Staff Camping Trip

Vortices, polar or otherwise, be damned, the BicycleSPACE crew was going camping last Friday. I’ve never been bicycle camping, and when I go backpacking I try to pack ultralight, getting by with only the bare essentials. It didn't go down like that with this round of bike camping because we were rolling deep with a Surly Big Dummy. It took one look at Austin’s cargo bike piled high—tents, cookware, knives of every shape and size, a wooden cutting board, a tool roll, water, a bundle of firewood, beer and food for six hungry dudes—to know this would be relative luxury...

Francis, on his Surly LHT, taking a break from hauling production gear, Jake on his Nature Boy Zona, and Austin on the aforementioned Big Dummy, left the shop before dark, and worked their way up the C&O canal towpath to Swain’s Lock Campground. Austin admitted to bonking a few times, but since he was carrying 100+ pounds of bike and gear up a muddy towpath, there was no heckling his barge-like pace. You don’t heckle a man with that many knives.

After I popped home to throw my camping gear in a backpack, I grabbed by own Nature Boy Zona, and headed over to the towpath to wait for Tony and Adam, on their respective bikes, an All-City Macho Man and Surly Crosscheck. It would have been a little creepy waiting in the dark by Glen Echo, but, luckily, Tony and Adam had multiple Light and Motion lights strapped on their helmets and bikes.  I could see them coming practically all the way from Georgetown, lights over the horizon style a la Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Once they did arrive, we enjoyed mashing away on the frozen mud, lighting up the towpath with over 1000 cumulative lumens: an Urban 400, Urban 550, and a Stella. For reference, the user “Unicorn” at (of course there’s a forum for that) claims that the spotlights mounted on the side of police cars are about 800 lumens.

We arrived at the campsite to a feast that only Austin could have prepared with all of the gear that seemed to spawn out of the black depths of his Big Dummy’s rack bags. Cincinnati Chili cooked over an open fire, canned oysters, and plenty of beers for dessert (don’t tell the park service).  A few nips from some flasks, combined with the effort of riding up to Swain’s Lock, made sure everyone slept soundly—most of us in tents, although Jake, in utter contrast to Austin’s kitchen-sink approach to camping, slept in a hammock and bivy-bag combo that he could fit in his Chrome Berlin.

The next morning was a chilly one, and I for one, found it impossible to get out of my toasty sleeping bag before 8AM, at which time Tony, Francis, and Jake had the unenviable task of riding back into town for a full day of work. A good bit later, Adam, Austin and myself cleaned and packed up the campsite while enjoying some nice camp coffee. Austin, of course, had warm boots on, but Adam and I suffered with frozen toes due to the ample vents on our cycling shoes, until Adam had the genius idea to use the campsite-provided trash bags as toe warmers. We looked a little bit homeless-chic as we rode home with empty trash bags around our toes and beer can filled ones strapped to our bikes. I suppose it’s better to look warm and a little odd than cold and miserable. As someone said, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just improper clothing. In a pinch, the trash bags turned out right proper.  

By Kevin Sundeen, Event Coordinator