Wednesday, August 17, 2011

When I First Conceived of Bicycle Touring

Last month I went on my first overnight bike camping trip. I rode roughly 75 miles on back-to-back days, riding out to just past Harpers Ferry, WV and back. It was something I’d thought about doing for some time; I’d started thinking about doing this specific trip a couple months after I first started riding again a few years ago.
My bike and tent set up on my recent overnight bike trip on the C&O Canal

In a larger sense, though, I think the very first inklings of such a trip were born when I was still a teenager. I remember going to the beach with my dad in the Sandbridge area of Virginia Beach. At the southern end of Sandbridge, the paved road ends at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. South of that is False Cape State Park, which sits on the border with North Carolina.

According to the state parks' official website, there is “[n]o vehicular access.” (By “no vehicular access” they mean cars. Bicycles are technically vehicles, just not motor vehicles, but I’ll let that little legal technicality slide for the purposes of this post.)

Anyway, back to my story. My dad and I went on almost yearly father-son camping trips from the time I was a little kid through the end of high school. Our camping trips were always car camping trips. We went to local state parks in Pennsylvania when we lived there. We went to places in Virginia, North Carolina, and later in upstate New York and even Qu├ębec.

False Cape State Park is not accessible by car. That meant our normal car camping modus operandi would not work. False Cape SP is, however, accessible on foot, on horseback, and by bike. I think it’s maybe 10 miles or so to the camping area. I had the idea that my dad and I should sometime take our bikes to Sandbridge and ride to the park’s primitive camping area by bike.

(Primitive Camping and Beach Views at False Cape State Park, from official Flickr page)

I didn’t figure out any specific logistics and I wasn’t yet hip to the world of racks and panniers and all the things that can make bike travel easier and more convenient. But we each had a mountain bike, and I figured for an overnight trip we could probably get everything we would need (a tent, a few cans of food, toiletries, and maybe some water) in a couple backpacks. Incidentally, the tent I thought we could use for the trip is the same one as in the picture above. I’ve had that thing since I was probably eight years old. Still works! That’s all we’d need.

While I know it probably would have worked, that trip never did materialize. That’s probably because by the time I had the idea, I was already in high school and working summers. It may have been one of the summers that my work schedule kept my dad and me from taking a camping trip altogether. Even if it wasn’t I don’t think I ever mentioned the idea except perhaps in passing. Now, though, I realize that what I have come to know as bicycle touring or bicycle camping is something I wanted to try almost twenty years ago. And even if it took nearly two decades before I actually took a trip involving a tent and a bicycle, I’m glad I finally did it.

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