Long Shadows mean one of two things: 1. that you have the whole day ahead of you, or 2. that you had better find a place to pitch your tent. For me, each day begins with coffee, and this morning I will not compromise. When traveling solo, I use the GSI dripper, and either of my stoves to boil water. When traveling with my pals, I'll often bring my Nanopresso, discussed elsewhere in this blog. The nano is great for desert trips, and places where coffee is a must, but water scarce, and the longer drip coffee of the GSI dripper is nothing more than a sock held above a cup, but a compact and effective if cleaner sock. It's not my favorite brewer, but it is my favorite small dripper. Ten Bucks, Paired with a melita filter for more coffee, with less spillage, and smoother taste. By the Way the GSI Grinder is a total P.O.S. I've tried several and needed to return every one. Seems that their Chinese OEM makes the handle square out of something less than good solid steel, and the first crank on anything lighter roast or peaberry, will break the mech right out of the box, Ive broken several, and so loved the idea that i even brought coffee into an REI to test the last one, before shaming myself and GSI for the trouble. Don't Bother... I've told GSI, and they have seemingly no control on this one. They need to send everyone back and recall any in the field, because it sucks.
I grind coffee for Aeropress ahead of any trip and carry it that way until someone invents a solid tiny grinder. More coarse than Espresso, and finer than Drip, this gets me more mileage, and more flexibility in any application. Every adventure begins with coffee. It always seems to start out sunny. The adventure begins (although crisp) with bright sunshine. I lashed the gear to the bike and set out. It was gusty 56 f., and you know you can never trust the weatherman, NEVER, and so we cross our fingers, and leave.
Some of this spring is green, but no leaves yet, just darling little buds like the first sparse hairs in a Gym locker-room, timid, and reticent, amidst a few overzealous Crocus, and Magnolias peeking about. It seems, guarded, lurid, & coed. The wind, unrelenting from the west, and as luck would have it, (dread) That was my direction. Two questions clarify, "How long can this wind remain this strong?, and "Will I have enough caloric mojo to get there, working triple time into a monster head-wind?" The houses seemed firmly planted, in-spite of a tune-out fictional fantasy of funnel clouds, and bicycles flying through a miasma of twirling debris, wagons, wheels and flying monkeys.
I set off head-on, and I rode in that tuned-in but tuned-out manner, when one loses the time, and gains it back through a mindful grinding forward, absorbing absolutely everything, and nothing at all -- Oblivious to most daily crap.
I rode with my head down, in the drops, and thought fondly about the specific bike-pack which may house my chap-stick. I thought fondly about how cool the wind was, how it evaporated my lips, and dried my eyes, and how perfectly my Tempesta jacket curved over my bent spine as I cut forward like one of those "crazy cyclists" heading westward just after dawn to no place special. The destination was a campground which had opened to the public just a week prior, and I'd hoped to find hardcore campers there, along with eager fish, in the lakes and streams. The route took me through farms which kicked up more gusts as the cold black un-planted soil warmed beneath a bright sun, creating a heady scent, and an upwelling torrent which clashed with the clear crisp blue morning haze for dominance. It would be windy all day. Like my city of tall cold skyscrapers, where warming glass reflections pushed cold downward, and rising heat gusted like a chimney often making cross-winds sketchy. I knew the routine, but with a direct head-wind at least I didn't fear the bike pushing out sideways from beneath me. I felt as if someone were showing me how to ride, and held my shoulders while I stood in place straining toward them. Tough wind today made the case that things may end a bit differently. The farms expanded like quilts, into a warp and weft of turned black soil combed in a tufts of wispy grey thatch patterns like woven rugs, and Triscuits soothing the memory of Grant Wood, or Andew Wyeth. Cows, glanced embarrassed, zen-like puzzlement toward me like each passing truck, stupefied for me working so hard. People were not used-to, and never seem to reconcile themselves to the lonesome bike-packer. Damp Wisconsin farmland rich with color and wet spring smells. Clear blue skies stuffed with fluffy cumulous clouds, breaking and joining like a feral cat & a pillow tumbling in a dryer of blue.
My audio book stayed my panic about losing great time to the head-wind, I descended into a mindless fiction, thinking only about chapped lips, and cheeseburgers, the spy novel allowed me to further detach from the typical re-calculous of a "plan-B". I stayed true to my travel plans, re-adjusting my body to re-shape for aches, and seat position. I rode westward with a pack-rod, a tent, pad, and bag. The essentials you'd see on any great bike-pack check-list, only I was decidedly short on provisions, planning to stop someplace to eat. I turned the cranks mindlessly until I was so well out of town, and so free from "civilization" that I no longer gave thought to how slow I was traveling, but how near or far the next road-side attraction my be which featured a Cheeseburger. It's not that I wanted only a cheeseburger, nor that I even preferred one, but being that I was in Wisconsin, It seemed realistic that the options boiled down to this, Cheese Curds, and perhaps Grilled Cheese. Nothing gourmet was planned, and I held out no hope that a gastro-pup lie between my front wheel and my destination. Just being realistic with expectations that's all... And so I soldiered on for the next few hours.
May I make a suggestion?... If you are going to travel with a rod and reel, it's novel to anticipate the time it takes to whip your thing out and dip it in the water. As with all romantic ideas of a great SLR, or fancy-pants camera and a full set of lenses -- a Pack-rod, Like a point and shoot should be just as simple to carry as it is to take out and shoot with. If you have anything more than that -- You are lying to yourself. "The camera which takes the best pictures, is the one you have with you when you frame the shot", (-M) and a fishing-pole is admittedly that much more difficult to have on the ready. I've researched this to death, and after settling upon a few favorites. One day, overzealous, perhaps, but just as eager to fish, I dropped the tip of my St Croix Rod into a lake, I decided that telescopic made more sense than separates. The trouble with telescopic is generally length and sensitivity. While it's practically impossible to make a great pack-rod, and harder to craft a telescopic pole to be as sensitive and good a caster as a single blank, or one which breaks apart in sections -- It's not impossible however, to find a great pole that's got a light action, and the sensitivity of a sibling, in a form that's reasonably speedy to deploy. I've settled on a Shimano. You already know Shimano right? that they make good bike kit, and you may know that they apply the same innovation to the fishing biz; But what you may not know, is that there is a virtual analog between the two industries and that Carbon, Aluminum, and Shimano stimulate growth in both camps using un-rivaled engineering.
I won't pretend to know what all of the initials on my pack-rod mean, but I will show you a picture of the pole and the bag to get that sorted. And so there is sits upon my carbon handlebars nested in an ingenious case with my faithful Abu Garcia reel, and a tiny steel box for lures, and leaders. The venerable king of the collapsibles. A true grab-n-go rod for the novice, or the seasoned casting rod pack kit. If you don't travel everywhere with a collapsible or inflatable canoe in your trunk, that's perfectly fine, but if you could... would you? I for one won't generally tote a .22 on my bike, nor a Glock, or a set of rabbit traps, or Golf clubs, but what sport aligns itself more astutely to rolling about the countryside than fishing?, and what you do with your pole is entirely up to you. But you can't use one if you leave it at home.
This kit is tiny, light and well protected, and can be slung simply on a bike or back-pack, and can actually be with you when you amble upon a stream, or lake. Unlike your DSLR, that you left at home for the third vacation because it's "too bulky", "too risky for where you are traveling", or "not water-proof", the pack rod shown here is adventure worthy, and can be wielded, and baited in a few minutes simply enough for a couch-bound stoned-teenager to find it simple. Anything more difficult or large would be impractical and likely remain at home. So when I get to the lake or see a stream en-route, I fantasize about catching the big one, and although Most of what I may catch is decidedly not... I enjoy the added speculation the fantasy affords. If you get this pole and combo it with your favorite reel, be sure to bring a bobber, or even a cork, or stick, to float out a bait, while napping. It's serene and relaxing to chill beside a pond, and soak the sun, and you will thank me when you have forgotten the moment for a spell, and wake to see your bobber dragging below the drink, with no effort whatsoever -- "Fish On!". A piece of tent line for a stringer, and a pocket knife can resolve the finest trail-side meal a spare hour can invent. If you never take the pole out, it may be that you are having too much fun, but when you need a reprieve from a gusty day on the bike, and you can align your breathing with the shallow lapping tides of a breezy pond, what lay below the surface, could save a dull day, or even you life, if you can't find that hamburger stand.
So as it happens, we depart, and often we lose ground when we fixate upon the arrival. Getting there is the journey by the way. And while the arrival time may vary, the trip will surely un-hinge if our only concern is only our arrival time. Surely I like to be prompt, and also enjoy making some schedules, reserving time for assorted activities. Everyone enjoys their free-time differently, and some more than others -- But it is never as fun to keep schedules, as it is to dispose of them. When we were young and traveling by car everywhere, (for the economics of it), we were sure of a few things, and one was that there would be fighting, complaints, and a breakdown along the way. Today we travel more by plane, and this allows all sorts of new opportunities, but It is almost always certain that something will go wrong with the connections along the way. In the world of economy air-line travel, it is almost inevitable that a plane will be late, a connection missed, and an arrival time will lapse without you there. Where travel used to be about the next roadside attraction, and a long meal with pie and coffee at a diner, Today's weekender has become a power-bar and a magazine while you postpone dinner hoping to get there instantly as if by galactic transport. You won't though..., and your trip knows that you will be better off coming to terms with delays before encountering them, accepting delays before the inevitable disappointment comes to bear. We travel to get places today, instead of collecting memories, stories, and friendships en route. I'm not much of a talker, but you will find at the core of the lonely passenger, the tendency to "tune out". Virtual removal from seat 26A seems to be the cool thing to do. The guy across from you wearing shades on a rainy day, wearing noise cancelling headphones, and discretely straining to act detached, as though there were no other people in your giant aluminum cylinder. We evolve some of this behavior, so soon everyone seems to disdain the person next to you, striking up small talk. We put on the shades, and headphones, not to enrich our world, but to press mute, to pause the action until we arrive in our destination. It's a bit like trying to get out of the bathroom without touching the door handle. We leave no trace of ourselves on the plane, as if committing a crime where the only evidence we drop is a piss and some single serving wrappers. Sometimes we rush to get to a place where we just sit, or stand, as in a golf tournament, or on a beach. It's ironic to rush to get to a place to relax. It's odder still to admire the douche who is passing off the farce that they can leave Chicago, and arrive in SFO and not speak to a soul, leaving no mark nor conversation, tuning out everyone as un-clean. We race to get there, and forget to be anyplace, even where we are heading. I'm guilty of wanting to be left alone with a fiction. We are doing more in less time, and think the French have it all wrong, when they can sip a half ounce of espresso for an hour. Americans have less vacation than nearly every western nation, and some in the east. We do things fast and cheaply. When we need a pen, we buy a pack of twenty and drive 15 minutes to the warehouse store to get it. This is a decay. Some people run the Pacific Crest trail in an "Ultra" race to do it the fastest. So suffice to say I don't really know what slot that ball fits into, but it's a bit misshapen.
Well as schedules go it's generally always bad to rush a trip. A Bike Trip, even an overnighter may steady the sails, and help to ground ones restless wanderlust, but when time is constrained and you are going nowhere fast, you will arrive both exhausted and disappointed. It is likely best to shorten the course and enjoy the ride.
Several Hours later I would arrive in the woods, passing no taverns along the way. I did however get pulled over by the state sheriff, for ignoring a detour which would have added 1 more hour to my trip. Wide detours are no problem in a car, but to segue many miles when the path is literally a smooth 20 foot slab of pavement under a highway overpass, is silly. He said I trespassed through a work zone, rolling my bike The equal to walking from ones living room into the kitchen. Forbidden, by a cone, and a barrier, that the cop happened to sit upon in his car, whilst touching up paperwork for radar infractions. The cop stopped me for continuing under the highway, which although marked, "closed" became his little private troll pad, where he waited to gun speeders, and likely surf porn. The Cop pulled me over because he didn't like me in his space. He told me that he would have to issue a ticket for $180. because I "broke the law". ON MY BIKE? I was now being threatened with a ticket, although I'd explained that with the headwind and my next destination (over a hundred miles ahead), the detour seemed unreasonable.
"Fuck this guy", I thought, and I'm sure he thought the same -- as everyone does, who sees a loco bike-packer riding some place instead of just buying another fricking car. Our distain was mutual, although I offered that (I), "wouldn't do it again, but that "..."I needed to make up some time, and the detour was far to long to make my schedule". Wait... Wasn't I just waxing nostalgic about the journey, and not being in a rush, and why being able to "give in" to the ebb and flow of the journey would enrich the experience? Yep, that was me. Hypocrite!
So I offered to pay the ticket, recognizing that I'd broken the law, and also had lost my place in my audio book, with a drawn out discussion. I was now ready to pay and carry on. He was bluffing. He likely did have a statute handy that I violated, but I was not willing to straddle my bike under his overpass, calling his bluff. Paying the fine would have liberated my mind, and released me from his idiotic threat. I wanted to pay the ticket truly, and when he absorbed that, he rescinded, saying, "if you are caught again you will get a citation". "Yes, (I thought) I will", as I imagined doing the very same thing on my return trip. The portly Trooper pulled forward to clock another speeder, fast food wrappers on the passenger seat, as I slipped silently out of his overpass into the headwind.
It would be another few hours before I had arrived at the woods, which was good, because I got to meet a nice cop along the way, and have a lovely chat.
When I got to the Park entrance, I waited behind a two-ton Cummins diesel truck, at the park gate belching black smoke from two coffee can tail-pipes. They were paying the entrance fee, and I was next in line. Generally I would slip past, but I have more respect for the Rangers, than the cops, and my registration (if required) would perfectly punctuate the point for why the giant 2 seater truck with nothing in the bed, should pay 20 bucks, and would not.
I grabbed a trail map, sighted the campsites, and the lake, and broke out my pole and a snack. As I ate my bar, I'd imagined a fish on my line and a hot lunch in moments. Nothing bit, except the wind, which rippled across the lake. I took a few casts with a few lures, and saw nothing. No eager spring fish starving for my Mepps spinner. I cruised to a weedy spot, and rolled around the empty lake sighting no nibbles, just some pangs in my own stomach. The prairie, had just participated in a controlled burn and looked very spartan, like napalm in a rural village. The surreal burnt environment made for a less welcoming respite. Beside the cool lake, the howling wind and my hunger were bending my mind toward another destination. The fish were hiding, and the brown would turn to green a bit more each day, but something was off here, where everything was scorched, like a wasteland. The temperature was lower behind the cloud veil, and the sun seemed filtered, and less intense. I pulled my phone out, ignoring several updates, and checked the weather. It was now April 13th, and my lovely Saturday would be followed by falling temps, and precipitation. Duck and cover, or ride the storm out? What should I do? One can never rely upon a forecast, so I checked several locations, nearby, some within reach and some further out, to see how localized the imminent front was. It seemed confirmed that we would have a pelting. Today lovely and verdant -- Tomorrow, it all goes to shit. Still hungry, no fish. Scorched earth, and accumulating clouds. The way back would be fast, really fast, with a gust directly behind me. When you trudge up a sled hill you get to slide down, and when you climb the rock, you get to rappel. So if I wanted to bail on this overnight, I could surely get that Cheeseburger, with nothing but 55 miles and scorched earth to show for the effort.
I'd even get to tarry with the State patrol again, this being the only way back to my base-camp. I was looking forward to the challenge.
I explored the terrain, and meandered for a while. Water spigots were still off, and the firewood was spartan. And so I bailed. I left and sailed back roughly the same route, but nearly double speed. I'd face inner defeat, and the same sheriff. I headed east to may previous campsite beside the big lake. I found a gastropub along the way, and I sat at the bar beside a 10 year old kid in a Karate Uniform, doing Fractions. I ate something considerably less gastro, than pub, and rode the final 15 back to camp-site One, where I pitched the tent and read. The next morning the wind howled, and the clouds were swollen with water which misted and seemed to spray from all sides. I packed in the gear, and lashed it to the bike as thicker flakes accumulated. The white winter witch was back, to remind everyone that Spring comes with baggage. This Bitch was now snowing in earnest, mid-April erasing any verdant patches with cold wet crystals, I was gathering white on all of my sharp corners. We had spring last week, as I recall, with a few days in the 60's and now It looked like a Christmas Story. As I balled my hands in the gloves, I was falling out of love with my overnighter. I had to keep the fond feelings packed away someplace in my head, while my psyche faced the upset of accumulation. I rode toward home through a real snow-storm. Homeward bound in thick sticky mid April snow. I struggled to keep the wheels beneath me, with sloppy wet shifting snow, steering me off-course. I rode in spite of Spring's rage, and thought thankfully about the conspicuous lack of wind. The gusts had subsided, and now it was only heavy driving snow. I was miserable, like Bukowski in Post Office, facing the worst hardship of any letter carrier ever... I wanted sympathy, I wanted a reprieve, and a relaxing weekend. I wanted Spring to start so bad that I'd rushed her into something without consent. By the time I got home, soaked through..., 5 inches had fallen. I peeled off my kit, and dripped onto the tile staring out the window in disgust.
Spring is a cruel bitch. You can set yourself up on a date with her, which may be a date with disappointment. As races go, when you are going the distance, and going for speed (as it were)... If you are not in such a hurry to get there, neither you nor she will be heartbroken, as you collapse in a wet heap.
I changed my l'attitude, took a hot shower, sliced some limes, and made a fresh mescal margarita, then I read a magazine while another 3 inches fell.
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.