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Day 11: Tailwind
(December 29, 2012)

Cycle South ExpeditionCurrent Position
Position Date: 2012-12-29
Position Lat: 0
Position Long: 0

Taking a soup break.When I was on summer break from college, the girl I was dating (sorry Maria) lived exactly 96 miles from my house and every Wednesday (the day the bike shop I worked at was closed) I would ride to her house. The next morning, she would drive me 45 miles back and I would ride the remaining 51 miles and be back for the start of my Thursday shift at noon. And that's how things went - week after week. All in all it was a good summer. (Image: Taking a soup break).

Until one Wednesday, the ride started fine - no real problems, but then I felt like I was getting a flat or was it my brake rubbing or a flat again. At first, I didn't notice the increasing headwind but by the half way point, I felt like any time I stopped pedaling, I was getting pushed backwards... For 96 miles. I'm not sure how long it took to complete the ride, but when I arrived at her parent's house, I collapsed on the lawn, exhausted.

It was funny (but not really) for me to recall that memory today. It's been over 20 years since that day and I've been on a lot harder bike rides and races as well as much harder (and longer) physical challenges. Skiing to the North Pole... Twice... comes to mind. Anyway, of all the things that I planned and prepared to get ready for Cycle South, I didn't give much extra thought to the wind. And it's not that I didn't know that Antarctica isn't windy either, I've skied over 2,000 miles into the wind here on several expeditions. Ultimately, I was surprised at the debilitating effect of the wind on me and my snow bike as well as the surface conditions.

As you can see, I've had some time to think about this as I was literally coasting - yes, you read correctly and making good time I might add. I know deep down in my core that I made the right decision, but I still feel terrible.

But they say misery loves company, so I started to make a list of some of my many failures.

  1. Ryan and I didn't make the summit of Mt. Baker this summer (and Paul, Pat and I turned around before the Shasta summit last year.)
  2. I didn't buy any Christmas presents for my family before I left - things got crazy, the baby was crying... We'll celebrate in February I swear.
  3. I know I have a library book somewhere from another state that I've never returned.
  4. Pretty sure I never called that one girl I was dating in 2000 back (sorry again Maria). Told her I would, but I just, well...
  5. I failed a calculus class in college. 6. Our first attempt of crossing the Arctic Ocean in summer BIG FAIL

MapThe list goes on and on... I'm not a big fan of excuses. I believe either you succeed or you don't. And in this I have definitely not succeeded. But maybe that's why I like polar travel so much. Physical success is so completely (for the most part) arbitrary. One day, you just look at your gps and stop traveling and that's it. The ice at the North Pole looks a lot like the ice 10 or 100 miles from the pole. It's not like a mountain. The only difference at the South Pole is that there is a station there now. (View current position by clicking on map).

I guess I'm a process person. I like the journey and the struggle. Without my DeLorme inReach beacon tracking my progress, I could realistically ride around in circles out here enjoy the expedition just as much.

When I look back at my looooong list of failures, I am amazed at how each one has been a catalyst for improvement and a means for creating positive change. Sure success has brought accolades but my all my failures have brought humility, earnestness and compassion - qualities I that I value above all else.

It's hard to be out here alone with these thoughts. I had a fitful night sleep as the wind was pelting my tent making the nylon fly snap nonstop. When I got out, a two and a half foot tall drift surround the windward side of my tent and required a bit of digging to retrieve my snow stakes. I packed quickly, then hopped on my bike swerving back and forth to find smooth patches of snow between larger sastrugi. It felt good to be moving no matter the direction.

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