My First Bike Overnight
Connecting with and reading stories posted at BikeOvernights.org was the catalyst for me to hit the road and ride to a nearby private campground for my first overnighter. I was making due by using my old 1995 Performance M505 mountain bike with 26" x 1.5" road tires because I knew my Trek 1000, with its 700 x 25c tires, wasn’t suitable for carrying the extra weight. I was surprised at how well my Topeak rear rack and MTX TrunkBag DX worked for this first go around. Totally unsuitable in wet weather, the TrunkBag, with its dropdown side panniers, was plenty large enough for an overnighter.
Tropical storm Lee hit Virginia hard, drenching my first set of plans back in September, so a Friday in October was the first opportunity to load up and head out. I am a moderately experienced backpacker, so I already had the kit necessary for this inaugural foray into bike touring: an MSR Stove, Big Agnes air mattress, North Face Rock 22 tent, and 20-degree North Face synthetic bag round out my basic list of equipment. I debated on just using a sheet and fleece liner for sleeping, but was glad that I opted for the bag, as it got down to the upper 40s that night. The sleeping bag went into a waterproof paddling bag, which made it easy to lash it on top of the rear bag with the tent.
Fredericksburg, Virginia, is a pretty busy place with lots of traffic, especially on a Friday afternoon. Leaving from home, crossing through town and its main shopping area, I knew the first half of the trip was going to be the most challenging. I also knew I had to face this hill (below) on River Road at Motts Run. I am not too proud to report that my 60-year-old legs weren’t up to the task, and I had to walk the second half. As beautiful as River Road is to drive, there is no shoulder and the roadway is quite narrow. Being just outside of town it is also a busy commuting road on Friday afternoon. I was very relieved to make the turn onto Spotswood Furnace Road and take a break.
The second half of my 28-mile journey took me down quiet back roads. I only had one close dog encounter. A quick spray in the face from my water bottle stopped him in his tracks with that dumb look of, “What did I do to deserve that? This is my road.”
The Rappanannock River Campground was nearly deserted when I arrived, so I had my pick of sites in a wonderful pine forest. It didn’t take long to get the tent set up and have my red beans and rice dinner ready. Just before dark I took a short walk down to the Rappahannock River, which was running close to flood stage. This campground is a favorite layover for canoeists, with its location between two river-access points.
Saturday dawned clear and cool, but very windy. My luck was holding, as the wind was out of the northwest, which put it at my back on the way home.
Most of my riding miles are done on my Trek 1000. The M505 MTB has a longer top tube and lower handlebars. It also has a seat that encourages more standing than sitting. When everything was said and done, my first overnighter was well worth the tingle in my hands and a few tender spots here and there. I know now that there will be longer tours in my future, and a new bike to go along.
Tip for this adventure: I stopped at Panera Bread, at Central Park near the intersection of River Road and Fall Hill Avenue, for bagels on the way out and hot soup as a reward lunch on the way home.
Favorite local bike shop: Revolution Cycles, Stafford, Virginia.