Last weekend, I enjoyed some simple bits that have always been nearby, but I never put them together. Some were simple hopes. I wanted to write overdue letters to far-away friends and enjoy a simple weekend in the woods. Other bits were a small tent, sleeping bag, and camping gear. As you’d expect, I put my hopes and gear on my bike, but this time, most of them went into kitty litter pail panniers, which I made from instructions from Adventure Cycling.
I’ve always used some of the best panniers you can buy, made by Ortlieb. They have kept my gear dry for over 6,000 miles of bike tours. Even though they feel like old friends, I left them behind for something new, important, and even better, it’s something that usually makes people smile.
The new part is kitty-litter pail panniers. People can get a pair for $20 or less. My trusty Ortlieb panniers cost about 10x that. I very much want to introduce people to bike touring and make it as easy as possible, which is the focus of my classes in bike touring. The low-cost of kitty-litter pail panniers is one part of that, but I also wanted to show that they work, which was another part of last weekend’s bike trip.
One of the best parts of kitty-litter pail panniers is the reaction I get from people. Often, they really don’t know what to say, so without thinking, they’ll just ask, “Are those kitty litter pails?” The answer is pretty clear since big stickers on the big pails say, “Kitty Litter.” But I still smile, say they are, and explain why I’m using them. Once in a while, the conversation finishes with the person having an interest in my bike touring class.
But when I’m cycling, they just feel like panniers, and I feel great being on another bike tour, even a short weekend tour. I hear songbirds, see some fly across the bike trail, feel spring show up, feel my muscles work, and my spirit relax.
On this ride, I was also testing other parts that would help people feel comfortable. Most of the route was on the Gateway Bike Trail, which has tiny hills and no cars. After the Gateway, the route has 8 miles on roads, but they’re in the country with little traffic. After the roads, the cozy town of Marine on St. Croix shows up, which has ice cream and other treats.
My ride ended at William O’Brien State Park, in a walk-in campsite.
After setting up my campsite, I went for a walk in the woods, found a lake, and gazed at the sunset bouncing off the water.
On the last day of my weekend trip, I roamed through the woods more and found a great spot to finish the letters to far-away friends.