Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bike Camping Adventure

Last Supper On Saturday, we had the (maybe not so) brilliant idea of biking to Blue Springs State Park to camp for one night with some friends.

Because riding 40+ miles in the middle of the day heat is apparently not enough torture for us, I ran 11 miles that morning at 4:30 am and Jason spent a few hours helping with the mountain bike park clean up.

When I got home from the run, I showered, packed our gear, ate breakfast, and took a nap. When Jason got home, we walked to Graffiti Junktion for some lunch, loaded up the bike trailer, and headed out just before 1:30 p.m.


Because we had to carry everything we brought with us, we only brought the necessities. We were not camping alone, so we could have sent extra stuff with the others, but we wanted to try to be as self sufficient as possible. We skipped a lot extras we'd normally bring for added comfort, such as chairs, sleeping bags, and the air mattress. We improvised a bed with blankets and towels, and used our bags of clothes inside the pillowcases as pillows. It turned out to be a lot more comfortable than expected, and certainly a lot lighter and compact to haul for 40 miles :)

Here's what we brought:

My comfort bike with grocery bag pannier

Camping Gear loaded on bike trailer
I rode my comfort bike and carried a grocery bag pannier with snacks (granola bars, gu gels, bananas), bike repair kit, and wallet. We both wore camelbaks with ice water, plus extra bottles on our cages. I attached a case to my camelbak to carry my iPhone and camera.

Jason hauled the bike trailer attached to his mountain bike with the following:

small tent
I think its supposed to fit 4, but really it fits 2 comfortably with extra room for our stuff

small plastic bin - camping/cooking supplies
  • first aid kit, flash lights/glow sticks, bug spray, hand sanitizer, 
  • skillet, metal cooking utensils, lighter, garbage bags, ziplock bags, napkins, paper plates, plastic utensils
  • can corn, can beans, peanut butter
  • inflatable pillow, pump (for the air mattress that we did not bring)
big plastic bin - bedding, clothes, food
  • 2 pillow cases, 2 sheets, 2 towels, camp blanket, poncho
  • bagels, bread, small cooler with veggie dogs, veggie brats, veggies in foil, and jelly
  • a change of clothes, underwear, socks, bathing suits

The Journey


Bridge Crossing

View from Bridge

our gear and bike trailer

the truck that rescued us!
We used Google maps to find a suitable route. We opted for a longer route that kept us on trails most of the way, and it was great for the most part. We took the Cady Way Trail to the Cross Seminole Trail, then cut across Tuskawilla to shave off a few miles. We averaged 13 mph for first 17-18 miles, which was faster than I planned. That plus the heat was really taken a toll on me, and I wasn't even hauling all the cargo! I was glad when we took a break at the Environment Center to refuel and cool off around the 20 mile mark. I've ridding the Cross Seminole Trail before, but had never stopped here before. It's gorgeous!

I was already exhausted at this point and was seriously questioning my sanity. The heat and humidity was absurd, and I simply could no longer maintain that pace. Our pace started a slow decent during the 2nd half of the trip, and I must admit it required more mental toughness than I expected. I had ridden this distance and similar before, so I did not think it would be a problem, but it was cooler last time and I had not run 11 miles prior to biking. I was so tired and achy towards the end that I felt like crying, but I pressed on somehow. It's possible that this was more mentally challenging, or at least as much as running a marathon.

We got our first and only honk at mile 29 after we turned left on Oregon St from Rinehart Rd as the lady in the passenger seat of the car that passed us on the left lane advised us to  "find a bike path." I just laughed and commented that at least we made it 29 miles before that happened. Around mile 38, Google had us turn right onto Dutchman's Bend Rd, which is a narrow sand road and things quickly went from bad to worse. I guess the "enter street at your own risk" sign at the intersection on W Highbanks Rd should have been our first clue. The sand was so bad at places that we had to hop off our bikes to walk a few times, but I was grateful for the break. When I was on the bike, I just got in a low gear and rode slow while continuously chanting "you can do this" and "you are ok." It's amazing how much a little positive affirmation can help.

We "rode" this perilous rode for about 3 miles before we realized we had missed our turn. I was ready to just pitch our tent in the nearest patch of grass. We turned around and found the "road" Google wanted us to turn into, Magnolia Ave, was non-existent. It was a narrow service road inside the park behind a "no trespassing" gate that was mostly sand and overgrown grass. It was barely driveable, let alone bikeable.

We called for an assist, but no one answered, so we began walking for about a mile. It felt like a death march as we walked under the hot sun and I risked a twisted ankle with every step. I seriously started thinking about what I would do to survive if we got stuck out there, when our friends called! It took a little while for them to figure out where we were and come to our rescue. Thank god one of them had a truck to haul us and our bikes back to camp. I really wish I had taken some video or photos of these roads, but I was just too tired and irritable at this point to think straight.

Once we made it to camp and got some food, I felt much better and I slept great that night. I still felt really worn out the next day and was glad we did not have to bike 40 miles back home. Our wonderful friends made room for us, our gear, and our bikes and drove us home. We promptly when out to dinner then spent the rest of the afternoon/evening lounging around. I was too tired to even blog or upload photos :P

Lessons Learned

funny face Even though we had to be picked up, I would call this a success because we did bike 40 miles and make it to the general area with all our camping gear. We would have made it there by foot eventually, and certainly could have made it with better directions. Yes it was tough, but I would do it again, maybe in October, with a better route.

I learned that we could camp with a lot less gear than we thought, and I think we could have been fine with even less. Comfort on the campsite means less comfort on the ride there, so we have to make some tough choices, but camping is not about comfort; it's about adventure and stepping outside your comfort zone for a bit. That being said, I think things would be a bit different in the winter, but still manageable.

I want to try this again just the two of us at Turkey Lake, since it is only a 10 mile bike ride, to see how we really do with minimalist supplies and no friends to bail us out. Granted, this park is not as isolated, but it would still be a great experiment.

One thing is for certain, me and my body can handle a lot. I love the person I have become who was even willing to give this a try. Two years ago I would not have even considered it, let alone want to try again.

View all photos on Flickr

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