Posts tagged ‘philosophy’

Here we go

June 19th, 2010 2:34 am.

There may come a day when I’m finally too frail to do adventures, too feeble to go wandering.

Or worse, a day when my mind is so withered and cowardly that I dare not venture out, or my soul so addicted to comfort and luxury that I loathe any change.



Today (or technically yesterday) I shaved with an electric razor for the last time . I used a hairdryer for the last time. I used a big bottle of shampoo – actually, a big bottle of anything – for the last time. I will share a bed (however briefly) with Merrianne for the last time. This is probably the last time I’ll see a city of over 100,000. For the next six weeks, I mean. I will take off my normal street shoes, and not wear ordinary shoes until August.

As usual, packing took up until the last minute. Our flight leaves at 6:20 am, so we should get there 2 hours in advance. I expect we’ll be quite tired in Fargo, but will have a whirlwind of activity getting set up.

Talk to you soon.

The Backpacker’s Mentality


There seem to be some common threads in the mindsets of those who must carry everything on their back:

  • That flexibility, ingenuity, and humor more important than technology;
  • That comfort is often more of an inconvenience than a necessity;
  • That gratitude for little things is the best entertainment (think Survivorman eating a toasted Witchetty grub);
  • To tread lightly – not only is it less work, it preserves treasures for later;
  • And finally, to travel light – size and weight dominate thinking.

Seriously, I’m debating not bringing a comb to save weight and space. But I woke up in the tent on our shakeout ride and my hair was all wild. This was bad, but not real bad. My hair is short, and I can brush it into shape with my hand (sort of). It’s going under my helmet, anyway. And my appearance is not crucial operationally. There are some women I know whose hair is an asset – to the extent they probably get freebies and better treatment because of it. That doesn’t apply to me. Merrianne wants me to take a comb. What do you think?

It’s less than 3 days until we fly to Fargo. Most of our stuff is staged, but not packed. Before disassembling the bikes, I weighed everything. I weigh 149 pounds. With the fully loaded bike in my hands, the bathroom scale reads 204. I took off all the packs, sleeping bag, tent, and water bottles, and weighed again. 173.5 . That means my bike is 24.5 pounds, including everything that is bolted to it. The rest of the gear – handlebar bag, rear panniers, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tent, cooking gear, 3 pints of water in the bottles, and all the rest of my stuff – is 30.5 pounds. I was 15 pounds lighter on the previous tour 20 years ago. That’s like a pound a year!

Elliot has less weight, both on himself, and his bike.

Thoughts on Grafting

That’s not a typo. Grafting, not Drafting. What does it have to do with a bike trip? Read on…


I love Fuji apples. I think Fuji apples are just about the best fruit on the whole planet. Our neighbor has a fantastic Fuji apple tree, and even said we could help ourselves to what hangs over the fence – and that’s a lot. But our own apple tree (see above) has only a few, mushy apples. So, I thought it would be great to take some twigs from our neighbor’s tree, and graft them onto our tree.

Now, I’m no orchardman. Grafting is still a black art to me. I read up on it in gardening books and the internet. I sterilized all my tools with Clorox, selected the most likely-looking scions, and followed all the instructions, sealing up everything with beeswax. But in the end, it will be God who decides what will happen. Some will grow vigorous and verdant, while others will shrivel and die.


The philosophers among you will no doubt already grasp the significance. But for everyone else, let me elaborate. The point is simply this: I will spend all this time getting equipment, maps, and trying to plan for contingencies, but in the end, God decides. I cannot control the weather, flight cancellations, road closures, health issues, and who knows what else might pop up. Your prayers are not only welcomed, but ardently solicited.

But grafting does have one more tie-in, and it is the following:


This is the stretchy plastic tape that I use to wrap certain kinds of grafts. What else can it be used for?

Bifurcation Number One

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”

– from “The Road Less Traveled” by Robert Frost

We haven’t even started on the tour, and already, we face our first route choice. Like which person to ask to the Prom, our choice will set us on a path that can’t be reversed without great anguish. And similarly, it’s not a choice between good and bad, but between good and good.


The Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route follows the upper blue line. However, there’s also an alternate route in red. Much like life, both paths end up in the same place. Which do we choose?

Frost would probably have taken the road less traveled, in other words, the Alternate route. But what he doesn’t talk about in his classic poem is why the road is less traveled. Could it be that the road surface is crappy and full of potholes? Could it be that there are no shoulders, and huge trucks run you off the road? Could it be that there are no services? Could it be because it’s a boring highway with nothing to see? Maybe in real life, roads are less traveled because they SUCK!!

Google Maps helped me draw the picture above. And while I was there, I slid the Little Man along the lines to see what the actual place looked like in Street View. I took a random view about 1/4 way into each route, a view of a major town in the middle, and a random view at the 3/4 point.

Here is the Standard Route:

And, the Little Falls Alternate:

No help there, looks about the same to me. Both routes pass a lot of lakes, but oddly, these don’t show up in the street views. My guess is that Minnesotans are smart about not building roads on the waterfront, where they could flood or sink. The standard route is supposed to hit more wilderness, but again, you could have fooled me from that street view.

We could save 117 miles by taking the alternate route. That’s about 2 full days on bikes, days that could be used later in the trip. I’m also thinking that the standard route must have been plotted that way for a reason – they wouldn’t chart such a roundabout path unless there was something important to see along the way. Maybe it’s Lake Itasca, source of the Mississippi River?

What do you think?