I walked into a small independent camera store today to see about getting my Nikon fixed. Things are falling apart. The rubber lens ring flops around like a hulahoop. The focus is erratic, sometimes tack sharp, sometimes focusing four inches in front of what I’m aiming at. The camera even shuts off now and again. I’ve managed to atleast “fix” the last problem with a little piece of folded paper that I stick in the battery compartment to maintain constant pressure on the electrical contacts.

It does not look good. Things are falling apart, succumbing to the natural entropy of the universe.

This is of course only a small portion of things that we have just simply worn out.

Early on in the trip I more or less destroyed a rear wheel. Only about 2500 miles in the trip, I wore a crack through my rear rim. Fortunately, the kind folks at Rivendell built a wheel the same day and overnighted it to the campsite.

Over the course of our trip, our clothes have worn thin, some with holes, some with tears. My IceBreaker long sleeve wool shirt now has thumb holes at the cuffs, a new added “feature.” I had a well loved seersucker shirt that literally shredded at the tail after getting caught on my seat one too many times. We’ve had to buy new cycling shorts since a few pairs have only been a few threads away from the other side of decency.

It takes humans 7 years to regenerate their bodies but apparently it only takes less than a year to completely wear out clothes and have to renew our wardrobe.

I’ve sewn my Keen sandals together with a Speedy Stitcher when it was starting to split at the ankles. I’ve also glued the foot bed down with Gorilla Glue.

Once in Washington, I went to shift the front derailleur and the cable housing actually tore open in a dramatic puff of smoke. The housing had been so sun worn that it just split into several pieces. Speaking of derailleurs, I’ve broken a shifter and cracked another. We’ve snapped about 3 bike chains on climbs. We’ve gone through a few pairs of brake pads. Laura is on her 4th set of tires.

Once, Laura was using her multi-tool to tighten a bolt and it cracked in her hand. Even the things meant to fix things are breaking.

Our tent of a few years started to fail. The zippers stopped closing. There were tears in the mesh. Our sleeping pads have leaked air. I’m currently on my third type of sleeping pad having gone through a Big Agnes, an REI pad and now I’m keeping my fingers crossed the Therm-a-Rest will hold out. Laura keeps adding patches to her Big Agnes, reviving it from the dead with another healthy dab of glue and optimism. Don’t even ask about her pillow. Yes, we are REI members.

I’ve chipped camp knives. We’ve worn out fire starters to their snapping point. All these unbreakable things crumbling in our hands. We’re not ham fisted about our belongings, they are just being put to use day after day.

What is remarkable is that for all the bits of gears and equipment that are slowly failing around us, our bodies have remained fairly resistant. We are getting stronger, gaining endurance and perspective – if only our gear would do the same. Things are falling apart faster than we can replace them, but we do our best – repairing with glue and thread the things we can repair. It is a race against the natural order of things.

When we are in towns, we hope that people don’t notice that the color of our shirts are fading a little and our shoes are dustier than most. This is the great irony of course, when vagabonding you spend a large amount of your time dirty and disheveled. You don the clothes of a pauper for the freedom of a king. And at times, you break down and buy some new clothes off the rack and it feels so luxurious to wear something no one else has worn before and you feel the like the richest person in the world and you forget about the other frayed ends conspiring to become undone.