Bullet points 6 and 7 of my 12 goals for 2012 were: “Complete a self-contained cycling tour with Hannah Houts” and “Take part in an extended cycling event with Dora Houts”. While a lot of other goals were complete or well in progress, these two were eluding the three of us. Hannah had landed a full-time job for the summer (and kept her part-time one as well), and life had generally stretched Dora and I as we tried to keep our quartet of offspring where they needed to be each day. So with time ticking before Hannah headed to College of St. Benedict (http://www.csbsju.edu/) at August’s end, it was now or never. We decided to go the Grant Peterson route and catch an S24O (http://www.rivbike.com/Articles.asp?ID=245 or http://www.bikeovernights.org/) to PoncaState Park.
Friday morning, Hannah and I loaded our rigs. She on the best looking of the bikes in our stable: the Surly Long Haul Trucker in Blue Velvet, and I on the faithful Specialized Tricross.
Each of us made our commute into work and rendezvoused with Dora at day’s end.
The evening was perfect: temps down significantly from the oven that had been baking us for weeks, blue skies, and a slight tail-wind. The riding was leisurely leading up to a 3 course dinner of PB and J tortilla roll-ups, cashews, Pringles, and an iced Starbuck’s Via at Chief Standing Bear park in downtown Ponca. Now, for desert, Bronco Billy’s for soft-serve or take our chances on the as yet a mystery ice cream that awaited at Cottonwood Lane near the park. Hmmm, 7:50pm. Suppose they’re open until at least 8:00pm? It’s worth the risk, and I’ll sherpa the soft-serve back up the hill for us if we we’re wrong – we’re not, and it’s the right choice. 6 thumbs up for this new oasis – good Michigan ice cream, a welcoming proprietor, and an ice cream-loving geriatric golden retriever – give her some business, folks! Completely refreshed we roll to the park, check in, and decide on waterfront property not wanting to deal with the bathrooms near the west shelter (you Ponca’s Revenge folks know what I’m talking about) nor granny it up the hill to the modern campground. No bugs, many stars, and a little backpacker’s fire to boot — we sleep well.
Saturday morning provides a spectacular sunrise over the Missouri.
The backpack stove provides stick to your bones oatmeal and another round of Starbuck’s. By the way Seattle coffee corporate decision-makers, the instant brew is good, but could we cut the sugar say by 75%? We had planned on moving out early and briskly to get home with a lot of day to spare, but it’s easy to dawdle on such a morning. Homeward bound with some cloud cover and a now slight headwind, our reward for completing this arduous tour: Diamond Thai for spring rolls, curry, etc with Buddy. Let me pronounce Grant Peterson and the other Bike Overnight gurus geniuses! 19 hours of blissfully low-stress and low-budget cycling with my girls. My best estimate is that the three of us spent abouit $48.00 including campsite, ice cream, and groceries (less the Thai at tour’s end). $16.00 each! Let’s see, I think “Practice financial thrift” was bullet point 5. Three-fer!
What did I learn: 1. Less is more – the simple food was great, self-inflating pads are too heavy for this type of camping, a sheet and one sleeping bag are sufficient for a married couple, a tarp and bug net would save several pounds over the lightest of tents. 2. We need a new genre of sport: let’s call it rando-camping. Think Tour Divide style self-sufficient racing but on local geography and over a weekend’s duration (any surface will do: road/gravel/singletrack). I’m already planning the next outing…