The 4th Annual Grease Rag Camping Trip, May 31 Edition: Bri, Kara, Becky, Amy, Claire, Tara, Ina and Angie set out into rainy morning, camped, and maintained high spirits. Most were new to bike camping, but luckily were able to attend our Bike Camping 101 session with Casey and Jen. I love their "lessons learned" and other insightful reflections. Friendship! Community! Adventure!
“Rain dampens bodies, but not spirits”
Photos by Bri
Though the forecast called for flash floods as we prepared to set out Saturday morning on the Grease Rag camping trip, the sun shone brightly as we slathered on sunscreen and filled our water bottles. Becky and Amy teamed up on music duties to ensure we properly grooved our way to Carver Park. With panniers loaded and tunes a wailin’, we were off, eight women and their bikes, ready for adventure.
On our way out of the Cities, Bri taught us how to communicate on the trail. We yelled “Slowing!” and “Clear!” whenever we encountered a stop sign (and felt a little like TV doctors). We bopped along to the Talking Heads and some choice 90s hip-hop as the miles flew by. Tara and Ina powered up the hills on their single-speeds like nobody’s business.
We spied a few ominous clouds in the distance and discussed the effectiveness of rain dances. Perhaps our failure to offer a rain dance to the rain goddesses was why the skies opened up as soon as we turned into the campground. For the next 18 hours, almost all we knew was rain. Luckily, Kara and Bri thought to bring tarps, and we MacGuyvered one over a picnic table, where we spent most of the evening huddled together, alternately laughing at the absurdity of the situation and sipping vodka lemonade to ward away the chill.
At one point, Tara got stuck in the bathroom during a particularly intense shower. She had but one dry shirt left to her name, that shirt being the one on her back, and by golly, she wanted to sleep in something dry. Tara also had a water bottle with her. So, what do you do when you’re desperate for a single dry piece of clothing? Stuff it in the water bottle, of course! She dashed back to the safety of the tarp in a cami and exclaimed, “Look!... it's a shirt in a bottle!” much to our delight.
The rain did stop for a precious hour and a half, in which we lolled about on the dock and dried out (mostly). In an unfortunate turn of events, a cell phone decided it needed swimming lessons. Kara was brave enough to venture into the lake and retrieve the phone, and she thus became the heroine of the hour.
Dinner was a splendid affair. Never have burritos tasted quite so delicious! For me, the most exciting part of dinner was the vegan cheese. Who knew ground-up cashews could taste so much like nacho cheese? Dessert was ye olde traditional s’mores, but all the matches were mysteriously wet (I wonder how that happened!?), and so we enjoyed our s’mores raw.
The next morning, the rain tapered off and we had oatmeal and zucchini bread (thanks Angie!) for breakfast, fortified with orange marmalade and the ever-controversial crunchy peanut butter. We rolled out under a light sprinkle that continued much of the way home. To our rain hardened bodies though, the drops felt like nothing. We survived flash floods!
On the trail back, the forest was neon green and filled with glorious purple and white flowers, courtesy of the previous nights’ deluge. We stopped at Pizza Lucé for some very delicious pizza and attracted more than a few curious looks from little kiddos as we locked up our row of gear-laden bikes.
With our bellies, we rolled back into town and one by one, peeled off the Midtown Greenway to our respective homes, with lively spirits and only slightly damp bodies.
Who knew you could have so much fun huddled under a tarp while torrential rain soaks you to the bone, and mosquitoes devour your entire body? This was the first time I've led a group ride with Grease Rag and I loved every second of it - even when I was cursing the mosquitoes. This was due to the seven strong and adventurous women on the trip. Their positive attitudes and humor made a flash flood warning no big deal. And thank goodness for Kara's tarp.
Favorite moment: On our ride home, I looked up at everyone in front of me and we're riding as one - we're a bike camping team - calling back "On your left!" "Runner up!" "Slowing!" This mama duck couldn't have been prouder of her little ducklings.
Most hilarious moment: When I emptied a cup of lemonade vodka onto Ina's lap - good thing she's got a rad sense of humor and was wearing rain pants. Oops. We could not stop laughing.
Here are seven lessons Kara learned on her first bike camping trip:
1. Use waterproof panniers, or wrap everything in garbage bags before sticking it in your panniers.
2. Use old inner tubes (just snip around the valve) to strap things onto your bike.
3. Don't change into your only pair of dry underwear minutes before you jump into a lake in pursuit of someone's dropped iPhone.
4. Bring more dry underwear than you think you'll need.
5. Nut-based vegan cheese [link: http://punkrawklabs.net/] is amazingly tasty.
6. If you can ride a bike, and if you feel comfortable car camping, then you can bike camp. Do it!
7. Grease Rag people are smart, fun, kind, positive, and awesome!
I loved getting to do something that I've wanted to for awhile, but was too nervous to do alone. Having a group of fabulous, supportive, positive companions to figure out the logistics with was great, and I feel confident that I could go on other trips in the future now that I've had this experience. And we encountered almost every challenge we might encounter on another trip - biking in the rain, setting up camp and cooking dinner in crashing thunderstorms, fixing brakes and tires in the morning - so I think we're well-prepared for future adventures. Meeting those challenges together was definitely a highlight of the weekend, as was celebrating with Pizza Luce on the way home. I'm glad I had this opportunity!