Friday, July 30, 2010

The Stuff

Anna slept and dreamed. She was standing on the edge of a wide yellow desert at midday.... In the desert she was alone, and there was no water, and she was a long way from the springs. She woke knowing that if she was to cross the desert she must shed burdens.
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

The paradox: the harder the journey, the less you should bring.  I was going to write a post about all the things I'm taking along on the Colorado Trail Race.  An ingredient list.  But once I got started, I just couldn't do it.  Some of the stuff I'm bringing is very clever, some of it is very boring, some of it is heavily modified, some of it is exactly what you would expect.

Some of it is interestingly lightweight but not really a thing:

Some of it is not even an it at all (extra cleat bolts in place of unused bottle cage bolts):

Some of it will hopefully not be put into use, but serve only as an amulet against catastrophic mid-ride freehub failure:

 Credit to Thad, champion worrywart and bad luck magnet, for both inspiring my freehub explosion worry and for offering the emergency fixie idea (and of course thanks to Tomi for making the cog)

In the end, what I bring externally is not as important as what I bring internally.  It's about what's not coming along.  What can I do without when problems arise?  I don't just mean suffering through misfortune.  Are there solutions that involve neither suffering nor the possession of a particular object?  What do I trust myself to know how to do?

In everyday life, in so many ways, we let our possessions substitute for intelligence.  The marvelous objects that make our daily existence so easy lull us into forgetting that our species ever knew how to survive without them.  Our sheltered lives become the only reality we can imagine, our flexible brains become ossified, the barriers between our selves and the raw world become impermeable.  On some level, going into the backcountry as ultralight as possible is simply a reaction to our downward spiral into stupidity and indolence.  A visit to a past world, when humans relied on their own abilities and lived close to wild.  For a week or so, we play at subsistence.  We shed burdens.


  1. Damn it. I misplaced my critical comment on another post.

    I taught Thad the back up fixie cog trick as well as how to juggle and make excuses.

  2. In the end, the best thing you can bring is what you have between your ears. Ride smart and all will be well. Good luck!

  3. Dicky never taught me how to juggle. The excuses though, yeah, all him.

    Good luck. Have fun. Don't carry too many worry rocks this time.

  4. All set to follow the race. This thing is gonna be a MONSTER.