By Ben |

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on January 4, 2004]

Happy new year! Between the tsunami and torrential flooding in the southwest US, I've been very glad to be on high ground... hope you're all high and dry as well.

Shortly after I last wrote you, a mutual friend of Marisa and her parents and myself flew in from Minneapolis for the holidays. Ironically enough, the Christmas-through-New-Years duration of his visit is what I had originally had in mind for my own stay here in Austin... I'm tremendously grateful to Rich and Gloria for putting me up for six weeks instead! My joints are about 99% painless now, and I'm planning to leave town by the end of this week.

I've made some progress in lightening my load, as the doctor ordered. I already mentioned that I'll be leaving my autoharp here with Rich, who used to play years ago... that's about 12 pounds. I also went to REI and bought a lighter tent. I initially considered the 3-pound, coffin-shaped REI Roadster, but when I got it home I found it was about 2 inches too small for comfort. I wound up with the 5-pound, kite-shaped Sierra Designs Hyperlight instead, which is extravagantly spacious for one person but can be pitched with just one pole in narrow spaces (e.g. the top of a picnic table!). I got a great deal on the tent because it was the last one in stock, and they couldn't find the sack and stakes that went with it, so they knocked 15% off the sale price and gave me a generic sack and stakes for free! Then they bought back my three-year-old tent for store credit! I'll miss it -- it was an excellent two-person, 4-season tent, and it served me well, but I just didn't do enough two-person, four-season camping to justify its 10 pound weight. The new tent is small enough that I hope to be able to fit it inside one of the plastic tubs on the trailer, rather than strapping it on top as I've been doing.

Other items I'll be leaving behind or shipping to myself include my colored pencils and drawing paper (about 1 pound), the cradle for my PalmPilot (light, but bulky), and a dozen or so trash bags (about 2 pounds), so all in all I'm about 20-25 pounds lighter than I was when I rolled into town.

I had been planning to head east via College Station, TX, which is actually northeast of Austin, but then I was referred to a Web site called Adventure Cycling that suggests routes through various parts of the country. Their "Southern Tier" route leaves Austin to the southeast, so I'll give that a shot... it will mean staying with my other Austin friends for two or three nights on the way out of town rather than leaving straight from northwest Austin.

Although there are no ecovillages in Austin, I did contact some folks who are working to start one. It's actually shaping up to be more of a cohousing development than an ecovillage, but some of the more eco-minded members of the group had me over for dinner on Sunday night, and we talked about permaculture and bike touring over some of the best legume-free vegetarian food I've had in years. Earlier that day, my friend Gypsy and I toured the Rhizome Collective, which had been featured in two local newspapers last week. I'll have some photos of the place on my next roll of film, but meanwhile you can take the virtual tour on their Web site.

Happy trails! --Ben