This weekend we did our first test run with full gear at Oak Mountain State Park, near Birmingham, AL. We camped and rode inside the park for two days and nights. Here is a top eight list (it was a short trip) from the weekend!
1. The dry run wasn’t exactly, well, dry.
The area received 1.82 inches of rain from Friday to Sunday. We were lucky in that we escaped riding in the heaviest of the rain, but experienced enough to feel that we made a good decision on the full-coverage SKS fenders. Thumbs up on those! Saturday night, the soft and soothing pitter-pat of rain drops on the tent quickly turned into a non-stop hammering. The dogs seem to have slept great, but the people could have used a Sunday nap!
2. Speaking of things that didn’t stay dry; Biscuit’s face.
Sunday morning Biscuit had the following report: “Guys? Um, guys? I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I think there is some water leaking into the tent. I mean, I know I sometimes drool when I sleep, but I’m pretty sure you need to check this out.”
So we have some pondering to do on the tent situation.
3. Welcome to Alabama, y’all.
Friday was a busy, busy day and we didn’t get settled in the tent and to sleep until around midnight. Fully embracing the freedom of a bicycle tourist, we slept in. While lounging in the tent talking about the upcoming day of riding, the sound of music started drifting through the forest of pines from across the creek. Ah yes, a little “Long Haired Country Boy” by Charlie Daniels! And, about halfway through, a full-on “yee haw!” Not even kidding. How did your morning start?
4. Birmingham Bicycle Company.
We could list a 100 things we like about the BBC, but Mike, the owner, along with Grant, Carl and Andrew in the shop are the reason we will recommend them to anyone who will listen. The weekend test run would not have been possible without them and we consider them a key part of our team. If you need a bike, parts or service, go see them. We’ll discuss our experience with them in more detail in a future post.
5. Challenges make us stronger.
Leaving the Oak Mountain campground is a short but steep hill. It looks harmless in a vehicle, but on cold legs and lungs trying to haul the gear and pups, that thing is a monster. It is a little humbling to have the first major thought of the test ride be, “oh my, what have we gotten ourselves into?!” But, failure on a hill means falling over and falling over on asphalt sucks, so a few curse words later (by Mark) we crested. Oak Mountain roads are not flat and easy, but the remainder of the ride went very well. Georgia was hauling around 45lbs of gear and never left the middle ring on her bike (translation: there is a lot of easier gears left on her bike. Strong!). Mark was hauling around 35lbs of gear along with the 120lb puppy cart and fully tested out the little ring, but had at least two gears left even on the worst of the hills. Not bad for a fully-loaded first ride in wet and hilly conditions. We’ll get stronger, count on it. If you were wondering if this thing was possible, it is!
6. How good is it? It’s Gouda!
We also practiced trip eating, which is to say we focused on light and easy to prepare items such as ready-made rice, tuna packets and noodles. We made one exception, by buying a small piece of 3-year Gouda from Whole Foods. It was devoured on Friday evening, and we are still talking about it. In fact, Biscuit isn’t the only one who drools.
7. Chain reactions.
If you pull puppies around in a cart, people notice. Here are a few of the reactions…
Another biker pulled up next to us and inquired about how much it costs to get a ride in the puppy cart. He felt it would be a great place to relax and mix margaritas. Admittedly, a salty margarita did sound pretty tasty but we declined.
Apparently we also have some stalkers, as some of them drove by screaming wildly from a passing van. We aren’t sure what they were yelling, but it may have been something along the lines of “hey, that guy pulling the dog cart looks like he is about to pass out!” Let’s call that stating the obvious.
Another person hollered out “HEY GUNNAR!” (our brand of bikes) as we rode through a parking lot.
A couple of bikers passed us and the gal commented to her riding partner, “That isn’t a baby in there, those are fur babies!”
A gentleman in the campground saw us walking the dogs and inquired if we were hauling them in the trailer as we passed by earlier. We stated an affirmative. That earned us a hearty laugh and knee slap.
We have been practicing biking lingo. We yell out to each other such things as “car up!” and “on your left.” When faced with a rattlesnake in the middle of the road, what is the proper warning to your trailing partner? We’ll work on that one. Suggestions welcome.
We had a ton of fun and a lot of great experiences in just a short weekend. To say we are excited to get the full trip underway, would be an understatement!
We have posted a few pictures over on our Instagram and Facebook. Check ’em out if you haven’t already!
– Georgia, Mark, Junebug and Biscuit