It wasn’t the hills. It wasn’t the heat. It wasn’t the miles.

It was the wind.

The wind that was different when I was moving than when I took a break from pedaling. The crosswind or the tailwind or the headwind, that was never precisely perpendicular or parallel to my path. The wind that, years ago at my little cousin's funeral in western Kansas, reminded me of an angry child's temper tantrum.

The day of the 40 mph north wind (gusting up to 50 mph), the second day of our tour, we packed up and got on our bikes. As we pedaled past the school we had stayed in, the trees suddenly rattled and roared. A cold blast of wind hit us. The predicted cold front had arrived.

It took five hours to bike twenty miles north of Hoxie. The first couple hours I pedaled comfortably in my lowest chainring. Then the wind picked up and I struggled to keep the pedals moving at all. There was no lower gear.

Brown clouds of dust formed on the horizon. Dust and manure, we realized, as we passed a cattle farm. The dust (and manure) coated us, our bikes, and our water bottles. Gray clouds rolled over the brown. At the end of the day we were so remarkably dirty that people snapped pictures of each other before washing up.

Other cyclists passed me, and then I would pass them loading up their bikes on a SAG van. I thought it was funny that they had it in them to pass me, yet not continue the ride. It’s mental as much as physical. I know that I’ve been there, when I probably had it in me to go on but mentally I was done. Only—when I was at that point, I was on a self-supported tour. There was no SAG van. There was no option but to go on. So I did.

Sometimes, when a large truck passes a cyclist, the wind pushes the cyclist away, knocking her off the road, and then sucks the cyclist in toward the huge rear wheels of the trailer. "Truck suck" is pretty scary. I experienced a new kind of truck suck on this windy day. The trucks going our direction passed us and we experienced a transient lull in the wind. This wind block effect lasted until the truck was a quarter mile ahead! The trucks going the opposite direction created a wall of dirt and sand and wind that stung our legs and faces and stopped us dead in our tracks.

Of course, the wind wasn’t precisely a north wind. It was north-north-west. Three times the west part of it blew me off the road. The third time was so sudden that I was completely perpendicular to the road before I stopped.

At last I reached the turn. On this “short”, 43-mile day, we had the option of continuing north a few more miles for a longer, 63-mile loop. At the beginning of the day I had tentative plans to take the longer loop. Those hopes had long since blown away. With relief I turned east.

Although it was mostly a north wind, it was so strong that the little bit of west in it served as a tailwind. Then for a few miles the road turned southeast. The world went quiet. All was peaceful and still, yet my odometer read 20 mph. The only wind I felt prodded gently at my back.

The wind was never so strong after that, and we laughed at 20 mph winds which we had once thought discouraging.

Even so, after that cold front blew through, the south wind was our most constant companion. But we had a 15-mile respite between Condordia and Clyde. Fifteen miles of train cars just sitting on the tracks, waiting for the wheat harvest, blocked the south wind. Each time we passed a crossroad, where the train cars were uncoupled, the south wind tunneled through.

I was fascinated by the wind dynamics, by the quarter-mile long wind shadow of a semi truck traveling 45 mph or more, by the wall of wind that precedes an oncoming semi truck, by how effective a row of trees (or train cars) is as a wind block.