Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Grand Isle State Park Bike Overnight - New Pedals, a Camp Chair, and Instructions to "Don't Forget the Pie!"

Mount Saint Helens, ready for an overnight. The Clementine will get her outing in September.
My goal this summer was to go on four bike overnights, one per month. For August, I planned to try out the Clementine, but with rack difficulties I put that idea on hold, instead opting to load up the Mount Saint Helens. If I'm honest, the idea to tour on the Ross has always been on my mind, so the decision wasn't so much consolation, but a chance to try a simple tour on a step through bicycle, one I'm completely confident and comfortable riding for short distances.

Loving the MKS "sneaker" pedals.
First, I made time to replace the Tioga pedals with Rivendell's MKS "sneaker" pedals then loaded the bike with bare necessities: a change of clothes, the usual sleeping bag, mat and single person 3 lb. tent, camp stove and stainless cup, bathing suit and water shoes (which I never used), the usual toiletries, and one superfluous item: a 1 lb. Helinox ground chair, a new item that I wanted to try on a tour. As I was getting ready to leave, my husband mentioned that if I could possibly carry it, I should return with a pie. It's kind of a joke between us, because once we were able to haul a pie back from apple country in South Hero, and that pie made it home a little squished, but definitely edible. Since then it's become our mantra: if you go there, then find a way to bike a pie home. So then I pushed off  at 4 pm. with a lightly loaded bike. Immediately, I fell in love with what I couldn't feel with the "sneaker" pedals, the spindle that used to protrude and caused my feet to slide on the old touring pedals. The new pedals are keepers!

The U-shape racks on the bike ferry are covered in corrugated flexible pipe so bicycles are not scratched.
I easily pedaled the flat waterfront path, connected with the causeway trail,  took the ferry, and was pedaling on South Hero in the Champlain Islands. I had a slight headwind, but with less than 20 miles, tops, to get to Grand Isle State Park, I realized this would be the shortest bike overnight I'd ever done.

I stopped  at Keeler's Bay Store for a couple items to supplement dinner and breakfast and parked my bike next to another  bicycle, this one heavily loaded with four monstrous panniers. And surely, I surmised, the bike belonged to someone on a very long tour. As I roamed the store, I kept my eye out for whom the bike might belong to, but the store was busy and by the time I went back outside the bicycle was gone. I suspected I might see the owner again in the campground because it was nearly 6 pm., but there was no guarantee that was their final destination for the evening.

Within a mile I easily caught up to the bicycle, piloted by an older woman and as luck would have it, we were headed the same direction. I slowed down and we swapped our stories. Jan, from California, was embarking on a two week tour of Canada having just retrieved her bike from a Burlington bike shop.

Cooking tomatoes and yellow beans from my garden, then adding ramen and tuna fish.
At the park entrance we agreed to camp together and were able to split the site fee. The lady in the office didn't quite know where to put us at first but settled on the paddlers' site, which proved to be a great choice. Lake Champlain reserves special campsites along it's 110 mile length for anyone traveling by human powered watercraft. The patch of lawn was next to the beach and secluded, so even though the site lacked a picnic table, it was a short walk to our pick of 4 tables with a beautiful northern view of the lake.

Jan's and my tent easily fit in the site. It had been a sultry day and the evening continued in the same vein. An offshore breeze was welcome filtering through my tent opening (in blue) so after dark I set up my little chair which happened to snuggly fit inside the tent. I have difficulty spending more than 6 hours on my back so the chair was a splurge that I hoped would pay off in the long run and make tenting a little easier on me, especially during shorter daylight hours. I'm happy to say the experiment worked - I spent an entire hour sitting upright, reading Never Cry Wolf until I was ready to retire.

In the morning Jan and I rolled our bikes to the picnic table so she could organize her panniers. She'd been in a hurry the previous day to get moving and was exhausted from a red eye flight so now she had the time to properly organize her gear. As I soon discovered, Jan carries extra clothing so she's never cold. Indeed I wore a t-shirt while she added a layer of fleece. But still, it seemed she was carrying way too much gear for a two week journey. However, Jan is a seasoned world traveler and certainly understands her comfort zone.

Jan and I parted at 8 am. after swapping addresses and phone numbers. I invited Jan to stay with our family on her return to Burlington where she will fly back to California.

While Jan had a nice tailwind to propel her into Canada, a headwind greeted me as I headed in the opposite direction, retracing my route. However, as with short rides, any wind is doable. I was too early before the orchard store opened it's doors, so I walked in a cemetery, spending several quiet minutes, indeed recognizing family names from nearby establishments.

The orchards were bursting with red fruit and as I later found out, some varieties of apples are harvested as early as July and continue well into November.

With string and yarn I secured a whole apple crisp, packed in a box (this orchard sold crisp and not pies, but I knew my family wouldn't care!). I rolled on more asphalt, then dodged potholes on a dirt road, then pedaled a relatively smooth stone dust causeway, then more bumpy pavement, over a wooden bridge before returning to our family camp.

When I opened the box at 11 am. my family stood around and marveled at it's perfect shape, then sniffed the dessert, and looked at me with salivating eyes. I told them to dig in and we all gobbled heaping portions as a treat on the deck overlooking the lake.

While the bike overnight was a mere 40 miles round-trip, the Ross performed well, I love the new pedals, my chair will now be a must-have on future trips, and I met a wonderful lady. As I've mentioned before, it's all about the experience that makes these simple journeys worthwhile.


  1. Well done. In some recent overnighters that involved time sitting in camp on rocks, I've been pondering the chair idea myself. Bonus points for the crisp!

    1. I've gone to great lengths to lighten my touring load: a lightweight down bag, lighter ground pad, lightweight tent, simple stove, one cup/pot...then add a pillow and now a chair! Even with those two additions I feel the additional items are worth it for comfort. Check out the Helinox ground chair. It has a very stable base and is a brilliant piece of engineering. I'll have to do a post on it at some point. It will be great for coffeeneuring!

  2. When you sort out the rack issues on the Clementine, I would be interested in a post on that point and a broader discussion of your observations of the Clementine. Jim D Massachusetts

    1. Of course, the Clementine preview will come, all in due time.

  3. Great Post I have been thinking of getting the MKS Sneakers for my newly acquired Schwinn Passage and its good to see your hearty endorsement. The chair sounds like an excellent addition to your gear and you can never go wrong bringing home Pie!!

    +1 with Jim D we anxiously await your review and pics of the Clementine! I saw a Clem Jr. in person at the Farmers Market Sunday (H style) and it was gorgeous.

  4. What a great story. It looks like the Ross worked well, Jan was good company, and the crisp looks delicious!

    1. Thanks Kendra. These overnights are so much fun.

  5. I love the sneaker pedals. I have two sets, both arrived a little low on grease, but I just went with it. The first set lasted about two years of commuting, with no maintenance, which is probably more than you could ask for at this price. Finally they developed a grindy click so I'm replacing the bearings and putting in a healthy amount of grease this time. Getting into them is a little tricky because those plastic dust caps are pressed in really hard. I'll post photos after I finish the job.

  6. I've been waiting for a post about your new Clementine. I hope it's all you want it to be.

    1. No worries. I will make sure to eventually write a post. Other things have taken precedence, plus I am currently riding a cargo bike (on loan), but now that the weather has cooled I will get a rack on the Clementine. I have only ridden the bike for 5 minutes so at the moment I am unable to give decent feedback.


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