March 7, 2017 The doing of the thing and the preparing for the thing live on the same scale of gratification. Any adventure, no matter how small, suggests a sense of conquest. And at the bottom end of the conquest scale there is apprehension. It is that small fear that ignites a drive to prepare. Men of a certain vintage (call us the Swiss Army Knife generation) are capable of making the “thing” larger and slightly more hazardous than it really is. And we overthink. I bring a Jet Boil stove. And a spare canister. But what if the stove malfunctions? I bring a stick stove, just in case. But wait, what if it is raining? Perhaps some dry kindling is needed. The butane lighter is backed up with matches. And sticks can be tough to crack. Perhaps a small saw should come along. And this thinking is applied to shelter, bike parts, and consumables. Up and down this scale we go. I think of Champlain, Bridger, Carson, Shackleton. A sense of order is restored. The back-ups and the back-ups for the back-ups are unloaded. But damn it, my 6” Swedish knife always makes the final list.
The internet is seductive. Blogs are read, maps downloaded, weather data scanned, products reviewed, prices compared, stuff purchased, purchases tracked and finally received. Some purchases are even hidden. And then comes packing, repacking, buying more packs. And accessorizing the packs with pockets, straps, and clips. But order is made, weight is distributed, and all is judged ready. All the shit is now unpacked while the weeks, or months, pass and the journey commences.
Meanwhile, the maps come out. Maps are ingrained into the ritual as much as much as sleeping bags and titanium spoons. They create distractions and tell stories. In their anachronistic way, they suggest history, alert to difficulties, suggest pacing, and identify resupply. Most of all they are reassuring. A compass, some line of sight, and a few deep breathes and your location on earth is secured.
Maps are paper. They are folded, rolled, copied, cropped, marked up and laminated. GPS has its place, but not on my journey. They require batteries and some chancy alignment with satellites and cellular towers. And they might talk to you, telling you when to turn, how to pace, when you are arriving, how much you have climbed, and when to seat, stand, crap, and eat. They are the overlords of your handlebars. Things you sought to leave are right there with you. And really, knowing exactly where you are at all times speaks to a misguided mastery. If there is no lost there is no reverie. GPS is the biggest hype since Gore-Tex.
Speaking of Gore-Tex, there is none. Nor Lycra, for Pete’s sake. I don’t care to look like a bobbing bratwurst, advertising products I’ll never use. Baggy shorts, loose fitting shirts, Five-Tennie’s, wool sweater, wool beanie, wool socks, gnarly wool tights (loose fit), old school rain gear. And that’s a wrap, the body is covered. More thought goes into coffee.