As edited by: Anna Benton
Photos: Carl Wilson
A few years ago, I read about the S24O (sub 24 hour overnight bike camping) on the Rivendell Bicycles website. However, the opportunity to embark on such a trip within the Charlotte area involved some difficult metrics. The closest campground is the McDowell Nature Preserve, a short 18 mile journey; yet the only plausible route involves 10-12 miles on South Tryon. South Tryon is predominantly a four lane highway with a 45 mph limit until it crosses I-485, at which point it transitions to a 55 mph limit. Equipped with the skills learned in Cycling Savvy, I felt prepared to ride South Tryon all the way out to camp with my seven trusty companions.
We convened on the little sugar Creek greenway at 3pm on a sunny Saturday. The weather was perfect. The high was mid 80’s and the low was about 58F. It was an impressive crew of bikes to behold as we saddled up alongside the glimmering silver ball that abuts the Charlotte skyscape. The group consisted of Matt, riding his carbon road bike with full Campy group, with whom we met near Olde Mecklenburg Brewery. Next, was Carl riding his handmade steel frame fully loaded with a tent, stove and provisions. Then Geoff atop a Lemond road bike with his tent and gear in a messenger bag on his back. Paul rode a Surly Big Dummy cargo bike, pulling a Burley trailer with his 2 year old son behind him, and fully loaded with tent, gear and provisions. Anna rode her Bruce Gordon touring bike loaded with ortlieb panniers for the family. I (Pam) was on my Rivendell Betty Foy, equipped with an Eno hammock, bug net and chair in my Green Guru Freerider Pannier and a wicker basket pannier. Amanda was on her Schwinn Varsity (called Rosalita) with panniers loaded with a hammock, home made sleepsack and down comforter. Our bikes streamed down Charlotte streets in colors of red, black, green and blue.
In spite of our heavy loads, we made great time on the ride out and had mostly nice encounters with motorists, with the exception of a few SC drivers (SC KUD 298?). Sure, we got an occasional honk but most people politely flowed around us. Also, by taking the lane we certainly increased our field of sight and our visibility to the drivers around us. We all commented on our relative comfort along the route and enjoyed the overall smooth journey.
We stopped around mile 16 at the Publix in Steele Creek, 3 miles away from the camp site. Everyone picked up something for dinner and we refilled our water bottles. After that it was a quick ride to camp with Carowinds towering tall in the distance and an oasis of trees waiting for us after our journey on the pavement.
We set up camp in three large camping sites with a good mix of hammocks and tents. After that, Andrew met us with his Hobie Mirage tandem kayak (pedal driven) and took everyone out on the lake. It was a beautiful sunset over Lake Wylie followed by a cool evening by the fire.
Great weather, great company and all around a wonderful first S24O camping trip. Come join us next time. Until then, lets get out and ride!