Have you read Volume I? In that post, I talk about the route, itinerary, and highlight some of the favorite spots. This is Volume II where I will get back to talking about bike camping, and what went right, and what I learned.
This was our longest tour to date, having been on mostly overnighters. I would say weekend tours are our specialty. Usually a weekend is all the time we can spend away from our full-time jobs. Weekend trips also provide lots of opportunities to try new gear, new routes, and any other new ideas we come up with.
We can handle two days and one night of bad weather, lousy food, and not sleeping. But seven days away from home meant we had to take a few things much more seriously than we usually do.
Most of the bike touring blogs I’ve seen are from people on really long trips. These people usually ride a few days and then have a rest day that often includes doing laundry. Without a rest/laundry day, we had to pack seven days worth of riding clothes and a variety of evening clothes. Camping in the northwest includes big temperature swings, so a variety of layers had to be packed. I was surprised how often I wore my down jacket that I packed just in case.
About 50% of our volume was taken up by clothing. We both had different strategies of organizing our clothing into separate stuff sacks. By the end of the trip, I wasn’t putting my dirty clothes into any sacks because it packed more efficiently shoved to the bottom of my panniers. What is the point of constantly pulling a sack of dirty laundry out of the way to access something you need more often?
I have a confession. I almost never pack a toothbrush for an overnight, and I usually don’t use it if I do. This wasn’t a really a good idea for a week long trip so I packed my toothbrush. John bought a fold up travel size toothbrush that fit nicely in sack of other toiletries. I wish I did that. I lost my toothbrush to the depths of my bag for the first few nights.
I also have never showered at a campground ever before this trip. We each only showered at one campground, but it was glorious! The bar of soap and microfiber towels were worth carrying for this one shower. The $4 flip flops came in handy for a lot more than just showering. I think I will bring them along to all trips from now on. The alternative to showers was Purell wipes the other nights.
Traveling on Highway 101 meant that we were on the main road around the Olympic Peninsula. If there was a store or restaurant, we would pass it. But there were still many stretches with no services. We were also concerned about eating somewhat nutritiously in order to sustain our ambitious cycling schedule.
The new purchases made for this trip were a larger fuel canister and a plate. You might be surprised to hear that we never needed the large canister (the small one lasted the whole journey), and we constantly talked about how much we loved our plate. We boiled water 5 times for dinner or breakfast, which didn’t quite use all 11 ounces of white gas in the small canister. The plate was used constantly at campsites or other meal stops as a clean surface for preparing food or setting down food or utensils. The plate will now always come along. Next longish tour, we will just take the large 20 ounce canister. We can also be more confident that the small one will easily take care of us for a weekend.
We came stocked with most of our snack food: trail mix (which got lost until the last day), Kind bars, fun size Snickers bars, carrot and celery sticks, almonds. We each also had a stash of energy snacks (Cliff Shot Bloks and Jelly Belly Sport Beans) just in case, which we both desperately dug into on day 2. Otherwise, a typical rest stop was at a market with Gatorade and Snickers.
Any time we stopped to buy some food, we tried to think ahead for at least one more break. This led to a short-lived obsession with beef jerky. Meals out we tried not eat anything too heavy. Camping meals were all some combination of PB&J, ramen, precooked sausage, potato chips, and a maximum of 2 beers.
Breakfast plans depended on our riding schedule. When we felt like there was enough time, we made instant coffee, PB&J and/or instant oatmeal. If it was going to be a long day, we packed up camp quickly and got coffee and muffins out on the road. On Day 7, Gray’s Harbor had no coffee shops or markets so we stopped at McDonalds.
Sleeping in a tent is generally not comfy! Overnight trips while sleeping next to another sweaty person in a backpacking-sized tent is definitely not comfy! If you want a great night’s sleep in a tent, long distance touring will solve that. John and I both slept great the whole trip. No complaints. My only advice here is that if it is warm, try being creating with your rain fly. You may not need it at all, or if you still want some privacy, just keep the doors tied open.
Have you ever been hangry? Have you ever been hungry in the middle of a workout wondering how you could possibly continue? Both of these have the potential to be serious problems on a bike tour. We were prepared with plenty of food, but you sometimes have to remind yourself to stop and eat it. I know that sounds silly, but it is so easy to feel like you are almost there and not want to stop.
On one of our very first tours we biked for two long days down the Columbia River Gorge. What I conveniently left out of that blog post was that I was sobbing on the side of the road about 10 miles from home. My body and my brain were just done. We learned a big lesson and now make a point to take frequent breaks. It is tempting to push hard at the end of the day. It might seem like 10 miles is “almost home” when you are riding 60+ miles, but that is still one whole hour of exercise (i.e. the longest most of us exercise on a workday).
Our strategy was to start looking for break spots about every 10-15 miles or 1-1.5 hours. Here are some spots we ended up at.
Stop and Smell the Roses
This week long trip was our summer vacation. On a weekend trip, I usually feel rushed. Saturday might include some exploration, but Sunday is usually a race to get home in time to unpack, do a load of laundry, and make dinner. Even though our schedule didn’t allow for any side trips, we tried to take advantage of being in new places and taking in whatever we found along the route and at the campgrounds.
Below are some photos of interesting spots we saw.
The trip went off without a hitch. Not a single flat tire. No injuries, no crying. It almost seemed too good to be true. Being prepared really does pay off. Now that we’ve had a taste, we want more! Too bad there just isn’t time to do everything, but we can start dreaming of the next trip right away!
What I wish I brought: Nothing! We both had everything we needed. I will probably pack and organize differently next time though.
What I brought that I didn’t need: Once again, I brought too many games. I packed cards, a mini cribbage board, and Pass the Pigs. I would still take at least one game on future trips, but this trip we were content reading a few pages of our books before bed. There were a number of emergency supplies that were never used, but I will keep lugging them around.