For a short bit of today’s ride we had a tailwind. A 20mph tailwind to be precise. Tailwind speed: It’s the speed at which everything goes quiet, like the rest of the world is still and we are the only ones moving. You can mistake it for the absence of wind, but it’s the point where you are moving at the same speed and in the same direction as the wind. We were able to cruise along at 20-24mph on a slight incline. The bikes seem to propel themselves, the panniers acting like sails catching the wind. All it takes is a slight coaxing on the pedals to keep the momentum going. It’s almost euphoric when this happens.
But this never lasts forever. Inevitably the road or the wind turns and it’s in our face again, all 20mph, deafening, slapping at our ears, everything strapped to our bike working against our forward efforts.
I was struggling to keep it above 6mph on a downhill. Totally demoralizing. I’d rather climb a hill than bike into a headwind. At least the hill will have a summit. The headwind can go on forever.
When the headwinds are really fierce, Scott will be a gentleman, and wait for me to catch up so he can break the wind. Don’t worry Mum Z, it’s not what you might be thinking, he hasn’t lost all of his manners. He still opens doors for me.
He waits for me to tuck in behind him, falling into the slipstream, making it considerably less difficult to move forward because he’s doing the brunt of the work. The only thing better would be a tow rope. I think it’s romantic, my knight, coming to save me from the evil headwinds. But he probably does it because he’s done the math in his head, and at my current rate we won’t get there before nightfall.
Even though we are only a few feet apart, there is no conversation because we can’t hear the other over the noise of the wind in our ears. And I have to concentrate because for this whole system to work effectively, my front tire is just a few inches off of his rear tire.
With my eyes focused down, my mind drifts to my next meal. We’re headed to Alpine, Texas home of Sul Ross State University. I already have it all planned out. First, I’m going to find tacos. Then we’ll go set up our tent. With everything set for the night, we’ll head to the Big Bend Brewing Company for tasty local beer. Then after beer we’ll be ready for pizza. Being that we were rolling into a college town on a Saturday I had 100% expected this to be a fully executable plan. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived at 3pm and learned that pretty much the entire town, at least the places that serve food and/or drink, close at 2:30pm. Even the brewery was closed! On a SATURDAY! IN A COLLEGE TOWN! I could not comprehend this and none of the locals I asked could provide an explanation beyond, that’s just the way it is.
We must have looked in really bad shape because when we arrived at the campground, the host only charged us $1 for the night and told us we could stay as long as we needed. He suggested we go to the Shell gas station for some fried chicken. I thanked him for the suggestion but decided to pass on the gas station fried chicken.
Later on we were able to find a bar that was open and as a bonus had the local beer on tap. At the bar we ran into the owner of the bike shop in town and had a nice chat. As we were leaving, he too recommended the gas station fried chicken. I’m not opposed to eating meat from a gas station. I think some of the best BBQ comes from Rudy’s gas station. So we go and get ourselves a bucket of fried chicken. And it was delicious. So the lesson for the day, when in Rome…whatever, just know that the fried chicken at the Shell gas station in Alpine Texas is the real deal.
The only downside to a bucket of gas station fried chicken is tonight we’re breaking the other type of wind.