Thursday, October 22, 2009

People of the South Wind

The name Kansas is derived from a tribe of Native Americans known as Kansa. One popular meaning to the name is the "People of the South Wind". Not that the wind comes entirely from the south, it doesn't. But we do get a lot of wind from the south. And sometimes the winds here are pretty strong. Sunday 10/18/09 This was the day to travel back from Topeka, where I attended a high school reunion, back to Wichita where I live. The weather forecasters were predicting a sunny day with a high temperature in the 60's. That is a definate improvement over the temperatures I experienced last Friday. The big problem was that the wind was supposed to be from the south at 20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Ahh, yes that warm south wind. I knew about the wind in advance, but wasn't looking forward to it for the ride home. I wondered about how the scooter would handle all that wind when it was in my face. I was sure my trip home would be slower than the ride last Friday. Not to even mention the crosswinds when I would be traveling in a westerly direction. I was taking the same route home as I did when I came "up" from Wichita last Friday. The route consisted primarily of either straight west travel or straight south travel, with little in between. The morning low on Sunday was 32 degrees. I looked out the window of the hotel and looked at Max with a little frost on his seat just as the sun was trying to come up. How about the flames on that pickup!

I had breakfast with Greg, a great friend from college who now lives in Topeka. We met at the IHOP, had a great conversation and we talked about many things as we ate. Had eggs and pancakes, coffee and orange juice. I was a bit hungry and wanted the food to last me until I got home later that day. It took me 6 and a half hours to get here, although the trip was marked by many picture stops. With the wind for today I wasn't sure how long it would take to get home. Wasn't planning on a lot of picture stops, but was certain that I wasn't going to travel as fast as last Friday.

As I took out, for some reason, an old Irish blessing came to mind. You know the one, it goes like this.

May the Road rise to meet you

May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And the rain fall softly on your fields

And may God hold you in the palm of his hands

The first part of the trip was westerly. Fun it was not! By the time I left, the temperature was a little warmer and not an issue. Or at least I didn't think about the temperature as much. I was pretty busy keeping the scooter straight sometimes. Oh, maybe it wasn't all that bad, but there were some moments. Like coming out into the open after passing a hedgerow and the crosswind catching me. Or going down into a valley where I would be reasonably protected from the strong winds, then coming to the crest of a hill and being pummeled by the wind as I reached the top.

The wind was never at my back today! But I was hoping that God would, well you know, do some watching over me.

During the first part of the trip I thought I was doing pretty good to maintain 40 mph going west. Any faster didn't seem too safe. Again there was almost no traffic after I got out of town and I didn't hold up any other drivers. I made a mental note to try and stay relaxed, but sure had to remain very alert as winds would sometimes surprise me and I would find myself about a foot to the right of where I was just a second earlier. Leaning sort of helped, but not always as the winds were fairly gusty. I remembered that I had once participated in a bicycling tour called the "Wicked Wind 100" back in my bicycling days.

I approached the town of Eskridge and decided to get some gas. The only gas station is downtown at an old station. They didn't have premium, but I didn't need a lot and decided to get some anyway. Figured it would mix in the tank with the premium already there. It didn't cause a problem.

As I was getting ready to fill up the scooter, an "old boy" in a pickup drove up and got out. He was friendly, saw me and asked:

"Isn't it a little windy out here today?"

Many potential answers raced through my mind. You know like:

You dummy! Isn't it obvious?

Cursing at him crossed my mind, but knew that he was, in his own way, just trying to be friendly.

So I just replied with "Yeah it is, thanks for reminding me!"

We laughed.

I noticed a church just on the next street with a parking lot full of cars. After all, it was Sunday and about 11:00 am. I thought about that Irish blessing again. And again.

I continued to fight the crosswinds for awhile, maybe got a little more comfortable with them, but never entirely, and was relieved to eventually turn back south to face the headwinds. Probably not a lot more fun, but hopefully less tricky and with fewer surprise wind gusts.

It did turn out to be a bit of a relief. Fighting the headwinds were much easier even though I rarely got above 50 mph. It wsn't that the scooter couldn't handle a higher speed, but more that I just wasn't comfortable with it. I have driven in strong winds many times, but usually in town where most of my riding occurs. On a highway, the situation is different. I had just gotten Max back from the shop and I really didn't want to put any new scratches on him.

This shot was taken near where the road turned back to the south. It looks easterly. I think you can see the effect of the wind on the grasses.

The real reason for the stop was not to take a picture. After all that coffee and orange juice earlier in the morning, well you know, I needed some relief. Another nice thing about traveling on a scooter or motorcycle. You can stop lots of places for that purpose. I knew that it was not going to be a problem. Hell, everybody was at church! (Not trying to be irreverent)
But an old song came to mind as I got off the scooter. Remember Jim Croce? , a recording artist back in the 70's. One of his most famous songs was "Time in a bottle", a very nice love song. But another song he did was "You don't mess around with Jim". A few lines from the song went like this:
You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't piss (spit) into the wind
You don't pull on the mask of the Old Lone Ranger
And you don't mess around with Jim
The second line above is a life lesson well worth remembering. And I did.
So I aimed north! Good thing!
A little while later on I passed by this old one room schoolhouse. When I made the trip up last Friday, I remembered passing by this and that I didn't stop to take a picture. But I did stop this time.
The remainder of the trip was relative uneventful, albeit a lot slower than the ride last Friday. Due to my slower speed, a few cars would pass me, but like last Friday there was not a lot of traffic.
When I turned back west for the last long westerly portion of the trip, I even became a little more comfortable with the crosswinds. I regularly had the scooter at 50 mph. Not sure if I was any more adept at driving in the crosswind as much as the change in terrain. The second portion of the westerly travel was in an area of few trees, no hills and it seemed like the wind was more steady, not quite so gusty.
As I approached Wichita, and home, various thoughts crossed through my mind. While riding I discovered a great joy at being alone with my thoughts. Did a lot of thinking on the trip. I was ready and anxious to get home because I was tired of fighting the wind.
But at the same time, I was not at all sure I wanted this experience to end.
It was a fantastic weekend. I wished at the time I could have shared my fun with my wife and family. And then there are the blog readers out there. I did a lot of thinking about what I would write after I got home. A large part of these last 2 posts were pretty well written in my mind before I got home. I arrived at home safe and sound about 3:30 pm.
Herein lies my feeble attempt to share the experience with other people.
Lots of great memories!


  1. I am looking foreward to more pictures of Kansas now that you have broken the distance barrier with complete success. We hear it is flat and so far you have shown otherwise.

  2. jim3485cpa;

    I know what you mean about the wind. The worst wind I encountered was down on the Gorge. We probably rode 100 miles east of Stevenson and it was relentless. Everytime you went through an underpass the wind stopped for a second until you came out of the other side. I was riding my scooter there last year and it weighs over 550 lbs but still I was tossed around. Glad you made it back safely.

    I think you are fooling with us. Everyone knows Kansas is Flat. I know it's true 'cause I've seen pictures on the internet

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  3. Conch and Bobskoot,
    Kansas is really like some sort of wedge. The elevation above sea level at the east border with Missouri is roughly 1,000 ft. At the west border with Colorado it is 4,000 ft. So, flat it is not. But, that said, the gradual increase in elevation over 400 miles is barely noticeable.
    Yeah, we have some hills here and there, nothing even close to mountains, and the western 2/3 of the state is remarkably flat.
    The joke around here is that the highest hill in town is the on ramp to the interstate, and we are only partially kidding.

    Thanks for stopping in again, and again.


  4. Glad to hear that Max handled the trip without issues (and you too!).

    I so relate to your wind tale--been there far too many times myself, literally riding at a 45 degree angle! Your comment about being able to find "relief" -- is a benefit that only men enjoy. Women solo riders must do, at those times, considerable mind control.

    Solo riding does indeed allow one to be introspective and's a huge part of why I prefer to go it alone.

  5. Sharon,
    Thanks for the comments. I found that after spending 5 and 1/2 hours in that wind that I never really became used to it. A bunch of attention and concentration was required. But in no way did it mar the fun I had on the trip. I am beginning to see how addicting a long trip can be. I still wish I was out there, wind, cold or not. Touring will still be only occasional for me, but now I know more about what my machine and I can do together. It was a real blast!


  6. Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

    If I were you, I'd get flames painted on my scooter too. I honestly think your riding pleasure would be greatly improved with the simple addition of a windscreen. If you like the "rogue dog" scooter look, get one that just pops off in the summer.

    The wind can be a challenge from time to time. I have been hit by gusts while crossing long bridges that caused me to trigger the flashers and stay as far right as possible.

    I once drove across North Dakota on a day when the wind seemed like a steady 200 knots. I stopped for coffee and got into a conversation with the guy behind the counter. There was a cop sitting on a couple of stools over as well.

    I made a comment about the weather, and the counter-guy said, "The wind does blow here in North Dakota."

    I replied, "Have you ever been to New Jersey? Everything blows there."

    I thought the cop was going to spit his teeth.

    I like pictures of the great American heartland. There are limitless in their scope and suggest a view that goes on forever. Each one has a kind of majesty and suggests great strength.

    I'm glad youh ad a really good epic ride.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads