First Family Overnight

Destination: Fay Bainbridge Park, Bainbridge Island, WA

Total Miles: 35 miles

Total Time: 28 hours 9:30 am Saturday to 1:30 pm Sunday

The much anticipated first bike camping trip is complete! It was mostly great, with a couple of rough spots, but overall we all had fun. The part that was the worst was trying to sleep in a tent with a toddler. I know this is not shocking news, but when the whole family is tired and uncomfortable, it is hours of total misery. We got through it, and we were laughing it off soon enough.



I’ve heard of people sawing off the shield from the Yepp bike seat legs. It would give us more space to pack, and her feet aren’t anywhere near the spokes with this setup.

The Destination

Fay Bainbridge Park is less than a 20 mile ride with safe roads and a built-in break on the ferry. On the Seattle side, the route was almost totally separated bike trail. On the Bainbridge side, we stayed on 305 as much as possible because there is a wide shoulder.

The distance and the route were great options for our first tour with the Big Dummy, an extra person, and the extra stuff needed for an extra person. We tried not to load the cargo bike too heavy, unsure of how it would handle the island hills. As usual, John made it look easy, and we were proud of how organized we looked. My panniers were bursting open on the trip out, but I was able to rearrange them for the trip back home.

We have been to this campground before and thought the playground and beach were important for a camping toddler. She has to sit still while we are working hard, so there needs to be somewhere she can run around while we sit and watch. I reserved a campsite in the upper loop. All the lower beach area sites have hookups and it was full of trailers and RVs as expected. I thought the upper area would be quieter for us.



The Bike Tour

We departed on time Saturday morning from drizzly Seattle, and we were greeted with sunshine on Bainbridge Island. Last time we rode here, we turned right on NE Day Rd, and all I remember is that I never wanted to ride that road again. So this time we tried going farther north up to Hidden Cove Rd, which worked out better.



Ran into some cruise ship traffic downtown.


Bikes can get off the ferry first, but sometimes it is less stressful to wait to go last so you don’t have a whole boat load of cars passing you on that first hill.


Roomy shoulders on 305.

Our food planning worked well, but I could have used a snack on the ferry and/or an extra turkey sandwich for Saturday lunch. Dinner was tortellini, salami, and broccoli. Breakfast was instant oatmeal, blueberries, and English muffins with peanut butter. We brought all of Ella’s favorite snacks, but we should have packed more snacks for us too. We stuck to one bottle of wine, which was just right.

We had some new gear with us for this trip. We needed the big tent, which doesn’t fit in the Ortlieb panniers, but slid right into the bags that came with the Big Dummy. We got lucky having 2 perfect trees for the hammock, but it packs small enough I think it will be a staple for all future trips. I got a new lightweight backpacking chair just for this trip so Ella would have a place to sit that is more comfy than a picnic bench. It wasn’t the slam dunk I thought it would be, but it’s still coming on future trips. We also carried a bunch of kid stuff including a sound machine, crab pillow, Elmo cup, crayons and coloring book, and we even managed to keep the milk cold.  


The Campground

I do not recommend staying in sites 30-35 at this park. We moved the tent 2 times in search of the flattest area, and we still were not happy with the slope. There was no point in trying to move the picnic table. The whole place was sloped and uncomfortable. We found some nice spots elsewhere in the park to cook dinner and breakfast. But our own picnic table was practically unusable for grownups, definitely unusable for a two-year-old. The chair worked ok for me because my legs hit the ground, but Ella couldn’t sit in it without it tipping over.


It did not appear that anybody in the upper area had a flat spot. I’m sure that contributed to the bickering couples, parents yelling at kids, and quite a few babies crying in the middle of the night. We should have done some things differently for our whole nighttime routine, but the sloped tent made the slippery camp gear and squirmy toddler that much more uncomfortable.


Carried our meals to other spots in the park.

This park has dedicated hiker/biker sites, but I wanted a reservation. The biker sites are down on the beach, and they were really popular Saturday night. They were nice and flat, but not private at all. I was not expecting nightime to go well, so I was also too self-conscious to stay somewhere with people packed in closer together. Use the park map to find the best fit for you. 


Camping with a Toddler

Looking back, this actually went pretty well, and there wasn’t even that much crying. Not too long after we arrived, Ella took a 2 hour nap in the tent by herself, so I guess we got overconfident. We had a really awesome day, and it was hard for her to wind down. We all hopped in the tent around 9, almost 2 hours past her normal bedtime. Sunset was around 9:15 pm, and it took even longer to get really dark. The tent was just too exciting, and she just wanted to walk around and climb all over us. Sunrise was at 5:15 so Ella was awake by 6. I can’t imagine saying “please whisper” more than I did during that 9-hour period. That was, of course, when I wasn’t yelling “sit down”.


Reluctantly relied on the iPhone to keep her busy while we packed up camp.


The morning walk on the beach was a little earlier than I would have liked, but I was rewarded with wildlife. We watched a bald eagle catch some prey in the water, bring it to shore, then eventually back into its nest. We were all cranky, and it started to show as we were packing up. On the way to ferry I reminded myself that last time John and I did this trip we had to stop at McDonald’s, and this whole adventure was actually pretty successful.


We arrived at the ferry terminal with a 30-minute wait. John and I could finally relax knowing the hardest part of the bike ride was behind us, and we loosened up a bit. The ride home was lovely with lots of sunshine and no traffic. Ella fell asleep a mile from home, and then she took a solid nap in her own bedroom while we cracked open a well-deserved beer in the backyard.

What I wish I brought: Ella needs her own sleeping bag, and we were just plain wrong to assume she would sleep next to us under a blanket. For the first time ever, I didn’t bring any games because we never used them before, but a deck of cards sure would have been nice during naptime.

What we packed and didn’t use: We didn’t use the headlamps or lantern because it was Solstice weekend, and the days are quite long in Western Washington. It was a bummer that the sound machine ran out of batteries within 30 minutes of bedtime, but it worked great for afternoon nap.

Can’t live without: Chair and hammock

What’s next: Car camping to figure out a better sleep strategy




Date Night at Fort Flagler

Like I mentioned in the last post, our life changes have made bike touring different. We had babysitters in Port Townsend (aka grandparents), so we adapted. Instead of beginning the adventure from our driveway, we began from someone else’s, but we took the opportunity to go somewhere new. Fort Flagler was 20 miles away, the perfect distance for the first overnight of the season.


New toy: bike rack

The bags felt empty, but we are all about practice, so we loaded up the front and rear panniers with 24-hours worth of supplies. We stopped at Finn River for some cider. They didn’t fill growlers, but luckily we passed The Keg and I, who were more accommodating. We bought some groceries from QFC in Chimicum for dinner and breakfast.




Best name ever

The ride was a nice rolling island ride: not too easy, but no killer hills this time.



We rolled into a full campground with no reservations and got an amazing hiker/biker campsite up in the forest loop. Awesome view of the sunset over the bay.




There is a store located on the lower beach loop where you can buy firewood, snacks, and beverages.



The tent was farther from the table than it looks. The whole site was really roomy and nice.

This was our date night! The campsite was fun, the weather was comfortable, and the rest of the park was a short walk away. We overdid it a little bit, no thanks to the store. We were asleep before 10, bellies full of wine, and no toddler to wake us up. Reveille played at 8 am, followed shortly by the Star Spangled Banner, both coming from the Indian Island Naval Magazine across the bay.



Copied the tortellini and prosciutto dinner from the Kitsap Memorial trip

The ride back home was pretty straightforward, just a stop at the QFC parking lot to eat a snack we already had with us. We saw more bikers on Day 2, but only one group of loaded up tourers.


Obligatory coffee on the beach photo. We ran into some deer on the beach and had to head back to the main campground.


The first overnight tour in a few years was a total success! I know I was smiling ear to ear the whole time. I loved the ride, the park, and it just felt good to do an old hobby again. Now we have practiced, located all our gear, and we can start thinking about where to take the little one.

What I wish I brought: I had everything I needed for this trip, but we had lots of extra space. It would be great to get some sort of chair for trips like these.

What I wish we passed on: That second bottle of wine from the camp store was not a great idea. It was a date, and we were having so much fun, it is so hard to resist. Maybe one bottle of beer or a candy bar would have been a better choice. DSCN1173


Rainy Night in Poulsbo

We have been generally lucky with weather on our bike trips. I attribute this to our diligence in checking forecasts from multiple sources and studying radar patterns. Alas, this is the Pacific Northwest, and sometimes you just cannot escape the rain. We set off on this overnight to Kitsap Memorial State Park armed with rain jackets and a tarp because a little drizzle doesn’t scare us.

The ride to the park was pretty unremarkable. I was a little wobbly at first, not having ridden my bike fully loaded in over a month. John, as usual, makes everything look easy. All the interesting stuff happened at the campground.

The Interurban Trail was deserted on another gorgeous Saturday.


After the week-long tour, we both ceremoniously tossed our stinky gloves into the trash in Centralia. On that same day, something weird I still don’t understand caused my sunglasses to melt. Now I have some new purple sunglasses and purple gloves that match my purple shoes!


I got another new toy too. This thermometer is from StemCAPtain. Now I can know exactly how cold it is when I complain about my fingers going numb.


The view of the Olympics over Hood Canal from the beach at Kitsap Memorial State Park was beautiful.


The campground in general was really great. The restrooms were the best I’ve seen.


The three hiker-biker sites were separated from the main campground. They were quiet and roomy.


Even though we brought a tarp, there were no good trees to use to tie it up. Instead we used the tie-downs to make sure the rain fly was nice and taught. Just in case.

While we were setting up camp, the University of Washington pep band was announcing the arrival of the newlyweds at a wedding reception in the nearby Log Hall.

For this fully self-supported trip, we packed the fanciest dinner yet! Tortellini, prosciutto, and basil from the garden. All on a table cloth! There were even s’mores for dessert.


After dinner, a full round of Play 9, and the wedding DJ was done for the night, it was time for bed.

The rain started around 1:20. It didn’t just drizzle, it poured. The noise of the rain hitting the tent and the constant worry about a leak made for a sleepless night. It stopped early in the morning, but everything was wet.

After packing up the tent, we realized it worked pretty great at keeping us and our belongings dry. Maybe next time I will worry less and sleep better.


Our picnic table was soaked. We ate breakfast in the covered pavilion. We usually identify the pavilions before we go to sleep in case we need to run to a dry spot in the middle of the night.


The view wasn’t so clear Sunday morning, but the water was glassy smooth.


On our way back to the campsite after pavilion breakfast, a lady gave us this bag of tomatoes. She lives nearby and usually gives them to the camp workers, but since they weren’t around, she gave them to us. In those 5 minutes we learned her whole life story about living on the peninsula for 16 years, her plantar fasciitis, and her mother in Redmond.


This was an easy little trip. 15 miles to the ferry, a quick ferry ride, and 15 minutes on the other side. The park is right off the main road. No scary hills. The scenery from the road wasn’t that interesting, but the shoulders were generous, which makes for a fast ride. We were away from home for 25 hours. This easily could have been an S24O, especially without the rain.


If you just need to get out, this is a great campground. There isn’t much else to do, so bring some games and marshmallows, and enjoy being outside!


Tolt MacDonald

Overnight to Tolt-MacDonald Campground

  • May 23-24, 2015
  • 76 miles round trip

It was Memorial Day weekend. Holiday weekend trips usually require advanced planning and reservations. That’s when bike camping is so satisfying! I’ve heard that Tolt-MacDonald is a good biking destination for first-time bike campers. I really enjoyed the campground and most of the route. But portions of the route were on busy roads and there was a killer hill. I wonder if I didn’t go the preferred way. I would definitely make this trip again, and I’d say it’s good for experienced bikers looking to try a camping trip, but probably not good for campers looking for a first time bike-camping trip because of the traffic and terrain.

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Belfair 2015

Belfair State Park was the first campground John and I ever biked to. A few years later, we wanted to try it again and see how it compared. First of all, we took a more direct route so that saved some miles and lots of time. The long climb up SR-3 was no problem. It seemed like we arrived in no time!
It was cold again this weekend. The sunny days were comfortable, but multiple weather underground sites reported the overnight low at 33°F.
The whole trip was fun, but I’m going to be honest, the route was not amazing. There are some views of the Olympics, you get to go on the ferry, the shoulder is mostly wide. It’s just loud and busy, and it is far from the romantic back road journey one might picture when contemplating a bike tour. If you want an easy-to-navigate route with a guaranteed hiker/biker site, this works. Definitely a good trip for a test run of your equipment.
All the gear. Only panniers and water bottles missing.

All the gear. Only panniers and water bottles missing.

Kitty didn't want to say goodbye!

Kitty didn’t want to say goodbye!

The Route
Belfair is on the peninsula, so that meant a ferry ride! But wait….before the ferry even arrived, we saw wildlife! I heard sea lions barking, and we spotted the group of about six of them swimming around the bay. I didn’t get a good photo because I actually just watched and enjoyed them while they were closer.


Sea Lions in the distance

Sea Lions in the distance

I like the upstairs galley of the Kaleetan better than most ferries

I like the upstairs galley of the Kaleetan better than most ferries

Last time we attempted this ride, we thought it would be smarter (safer) to avoid SR-3, but we were met with lots of hills and detours that were just not worth it. This time, we took our bikes right on the on-ramp and went for it! The shoulder is pretty decent for this whole route, but there is traffic the whole time. It’s not overly scary, but you have to pay attention and deal with the traffic noise. It is definitely not a relaxing experience.
Olympics in distance

Olympics in distance

Once in Belfair, after a stop for supplies (aka beer) at Safeway, you go a little over 3 miles on the road to the park. This road does not have shoulders. For the most part, cars have plenty of room to pass a bike. Some cars give more room than others, some trucks seem to enjoy intimidating bicycles, but it’s just for 15 minutes, you can handle it with some blinky red lights and patience.


Seriously contemplated if I could haul a bundle of wood on the rack

Seriously contemplated if I could haul a bundle of wood on the rack

I was shocked at the car traffic on this small road on Easter morning. There were a lot of cars leaving the womens prison. John tried to take a video of that, but that’s when the battery died. More on that later.
It was about 50 total miles of riding. We left around 1:30 pm Saturday and returned about 2:30 pm Sunday. Not technically a S24O, but it could be if you wanted.
The Campground
Belfair State Park has 3 hiker/biker campsites that are $12 per night. Since it is not peak season, and there were plenty of open sites throughout the campground, we thought we would upgrade and inquire about a spot on the beach. For those, we would be charged the full-utility hookup fee of $40. We compromised on a standard site for $20. I wish there was a little more flexibility there, considering bikers are low-maintenance campers, but I get that the ranger on duty might not have felt authorized to make that decision.
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Even though it wasn’t peak season, there was a camp host, which means we could buy firewood! After chatting to Gus a little about his history of opening and closing up the camp every year, I’m assuming that there is not a host onsite year round. He was nice enough to give us some extra kindling too.
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In the summer you will see a lot of kids swimming in Hood Canal. The beach was mostly deserted on this chilly April Saturday evening, the day before Easter. I’d love to come back in the fall to see salmon in the creeks.DSCN0191
The Food
The mission this trip was to be fully self-supported for food. Knowing there would be a Safeway and Starbucks 3 miles away, we were ready to pack in all our food and cook it onsite (with the replaced pump for the MSR stove). Full disclosure: we did buy beer and a bottle of water (luxuries) at the Safeway just because we could.
The dinner menu was precooked Johnsonville chicken sausages, some leftover hotdog buns, a pack of ramen each, and some carrot and celery sticks. We lost one sausage to the campfire, but we didn’t miss it. Eating the ramen with chopsticks was really the highlight. A snickers for dessert. 
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Breakfast didn’t go as smoothly. The stove was not cooperative, but in a new way. The white gas kept coming out as liquid. It took John many many attempts to get the burner going. We’re still not sure if it was just too cold or if maybe the stove needs a good cleaning. During the frustration, John grabbed a metal piece and burned his thumb pretty bad. 
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After downing some oatmeal, we took our coffee cups for a morning beach stroll. John stuck his burned thumb in all water or any cold metal that we passed for relief.
By the time we got the ferry, I was starving. I think in the future I would pack something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a morning snack. There is only so much breakfast you can eat before exercising. The ferry had an adequate snack for purchase. 
The GoPro
Still working on figuring out the GoPro. Since the time lapse photos weren’t very exciting, John tried taking a few videos. This one of me riding onto the ferry is kind of neat.

There was another cool one from Bremerton where you could see the aircraft carriers, but the video got lost somewhere during the import process. Learning to use the GoPro and the Mac has been rough….
John was feeling really comfortable turning the camera on and off and starting and stopping videos on the move. But the battery wore out on the second morning. Really? That’s it? Maybe the cold temperature affected it, or maybe it was in standby mode more than John realized. We need to do some more research on this. I would hate to take a dumb video at the beginning of the trip and then have a dead GoPro when we are at some hypothetical cool location far from home we may never see again.
Any advice on battery efficiency?
What I wish I brought: I remembered gloves, but the ones I packed happened to have holes in them.
What I wish I didn’t bring: I packed pretty smartly this time around. I would go for a different flavor of sausages next time though. Johnsonville three cheese Italian style chicken sausage has a really fake cheese flavor when you eat it plain.

Fay Bainbridge S24O

Destination: Fay Bainbridge Park, Bainbridge Island, WA

Total Miles: 35 miles (41 miles for John)

Total Time: 23 hours


It was a weekend of firsts. First overnight tour of 2015! First tour with my new larger panniers and John’s fully loaded front rack. We picked a short one in case there were any gear issues, which means we also logged our first S24O. S24O is the term coined by Grant Peterson for a sub 24-hour overnight bike camping trip. Typically these are supposed to be minimalistic, but we were loaded up!

The plan was to bike straight to the campground and set up, then bike to a winery for a few bottles, drink some wine on the beach with my sweetie, and then play a game in the tent when it started to get cold. That is not exactly how it worked out.

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Shortly after arriving at the park, we were behind schedule and had to prioritize. We were behind schedule so the wineries were closing, and I didn’t have any more uphill miles left in me. John rode to a mini-mart while I set up camp. All the main sites are $22. There are some $7 hiker/biker sites, but they weren’t down on the beach, and there were plenty of sites with a view available on a cold March Saturday.


Now that we had some beer, we roamed the beach, and it was beautiful. Mt Rainier looked amazing, and it was cool to see our neighborhood from across the sound. We live at the top of that hill, only 8 miles away as the crow flies.


I picked up some dinner supplies from a market in Winslow. We found a setup with the dry bag that was the perfect fit for groceries on my rack.


Dinner did not turn out as planned. The stove was busted. We have a MSR stove that has a refillable canister. It has served us well until now. A seal was busted and gas was leaking all over the picnic table. While John tried to fix that, I went on a search for firewood. No luck.

But when I got back, our camp neighbor Chris was helping John investigate the stove. Chris was bike touring too, AND he is a Georgia Tech grad like me! Small world! He saved the day by loaning us his stove. Thank you, Chris! If you are reading this, email me!

There's our hero Chris on the left

There’s our hero Chris on the left

Using the borrowed stove had an extra element of pressure to return the borrowed item asap. We sped through dinner prep, which meant runny Easy-Mac and only cooking 2 of the 4 chicken sausages. It was not very satisfying. Thank goodness John got that wine!

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It got cold fast. It was pretty cozy inside the tent. It’s not often I get to use the hood part of the sleeping bag. It was noisy though. I don’t know if we were hearing the ferry or what, but it sounded like barges were coming right for us, and the waves got surprisingly loud too. We both thought we heard eagles among the many bird sounds that were going on at dawn.

This was the first time that I was pretty convinced the bikes would get stolen overnight. They were chained to the picnic table, which isn’t any less secure than our normal setup. We usually stay at hiker/biker sites, which are typically pretty secluded. This time we were just out there, right on a road. It seemed so easy to snip the cable and throw the bikes in a truck before we could get out of the tent. The next morning John admitted he had all the same paranoid feelings throughout the night.

At about 7 I unzipped the fly and was treated to this sunrise, including 2 bikes safely chained to the picnic table.


After the sun came all the way up, we emerged from the cozy tent and hit the beach again. Packing up took forever with cold wet fingers. The fly was also covered in condensation and took a while to dry out.

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Without a stove to make coffee and oatmeal, we headed to McDonalds. I know this seems lame, but we design these early season trips with plenty of markets, restaurants, and bike shops within a few miles. Just in case.


Now it was just a race against the clock to get home in under 24 hours. We got right on a ferry without waiting, downed a beer on the short 30-minute crossing, and got stopped at an inevitable opening of the Fremont Bridge.


We made it! Our sweet Kitty was excited to see us after her first night home alone. A new fuel pump was ordered within a few hours. It’s 5 days later and the gear is still strewn about.

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What I wish I brought: Beanie and gloves! Luckily John had an extra beanie. I also wish we saved a little time at the market by bringing our own food from home. It’s not like it really saved that much weight because I still biked half the trip (the hardest half) with the food, and took a surprising amount all the way back home. John wishes he brought different shoes that would keep his feet warmer in the morning.

What we packed and didn’t use: Technically, we did use our stove, and refilled Chris’ fuel canister with ours, so we used both of those items. The three travel games were unnecessary. We thought we would have to kill time in the dark before we got sleepy, but there just wasn’t enough room in the tent.