No matter how old you get, it seems, there are never a shortage of things to remind you that you're but a greenhorn on this mud-ball. Cycling is one of those things that will continually show you where your green spots are. I've recently gotten into touring on bicycle and even after ten or so years and a few thousand miles on a bike, I'm still finding new things to learn about being on one.
A couple of weeks ago I set out on five day camping trip on my Bridgestone XO-1 with three tourmates, Dennis, Seth, and Jason. The plan was to bike to Vallejo and take the ferry back to SF camping along the way. We hit good weather despite the weatherman's curses, and deftly stayed the one night it rained at a great motel.
Day one starts a bowl of cereal and a banana. The weather is great and I'm feeling prepared for the trip. Since we'll be local I somehow feel less worried about forgetting something. Perhaps it was carrying all my crap downstairs and loading my bike that helped. Half a block down the street I began to worry I was taking too much.
After an immediate flat and a tire change, we are greeted with a great pint and rations at Marin Brewing in Larkspur. The riding is great, the weather is too, I daydream about the prisoners at San Quentin; that's gotta be where one would want to go to prison.
We arrive at China Camp bathed in a golden sunset to welcoming campsite hosts. We were the only ones to arrive on bicycle that evening, and while we went mostly unnoticed at first, everyone noticed us as we cruised by them fully loaded, many of them green-eyed, awkwardly carrying with their inflated-in-the-car-air-mattresses; dragging trash bins they borrowed from our camp hosts filled their camping effects.
We're at site 4, a slightly elevated site with a narrow un-even path through tall grass and a small brook to our clearing, great for a dicey end to a day of riding on the road. Dennis and Jason unload and get some firewood. Brad, who had been sleeping on a conference call until late in the afternoon before leaving, arrived just minutes after us. He is welcomed by a smokescreen of whining mosquitos; I was almost certain Brad was going to find a hotel. I hand him my insect repellent (that's a lesson I learned on my last tour). He proceeded to also repel the mosquitos from the inside with a generous dose of Maker's Mark, I guess that worked for him.
After dropping our meat in the fire and a few beers, we put Brad in the tent and headed out for a night ride, down the dicey narrow path over a small brook to the main road. Riding in the pitch blackness without lights is made possible by a couple of beers to impair your judgment and the magic of the human eye. Fortunately we decided that we'd use lights on the way back to camp.
Sleeping in a tent while camping is like a more comfortable version of sleeping on a plane. It's slightly less uncomfortable, but it's definitely not sleeping in a real bed. I understand the aesthetic of sleeping in the great outdoors, but I'll be honest, I'm not hard like that.