The Resourceful Camper Contest
Ken Kifer's Bike Pages has just tabulated the results of its Resourceful Camper Contest. You didn't hear about it in time to apply? Send me a check for $100, and I will try to remind you of the next contest. Following are the stories of the winners of the contest, paraphrased by me. Note that all winners receive a free, all-expense-paid bicycle tour with the following exclusions: 1) transportation of the cyclist, bicycle, and gear by any means other than bicycling; 2) purchase, repair, maintenance, or storage of the bike or any parts, accessories, and attachments of the bike; 3) purchase, repair, maintenance, or storage of the panniers and touring gear or any parts of the panniers and touring gear; 4) food, food preparation, medical supplies, medical costs, personal care, personal supplies, shelter, or any other costs arising from the care of the cyclist; and 5) any payments to individuals or companies or any other miscellaneous expenses that don't fit into one of these categories.
Here are the winning submissions:
Grand Prize -- Tour of the World (see exclusions)
This entry won the Grand Prize due to cleverness and universal usability.
Wolfgang and Kristin Mueller of Munich, Germany, noticed that the shelter used by sewer crews looked practically the same in every country, so they made a tent that imitated one, using lightweight aluminum poles and waterproof nylon that looks like canvas. They also created signs in half a dozen languages (for each of the countries they visit) which warn "Caution! Open Manhole!" and "Danger! Explosive Gasses!"
Now, they can pitch their tent wherever they want to! Nobody ever remembers that there was no manhole located there before, so they camp in parks, medians, the yards of public buildings, etc. If anyone should approach their tent, they have a nice recording of sewer sounds, plus one of them will warn the other of the possibility of poisonous gas in a loud voice.
First Prize -- Tour of Their Country (see exclusions)
This entry won the First Place due to adaptability and profitability.
Charles and Wilma Ogilvy of Canton, Ohio, were bicycling through well-settled areas in the Northeast Corridor on a Friday night, hoping to find some place to camp. The weather had turned cold and rainy, and they didn't have enough money for a motel, but there were no woodlands or empty lots anywhere. The rain started coming down hard, so they turned in at a shopping mall to get out of the rain, even pushing their bikes inside the door, as there was no shelter outside. The shopping mall's corridors were packed with people as there was a major exhibition of all the latest camping equipment. Someone, noticing Charles and Wilma's equipment, commented that they must have arrived late due to the weather, and that no one else had thought of a bicycle touring display.
Well, Chuck and Wilma had two options: get back out into the weather or pretend that they had come to display their gear. So, they found an empty space, set up their tent, hung their clothes out to dry, and began cooking their dinner. They tried to ignore the crowds on either side, but the very fact that they were actually camping instead of selling something insured that they got more than the usual attention and questions.
Some of the other dealers noticed this extra attention, and criticized their equipment, offering to swap in order to get more attention paid to their products. So, Charles and Wilma picked up a new tent, new sleeping bags, a new stove, and a host of other goodies in exchange for letting people watch them use them. So they went through the whole process of cooking more than once (they were very hungry anyway, and there was a supermarket in the mall), and when they were thoroughly stuffed, they got into their sleeping bags and pretended to go to sleep. Hours later, they woke up to discover themselves locked into the mall. Having nothing better to do, they went back to sleep.
In the morning, they were awakened in their tent by sounds of the clean-up crew going by. After the people had passed out of sight, they got up and started packing. The man in charge of the crew came back and commented on what a good show they had put on the night before. He also asked how they had gotten in, and they said one of the women had recognized them and let them in because they unexpectedly needed to leave. So, they got away before the Saturday morning crowds arrived.
Second Place -- Tour of Their State (see exclusions)
This entry shows good planning but no imaginative execution.
Jody and Judy Smith of San Jose, California, had spent some time working in South America, exploring the tropical rain forest canopy through the use of a system of ropes, slings, and rappelling and climbing gear. Knowing that so many local parks had made camping illegal, they carried some of their South American climbing gear with them on their bike trip.
Then, if they stopped in a park clearly labeled "Dawn to Dusk ONLY," they would first cook for the night. Their meal ended, they would sling their ropes up into trees and then pull their bikes, gear, and hammocks high into the foliage for the night. No one ever questioned their actions because no one ever knew that they were up there.
Third Place -- Tour of Their City (see exclusions)
This entry shows fine use of a good spot but no prevision or ingenuity.
Ivan and Ivanovich Tornyorhednkov of Moscow, Russia, were one of the first couples from the Russian Republic to tour the US. Their interesting experience happened when approaching a small city late at night. Someone at a gas station had told them that there was a park on the right side of the road where it would be OK to camp.
As they were going around a bend, they noticed a bike trail running alongside the road. As the traffic was heavy and somewhat dangerous in the dark, they decided it would be better to take the bike trail. Instead of following the road, however, the trail lead back to a very nice circular camping area with a small flag in the middle. They were both delighted with and disappointed by the site. There was very soft grass, which made for comfortable sleeping, but there was no water, restroom, or picnic table. Still, they had seen much worse in Russia.
In the morning, two fellows came along in a little electric cart and started waving sticks at them and screaming, so they packed in a hurry and left, thinking what a queer place the United States is. After they got back on the main road, they traveled just a short distance before they saw a small RV park on the right, but it did not look at all suitable to them, as there were no trees or tables, the water faucets were all underground, and the ground was rock hard.
Honorable Mention -- (no prize)
While ingenious enough, this entry did not involve camping.
Ted and Kathy Braswell of Vancouver, British Columbia, stumbled on a good method for spending the night. Kathy's mother had instructed them to be sure to stop at Kathy's uncle's house in Winnipeg and a cousin's house in Kenora. However, when Kathy got to Winnipeg, she found she didn't have her uncle's address. When they couldn't get her mother on the phone, Kathy and Ted decided to check the phone book, where they immediately discovered Jack Wingate's address.
Uncle Jack was really puzzled when they arrived, but he welcomed Kathy's warm greetings and affectionate hugs. He told them that his memory hadn't been very good since the war, but he forgot to mention which war, and they never asked. He recovered quickly from his confusion, and he made them really feel at home, even cooking his favorite bachelor dinner for them.
When Ted and Kathy reached Kenora, they couldn't find the cousin in the phone book, so they called Kathy's mother again, getting her this time. "No wonder," she said, "that you can't find her in the phone book in Kenora. She lives in Winnipeg. It's Uncle Jack and Aunt Ruth who live in Kenora." So, they got to visit a second Uncle Jack, only this time with his wife and kids. Actually, they kind of liked the first Uncle Jack better.
Some weeks down the road, they got caught in a bad rain storm and headed for the nearest house for shelter which, according to the mail box, was the home of Peter Schmidt. When they knocked at the door, however, the owner of the house came out in a fury, saying, "Get the hell off of my property!" Kathy didn't hesitate. She cried, "Uncle Peter!" and threw her arms around his neck.