I've been fascinated by the Rough Stuff Fellowship since I first learned about the club. Although they seem to welcome all comers, it is a British based organization with a rich history back to 1955. Unless, I can find a north central Texas chapter (anyone?), it isn't clear how much of a fellowship it would be for me, a lone rambler on the prairie.
Until recently, I've been successful in my attempts to not dwell on my fascination with these adventurers too much. Until, that is, the @rsfarchive instagram account arrived, and the Rough Stuff Fellowship Archive book Kickstarter project was launched. With so many compelling photographs and anecdotes before me, I am more smitten than ever.
Those pioneers were going out in rural areas, enduring challenging elements, and enjoying pathside brewups. Without even knowing (until recently) about this previous generation, I somehow found myself following the same path. I am not as hardy or skilled, but I am a Rough Stuff Wannabe.
I imagined myself as a Rough Stuff Fellow yesterday. I rolled out under overcast skies, and temperatures in the mid-30s. My plan was to trace a 35 mile loop west of my home, where the homesteads are more sparse, the terrain hillier, and the roads a bit rougher. Besides general exploration, the outing objective included reconnoitering a new overnight camp spot. The photo above shows the potential campsite. The deep grass in the foreground is a great spot for a bivy. Immediately behind the bike, the ground drops off rapidly down to the valley shown in the background. A sunrise brewup here would be delightful.
My bicycle, with its fatter tires and lower gearing, was significantly more comfortable than those used by the original Fellowship. If it weren't for the modern equipment I had, there were several places I would have been required to get off the bike and walk my way up. I had no snowy mountain passes or knee deep icy rivers to cross. But a serious looking Border Collie gave me that classic all business posture, nipped at my heels, and herded me down the road. An over-playful Blue Heeler crashed into my rear wheel and gave me quite a jolt. Other than the damp, chilly weather, maybe that is the best I can do to imitate my predecessors...well, except maybe for the brewup.
I may not have epic terrain, and I'm not a hardy lad. But I might be persuaded to admit to some level of achievement in my ability to bring civility to my outdoor conditions.
One of the keys for a keen path side brewup is location. On this loop, there is an abandoned bridge, made of a rusty steel truss and wooden planks, that spans a large creek. Getting through the barricades to the bridge deck required a bit of bicycle wrangling. Rough Stuff?
The sound of the riffles immediately downstream, blended with the rustling trees, to fill the spot with song. So I enjoyed the music, sipped from my mug, and warmed my cold fingers over my Trangia stove.
As the hot coffee went down, I reflected back on those who routinely pursued those challenging outings. Then I noticed the mud splatters on my bike and bags. Maybe my relatively tame outing could at least be considered in the same spirit of what they did.
Perhaps we all, whatever our own limits, have the ability to seek the edges of our comfort, and look across to the other side. Even us Rough Stuff Wannabees can capture the moments that are available to us, and share our stories with those on the path behind us.