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Friday, August 5, 2011

What Kind of Person Enjoys Bicycle Camping?

I've fallen out of sync since my last trip and I didn't bicycle camp during May or July which is a shame because I want to adhere to a at-least-one-bike-camping-trip-per-month standard.  So August it is!  But, back to my point.

Well, just about anyone can enjoy bicycle camping.  That question answers itself.

No, the point to this little essay is really a rhetorical question posed by other campers at the park.  Most campers have RVs and trailers, or are at least tent campers who arrive by car.  Bicycle campers are on the lowest rung of the campground social  hierarchy and people will often look at you with that quizzical expression: what kind of person enjoys bicycle camping?

Whereas bicycle camping is supposedly hugely popular in Europe (so I'm told) in this country most folks don't seem to get it.  They regard us bicycle campers warily and strongly suspect we are actually homeless people, not to be trusted, who'll create a disruption to their perfect camping adventure (which to my mind is really no adventure at all when you are safely ensconced in a trailer or RV watching TV and eating micro-waved meals).

That is to say, we bicycle campers capture the essence of camping: roughing it, creating our own primitive environments in the wild, sleeping in a tiny tent or bivy sack (just got one last month), in the same clothes we rode in with.  We cook our food on tiny butane cook stoves (or alcohol stoves made of a tin can - never tried that but it sounds cool!), we provide our own entertainment by reading or listening to a transistor radio, we carry all our gear in panniers or strapped to the frames of our bikes.  We show up sweaty, dirty, and exhausted.  And generally during the course of our camping trips we look like something the cat dragged in.

We are, in other words, the antithesis of your average camper.  We are more akin to backpackers.  Unfortunately, in the campground we are regarded with suspicion.

When confronted by the specter of hot, tired people dragging their gear into the park on a bicycle, RV'rs and trailer campers are generally wary, suspicious, disapproving, and disdainful of bicycle campers.  I really wish my remarks could be dismissed as hyperbole or super-sensitiveness.  But they aren't and it is not.  I am confronting the reality.  Most other campers in the park would prefer we not be there.

When you bicycle camp don't expect to be loved.

I could relate several stories where I've been treated rudely and disrespectfully by other campers but I won't.  In spite of clanking out this little essay I don't want to dwell on the negative.

So how about concluding on a positive note?  Here goes.

I'd like to see more bicycle campers and I'd like to demonstrate to our fellow campers that we are a courteous, respectful, helpful, engaging, wonderfully adventurous breed who combine our two favorite pastimes - health improvement and enjoying the outdoors - into one activity.  Unlike our more sedate trailering/RV'ing camping brethren we emit no pollution into the environment, we don't require electrical resources at the park... just a campsite, a restroom with a shower, and we're complete!!  We are a net benefit to our community.

We are the bicycle campers of America and ... considering the price of gasoline, the deleterious impact of fuel emissions in our stratosphere, the epidemic of obesity in this the most prosperous nation in the world... we are - or, at least, shoud be - the future!!

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