Then Comes the Wind - Ride Three - Day Six - Hope Ride 19

After the great day – comes the wind. Isn’t that life? I’m not going negative. I’m not fatalistic in my thinking, but today’s victories do not erase tomorrow’s challenges. 

Palapye, Botswana: 6:00 a.m.  I walk to the courtyard at our hotel and look up.  The branches of the trees are blowing in the opposite direction of my prayers. I know this road that leads to Francistown. I remember the brutal day two years ago when a cold headwind crushed us all day long. I dread the gusts from a quartering wind that knock you back and threaten to put you in the gutter. I contemplate faking a life-threatening illness (no offense to anyone with a life-threatening illness but this day will be for suffering). Alas – that word says it all.

A bitter wind greets us as we turn right out of the gate of our hotel. It’s blowing down the straight road ahead. I know this road. It will not turn and neither will the wind. It is relentless. 

Our progress is painfully slow. When the weather breaks after noontime, the wind turns from cold to hot. I can feel the sun and wind burning my face and hastening the aging process that I have encouraged by far too many days in the African sun with far too thin an application of sunscreen. 

As we begin the last twenty-five miles it seems that it will be a test of endurance, and I can tell by the way the team members are moving around on their saddles that they are feeling my pain. I’m thinking of three hundred more miles on this North leg of Hope Ride… another two to three hundred with the South squad… saddle sores and hot spots will be our portion. At the point of despair, somewhere around the ninetieth mile, the wind shifts. It’s not a tailwind, but given the headwinds we have battled, it feels as though the heavens have opened… and we offer thanks with weary awareness that in all of these things we are blessed.  

The century ends in a parking lot where we literally circle the vehicles for privacy to effect a quick clean up and change of clothes for a three hour ride to the north. We use to ride this section in years past, but the roads and traffic have eroded and increased to the point where it would be a suicide mission.  

Three hours in a vehicle after almost six hours on a bike is not the preferable way to wind down after the effort, but it’s what we’ve got - that’s what we do. Just before sunset we arrive at Elephant Sands and drive into the company of couple dozen wild elephants at the watering hole. Time will not allow for a full description for this place like no other, but imagine sleeping in a dome tent while wild elephants walk through the camping space in the night, jostling and trumpeting – we don’t have to imagine it. It is a close encounter… at one of my favorite places on earth. In the wee hours of the morning, on a trek to the bathhouse in the blackness of the Chobe, a teammate calls a quiet warning and a magnificent grey ghost (elephant) walks silently between you and your tent. You wonder if you’ll ever get back to sleep, but the hundred miles does its magic, and you’re gone. 

Day three of Hope Ride is history. Day four will hold its own adventure. No matter which way the wind blows, the road leads to Zambia – and the kids – and the wells – and the girl’s homes – and the Zambesi... and the next page turned as God’s plan unfolds for us and for them. 

CRYSTAL HUFF