Last month, Lucas from Bunyan Velo asked me to present in an evening of storytelling with our friends at the Angry Catfish. While I tend to avoid microphones, preferring the traditional whisky-induced fireside bridge club method of storytelling, I said yes anyhow. This was, of course, before I knew I’d be presenting immediately following one Cass Gilbert, who spoke about his recent trip to Mongolia. In the last six months I’ve been in ten states and a few countries, lots of pedaling in new places, but I decided to share some thoughts from some local state park rambles instead. With the onslaught of bike-packing blogs these days it’s pretty easy to daydream about riding across Spain, Alaska or some distant far away land, but when you’ve got a desk to occupy those passport stamps don’t come as often. So while I stockpile pocket change for my next big trip, I’ve been connecting routes closer to home.
Last year I started riding to state parks. I pieced a couple together over a three-day weekend and then took on midweek camp outs, and before long I was making quite the habit for myself. Ride into work, wash off the campfire smoke, clock in a few hours behind the spreadsheet-machine, trade out some gear, confirm my route, ride, set up camp, start a fire, start over. Knowing I’d have a site waiting for me allowed me to stack on more mileage and experiment with different pack lists and routines. It was easy. I got hooked.
Dang, Minnesota, you pretty
Kramping, better with friends
Within a month I’d ridden to fifteen parks. As I started talking to folks about it I started getting some questions about if I was trying to visit them all. Minnesota has 76 state park recreational areas, 67 of which have designated camping sites. While a good number of them aren’t too far from the city, riding my bike 250 miles each way to, say, Bear Head Lake, and back to the office wasn’t really an option without plowing through my PTO. But intrigued by the idea, I got some maps out and started routing anyhow to see what I could come up with. There would no doubt be some serious miles put in after the sun went away, but if I mixed in some driving segments, catching rides where I was able and stashing my car in small towns when I wasn’t, I could split up ride time and shorten up days. So, why not.
State park folks just love seeing an exhausted soul arriving on a bike
Balancing work and “responsibilities” was easier some months than others. Spring time I Troll’d the parks following the Mississippi into the Southern portion of the state. Late fall, I’d caught a ride to Chippewa National Forest, rode through Big Bog up to Zippel Bay for some Pugsley beach riding. New Year’s Eve aligned with the last park on my list, fresh snow and animal tracks at Forestville- Mystery Caves.
Someday when I’m good and drunk from the goodwill of passing Mongolian horsemen and I can still set up my tent I’ll thank myself for these short ones. Don’t wait for those weekends, get out there.
Thou shalt not be defeated by damp wood