Remember my dare to Julian Totcycle?

He didn’t say, but I think he took me up on it. And I think he won.

I may or may not have said something like:

I don’t really see how you could possibly top a Kidical Mass that ends in a ride on a giant ferris wheel, but Julian Totcycle, I dare you to try!

So then the Kidical Mass bike camping trip to Fay Bainbridge happened.

It was only my second time camping with kids and I was feeling pretty ambivalently about it the day before. Not for my kids’ sake–they freaking love camping like whoa, and I know it. They go from miniature urban hipsters to blissed-out Lords of the Flies as soon as their unshod feet hit the dirt. By the time we go home, they both have dirt beards and a savage gleam to their eyes. Good for them!

I just don’t like being cold and uncomfortable, which is how I would characterize the first time I camped with the kids (rain! mud! cold! wet!). I very nearly sent Mr. Wizard with the big kid and stayed home since I was getting over a cold anyway.

But my rather predictable burning desire to Have All The Fun won out. I just hate the feeling of second-guessing my decisions and wondering if I’d be having a more awesome time if I’d made the other call. Chances were that camping would be more fun than staying home with the 2yo, so I made the last-minute call to go, still feeling a little unsure as we rolled out. We threw everything on the bikes that morning and headed off to Fremont to meet up with the rest of the Kidical Mass crew, buying foodstuffs at PCC while we waited.

The ride to the ferry was pretty chill. We took a different route than expected due to Hemp Fest; the ride leaders understandably wanted to avoid the shambling hordes of confused stoners on the trail. We ended up on Dexter for a short jaunt, and my mind immediately flashed to the hit-and-run bike-vs.-car accidents that have happened recently at the corner of Denny and Dexter.

One of the nice things about riding in a big freaky group is that we look like some kind of weirdo brigade, what with our unusual bikes and the chorus of ringing bells. There is safety in being so visible, that’s for sure, and that’s a lot of why I love big social rides.

I’ve never ridden the ferry to Bainbridge Island on a bike, but it was pretty sweet. Bicyclists get the VIP treatment: primo parking in the front row, first on the ferry, first off the ferry, dibs on awesome window seating on the ferry, etc.

Waiting to get on the ferry! Total VIPs.

Sweet ferry parking. Nice ferris wheel! Hey, remember when we did a Kidical Mass ride to that wheel and then we rode on it? That was pretty awesome.

We stopped at a lovely coffee shop whose name I cannot remember for lunch when we got off the ferry. Open-faced PBJs! Amazing sweet potato fries! Etc.! The kids loved the funky table.

If only Mr. Wizard would upload the photos he took with his DSLR so I didn’t have to use these crappy camera phone pictures…

After that, we headed off for Fay Bainbridge on the north end of the island. Up to that point, everything had been pretty easy riding. It is probably a good thing I didn’t know how hilly Bainbridge Island is or I might have chickened out.

It’s, um, hilly.

A photo from the Seattle PI of a Chilly Hilly ride on Bainbridge Island. Why is Family Ride trying to convince me to do this?!

The hills are of a different quality than the ones I am used to riding here in urban Seattle: they are feral rollers of the variety that are most at home out in the middle of nowhere on an island. So the uphills definitely kicked my ass, but on the plus side, I worked up some nice momentum on the downhills to compensate. I was going so freaking fast–faster than I have ever ridden on Helga with the kids on board. I felt some flex in the frame from time to time, but it was still a super stable ride. I kept reminding myself that I am strong and my bike is awesome and we are one and it is going to be okay. And it was!

I was behind Family Ride some of the time and was amazed at her stamina. I had to stop three times coming up the first hill that Brad took us up while laughing maniacally (that guy…! Rod love him, but he is a cycling sadist and probably has a BionX installed in his legs). I distinctly remember riding straight toward a bike path that ran along the waterfront when Brad suddenly took us left up a beast of a hill (laughing! Did I mention he was laughing?) while someone exclaimed, “What’s wrong with that perfectly good bike path back there?!”

But after that I didn’t have to stop. It was exhilarating! On some of the bigger rollers, I saw Family Ride’s beautiful pink Dummy fishtailing and wobbling under the pressure of her load (both kids aboard, ages 5 and 3, plus so much camping stuff bungeed and stuffed everywhere… amazing!). She was cool and controlled the whole time.

PvE’s floppy sleepyhead makes navigating the rollers of Bainbridge a special challenge.

When we arrived at Fay Bainbridge, the Camping Boss Guy (ranger? I don’t know what to call him) indicated the special bike camping area, which was right on the edge of the water! Amazing and beautiful. We just pulled right up, parked our bikes, and pitched our tents next to them. So easy!

You don’t know it, but the driftwood and sand and water are right on the other side of Helga’s front tire there. Primo bike and tent parking!

Setting up camp!

Camping was predictably awesome. It was chilly, but not overly so. There was a fire and vegan/gluten-free marshmallows were roasted. We let the kids stay up way too late and play with glow sticks. They ran all over the place like a wild pack of roving puppies and it was great!

Who needs toys when you have a bunch of driftwood to play with?

The next day, everyone else set off for Bike for Pie, but we stayed behind to let little PvE have a tent nap after making him nap on the bike the day before, which was fairly miserable for him.

The Totcycles and Family Rides about to embark on the 12-mile family-friendly (ha! ha! ha!) Bike for Pie ride.

We eventually headed back to Seattle, and the hardest hill was once again the first one–the small but mean fellow on the way out of the campground. I had to get off and walk part of the way (shame!). After that, I grumped and wheezed all the way back on the rollers and we were once again VIPing it up on the ferry.

This time it was DPS who fell asleep en route.

And the view from the ferry was not bad:

I have a thing for this skyline.

I thought I had convinced myself and Mr. Wizard that we were taking the longer flat way back along the waterfront and through the ship yards, but I let him talk me out of it at the last minute and we ground up Vine Street downtown. It was at that point that I knew my legs were all but shot and it was a very good thing I didn’t also Bike for Pie.

I stopped every block coming up Meridian. We got home that Sunday afternoon and I lay on the couch where I basically stayed until Tuesday.

I would totally do it again. I think I actually liked bike camping more than car camping with the kids because it limited us to the basic supplies. Rather than packing anything and everything we OMG MIGHT NEED, we only came with what we needed. Food. Tent. Clothes. No toys. And it was much less stressful that way.

I was in the back of the pack most of the time, and I know I was struggling more than a lot of people, but I did it. I did it! I’ve only been riding like this since April, and only on Helga since early summer. Not bad, not bad.

Do you do bike camping? What has your experience been like?

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