Tailwinds turn to headwinds and we all fall down

by Matt Schiff

The first tale to tell from our journey took place on Wednesday, May 19th. It was a particular windy event that stopped us in our tracks and put our northward progress on hold for about 4 hours. As far as winds go, I’ve experienced pretty much everything short of a hurricane or tornado. I’ve climbed high peaks in Colorado and experienced all that the Chinook gusts have to offer in the Front Range. I enjoy a good destructive wind, as long as it’s not your average wind, but an extraordinarily harsh wind that makes flapping your arms and flying away more probable. In this circumstance, the five of us got to experience the hardest wind we’ve ever felt near Humbug Mountain, Oregon.

The winds that day had been rather favorable, but the rain steady – we were soaked. We left the Humbug trailhead expecting to be in Port Orford in 30 minutes or so and had been discussing the type of hot chocolate, coffee, and treats we’d buy upon arrival. Pedaling towards the coast on hwy 101, we left a bit of a canyon and a tailwind quickly became a gusty headwind, the kind that turns a 10 mph pace to a quick standstill. I circled around Tommy and Aaron after a particularly large gust, laughed, and pulled in behind Tommy, making him do the “work” as it’s referred to in competitive pelotons. We struggled on no more than another 100 feet at which point I watched Tommy get blown off of his bike. His eyes expressed a bit of fear and shock as his bike flipped over and landed on the side of the road against a guardrail, as if a magnetic force had pulled it from under him. Tommy limped a little and looked at me as if he didn’t know what hit him. Did this just happen? How strong was that wind?

By this time Aaron had joined us and we looked back at Sara and Alyssum. They were still riding towards us, probably unaware of the winds they were about to hit. They later said we looked like puppets getting tossed around for no reason in particular. They soon dismounted their bikes and struggled to walk towards us. We were all together and laughing, loving the weather. At the time it was just too hard to believe what was going on.  We had to make a plan, but as we talked, our bikes would get tossed around by the wind forcing us to lay them on the ground and kneel down. Should we go for it or just turn back? (Did we really think we had a chance?)

We decided to go for it as if preparing for battle – full of war cries and other strange yelling while pushing the bikes forward.

bike49 – wind, screaming, charging… but failing from bike49 on Vimeo.

Alyssum led the charge but the result was no different than before, another bike flipped and landed against the guardrail. At this time we realized things were just too dangerous

bike49 – we have to turn around from bike49 on Vimeo.

The wind was blowing across the road, pushing us off the edge. As we went further we would only risk more as we reached a bridge. We turned around after almost getting stripped naked (need cinch straps for showers pass pants), which in itself was not an easy process and required some care.

bike49 – turning around isn’t easy from bike49 on Vimeo.

We made it back down to the Humbug Campground and tried to wrap our minds around what had just happened. We replayed it again and again as we hunkered down in the bathrooms, eating lunch and drying our wet clothes. We’d never experienced wind like this. We’d never been completely shut down from proceeding in our intended direction. There was nothing else to do but wait it out.

Four hours later we’d eaten, rested, made tea, and were motivated enough by some sunshine to make another attempt. This time the winds were hardly stronger than in the campground. Nothing was out of the ordinary, and we passed a man riding his bike in the opposite direction with a shopping bag in hand. Our bodies were still tense as we crossed the bridge as if remembering the electric shock from before. Our muscles stayed sore for several days. The next day these memories had faded and the experience felt eons ago. But that’s typical for this tour – rich with marvelous experiences and long days.

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