Monday, August 8, 2011

Two-Wheeled Picnicking

It was nice out, I had a kid to entertain, and I was broke. What to do?

Picnic time! We have some fairly nice local parks, and I picked one that was about a six-mile bike ride away via an old canal path. I loaded up some lightweight picnic gear on my bike, had my daughter strap our cameras to her front basket, and off we went. We met a friend of mine at the park and a nice lunch and a good time taking pictures of flowers and wildlife was had by all. And at the end of the ride, the kid was worn out and quiet for nearly a whole half hour afterwards.

The logistics of picnicking by bicycle are pretty simple. In our case, I was carrying lunch for three people, and we had (at kid speed) about an hour to travel in 85-degree temps.

Because of the heat and humidity, I didn't want to carry picnic gear in a backpack or messenger bag, so I resorted to my old standby, my Carradice College saddlebag. I loaded the gear inside and used a pair of toe straps to fasten the picnic blanket across the outside. It all worked pretty well, although it did sway a bit too much on the bumpier parts of the road. (I'm hoping to replace my current ad-hoc saddlebag mount  in a paycheck or two, with the SQR mounting system, which will not only provide a more rigid support but also get the bag mounted a bit higher where it won't bump the back of my legs while pedaling).

Inside the saddlebag I had three camping mugs, a pair of aluminum plates, a Platypus collapsible bottle half-full of homemade iced-tea and my trusty Opinel No.8 knife (best cheese-slicer ever).

In light of the heat and humidity, I opted for sturdy foods. No meat that might spoil or greens that might wilt. I stopped by the local market and grabbed a block of cheddar cheese, some apples, some plum tomatoes and a few small loaves of fresh bread. Service was simple: spread the blanket, slice the cheese, tomatoes and apples into the plates and eat. A coupe of clean bandannas served as napkins and were packed in with the used cups to prevent drips from getting all over the saddlebag on the way home.

If the weather was cooler, I might have opted for some lunchmeat, and packed my little propane stove and some teabags for a hot brew-up, but overall it's hard to go wrong with a cheese and tomato sandwich.

Planning your own bike-a-nic is pretty simple, pretty much all you need is some sturdy place settings (those aluminum mess kits they sell in the camping section of almost any sporting goods or department store are perfect) and a way to carry it. You can use a traditional saddlebag like I do, panniers, a front basket, backpack or whatever suits you, just make sure it's comfortable and washable (in case of leaks).

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