A landmark, a place to focus a quiet fun story, a metaphor.
For a month long bikepacking trip in Sweden and Norway in June/July I rode my main expedition wheel, a modified 2010 Surly Pugsley.
Edgeless days, us and the sky forward. Tonight we’ll belt mouthfuls of Jameson from a .5l plastic bladder that I refill at the wine monopoly government liquor stores in the bigger towns a week apart, but not if we’ve rolled through late. And the talk wanders, floats on thermals from our camaraderie.
The settling serenity is that it’s lost the instant after it comes. What’s left is analog, elemental substance: brown bog grasses, hillocks, snowpatches, refracting droplets, stone.
Lost in a watercolor smear between hilltops and sky until every shard was just a tighter spiral of repetition to a grey singularity. Windblow enough to not be able to hear what’s said, but the cadence and tonal shape is enough, the absence of reference points and yet we’re still here.
Riding the Pugsley in South Africa confirmed its bona fides as an unmatched roughest conditions touring bike. It remains my favorite expedition wheel.
Moving for these days at a racer’s daily pace has given me so much, but the gift is in the freedom to now sweep and unhurry, get blown along by some other force than a plan, and instead just expand.
I feel like a kid on a school field trip that hasn’t gone nearly the way the chaperones had imagined. G pointedly avoids using the word “lost” in spite of convincing appearances.
Levitating atop the smallest gear, clingy traction, absorption into modal blue. Mean little sheep feet have obscured any tracks from the racers ahead but sure as sure that this is the way.
The race is demanding, adventure style with map and compass navigational challenges, massive portages, unpredictable high desert winter weather, a rough track, big climbs.
The bokkie tells me that I’m on the right way, but here—in wind silent floating dream—there wasn’t another.
Jacques explains. “Location” indicates the black townships, we’ve been directed here by that very word on the lips of a nodding woman on the dirt avenue, I’m looking to buy a local SIM card. One story high, corrugated steel, off-rectilinear lots that expand or contract to the hilly contour but somehow still seem tidy, colors sing cheer and that they’re brightly painted itself enough to distinguish the boundaries.
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 […]