Scoot Commute

2011 Trips: Cape Cod Camping Shakedown

Hmmm, what's that tire peeking out from under the brown tarp?

Hmmm, what's that tire peeking out from under the brown tarp?

The first camping trip of the year was to the Shawme-Crowell State Forest in Sandwich, out on the Cape. It was a combo shakedown of new equipment purchases over the winter and a “I need to get away from people” trip.

I had just returned from a quick run down to visit my mom in the Pine Barrens (yes, I’ll write that up as I had some interesting riding experiences). I got back Wednesday night after putting in 399 miles in 12 hours on the DRZ. I actually got a good sleep and got up at my usual work-wake time because I had to do some food shopping. The goal was to not enter a food store on this (brief) trip. My boyfriend had a present for me; a 6-egg holder! I have a 12-egg holder but it’s just too big and I had been going on and on about how I need a 6-egg holder, but then never really getting around to getting one. And now I had one.

One of the meals I had planned was lamb. Who knew I would have such a difficult time finding lamb for kabobs? And yes, I did visit the “ethnic” shops. At the last meat market, Joe’s on Westminster, the butcher kindly offered to cut up some chops into chunks with his big bone-cutting saw. I never thought of that, which is why it’s a good thing I’m not a butcher! So basically I spent two hours in the morning zipping around on the Buddy getting supplies.

When I got home, I boiled up 6 eggs so we could supplement each morning’s hot cereal with a hard-boiled egg. Mmmm, I love hard-boiled eggs. The new holder worked perfectly. Thanks cheap Chinese knock-off website.

The biggest tent in the world is also the most comfy and dry

The biggest tent in the world is also the most comfy and dry

The boyfriend was only working a half day; he arrived home around 12:30. We took our time packing up the bikes as the ride out to the campground is only about 60 miles. As long as we were on the road by 3:00pm, I would be happy.

We rode out on I-195 and at some points the wind was beyond ridiculous. We were both squirreling all over the lane, leaned over at stupid angles, just trying to keep the bikes going straight. I felt kinda bad for the boyfriend as we had brought the big, big tent because the forecast was for a solid day of rain on the Saturday. Nothing like 26 pounds of tent and footprint weighing down the back of your Transalp.

We actually managed to not get lost and arrived at the campground in good spirits. I chose the Shawme-Crowell State Forest as few Massachusetts state campgrounds are open at this time of year, and I thought it’d be warmer on the Cape than in central or western Massachusetts. I would have preferred Nickerson but they don’t open for another week or so. Well, originally I was looking at Connecticut but it appears Hartford wants to rob all visitors by charging outrageous camping rates when compared to its New England neighbors. I guess they need money to pay for all their street signs?

The ranger was fantastic! Super-friendly, chatty, just a guy who obviously really likes his job. The campsite we had reserved was in a section that wasn’t yet open because the water hadn’t been turned on yet. I said that I had picked that area because it seemed the most remote; I must have said three times that we really preferred to not be near any people.

My big pet peeve with people is the light leak you get at organized campgrounds. People bring not one, not two, but three gas lanterns and tiki torches and light the place up because they don’t want to be in the dark. Well, I want to be in the dark! The ranger asked if we would mind walking a bit to the bathrooms; I laughed and responded that flush toilets were a luxury and we didn’t mind a little hike. He put us in a section that wasn’t open but was close to the open section. I thought he did well as we were away from people, but close enough to be in the bathroom in less than 5 minutes. He must deal with some real winners.

LL Bean King Pine Dome 4-person tent: it's huge but great for bad weather multi-day camping

LL Bean King Pine Dome 4-person tent: it's huge but great for bad weather multi-day camping

Setting up the tent was hilarious. We hadn’t used this particular tent, the LL Bean King Pine Dome tent, since 2009 and neither of us could remember how to do it. There’s color coding on the footprint, tent and fly, but they repeat some of the colors so you have to ask yourself, “Hmmm, does this blue tab go with the one here on the left or that one over there on the right?” I don’t know what the designers were thinking. There must be more than three colors of webbing material, no?

We finally got it up but man, it must have taken us 15 minutes? We had a good chuckle, though. I think we both forgot just how ginormous this tent is, but again, the forecast was for a miserable cold and rainy Saturday, and we thought it would be more comfortable in the “porch” section of the tent then huddled under a tarp with little side protection.

With the tent up and stuff off the bikes, we went for a quick spin into Sandwich to pick up some wine and beer for the next few days. The liquor store was nicely stocked, similar to the one in Orleans that we go to when we camp at Nickerson. People with money demand good liquor stores. And yeah, there’s no alcohol allowed in Massachusetts state parks. The rangers are cool with it if you’re not a complete hooligan. There’s even a section for recycling items with a deposit.

Transalp and DRZ400SM still life in Massachusetts forest

Transalp and DRZ400SM still life in Massachusetts forest

On the way back through the gate, we picked up some firewood. There was tons and tons of downed wood that we could use, but it had rained the last few days and I didn’t know how good the wood would be. I’d rather pony up my 10 bucks and be guaranteed a decent fire than scream at my boyfriend because the fire keeps petering out because the wood is too wet, like it’s his fault. I know, I know, I’m a bitch.

The ranger watched us saddle up the three bundles of wood, two on Elsa’s rack and one on the Transalp. He actually came over and praised my efficiency. Are you kidding me? I was beaming. Back at the site, I set about gathering up wood. Just enough for the night. Turns out, I didn’t even need the camp wood, but it would come in handy later.

As I started to prepare dinner (German wurst, mmmmm), I realized I forgot my fire grill/grate thing. I usually don’t cook over the grate in the fireplace because the bars are too far apart and stuff falls through. How many sausages and hot dogs have been sacrificed to the coal gods? But no worries, the boyfriend was able to heat up the Martin’s potato rolls over the grate and I cooked the sausages without dropping any. What’s a little natural flavor?

Of course, as we’re cooking, we both turned for a moment to attend to the food on the fire and he hears a noise. “What’s that?” he turns and says, “I see eyes, see, back there!” I turn around and notice that a potato roll is missing. “Damn you raccoon, I purposely only brought six rolls because I didn’t want to carry any back.” Turns out, the raccoon only got half the bun, as I found the other half laying on the ground. One of my wursts only had a bottom roll. Grrr. Those stupid raccoons; they get me every time. Tortillas. Bananas. There’s no end to what they’ll steal.

It got quite cold this night and by the time we crawled into the sleeping bags, it was probably in the upper 30s. Why I decided to sleep in my thin long underwear shirt and not my wool shirt is beyond me, but man, I was cold. Brrrrr.

Honda Transalp needs a new chain, but at least it's clean

Honda Transalp needs a new chain, but at least it's clean

The next day, Good Friday, was going to be a riding day. I had some nice and easy dirt roads planned. However I had to finish up some work first. So there I was, sitting in the porch section of the tent as the sun was too bright, writing up crap for work. At the same time, the boyfriend was working on the TA because it was making a “horrible” noise. Turns out the chain had a kink in it and he needed a new chain. So no fun dirt riding for us. After I finished up, we rode back into town (seriously, “town” is Sandwich and it’s about 1/2 mile away) to use the wireless at the library. But this being Good Friday, the library closed early. I proceeded to sit on the front stoop, fired up the netbook, and crossed my fingers that the wireless would reach. Kudos to the Sandwich Public Library. Strong wireless, even outside. I sent off the stupid nonsense, well, it really wasn’t that bad, but I was mad at myself for letting it sit so long to the point I had to write it up in a tent on Good Friday. We walked around town a bit and then headed back to the site.

The boyfriend claims he wanted an action shot of the Sven saw

The boyfriend claims he wanted an action shot of the Sven saw

Ahhh, my afternoon of riding turned into a collecting wood mega-marathon. I got to try out my new Sven folding saw. This item had been on my Christmas list but no one took me seriously so I actually had to buy it for myself. It’s brilliant. It starts out as several pieces of metal that measures about 17″ long and about 2″ wide. After some easy maneuvering, it turns into a fantastic saw for small and medium sized logs. I could not believe how well it worked. I was a happy sawing camper. Everywhere I looked, there was something to saw into pieces.

Three piles of wood, sized for appropriateness: yes, my dad is a lunatic

Three piles of wood, sized for appropriateness: yes, my dad is a lunatic

Because Saturday’s weather was still being predicted as real crap, I was extra diligent in my wood collection. I had one set of three piles for Friday evening and another set of three piles for Saturday evening. I put the Saturday combustibles into the porch section of the tent to keep it dry. I was careful to leave room in the middle where we could set up our chairs. The other side was where we piled the Pelicans and our gear. The King Pine Dome tent worked really well for us. It’s a great tent if you don’t mind hauling 26 pounds (!) and you’re remaining in the same place for a few days. I wouldn’t want to be setting it up/breaking it down every day.

Some of the wood gathered for Saturday night's fire with Sven folding saw

Some of the wood gathered for Saturday night's fire with Sven folding saw

Taco dinner with all the fixings, including candlelight

Taco dinner with all the fixings, including candlelight

Dinner was tacos. Mmmmm. I had brought all the fixings with me and cooked up my first real meal (boiling water for cereal doesn’t count) over my new stove. Man, the little Snow Peak GigaPower stove is awesome. It cooks up fast and was plenty stable. I was joking this week with my dentist that my stove is half the size of the toothbrush he’s making me use.

Me enjoying my fire

Me enjoying my fire

The fire tonight was big as it was, again, a cold night. I even did something I never do. Previous campers had tried to burn a giant log in one big piece. I threw the remnants on the fire and worked through the log throughout the evening. I know that if I can get the coals hot enough, the log would charcoalize (is that a word?) all night and it would burn through. What I didn’t realize is that the rain was going to start overnight.

Where we sat out the rain...the chairs went in the middle area

Where we sat out the rain...the chairs went in the middle area

The next morning, Holy Saturday, was exactly as predicted. Cold. Rainy. Lashing with rain at times. During a break I boiled up water for breakfast, but soon after we had to move everything into the porch. We sat for hours, stretched out dry and content, in our chairs, reading and talking. I eventually got really, really cold (my fingers turn purple from poor circulation) and I announced I was going to take a shower. And boy, did I ever. A nice hot, long, uninterrupted shower in a public restroom. None of this constantly having to press the start button to get water. It was exactly what I needed. I finally got warmed up.

As the day drew to a close, the rain subsided. Tonight was my experiment with lamb. I had a vision of putting the lamb chunks on bamboo skewers to cook over the grill. But because I couldn’t find the kind of lamb I wanted, I decided to toss the chunks with worcestershire sauce, fresh rosemary, freshly ground black pepper and olive oil and put everything into heavy-duty aluminum foil. In another packet I put red potatoes that I had boiled briefly (an old trick taught to me by Monica Humphries, requiescat in pace) with fresh rosemary and olive oil. I had forgotten the butter so I was hoping the oil would work ok with the spuds. My people like real butter on their spuds. I put the spud packet into the coals and the lamb packet on the grate over the fire.

Basically, I had no idea what I was doing. Well, the spuds, I knew, because I’ve baked tons of potatoes in coals before. But the lamb, who knew? After a little while, I could hear the lamb sizzling. “Hmm,” I thought to myself, “this may just work.” I eventually moved the spuds up to the grill because it seemed a more even heat up there.

Cooking up lamb and red potatoes for Holy Saturday dinner

Cooking up lamb and red potatoes for Holy Saturday dinner

A few turns with my tongs (yes, I bring tongs moto-camping and they are extremely handy) and 30 to 40 minutes later, it was time to reveal the dinner. The boyfriend readied the wine as I pulled the foil back to reveal the most glorious, pungent odor of lamb and rosemary. Mmmmm. As I divvied up the bounty, I remembered I had brought fresh green beans with me as the veg. Oh well. Typical. Meat + Starch = Dinner.

Easter lamb with roasted red potatoes

Easter lamb with roasted red potatoes

Roasted lamb with red-skin potatoes and fresh rosemary prepared over a campfire

Roasted lamb with red-skin potatoes and fresh rosemary prepared over a campfire

We sat in front of the fire, eating our Easter dinner and watching the flickering flames. The fire was outstanding, but I still held back some wood as I had decided to have a Sunday morning breakfast fire. I have no idea when we crawled into the tent, but we both had had a very needed, relaxing day. This is what camping is all about.

The boyfriend's meal

The boyfriend's meal

Sunday morning, Easter Sunday, we took our time breaking camp. He had his oatmeal and egg and I had my farina and egg while sitting in front of a small fire. Because we knew no one was coming in to the site, we didn’t leave until about 12:00 noon. It was an easy ride back to Providence, again, about 60 miles. We debated stopping to see the boyfriend’s grandmother who lives right off I-195 in Marion, but knew that another relative would be visiting and thought better of it.

Hamming it up for the camera

Hamming it up for the camera

Back home, we casually unpacked the bikes and spent the afternoon sitting on a real porch, drinking wine and reading. The weather was remarkably warm, almost 70°F, and it did seem a bit unfair as we had just endured three nights of near-freezing temps. But the wine soon soothed all.

Overall, first camping trip of 2011 went very well. All the new gear performed as expected. I love my new stove and new pot set. And the Sven folding saw. That thing is going to see a lot of duty. We’ve decided that our coffee set-up is working for us, so we’re staying with it. We’ve had a lot of discussions about how to handle coffee while camping, and the GSI collapsible coffee cone is the best for us. And the Polar Bear cooler rocks. It kept the little milk container cold for 4 days without a refresh to the ice I had thrown in from my home freezer.

And I would be remiss in not mentioning…I love my DRZ 400 SM.

Elsa, my Adventure Moto

Elsa, my Adventure Moto

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2 Responses

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  1. Spokes said, on 2011/05/06 at 6:36 pm

    Awesome ride report! Any chance you can provide more info or a link for the Polar Bear cooler? Thanks!

  2. sbahn said, on 2011/05/07 at 12:01 pm

    Polar Bear website: http://www.polarbearcoolers.com/

    If you’re looking to buy, do some googling as you can usually find it on sale with a free shipping coupon.


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