Sunday, January 29, 2017

Another one of those moments

I mentioned in a previous post that on a bicycle tour there aren't too many "this is happening" moments, at least not compared to the length of the trip.

Suffice to say: I might be eating my words, because I just had another one, and I'm sure at least one or two more are coming.

This one happened just today, when I started looking at ukuleles.

I know, I know... who looks at ukuleles? And who cares? Well, the reason this was a big deal to me is because I was looking at ukuleles and not accordions.

I've played accordion on and off -- mostly off, admittedly -- for the past ten years or so. It's been more of a retirement project that I'm getting a head start on than any serious commitment, but I do consider it part of my identity. Accordions match my personality: they are goofy and expressive. I have a meaningful relationship with my two accordions. They don't make music unless you help them breath -- you take their lungs in your hands and pump air in and out and in exchange they make music for you (we call their lungs "bellows"). They have a distinct smell which reminds me of pipe smoke and tweed.

So, I'm attached. And I'm trying not to be over-dramatic here, but if I didn't play accordion for 2-5 years, I'd wonder if I was leaving a part of me to go do something else (of course, "leaving a part of me" probably deserves a post of its own).

However, even the lightest accordions weigh 10-15 pounds. I'd want to bring one that's capable of doing more than a few chords on the bass side, so I'd be looking at about 20 pounds. I expect my total load to be no more than 50 lbs, meaning the accordion would add 40% to the extra weight on the bike. The bike can handle it. But that's a lot of extra work, over 18,000+ miles, for a bit of self-expression. Accordions are fairly expensive compared to other instruments, and a bit more sensitive to the elements: they make music using metal reeds waxed on to wooden blocks. That's a lot of different materials contracting and expanding in the cold of the Himalayas or the heat of the African desert; the wax could freeze or melt.

Ukuleles weigh about 1.5 lbs; a case, 3 lbs. They are much less expensive, and while extreme temperatures are less than ideal for the mahogany, they can weather a desert or a mountain pass much better than an accordion.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I resign myself to the researching of ukuleles and their cases.

This is happening.

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