This is the first in a series of guest blog posts by Yuba riders and friends. This first ink slinger is Dr. R. Carter McRee, PhD. He is currently traveling through the South Eastern part of the US with a Mundo and a Boda Boda, and is sharing his reflections with us.
Camping gets tough when going from your car to your campsite requires more effort than an easy stroll. Carrying all your gear down a path to your final destination requires lots of energy and with each step you begin to think the RV crowd has it made. At that moment I recall Edward Abbey’s words,” The longest journey begins with a single step, not with the turn of an ignition key.” Today’s modern RV camper brings suburbia into the woods and the allure of wilderness is diluted by their 21st century technology. The bicycle, a 19th century invention, can bring that allure back without all the drudgery of a long hike.
I recently rode my Boda Boda into rustic tent sites at state parks in Georgia and South Carolina and was able to experience wilderness thrills in the midst of RVs. The campgrounds had plenty of empty tent sites and my bike let me take all the comforts of home along for the ride. Driving past a wide variety of RVs to the designated parking areas I marveled at their size, most of them with bikes parked nearby. My Toyota Yaris uses less than a tenth of the gas these behemoths burn and I slept very comfortably every night. A cushy pad, warm sleeping bag and spacious tent reliably let me get a good night’s sleep.
My first campsite was at Ft. Yargo State Park in scenic Winder, GA. It was strategically located midway between Athens and Atlanta and a day’s drive down I-85 from my starting point in South Hill, VA. I had no idea how beautiful the lakeside site would be when I found it on Google. Arriving around 4 PM I knew that I needed to quickly get the tent up before darkness fell. Bungee the tent, sleeping bag and pad on the bike’s rack and in less than 5 minutes I had ridden to my destination. Granted, the trail wasn’t very long but it would have taken several trips on foot to get my home for the night to the campsite.
By the time it got dark everything was set up and I was off to get provisions. Not being familiar with the area I headed back the way I came to a grocery store and somewhere I could get a six-pack of beer. Securing my heavy cooler to the back and with a mess kit in the panniers I rode back down the trail to my new home. In a few minutes the Coleman stove was cooking a hot meal, I was sipping cold beer while I stared up at the heavens, and all the miles I drove to get there slowly melted away. In the morning the mists were still rising off the lake when I first awoke so I rolled over to get in one more sleep cycle before I started my day. The wilderness was beginning to creep into my bones.
That day was spent in Athens, the next one in Atlanta, a weekend in Savannah, up the coast to Charleston and my final campsite was at Huntington Beach State Park just south of Myrtle Beach, SC. I only spent one night indoors and it was the worst night of my road trip. Between the overwhelming stench of air freshener and thin walls that did nothing to squelch my neighbor’s TV set I longed for my tent. When I got to my final destination I knew it was going to be special because the guy manning the gate couldn’t stop raving about the park. He had recently moved down from NY just so he could work there and enjoy all the wildlife.
They have a half dozen rustic tent sites arranged along a short trail and I chose the one furthest from the road because I knew my Boda Boda wouldn’t let me down. By now I was getting pretty good at securing all my stuff to the bike and I managed to get by with just three trips down the trail. I saw animal scat on the trails surrounding the site so I knew the guy at the gate was serious about all the wildlife. As dark fell I heard rustling in the bushes and saw my too friendly neighbors, the raccoons. They came to dinner every night and were obviously accustomed to getting fed. I cooked Italian sausages with peppers and onions and I was eating one when a raccoon popped his head around my Coleman stove to see if he could sneak a bite. Chasing them off was fruitless and they moved on once I finished eating dinner.
Once again, my Boda Boda was indispensable when it came to disposing of my food waste. I knew the ‘coons would get into it if it was anywhere nearby so I rode over to the visitor’s center and threw it away in their trashcan. My nosy neighbors came back when I returned to build a fire but without any food around they quickly left. I guess they expected s’mores for dessert. The next day a ranger told me they have been known to steal food from stoves and grills while it is still cooking! Staring into the fire in the woods that night while wild animals coveted my food I felt the allure of wilderness. My Boda Boda gave me that allure without all the tedium of slogging along a trail.