25 February 2012

Into The Wind, Again

In places like southern Italy and Greece, spring began a couple of weeks ago.  At least, it usually begins about the middle of February or thereabouts.

Here in New York, winter began yesterday.  At least, that's how it seemed.  We've had only a couple of cold (by the standards of NY winters, anyway) days, and practically no snowfall since, ironically, the end of October.

However, today the temperature dropped from its early-morning high of 45F (8C) to a couple of degrees below freezing.  As the temperature dropped, the wind picked up speed so that it was blowing steadily at about 20MPH and gusting to 50.

I did a couple of errands on Vera today.  Of course, that meant parts of the ride were absurdly easy, while other parts felt like a series of still photographs

From:  http://brucefong.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/9272/


It got me to thinking of a couple of times when I spent entire days riding into the wind.  One in particular was particularly grueling.

Provence is noted for its mistrals, which come literally out of the clear blue sky.  One day I learned that the mistral, as we say in the old country, actually lives up to the hype.

I had been pedaling out of Arles after, of course, visiting everything that had to do with Van Gogh.  Perhaps it was endorphins--I'm pretty sure that the effects of the wine had worn off--that caused me to see something I hadn't seen, or at least noticed, before in my life:  The air was so clear that everyting seemed almost surreal.  The lavender fields were no longer simply plants growing from the earth, and the windows and grain fields didn't merely reflect the bright sunshine:  They all became forms of light and wind that filled me so that I felt, for a moment, that I was not inhabiting a body, much less riding a pannier-laden bicycle; rather, I was a wave of that light and wind.

And then, in a seeming instant, I was pedaling into a wind that whirled like the mirror image of a cyclone.  There were moments when I literally could not pedal at all; for much of the rest of the time, I moved slower than the snails in the ground.  I stopped in a solitary boulangerie in the countryside, in part for a respite from the wind and in another part to feed myself so that I could continue to pedal into it.

As tasty as the bread was, I couldn't digest it; my entire body, it seemed, had formed a knot.  Over the next two hours, I think I pedaled about five kilometers.  Even though I was young and in really good shape, it seemed like an accomplishment, given the relentless wind and that I seemed to be making one climb, however short, after another.  

Finally, I ended up in a town called Brignoles.  I had never even heard of the place; I don't think it was even mentioned in the guides.  What it had, in addition to a castle and narrow cobblestoned streets, were a some shops and a cheap, clean place to lay my head.  

When I set out the following day, the once-again-clear skies were preternaturally still, as if the winds of the previous day had never blown.  

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