The Fine Art of Crash Camping

One of the best parts of the Trans Wisconsin, and non-wilderness bike touring in general, is the art of finding a decent place to sleep for the night. My wife and I discovered last year that there are many great places to flop that have nothing to do with KOA’s or state parks (nothing against state parks). In particular, I grew to appreciate the versatility and all around comfort of the traditional, village park pavilion. It seems that just about every small, Wisconsin berg has something close to a Lion’s Club sponsored covered shelter that doubles as baseball diamond-fairground-picnic paradise. And the real beauty…no one seems to care if you pitch a tent or throw your bag on, under or near a picnic table. Coming from both wilderness camping and a long history of car camping, too, I was blown away by this new form of rural camping. I sincerely felt a renewed sense of pride for this fine country I lived in.

The Trans Wisconsin proved to be a good testing ground for this new type of camping I will call “crash” camping. Farrow and I were not going to limit our day’s travel necessarily by the accommodations we may or may not find at the end of 150 miles of gravel. So we hoped for the best and prepared for the other. It was liberating.

Here is a classic from last Summer:
The great thing about pavilions is that they offer some serious protection in case of the surprise, violent thunderstorm that are so common in the Summer.

Here is the beauty in Hazel Green that the town authorities let us use the night before the race:
We had a major front and storm roll through the night before the start. Charlie, Jim and I all pulled up stakes and headed to the relative security of the girded structure. It kept our gear dry so that we didn’t have to pack wet tarps for the first day.

Now, down the road, Farrow and I did find it necessary to find something that qualified as a safe haven but was sans pavilion. Sometimes, all that means is a piece of public land. Thanks to our country’s wonderful National Forest Service, this could mean anything from a lovely FS park to simply a FS road leading to a clearcut. Our last night had us utilizing the latter. But it worked fine. No traffic, no hassles, no charge, and plenty of leg room. Farrow even found a way to hang his bug hovel (“or haven”). Not to shabby:
All in all, I think the simplicity and creativity that hobo camping affords the tour racer is a refreshing change of pace. Light is right (although Charlie may have pushed the envelope a bit on that front) and I will modify my tarp/bug netting set up for next year to shed a pound or so. My down bag was an added night time bonus that I think I would take again. The Trans Wisconsin has far more limiting factors during the day then where one is going to sleep. In fact, that is the least of your worries. Water and calories trump easily. We got lucky that the mosquitoes were not too bad and the rain held off most nights. I think it important to pack with those two things in mind, though. The little sleep that I got on this trip was actually pretty good sleep thanks to the bare minimum I decided to carry.

I will take this new found love of hobo-esque camping where ever I travel and know that, with a few essentials, I can roost happily almost anywhere.

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