Return of the Pugsley

My Pugsley had been in pieces since I returned from touring South America over a year ago. I left most of the drivetrain, the threadbare tires, and anything else that had reached its end behind in Argentina. Last Spring, I sent out the frame for a repaint and some mods. That work was done quickly, but I hadn’t bothered collecting replacement parts until recently.

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2010 Surly Pugsley frame with original offset fork drilled for a bottle cage and an Anything Cage on each leg, bottle mounts at rear dropouts (instead of hose clamps and yielding capacity for six bottles: two rear and four on the fork), downtube triple mount for Anything Cage. Canti posts removed. Matte black powdercoat.

Shimano SLX trigger shifters, SLX rear derailleur/ceramic bearing pulleys, 12-36 Shimano HG61 cassette, XT front derailleur, Mr Whirly triple ring crankset, Race Face bottom bracket, KMC X9 chain, original Large Marge wheelset (XT rear hub, Surly front), Larry tires/downhill tubes, Avid BB7 brakes, Thompson post and stem, Easton Monkeylite bars, Ergon GS1 grips, FSA headset, Selle Italia SLR XP saddle, MKS Gripking pedals, King steel bottle cages.

This is right now my go-to expedition cycling wheel.

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Pugsley Mods

(All photos courtesy of Rob English from his news blog.)

The Surly Pugsley proved to be an exemplary expedition bike in South America. Though I remain tempted by Moonlanders*, I expect the Pugs to be the go-to machine for anything properly silly. There were a few things, however, that I wanted done for future missions to make it more suitable for carrying water and gear (cf., Cass’s Troll), and I finally got around to sending it to English cycles. These mods were surely embarrassingly brainless for Rob, who builds exceedingly clever and innovative machines, including my folding 2-9 and my road race bike.

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White Mountains 100 Race Report

One
Tremble frigid, but thinking it in unfluid blocks stumbles far short of the cutting, the blades in your lungs, the warning away pain and strain in moving such that a warm pocket in your clothes might bellows inhale the cold. Exit the car when there is enough activity to confirm ten minutes to go, now at the start line with skiers and fidgety runners, distracted distraction joke with Parsons and Jill and Aedmo, but a little closed the way it always is before a race, even one that you didn’t conceptualize as it but instead as something perpendicular with a built in urgency.

Then there’s the last hug from the one who got you there, not just there then but where and here and now in its completeness so very high up, atmospheric inversion for eight nine ten seconds, emotion replaces physiology, you touch a voice that will be in tonality and hue for the hours until the finish line when it will return fully again like waking up.

Two
That sensation, even if only pain, is coming back to fingertips insists that I’m climbing, skiers that I’ll see loathe later when I’m pushing yield to a quick three alarm off camber trail edge pass. Revolutions into the future minutes, they don’t bother though the interference from spatiality does.

Soft snow concentrating for traction, touch on this blown powder long gone, I’ve done, what?, two winter rides in the last two years?, but didn’t think didn’t wish technique would elude me so thoroughly. Correct pressure, posture, cadence, grip, lean, all splashing question marks. On my ass again yelling at the powder myself the Pugs the trees. Walking post holing. In a hiking contest then can’t get enough optical resolution to see the textures before me. Blowing flakes across I give up I keep going. Slide on ice, hip and elbow drill bits dulling against the milky iridescent blue. My stream in conscious intentional and I can’t let go no matter how much the want doesn’t want itself.

Three
Four or six hours ago, did I drift into blue shadows?, there were landscapes the beauty! where am I! wishing to compose photographs or poetry, instead I’ve been in a civil debate or negotiation with ambition for awhile. I shrug I snap back I say the truth I tell a dozen lies I think the best and the worst I exhale it away I still can’t loosen my grip or its grip on me. Funny how the race got so far away ahead during the discussion. My bare hands are sweaty inside the pogies.

Peanut butter in tortillas, chocolate, dried papaya, hammer gel that I planned to not pair with perpetuem so I wouldn’t mistake this for preparation, trying to fool the shards, Pringles, raisins, why the fuck, are you kidding me, am I out of Starburst?

Checkpoint, say someone’s name and number. If I go in might stand there a second so don’t. Kick clip back in, fishtail away into half a sky bright blue half grey hard menace.

Four
For the first time I feel a hint of it welling up, I taste propane in my throat, the frustration of sideways again, now off the bike having misjudged the edge of the soft spot off the compacted but still churning center so swimming thrashing scooping myself up. I do nothing, I don’t focus on it but know it’s there, everyone who politely passed me, was it everyone?

There are the matches, that was daft to leave them in plain sight like that, I keep not reaching for them, it’s far too late to come out of this thermia. The person I’ve been arguing with, yes, it got a little sharp at times and we resolutely don’t apologize to one another, he’s holding one poised next to the friction paper with a raised eyebrow. I shake my head as I see the flash and the hissing flame is tossed into my gasping mouth.

All the emotions, excepting accepting all of them, you’ll have to Phoenix them together later. I combust implode into anger.

Five
Sixteenth hour of having been. I know all the places where I’m broken so I don’t look there, turn turn darkness absolute zero gone for a good span now.

Last descent, light and line and there, I stop and hold was held.

Many thanks to the organizers for a terrific, beautiful, and impeccably run event.

Carretera Austral Afterimages

Freeze thaw hissing breathe head down shielding body mood against hypothermic rain hours. Or searing piercing spike sunpunish heat sweat burn. Reflectance surface spectral anger froth ocean retreating to grey infinities. Men on horseback wearing berets without irony. An impossible green textured fern dazzle. Racing old testament pestilential cloud of paperclip sized flies. Grit dust choking blinding blinking through a car truck working memory. A lunch watching women and men drinking lager with the meal completely normally. Realizing it’s 5pm with 70k to go to time a ferry right, tension my seatbelt for high speed air guitar and karaoke practice. Entropy glacier crack carve landscape and hearts. Time through circles in linear spatial movement.

Codes in the moonglow’s shadow’s hours and above.

These two weeks.

Villa O’Higgins to Chalten

Villa O’Higgins, a proudly end of the road town, angled cooked dirt streets desert thorny plants growing along paths linking the tiendas, the horsetack shop, a panaderia, a smart looking new community activity center. Curious, on surface empty but folks hiding from heat or the appearance of bustle, the border beyond and across no mans lakes and glaciated cragtops witness to the imaginary boundary between Chile and Argentina. I book passage on the two ferries for the next day, return to the hostal with cyclistas and mountaineers loitering against the boat schedule, each eyeing the other friendly cautiously suspiciously across the sport divide, climbers not nearly as cool as they hope and cyclists far dorkier than they realize. Swiss friends roll up in the afternoon, we drink tea and beer alternately, talk about nexts or who we are returning to and when.

Ride to the ferry in the morning, the Swiss guys leave well before my chronically late to my best intention start, worry that I’m going to miss it so put the foot on the gas and it takes the duration of “Swim to the Moon,” well in time. Ferry drops me off solo — the boys doing a glacier tour and turning it into a two day border jaunt — passport stamped and I climb into the woods. Once over the country line this is the section people talk about pushing their bikes through, it’s proper singletrack like riding in Flagstaff, rocks twists loghops stream crossings. The Fat Bike bikepack setup howls brash confidence through these kilometers, I’m grinning at the familiar but five months dormant feeling of being on a mountain bike ride, find rhythm and then I’m for kicks racepace, fifty five minutes of what the absurd conservative warnings said was a two to four hour effort. Get to the next dock in time for the 3:00 ferry but it’s full so wait for the 6, on the other side find an easy gravel pedal past breathtaking Fitzroy and into Chalten.

Wide boulevard, young and old walking with poles glacier glasses 40L packs and those eurostylee pants with black panels on the knees and ass over khaki. I zero in on pizza and porter and watch another pink splendorset.

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Chile Postcard

Arrive Tranquillo, a place, not the disposition though that, too. Hot, bright, rundown lakeside. Encounter Francis with a curious trailer setup and an even more curious bicycle.

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He’s traveling with Philippe who also has a precarious looking homemade trailer, both from central France,

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and they have recently been riding with Baptiste who has been on the road for two years.

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They’re psyched about the Pugs, we laugh and joke and trade anecdotes. How strange it is to be on this two wheel superhighway after Peru and Bolivia. The Carretera is filled with cyclists and a ringing contrast to the earlier isolation we’ve faced for so long. These last days are the first time that I’ve passed riders and just wave to them, not stop to talk because I know there will be a dozen more over the day.

Invited to camp. I contribute a 2 liter carton of wine to their 3 liters.

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We get very jolly. We celebrate home, Francis because of 29ers, Phillipe because of New York City, Baptiste because of Alaska where he started. We celebrate theirs, my love of Paris and the Pyrenees, of Merleau-Ponty and Mersaults and Looks confessed, it’s all simpatico, we’re cooking potatoes in the campfire, argue the merits and the fundamental Americaness of sporks. They’re not shy about lapsing into long spans in their home language, I appreciate that, they are three and there should be no other presumption, I try to keep up with my two forgotten high school years.

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A older French couple with impossibly stylish haircuts and strong glasses from the site down the way hear the French chatter and show up with Anis, soon we’re all in a decent low orbit. We joke, but it’s ominous, about the time we’re likely to get started tomorrow. We tuck into the second two liters, my French gets much better in my imagination, but not according to the gang; what do they know? We eat grapes and chocolate and wine for dessert.

Later the gloves come off and they mock my soup in a packet with pasta avocado and tomato meal, dinner that with some of my past travel companions would be haute cuisine — theirs looks, um, better — but I make merciless fun of the enormous loads they are carrying in order to have their frenchie gravy and fancy vegetables and we laugh into the starlight and darkening sky.