Have you heard of the ship of Theseus? It’s an ancient paradox that goes like this:
It is supposed that the famous ship sailed by the hero Theseus was kept in a harbor as a museum piece, and as the years went by, some of the wooden parts began to rot and were replaced by new ones; then, after a century or so, every part had been replaced. The question then is whether the “restored” ship is still the same object as the original.
If it is, then suppose the removed pieces were stored in a warehouse, and after the century, technology was developed that cured their rot and enabled them to be reassembled into a ship. Is this “reconstructed” ship the original ship? If it is, then what about the restored ship in the harbor still being the original ship as well?
The paradox raises interesting questions about the relationship between objects and their identity, and inspired me to create my own paradox, The Trashbike of Las Cruces.
Assume you are biking cross-country and critical parts of your bike begin to break and fall off. Each time you lose a piece of gear you replace it with a piece of trash designed to perform the same function. The question raised is at what point does the bike belong more to the dumpster than to the roads.
While the original Ship of Theseus story is designed to comment on and give insight to the metaphysics of identity, The Trashbike of Las Cruces is more of a rhetorical parable designed to indicate to the reader that the rider is an idiot.
Scott and I hung out for a bit while we were breaking down our camps. We were both heading north from Las Cruces so we decided to ride out together. We were held up for a couple minutes while I changed a flat tire I’d gotten overnight, then headed into town in Las Cruces. We hopped up onto a sidewalk to get out of the way of traffic and my water bottle cage fell off.
Putting my phone back into my phone mount after taking that picture, I realized my phone mount was broken too. The maintenance problems were piling up so I split up with Scott and headed to Walmart to do some parking lot repairs.
I’d like to take a moment here to briefly introduce some of the idiosyncrasies of my bike. Most of my bike is composed of things I got for free or found on the ground. For the sake of brevity I’ll mention only gear that is broken or failing.
- I sewed my frame bag out of a cinch sack I stole from my friend, Paddy. The seam where I attached a zipper I cut off of a lost-and-found backpack is coming apart.
- I mount my sleeping bag to a piece of discarded plastic I found and attached to my handlebars with zip ties. It’s lopsidedness causes my bike to strongly prefer turning right, and has a distinctive squeak on bumpy roads.
- My saddle came off of a bike that someone was throwing away. It’s not a good saddle.
- My handlebar wrap was a donation from someone I met in Florida. I wrapped it wrong and left a distinct golf ball-sized lump on the right handlebar.
- The right water bottle cage on my front fork is now held on only by Velcro. (This is not good)
- The front fender is bent from transporting the bike without the front wheel on. It scrapes the wheel if I don’t regularly bend it back into place.
- The top tube bag from Walmart regularly slides off to either side.
- My improvised pannier clip seems to be working fine so far, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a length of rope and a zip tie.
- The pedals came from my unicycle, and the left one is cracked.
- The front wheel is out of alignment but the spokes are stripped so I can’t adjust it.
- The rider is an inferior model and needs to be replaced.
I was able to restock on food and supplies, as well as replace the two tubes I’ve burned through.
That was roughly my first 15 miles and 3 hours of the day, so I had to find new accomodations for the night. While riding, I saw a sign for Prehistoric Trackways National Park, and since it’s Bureau of Land Management land you’re pretty much allowed to camp anywhere.
It was a cool spot, allegedly lots of people find fossils and gemstones there. It would be primitive camping (no water/electricity) and I had some time left in the day so I decided to ride 10 miles up the road to Leasberg Dam State Park.
Met two other cyclists from California heading in the opposite direction on the Southern Tier. Thanks for the chips and dip MC and Rozzy. Back at my camp I heated up and chugged a can of Progresso Gumbo and retired to my tent.