Thursday, January 12, 2012


I've been thinking about what kind of "goal event" to do this year, and one of the options is a long self-supported tour. It will differ from other tours that I've done in the following ways:
  • It will be really long. Like maybe 1,000 miles all told. Thus, it will probably take at least two weeks.
  • Since two weeks of hotels is expensive, there will be camping. That means sleeping in a tent probably two out of every three nights.
  • Since RandoGirl does not like to sleep in a tent and doesn't get much vacation in her new job, I may fly solo. We will save her two weeks for more plush destinations (i.e., ones that don't require inflating mattresses and fending off marauding mosquitoes).
To be honest, this is something that I have been working up to for a few years -- buying the camping gear when it goes on sale, targeting my bicycle purchases towards something that can handle the load. This is actually why my Lynskey has mounts for a rear rack.

While route scouting last week, I discovered that there is a campground up near Alva, about 65 miles from our home. Since the weather has been perfect (even by southwest Florida January standards) and I had an open "day" in my schedule, I decided to try out my bicycle camping setup by riding up Tuesday afternoon, camping overnight, and riding back Wednesday morning.

I say "day" because I actually had two half-days. Tuesday morning, I had meetings and work up to noon, and Wednesday afternoon I had more meetings. That's how semi-retirement works.

OK, first, for all of the bike nerds that read this blog, I've got to show you my setup.

Yep, that's the DynaHub on the front. I brought my E-Werks to charge my cell phone, although I didn't need it. Didn't need the headlamp, either, but I really wanted to bring all the stuff that I might need. Real-world test and all that.

Does the ThermaRest make my bike's butt look big?

The side view. If it looks back-heavy, it was. Pretty quickly, I decided that I've got to find a way to put a rack on the front of this bike, and move some of the load up there. Any time that I would stand, I had to be very careful not to rock the bike much or it would get more swishy in the back than a hootchie-cootchie dancer. Gee-haw, you betcha!

I took the usual way north, using the bike lanes on Vanderbilt Beach and Livingston. The wind out of the south pushed me briskly along, and I was soon into Lee County.

Just beyond this, I passed a group of cyclists headed north. Two of them were actually not with the rest of the group, and they joined me in riding up to Coconut Point. They were interested in where I was going and what my plans were, and I found myself riding a little harder than I needed to while with them. I enjoyed the company, but was glad to turn off for lunch at Panera.

While parking my bicycle at the restaurant, a lady came by to also ask about my bike setup. Her teenage granddaughter was with her, and she told me that the granddaughter's mother had once done a summer bicycle tour of New England, camping along the way. "You just can't do that kind of thing any more," she said. I hope that she's wrong.

Fed and rested, I was soon back on the road going north. Just past the airport, I cut east to go through Gateway, as I had done a few weeks ago. This route is a little longer, but avoids a couple of truly horrible roads that lie on the direct route.

From there, I picked up the Everyone Rides route through Lehigh Acres and Buckingham. You have to get on the shoulder of Hwy 80 -- a speedy six-lane -- for a mile or so of this, so I took a break and stopped at Manatee Park.

I even went over and looked at the manatees (manati?). All you can see is their noses when they poke them up in the air. They hang out here because there's a power plant just upstream, and this time of year they like the warm water that comes from the cooling towers.

A little further up the road I stopped at Publix and bought a sandwich, snacks, and fresh drinks to go. I jammed all of this into my panniers, and then went up 31 to North River Road. There were all kinds of road markings here.

There are two parks up here where you can camp. The first one has campsites on the river, and they've got a bunch of facilities. But it's $24/night, and I was trying to keep it simple.

As you can tell from the shadows, it was getting late by now. Another four miles finally got me to Caloosahatchee Regional Park about 5:30 pm. I quickly picked a campsite, signed some papers, paid my $12, set up my tent, slathered on some bug repellent, get everything off the bike and into the tent, and zipped myself in. It was dark then, so I don't have any pictures of the campsite. Trust me when I tell you it was very nice.

After calling RandoGirl to tell her that I had arrived unscathed, I finally ate my sandwich and settled in with a nice book. The campground was so quiet that you could hear cows lowing in a field almost one mile away. I laid back and watched 1,000 mosquitoes attempting to batter through the netting of my tent, feeling like Sauron under seige by a bunch of puny humans.

I fell asleep early, thinking that if the forecast was right, my ride back would be against a fierce headwind. Would I make it back to Naples before the rain came? How would the traffic be in the morning? Little did I know that these were the least of my troubles, as the feral eyes of a two-ton brown bear silently watched me from the woods.

To be continued ...

1 comment:

  1. Looks like Max W and Robert Baden-Powell H found a time share arrangement in Florida.

    Perhaps you can work on joining the Order of the Arrow, and participate in an arrow at the same time.

    Since I'm also hoping for some future moderate weather cyclo-camping, please share your good and bad lessons, before I have to learn them on my own.