Wednesday, July 13, 2011

'Planned Obsolescence'

Boots. Always a tender subject on long walks. They need to be sturdy and durable, and comfortable, of course - no blisters! - and the soles need to absorb energy. In my experience, it comes down to the soles.

In the three boots I've gone through on the 12,000 kilometers so far, the original Vibram soles have lasted 1,600 to 2,000 kilometers on each set - which is to say that they're worn smooth by 1,600 kilometers, but I've stretched them to 2,000 kilometers through uncomfortable persistence and necessity. In Italy and again in Istanbul, I was able to get the soles replaced with other Vibrams, though the replacements were always far inferior to the molded originals, plus, my feet being small, the one-size-fits-all blank gets so cut down that very little of the tread knobs are left. In Mexico, the disaster of having only cowboy boot soles available for replacement taught me well the key hiking-boot sole feature of energy absorption. Still no blisters, but my feet ached perpetually because of this factor even though the slipperiness of the flat-bottom was never an issue in land of no moisture.

Now I'm setting off for a journey in the high four digits, maybe 8,000 or 9,000 kilometers. I dread the thought of the fatigue my poor dogs will have to endure by the time I reach Morocco. I contacted several custom boot makers to learn more about the construction of this critical piece of equipment. The uppers have always served me well, but the soles are the critical point. What can be done to extend their lives?

'Planned obsolescence' is the phrase of art. The soles are designed to wear out to encourage new purchase. It wouldn't matter if I were to buy boots off the shelf or custom made (though all three cobblers have a backlog of at least a year), the soles are by and large the same. They're never rated for distance, which obviously is a broad variable, but they generally have the caveat that they'll 'last for years'. Months is all I ask, but it won't matter. With the experience of my last four winter walks, I am positioned to say 1,600 kilometers is all I can expect.

'Buy four pairs in advance and ship them ahead to different cities along the route' has been the common advice. Not so easy as that, in reality, especially with this trip coming, how can I know when I'll be to these places, whether there will be a general delivery post, whether the (expensive) boots will actually be there... 'Carry a few extra pairs, then' is hardly more easily followed advice. Boots weigh far more than my empty pack. Even carting along extra soles is a weighty proposition.

In Spain, I'll start off in mountains and then traverse two other ranges. In Morocco and Algeria, I'll walk along the Atlas Mountains... Alas, mountain walks rather demand solid footwear. After that, desert. Maybe I'll be able to get away with sandals? Hopeful, but perhaps not the right thinking to start off. I'll continue to search for a reasonable solution. We can put a man on the moon, but can boot soles made to go the distance be beyond our operational technology? Beyond the economic rewards of sole-makers, it seems.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

If not now, then when?

Despite my efforts to resist the call of the path, I can't help but let my thoughts wander toward the pilgrim trail.

'There are still some miles in my legs,' I told myself not long past arriving in Rome after three months on the trail from Canterbury, 'so I should make another pilgrimage.'

'There's no harm in doing just one more long walk,' I convinced myself after I reached Santiago de Compostela fresh from the three-month journey from Germany.

'Of course a great foot pilgrimage can be done in America, too,' I insisted to myself after arriving in the Peloponnesian springtime following the long and exciting winter walk from Kyiv, 'so I should do one.'

And lately, the thought 'if not now, then when,' has persistently toiled on my mind since I've returned to Denver from my walk to Mexico City even after two months on the Ultima Thule.

Anyone thinking that 'Winter Pilgrim' is already making necessary preparations for a new epic winter walk would be right. I can't seem to help it! I'm called to the pilgrim life and suited for it.


'A little revolution every now and then is a good thing,' said Thomas Jefferson in reference to Shay's Rebellion in New England not long after the birth of America.

Yeah, so isn't the Arab Spring timely for me? Even the possibility that a pilgrim might travel on a US passport across North Africa is enough for me to attempt it. Prior to the rebellions, I wouldn't have thought it possible. I'm now experienced walking across a desert alone and experienced passing through a Muslim culture while on pilgrimage. Timing is everything.

Santiago de Compostela to Jerusalem by way of North Africa.

Mega-epic, if it could be actually be done in the winter 2011-2012.

I'm fixed on beginning in September. At my now-well-established rate of 1,000 kilometers per month, perhaps it will take me until April or May or June...ish. How foresightful those Romans were for creating a network of old Roman Roads the entire distance!

There are layers upon layers of history to be trod upon, of particular interest to a geek like me is the opportunity to visit the Moorish intellectual centers of Toledo and Cordova in Spain; crossing over at the Pillars of Hercules to Morocco; traversing the Atlas Mountains along the coast of Algeria; then there's the Barbary Coast and the remnants of Carthage, Tunisia; okay, a few questions about crossing into expansive Libya need to be resolved by about February when it will be important to me; then Egypt and a short stroll along the Dead Sea to the final destination before the desert gets too hot.

Wow! I'm bubbling with excitement at the thought of it.

With the diversity of this route, only Santiago de Compostela is a place I've visited before. Start with the familiar, then every step is a new one... what will be around the next rock?

I've already gotten the Arabic alphabet under my belt, and of course, the phrase, 'Hi, I'm a pilgrim.'

Much more to follow!

If not now, then when? and afterwards maybe I'll get a normal life again.

Denver to Mexico City Summary

It's already July and I have to put the winter's pilgrimage behind me and look forward. I don't want to let the blog format allow the sidebar information to get lost, so I'm moving the daily progress of the trip from the sidebar to a post. No new information is added:

Denver to Mexico City

12 Jan MEXICO!!! 3431 km
11 Jan Buenavista (Torres), 3411 km
10 Jan Huehuetoca, 3373 km
09 Jan Tula, 3333 km
08 Jan Miravillas (Nopala) 3288 km
07 Jan LLano Largo, 3260 km
06 Jan San Juan del Rio, 3227 km
05 Jan Pedro Escobedo, 3194 km
04 Jan QUERÈTARO, 3158 km
03 Jan Cualchita, 3132 km
02 Jan CELAYA, 3107 km
01 Jan Mexicanos, 3080 km
31 Dec IRAPUATO, 3046 km
30 Dec Silao, 3013 km
29 Dec LEON, 2970 km
28 Dec Union de San Antonio, 2926 km
27 Dec SAN JUAN DE LOS LAGOS, 2882 km
26 Dec Encarnacion de Diaz, 2846 km
25 Dec Aguascalientes - day of rest
24 Dec AGUASCALIENTES, 2802 km
23 Dec Pabellon, 2768 km
22 Dec San Pedro Piedra Gordo, 2730 km
21 Dec Santa Inez, 2703 km
20 Dec ZACATECAS, 2665 km
19 Dec Calera, 2639 km
18 Dec Plateros, 2604 km
17 Dec Rio de Medina, 2560 km
16 Dec Sain Alto, 2516 km
15 Dec Luis Moya, 2484 km
14 Dec Sombrerete, 2456 km
13 Dec Vicente Guerrero, 2408 km
12 Dec Nombre de Dios, 2364 km
11 Dec Montemorelos, 2323 km
10 Dec DURANGO, 2286 km
09 Dec Morcillo, 2260 km
08 Dec Jose Guadalupe Aguilera, 2216 km
07 Dec San Lucas de Ocampo, 2178 km
06 Dec San Juan del Rio, 2150 km
05 Dec Rodeo, 2097 km
04 Dec Abasolo, 2069 km
03 Dec San Francisco de Asis, 2027 km
02 Dec Palmito, 1999 km
01 Dec Ignatio Allende, 1971 km
30 Nov Inde, 1938 km
29 Nov Encina de la Paz 1895, km
28 Nov Villa Ocampo, 1853 km
27 Nov Villa Matamoros, 1813 km
26 Nov Parral - day of rest =)
25 Nov PARRAL 1778 kms
24 Nov Zapien, 1736 kms
23 Nov Valle de Zaragosa, 1698 kms
22 Nov El Faro, 1658 kms
21 Nov Satevo, 1616 kms
20 El Charco, 1564 kms
19 Nov CHIHUAHUA, 1532 kms
18 Nov Molinas, 1495 kms
17 Nov El Peñol, 1461 kms
16 Nov Ojo de Laguna, 1419 kms
15 Nov Rancho San Luis, 1386 kms
14 Nov San Lorencito, 1366 kms
13 Nov Moctezuma, 1335 kms
12 Nov Villa Ahumada, 1,279 kms
11 Nov Rancho Candelaria, 1,225 kms
10 Nov Samalayuca, 1,193 kms
09 Nov Cuidad Juarez, MEXICO 1,141 KILOMETERS
08 Nov El Paso, Texas 701 miles
07 Nov Anthony, 679 miles
06 Nov Las Cruces, 653 miles
05 Nov Dona Ana, 645 miles
04 Nov Hatch, 613 miles
03 Nov Truth or Consequences, 595 miles
02 Nov ...midway between..., 559 miles
01 Nov Socorro, 522 miles
31 Oct La Joya, 503 miles
30 Oct Belen, 479 miles
29 Oct Isleta Pueblo, 455 miles
28 Oct Albuquerque, 434 miles
27 Oct Bernalillo, 412 miles
26 Oct Algodonas, 402 miles
25 Oct Pena Blanca, 380 miles
24 Oct Santa Fe, 358 miles
23 Oct Chimayo, 348 miles
22 Oct Penosco, 324 miles
21 Oct Taos, 299 miles
20 Oct Questa, New Mexico, 267 miles
19 Oct San Luis, 235 miles
18 Oct Ft Garland, 219 miles
17 Oct S of Westcliffe, 187 miles
16 Oct Oak Creek Grade, 164 miles
15 Oct Canon City, 147 miles
14 Oct Cripple Creek, 119 miles
13 Oct Woodland Park, 93 miles
12 Oct Monument, 70 miles
11 Oct Castle Rock, 43 miles
10 Oct Highlands Ranch, 24 miles from Denver
10/10/10 Denver