Empty Days

Friday, August 20, 2004



Toobeedoo.

Feeling better today. For the heck of it slept in the sleeping bag tonight - apparently it's just too big for me. When I unzip it and roll it around snugly, it actually seems to provide actual heat. Zehr gut.

Got the bike up into my room and played with fixing a backpack and a shoulder-bag as rear panniers. So far so good - it did require some ingenuity but the upside is that they have all those helpful compartiments. However it is far from clear how this contraption will fare on a really bumpy ride. Maybe it will come apart and bag-corners will get into the spokes. I will need to perform a few simulation tests, shaking the bike wildly and maybe going on a short ride with these things, choosing the worst streets in town (who could guess that pot-hole filled roads in my borough could come in so handy one day?). Somehow I knew that this would work and that buying panniers was a luxury I did well to avoid.

One pleasant surprise is that all I was planning to take with me actually fits in - though I should probably think of leaving some space for occasional loads, like food and water. But it's a well known fact that a lot of stuff, and often of considerable dimensions, can be strapped to the bike, even without any panniers. I've transported bookshelves and armchairs on my bike - bungie cords and proper balancing did the trick.

Rear load should not be too heavy, so I guess I'll put those cast-iron tools in the handle-bar bag, with maps and other necessary stuff on top. I don't know how much water I would need to carry but since I am not exactly going into the desert, I guess two one-liter bottles would be plenty enough. I can't drink much liquid, as opposed to some people I know - it's beyond me how one is capable of downing one liter in a sitting (in London pubs I always tried hard to avoid those famous pints - I could never finish one for the life of me). So basically everything is fine and dandy and my bike won't be too heavy - most of the space is taken up by bulky yet fairly light stuff like clothing and sleeping bag with blanket.

*

One thing I am not really sure about is whether I should take a thermos with me. I have one taking up space from times immemorial, but it's a pretty sizable item and it doesn't hold as much liquid as a 1L bottle of comparable size so it can't really be used as one. It'd be nice to have something hot to drink in the evening, espcially since those evenings are likely to be rather chilly, and I am not at all sure I will find camping spots secluded enough to make a fire and boil some water over it - for tea, of course. Instead I could buy two cups of coffee along the way and put them in the thermos for later. Does it make sense? I am not sure.

I will still take matches with me for that improbable camp fire. In town there are wooded areas along various canals, railtracks, behind some abandoned buildings and such where youths go to make fires and drink beer away from law-abiding adults. But it's usually not the the kind of places you can access by bike - it would require some portage. Which is what I do actually when I go riding, I love discovering those wild places in town, but it wouldn't work with a loaded bike - that's precisely where one needs to throw bike over fences and drag it out of very deep overgrown ditches.

*

Ok, I discovered the right name for my project: stealth camping. There are still a lot of things I don't understand about it because my experience of north-american countryside is rather limited. When Ken Kifer describes how he rides all day long and can't find a place for camping, it's hard for me to imagine what he means by that. I suppose the "no tresspassing" signs everywhere for miles on end is what he means. I also don't fully appreciate what he means by such terms as "public right of way". What the fuck is that?

Interestingly enough, since my somewhat rustic childhood was spent in a communist country where the concept of private land did not exist, I still have a hard time understanding how this concept applies to vast expenses of space - you don't go into someone's backyard, that's obvious enough, but when this "backyard" is measured in tens of acres, how the hell does it matter if some passerby "infringes" on some remote corner of it? That's what I don't really get.

*

Ok, here is something that made my heart leap:

Q: Does anybody know if anyone has gone on a bike tour and never went home. They just stayed out touring on there bike's as a way of life. Maybe found work along the way. Has anyone here ever thought of doing that?

A: I always consider it, but I am sure there is a Danish guy who about 15 or 20 years ago went on a 2 week touring holiday and just phoned work to say he wasn't coming back. As far as I am aware he is still at it, on his umpteenth bike and gets by by casual labour and writing articles for bike mags.

Grand, hein? Went for a two-week trip... and never returned. That's what happens when you finally find your heart. It's like finding gold or that mythical water of life - can't get enough.





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