Bicycle Camping and Touring
a host of furious fancies
I am the commander,
a burning spear and a horse of air
the wilderness I wander.
a knight of ghosts and shadows
summoned am to tourney
leagues beyond the wide world's end,
it is no journey.
--- from "Tom O'Bedlam" (Anonymous)
Why Go Touring By Bicycle?
Long-distance bicycle touring is by nature a Quixotic activity. In these days of light-speed communications, multimedia entertainment, fast, powerful, and prestigious automobiles, luxurious homes, exotic restaurants, and instant gratification, why would someone choose to pedal at slow speeds up high hills carrying a heavy load to boil rice in a small pot in the dark, insect-filled woods alone at night? Are bicycle tourers and bikepackers driven by a masochistic self-hatred that causes them to perform painful and anachronistic pilgrimages?
Actually, long-distance, loaded, bicycle camping is one of the most pleasurable activities I have ever experienced. I generally sleep poorly at night; but in the woods on a tour, I sleep like a baby, lulled to sleep by the music of insects. In the morning, I am awakened by the cheeping of birds. I eat a snack before getting up, and then I quickly pack my sleeping bag, air mattress, tent, and other gear and get on the road. I'm slower in the morning, having less speed but also a greater desire to stop at pleasant spots, dawdle, and enjoy. Traveling by bike allows me to stop anywhere, such as meadows, lakes (especially places to swim), woods, and scenic spots, not just at the tourist traps and overlooks. My large panniers may look very heavy to the passing motorist, but I barely notice their weight; actually, the bike feels better loaded than empty; it's a lot more stable. Somewhere near lunch, I find a small grocery and buy some bread, sandwich materials, and fruit. I find a town park or other shady spot to wait out the high mid-day sun and maybe nap.
In the afternoon, my speeds are higher, and I spend less time at stops (but I still usually stop fairly often, sometimes a quick dash into a grocery for bananas, sometimes a stop to pick wild berries). My body, tanned, lean from cycling, hardened by climbing, feels fantastic. I relish the climbs. In the late afternoon, I start riding slower, and I start having thoughts about stopping. I finally find a place in the early evening, cook a simple meal, and rest and cool off. As it starts to get dark, I pitch my tent, crawl in, and fall asleep.
There are exciting times and difficult times as well. Visiting strange or famous places and accomplishing goals are always exciting to me. I meet and talk with interesting people along the way, sometimes other traveling cyclists. Beautiful views, strong tail winds from nearby storms, encountering wild animals (usually at my camping site), and traveling up and down hills also stir me up. On the other hand, I may run into a rainy or hot spell, have to repair my bike or tire, encounter a hostile motorist, or just find myself in a bad mood. The problems are infrequent and are easily dealt with; the pleasures remain in my mind for years.
Bicycle Camping and Travel Advice
What Is Touring? A very basic introduction that explains how touring is different from other kinds of cycling and that explains some of the different kinds of touring.
Why I Tour from Door to Door Explains my motives, and the advantages, of my starting and ending my trips at my doorstep whenever possible.
a Touring Trip Advice that looks at the cyclist's preferences
and abilities and that considers planning and preparation to be more important
than shedding dollars. Talks about touring books, the linkage between bike, roads,
gear, and sleeping arrangements, daily recommended distances, how much
to carry and which equipment is the most important, hostels, maps, touring
lists, how to prepare for a trip, and how to avoid ruining a trip.
Camping Starts with the ambiguity in the terms "camping"
and "touring," then goes to the paradox involved in cycling all day with
full gear through forests to spend $15 to sleep with RV's. Makes the point
that sleeping in the woods is a wonderful experience and gives a personal
history of camping with minimal equipment. Explains how simple cooking
can be, why a campground is undesirable, and what the law says about camping
on public and private property. Explains why camping is not harmful or
dangerous. Tells in great detail my procedures for finding a camping site
and spending the night. Discusses sanitation and cleanliness.
Bicycle Touring and Camping Gear Discussion of the gear to carry on a bicycle trip plus a look at the gear I carry on my summer trips.
a Tent Looks at all the important factors in choosing
a tent but leaves the final decision to the user.
Bicycle Touring with a Solar Laptop
A discussion of the problems involved in carrying a solar powered laptop computer on a long bicycle touring and camping trip.
Touring Bags and Making Your Own Bags Discusses
the principles involved in designing touring bags, looks at the problem
created by low-rider bags, and looks at my solution. Explains that making
panniers is not difficult and looks at some of the ways to make them.
in Northeast Alabama Starts with an account of my cycling
and non-cycling familiarity with North Alabama, describes the climate by
season, explains the terrain, talks about trees, plants, and wildlife,
discusses towns and highways, attitudes towards cycling, and dogs. Talks
about the best area to visit and provides two routes through NE Alabama.
Cadence and Bicycle Gears Explains the reason for talking
about gearing, explains why bicycles have gears, explains what "gears"
are, explains cadence, helps you establish your low-gear requirements,
talks about gear-planning strategies, and provides charts for high and
Using Maps While Bicycle Touring Provides information about the kinds of maps available and shows how to infer information from road maps.
Understanding and Predicting Summer Weather While Bicycle Touring The ability to foresee changing local weather conditions can be very valuable to a cyclist.
Repairs and Maintenance on Your Bike was located here but has been moved to the skills directory.
Cooking while Bicycle Camping and Touring Being able to cook quick, tasty, and easy meals is a valuable asset when touring.
Tips and Tricks for Bicycle Touring A grab bag of tips and tricks from years of cycling.
Types of Touring Cyclists and Touring Trips Although touring cyclists may look alike, their trips may differ in significant ways.
Bicycle Camping Trips and Travelogues
and statistics of my long trips Enough miles to ride around
the world and enough days to be over a year out of my life (the best year!).
My Instate Bicycle Trips These are shorter trips (longest 428 miles), mostly within Alabama, totaling over 6,000 miles. Maps and brief accounts.
Trip to the Smokies, 1965 My first bicycle camping
trip, from Alabama to the Smoky Mountains and back, made on a three-speed
bike. Only two days were written up, but some additional events
are recalled. No photos.
to Ontario, 1966 As a college student, I dared to venture
into the wilderness with a Varsity bike, wool blankets, a plastic tarp,
homemade panniers, and very little money. An account written during the journey. A few photos.
to Ontario, Part II Beginning in Ontario, this second
half of my account tells of reaching Kenora and of my return trip home
down the Great River Road along the Mississippi. Written during the trip. A few photos.
Pine, 1971 Love, marriage, and cycling don't work well
together on this unhappy, one-way trip from Alabama into the Blue Ridge.
However, the two kittens had a great time. With photos.
to Pennsylvania, 1988 After 17 years, I was finally
free to ramble again. This round-trip includes travel through the Cumberland
and Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh, across Southern Pennsylvania to
Philadelphia, down to Washington DC, and then on down the Blue Ridge Parkway
to home. With many photos.
to Colorado, 1990 After a trip across Tennessee and through
the Land Between the Lakes, I joined the Bikecentennial route and crossed
Missouri and Kansas to Colorado. With many photos.
to Colorado, Part II After leaving Pueblo, I rode into
the Rocky Mountains and climbed as many mountain passes as I could, including
Rocky Mt. National Park and Mt. Evans. With many photos.
Photo Trip up Mt. Evans The highest paved road in the
western world climbs Mt. Evans to 14,100 feet, a beautiful, difficult, and perhaps
even dangerous trip. With full-screen photos and maps.
to Colorado, Part III The story of my trip back to Alabama,
including misadventures in Denver. The route followed the Platte River
into Nebraska, across Iowa, down through Illinois to Cave-in-the-Rock,
back to the Land Between the Lakes, and through the woods to Alabama. With
Southern States Loop, 1991 A three-week tour of the South,
including a week in Eastern Kentucky, a stop at "The Place" in Damascus,
and a trip through the Southern Blue Ridge. With photos.
New England Bike Trip, 1993 Starting with a visit to Walden
pond from Boston, I made a loop up into the White and Green Mountains,
then traveled across New York, through the Delaware Water Gap, down New
Jersey, Delaware, and Eastern Maryland, across the Chesapeake Bay (by boat),
up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway, and finally across Central Georgia.
My Second Bike Trip to Ontario, 1995 Starting from Southern
Georgia, I crossed Eastern Alabama, Central Tennessee and Kentucky, Indiana,
and Western Michigan to reach Sault Ste. Marie. From there, I cycled east
and south across Ontario to Ohio (using two ferries), down to Eastern Kentucky
and Tennessee, and back across Eastern Alabama. With photos.
II, 1996 Planning to attend school in Pennsylvania, I decided
to ride up during the summer to take care of some details. The trip includes
the Smokies, Eastern North Carolina, Damascus, West Virginia, Central,
Northern, and Eastern Pennsylvania, Shennadoah National Park, and the Blue
Ridge Parkway. With photos.
Plains-Ontario Loop, 1998 Unsure of where to travel and with
little money, I headed across Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas to Texas,
then north across the Great Plains all the way to North Dakota. With photos.
Plains-Ontario Loop, Part II I next crossed over into
Manitoba, traveled across Northern Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie, enjoying
the wilderness more than before, and returned through Eastern and Central
Michigan, Indiana (including Bloomington), Central Kentucky, and across
Tennessee to home. With photos.
Eastern North America Tour, Y2k This is a very detailed account of my year 2000 bicycling trip, focusing on the details of camping and traveling, for those who wish to make the same kind of journey. Part I, Alabama to Virginia, days 1-13, winding through the Southern Appalachians from Ocoee to Cherokee to Hots Springs to Damascus.
Eastern North America Tour, Part II Virginia to New Jersey, days 14-23, from Damascus to the Blue Ridge Parkway, across Southern Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay (by boat) and Tangier Island, Delaware and the Maryland coast, ferry to New Jersey, and ending near Camden.
Eastern North America Tour, Part III New Jersey to Quebec via New England, days 24-36, crossing the Delaware River by ferry into Eastern Pennsylvania, traveling through the Delaware Water Gap, across the Hudson River into Connecticut and Rhode Island, north to Walden Pond, over to Maine, then circling back though New Hampshire to Quebec.
Eastern North America Tour, Part IV My experiences in Québec, days 37-46, including crossing the St. Lawrence near Sorel, traveling on Le Petit Train du Nord bikeway and through La Faunique Vérendrye Reserve to Northern Ontario.
Eastern North America Tour, Part V Ontario, days 47-58, this part starting near Kirkland Lake, following highway 11 to Nipigon, and exiting south of Thunder Bay.
Eastern North America Tour, Part VI Minnesota and Wisconsin, days 59-69. I followed the Superior shoreline down to Duluth and then crossed the center of Wisconsin heading southward, visiting the 400 Trail along the way.
Eastern North America Tour, Part VII Illinois to Alabama, days 70-82, including a trip to the Land Between the Lakes.