Too often, summer fun seems prohibitively expensive, but with a little creativity and effort, it can also be free. Here’s an idea for creating a do-it-yourself family bike camp. All you need is your bike, your packed lunch and your sense of summer adventure…
I was inspired to start our own family bike camp after hearing my mother-in-law’s stories about homemade summer camps. She and her friends couldn’t afford to send their kids to camp, so every summer they decided to plan a fun week at camp that they invented themselves. This summer I was lucky enough to be able to send my eldest son to WashCo Bikes Saddle Up Summer Bike Camp (he loved it!), but I needed something fun – and cheap – to do with the rest of us. My other kids were too small to send to camp, but I made a vow to get us all up and ready for a week of bike rides, like we were going to bike camp too.
Every morning we loaded up a full picnic, water and sunscreen, then rushed to get my son to his camp on time. We cycled the 2.5 miles to his depot and then started our own “camp” adventures for the day. We’ve been to several parks and even found a new favorite with hiking trails and nature play. While my eldest son had fun pedaling all over town, visiting parks, a wading pool, the library and an ice cream shop, we pretty much did the same thing and passed him several times. It was the most biking we’ve ever done and the most time we’ve spent outdoors as we rode over 10 miles a day and stayed in the parks until lunch time. siesta. It was one of the most fun weeks of our summer. Indeed, I dare say it made us all bikers!
Here is a list of suggestions for planning your own do-it-yourself family bike camp:
- Check the map for fun destinations. View a map of your community and find all parks, libraries, stores and cycling green spaces. You might be surprised at all the places you’ve overlooked, forgotten, or never visited. Make a list of new places to visit, as well as your current favorites.
- Extend your reach. Choose a challenge destination to cycle a little further. Often the most fun camps are those that challenge kids to do something difficult. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself; it might be the most fun thing you do all week.
- Check your community calendar. Are there any events or festivals you can cycle to? Story time at the library? Farmer’s Market? Don’t forget to check the BikePortland calendar for more ideas.
- Make a bike plan. Choose destinations and routes for the week. Be sure to pre-test any unknown routes.
- To show creativity. Think of some camping activities that you can do yourself that don’t involve a lot of equipment. (Go ahead and Google some ideas, or check out a summer activity book at the library.) Here are some suggestions to get you thinking:
- Create a scavenger hunt to do in your local park.
- Make nature boats out of sticks and leaves to race in a stream.
- Get wet on an outdoor sprinkler pad or splash around in your local river/swimming hole.
- Grab sketchbooks and colored pencils and try nature sketching or journaling.
- Pack up your favorite chapter book or poetry book and read aloud under a beautiful shade tree.
- Bring along a speaker and music to help you sing along to goofy songs or even throw an outdoor dance party.
- Be fully present. I’ll admit, I haven’t really come up with any special camp activities (but I plan to do so next year.) Instead, I’ve decided to let my kids run our playtime in various parks, giving them the opportunity to enjoy lots of unstructured outdoor activities. nature game. If you don’t have the time or resources to plan games and activities, don’t be discouraged. Children are the happiest to have your full attention. Little kids are thrilled if you just play tag or hide-and-seek, or spin around until you’re all dizzy. Just commit to keeping your screen device off and focusing on your kids. It can be a great week, even if you don’t plan on anything other than cycling through some parks and being fully present when you get there.
- Set an alarm. Pick a time off in the morning and stick to it. If you’ve gotten into the habit of sleeping late this summer, challenge yourself to leave earlier than usual. You’ll beat the heat, enjoy the coolness of a morning ride, and be able to prepare a full program of lunchtime activities.
- Stay outdoors. It can be tempting to come home early, but challenge yourself to stay outside and away from screens. You will return home sweaty and tired, like real summer campers.
- Pack well. Pack extra snacks, a picnic, plenty of water and sunscreen. Prepare as much as possible the night before. (Pro tip: try packing all your ingredients in your bag and packing lunch at the park. I like to throw a loaf of bread and my jars of PB and jelly in my bag, along with a block of cheese, fruits and vegetables, a knife, and a small cutting board. I often find it easier to make lunch while my kids are rolling down the toboggan than when I’m trying to get us out in the morning.)
- Do a bike check. A flat tire could really ruin your plans. Stock up on fresh air and don’t forget to pack a patch or spare kit. Check that the helmets are suitable. Also check if the bike seats are the right height; we finally adjusted those settings mid-week and everyone was happier!
- Invite friends. More the merrier, the merrier! Group rides are particularly fun and sociable. It is also much easier to play tag with other children during the trip. Try some old-fashioned fun, like a game of capture the flag or kickball.
- Finish with a treat. Ice cream? Popsicles? Homemade frozen juices? Reward yourself for a week of cycling with something fresh and sweet.
- Add a tent? I meant these suggestions like a bike daytime camp, but you can try overnight bike camping, perhaps taking a small tent to a friend’s house and camping in their backyard.
There are still a few weeks of summer left. Enjoy it while you can! Usually the hardest part is getting out. You can do it. Good bike.
Shannon is a 36-year-old mother of five who lives in downtown Hillsboro. His column appears weekly. Contact her via email@example.com