Skip to content

Posts from the ‘camping’ Category

no sign of winter

The leaves hang on, their color in the late afternoon light is magnificent.  Days remain fairly warm, and it feels as if there is no sign of winter.

We’ve spent some days camping, biking, and hiking close to home … enjoying the autumnn-ness before it all falls to the ground and the season of holiday frenzy begins.  My boys – except for one spending a semester in Scotland – are all due home within the day.  My kitchen is scented with apples, cranberries, cinnamon, and pumpkin.  I am excited for the long weekend of catching up, and conversations around the dinner table … and hopefully few bike rides.

Happy Thanksgiving.

happy haulidays!


tis the season for festive Xtracycles ~ #330daysofbiking, day 236

It’s that time of year again … festive lights, festive bikes, winter riding, wishlists, and all of the riding that goes along with the holiday agenda – from the baking to the shopping to the shipping.  And there is no other bike that can get it all done-with-fun like an Xtracycle.

There has been a lot of chatter in recent months about the growing selection of cargo bikes on the market.  And kind of like the great Pillsbury Bake-Off, the cargo bike discussion seems to be taking on elements of a “Hauls(bury)Bike-Off”.  From Xtracycles to bucket bikes to bakfeits to beer-on-tap bikes, it’s a great discussion to be having … for in my opinion, any bicycle that enables someone to substitute bike for car is a wonderful thing – and nothing does that better than a cargo bike.

However, if we ever get down to casting votes, I cast mine without hesitation for Xtracycle.  If I could only own one bike, it would be my Xtracycle.  No question, no debate.  It is my favorite bike above all others, and the one I could not do without.   And as I’ve looked at and contemplated some of the other contenders, I’ve been able to reach a few conclusions about why Xtracycle rules the cargo bike contest….

  • No other cargo bike can accomodate irregularly-shaped loads as easily as an Xtracycle. You want to haul a Christmas tree,  a kayak, a weed-eater, a vacuum cleaner or another bicycle?  On an Xtracycle, it’s a piece of cake.  We’ve hauled them all; easy to load in a variety of ways, easy to secure, easy to ride with.  Even for a silly old lady like myself.
  • I like the fact that my cargo sits behind me.  Other cargo bike enthusiasts might like that Christmas tree or preschooler directly in front of them, but I like to have an unobstructed and distraction-less view of what’s ahead, thanks.
  • You won’t out-grow an Xtraycle.  While kid-hauling bikes like the Taga or the Feetz might be a fun way to carry your pre-schoolers, I can’t help think this is a short-lived use of a pricey bike.  Kids grow – quickly.  Why not carry your pre-cyclists on a PeaPod (or two) on the back of an Xtracycle for that short period of time?  In the end, you’ll continue to love and use an Xtracycle for countless things, rather than being stuck with a limited-use stroller-bike after a few short years.
  • If I need to take my Xtracycle somewhere else (out of state, or beyond timely riding distance) I can carry my Xtracycle on my vehicle.  Using an extended rail on our Thule roof rack, we’ve transported our Xtracycles out of state for vacations and other weekend cycling trips.  I can’t see putting a Madsen or a Bakfeit or a Feetz on top of my car nearly as easily, if at all.
  • Affordability.  The ability to convert an existing bike (from road to commuter to mountain or whatever you might already own) to an Xtracycle requires minimal investment when compared to buying an entire dedicated cargo bike.  And of course, if you’ve got some spare cash, the Xtracycle Radish or Big Dummy are beautiful, quality builds and very competitively priced – and the folks at Xtracycle are among the friendliest, most generous and helpful bike people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. (And they’re not paying me to say this. 😉
  • But the biggest reason of all to own an Xtracycle … it is beautiful bike  just to ride.  Even when I don’t have to haul anything, I love being out on my X.  It’s a beautiful ride – on the back roads or in traffic, in town or on the bike path.  I don’t have to make a conscious decision when I head out – like, “do I need to take the big bucket bike, or utility trailer today?”   I ride my Xtracycle like other folks ride a road bike or a commuter – and if I get a phone call along the way telling me we’re out of orange juice at home, I always have the easy ability to stop and pick some up.  I just can’t imagine that I would ever do the same amount of non-cargo everyday riding on bucket bike or bakfeit.

If I were Santa, I would bring everyone an Xtracycle … But in the meantime, I’ve combed through my pile of Xtracycle photos from the past few years to give you idea of the fun that you,  too, could be having on the best cargo bike EVER. Put one on your wish-list … because you never know what Santa has in his bag 😉

Happy Haulidays* and Happy Pedaling!

(*Thanks to my friend Rick for letting me borrow his clever homonym (haulidays) :-D)

easy-peasy on an Xtracycle ... haul your Christmas tree

... do your holiday gift shopping

... haul your other bike to the shop

... or haul your favorite bike shop guy 🙂

haul a little white snowman ...

... or a little white dog

haul a boat to the river this way ...

... or haul it this way

haul your groceries ...

... or your garden

take your friends on a bikepicnic ...

... or go on a bikamping trip

or just take a beautlful ride on a beautiful bike: Xtracycle


#330daysofbiking Days 61, 62 & 63: bikamping!


Day 61: Left on Friday for a 3-day bike camping trip, this time heading toward the Tennessee River and Harrison Bay – and a few points beyond. (Full set of photos on my Flickr page.)

the (approximate) route

The weather forecast was a little sketchy; scattered showers throughout the weekend.  We decided to camp at Harrison Bay State Park, roughly 27 miles from home – figuring that if it did start raining, we wouldn’t be stuck slogging through bad weather for hours on end.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated and we had a dry ride all the way to the park.  Quiet roads, nice scenery, especially when we approached the river.  Managed to get a campsite along one of the inlets, and had our gear set up and stashed away under a tarp before the rain started.  We headed over to the park’s marina to get some lunch, and while we were there, it started pouring.

Spent the afternoon dodging intermittent showers … had  a  swim, some leisurely time reading in the hammock, a little more riding around within the park.  After dinner we found a nice spot with a swing across from the marina – lovely views of the water, the boats, waterfowl, people fishing.  More rain finally sent us into the tent for the rest of the evening – reading by camplight, and sleep.

Day 61 - relaxing spot across from the marina


Day 62: approximate route - Harrison Bay to Chattanooga Riverwalk

Day 62: Woke up to mist over the water, grey skies.  Beautiful in its own way.  By late morning, the sky began to clear and we decided to make our way down to the Chattanooga Riverwalk/Riverpark.

Parts of this ride were lovely, and other parts were pretty nasty – especially the 6-lane commercial stretch of Hwy 58 as we approached the Riverpark.  Blech.  The weather was really hot, and the humidity was smothering after all of the rain.   Despite the heat, riding along the river offered some great views.

Just as we arrived at the Riverwalk, it started to rain – again.  Fortunately just a quick shower.  We followed the Riverwalk toward downtown Chattanooga, and stopped for a great lunch – alfresco – at The Boathouse along the river.  Sat and enjoyed the shaded canopy and the breeze coming off of the river, lingering over our late lunch for as long as we could.  Finally decided to start heading back.

Returned to the campground for a late afternoon swim.  The weather had finally decided to clear up, and the evening was lovely.  We had a campfire and stayed out under the stars ’till nearly midnight.

along the Tennessee River

heron on the rocks (TN Riverwalk)

Day 63: Woke again to grey skies and the threat of rain.  Packed up early and decided to head out for home.  Passed through a few very light showers along the way, but nothing terrible.  Humidity was pretty ridiculous, though.

Although it was nice to get home, cool off, clean up … I still wish it wasn’t over.  I love these bike adventures, no matter how brief.  Even in somewhat familiar territory, going by bike always manges to offer a new perspective – new things to see, roads to ride on.   Rain and all, it was wonderful.  Just makes me want to take a bigger adventure.  One of these days……

packed up, heading home

guess who? 😀

#330daysofbiking Day 60: away we go

2 Xtracycles, 2 people, 3 days of biking fun

So I guess today officially counts as #30daysofbiking (times) 2 … Day 60!

Only a very brief ride today.  No paddling, no long road ride, no trip to town – just a quick spin on the Xtracycle and a day of digging out camping gear and packing up for a weekend bikamping trip.  Hoping the weather will cooperate; scattered showers in the forecast.  Fingers crossed.

Mark and I are heading down along the Tennessee River – Harrison Bay and surrounding places.  Should be fun – and not a difficult trip home if the weather becomes too wet.  Taking camera(s) – of course – and looking forward to a few days of new scenery, new things to see.  I will not have a computer or way to post, although considering trying mobile WordPress on the iPhone.  Maybe.  More likely, my updates for days 61 through 63 will show up by Monday.

Now just trying to figure out appropriate sacrifice to the weather gods ….. (see you in a few!) 😀

today's unexpected visitors

New River Trail bikamping

the "enlightened" bike at the end of the tunnel...

Xtracycle: the "enlightened" bike at the end of the tunnel...

Last weekend, Mark, Dillon and I headed back to Virginia to spend Labor Day weekend riding and camping in New River Trail State Park.  The park is a 57-mile linear stretch running along the New River, with a packed cinder trail created on an old railroad right-of-way – part of the national Rails-to-Trails system.  The New River itself runs south to north, and the bike path has many trestle crossings and two wonderful tunnels.

nrvtrailmapWe decided to ride from north to south, and made plans to camp at the primitive Cliffview camground at the southern end of the park.  After some a little difficulty finding the northern trailhead and parking just outside of Pulaski (Xaloy?) we got the bikes packed up and headed out – Dillon on my mountain bike (fitted with rear rack and panniers), Mark on the Big Dummy, and I was on my trusty Long Haul Trucker.

The trail runs alongside the river nearly the entire way, with an almost undetectable 1% uphill grade (average) running north to south.  The upper half of the trail – Foster Falls being relatively the mid-point – offers nice views of a fairly wide and shallow river, with spacious lawns and farms along the banks.  For the most part, the riding is shaded, running through the woods along the banks.

Foster Falls is probably the most developed area along the trail – with a river outfitter, picnic areas, day-use parking as well as another primitive campground.  We stopped here, intending to find someplace to eat lunch, and were told by the park attendant that a country store was “just up the road”.

*Note to self for future reference:  when kindly lady says something is “just up the road”, chances are it’s a pretty significant detour by bicycle, unlike via her Buick!”

We headed off-trail in search of the country store, and after some searching and backtracking, we managed to find it.  We stopped for a sandwich and some snacks, and ended up rejoining the trail near Austinville – only adding an additional 4-5 miles to our journey.

Mark and Dillon making one of many river crossings

Mark and Dillon making one of many river crossings

Let me just say this … an average 1% uphill grade may seem fairly imperceptible for a long while – but after about 50 miles, your legs will tell you that you’ve been doing some work.  Nearing the end, I think we were just all anxious to see sight of the campground, as we were all ready to be out of the saddle for a while.  Thankfully, Cliffview campground is a few miles before the actual endpoint of the trail (53 miles on Mark’s odometer) – and it arrived none too soon!  Felt so good to park the bikes, unload and take a rest in the hammock.

Cliffview primitive campground - New River Trail State Park

Cliffview primitive campground - New River Trail State Park

We spent a restful evening at camp, had a some dinner, and hit the sleeping bags a little early.  Sadly, the campground has no shower facilities – which would have been greatly appreciated.  But it was quiet and comfortable, Dillon sleeping in the backpacking hammock/tarp, and Mark and I in our little tent.

Sunday morning we ate some breakfast and broke camp to head back down the trail – welcoming the fact that we would have the downhill grade this time.  Although we could definitely feel the difference in our legs, it definitely didn’t feel like a downhill coast – we were continually pedalling.

One thing to note about the trail, in general, is the fact that it is multi-use for cyclists, hikers and horses … with cyclists and hikers yielding to the horses.  Sharing the trail isn’t too bad.  My bigger complaint would have to be the divots in the trail surface created by the horse hooves.  It made for some bumpy riding in places where the trail surface was slightly soft.

Once again we decided to make our lunch stop near Foster Falls – this time in the picnic area with food we had on hand, rather than venturing off-trail again.  We enjoyed a nice lunch, checked out the rafting/bicycle rental outfitter, and pondered the darkening skies.  It looked like rain was on the horizon.

One of the nice trail stopping points along the way...

One of the nice trail stopping points along the way...

At one point (near Allisonia?), we were making one of the few road crossings, when a truck pulled up near us and  the driver said he really would like for us to stop so that he could check out our Xtracycles.  We were happy to oblige.  It was kind of amusing – he was so excited “to finally get to see an Xtracycle – in person!” He and his wife and another couple were doing the same weekend bikamping – but on some pretty spiffy tandem bikes.  We enjoyed talking to him, and hopefully left him with a very favorable impression of the Xtracycles.

Just after we left them, we started to feel the first drops of rain.  After the last rainy trip on the Creeper Trail, I decided to immediately put on my rain jacket.  Mark and Dillon decided to forego theirs.  A mile or two later, the downpour started.  By that time, there was nothing to do but count down the miles until we reached the car.

a rainy finish...

a rainy finish...

Although I didn’t mind riding in the rain (I was pretty dry and toasty with my jacket on), Mark and Dillon decided to speed on ahead of me, as they were getting pretty soaked.  By that point, it didn’t make much sense for them to even put their raingear on – once you’re wet, you’re wet.  I just rode on at my own pace, and eventually we all made it back to the parking lot and the car.  Loading the wet gear and grit-covered bikes was the least fun part of the whole adventure, once again.

In the end: three bikes, two days, one night of camping, and somewhere over 100 miles of fun.  I highly recommend New River Trail – a lovely ride, regardless what section(s) you choose to ride on, lightly travelled, and great for families.

Complete set of trip photos are up on my Flickr page, here.

Until next time…

rainy riding & wild ponies

Grant covered in Virginia Creeper trail grit.

Grant covered in Virginia Creeper trail grit.

A few days late in posting this.  Took a trip last weekend to the western mountains of Virginia, to bike the Virginia Creeper Trail and to do a little hiking/camping in Grayson Highlands State Park.  Unfortunately the weather didn’t seem to want to cooperate.  Wonderful low pressure system with plenty of rain was on the menu.

Soaked and trail-grit encrusted feet.

Soaked and trail-grit encrusted feet.

Arrived at Grayson on Thursday evening. Rain.  On Friday the plan was to ride the Creeper Trail – which is an absolutely lovely ride, part of the Rails-to-Trails system.  The trail runs thirty-five miles from Whitetop, VA (on the NC border) through Damascus, to Abingdon.  A nice gradual downhill grade from top to bottom, with numerous trestle bridges crossing a beautiful mountain whitewater river.  Many shuttle services are available to drop you off at the top, allowing easy downhill riding for the youngest to oldest of cyclists.  Over the years, it’s become one of our favorite places to ride – a 3+ hour drive from home.

We intially wanted to ride from bottom (Abingdon) to top (Whitetop) and back down again, forgoing a shuttle.  But given the weather conditions,  we decided to ride up from Damascus (not quite mid-point), back down, and see if things would clear up and we could ride the lower portion to Abingdon – and back up to Damascus.  In Damascus we stopped at one of the local outfitters where they had weather radar pulled up on a laptop, and it looked like the worst of the system was moving out of the area.  Apparently, the radar lied.

We spent over 2 hours slogging 18 miles up to the top through non-stop rain,  Even with rain-gear (but no shoe covers), we were soaked and covered in trail grit – a nice crushed stone/cinder(?) black mess.  By the time we got back down to Damascus, we’d had enough.  Just wanted to rinse off, dry off, and get clean dry clothes and shoes on.  So much for our Creeper Trail plans.

It was so wet (and I was so filthy), I didn’t even try to mess with my camera – which is sad, because it’s such a beautiful trail.  This site has some nice photos – from days when the weather is more agreeable.

One of the beautiful views from the Appalachian Trail, heading to Mt. Rogers

One of the beautiful views from the Appalachian Trail, heading to Mt. Rogers

On Saturday, the weather seemed to be improving, so we headed out for a hike to Mt. Rogers – the highest point in VA.  The Appalachian Trail connects with several of the Grayson/Mt. Rogers rec area trails, and offers gorgeous open views of the mountains.  Saw lots of backpackers and dayhikers.  Grayson Highlands S.P. is also home to herds of wild ponies, which roam the mountains throughout the year, and each autumn they hold a round-up to auction off a few ponies to keep the population in check.  It’s always incredibly fun to hike along and be greeted by the ponies – who are very tame, curious, and people-friendly.

We had initially planned to backpack/overnight for one night up on Mt. Rogers, eventually scrapped the idea for various reasons.  It was nice to day hike, packing up only our lunch and the camera.  Fortunately, the weather cooperated.  More pictures are up on my Flickr site. (Yes, I was told I took too many pony pictures … I just couldn’t help myself).

It may not have turned out the way we had planned – from bike weather to backpacking plans – but we still really enjoyed the weekend, and highly recommend a trip to this lovely area.

Mason takes in the view

Mason takes in the view

my favorite wild thing

my favorite wild thing

Gee Creek bikamping

Packed up camping gear for a weekend trip to Gee Creek

Packed up camping gear for a weekend trip to Gee Creek

You can’t have much more fun than a camping trip by bicycle.

(I’m posting a few of my favorite pictures in this entry, but some additional photos/descriptions can be found in my Flickr set, here.)

Mark and I packed up the Xtracycle “twins” on Friday and headed out toward Cherokee National Forest, the Hiwassee River, and Gee Creek campground for a weekend of fun and adventure by bicycle.  It was a lovely ride over – although extremely “warm”.  Temperatures in the mid-90’s, and I couldn’t guess at the humidity.

We had only one mapping snafu.  We had mapped a back-roads route so that we could avoid traveling on one of the more major roads – a road that is often used by logging trucks heading for the paper pulp mill in Calhoun.  It was a good plan until the very end.  Near the small community of Delano, TN, we could not locate one of the unnamed roads that would take us through the Amish community.  We backtracked twice, looking for the connector, and finally gave up.  It still remains a mystery as to whether the map was correct, or if the road really exists(?).

Somewhere along the Hiwassee River, near Calhoun, TN

Somewhere along the Hiwassee River, near Calhoun, TN

We arrived at Gee Creek campground in the early afternoon and had our choice of campsites.  We unloaded the bikes, set up camp, and spent the remainder of the hot afternoon relaxing in the shade, trying to stay cool.  Early in the evening we set out again to have dinner at a resort we had read about, Black Bear Cove.  It was nice to enjoy a leisurely dinner in the air-conditioned lodge.

On Saturday morning, we set out early for the Amish community and market that was a nearby.  We had been to the Amish market several times before – by car.  They have just-picked-that-morning produce directly from their fields outside the market building.  They also have some wonderful baked goods – from sorghum sugar cookies, to whole wheat bread, to killer sticky buns.  We decided to have the sticky buns for our breakfast! 🙂

We rode through the community on some of the small gravel roads that meander around, in part trying to see where we had missed our mystery connecting road the day before.  It was pastoral, picturesque and lovely – similar to some of the other Amish areas we have visited in Lancaster, PA, and Holmes County, OH.  There is no electricity, no motorized vehicles or equipment. Tidy farms, tidy fields, windmills, horses and buggies.  It can sometimes make you stop and question the benefits(?) of modern progress…

tractor-less farming

tractor-less farming

not a bicycle, but still non-fossil fuel transport ...

not a bicycle, but still non-fossil fuel transport ...

despite the fact that the community is spread out, everyone walks

despite the fact that the community is spread out, everyone walks

it was a lovely area to explore by bicycle

it was a lovely area to explore by bicycle

As the afternoon heat escalated, we decided to head for the Hiwassee River.  We rented a kayak and had a nice, cooling trip down the river, snacking on a sweet watermelon we had picked up at the Amish market.

cooling off on the HIwassee

cooling off on the HIwassee

Saturday evening proved to be … well … let’s just say an interesting and colorful local experience.  There is a small local winery in the area, and they were hosting an evening concert in their “pavillion”.  The Goose Creek Symphony (YouTube). I’m not sure what I was expecting, never having heard of the group.  The winery staff described them as “putting on a really excellent show, not exactly country, not exactly bluegrass …”.  I kind of envisioned a neat bluegrass-y/mountain music kind of event, maybe a glass of the vinyard’s wine. Uuhhh …. not exactly.

Let me just say, the “Symphony” was actually pretty talented – for that type of music (not really my cup of tea, thanks).  Maybe you’ve heard the song that begins, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz …”?  Yeah.  Ok.  Well, that’s Goose Creek.   The Symphony may have had talent, the crowd on the other hand, was, well,  quite a different story.  I’ll just leave it at that.  Mark had joked about visiting a place up the road called the Hillbilly Bar.  Well, this may have been a winery, but the description could have fit just as well.

Sunday morning we packed up for the return home.  We had really packed fairly lightly, but it was still impressive to see how much gear we were easily able to stow on the bikes – with still plenty of room to spare – and not any messing with panniers, trailers, etc.  I love the versatility of the Xtracycle slings.  The gear/cargo size and shape doesn’t matter – there are no constraints to deal with when using the slings (unlike panniers).

As much as I loved nearly all of the miles we put in, there was one stretch of county road that we covered that was paved with large, loose gravel/rock.  It wasn’t the nice finely crushed and packed gravel of the Amish roads – it was just nasty chunky stuff.  Without a major detour – or spending a few miles on the logging truck road – we had to use this road.  It wasn’t more than a couple of miles, but without knobby mtn. bike tires, there was a lot of wasted energy pedaling uphill, and a lot of teeth-rattling, sketchy sliding action on the downhill.  I didn’t love it. Yuck.

the gravel road I did not love...

the gravel road I did not love...

... and my thumbs-up return to pavement!

... and my thumbs-up return to pavement!

Arrived home in time to relax a bit in the afternoon (it was Father’s Day, after all).  It was really a fun adventure.  We logged some lovely and scenic miles and explored some back roads I would like to return to some day.  The Xtracycles, as always, proved to be amazing vehicles – easy to haul our gear, easy to ride.  The perfect machine.

So – get your bike out and grab your tent and sleeping bag.  Have an adventure on two wheels.  It doesn’t get much better!

home again ... Father's Day 2009

home again ... Father's Day 2009

Additional photos on Fickr.