40 strangers, self selected to pedal together, set up camp for one night, and not have their lives taped. This is the true story of the Swift Campout with The Bikery.
Alright, that was a little bit of an overly dramatic introduction to what was a very low drama trip, but what can I say? The Real World is taping it's 32nd season less than a mile from my house, so it's been on my mind a bit lately.
All joking aside, The Bikery, an all-volunteer run bike kitchen that I volunteer at as their Outreach and Communications lead had a roaringly successful first bike camping trip with 40 people joining us! The idea to host a bike camping trip started last fall with the leadership team, as we're all avid bike campers, but none of us have ever camped together before. A huge part of our organization's goal is to lead by example and teach others, so leading a camping trip is right in line with what we love to do.
Lucky for us, our friends at Swift Industries organize a worldwide bicycle camp out over solstice weekend, so we jumped on that effort as a perfect time to do the Bikery trip.
I got super lucky and was able to book the group site at Scenic Beach State Park. This site holds up to 40 people and the park is an 18 mile ride from the ferry- just about perfect for all skill levels! The group site at Scenic Beach is pretty secluded from the rest of the park, with its own shelter, pit toilet, and lots of tent space, tree space (perfect for hammocks!), and beach access. Seriously, it couldn't have been more perfect for our group.
To tell the truth, leading up to the trip, I was super nervous about leading the ride. 40 people, riding fully loaded bikes, many of whom I don't know, riding on fairly busy roads- this trip was ripe for potential issues. I'm also not the fastest rider by any stretch of the imagination- especially on my touring bike. "Leading" the ride would be a generous term (and in fact, I ended up being one of the last ones to show up to the camp site as I stopped to help a rider with a flat tire.)
To lessen the chance of something going wrong, I tried to imagine everything that could go wrong, and took the following precautions:
- Sent out the route beforehand so if folks came late, fell behind, etc., they knew where to go
- Had other Bikery leads spaced throughout the ride as sweepers to ensure people weren't falling off the back of the ride
- Had everybody do a pre-ride safety check on their bike (air, quick release, brakes, bolts, etc.)
- Re-grouped periodically and announced any upcoming turns
This seemed to work pretty well and the only mechanical issues we had the entire trip was one issue with a rack before we even left the shop, some disc brake replacement at camp and a tire blowout. Hooray for being prepared!
The trip itself was magical. We arrived at camp by 4pm, which gave us nearly six hours of daylight to explore, play games, and ride bikes. Four of our crew set up camp, put their kits back on and went back out to find gravel. They ended up on top of Green Mountain, the highest point in Kitsap County. Most of the rest of the camp out explored the beach, napped in hammocks, and even joined in on a large game of Capture the Flag. I can't tell you the last time I saw a group of 20 twenty and thirty-somethings running around playing Capture the Flag, but it was pretty amazing.
At one point, a truck pulled up the group site with 3 boxes of firewood and 6 homemade, warm pie. Apparently, one of our group had stopped by Sharon "The Pie Lady" on his way in and arranged for a drop off of pie and firewood. Lucky us!
As the afternoon turned into evening, the group gathered in the shelter and an array of stoves, cutting boards, and even a wok appeared from bike bags. I have no idea where Amanda stored that wok on her bicycle, but more power to her!
No camping trip is complete without s'mores and oh boy, did we have s'mores. Central Co-Op donated $50 for us to buy snacks and with that we bought a ton of chocolate and graham crackers. One of our campers also happened to find a treasure trove of chocolate in a local dumpster. So.Much.Chocolate.
Sunday morning we woke up to bright sunshine and enjoyed lots of coffee, thanks to Stumptown (another of the #swiftcampout sponsors.) Lots of people rolled out of camp pretty early to catch the early ferry to make it back in time for Seattle Pride. For the rest of us, we took it slow, packing up camp in the sunshine and savoring those morning camp vibes.
Rolling back towards the Bremerton Ferry, I had lots of time to think about the trip and how thankful I was to get to share my love for bike camping with so many people. We went from being 40 strangers to fast friends, all from a shared interest in bicycles and the outdoors. For many of those who joined us, it was their first time ever camping via bicycle. By providing a supported environment, we hopefully opened the door for these people to continue to explore and camp via bike.
I remember when I first sold my car, the idea of going camping again seemed so daunting. How would I ever do it? Now, the thought of car camping seems really daunting- reservations, paying parking fees, waiting in ferry lines...so many things to think about! On a bicycle, there's so much freedom that you just don't get in a car. Yes, it takes longer and you have to fuel up a lot more often (but it's WAY tastier fuel!), but in my opinion, the reward when you make it to the campsite on your own power is so much sweeter.