Bike/car camping in the Rockies
By Grant Lamont
I've never in my life seen so much stuff crammed into the old Golf as when we loaded up to go south on our road trip.
With our bikes lashed securely to the roof, Bo curled up in his little spot with a pissed off look on his face and our supplies filling the car to capacity, we hit the trail.
Going on a three-week mountain bike/business/educational road trip requires the planning skills of Eisenhower and the patience of Ghandi in order to not drive each other crazy. However, we came back still married, with little animosity and a great tale to be told about bike/car camping in the U.S.A.
We roared out of Whistler heading due south, with Colorado as our destination, stopping in south-eastern Washington on the first night then ripping through Idaho and Utah, where we experienced an incredible electrical storm. With little need for translucent-skinned persons that inhabit much of Utah we awoke early on the third day and ended our initial thrust climbing through the Black Canyon area between Grand Junction and Gunnison, Colorado.
That night we set up camp beside the swollen Gunnison River that was filled with the Crested Butte melt from a long winter. We spread out the camp and made ourselves at home — just before it started to pour. It's kind of cozy being in a tent while it's hammering down outside. The only handicap was the 90-pound. black lab who was heavily lobbying for access with mixed results, having dined on leftover beans and rice from dinner.
Camping sucks unless you're comfortable and we spent the best $18 imaginable with the purchase of a double air mattress. This beauty saved our backs by providing a six-inch cushion that allows peaceful sleep after an incredible aerobic breathing workout at 9,000 feet trying to inflate it.
This baby went from Gunnison to home with only one leak and it was the best! Take all those Therma Rests and throw them in the garbage, these little gems are the cat's pyjamas.
Our next camping spot was in between Leadville and Vail where we were up at about 11,500 feet with snow all around us. Leadville was still healing from the college days of Bob Boyar who was known in the ’70s as the Lone Canadian, but that's another story.
There were other bike gypsies from all over the place, jammed into their small imports and all with sore backs — except for us. We were all heading to the Grundig race in Vail via different routes, with us heading to a hotel bed in Keystone. Bo and I could hardly wait!
The hockey playoffs were still on but you wouldn't know it in Colorado. When I tried to get the games on the box it was tape delayed, with those loud, ugly American announcers who made the pronunciation of the Francophone players' names utter comedy. Try to get them to turn it on in a bar and it was: "No way man, we're watching the Magic and the Rockets." What could I do but scream in frustration. But then came the hotel room with the remote control!
A few days later, all raced, conferenced and TV'd out, we headed to Steamboat to do some riding. What a beautiful place to camp and ride! Steamboat Springs has one of the best trail networks in the world and is a great little town to boot. The campsite is on an island surrounded by the river with lots of trees around. Bo thought he was in heaven as he kept busy swimming in the current for hours, chasing the holy stick.
We took a spin up east of town to get a hilltop view of the area and ended up on a three-hour single track joy-ride through the aspens and wildflowers. Once we were finished it was out for some great Mexican food and a couple of rum and cokes before hitting the sack.
The next morning we packed up the car and head to one of our favourite spots, Jackson Wyoming. Jackson is a true western town, with cowboys scrapping in the bars, a town square made completely of elk antlers and the best damn BBQ redneck restaurant in the world: Bubba's!
At Bubba's you get as much as you can eat of delicious deep smoked meats, salad, dessert and bread for about $8. The best part about it is you can bring your own hooch to swill while you're there. One word of caution, however, don't pull out the wine spritzers and complain about the lack of a veggie burger on the menu. It could land you a fist in the mouth and a date with Bubba, his family and the BBQ.
The next morning we rode up Snow King, the town hill that resembles the old Blue Chair, minus the flats and with an extra 200 feet of vertical. Once at the top we were treated to an amazing trail that rode the ridge for miles before plummeting down over 50 switch backs which were buffed from 150 years of horse use.
This area has some of the best trails I have ever ridden and if you ever get the chance just drop in and see the gang at Hoback Sports, as they are dying for folks to play with.
On the way out of town we stopped by the magnificent National Wildlife Art Museum that opened last year. Anyone who appreciates western and wildlife art will be blown away with the sculptures and paintings in this dramatic gallery that sits at the entrance to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone.
When we left I felt the need to start encouraging the planning of public art in Whistler. It adds so much to the community and provides natural gathering areas for people to relax, read and ponder.
The rest of the trip was spent cruising through Yellowstone and Montana before pointing the Golf home.
I strongly encourage everyone who has never gone on a road trip to give it a go. You get to meet the real people and see the darndest things along the way.
And don't forget the air mattress.