Bicycling, The Great Adventure

Ditch List

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.

Me + the Giant after a 65 mile bike ride. Photo by Kira Hagen.

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 chumps and Lady Gaga.

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?


22 thoughts on “Ditch List

  1. Personally, I agree you should have kept the hatchet. Not only is it better at cutting, you can use it as a weapon (something that you may need in SA). A shitty saw on a multi tool might cut it some of the time, but it’s still a shitty saw. I doubt you can get the hatchet back at this point, but I would recommend getting a survivalist/camping knife to replace it. They tend to be of good size, and some come with a hollow handle that contains matches, hooks, fishing line, and other goodies.

    never, good hero, forget the value of a good weapon.

  2. Beth says:

    What he said. :) Having been to the jungles of South America, I really don’t want you down there with only a 3-inch knife. Lianas the size of your arm? Very possible. Snakes that you might need to deal with? Yup. Giant trees, etc. in your way. Yessir. I don’t feel like you need the tomahawk in the US necessarily, but I *really* want you to have it or something similar once you are south of the border. Our guides in the Amazon walked everywhere with giant machetes. I would accept “I’ll acquire a machete in Mexico” as well, but the tomahawk would be easier to carry. Actually, if you have any contacts who have done South American adventuring, I’d suggest asking them whether they would suggest the tomahawk or a different kind of tool. I suppose I could mail you the thing when you’re in NOLA, if that’s even legal…

  3. Arden says:

    You know, something about this entry excited me. I suppose it’s because adventuring is an art form, too, and learning what works and what doesn’t seems such a major part of it.

    I too am sad to see the tomahawk go, though it does sound like its best use would come later in the journey.

  4. Beth says:

    I would like to add that the tomahawk is safely in my possession and can be returned to Drew should he choose to accept it. :)

  5. Thanks guys. I’ll re-acquire the tomahawk briefly when I pass through the Twin Cities and maybe drop it with family when in Wisconsin. Even if I take it as far as Texas I’m giving it up in Mexico – a machete is much better suited to jungles than a ‘hawk.

    And Lucius: thanks.

    • Machetes are very awesome and useful, I agree! Every priest worth his metal should have one. :-)

      Also, I think anything Drew ditches can be re-acquired in better form as is needed on the road. Art supplies and tools can be available where ever. Yay.

      • MercyFire says:

        I still have the machete from my trip to the Dominican Republic years ago. Every farmer there had one and would sharpen it on the cinderblock foundation of his home or any handy rock. It’s extremely versatile even for someone inexperienced in it’s use (i.e. me!).

  6. I agree with ditching the Tomahawk, as long as you have a good knife handy. I always wear a neck knife when hiking or camping. You can easily acquire a machete, maybe even a hatchet south of the border.

  7. Oh, one interesting thing I almost forgot to mention: I have been keeping notes each day, little mini predictions about how each day of your journey has been going, nothing I think is of major psychic importance, yet…

    Each time you report on your blog, you have proven my premonitions right. Neat.

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  10. Rua Lupa says:

    I usually only carry two liters with me in a camel back water bladder, and have my water filter pump to refill whenever a source is available. That is my bare necessities – can’t live without water, and you don’t want to be carrying around a big pot to boil water in all the time you want a drink…so…thirs..ty…*flame to boil water goes out*…’damn’ *so thirsty you drink anyway and get giardia* – not worth it. Rather be naked in a swarm of mosquitoes than get girardia.

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