Today I experienced two firsts for this trip. I didn't complete my allotted distance for the day and I turned back.
To be clear, I've taken days off due to weather, tourism or laziness already, but I've never got on my bike with the intention of riding and called it quits until today.
There have been days with arguably worse weather, and there have definitely been days when I've been in worse shape to hit the road, but the combination of wind and rain was just too much today.
I left Swift Current knowing I'd be riding through rain most of the day. That's fine, I can handle that. What I wasn't expecting was another day of brutal headwind to contend with as well. On their own, wind or rain are tolerable for me, but together they've proven to be a combination that's no longer manageable.
Headwind has developed a very tangible personality for me. He's a little BRAT that screams in my ear as he ties a parachute to the back of my bike. He does this arbitrarily and without notice, and can continue indefinitely depending on the severity of his tantrum. There's nothing redeeming about him. He's an asshole.
What's been frustrating is that I soldiered through crappy weather on the east coast with a smile on my face, and climbed through the Rocky Mountains with nary a complaint because I knew I'd have the famous tailwinds through the flat prairies as my reward for all that hard work. So far, whatever wind there's been has been smack in my face. I actually rode slower yesterday through flat terrain than my average speed through the entire Rocky Mountains. That's messed up.
Today the little BRAT was not only screaming in my ear but he was spitting in my face as well. Hard, cold loogies that felt like coarse sand. I made it 25km out of Swift Current before I realized that I might have to deal with this non-stop for another 110km because I had no idea if there were any towns or rest stops before my destination.
I told myself I'd ride to the next ridge on the horizon and if there was a visible oasis in sight where I could stop and recharge, I'd continue on. I crested the ridge 5km down the road and all I saw was a fog of rain and desolate grassland.
That's when I made the hard call to cut my losses and ride back to Swift Current. The second I turned around the world changed. The stinging rain that had been killing me for more than an hour was now a gentle patter on my back, almost like a friend constantly saying 'good job'. The BRAT disappeared entirely and my pace which had peaked at 20km/hr on the way out of Swift Current now never dropped below 30km/hr. This is what I should have been dealing with going east, but sadly, no.
I hate losing a day of riding, and I hate putting in 60km of riding with nothing to show for it even more. Today was humbling, but I figure I've paid my dues on this trip already. I'm going to ride when the weather decides it's okay for me to ride. If the BRAT decides he wants to join me, I can tolerate him, but only if he learns some manners and stop spitting in my face.