Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Culling the Gear - Hutchinson, KS


Triple digits again today. With the wind, it doesn't feel as downright hot as it did in Iowa, at least. The heat still catches up, though. to I felt sluggish and weighed down all day, sick and tired when I'd stop. The ride was short, at least - a shortcut off the TransAm, 33 miles along highway 50. It was characterless and dull, with none of the rolling green that I identify as 'typical Kansas', but I really just wanted to get to Hutchinson quickly.

Michelle and Ryan stayed back in Newton, today, visiting friends. I'm taking a rest day in Hutchinson, where we'll hopefully meet up. Cyclists get to stay in the Zion Lutheran Church, here, where a hostel has long been set up for them. A few mattresses in a curtained off area, showers, a kitchen, and notes left by decades of cyclists.

In the last few days, I've come upon an unexpected facet of traveling so heavily loaded. It's lonely. Everyone I've met has been faster than I. I'd still be nervous about riding with others, but I want to have that as an option. I want to be able to catch up with other touring cyclists. I know I can match the daily mileage of many other 'explorer' type cyclists, I've met and enjoyed that challenge on several occasions, but now I'd like to be able to stop along the way more, relax a bit, and get into town before dusk.

Having installed myself in the church hostel, I set about reducing my gear load. The three pounds of instant potato soup I've been carrying became one pound, in a baggy instead of canister. My powerade mix went into a baggy, the butter went into the trash(Most of the little packets where leaking anyway). With the reduced packaging, I could fit almost all my food into the bear barrel. I very briefly considered abandoning that.

After the food was culled down a bit, I turned to the trailer. Everything in it I felt I'd need, but maybe I could reorganize a bit to reduce bulk. Two clothing sacks instead of three would fit side-by-side, with no digging around to reach the buried third. The underwear bag was divided between the top and bottom bag. I almost left off there, with little accomplished.

Living with my parents in Plymouth, I had only a room to fill with junk, but fill it I did. Once every year or two, however, I'd get the impulse to go on a purge. Anything I did not foresee imminent use for, anything more sentimental than pertinent would be hauled out in a series of black trash bags. I'd feel guilty about trashing items that could have been sold or donated, but I also knew that if I waited to better dispose of them I'd lose my momentum and end up keeping most of it. It's funny how my expectations have shrunk to my current situation - nearly all I own of importance in the world fits on the back of a bike, but it's too much!

In the end I got rid of the extra food, a folding chair, a chafey chamois, an unflattering jersey, some really nice socks I never wear, a spare glove I found during Ragbrai, a bottle of dry lube, some tools I don't know how to use, the super-comfortable pants which I wore through the better part of last winter(Yes, Mom. Those pants), half a huge bottle of ibuprofen, one of two long-sleeved shirts, a few pairs of undies, a grease-stained bra, and a swimsuit bottom. This time there was no associated guilt, as I left the tools, gear, and non-underwear clothing in the hostel gear exchange for the use of other passing cyclists. For myself, I gained some tight, sleek biking shorts and new gloves. The extra space created in my trailer is astounding.

Newton Athletic Park in the morning.

Roadside find - a sealed package of cookies.

Downtown Hutchinson.

In the midst of a gear-culling.

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