I’ve had this idea in my head about bikepacking my fattie on the beach for awhile now. Mis amigo, Cale just came back from a long trip in Baja, that made the trip planning itch, all the stronger. In the past month I’ve traded email and read stories from experienced fat-packers that make a pretty steady habit of taking rides which include bivouacking all around the globe, so I have bike camping on the brain. I bugged my gnome-fest cousin and experienced bike camper, Joe Kisley, to send me his overnight packing list and he sent me a link to the Rivendell site that introduced me to the term S24O and a list of what I should pack. A sub 24 hour overnight sounded like the perfect way to dip my toe in the water of fat-packing. The next challenge was to figure out how to get it all strapped onto the moonabago. I’ve bikepacked before with racks and panniers and more recently have done some gravel touring with a bob trailer, but last week was my first time over-nighting on my fat-bike. I’ve been testing Old Man Mountain’s Sherpa rack and that’s where the bulk of my gear would reside for my ~ 25 mile round trip. My current bike has every braze on that you can imagine, so I mounted water bottle cages on the fork and stuffed my mummy bag into a dry bag. I tried to get my bag and sleeping pad to mount with straps under the handlebar, but couldn’t get it to fit without interfering with the brake levers. I think I need to invest in (another) special bag to make that work. For shelter, I packed a Hennesy hammock tent and brought along some light winter layering for camp. There was a frost warning in effect, but Lake Michigan moderates the air temperature, so I planned for around 40 degrees F.
I left my truck at a state park after checking in with the office and displaying my overnight permit on my dashboard. State parks around here don’t allow bikes on the beach, so I rode a mile or so, of gravel road to get outside of the park boundaries, where bikes are allowed. Once out on the beach, the wind, praise gnomes, was at my back and fairly fierce. Loose sand cascaded along in front of me, driven by gusts of lake chilled wind. The wind was also driving white-capped waves that crashed noisily the entire way. My plan was to ride the nine miles into town to eat some dinner and then continue on to camp. I ride this particular stretch of beach a lot, and even with a strong tailwind, there’s a section about 3 miles out of town, where the sand is really soft, that had me pushing the granny gear. I pulled into town at around 5:00 pm, so I rode all over looking for trouble and shooting some pictures that led me to my favorite Greek/Mexican cantina. I finished my tacos with about an hour of day light left to get into camp. I had only recon’d the way to camp, once before, so I thought it was only about a mile out of town, but a mile turned into 3, before arriving at ‘the place’. Sven and I had visited here last winter and we both kind of fell in love with ‘the place’. A beachfront hobo camp complete with it’s own little waterfall. It didn’t look nearly as sketchy in February as it did, when I rolled up, this time. The place was pretty trashed. Lot’s of litter and garbage left over from a warm spring party season, was strewn about and the welcome sign was gone. I decided to just bed down next to the fire pit among the garbage. I made a nice tidy fire and opened my last can of beer after the sun went down without as much as a whimper and slept like a baby…….that’s to say that I woke up several times throughout the night to gaze at the stars and listen to the waves pound the beach. (I tried to keep the crying to a minimum). At the first light of predawn I got up and began to pack up a bit. Sunrise over Lake Michigan is a really awesome sight. In the magic light of dawn my garbage dump of a camp was transformed into a thing of beauty. Coincidentally that is the new slogan for Illinois tourism. I made a good picture and set sail for a hot cup of coffee.
After coffee and some fried chicken embryos, I went out and played fat-bikes on the beach. My tracks from the previous day’s ride were here and there, but mostly erased in just a third of a day’s wind and waves (take note WI-DNR rule writers). I really enjoyed my first S24O and I’m already planning my next!