When I travel by bike, one of my favorite things is being able to find amazing places to camp. Without a car, I’m pretty darn maneuverable and can finagle myself into some fairly remote and beautiful places, without anyone ever knowing I’m there.
(on the Colorado River in Utah)
(overlooking Swift Reservoir in Washington)
(Emigrant Lake, near Ashland, OR)
(sequestered on the McKenzie River, Oregon)
(somewhere on the California coast)
(tentless on the Fremont River, Utah) (for bonus points, see if you can find my bike in that picture:)
(Lake Tahoe, California)
Aside from the progression of tents represented in those pictures, my favorite thing about them is that none of those pictures is taken in an established campground (though at Emigrant Lake I was close to one). In none of those places did I overhear RV generators kicking in at night or unruly pets barking away at nothing. Not that I’m a total recluse, but stealth camping–feeling like I’m the only person in a super beautiful place, being able to strip down and skinny dip in the river without worrying I’ll be arrested, waking up to the sound of running water or birds and absolutely nothing mechanical–is one of my favorite things, ever.
And then sometimes, it all falls apart and I end up sleeping somewhere a little less glorious. Somewhere like this:
That’s right. That is my bike and my sleeping bag tucked away all cozy-like next to a vault toilet, the only place I could think to sleep one night near Canyonlands National Park.
Sure, I had my tent with me, but the wind was so batshit crazy and the landscape so exposed that even if I could have set it up I didn’t think it would survive the night without getting ripped to shreds in the gusts. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem–I’d just sleep out tentless, cinched tight into my sleeping bag, but aside from the wind, the sky was crazy ominous dark, threatening torrents of who knows what. When I saw it, a vault toilet, with its four wind-stopping walls and rain-stopping roof, sounded pretty darn good.
(those skies did not bode well for me)
So in the vault toilet I slept. I locked myself in, put down my ground cover, blew up my sleeping pad, bungeed the locked door tightly so it would stop its violent banging in the wind, and snuggled tight against the cold that still found its way through the vents. It was a shitty (ha!) night’s sleep, but not because of the toilet. It’s just that even in a building, it was so darn cold I could never get comfortable, even in my puffy down jacket in my puffy down bag. The next morning when I’d had enough and finally decided to get out of bed, crazy early before the sun rose, I saw the snow all around me and was very glad to have been in a bathroom all night. At least there I stayed dry. And I’m sure I was way warmer than I would have been.
And, yknow, when I woke up in the middle of the night and had to pee, well, there you go.
Glorious? No. But a good reminder that bike camping is not always breathtaking scenery and astounding vistas and peaceful, riverside campsites. Despite all the gushing I do on this blog, it’s not always sunny skies and postcard experiences. Sometimes, when it comes right down to it, a toilet is the best option. It’s certainly not the most photogenic one, and definitely not the one you’d later brag to your coworkers about when they ask you about your vacation–but it all adds to the adventure.
I’m sure it’s not the last time I’ll sleep somewhere ridiculous, though I do hope it’s the last time I sleep in a toilet.