A Hole in the Wind


David Goodrich




Date Reviewed:

April 25, 2021

Hole in the Wind is the chronicle of David Goodrich's ride across America. Goodrich was a climate scientist before retiring; he worked on ships, collected satellite data, and managed a large international agency to gather more information. After retirement, Goodrich decided he to ride across the country, and speak to Americans about climate change and why it is so important. Yet the book actually contains almost no record of conversations with ordinary citizens about climate change. Goodrich says Americans will freely talk about floods and droughts, but mention global warming, and suddenly no one will talk any further. Climate change is the topic that shall not be named. He mentions climate change to some midwesterners, but senses immediate hostility and so drops the subject, lest they accidentally run over his bicycle further down the road. Goodrich makes his ride in 2011, I imagine the situation would be even more intense ten year later - climate change is even more apparent, but the denial is even more virulent.

Goodrich makes four big mistakes on his cross country ride (I rode from Seattle to Washington D.C. in 1989, so I have an understanding of what his trip was like).

Mistake #1: Goodrich rides alone. Yes, he was successful, but this is a foolish, dangerous choice. (I rode with two other friends). It is amazing that Goodrich was able to push himself through such challenges while riding on his own. If I had faced such obstacles by myself, I probably would have quit.

Mistake #2: Goodrich carries too much stuff. We made the same mistake, our bikes weighed 50 lbs at the start. One of the advantages of traveling with companions is that the weight of the tools can be spread between more riders, Goodrich has to bring it all himself. On page 234, Goodrich lists all the items he brought. I would discard some of the clothes, all the cooking gear, and probably the tent/sleeping bag too - and rely on traveling from motel to motel. We found ourselves getting rained upon so much that we ended up in motels a lot of nights just to dry out the tent from the previous nights soaking. Goodrich describes pushing his bike up some of the steep hills in the Appalachians. We never had to walk our bikes, but his description of the steepness of the roads is spot on. Crossing the Appalachians was much harder than crossing the Cascades or Rockies.

Mistake #3: Goodrich starts much to early in the season. He begins his ride on May 1st, and spends 3 months riding - meaning he finishes in July. May and June are the wettest months. Goodrich is a climate scientist - how could he make this mistake? Of course he gets soaked. (We started June 1st, which also was too early, but moved up our original start date of July 1st because the wife of one of my fellow riders was pregnant and due in September. Originally, we planned to start riding on July 1st. Because we rode in June, we got soaked as well, though it sounds like Goodrich's storms were worse than ours). If Goodrich had started on July 1, his three months of riding would have been July, August and September and he would have had a much drier experience.

Mistake #4: Goodrich rides from East to West, from Delaware to Oregon. It is an incredible mistake, an amazing blunder to be made by a professional climatologist. The prevailing winds are from West to East, and, as any cyclist knows, riding into the wind is hard. When we came down from the Rocky Mountains (we rode the Northern route of the TransAm), the wind blew us across Montana and North Dakota. We literally sailed. The wind is so strong and so constant that we could go up small hills without even pedaling. One day, we rode 137 miles without hardly trying. It took us 40 days to ride from Seattle to D.C. Goodrich, however, has to fight that wind every day. It must have been exhausting. I was just 28 years old when we rode across, Goodrich is retired, and yet found the strength to fight his way through. It would have been so much easier if he had just gone the other way. The title of the book, A Hole in the Wind is Goodrich's dream that the wind would simply stop and he could just ride in peace.

The book contains a section where he describes later rides - in particular, a ride Goodrich did in 2014 from Illinois to South Dakota, gets a couple of chapters where Goodrich digresses to talk about his ride in South Dakota to Stronghold Table. Most confusingly, the chapter about his South Dakota adventure was followed by a chapter about riding through Nebraska - I thought the narrative had returned to his cross country ride. But Nebraska was followed by a chapter on riding across Kansas, which made no sense. I finally figured out that the Nebraska chapter was also part of his 2014 ride to South Dakota.

A later section describes a ride through Idaho and Montana during the fire season of 2000. Again, I got confused about which chapters were describing his TransAmerica ride and which sections were about his earlier ride. Goodrich rides over the Going-to-the-Sun highway in Glacier National Park. That was also part of our itinerary on our cross-country ride, but when we got to Glacier in June, we were told that the Going-to-the-Sun was still buried under snow and was being cleared by front-end loaders to move the huge drifts. We ended up crossing the Rockies at Marias Pass, the lowest pass over the Rockies north of New Mexico.

Goodrich chooses to end his book on an optimistic note. Yes, altering climate change will be hard, but humans can wean themselves off of fossil fuels. He points to the success of restoring the ozone layer as an example of humans correcting a catastrophic mistake. I am more fatalistic than Goodrich. The ozone hole was not politicized by wealthy, nihilistic sociopaths who apparently care nothing about the fate of future generations. The challenges facing mankind over the next 100 years are enormous. Will humanities billions be reduced by war, famine and natural disaster? Or will people around the world work together for the common good of all?

Goodrich mentions in his book that he has ridden the Camino de Santiago. I hope he does a writeup about that experience, because that sounds really interesting.