Today may have been one of the most physically demanding days of the trip for us so far. I never would have thought while I was climbing mountains on my bike in the Cascades and Rockies just a few weeks ago that it would be a flat day crossing into Minnesota that would tire me out this much. The main reason today was so exhausting was the 15 mile per hour head wind pushing us backward all day long. Personally, I would also factor in the train depot we slept near last night for waking me up periodically throughout the night, but Evan and Brian were somehow able to sleep fine.
We were excited to cross over into Minnesota and put another state behind us, but it seemed like North Dakota was not ready to let us go. The winds started out slowly and blew from the east in the morning, but as the day progressed the winds picked up and actually adjusted perfectly to match our south east heading in the afternoon. Fortunately, we are starting to see small patches of trees again for the first time since leaving western Montana and they gave us a small break from the wind when they lined up right. However, as we got to the last 25 miles of the day we started seeing gusts of up to 30 miles per hour in our face or at our sides as storm clouds formed behind us. Luckily we ended up dodging the storm and ending the day with 6 hours and 25 minutes of biking, a long day even without the head winds.
I like to follow the days that we took on our 2013 bike trip along as we progress through this summer's trip. I'll check my list of towns we passed through 6 years ago and see what we were doing on this day of the trip. Interestingly enough, on our 30th day of riding in 2013 we also had one of our hardest days of the trip crossing from Minnesota to South Dakota. We faced strong head winds out of the west all day and I remember being just as exhausted after that day as I am now 30 days into this trip.
I think the hardest part of biking with a head wind is actually the mental factor. Today we had flat and smooth roads with good shoulders, but we could only go about 11 miles per hour maximum if we were really pushing it. This slow pace when you feel like you should be going much faster really starts to take a toll around hour 4 of biking. I would look at my bike computer and watch the miles tick by slower and slower throughout the day as we got more fatigued. The only thing you can really do is focus on the motion of your legs and remind yourself to keep the pace even and steady so you can make progress without expending too much energy. Eventually we got to town around 5:30 pm and are now able to settle in for the night. My legs are sore, my face is wind burnt, but I am ready to wake up tomorrow and see what a new day holds.