Monday, April 7, 2014

Bike camping at Hillsdale State Park

Bike camping overnight from Kansas City, MO to Hillsdale State Park, Paola, KS.
by Bill Poindexter, Organizer KC Bicycle Touring Meetup

We started this S24O (Sub 24 hour overnight) from Family Bicycles in Kansas City, Missouri. Me, Bill Poindexter, a self
proclaimed, and practicing Carfree American, bicycling tourist, Yogi, and into all things healthy,
and Jano Mossman, a self proclaimed product tester, kayaker, cyclist, and adventurer.

Hillsdale Lake was our destination. Here is our route

 From the start, the feelings of excitement, 
nervousness, and adrenaline while long distance touring on a bicycle was exhilarating. 

Winter stayed too long, although I had been active, walking, hiking, cross country skiing, and cycling for transportation, I had not been bike touring, and felt the need to do something that would pare the fat off the soul, and scare the shit out of me. Even though the adventure was going to be about 90 miles round trip and close to home, the bike with gear weighed 60+ pounds, we were taking new roads and a route I had never been on, so my imagination wandered. I was ready for the new adventure. 

Once we got to Leawood, KS City Park, and the beginning of Tomahawk Creek Greenway, we decided to by pass the high traffic of Mission Road and take Tomahawk Creek for 10 miles before heading South on unknown back roads in Olathe, KS. I love riding the Creek trails, the wooded feeling, people running, walking, kids playing, cyclists, and zero cars to worry about.

No good bike tour goes 100% smoothly, about 16 miles into our adventure Jano's seat post clamp was
not holding.  Luckily this happened about a mile from a bike shop so we were able to make a simple detour for repairs. As you know on any tour, having a good attitude and a willingness to adapt is key. So with smiles, we headed to the the shop and took advantage of the bathroom, water fountain, and had a snack.

 In a few minutes Jano had a new seat post clamp.
Tip: Carry an extra seat post clamp.

We then headed back to the trail and its wilderness feel.  Soon we transitioned on Pflumm Road which took us out to the countryside. Our intention for this ramble was to stay on mostly paved roads, but, as you know, gravel roads are abundant in our area, someone once told me that 80+% of the roads in Kansas are gravel. Gravel was in our destiny.

We were not the first sojourners to explore this part of the country.

The Kansas City area is rich with multiple Frontier Trails which intersect with many of the roads we travel on, and I am humbled by the hardships our ancestors endured paving the way to the South and West.

We would roll down one road, then hit gravel, then hit another paved,  make a jog, then hit gravel, it
was great fun exploring all the back roads. Mile 30: we came up to an intersection where a Fire Station was located, and they had a nice picnic table under a tree that looked like a great spot for  a break. On most tours I love stopping at Fire Stations for water and bathrooms. The firemen/ women are glad to have the company and are always interested in your adventure.

Tip: Stop at Fire or Police stations for restrooms and water or a emergency camp spot, and let them know you appreciate their service.

While eating Jano was telling me one of his many sea kayaking adventures, then two cyclists pulled up at the intersection, saw us and came over for a stretch and some water.

Invariably people see the loaded bikes are curious. We had a great conversation with these fellow

Gravel always seems to find me on tours, (or maybe I subconsciously seek it out).

I like adventure, and
gravel roads crank up the adventure rating of any bike tour as you never know what type of gravel you are in for; packed, slushy, slippery, soft, layered, clay, dirty, clean, dusty, bumpy, earthy, rocky, chitty, wash-board, there are as many names (and feels for it) as there is ways describing a fine wine.

Gravel is your friend.

I like gravel because it adds another layer to the trip. There is less traffic, you will see things you don't see on paved roads, the locals are usually friendly, more dogs, other critters, and you have to focus on the road ahead and "keep a line" so you don't drift off into loose parts. Your focus and balance skills as a cyclist vastly improve. You may go slower, but then again, what is your hurry?

On one of the gravel roads we encountered dust and smoke, someone was burning the old crops to make way for new. This just added to our adventure, and Jano, whom is a self proclaimed Product Tester, was prepared, with his Buff lifted over his mouth and nose he was able to stave off the effects of dust and smoke.

I had a buff too, but it was uselessly packed away, and I decided to blow through the debris,
occasionally holding my breath...not one of my finer strategies.

Tip: Check out a Buff
Tip: Don't hold your breath while bicycling fast

We made our way to OLD KC ROAD, (I love that name), for the final 9ish mile push Hillsdale State Park.

Dusk was fast approaching, and a slight head wind had kept us behind schedule, so we pushed hard to the campground. We arrived at our primitive camp spot just off the lake, both of us were a little grumpy, hungry, cold, and tired. I paid the campground host the $13 per tent fee. (Seems high?) Although the ride, with bike shop detour was only 45-47 miles, neither of us had been use to carrying the extra 30+ pounds of extra gear, food, water, and it does make a difference on the amount of calories burned.

Tip: While touring make sure you eat 200+ calories per hour to ward off bonking (low blood sugar).

Once the tents were up, fire wood was collected and lit, and food and hot beverage was in our bellies,
life was good again. We then spent hours standing around the camp fire telling stories of past adventures, talking of gear choices, and our loved ones. We made it to our tents about 11, with intentions of reading but quickly drifted to sleep, I was lulled by the squawking of Blue Herons on the lake, and Jano snoring in his tent. Sleep came quickly. Excellent first half of our S24O.

 Tip: bring ear plugs. :)

We were up by 7. The temp was in the high 40s, and the sky cloudy. We ate a leisurely breakfast. I had
 almonds, banana, carrots, hard boiled eggs, Starbucks instant coffee, and cheese.

 Jano went the freeze dried route, and rolled it up with low carb tortillas. I loved his Primus Stove, will put that on my wish list.
Jano's freeze dried breakfast

Chef Jano

Our neighbor kelly coming over for a chat
I heard, "do I see a Long Haul Disc Trucker?" as I was breaking down my tent.

One of our neighbors, Kelly from Oklahoma came over for a chat while we were breaking camp. He rode his motorcycle up from OK for a retirement party of a friend. Kelly was also a avid cyclist, and is currently preparing for the Bike across Kansas.

He and Jano are both gear aficionados and spent the next hour talking gear. Kelly was great, and very nice, I am hoping to tour with him some day.

Jano is a man of all seasons. He believes in being prepared. Whether it be the odd Griz in Kansas or a mean dog, he was not taking chances!

Tip: Never hurts to be overly prepared

Not sure exactly when we left our camp, it was later than expected, but that was fine, we were
Jano rolling out of camp
not on a schedule.

Heading out of Hillsdale Lake

Train laiden with "clean coal"

Just past 164th and South Ridgeview Rd we hopped on another greenway trail, Indian Creek, 17 miles of woods, and no cars. We took it into KC and to our respective routes home.

Before we parted ways we stopped a a restaurant at 119th and Quivera Road for Sunday Brunch of steak, eggs, grilled asparagus, and whipped cauliflower. Jano and I had great deep conversations about life, adventures, pets, and friends.

One of the great things about Bicycle Touring with someone is you like is you get to share in their life and they in yours. We toasted to the tour, then left, rode another 10 miles together before parting our respective ways.

A successful Bicycle Tour of KC Bicycle Touring Meetup.

Jano's gear:

"The tent I chose for this trip is a Eureka Splitfire 1 with syl nylon fly
Sleeping bag a Sea to Summit down quilt /bag and sleeping pad is an insulated Pacific Outdoor Equipment air mattress. The stove is a Primus isopropane model with pizo ingitor
I was carrying an Allite folding butterfly chair but didn't use it." 
His Bike GT Touring 

Bill's gear:
Marmot Aspen 2P Tent
Marmot Trestles Synthetic sleeping bag
 30 degree
Z-Lite Thermarest Foam Sleeping pad
Cheap ground tarp from hardware store.
Arkel XM-45 Paniers
Bike: Surly Long Haul Disc Trucker

As on every tour I learned much about the area I live in, my traveling companion, people I met on the road, the environment/ wildlife, and most importantly myself. Bicycle Touring is awesome.

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 send a email to Bill Poindexter


  1. Thanks for the great write-up. I also use a butane/propane stove. Martha and I made gourmet oatmeal with raisins and walnuts on our last tour, and I have a folding coffee filter for making real pour over coffee. Hope to join you one of these days.

    1. Hi Caroline, the oatmeal sounds awesome! Hope you ride with us soon!


    my stove, but I paid $50. It can use screw on our punch on cannisters, so GAZ or US cannisters. I say, go with the piezo. It is worth the $$ for the automatic spark.

    1. I will check it out, I did like that auto spark!


    this is my stove with the piezo. Just barely packs in the small pot.

    1. I will go down tomorrow and check it out!

  4. Sounds like a great trip! You can take regular ground coffee of whatever type you like and use a tea filter to steep it in hot water just like tea. Its much better than instant (even Starbucks). I have a Brunton iso-butane stove that is really great as long as the weather is warm. The gas doesn't vaporize fast enough if its cold and the can is less than half full.