My First Bike Overnight

Connecting with and reading stories posted at 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.

Get more information about bike overnights.

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.

9 responses so far ↓

Sam - Jan 30, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Great trip Dad, wish I was there, lets plan one in AK

Mandy - Jan 30, 2012 at 4:40 PM

If you plan a tour in AK (Alaska), be sure to look us up on for a place to overnight (or longer if necessary) near Palmer. We're about 45 miles, one day's ride, out of Anchorage. Just look for Mandy and Tom in the Palmer area on WS's website.

Duane - Jan 30, 2012 at 8:33 PM

Nice little trip. I am thinking of doing my first in Tampa, FL and you just added to my excitement. I was debating going solo and now I think I will. I have kind of the same siutation as you. I have a Felt Mountain Bike and a Trek Madone 5.1. I was thinking I need to do my trip on the mountain bike. I think it is more comfortable also. Thanks for sharing!

Dale - Jan 31, 2012 at 6:45 AM

Jay, nice little overnight you had there! I too, am retiring from federal service next December, and I am hoping to start this spring, on my own s24o's. Bigger plans after that.

Michael McCoy - Feb 2, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Mandy, thanks for that offer!

Jay - Apr 5, 2012 at 6:12 AM

I am a step closer to my next overnight or multi-day trip. I am a proud owner of a Trek 520 which I am using to commute to work. I pedal 2 miles to the VRE train station, ride for 40 minutes and then pedal the last 7.2 miles to my office. With added miles on the way home my average is 20-22 miles a day on the bike. I am a happy and tired soul most days because I am off I-95.

Leslie - May 15, 2012 at 2:02 PM

I am a beginning commuter cyclist. Commuting as a substitute teacher, I average 5 miles each day combining public transportation. I am also looking forward to doing a short multi-day bike tour. I own a Trek 720 that I use to commute and as of today for grocery shopping.
What can I purchase affordably to use a navigation device?

Michael McCoy - May 15, 2012 at 3:04 PM

Leslie, it sounds like you should be ready for an overnight, as far as your "training" and your bicycle go. (If you haven't already, you might want to get your bike tuned up and have the mechanic check the condition of the tires & tubes.) Regarding navigation devices, one really isn't necessary unless you're riding a complicated route (i.e., one with a lot of turns and road #s). Even then an old-fashioned paper map can work well, or you can create your own using Google maps. If you're set on going with technology, there are several good apps to choose from that you can download to a smartphone. Here's a link to an interesting piece on that subject, which one of our Bike Overnights contributors, Friedel Grant, recently wrote: Best of luck to you, and let us know how it goes!

Jay - May 15, 2012 at 5:08 PM

GPS' are as endless as a bicycle choices. I have been partial to Garmin (15 years and 3 units) and have a mulit-use Oregon 450 which I use everyday for logging my commuting mileage, hiking and kayaking. I have two handle bar mounts for my two bikes and both Topo and road maps loaded on it. An outdoor store like REI is a great place to see different units and ask questions.

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