Things Gained, Things Lost; Things Broken, Things Fixed

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.

Things Gained

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 cons​​truction 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

Things Lost

• 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flag that GA used for only a year or two before changing it a second time; thus, I embarrassingly had to fly the outdated flag during my trip.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.