The sun set about thirty minutes before Stephen and I rolled up to the Happy Horse Hotel. A few miles into our last rural road of rolling hills, we were greeted by a jolly woman sitting on a golf cart, lit by multicolor Christmas string lights, holding up her cell phone to snap a photo of our arrival.
As we followed the dirt road into camp, there was a campfire illuminating a circle of friends in lawn chairs (“Is that Noel and Stephen!?”), a keg, and two large picnic tables covered in snacks. Further into camp, about twenty tents were set up interspersed among the horse pens.
I don’t have any photos from the campsite - as soon as our tent was set up, I started drawing (and drinking). I spent a lot of time hovering at the snack table. I brought a pack of vanilla wafers called “Noel”s to share - unfortunately, they weren’t very good. Russell told us the tale of Sacred Bob. A girl I didn’t know was asking for advice about riding Das Hugel. She seemed really worried and conflicted about it. “Just ride the first loop.” Russell told her. I felt glad that I was not considering whether or not to do it. (foreshadowing)
Sometimes the Happy Horse Hotel “house band” plays songs for us, which is how I learned that drunkenly singing along to “Horse with No Name” is extremely satisfying. We changed it up this weekend and Adam played the guitar and sang as we crowded around him under the gazebo. He did great. I actually didn’t drink that much, despite what my drawings of him look like.
Stephen and I shared my one person backpacking tent, thanks to my amazing memory (“Yeah, it’s totally big enough, I think..!”) A good night’s sleep is rare for me when I camp, but I’ve had much worse. It rained at about 5 in the morning, which of course meant I needed to get out and pee immediately. It was silly to bring the one person tent instead of the larger once, since we split up carrying it anyway. A couple friends hung their hammocks in the horse barn to be protected from the rain.
I had a lovely breakfast sitting on the floor of the gazebo with a small circle of my favorite femme bike friends, including two I had only met on Instagram and had been wanting to hang out with in real life. I wasn’t sure if I would need my fleece lined leggings, but they were perfect for the morning. I ate instant oats with trail mix and butter, and matcha because it requires less work than coffee. I made Stephen’s breakfast while he spread out the rain fly to dry. After breakfast I spent some more time being anti social and drawing. This was a big contributor to me not being ready when the first big wave of people left. That and the dangle bong…
The ride back with a small group of friends was ideal. Hundreds of black fuzzy caterpillars speckled the road. A large truck hauling a mobile home passed us and Karl yelled something like “OH SHIT ITS A HOUSE” and I laughed really hard. I felt strong and decided next weekend I would attempt the first loop of Das Hugel, something I had never even considered. (Spoiler alert, I did it)
I’m so thankful for my community of bike friends. When I first moved to Austin, I was living out my dream of bike commuting and Critical Mass rides. Then I saw a group of about seven people riding cool bikes loaded down with camping gear and I had a new bike dream. I wonder if I know any of those people now…
We stopped in the park on the way home and made matcha and ate from Karl’s bag of freeze dried chicken gumbo camp food. It was really good. A caterpillar fell in love with Karl and wouldn’t stop climbing on his pants.
I took the opportunity to snap a little photoshoot of my new fannypack that I bought and painted the day before riding out to camp. Now I really need to stop procrastinating and buy my Troublemaker kit, it matches perfectly.
Bike camping is special and I’m grateful that I get to do it. Learn more and sign up for bike camping trips hosted by Cycleast here. Enjoy the rest of my photos!