Escaping Black Friday with Bicycle Camping, Bourbon and Black Coffee

For the past two years, a few guys from Beat the Clock Cycling have taken to the open roads the morning after Thanksgiving to escape Turkey-snacking and Black Friday madness. This time of year is when we get in our camping trips. It’s not 100º out and the only worrisome factors are the sudden cold fronts that blow in and yeah, the horrible headwinds that make trekking south-bound unbearable.

Still, knowing we might face rain and 30+ mph headwinds, a few of us loaded up our TT bikes (tent time bikes) and glanced over Nick’s route through Texas Hill Country. On the agenda: Pedernales State Park and Guadalupe River State park, the former of which, none of us had ever been to.

Our previous trip was such a success that we were all stoked to just get out and ride. John had missed us the first round – he was on his honeymoon – but brought along a whole bottle of Weller 12 year that was left over from his wedding. That and a bag of Flat Track Coffee

Black Coffee!

Two things were covered and I was the only one who brought food for three days, leaving the rest of the crew eating gas station canned chili, poured over Fritos – a Texas staple – and sucking down chicken noodle soup when that ran out.

The Pedernales River

The first day was easy breezy. 50 miles from door to camp site, just in time for sunset on the Pedernales river. We cooked on the camp fire, drank the whole bottle of bourbon and hit the tents at 8pm, only to be awaken at 3am by a group of 20 or so Javelina, all rummaging about the cedar and oak trees.

Vending machine Coke chug.

Waking up to chilly temperatures and one of the worst headwinds I’ve experienced reminded me more of the Oregon Outback and less of Texas. It took us almost 9 hours to go 60 miles and as we rolled into the Guadalupe River State park, we were all shelled. Dinner. Fire. Bourbon. Bed time.

That morning was a blur. We were cruising and before we knew it, it was lunch time. Big burgers at the Grist Mill

An enemy such as a headwind quickly becomes an ally when you make an about face and head home. As it goes, the last day was a blur, with visions of burgers, cold beer at the world-renown Grist Mill in Gruene, Texas motivating us. We would do 90 miles in around 5 hours. At one point, a climb that had beckoned the bonk goblins before was suddenly more of a false flat. County line sprints ensued and we were back in Austin before the sun set…

The route was 200 miles on the nose and 10,000′ of climbing over 3 days, fully loaded.

Tools of the trade:
Leica M7 / Zeiss 35mm
Portra 400

  • carchiba

    So jealous.

  • pizza dude

    This was an inspiring post. Any advice for a guy who doesn’t have any cycling friends? It makes it hard to get out and go. :(

    • John Watson

      Talk to local shops and see if there are group rides and honestly, if all else fails just ride by yourself. I love touring by myself…

      • pizza dude

        Awesome. Winters in Kansas can get brutal, but if we catch a break sometime coming up, I’ll head out!

    • Richard

      Where in Kansas are you?

      • pizza dude

        LaCygne! South of KC about an hour or so. You?

        • Richard

          Olathe! Go into Velo+ in Lenexa sometime, talk to those guys. We do the occasional overnights but mainly ride/race gravel.

    • matt whitehead
  • Simplicityofjoy

    Well this is next level awesomeness, thanks for that. Now tell me, does front loading only works on a Cross Check? I went with rear only for my recent New Zealand trip but do feel that there’s room for improvement. I dont want 4 panniers though, I just dont carry that much stuff ever and want my bike still feel like a bike.

    • John Watson

      You can front load any touring bike – Cross Checks will get a little squirrely because the trail isn’t low enough to accommodate the weight.

    • Rich May

      Last summer I did a couple hundred miles on my cross check carrying two small front panniers and a bar bag. Just a saddlebag at the back. It was fine, I had no issues.(Tubus Tara with 2x Altura arc 15)

  • Oliver

    Any reason why you went with the tent and not the hammock set up I’ve seen you use before? Just interested for gear planning.

    • John Watson

      If the forecast is calling for a thunderstorm, I’ll always tent it. I also wasn’t sure if there would be enough trees at one site.

      • Oliver

        Thanks for getting back. Yea with only the money to stretch for one option, and attempting to get everything into frame bags rather than using racks I’m weighing my options…

  • Jolene

    Those onion rings though.

    • John Watson

      he didn’t eat them all :-(

  • roger ailes

    are any of these bikes on 26″ wheels? i cant really tell and wanna feel relevant.

    • michaelvsShark

      not even the trucker. But why does it matter? I’m 5’8″ and i love my 26″ wheels. They make my bike look proportionate.

      • Roger ailes

        Curious bro

        • michaelvsShark

          Like a cat. You can find reviews of the geekhouse and the trucker on here. Not sure about the other two.

    • John Watson

      The Miyata is 650b

  • michaelvsShark

    I tried biking out to pedernales a few months ago. What time did you guys leave? I was getting a lot of negative feedback from drivers on that final two lane stretch with no shoulders.

    • John Watson

      Yeah rednecks will be rednecks. You’ll get honked at for sure.

      • michaelvsShark

        Booked the 13th. Going to try again with nerves steeled.

        • John Watson

          Early is better IMO. How’d you get out there? Check our route in the link.

          • michaelvsShark

            About the same as your link, Fitzhugh road was the issue. There were nonstop cars both directions, so not only were they having to slow, they were unable to pass.

            It was also around noon by this point, a mistake I will remedy in the future.

          • John Watson

            Was it on a Friday? If so, there’s your problem… it always sucks!

          • michaelvsShark

            Did it again this weekend. Upon retrospect the road I had issues with was actually Hamilton pool road. Of course that street would be a shit show, so I avoided it (taking cues from your route) this time and hit fitzhugh by 10. There were a few cars here and there but everyone passed cordially and the ride went smoothly. Thanks again for the much needed bit of inspiration.

          • John Watson

            Yeah, HPR drivers HATE cyclists. It really sucks…

  • Andrew

    Great to see more people using the BA Fly Creek. I have the UL1 and am incredibly happy with it, all my friends are jealous by how light I can travel.

  • Justin Scoltock

    never heard a peccary called a javelina…schooled. Rad trip!

  • Miles Away

    Front loaders unite.

  • Ian

    ha! you guys cruised within site of my place in New Braunfels! Y’all were probably shot but if you’d taken a right at mile 143 (aprox) you’d have found a great little back road.

  • Tyler Johnson

    This looks like so much fun. I can’t wait to do something like this with friends. Great shots John, and thanks for detailing out so much of your trips and what you bring etc over the years.

    • John Watson

      Thanks Tyler!

  • Area45

    Looks like a ton o’ fun John. Great pics as always.

  • Adam Sklar

    This is all stuff around Austin? That place keeps looking better and better…

    • John Watson


  • Nykolas Crovetto

    How are you digging the Flycreek over the hammock? What’s your take on shelter in general?

    • John Watson

      I’ll do a post about it, cool?

      • Nykolas Crovetto

        Very cool. I would love to see a post all about shelter while bike camping.

  • kasual

    Great shots. I will always deeply regret the day I missed out on a Miyata 1000 for 200 bucks.

  • skim

    What is that coffee filter holder you’re using?

    • michaelvsShark

      It’s called the Soto Helix. I saw one at REI the other day. You can also google that name and find em here and there.

      • skim

        Thanks, I’ll check it out

    • pizza dude

      It certainly doesn’t look as cool as the Soto Helix, but my experience with the GSI version has been great!

      • John Watson

        It is the Helix.

        • pizza dude

          Bad phrasing on my part… I was implying that the GSI version doesn’t look as cool as the this one (the helix).

  • thebennonite

    Can we request a “beautiful bicycle” feature on that Miyata?

  • Ian Ralph

    Can you tell me what watch the beer drinker is wearing?

  • Ben C

    I don’t understand the loading the front up thing, it affects bike handling adversely, especially offroad, a lot more than spreading weight or having more weight at the back. In fact, the looking fashionable aspect seems the major positive.

    • John Watson

      Only if your bike’s geometry doesn’t accommodate for it. A touring bike is mid to low trail and can take weight up front. Ever try getting out of the saddle and climbing with rear weight? It sucks – front loading does not.
      Also, loading on the rear off-road on a touring bike is a horrible idea. Then all your weight is in the back, including you, the rider.
      It has nothing to do with “fashion” that’s just you projecting.

      • Ben C

        yeah, see your point on the frame flex and balance when out of the saddle on a loaded rear end, especially if there’s no weight on the front to balance things out. I’m warming to the idea for lighter loads mostly up front, I reckon i’ll give it a spin and see. For heavier ones though, rear and low with a little weight up front and have enough gears to twiddle…for me.

        The fashion things a bit harsh, just trying out different stuff, everything good about that.

      • carl bradtmiller

        really, a “touring bike” (as opposed to a rando bike) is not necessarily low trail at all. in fact, high trail touring bikes with low bottom brackets have been around for a long time, as this gives the bikes a high degree of auto-correcting feel, or ‘stability’. for example, the venerable long haul trucker has a trail of 73mm (in a 54). the classic 80s trek 520 touring bikes have a trail of around 61-63 depending on specifics. a “regular” road bike will have a trail around 56mm. low trail bikes (40-45mm) are much less common in the production world although there are many options from riv, rawland etc etc.

        not debating the virtues of one versus the other, just sayin.

  • Christian DiCenso

    I really, really wanted to go to Texas this winter and hit up the hill country around F’burg and Pedernales, but for some reason I live in Atlanta and that’s a 14 hour drive. Sticking to my local spots this winter. Looks sick! Maybe next year…

  • Mr. Bos

    Awesome post! I mainly ride track and road bikes but I am about to graduate college and really want to turn my old Peugeot into a touring bike. Any suggestions to a newcomer into this awesome avenue of biking? Do’s, Don’ts, all that good stuff. This goes for anyone here who has some experience. Thanks!

    • michaelvsShark

      • Mr. Bos

        awesome link thanks! Awesome to see other people jouneys, definitely giving me some good food for thought already.

  • btdubs

    fuh. king. cool.

  • asdfsky

    Awesome trip ! What is the saddle bag on the Miyata ? thank you.

    • stronzo

      Carradice Nelson Longflap

  • Andrew McNett

    “Hello, Cleveland! We are the Bonk Goblins!”

  • Ryan Kingkade

    Hoping to get to Austin in late February for hangs with Jack and Jo AND hopefully bringing my finished Space Horse build. What’s the weather like around that time? I’m from Nebraska you see….. =)

  • Lilak Monoke

    awesome bikes! i do trips like this on my steamroller. what tires are on the red trucker, paselas? need new ones … cheers from berlin!

  • kshahislove

    Is there a particular reason you guys decided to go front-loaded instead of rear or evenly loaded? Curious

    • John Watson

      You’re sitting on the rear of the bike, so front loading is equal distribution. That and the bike will climb and descend more predictably.

      • kshahislove

        So why not always front-load for touring regardless of whether it is a MTB or not? I feel like the fork wobbles much more climbing with a front distribution — not trying to be argumentative here, I really want to know. Why doesn’t everyone do this — or is it purely personal preference, etc?

        I can’t get enough of this site. So beautiful

        • John Watson

          If your geometry doesn’t accommodate a front load, it will wobble for sure. I hardly ever rear-load, MTB, touring, etc. For me, it’s preference, for people like Grant Petersen of Rivendell, he argues the opposite.