Cyclotouring: The Weight of These Things

I’ve been decompressing. Circling wagons and coming to terms. 8 days of mostly silence and lots of solitude will do things to you. That much thinking is dangerous I guess. But that much pedaling is holy. I’m saving much of what I write about the tour for publication in other venues, but have decided to share excerpts along the way.

…Touring like this – on a bicycle with house and home slung on a rack over the rear tire – introduces complicated feelings about both possessions and place. Every mountain pass invokes an irrepressible urge to jettison extra items. Any object not put to at least three uses is eyed with suspicion.

Later at my proper home in Portland I will wonder if I still have too many books. I will thumb through my hangers and marvel at how I accumulated so many striped sweaters. It isn’t so much an outright condemnation of the acquisition of material goods as it is a cause for calculated pause. Pulling your things with you, their emotional weight is translated into real pounds. What am I dragging along that does not need to be here? What is the nature of my attachment?

Riding a loaded touring bike seems valiant or poetic, but it’s a voluntary act made (oftentimes) by privileged people who are searching for something that they can’t find at home: simplicity, detachment, clarity. You leave everything you own behind and pack a small selection of essentials into a few bags. Then you tow them and, somehow, the weight yields an internal lightness. It’s a startling inversion. It’s a trick of the mind.

The real work of touring starts when you come home and stand in front of your kingdom and try to figure out what it means and why you left it.

In my case, I try to figure out why I always want to leave it again and again. At the same time, cradled in the expanse of a soft king bed, flanked by cats that have become temporarily affectionate due to their perceived near-abandonment, I know with exacting clarity how my home can be both shifting and static.

Gretel Ehrlich writes, “statis is achieved through dynamism… constant change is a form of equilibrium

Unlike many people, I am comfortable with gray areas. Perhaps overly so. Contradiction doesn’t feel conflicting to me – it feels like life.

2 Responses to “Cyclotouring: The Weight of These Things”

  1. Eric says:

    I love your prose! Thanks for the words and photos, you make me long for black skies, crunchy earth and dry winds.

  2. Chris says:

    Spent 10 days in Panama basically living out of a backpack, and had many of the same thoughts about possessions and all that stuff. It’s a recurring one for me, but it’s good to revisit. Somehow, knowing I can’t get everything I own into my truck and be on the road in minutes, if necessary, bothers me. I’d at least like to get it down to everything I own and LOVE in my truck in the snap of my fingers, but it’s a struggle.

    Great piece.