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Aug 24, 2016 03:24PM

Squeeze in adventure: Take in the outdoors in 24 hours or less

By Todd Welvaert
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Todd Welvaert / Radish
Looking for a short, outdoor getaway? Load up your bike for an S24O, or a Sub-24 hour camp out.
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Todd Welvaert / Radish
You don't need much in the way of a touring bike to get out, ride and camp anything with a rack and panniers will do.
When I turned 35, I was a guy with a more than full-time job, a mortgage, two young kids who weren't quite ready for bicycle camping and a wife who wasn't too crazy about being a single parent for long periods of time.

It all kind of put a damper on extended bicycle camping trips. But it didn't put a dent in the longing and allure of them.

It was about then that I heard about the S24O, or the Sub-24 Hour Overnight camp out. Coined by Rivendell Bicycle Works head-honcho Grant Peterson, an S24O is a simple way to get that bike camping itch scratched and — for me, anyway — stay married.

It takes little in the way of time commitment, as its less than 24-hours long, and if you forget to pack something or your gear isn't quite up to snuff, it's not going to be the end of the world.

S24Os also aren't very expensive because you won't be gone long, which makes them kid-friendly, too, since you won't be covering big distances.

You don't need much in the way of a touring bike — anything with a rack and panniers will do. You won't need to carry much because you won't need much: a light-weight tent, or if you are feeling daring, a decent sleeping bag and a tarp.

Thanks to the region's great bike paths, this area is rife with potential for great S24Os. One of my all-time favorite trips was in late October, which is kind of pushing it for the warm-weather gear I was carrying. I rode from the Hennepin Canal bike path in Colona to the excellent Geneseo Camp Ground, which is located right along the canal path.

The campground owners are fantastic people, and the facilities are top notch. There, I was able to purchase firewood, and a couple of sundry items that didn't make it in the bag.

The campground also rents kayaks for the canal, for those who are interested. They also have Yurts, the Tibetan hard-sided tents, if your idea of camping is a little more plush than others'.

Riders along the canal between Geneseo and Colona will face two bad path washouts on the way. Both are navigable, but riders should walk their bikes on both, and pay attention while they are riding as there are some jarring potholes and a place were the path abruptly ends and packed gravel begins.

Leaving late on a Friday afternoon, I was able to cover the 11-mile trek to the campground and set up my camp before dark. I spent some of the next morning exploring the canal parkway before heading home, and I got in shortly after 1 p.m., with plenty of energy and time to tackle the weekend chores.

Another great ride, albeit a bit longer, is the Great River Trail north. You can make it a short ride and camp in the Illiniwek Campground, which is an easy 8-mile ride from Moline; or go further to the campground at the Thomson Causeway, a nearly 40-mile jaunt from Moline.

The Causeway campground sits right along the river and makes a beautiful setting. Get a campsite on the river, and there is almost a guarantee for a cool breeze.

Utilizing bike paths for your trip can keep it virtually vehicle traffic-free, which is a great way to break in younger riders, as well as friends who aren't as bicycle savvy.

When it comes to meals, my kit consists of a lightweight alcohol stove, kettle, mug and pan. The food I pack mostly includes whatever I can grab from the cupboard on the way out, or sometimes even restaurants or convenience stores along the way. I usually throw some coffee into a bag for the morning and maybe a bagel or some fruit.

For my stay, I have a light-weight backpacking tent with a summer-weight sleeping bag and a decent sleeping pad. I throw a tarp in the mix, too, in case I run into rain and I want to cover the bike. Toss in a headlamp, spare inner tube and a pump in case of a flat, and you're all set.

I love these little trips. They seem just enough to balance what I want to do with the things I have to do. Maybe one day soon, I'll have the kind of time for a bike camping trip of epic proportions, but until then, an S24O will do.

Todd Welvaert is a regular Radish contributor.

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