Monday, June 21, 2010
Highway 50 and the wind
After leaving Salt Lake City I was working my way down to Highway 50 and the Adventure Cycling Western Express Route. Highway 50 has been called the loneliest Highway in the US and is a major bike route in the US. I was really looking forward to it and meeting other cyclists.
Alas, the weather was not my friend again! I had been warned about this stretch a lot. You cross whole Nevada and the Great Basin on it with no water except in towns and towns being more than 80 miles apart. Temperatures can rise up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and there is no shade whatsoever.
But the weather decided to be unusual - El Nino style. It rained for the first few days!!!! And that meant it was cold. And it also meant that I had to do 1,000 meter elevation gains every day in my rain gear. All the cyclists will know what that means: You are sweating inside your raingear and eventually you are soaking wet from inside. So when you sit down and have a rest you start freezing.... It was miserable! The ascents took forever and I was wet and cold. I had to take breaks inside the drainage tubes under the highway to stay out of the wind and rain.
The rain stopped eventually, but then the wind came up. My maps had warned me that the prevailing winds are from the west (and I was going west), but they would be very light only. Not this year, though!!! Almost every day I had a head wind with gusts up to 50 miles per hour. That means that you are faster walking than cycling.... During these gusts I had to get off my bike to avoid being blown away! I had to stop cycling at 3 pm because the wind got so strong then. It was frustrating....
And because I was cycling in the desert, there was no shelter from the wind for camping. One particularly bad day I had to set up camp at 3 pm behind some lonely juniper trees. At 6 pm the wind got so bad that my tent collapsed (the tent stakes had come out) and I was in the middle of a sand storm covering everything with fine dust. That night I was in tears for the first time on this trip.... I had to cylce more than 60 miles the next day to get to the next town and water, but could I make that in that wind? I got up at 3.30 am in the morning and started cycling before sun rise to beat the wind. When I was approaching the next town around noon it started snowing on the last pass.... I am not kidding you: snowing and howling winds. I nearly had to push my bike downhill... but I made it!!!!
Same thing happened two days after that: Headwinds with 50 miles per hour and a collapsed tent. I am fed up with it now!!!!! I am at the point where I am thinking of giving up on cycling for the rest of this trip. This wind is draining so much energy from me and is no fun at all. Also the geography has not been very helpful either: The Great Basin consists of an endless succession of basins (flat and wind from the front) and vaults (300 to 1,000 meter elevation gain about 2 times a day) - and I had to day about 80 miles in that every day!
Luckily I am almost out of the Great Basin and Nevada: I still have to go over the High Sierra (I am not looking forward to that elevation gain!), but then I am in California and hopefully then the wind patterns will change. Maybe there is such a thing as a tail wind?