There were a few noteworthy rides this year that for one reason or another I never did get around to writing about. In typical TuckamoreDew fashion I am going to try to sneak in under the looming New Year’s deadline with a few last minute posts. This first one was never blogged because of an untimely computer failure…and also because of my general laziness since then.
BURTONSVILLE ISLAND NATURAL AREA CAMPING TRIP
Back in the middle of the summer I went on a 3-day group bike camping trip organized by Chris C. of EBC. I was really excited to be doing this as my inclination to try bike touring has been growing with each passing year, but I hadn’t been able to make it happen. Several years ago, I bought my ’83 Nishiki Continental touring bike for that very purpose. One obstacle, of course, is that I have young children and my vacation time is always spent on family outings rather than heading of by myself into the wild blue yonder. When the prospect of taking part in this trip came up, I reflected that in the 12 years since my daughter was born I haven’t taken a single trip by myself, and I reasoned that I could easily justify to myself a few days away from home.
I mostly already had all the gear I needed for the trip and felt pretty comfortable with the camping part of the trip given the amount of time I spent backpacking in the hills I grew up beside. I was perhaps a little unsure about the cycling part, however. I’ve cycled longish distances before, and I’ve hauled loads on my bike too many times to count, but I’d never done both at the same time before. And just because of the way things worked out this was going to be my first long ride of the year.
On the day of the ride, there were nine of us assembled at Chris’ house ready for the 100 km trip out of the city to the camping area. Getting out of the city was something of a chore, but in relatively short order we were on highway 627 and headed West. There could be no route confusion as we’d be travelling in a perfectly straight line over mostly flat terrain for about 60 km before the first turn.
The riding was mostly smooth except for a 14 km section that was being resurfaced. This part was pretty horrible. The asphalt had been roughened and covered with a thin layer of tar in preparation for resurfacing. We doggedly cycled along the bumpy, tacky surface, our tires encrusted with a delightful shake ‘n bake coating of pebbly tar and asphalt. Every so often some of the debris would fly off my tires and race along the inside of my metal fenders with a shrieking noise. We were pleased when we were finally back on the smooth road.
We turned south of the highway and onto Range Road 44 for what I think was the best riding of the trip. There was a climb at the beginning, but then it was mostly a long, swooping descent along a quiet rural road into the soft evening light. The pavement eventually changed to gravel, but it was well-packed and easy riding. At the very end, we were in for a bit of the rough stuff as we had to pedal along a rutted, grassy path to the water’s edge.
As you will have figured out by our method of reaching the island, the Burtonsville Natural Area has minimal amenities. There are very roughly marked trails, and a couple of very basic areas set aside for camping. We spent the first while stumbling through the woods trying to find one of the paths. Dragging my heavy panniers through the brush was the toughest part of the day, and months later my arms are likely still a couple of centimeters longer than they used to be. We finally found a path leading to a campsite and were setting up the tents at nightfall, and cooking supper in the dark. Chris had things well organized and soon had an awesome meal was ready. He kept everyone well fed during the entire trip. I had packed my own food as well, and ended up gorged. I played my travel guitar for a bit by the campfire and a ukulele was strummed as well. I slept well that night.
We spent most of the next day wandering around the island looking for the second and allegedly better campsite. Except for Derek, that is, who hiked back to the bike pile to attempt a repair to this rear derailleur that had malfunctioned during the last bit of the ride the previous day.
We camped another night and headed back the next morning. Hauling our gear back to the bike pile was a lot easier now that we knew where the paths were.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the bikes used on this trip. Our selection definitely leaned towards the vintage, with only two of the nine being new bikes. There were three Nishiki touring bikes (my Continental and two Internationals), a Sekine, a Peugeot, a Kuwahara, and an old Cannondale mountain bike. The two new ones were a Surly LHT and a MEC National. Not shown in the gallery below are the LHT and the Cannondale, as the riders of those bikes headed back before the rest of us.
The ride back was fairly easy: a reduced weight of food was helpful. The road resurfacing had come along nicely during the days we were camping and we were treated to a long stretch of beautiful, new pavement – a great improvement. Getting back into the city felt a bit weird after all the highway riding. We headed back to Chris’ house (after a short stop to pick up a few beer) and flopped down on his driveway, fairly beat. Being a consummate host, he started showering us with food and drink where we were, with no need for us to even get up. A great ending to a great trip.