As the calendar now says “It’s autumn, for real, now” and the pouring rain outside my window tells me that the carefree days of summer are now a memory, now is a good a time as ever to think back about my 2014 Camping/Touring Season. True, I may still get in an overnight or two before it really gets cold/wet/dark (though I did camp on Xmas Eve last year) for the most part it’s over.
And I can’t help but not be a little depressed and disappointed.
2014 has shaped up to be my “weakest” touring season since I started touring in 2005, almost ten years ago. Every year since then I’ve been able to get in at least one good one-week tour. This year wasn’t the case. Part of this is because I shot myself in the foot when I scrapped the planned September tour in Central Oregon and replaced it with a smaller Three Speed Tour around Seattle and Snoqualmie Pass, one that didn’t exactly go as planned. (I still need to write more about that one.) Besides overnights and the aforementioned Seattle-Snoqualmie Tour, the only other multi-day tours I did were the August trip around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, and the Labor Day trip to Cape Lookout.
This might be the point where you go, “Oh, Shawn, come on. That’s quite a bit. I haven’t gotten in anything more than an overnight since the Bush years.*” And I get it. But as someone who loves to tour, and who gets about two weeks paid vacation a year, I see it as squandered opportunities. Granted, I used one week of vacation to go out to Minnesota for the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour, and that was a worthy endeavour, but not a “tour” in the general sense. The other week of vay-cay went towards the other Three Speed Tour, which as stated, didn’t turn out the way I hoped.
The big problem is that I really want to do a longer tour, something more than a week. And as the years go on, the list of places that I want to tour increases, seemingly exponentially. So touring season is over, and I’m thinking of tours for 2015 and beyond. And I get anxious.
I’ll get a little more vacation next year, but not much more. I already want to go back to Lake Pepin in May, so that blocks out at least another week. I work in an industry that prevents me from taking time off in the middle of summer, so I try to tour in the shoulder season. But that’s iffy when you want to do a lot of touring in mountains and such. Anything more is going to require real time off. Thankfully through work there is the option of doing a sabbatical of up to two months. The big catch is that I can only do it during the off-season, meaning winter. That limits touring opportunities quite drastically. Sure, I can spend beaucoup cash to fly to Australia or New Zealand, or attempt the Southern Tier. But what if I really want to do the Great Divide or Great Parks North, or go back east and complete the Cross-Continent Tour?
Anyways, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s get back to this past season. One thing that has worked remarkably well is bike setup, especially in regards to the Bridgestone XO-3, the bike that served as my primary tourer for 2014. As I’ve said before, I was a bit nervous about touring after selling the Long Haul Trucker. I talked a bit about this in the Islands-Sound Tour recap, but it nice to get my setup down to front basket, frame bag, and saddlebag. Lighter weight touring. But by no means “lightweight”. It’s still about 30-ish pounds of stuff. I could whittle down about 5 pounds of this, if I want. The key is “if I want”.
But I’ve definitely pushed against the limitations of the XO-3. I’d really like something with fatter tire capability, especially since I want to do more off road touring. Theoretically I could use my “mountain bike”, the Raleigh Crested Butte, but the slack geometry leaves me a little wanting. I could always find another early MTB with tighter geometry.
Or I could do something else.
But that’s all speculation for the future. A future touring season. I hope to get at the bare minimum one more overnight trip in before winter really sets in. And I can plan for the future. A future that will be more fruitful.
*You can choose which one it is.
I enjoyed following along on your adventures. Interesting to hear that touring is “over”. I’d love to get back to Lake Pepin, but it’ll depend on my vacation budget.
Meanwhile, in other places, the outdoor season is just beginning.
Yeah, now you can finally ride a bike during the middle of the day! 😉
Just to clarify for those who don’t know me well enough: I don’t stop cycling or doing bike adventures during the “off season”, but the impetus to do overnights is severely diminished. This past year I’ve chipped into the “winter” months more than I had ever before, with an overnight towards the end of October 2013 (and it did frost that morn), an overnight on Xmas Eve, and then did my first overnight in late February 2014. And hopefully I’ll do some of that again this season.
But the shorter days, cooler/wetter weather, and especially the lack of open campsites effects everything.
I’ve pondered doing some sort of a winter tour, something with shorter days (40-45 miles), and staying indoors. I don’t mind the riding in the rain and it’s 45F/7C as much as others. It’s more the setting up and taking down camp in the rain, and the long, long nights that stop me from doing a winter camping tour.