Touring On A Folder

I bought a folding bicycle with two thoughts in mind, one to avoid the airline charges and the other for a credit card tour in Europe. I reasoned that a folding bike would be a lot less hassle than a full size one. Taking it a carrying bag would eliminate the need for a box as well as finding some place to store the box around the airport. After a few local rides and doing some upgrades, the next thing was to give it a test run.

I put my sleeping bag in one front pannier, the tent fabric and enough food and cooking equipment for dinner in the other. The tent poles and Thera-A-Rest were rolled up in the ground sheet and strapped on top of the rear carrier. I rode it a few blocks around the neighborhood and found it to be stable and handled the added weight very well. Now all I needed was a place to go.

There's a fair size reservoir known as Lake Draper about eight miles from my house. It's a popular cycling area with miles of two track security roads which make for great for off-road bike trails and the 15 mile perimeter road with limited traffic is an ideal road route. There are several picnic areas and a designated camping area, but about all the facilities available there are rough parking spots for RVs and a path to a porta-potty. There is little shade and no water in the camping area. The lake closes at 11:00PM when all boats, recreational and day users are supposed to leave. There's a police and security patrol, which will issue tickets to anyone found outside the camping area after closing time.

I couldn't see paying ten bucks to pitch a tent in the camping area when there are so many much nicer places around the lake, so I headed out to find a hidden spot. I rode across the dam and to the opposite side of the lake from the marina and lake offices. A number of trails lead from the perimeter road to secluded points along the shore where people like to haul up their ski boats and those noisy jet powered death traps otherwise known as personal watercraft. I followed one of these trails to the shore and then pushed the bike through the trees far enough to be hidden from anyone who might wander down the trail. I found a small jut of land just large enough for me to pitch the tent and set up camp. I was totally hidden except from the water.

I prepared one of my favorite camping dinners: chunky beef soup and a small can of green peas over some cous cous. Takes little time, easy to prepare and only one pot. I had dinner, washed the pan and spoon and read a book while enjoying the setting sun across the lake. I listened to the radio for a while and drifted off to a good night's sleep.

The call of nature along with the early sunrise woke me long before the restaurant would open at the marina for breakfast, so I brought some water to a boil to make coffee. I was leaning against a tree, enjoying my coffee and watching a hawk through binoculars as it scouted the shoreline a quarter mile away across the lake for something that might have drifted in during the night.

A black and white bronco with a police shield and "LAKE PATROL" on the door pulled away from the marina. A bit later it came into view driving to the shore on one of the trails on the opposite side of the lake. The hawk veered away when it spotted the car then went back to its search for breakfast. The slow-moving police vehicle disappeared into the trees only to emerge a hundred yards further along the shore. It stopped at the edge of the water and a lady wearing a police uniform stepped out. She shaded her eyes and looked across the lake in my direction. Then she reached into the vehicle and brought out a pair of binoculars and trained them directly on me.

She got back in the police car, backed around and disappeared rapidly into the trees; it was obvious that she had spotted me and was on the way. Even though it was only a quarter mile across the lake at that point, it was at least six or seven miles around by road. I dropped the tent, wadded it into one pannier and the sleeping bag into the other. It took me no more than three minutes flat to break camp and be out of there. Figuring that she would come around by way of the dam, I turned the opposite direction when I reached the pavement so I wouldn't meet her.

Perhaps half an hour later I arrived at the marina just as the restaurant was opening. I was enjoying breakfast when the lady officer pulled into the parking lot. She gave me one of those withering "you got away with it this time" looks as she came in the door then went to the counter for a cup of coffee and to visit with the guy who runs the place.

I'm convinced the the little bike will make a great mount for light touring and look forward to when I can put it to actual use.

Click the pics for a larger image --> Folding Bike Close-up of front rack Close-up of rear rack

Related story - Is There a Folder in Your Future?

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Copyright 2001 by Jim Foreman