Friday, April 24, 2009

Salisbury: Lessons on Camping

Budget: ~$400

It was an uneventful ride to Salisbury, through the flat marshland of northern Massachusetts,

occasionally dotted with towns like Rowley.

There was a brutal headwind, and occasional rain, but the rain clouds were generally small enough to be seen in their entirety.

We stopped at a small farm, bought watermelon, and ate it right there.

I'm starting to find that it's exciting to see a sign saying you've arrived somewhere even when there are still miles to go.

I had, for the first time, actually loaded up the bike in addition to carrying a backpack,

and to my surprise, it didn't make it really any harder. Or maybe that was because Dan, starting some 20 miles into the trip, had us stop every few miles to rest.

Turned out it wasn't just us suffering from the wind, too. When we finally made it to Salisbury for real

and got on the road to the beach,

the gusts became unbelievable. I barely managed to close the door to the office when I came in.

"Do you need electric hookups?"




"Roughing it, huh?"

"I guess you can say that."

"OK. Can I have the registration of your vehicle?"


I let the blank stare last a few seconds, then smiled.

"I've only got a bike."

" you're just looking to pitch a tent?"

"Yeah." There followed a silence for a few seconds again, except for the deafening howling and wailing of the wind.

"Don't get blown away."

"I'll do my best, believe me."

The campground was empty.

I tried to set up the tent, but it was so freaking windy, I couldn't do it. It was acting more like a kite than a tent, and the situation seemed hopeless. I wasn't getting much help, either,

I finally did yell at him to help, and then realized I'd been making a fundamental mistake 1, which I fixed, and got the tent set up. I did have to put stakes in "prematurely" to hold down corners of the tent while I was working on other corners.

More rain came in,

but it wasn't all bad.


And then we had a problem.

We wanted to go somewhere and grab dinner. But the wind was blowing so hard that despite the stakes, we were afraid that if we were gone for two or three hours, we'd be facing an empty plot on our return. We tossed all our stuff that didn't contain food (except the bikes) into the tent, but the wind gusts still tossed parts of it around in such a way that it was truly amazing that the stakes were holding it at all, and we were afraid to leave it unattended.

So much for dinner. We sat at the picnic table by the tent and ate granola bars. The time was 6:30 PM. Our options were to

  1. sit and guard the tent.
  2. go to sleep and add our weight to the thing.

We chose option 2, which worked fine despite the extremely abusive beating the tent got that night.


...and we woke up completely refreshed after ten hours of sleep. At 4:30 AM.

We rolled up and packed all our stuff. It was very hard to fit it back. Some stuff just didn't fit. Now everything I have has more realistic bulk for when I'm packing it for real.

We tried to fold the tent nicely, but the wind kept getting in the way.

You can't change the world, said Robert Kiyosaki once (paraphrase), but you can take advantage of it the way it is. He was talking about financially coming out the winner in an unjust world. We used the principle to make the wind help us spread out the tent for folding.

Then, despite the obscene cold right after sunrise, we went to check out Butler's Toothpick.

This is all at the mouth of the Merrimack, by the way, the same river that flows through Lowell, just miles and miles downstream.

We followed it all the way out to the ocean.

Then we got on our bikes and headed back.


Important things to take with me from this trip:

  • Some minor lessons on properly setting up a tent
  • My new sleeping bag can be adjusted once I'm in it so that I am entirely hidden within it except a small opening for my face. Even so, however, if it's a cold night, my nose will get cold.
  • It is a good idea to unpack things from their factory packaging and try to repack them as best one can. You often can't repack it quite the same way with your hands, and you end up with a better idea of the true bulk of what you're taking with you.

Hopefully these lessons will give me enough of a start that I won't be hideously unprepared at some point on the road.

1Never, ever hook a pole to the corners of a dome tent before you've put the other pole through the sleeve. You need to induce curvature in both poles simultaneously.

1 comment:

  1. I have never seen that toothpick thing before Greg....and I've been up that area of Salsbury countless times. I should look for it next time apparently.