Doin’ Time in Leavenworth: Bike Camping

Last weekend I got a chance to do my first bike camping of the year, riding to Leavenworth, Kansas with my friend Bill Poindexter (Carfree American) and camping along the Missouri River.

Note: What I’m referring to here as “bike camping” is basically a self-supported overnight tour — ride somewhere, camp out, then ride home the next day. Some folks refer to these as S24O (Sub-24-hour Overnight) trips, but I think that’s a really awkward phrase. Adventure Cycling uses the term Bike Overnights, which is better. But I use “bike camping” and “bicycle tour” to refer to short or long tours, respectively.

I took off from home on Friday afternoon, meeting Bill in De Soto, then crossing the Kansas River and riding due north with a nice tailwind.

Along the way I came across this: Very considerate to put out a couch for the touring cyclist to rest!

On the way to De Soto I took a short detour to check out an abandoned bridge. Pretty cool.

Waiting at the park in De Soto … check out the flags whipping in the wind!

North of the river, we hit a few miles of gravel, and a few hills. Not long, but certainly steep!

Once in Leavenworth, we rode the Three-Mile Trail that connects their downtown area to the Missouri River. This shot was taken beneath a street underpass.

I was running pretty much the same setup that I used for last September’s Adventure Monkey tour (see packing list). Bill was running a lighter setup on the bike — just a tent and blanket on the rear rack — but he carried a large backpack.

In downtown Leavenworth we stopped for a visit with the folks at the Santa Fe Trails Bicycle & Coffee Shop, where Bill got a photo with a wandering tinman.

There are some beautiful old buildings in Leavenworth, and this one was particularly striking. I amped up the colors a bit, but the blues and reds and brick were vivid even with no tweaking.

Here’s a view from atop the bluff, looking over the railroad and river, with Missouri on the other side.

And here’s the view from our campsite at Riverfront Park, with the historic Centennial Bridge in the background. This is a great little campground. The location right there along the river was amazing, and just a short ride into town and all the amenities you’d like.

After dinner in town, we rode back to camp and the sight of the river and bridge in the dark was rather spectacular. This is me on the riverbank with the lights from the bridge shimmering in the river (it’s a 15-second exposure, which is why the river surface looks so indistinct).

And after a restful night (even with periodic trains passing by only a 100 yards or so from the tents), here’s the view at sunrise.

Clouds had rolled in overnight, and storms threatened at daybreak, but we only had a short sprinkle in camp, just enough to get the tents wet. There was a bit of lightning across the river.

Soon enough the storm passed, the clouds drifted off, and the sun began to peek over the trees. It was a beautiful time to be on the river.

The morning light was glorious, and Bill and I posed on either side of this huge old moss-covered cottonwood tree.

After searching (unsuccessfully) for a cafe for breakfast, we came across this mural, so had to stop and get a photo. Leavenworth is known as the “First City” in Kansas. That’s Buffalo Bill in the center.

We had a little time to kill before the Kansas Sampler Festival opened at 10am, so we explored the town a bit more. This is a brick-paved drive on the campus of the University of Saint Mary.

After attending the festival for a couple hours, and learning about a lot of great places to visit in Kansas (and imbibing a bit of Kansas beer and wine), we hit the road, heading south on K-5. This is a lovely highway with light traffic and great views, though it’s rather hilly in places.

Finally, after riding through Lansing, Piper, Kansas City Kansas, and Bonner Springs, we crossed the Kansas River on K-7 and hit the Mill Creek Streamway for a few miles.

Bill and I split at this point, with me riding south through Olathe and Bill heading east to Prairie Village.

Here’s the approximate route I took over the trip:

I ended up with about 105 miles for the two days.

It was a great little tour, and I’m looking forward to doing more soon!

DirtBum Written by:

I enjoy riding bicycles all over -- city streets, suburbia, rural roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, rail-trails, and singletrack. I love exploring the countryside and finding the interesting and historical treasures hidden in plain sight. You can follow my rides on Strava.

One Comment

  1. May 16, 2011

    Woah, that looks like an amazing trip! Killer campsite, light, lightning … great photos, fun riding. Looks perfect to me!

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