Roses, Thorns & Buds: An Unexpectedly Eventful Beginner Bike Camping Trip!

By : Carolyn · June 27, 2017

Group.jpegEverything was right on track. Until I discovered my BIG mistake.

After a meet-up and stretch session in Uptown, our small crew of six WTFs was rolling at a leisurely pace from Minneapolis to Carver Lake Reserve for the 2017 Beginner Bike Camping Trip. Despite gray clouds, the rain was at bay, and the trail was awash in our music, conversation and laughter as we rode two abreast catching up with friends and making new connections.

Following in the footsteps of last year's organizers, we pulled off at the Excelsior library for our second and final (or so we thought) stop before the campground. But, as I munched on some carrots, I casually pulled out the campsite reservation to check which sites we had — and my stomach dropped.

I'd booked the wrong campground.

Yep! Organizer botches pretty much the one and only thing that's essential to the trip. My brain froze. Like many of you, I'm sure, I'm fully convinced that if I make one mistake people will hate me forever. I cringed as I told my fellow campers that I f*cked up... big time. The campground I had booked was another 13 miles away, on roads, in the direction of the quickly approaching storm.

Riding.jpgInstead of anger and disappointment I was met with resilience. While our bodies were starting to fatigue, we lept right into problem solving. We called Carver and asked if they had any openings or a bike-in site; they said no. After checking in with how everyone felt, we decided to press on to Carver — and try to befriend folx at one of the group camp sites. 

When I got a flat (because, OF COURSE, I would also get a flat), a couple of campers continued on to the site and made an exciting connection. An entire group camp section was occupied by the national convening of the Black Label Punks and a couple of their members, chilling by a camp fire next to a bunch of tall bikes, said we'd be welcome to snag a corner of their site — if we'd be willing to embrace any shenanigans that went down that night.

Needless to say, we were stoked.

But when our full crew rolled up, that offer was rescinded. A surly woman with a baby on her arm looked at us sideways and rallied a vote from the full group that they were NOT okay with six unfamiliar WTFs crashing their party.

My stomach dropped again. By this point, the rain was starting to settle in. It was well after 5 p.m. I was increasingly convinced that I had ruined everyone's weekend. But somehow everyone remained determined. And positive. We decided to roll on, through the drizzle and wind, to the group camp site and see if we could tuck into an empty spot or pitch our tents, guerilla style, on the banks of the lake. 

Long story short — and skipping over the first time we pitched our tents — Anne, my co-organizer of the trip, made a wonderful discovery. Despite what they told us on the phone, Carver DOES have a bike-in site. And it's perfect. Secluded from the rest of the car camping, up a little hill and surrounded by trees, we set up camp and pitched a tarp before the skies opened and rain started to pour.

Camp-site.jpgOver a cozy dinner of burritos, with fresh veggies cooked over the fire, Anne made a great suggestion. Since we'd had such an... unexpectedly eventful journey, she proposed a round of Rose, Thorn and Bud, an opportunity for everyone to share something they enjoyed, something that challenged them and something that was hopeful or emerging from the day's experience.

For me, the thorn was obvious: I couldn't believe that I made such a stupid mistake that put additional stress on all the amazing WTFs who had trusted me to facilitate such a basic trip. But the rose was just as apparent: I was embraced by the care of our community and our collective belief that we had all the tools and determination we needed to find a solution together. And the bud, made my heart want to burst: Instead of feeling rejected for my mess up, I felt even more connection to the amazing WTFs sitting around the picnic table, smiling and laughing as the rain pelted our tarp and threatened to snuff our beautiful fire.

The next morning, as we rode back, we decided that sharing our Roses, Thorns and Buds would be a great way to recap our trip for the wider Grease Rag community and share some of our lessons learned for other beginning bike campers! Incredible gratitude again to my co-organizer, Anne, and the WTFs who made the trip such a beautiful AND imperfect experience!




The bud of the trip was the sincerity and vulnerability we all brought to the weekend from the start. We met up the Saturday morning after Philando Castile’s murderer was found not guilty and started with a check-in, sharing our truth and showing up for each other where we were at. Many/all of us were feeling heavy and didn’t have peppy, social energy. This is my bud because I feel myself bringing more and more of my truth and myself into Grease Rag space, and it’s always met with so much support.

The rose of the trip was 4 of us squeezing in a 1 person tent that we had just pitched in a clearing along the bike path. We had biked for hours, realized we didn’t have a reservation at Carver, befriended some punks to camp with, then been turned away by the punks, and were getting rained on. It was so lovely to be still, be dry, be in each other’s company, and drink warm summer shandy. I was reassured to know I was with powerful people and we were going to find a space to camp together.

The thorn of the trip was my hands hurt more than they normally do from long rides, and the next day I (for once!) wasn’t excited to get back on my bike!


My thorn was laying awake in our tent for ages, anxiously wondering if the pounding rain would soak us or our stuff. Luckily we woke up dry! Thank you modern tent technology!

My rose of the trip was being outside, on my bike, with such rad folks! I loved our conversations as we rode along the lush, green trails.

My bud is that I hope to bike camp more sometime soon and continue to connect with other members of the trip!


My bud: Knowing I can go bike camping again, with a group or by myself. I was feeling anxious because of some injuries that still impact my ability to ride, but took care of myself and can’t wait to do it again.

My thorn: Not bringing enough clothes. On the ride home on Sunday I wore some of the same clothes again (the plan was, of course, to save space/weight in my panniers) but really wished I’d been able to start the day fresh.

My rose: The quiet moments right after all our tents were set up, and the group breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was lovely to have some time alone to appreciate what we’d all done before jumping into making dinner.


My rose: All of the positive energy everyone brought to the trip and getting to hang out with yall! I appreciated how willing people were to keep checking in on their needs, and how tough everyone was in the face of new challenges! Shout-out especially to Carolyn for fixing a side of the road flat like a pro (right after talking about how little you like working on bikes). Man, I really just appreciate all of y’all.

My thorn: The hardest moment of the trip was after the punks changed their minds about letting us camp near their space, when I was riding around trying to find out if there were any spots available. I was so worried that we’d let y’all down or that we’d get kicked out or we’d have to secret camp and we wouldn’t get to roast marshmallows! (Although y’all were incredibly positive throughout this whole ordeal and didn’t seem fazed at all). I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved as I was when the park attendants said that the bike camping ~oasis~ was open and we could camp there.

My bud: I really think that we should go camping at Baker. Who’s up for trip part two!?


My rose was having this amazing experience to really push my body, get out of the city into nature, and get to know new people! All of whom were so full of energy, and so much interesting skill & wisdom to share especially about bikes/biking but also about queer community, life, etc!

My thorn was that I didn’t pack as much warm clothing as would have been fully comfortable and my cushion situation both for sleeping and sitting/hanging out wasn’t ideal so that made it the least comfortable. Want to fix that for next time. Also just to say — it wasn’t the best best that we didn’t know where we were gonna camp/sleep for a bit, but it was really easy to have perspective that “We’re fine, we’re on vacay pretty much, we’re gonna figure it out and it’ll be good either way.”

My bud is seeing what my body is capable of when it’s pushed, definitely excited to do more bike camping and longer biking trips! Thanks all who put it together!! Solving puzzles you can improve your dexterity and problem solving skills! xoxo

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