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.
The Almanzo 100 (aka super crazy, famous gravel race in Minnesota) is a mere 20 days away. Neither me or Keri have had the time to truly put in a good amount of miles in the saddle. In all honesty, we’ll be glad if we finish half of it, but have made a pact to ride until it stops being fun. Whether that’s 40 miles or the whole 100, we shall see.
If we’re taking vacation days and spending money on a hotel room, we need to make sure both of us have fun doing whatever it is we are doing, otherwise the trip isn’t worth while. Fortunately neither of us are really wanting to participate in the race because of it’s “epic-ness”, but rather because it involves riding in a scenic setting with a bunch of other bike lovers. We’ll also be there along with the Midwestern Saris/CycleOps rep to promote the company. Saris graciously donated a heap of product for those who podium in various divisions of the race.
Today we decided to go ride one of our local rail trails to get in some gravel like riding in before the event. Most of our local trails are crushed limestone, but Glacial Drumlin has a section that deviates from the regular trail and has more loose chunky gravel. Having a few variations makes for more interesting riding. I personally haven’t ridden on the country roads of Southern Minnesota, but I’m guessing it’s not all nicely groomed and packed down dirt.
Another reason for the ride was to test our personal setups for the event. Keri is riding her steel Fuji touring bike with a rack and one pannier. I’ll be riding my Raleigh RX 1.0 with a Banjo Brothers Waterpoof Saddle Trunk, Jaand Frame Pack, and a Banjo Brothers Top Tube bag.
Each of our packing lists will include the following:
-2 waterbottles (may bring a third for good measure)
-park hex tool wrenches
-FixIt sticks (w/flat head)
-back up small headlight (battery op)
-hi vis packable vest
-tube of NUUN hydration tablets & probably some Skratch labs mix
-a few packs Clif Bloks w/caffeine in various flavors
-Kind Bars for snacking
-Almond butter packets for snacking
-Road ID bracelet
-Joule GPS cycling computer (as back up, doesn’t give turn by turn directions, but has a little bit of a breadcrumbs feature in case we take a wrong turn- traditional GPS is not allowed, maps and cuesheets only!)
-aaa batteries & 2032 batteries
-small first aid kit w/ibuprofen & antacids
-Hoo Ha ride glide (best chamois cream EVER)
-Go Girl (so we can pee standing up with bibs on…a really awesome invention)
-trowel (we’ll be in the woods)
-cycling clothes & shoes
The list is long and short at the same time. The Almonzo is an unsupported race, so there are no aid stations with food or water on the route. As far as we know there are only 2 possible locations for stopping for food and to refill water. Hopefully it’s not blazing hot or cold and rainy. We’ll have to call for back up if we need to bail from the route.
Overall, I think we’re both excited to be a part of something fun and unique like the Almanzo. There’s about 1300 folks signed up for the race. I’m guessing about 1100 will actually show up, but maybe less. We’ll most likely start at the back of the pack since we’re not looking for glory and the caboose of a ride/race is always more fun over a long distance 🙂