People of the South Wind
We’d just finished a 40 mile ride last year when Mr. Spoked and I turned on the TV to watch the local news. They were interviewing people from all over the world who’d traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, for a triathlon. To a person, all the non-Kansas competitors complained about the wind. Husband and I looked at each other and exchanged a single word, “Huh?”
Wind! What wind? We’d had a wonderful ride in what we considered near-perfect conditions–sunny, with a light 10-15 mph breeze out of the south. Apparently, a wimpy breeze to us Midwesterners is a debilitating gale to everyone else. Too bad those triathletes didn’t compete with a real wind. You Kansans know what I’m talking about. One of those days when your house creaks so badly it sounds like you’re in the hold of a sailing ship. One of those days when it’s difficult to walk. One of those days like, well, like the ones we’ve been having in spades this spring.
We native Kansans don’t especially care for windy days (and by windy I mean gusts in excess of 30 mph), but we have learned to accept them. Kansas is named after the Kansa tribe, a people who lived here long before white settlers arrived. And “Kansa” is an American Indian word generally translated as “People of the South Wind.” Every school child in this state learns the meaning of that word in a ‘aha’ moment. If they’re observant, they recall trees that lean permanently to the north, and tumbleweeds clustering along the south sides of the fence rows. It all makes sense, and it’s been going on here for centuries.
So how do we manage to ride bicycles in this wind? With bulldogged determination and a relish for bragging. Our B.S. sessions include high numbers (as in, “40 mph”), and the sad thing is there’s a lot of truth to our stories. A Wichita senior once told me about a competition in Florida in which she rode with a group until they all turned into a tiny breeze and they suddenly dropped back and she never saw them again. I’m pretty sure she was telling the truth because I’ve ridden in Wichita. Ever heard of the Wicked Wind 100?
I’ve ridden in some wicked winds in this corner of the state, too. I’ll never forget watching Mr. Spoked riding ahead of me through a road cut in the Flint Hills on the Cottonwood 200 and being caught by a cross-gust so strong it blew him a good 30 degrees off vertical. That same weekend, we rode into a 30 mph headwind for 25 miles before turning around and coming back on the same road; it took 2 hours and 20 minutes to ride out and a little over an hour on the way back. This spring I was hurrying to beat an oncoming car to an intersection when a gust caught me full-on. In about a second, my speed dropped from 17 mph to 11. The car got to the intersection first.
For all you non-Midwesterners who wonder how we do it, I really don’t know. We just keep going because we’re used to it. We don’t like it, either, but we expect it. And we think about the fun we’re going to have bragging about it later.