Against the Wind

Joey leaning into an 18 mph headwind, with higher gusts.

We were running against the wind … Against the wind … I found myself seekin’ shelter against the wind.

—From Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind” (1980)

It was 26F when we left North Platte this morning. The wind-chill was 16F (-9C). I’m insensitive to cold. Jeffrey tolerates it well, but today was painful even for him.

The road north was mostly good.

But for 66 miles, until the road made a sharp turn at the outskirts of Thedford, the Great Plains wind pressed us backward. It was like pedaling uphill.

We didn’t stop often for photos. Jeffrey’s hands got too cold. And the scenery didn’t vary much.

Cattle of one kind …
… and another.
An old-style working windmill. Ducks swam in the water tank.

Thirty miles on, Jeffrey was so cold that we stopped near Stapleton to warm up at a gas station convenience store.

Jennifer invited us to sit in the dining area and to stay as long as we liked. We thawed out for an hour, while the outdoors warmed a little and the wind blew steadily.

Arlen, a regular customer, noticed our trike and struck up a conversation.

Arlen’s neighbor gave him the Diamond Bar Ranch cap. Arlen grows corn and soy. He is 85 years old.

Arlen taught Jeffrey important things about farming, the Ogallala Aquifer, the Sandhills, the decline of the town of Stapleton, and what to expect on the road north. They talked about grandchildren, and about wonderful spouses. (Arlen is a widower.)

Jeffrey asked whether there is a local labor shortage. Arlen said that a nearby feedlot (where cattle are fattened before slaughter) employs lots of Mexicans and South Africans. That led to a discussion of how hard it is for American employers to hire foreign workers. Arlen said that government should keep its hands off everything. (It’s unlikely that he meant we should have open borders.) Jeffrey gently mentioned agricultural price supports. Arlen allowed that there are good programs that have been corrupted by a few greedy farmers and by politicians who pretend to farm so they qualify for subsidies. Arlen and Jeffrey agreed that while there are bad apples in every barrel, most people (including unauthorized immigrants) are good.

Jeffrey came away with a better understanding of farm issues. We hope Arlen came away knowing that asylum applicants aren’t lawbreakers and that many immigration “problems” result from a mismatch between our laws and real-world common sense. Arlen and Jeffrey wished one another well and parted as friends.

Here’s a bit of the Sandhills.
35 painfully slow miles and 4 ½ hours after our Stapleton stop, we reached the edge of Thedford.
At a local eatery where the only meatless entree was a grilled cheese sandwich, the Cowboy Channel was playing.
Kayla helped us navigate the menu. She is one of many local people who talked of long, expensive commutes (some involving drives of over 100 miles per day) and who are looking to move (she and her husband soon will join friends in Texas). Kayla and her husband grew up in Sutherland, where yesterday we paused to photograph the mural designed by Kayla’s former art teacher. Kayla supports human rights for all, including Human Rights First’s clientele.

Except in the convenience store, the restaurant, and the motel, we saw no one today who wasn’t in, or walking to or from, a motor vehicle. On the road, no one but us was exposed to the elements.

Our discomfort today, and on recent days too, is a reminder of how easy is our city life in the gentler climate of the U.S. northeast.

It helps us understand what Great Plains residents put up with to help feed and fuel the world.

And it gives us a tiny little taste of migrants’ plunge into the unknown.

4 thoughts on “Against the Wind

  1. Hi Jeffrey- I have been reading about your and Joey’s successful battles with the elements (with and without help) with admiration. Glad you’re able to keep on triking! Also heartened that for the most part you meet such generous hearted people. You and Joey make a dynamic duo.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you’re truly amazing. Much more challenging than backpacking.
    We had an interesting discussion last nite on specialized schools in NYC. We’re hoping something constructive comes out of it with members of WES.


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