Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bike Camping Durm-style

Sometimes (read that as "always") I tend to get caught up a little too much in my day to day activities.  You lose track of any larger picture, going about your daily routine and before you know it, a day/month/decade has passed you by.  That's when it's nice to interject a small interlude into your week.  And that's where a bike camping overnight comes in.  I won't waste my finger strength blathering about why you should ride a bike, etc. because it's self explanatory.  What I would like to do is showcase an overnight bike camping trip my friend, Jon, and I took in the Durham, NC (pronounced "Durm") area yesterday in hopes that others will be inspired.

If there ever was a dependable and eternally enthusiastic friend, Jon is it.  I have frozen my ass off on subzero ice climbing trips with him, shared a tent for a month during which neither of us showered, and tied into the same climbing rope innumerable times.  We shared a whole lot of other times together that I will abstain from entering into the written record for fear of later legal ramifications.  Jon can be bleeding profusely from both shins due to ill fitting mountaineering boots, be looking at the kiddie box of raisins that constitutes his day's rations and flinching at the sound of bus sized seracs falling off a mountain and he'll still muster a big smile and say "Let's do this".

Of course when I mentioned to Jon on Wednesday that I was planning to bike from Durham to Jordan Lake the next day and spend the night, he was immediately on board.  Sometimes I have to be skeptical about Jon's enthusiasm because he currently works the third shift on some odd rotating schedule.  It would render almost anyone continually sleep deprived.  Jon can sometimes appear zombie-like in his motions after long work stints.  (And he usually smells like rotting flesh just as a zombie would, but that's an entirely different matter)  We both needed to work Friday afternoon, so Thursday evening was prime pickins for a camp out.

If you have yet to bike or walk on the American Tobacco Trail, then you are certainly missing out.  It served as a comfortable and convenient route out of downtown Durham for us.  The trail begins adjacent to the Durham Bulls baseball park (no... not the original of movie fame, but that one still stands fairly close by) and runs through urban neighborhoods about 7 miles south to where Interstate 40 currently interrupts it.  A dedicated overpass for pedestrians and cyclists is under construction and should hopefully be complete sometime this spring.  With all of the construction delays that have happened in the past though, we may be seeing winged bacon before we see the overpass.  Fayetteville Rd parallels the ATT and so you can ride on it for a couple of miles to cross I-40, but keep in mind that you're going through several stoplights with on/off ramps and passing Southpoint Mall.  Not impossible, just be careful.  From there you can reconnect with the ATT and ride another 13 miles south to where it ends.  There we switched over to very quiet country roads that wind their way west to the man made Jordan Lake.

Being model citizens for once, Jon and I elected to camp in a designated campground of which there are about 6 or so circling the lake.  Some shut down for the colder months, but two are open year-round.  Of course the campground was a ghost town this late in the year, but the hot water was still running in the bathrooms so who cares?  We were able to scrounge some free firewood abandoned by a previous camper and build a cheery fire to combat the low of 32 degrees that night.  Most folks that we talked to in the area considered it stupid or suicidal to camp out in such temperatures since it doesn't get much colder than that this far south.  (My friends in Pennsylvania are currently laughing...)

The night passed quietly and we both slept soundly despite everyone's concerns.  The brisk morning air called for a quick breakdown of camp so that we could start moving about and riding however.  One gas station on US 64 advertised breakfast starting at 5:30 am and that was a siren song to our wind nipped ears.  After a few breakfast sandwiches, Jon and I decided to go our separate ways.  He would retrace our route back up the ATT to Durham and I would take Fearrington/Farrington/etc. Rd across the lake and back up to Chapel Hill, NC to work later in the day.

This trip is a great ride for anyone living in the Triangle.  Once the overpass for the American Tobacco trail is completed, I think that even a novice cyclist would feel comfortable riding the 30 mile stretch that we did.  There are plenty more opportunities for overnight bike camping trips in the area and I'll continue to post them as well as the biking friendly routes that I take.

It being his first bike tour of any kind, Jon is double checking the list outside his apartment.  Gummi bears?  Check.  By the way, he lives in a renovated toy factory.  I'd say that suits him.

The American Tobacco Trail starts as a paved trail in downtown Durham and includes several bridges over busy streets.

Once you cross Interstate 40, it gets a little bit more rural and has an unpaved shoulder as well which is presumably for horses.

The southernmost 7 or so miles of the ATT are not paved but are so firmly packed that any road bike can still easily travel on it.

Jon is smiling even though his Brooks leather saddle is still hard as a rock.

We arrive with even some daylight to spare... but not much.

With all of the leaves having fallen, some beautiful views of Jordan Lake are available from the campsites.

Jon has just finished telling me that his touring bike is now "one of the five best purchasing decisions" he's made in life.  Even I am afraid to inquire as to the other four.

The water in the bathrooms is absolutely scaldingly hot.  I guess to handle peak tourist season when it gets diluted.  Instead of going to the trouble of boiling another pot of water, we get the bright idea of just making tea with the water straight out of the tap.  It is hereafter referred to as "sink tea".

The men's bathroom in Loop A of Crosswinds Campground has some pretty sweet murals in it.  Yes, I checked the women's too.  It was a deer.  And an owl.

I admire their detail.

I didn't happen to see any windsurfers out on the lake that day.

Jon taught me how to play gin rummy then promptly kicked my ass.  What a friend.  Incidentally, all of these photos were either taken with an iPod Touch or a smartphone so I apologize if their not up to your standards.  This one was taken with the iPod and a headlamp held aloft for a "flash".

The following morning, hot breakfast sandwiches were indeed welcomed.  For those of you who have yet to sample "country style ham" in the South, you are missing out.  It contains approximately 1000% of your daily recommended sodium intake and would balance any electrolyte/salt deficiency on the hottest of days.