The other day I attempted my longest bike ride to date, a 65 mile trip from Grand Rapids to Cloquet (ish) in one day. It destroyed me.
I fought a head wind most of the way. When I finally turned off the busy US Highway 2 I ended up on rough country roads with steep hills for the final 20 miles. I was fried in the sun and my water tasted bad. Muscles gave out.
I made it, but that kind of a day requires some thinking about the gear you’re schlepping. (Note: the day after, at my friends’ cabin, I helped them with five hours of culvert digging in direct sun… which felt like a break.) I did some reflecting on the things I’ve ditched since setting out.
The Starting Package
Two days before I left my parents’ house in Wisconsin I thought I had everything ready to go, and planned a relaxing final day there. It wasn’t to be. On a hunch I re-packed everything the day of my departure and began thinning it.
The first things to go were my beloved sandals. They would’ve been so sweet for walking into muddy lakes to bathe, but I can’t justify the extra weight. I still miss them—in theory. I’ve never actually needed them since leaving.
I departed with 44 pounds of gear. That’s a lot, but on a bike I figured it would be no problem.
The Ditch List
In the car I chose more things to ditch. In fact, from the beginning of my quest I’ve ditched things almost every day. So here’s a complete Ditch List.
Jujutsu notes. I planned to carry these with me just long enough to finish typing them all up, so my notes on years of practice would be able to travel with me on my laptop. I intended to drop them at my parents’ when passing through Wisconsin. Instead, they are safely stored at a friend’s house as they took up just too much room.
Art supplies. I had it all narrowed down to what fit in one small waterproof jar: a set of oil pastels and some tiny tubes of goauche paint. Still too much stuff. Abandoned them at Beth’s place in Saint Paul.
Pepto. Too easy to find on the road if needed, too bulky to carry with my first aid kit. Gave it away.
Fancy shirt. My packed clothes are mostly T-shirts, underoos and socks. But I included two nicer button down shirts: one that I wore on the ride up and one stowed in my pack. I immediately discarded the one not stowed. The other may follow soon.
Tomahawk. What a great tool. Hand forged, it holds an edge and it’s super light. But light for a hatchet is still a pound or more and it’s bulky. This was the hardest thing to give up, no doubt. Beth fought me on it and tried to convince me to take it anyway. Ben arbitrated and pointed out I have a tiny, shitty saw on my multitool. So no hard need for a hatchet. I sent it back with Beth when she dropped me in Duluth.
Sunglasses. They broke on Day 1 of biking. I don’t miss them. It was annoying to try to secure them and my helmet has a visor. Eff sunglasses. Sunglasses are for Lady Gaga and chumps.
Bug spray. You’d think this would be important but in rural Minnesota you are just, fact, going to be eaten by mosquitoes. Your puny spray means nothing to them. I left it as a present at the semi-abandoned garage near where I camped my first night.
Camp Mirror. This was a cool little mirror that you can hang from a tree or whatever. Great for shaving. But I never want to shave outside (see also: bug spray) and I can put in my contacts with no mirror. It broke from a bumpy bike ride and I discarded it. Kind of sad because it’s been in the family since I was a kid.
Stinky Water Bottle. A Trek water bottle that made everything taste like rubber. Get your rubber out of my mouth, Trek. That is so not consensual. I left it on a picnic table at a gas station. In the morning it was gone.
That’s what I’ve ditched. I know I need to get rid of more. There will be a lot of off-loading in Minneapolis and Wisconsin. I’m even reducing how much water I carry.
Anything you think I absolutely can’t live without?