Sunday, March 12th, 2006
The weather forecast, for Friday, predicted temps in the 40's and 50's and sunshine. The forecast for Saturday was not quite as promising, but there was a fair chance that it would be dry. So, I decided to pack up the Pug and ride out to my hidden campsite in a western burb of Minneapolis
about a 30-mile trek that follows paved and unpaved bike trails most of the way.
I have racks on the Long Haul Trucker and the Pacer, and the Instigator Xtracycle is ready for action. Normally, I'd consider any of these for the trip as they've all seen duty as touring machines. But, I suspected the unpaved section of trail, consisting mostly of crushed limestone, might be soft due to the current snow thaw. So, I chose Pugsley as my vehicle of choice.
Last weekend, I modified (widened 60mm) a front Nice Rack to work on the Pug, and I was anxious to try it out with a camping load. I used a lengthened Headland seatpost rack on the back with a Jandd duffel bag to carry the lighter stuff
clothes and trail snacks. Tools, pump, and tube all go in the Jandd frame bag that stays on the Pug most of the time. My camera and some clothes went in the Axiom handlebar bag. My sleeping bag and sleeping pads went on top of the front rack. Everything else went into front Axiom panniers.
I didn't pack ultralight. I brought a homemade collapsible woodburning stove to heat my tent (a Golite Lair 1 tarptent with a homemade polyethylene vestibule added on to house the stove), a bit of Johnny Walker Black to toast Mother Nature for her fine handiwork, some reading material, enough calories for an extra day of camping, and enough clothing to keep me warm regardless of the weather outcome. Like most of you, I don't like being hungry and I don't like being cold. So, I don't deny myself the tools and supplies to stay comfortable in the woods.
There were sections of trail that were still covered in snow. There were sections of water 3 4 deep
sometimes on top of snow
.sometimes on top of mud. And my favorite - the section of wet clay mixed with woodchips where heavy machinery has laid fresh tracks. I'm happy to say that I didn't need to dab through any of it. I simply shifted down into a granny gear (the 22t x 34t combo, in some cases) and crawled through it. Very little body English is needed, and the bike stays pretty clean because the tires aren't flinging crap all over everything. It helps to have fenders, of course. Sorry, you still have to make your own. Endomorph-compatible fenders aren't production items, yet. Maybe, we'll work on something along those lines down the road a spell.
With the added weight of camping gear, the ride would have been a gritty death march on any other bike. I dropped my tire pressures down to 15 psi when I got into the crushed limestone section of the trail on the way out to my site
about midway through the ride. That made all the difference in the world. I was running 20 psi on the pavement up to that point. On the return trip, I went down to 13 psi because the continuing thaw had made some sections even softer than they'd been the day before. You trail Nazis can unclench; the stuff I was riding is not sensitive trail. It lies on an abandoned rail corridor base. On Saturday, I looked for my tracks from Friday. Rarely, could I find a sign that I'd passed over the same trail a day previous. The big rubber had done a great job of keeping the Pug afloat.
I enjoyed the journey. But, I had a great time off the bike, too. Camping with a woodstove in the tent makes cool/cold weather outings very enjoyable for me. A campfire is nice, but it pails in comparison to the attributes of a stove: no smoke in the eyes, uses very little wood comparatively, easy to cook on, controllable burn rate, creates a warm climate out of the wind, leaves no burn marks on the ground, creates less ash, and maybe the best thing of all...it dries my clothes, boots, and bags. I love putting on dry boots in the morning. If this concept intrigues you, check out Kifaru
for an idea of what's available in collapsible woodstoves and stove-compatible tents. There is a lot of other related stuff online, too. Get your Google on.
My stay was uneventful
quiet and peaceful, other than coyotes howling and the wind blowing. I entertained myself by stoking the fire, preparing food, and walking in the woods and over the prairie under a ¾ moon and cloudless sky.
Trips like this keep the Pug at the top of my If I could only have one Surly, which Surly would it be? list.