Monday, September 29, 2014

Finally, the first S24O! Blue Mound State Park

So it's September 2014, and the Ride or Pie?! crew still hasn't ever done a "Sub-24 Overnight" (S24O), the bike camping format "for the time challenged," introduced in a 2007 article by Grant Petersen of Rivendell. The idea had great appeal to us. We have done a good number of multi-day bike camping trip over the years, but they do require a good amount of planning, preparation, and coordination. The idea of the S24O, one the other hand, is that it's possible to just head out sometime in the afternoon, with little prior planning, camp overnight, and be back home in less than 24 hours.
When we still lived in Montreal, we had made several attempts to actually do a S24O, but —ironically enough— they somehow always fell through because we were too busy or something. So it was high time to make use of the last warm days of the year and finally head out there.

The post-mortem analysis of the earlier attempts seemed to indicate that packing all the gear was one factor that had led to failure. It's not really a S24O when you have to spend 4 hours putting lowrider racks on the bike, digging for camp gear in various closets, and then neatly packing it into your four Ortliebs. For that reason I decided to just take along the trailer this time. The trailer is nothing fancy, just a Y frame with a flat deck and rattly wheels, but I figured it would certainly make it through the 45 kilometers from Madison to Blue Mound State Park and back.

Tent, sleeping bags and pads, a towel, and some pillows were just stuffed into an old mail bag and strapped onto the trailer. This left of plenty of space in the panniers for half a change of cloths and cooking gear—no optimization required. The Biketopus only carried one mostly empty pannier for groceries that we would buy on the way. 

Right on time, at 2 p.m., we were on the road. That unfortunately was also the time when the Badgers football game ended, and there were throngs of people dressed in red everywhere. Soon, however, we were past that and on the bike path towards Verona. The new extension of the Cannonball Path seems to get close to completion, but for now we still had to take the detour on the US-18 frontage route. After that section, it was 100% car-free bike trail all the way to the State Park.

The weather was terrific, and there was even a bit of a tailwind to compensate for the gentle uphill. We were going quite fast, and probably a little too fast. I had forgotten to bring any on-the-road snacks, and at some point first signs of bonkage appeared. By the time we arrived at the Grumpy Troll brew pub in Mount Horeb, there sure was some grumpiness to be had, as evidenced by this picture:
Grumpy troll biketopus

A pint and some cheese curds later, we continued the last 10 kilometers to our campground. To our surprise, there were already several other bike campers at the site. Dinner consisted of beans and Tofurky sausages cooked on the fire pit. Because it was so warm and the sky was clear, we decided to leave off the rain fly and watch the stars before falling asleep.

 As per usual, I didn't sleep that well and got up around 6. This gave me plenty of time to turn the damp firewood into a nice morning fire and prepare coffee, tea, and oatmeal.

Unwilling biketopus is unwilling to get out of the tent...

...but breakfast and sunshine make everything better.

Moi, in my usual morning cheerfulness, especially with a cup of coffee
 Breaking down tent, as everything, wet and dirty or not, was stuffed into the mail bag.
Sunrise plus turning leaves: Awesome colors

Back in Mount Horeb, we stopped for a second breakfast at Schubert's. And after pretty much exactly 22 hours we were back home in Madison. Full success!

So I think we have this S24O thing down now. The one improvement I'll make for the next season is to buy a huge tote box, in which we can store all the camping gear and that then I can just strap onto the trailer. The mail bag worked okay but was a bit difficult to strap down, and the storage box should also further reduce prep time.

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