Often, important to our journies are the things we bring home and, sometimes, those we leave behind. Here is a list of the physical things that came and went during my trip through the Deep South, as well as those things that needed a little extra attention. The ‘Things Gained’ list is restricted to things, other than food and inner tubes, that I acquired and carried for a while.
• Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, first edition published in 1901: given to me by Charlie Thompson of Tuskegee, AL after a conversation lasting well into the night • A new sleeping pad, sleeping-bag liner and stuff sack: Montgomery, AL • Bottle of generic Advil for my aching knee: Selma, AL • A florescent yellow construction safety vest: given to me by Susie and Brent Taylor in Mt. Vernon, AL • A florescent orange safety vest: purchased at Wal-Mart in Gulfport, MS • Uniform patch from the police department in Gramercy, LA • New set of Armadillo ‘puncture-proof’ tires: Baton Rogue, LA • Rain covers for front panniers, ordered online after getting soaked on the way to Selma and mailed “General Delivery” to small post office in Batchelor, LA where they were waiting for me when I arrived
• I sent a number of things home via mail to reduce my payload weight, including a jacket, a pair of jeans and couple of books
• Cheap sleeping pad: not lost, per se, but enthusiastically stuffed into the trashcan outside of the sporting goods store in Montgomery, AL
• Aforementioned florescent yellow construction safety vest: blew off of my parked bike (I think) in Biloxi, MS
• Pair of biking gloves: outside a McDonald’s in Gramercy, LA
• U-lock: beside police station in Gramercy, LA. Probably still sitting in the grass there.
• Old set of ‘puncture-prone’ tires, not lost but abandoned: Baton Rogue, LA
• A bungee cord: mysteriously vanished somewhere
• Front pannier compression straps: I cut them off because they were annoyingly flapping in the wind
• GA state flag: I actually threw this away somewhere in MS. You will recall the controversy in the Peach State a few years back stemming from the fact that the state flag contained the Dixie stars & bars. When I ordered my flags from an internet company, they erroneously sent me the interim flag that GA used for only a year or two before changing it a second time; thus, I embarrassingly had to fly the outdated flag during my trip. Perhaps a sign of Southern politeness: not a single person in GA flagged my mistake
Things Broken & Fixed
I was lucky in that, apart from flat tires, I had only minor problems related to equipment and gear.
• A curiously high number of flat tires, caused by punctures, pinch-flats, torn valve stems and a broken valve stem
• A cracked water-bottle holder; still works
• A snapped bungee cord that almost hit me in the eye (I had brought two replacements (bungee cords, not eyes))
• My first-aid kit container, which was a $0.99 plastic pencil-box; irreparably crushed in a fall
• Pedal clips so caked with sand from the banks of the Mississippi River that I couldn’t get my shoes out of the pedals, causing a fall beside a swamp in LA. Promptly cleaned with a toothbrush
• Bent rear derailer, caused by me when I ignored my better judgment and sat the bike down in the bed of a Good Samaritan's pickup truck with the rear wheel removed but the heavy panniers still in place: in front of Wal-Mart in Tuscaloosa, AL. Seems to have bent back on its own, or either I’ve gotten used to it.
Overall, I definitely learned that deliberate planing and gear selection is critical to having an enjoyable ride that is sustainable over weeks and hundreds of miles.