My Own Personal Sisyphus
If you don’t want to read, hit the play button, and I’ll read it for you in my raspy, tired old voice.
Monday, October 3, ?2016
6:30 a.m. Tamariah Losmen, Siantar, Sumatra
Sleep is such a funny thing. When I was in the middle of the stress and horror of trying to find a sponsor and complete the paperwork for immigration, I slept absolutely fine. Today, all I have to do is ride my bike down to immigration for an interview – which is something of a formality – and yet I was so focused on this that I couldn’t sleep at all. I also experienced a series of stress dreams. I have these all the time. They are all different yet follow the same pattern. In these dreams, I am trying to leave from where I am and go somewhere else. I only have a couple of simple tasks to accomplish before I can head out the door, things like put some papers into my knapsack or insert a key into a lock. However, in my stress dreams, I can never do these things. I try and try and try, but small problems keep cropping up. The problems don’t always make sense in this dream world and the situation is quite fluid and keeps shifting, but no matter how long I work at it and how many different things I do in the dream, I make no progress and new obstacles constantly pop up. It’s my own personal Sisyphus situation. These dreams are exhausting.
Yesterday was a day of errands. I began with what I talked about yesterday – testing a new arrangement of my cycling gear. It was a successful test as far as these things go. What I did was simply remove the two pannier bags from the equation. I set aside my sleeping bag, sleeping sheet, mosquito net, and tent to go on top of the rear pannier rack. Those big, bulky items come to 8.5 pounds total. Note that in my usual configuration, the pannier bags alone weigh 8.5 pounds, and that’s when they’re empty. It’s just empty weight.
Then I took all of my other gear – clothing, camera lenses, tools, spare parts, stove, food, toiletries, electronics, etc. and put it all in the trailer. And it fit easily with tons of room to spare. So I’d call that a successful experiment, assuming that by putting my laptop in the trailer I don’t break it. It also means that I would have to unzip the trailer whenever I wanted any item at all that wasn’t in my handlebar bag. There’s no real way to tell how much of a pain that would be without doing it. Off the top of my head, I don’t see that it would be a big problem. I originally kept my pannier bags for four reasons: 1. To provide a safe place for my laptop and camera gear. 2. To make it easier to access certain items during the day. 3. To have a bag that I can attach to the bike and carry around with me when I’m in a city for a length of time. 4. To keep dirty items like fuel bottles separate from clothing and other gear.
Based on my experience with the Radical Design Cylcone IV trailer, I’ve concluded that the laptop and camera gear can safely be stored in the trailer. With the handlebar bag, I have a convenient place to store small items that I need to access during the day. As for point number 3, I purchased a beautiful Osprey daypack while I was in Kuala Lumpur. Since I bought it, I always grab it first before I use a pannier bag. It weighs next to nothing, has no sharp edges, and is much smaller and more convenient. The one problem with it is that when you wear it while riding the bike, you tend to get sweaty where the bag touches your back. But this isn’t a huge problem. In every way, I prefer using this daypack. It even helps me feel more secure. With the pannier bag on the rear rack, I always worried that thieves were opening the pockets and getting into it while I was stopped in traffic or in a busy market. The bag is behind me on the rear pannier rack and out of my line of sight while I’m on the bike. The only point that remains valid is #4 – separating dirty from clean items. That remains an issue, and I feel uncomfortable putting my gasoline fuel bottle inside the trailer along with my clothing and electronics. It just seems to be asking for trouble if not a total disaster. Most cyclists attach their fuel bottle to their bike in some fashion. I’ve never done that because I usually use my Trangia, and alcohol is not a dirty fuel. It produces no soot and if it spills, it just evaporates and leaves no odor. Plus, I like to carry three water bottles. I don’t want to use up one of my water bottle racks for a fuel bottle. With this new configuration, I might have no choice, though.
The BIIIIIIIIIIG question, assuming I want to make this change, is what do I do with the pannier bags? I could just give them away and leave them behind. After all, when will I ever use them again? Almost certainly never. I might go back to pannier bags, but I would buy new pannier bags. I’m tired of these bags. They’re just too heavy and bulky. And the front panniers are the wrong shape. They don’t fit my laptop computer. But I’m such a fan of bags that it would break my heart to leave them behind. Not only that, but I love having old bags to use for spare parts. I love having stuff like that so I can chop it up and use the outside pockets and cords and hooks and everything else. But if I don’t leave them behind I have to take them with me as I cycle around Sumatra or ship them to Kuala Lumpur. I looked into the cost online, and it’s hard to say how much it would cost. But it’s safe to say that it would cost at least $60.
The third option is perhaps the most reasonable. And that is to leave the bags in storage here in Siantar – perhaps with my sponsor, Stephani – and then plan my route so that I come back through here on my way to Kuala Lumpur. I would then only have to deal with the bags from here to Kuala Lumpur instead of all the time. I’ll have to think about that. I’ll have to look at the map and do some planning. It wouldn’t really be that big a deal. It just assumes that I wouldn’t be leaving the island of Sumatra. And that’s probably a good thing. If I desperately want to go to Sulawesi or Flores, I can reset in Kuala Lumpur and perhaps fly there. I don’t want to ride my bike all the way across Java.
I had some fun running errands yesterday after I dealt with my gear. My main goal was to buy some more alcohol fuel for my Trangia. I never did that in Siantar before, and I didn’t have a store lined up. I kept a small empty bottle from before that has the local name of the fuel on it. And then I just walk down busy commercial streets looking for big hardware and paint stores. Then I go inside and show them the bottle. I was quite lucky on this trip, and the first place I went to had some of the fuel. Unfortunately, they only had small bottles of it. I need more than that, and the small bottles are much more expensive than buying it by the liter. But I bought one bottle anyway just in case I couldn’t find it anywhere else. But then I found a great hardware store, and they recognized the fuel right away. They sold it by the liter out of a large drum. It cost 11,000 rupiah per liter, and they put the fuel into an empty plastic water bottle for me. Very convenient.
I also bought a lightbulb while I was out. I like to have a lightbulb in my bags because the lights in these cheap hotel rooms can be very dim. They buy bulbs with very low wattage to save on the power bill, and the rooms are usually far too dark. And sometimes the lights don’t work at all. So I bought my own 100-watt bulb, though it was one of those power-saving bulbs that claims to be a 20-watt bulb that produces 100-watt bulb light. Anyway, it is super bright, so it’s all good. I also bought a socket with a plug for the lightbulb. With that, I can put the light into any electrical outlet. I don’t need to use the room’s light socket. And this portable socket has a switch on it. It’s very light and very cheaply made, so it won’t last long, but it cost something like fifty cents.
With all my errands done, I had lunch at my favorite place across the street and then settled in at the hotel for the evening. I hoped to get a good night of sleep and then head to immigration fresh and relaxed. THAT isn’t going to happen.