are centered around a football or baseball field, a school or even a water tower.  The concentration of the youth is great.  Everyone waves and has time to talk for hours if they want to.  Today was good, I made good time because of that one day northern front.  Of course, the wind is supposed to be out of the southeast for several days now, so I have some hard days to come.

September 24

Left Syracuse, headed north to Garden City with a 20 mile an hour southeast wind.  I suppose I’m getting used to the wind now… Not really. I have to be honest, the aerodynamic nature of my bike is equivalent to a brick on wheels. 

Kansas is the first place that I’ve popped in my earphones to listen to some music.  The wind is so strong at times, I can’t even hear the music with it on full blast.  Looking around, eating bugs and feeling the strong wind is my life now.  I made an interesting discovery though, pedaling into the wind I began to try to understand it, it blew strong and fast, so I began to pedal strong and slow and steady. 

I’ve been trying to have more understanding with the wind, a symbiotic relationship, sort of a dance if you will.  I began to think of everything I’ve been through so far – the portraits, the people, my mom, dad, family, friends – just to get rid of all this frustration and negativity that’s been building since I entered Kansas due to the constant pounding of the wind.

I realized I can’t cure the problem of this wind, but I can cure the problem within it – within my self.  My spirit can be cured with the power of my mind, the negativity can be lifted and it was finally as if a magic wand tapped me.  My speed increased and life became almost easy.  I spent the next 25 miles this way, where a half-hour before I was thinking about giving up.  This isn’t the first time I thought this, but the most persistent. 

Giving up is not really an option, but it seems to creep in when it feels like hell for days.  To make a change within can be difficult at times, but really that’s the only thing that I have the power to change.  The wind’s going to blow no matter what.

I’ve been doing 10 miles an hour for three days.  This is basically fall harvest, so the narrow two-lane freeway is full of trucks driving by with produce and I’ve been riding in the grass to avoid them.  Here’s the problem: the flying grasshoppers.  I stir these grasshoppers up and they shoot out into the wind to get away from me like popcorn.  The wind catches them; they come right straight back at me and pretty much bean me.  Most times they grab onto me and then jump away.  I can only imagine what it might look like grasshoppers flying all over – in my beard, on my legs, in my shirt.

I actually saw one launch and I watched him.  Of course he has that boomerang effect because of the wind and bam – he latched onto my lower lip.  What am I supposed to do?  I’ve got trucks whizzing by me, both hands on the bars and finally jumped off.  I mean – jeeze!  And these things are everywhere out here.

I tell you what – we should have a contest, someone should illustrate what that must look like – me cycling into the wind with the grasshoppers flying all over me.  The winner can have a free trip to Kansas, with a bike and a toothbrush – all expenses paid.

I’ve been at my psychological limit, from the trucks, to the wind, to the grasshoppers.  My odometer is at about 1725 miles.  Even though I get to the breaking point, there is always something that sparks hope within me at times. 

September 25

I made it to Dodge City and took a much-needed full day off.  I wake up to almost a no-wind situation, even at 10 in the morning.  This made me smile for sure.  I packed up, filled my camelback with ice and water, ate some pancakes and rolled.  Rolling at the normal speed of 17 miles an hour-ish headed east.  Trying to make it to Wichita.  I’m making nice time to Kansas.  I had to look behind me to make sure Joe Bob, the local mechanic I met in the last town, didn’t install a motor on the back of my bike – it felt so smooth! It felt so good to have some rest and know the wind finally blew out. 

I’m now at lunch at a town called Mullinville – it’s so cool.  There are iron sculptures all along the road with names and sayings on them.  It was really cool.  I went on this dirt road to try to find the artist, but he was nowhere to be found.  His studio basically said closed: keep out.

The sculptures were really interesting and there were so many of them.  They went on for miles – something so bizarre.  The locals were saying that he’s an older local man, highly intelligent.  He kind of makes waves in the town – questions authority – they said he’s probably pissed everyone off in this town more than three times each… I would have loved to meet him.

September 28

I’m riding through Greensburg.  This town was devastated by a massive tornado about a year ago and looks pretty torn up.  It’s kind of scary to see the power of Mother Nature, where trees were torn to stumps and buildings were flattened.  The attempt to re-build is evident and right now, as I’m writing, I’m laying in a basement in a church in Haviland, KS.  I was at 55 miles for the day and came across this little town on Saturday.  What few stores were around were pretty much closed.

I ran across this guy, Josiah, asked if I could pop a tent up in the park – he said they wouldn’t mind.  He came back to check in later and ended up being the youth pastor for the town church.  He was a really nice guy and offered for me to stay in the church basement.  It was really great, one of the best nights sleep I’ve had on this trip.  If anyone’s ever slept in a church alone at night, then you know it’s… kind of interesting.

The wind today is blowing so hard across from me, that it’s bending my front fender to rub on my tire.  I think that these grasshoppers have been notifying the other grasshoppers as I move east that there’s a taxi service coming though.  They all just jump on me and ride.  When I jump off the bike, so do they – a free ride to the next town!

So today I’m on my way to Wichita where I have more portraits.  I’m set to meet with Chris Davis, a pancreatic cancer survivor, her daughter Michelle and other family members.  I completed a portrait of Chris, which was a wonderful, inspiring experience.  I’ll write more about our day together in the next entry, but for now wanted to express my heartfelt thanks.

Until next time.


Chris Davis, center, and family

Chris Davis, center, and family (I am at the top left)


3 Responses to “The wind at my back…”

  1. Anne Corbin said

    Hey Scott! I am sending you lots of positive vibes from Torrey Utah today. Your energy called me to do so for some reason! I am hoping to find out where you are in Ill when I get there so I can find a random lonely road to hold a sign cheering you on! I can’t wait to see you again and see how this ride has done your soul. I miss you and hope all the best! With your energy, I know you have had several blessings.

    The Lil’ Tenter – Anne

  2. Dana said

    Hi Scott,
    You are my hero! I’m proud that you did not let the wind get you down. Best to make friends with it.
    I have this crazy picture of you in my mind, pumping uphill covered in grasshoppers. It’s the grasshoppers stuck in your teeth that are getting to me.
    It is terrific that so many people have been so kind to you.
    Harold and I are sending all of our love.

  3. Char said

    Hi Scott, I have enjoyed your trip and am glad you are near to home. I know Dad is anxious for you to get there and excited about you being home for a while. Think about you every day and am glad you have kept going. Mom has always been so proud of you and I know she is the inspiration that keeps you going. I miss her as I know you do.
    Love always char

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