McIver post-report: A de-briefing on my first bike camping trip of 2021

Camera: Olympus Pen EES-2. Film: Kodak ColorPlus 200.

As you saw previously, I bike camped at Milo McIver State Park on April 14-15. This was my first camping trip in two-thirds of a year, a drought almost as long as the one that fell right before it. I have not bike camped nor toured that much over the past couple years. It was bad enough before the pandemic, the current reality just exacerbated an already dire situation.

As it is, I really, really, really want to get out there more. But because I haven’t done much lately, I sometimes wonder if I’m capable anymore. And that leads to a deeper question: Do I still want to bike camp and tour? As someone whose identity has been wrapped up with bike touring over the past fifteen years, it’s almost an existential question. And it’s a question I have asked myself a lot over the past few years.

Milo McIver was a test: I wanted to see not only if I can still do this, but why. I wanted to see if I enjoyed the experience and wanted more. The fact that McIver wasn’t even my preferred destination would put the test in even more relief. If I enjoyed myself to some degree, I knew that I wasn’t done with touring.

And despite a few setbacks, I did enjoy myself. It was great being in the woods, having my own “in nature” spot for a night. It was nice to get out on the road again, everything I needed loaded on my bike. It reminded me what I find fun in doing all of this.

But I can see that I’ll need to adjust some things. I don’t want every night camping to be a “meh” sleeping experience, so I should look for a new sleeping bag at some point. And even though the ride was nothing big: 25 miles out, 18 back, I definitely felt it the next day. I need to bike more and get my fitness up.

As I get older, the “fitness thing” is just not as easy as it used to be. When I started touring at age 30, I was younger, thinner, full of vim and vigor. I am by no means decrepit now, but I’ve gained weight over the years and have gotten more stiff and less limber. And for various reasons I don’t bike as much as I used to. My baseline fitness has declined. Back when I was bike commuting and doing more rides, I never felt the need to “work out” or “work up” for a tour. Now I don’t feel I can just go out on the road for days on end without warming up. And if I want to do a tour at some point this year, I’ll need to do some warming up!

I think the biggest sign that I’m not ready to give up bike touring is that I still have ideas for more adventures. There’s a list that I’ve been compiling over the past couple months of places I want to ride to, and there was no urge to rip that page out of my notebook after the McIver trip. All the places are pretty much local, as with pandemic still a’ragin I don’t want to go that far away.

I do have a few ideas for actual multi-day bike tours, too. I feel confident that I can make a Willamette Valley tour happen, probably in June, after I get one or two more overnights under the belt. (And more importantly get two vaccination shots in the arm.) It would be nice to do something to/from the Coast as well. What will be tougher is tours to the east: Due to the landslides on the old Columbia River Highway I don’t want to do anything out that way until it’s cleared. And I heard that OR 224 up the Clackamas River into Mount Hood National Forest may remain closed all summer due to the damage from last year’s fires. I had been hoping to do some Mount Hood riding this year, and having that route off-limits is quite the downer. It would also be nice to get back to the San Juan Islands with Emee, but I wouldn’t want to do that until September or so, after more vaccinations and the sumer surge (of tourism) subsides. I also have the itch to get out to far east Oregon at some point.

I really do hope that I can pull of some sort of multi-day tour this year. Bike overnights are fun, but it’s not the same thrill. One thing that I don’t like about a one-night camping trip is how much energy, physical and mental, it takes for me. For some folks it seems like nothing to do a quick s24o: They pack in 15 minutes, ride from work, get up at the crack of dawn, home (or work) by mid-morning. I rarely (if ever) am able to pull it off like that. Any overnight trip means I’m devoting two full days of my life to the adventure, and packing is never as fast and easy as I’d like, even after years and years of experience and refinement. There is also the dramatic shifting of gears: getting in the mindset of touring for one night, then switching back to reality the next day. With a multi-day tour you stay in the “touring reality” mindset for longer so I can get into the rhythm of things. I so desire to get into that rhythm of the road again, where I’m thinking about the next day of tour rather than what I’ll be doing when I get home, and all the things I need to get done there.

But despite any possible setbacks, I am keeping positive. I hope to get out on the bike as much as possible. I really hope fire season won’t be as bad as last years, but there’ll probably be something come mid-July. So that’s an impetus to get out there now before it heats up. I hope you can get out there on some bike adventures of your own!

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