I decided to do a little S24O bike packing trip on ye olde Surly Krampus and my set of Blackburn Elite Outpost bags. I got to my destination and come night fall, let’s just say it wasn’t an ideal sleeping situation. Wicked high winds and a few too many passing cars and motorcycles made it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Usually I would’ve just stuck around, but I had work the following day and homework due as well.
I made the decision to do a late night ride back home, so we’ll say I took a few hour nap before heading home 😉 Spoiler, I know…still enjoy the video though if you want to see what gear I used!
There’s truly nothing I love more than strapping gear on a bike and going camping. It’s something I used to do a lot more when I wasn’t trying to balance a full time job, school, and a growing list of responsibilities.
FOOD Chicken Ramen (dinner) DIY quick oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit (breakfast) RX Bars (a few in various flavors) NUUN Hydration
DOPP KIT Travel tooth brush Travel tooth paste Sunscreen (spf 50, always) Mineral based FTW Picaridin bug spray/lotion Tweezers (so many handy uses bike and first aid wise) Face wipes or baby wipes Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant (I love the paste, I also believe in trying to smell good when entering public establishments when on rides.) Mini first aid kit with various bandages, travel sized Aquaphor (saddle sore preventative), Ibuprofen, DayQuil, Imodium, and my daily vitamins.
CLOTHING (worn on bike) Liv Cycling Jersey Shebeest Bibs (honestly some of my favorite bibs of all time!) Running socks (Balega and Feetures are my favorite low cut socks. They are super cushioned and last a really long time. Great for multi-sport use!) Giro Cylinder MTB Shoes (comfortable, definitely go a size up! Review to come!) Liv Rev MIPS Helmet Tifosi Davos Sunglasses (camp clothes- packed into small dry bag in drive-side cargo cage) Pearl Izumi Canyon Women’s Short (without the liner) Surly Raglan Merino Wool Shirt (still one of my favorite pieces of gear- thanks again Surly for letting me product test this for you back in the day!) Random T-shirt DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks Lems Primal 2 Shoes (great for packing up small and traveling) Buff (free from an REI women’s cycling event, who doesn’t love free swag?!) (extras) socks Giro Chono Bibs (becoming one of my favorite bibs for the price, also wore on the bike on day 2. I always carry two pairs of shorts because chamois take so long to dry after being washed unless you are in an arid climate.) Large pack towel (can be used to dry off tent in morning, can be used as sit pad, can be used post shower if you so choose. basically just a handy item to have around.) Patagonia Swim Suit (never used, pool was closed at the campground due to bad weather)
I ended up rolling out a little later in the day as there were two groups making their way to Blue Mound State Park. The route from the area of Madison I reside in is roughly 25 miles. The majority of the route is on the state-run Military Ridge State Trail. One of my favorite things about living in Wisconsin is the fact that we have trail systems that allow you to go almost all the way across the state from East to West without having to ride on roads. The Hank Aaron trail in Milwaukee meets up to Oak Leaf and the Glacial Drumlin Trail, which then gets you to Cottage Grove to where you have to ride a few short miles before you hop onto the Capital City Trail, which will then intersect with either the Southwest Commuter path (goes through downtown Madison), the Badger State Trail (runs south all the way into Illinois), or the Military Ridge Trail (runs all the way to Dodgeville, WI).
Scenic Military ridge via my iPhone. The quality kind of sucks because of the compression that happens upon upload on here.
One thing I forgot to mention is that the morning we rolled out was one of the hottest of the summer. It was 90 something degrees and humid as HELL. Three miles into the ride I had strongly considered turning around as I was riding at a snail’s pace, sweating the most I’ve ever sweat on a ride, and felt dehydrated.
I stopped in Verona, a suburb outside of Madison that has a nice rest area off the trail with restrooms and picnic tables under a shelter. I drank one bottle of water with a full Nuun electrolyte tablet. These things are probably one of my favorite bits of nutrition as they have saved my ass over and over again.
Nasty? Yes, I know. After downing another full bottle of water after the Nuun bottle, I refilled and headed out. Once you get past Epic Systems, the behemoth medical software company, the trail is quite lovely. The sneaky thing is about going Westbound is that the trail has a 2% ish grade the entire way, so you tend to feel like you should be going much faster than you are.
My second destination was Mount Horeb. Once you’ve reached Mount Horeb, you know you’re not only close to delicious food, but also the last stretch before you reach Blue Mound. There’s a nice little rest area just outside of Mount Horeb in a park and it’s right off the trail. There are restrooms, a covered area with picnic tables, and water fountains for refilling. It was a much needed respite from the day’s heat. I used the facilities and filled up once again before rolling into town.
Mount Horeb is one of my favorite small towns in SW Wisconsin. There’s a bunch of great, locally owned placed to eat and it’s all accessible right off of Military Ridge. The town has grown pretty significantly as the cost of living in Madison continues to increase and is the home base of the famous Duluth Trading Company. Their new corporate office building is literally next to the trail, along with a new cider brewery called Brix. They also have a bike shop called Trail This right off the path as well!
I always make it a point to stop at Sjölinds, the original Main Street location. They have amazing coffee and homemade quiche. Even if I go to another restaurant to eat on a ride, I almost always stop in after for a sweet treat! This trip was no exception. I grabbed two pieces of quiche and a sparkling juice for fueling up.
At one point I ran into the first group of ladies who were making their way to Blue Mound. I opted to stay and eat on my own in town while they rolled out to the campsite. On my way out of town is when things got interesting. The weather started to turn and there was a large storm on the radar. I had the option of sitting and seeing if I could wait it out in town or could forge ahead and deal with getting rained on.
Sorry for the F-bomb. This is what I ended up riding into outside of Mount Horeb and not quite to Cave of the Mounds. The sky opened up and I got completely soaked while riding. It was actually quite refreshing as it had been so ungodly hot out earlier in the day.
Luckily I made it to a tunnel just a mile or so outside of the turn off to get into Blue Mound State park. I hung out there for a good 15-20 minutes waiting for the storm to pass. The rain subsided and luckily the rest of my ride into the park was manageable.
Blue Mound has a couple of small covered shelters at the bike in portion of the park. This gave our group a nice home base to layout gear, lean our bike, and socialize while we waited for the sun’s return.
Roughly 30min-an hour after my arrival to camp brought in the last group. Bell Joy Ride Madison’s fearless leader Meagan had rolled up in true camp mom fashion with her bike packed to the gills with everything from wine to an insulated french press for our breakfast coffee. Oh how forever grateful I will be for that french press as I left my Aeropress at home for this trip.
Others also brought their share of spiked seltzers, water jugs, portable lights, and other creature comforts that we all benefited from. I have to say, these folx knew how to camp!
At some point we decided to collectively ride down the hill just outside of the park to stop at Blue Mounds Citgo & Grocery. It’s a small store that has just about everything you could need for a night of camping. We loaded up on our snacks of choice, hangout on the porch for a bit while we ate, then rode back to the campsites to make dinner on our little camp stoves.
There’s nothing like hearing the gentle whirring of a circle of stoves boiling water for everyone’s meals. I unfolded my little Esbit stove and used about a cube and half boiling water for my ramen. Most others had some sort of camping specific meals in a bag. I was happy with my little pot of ramen as the sodium was a good replacement for all the sweating I had done on the ride in.
After dinner we sat around and socialized some more. Those of us who imbibe had a seltzer or two while I also passed around my whiskey flask to anyone who cared to take a pull.
The sun was slowly setting upon us and fireflies starting dotting the surrounding meadows and woods. For those who brought camp lights, they hung them from the ceiling of the shelter as we continued to converse. We talked about what nomenclature we used for fireflies or lightening bugs.
We talked about bikes and other activities we do outside of cycling. Each of us knew a few others in the group, but we made friends with some new women we hadn’t previously had the joys of riding with.
After awhile we all started getting ready for bed. Putting on our extra layers, brushing our teeth and doing our night-time routines. We had all made it a point to make camp when we first arrived at the sites to ensure everyone had a good spot and to make sure no one was setting up in the dark.
I got a site to myself that was on a slight downhill. I found two nicely spaced trees and had set up my hammock between them. You can see the photo of my camp as the featured image. I also used my ridgeline to hang up my wet clothes to dry overnight. I was so happy to have an extra pair of socks and bibs for the following day. My jersey had dried, but based off of the experiences of a few of the other riders, their gear hadn’t completely dried. Had we decided to start a fire, they probably could have tried to dry their gear out more, but it seemed more of a hassle to start one than to not.
The next morning we all started moving fairly early. I ended up eating an RX bar and had some coffee that Meagan offered up as she had some extra. It was what I needed to get some energy to finish packing up and rolling out.
A few riders decided to ride straight on through to Madison. Myself, Melissa (a good riding friend of mine), Patty (a riding/crossfitter friend of mine), and Brittany (a friend I met via Bell Joy Ride who later joined my cycling club) also decided to grab food at Schubert’s Restaurant, a true greasy spoon that I grew up going to. I have some relatives who live in Mount Horeb and I have always had fond memories of Schubert’s and am glad to see it still thriving.
We rolled into Mount Horeb and it was PACKED. They had their annual art fair going on and we sure got some funny looks rolling into town with fully loaded bikes and our lycra on, but we didn’t care. We sat down at the Schubert’s counter and ordered up. I made sure to get a chocolate eclair because when you ride bikes, calories don’t count *wink wink* thankfully Patty was willing to take some of that eclair off my hands so I didn’t eat the whole thing. They are huge and amazingly delicious.
After getting sufficiently stuffed, we rolled out and made our way back to Verona. We were cranking pretty hard on the way in because the 2% grade was now downhill. Eventually we parted ways as the group I was with had left from the Verona Park & Ride and I was riding back into Madison to my house.
Overall it was a great trip, rainstorm and all. It made me miss the times that I could just decided to pack up my bike and go camping on a whim. These days it’s a little more challenging with co-managing a bike shop, having a dog, and having a partner who has a somewhat higher ranking position at the University.
It did remind me though to make more of an effort to spend time doing things outside and things I enjoy. It’s also a great way to build community and meet so many awesome people who are in the cycling community here, who I don’t normally get to interact with.
My goal for 2020 is to do a trip to Devil’s Lake either solo or with a group. It’s fairly easy to get there by bike and is much easier to get a site to camp if you bike in as State Parks don’t have any real restrictions on hike in or bike in sites as they do the other camp grounds.
If you’d like to see a video summary of this trip, I’m currently finishing editing one up and will be posting it to my YouTube channel which can be found at YouTube.com/spokehaven.
Freedom- it’s the first that that comes to mind when I think about cycling. Buying my first road bike was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. After high school I moved to Madison, WI. A college town that in the 13 years I’ve lived here, will forever have issues with parking and cramming traffic riddled streets with cars. Cars trying to navigate the tiny isthmus between our two massive lakes.
I found riding a bike to be one of the most efficient and inexpensive ways to get to where I needed to go. I started riding out of necessity more than anything, but it opened the door to some pretty amazing experiences.
My love for two wheels really started to grow when I decided to purchase an 80’s Raleigh Sportif. It was an old 12 speed bike with a step through frame and friction shifters. Having little experience with maintaining a bike with actual gears, I decided to ask a friend to help convert it to a single speed, in order to simplify the riding experience.
That bike took me between my two jobs, on bike camping trips, to commutes to the grocery store, and everywhere in between. I loved it. One of the two jobs I rode it to was at a local bike shop. A friend helped me get a job on the sales floor and it inspired me to sign up for my first ever charity bike ride. Working at the shop afforded me access to inexpensive or even free gear from fellow employees. I was able to purchase my first “road”, technically it was a cyclocross bike, for the ride. I had chosen to purchase a Surly Cross Check.
I picked it due to it’s versatility. I could put smooth road tires on it, I could outfit it with a rack or fenders, and use it for commuting. It fit the bill for everything I needed out of a bike.
My training rides consisted of rides around our beautiful lakes, commutes to my job across town, rides on the Capital City Trail, rail trail excursions, and even let me to do my first really long overnight ride. My partner and I rode to Governor Dodge on Military Ridge and back to Madison.
It became my obsession. All I could think about were bikes and cycling gear. I obsessed over components, what clothing to buy, commuter gear, and getting as many miles in as I could on that bike. I had worked hard all summer to save up for the bike between my two jobs. I wasn’t in school at the time and had been staying practically rent free with my partner in our tiny one bedroom in downtown Madison. It was a wonderful time to start a new, expensive hobby!
That summer we had also completed our first Wisconsin Aids Ride, known as the ACT ride. It was 300 miles in four days across Wisconsin’s famous Driftless region. Each day we cycled a different portion of the state and we camped at local schools at night. It was hot, the hills were hard, but it was incredibly satisfying to get to the finish at the Capitol Square, in the heart of downtown Madison.
Many hours of training, fundraising, and agonizing over gear to bring all paid off for that experience.
It truly changed my life and it’s led me to a passion that still burns within me. I enjoy telling people my story about how I got so involved with the world of cycling, because I started out to it being completely new and absolutely clueless. Yes, it can be intimidating coming into a new activity where you know absolutely nothing, but it’s worth trying it out. You never know where it may take you.
We have all been there and you are never completely on your own when starting something new. Just a reminder as you may be looking to hop into something that is new or scary.
Cycling led me to where I am today and it’s opened my eyes to so many wonderful things. It helped give me the confidence I needed to know that I can make it through something that is extremely challenging. It provided me mental and physical strength I never knew I had and I want to take a moment to reflect upon that and thank cycling for what it has provided me.
It’s a wonderful stepping stone into wellness and I would encourage everyone to give it a go!
I am proud to announce that Spoke Haven has joined forces with Ladies’ Revolution of Milwaukee and the Bell Joy Ride- Madison to offer up a unique, women-trans-femme friendly riding experience for CycloFemme 2016.Participants will have the opportunity to try an overnight bike camping ride with the support of experienced ride leaders from the local cycling community.
Bike camping, sub 24 hour (S24O) outings, and bicycle touring have become more prominent in the past few years with the development and marketing of adventure geared bikes. There’s an increasing demand by women and men alike to find ways to use their bicycles as a vehicle to explore natural areas and enjoy the great outdoors.
The Madison and Milwaukee CycloFemme rides will take place on the packed gravel, Glacial Drumlin state trail. Milwaukee riders will have long distance, 65 mile (one way) route option or can opt to start at another location along the route for a shorter ride option. Madison area riders will have a roughly 30 mile ride option leaving from Revolution Cycles Madison or a shorter 17 mile route option starting from the Glacial Drumlin Trail head in Cottage Grove, WI. Madison area riders will also have the option to forego camping for an out and back ride to and from the trail head.
Ladies’ Revolution, Spoke Haven, and Bell Joy Ride- Madison riders will arrive at a group camp site at Sandhill Station in Lake Mills, WI. The ride itself is FREE to participants, but there is a $5 daily or $25 annual trail use fee for Glacial Drumlin. There is also a $10 fee for anyone opting to camp to help cover expenses of the site.