D.C. Suburbs Overnight
Crediting Adventure Cycling and BikeOvernights.org with inspiration and guidance, Roberta Paul, an adventurous, self-described “suburban mom” takes her family of six and two dogs on a bicycle overnight to Burke Lake Campground, seven miles away, for this Memorial Day adventure. Calling it a great success, they look forward to more bike overnights!
Bicycle Adventurers: Roberta Paul and family, plus their two dogs!
Accommodations: Burke Lake Park Campground, Fairfax Station, VA.
Distance: Fourteen miles, round trip.
Bonus: Take the dogs with you!
Weather: Pleasant, late spring weather.
The Route: Starting at their home in Lorton, VA, Roberta’s family loaded up after school and work and rode north to the Burke Lake Park Campground, seven miles away, mostly on paved paths.
Introduction: My family loves an adventure. Luckily, we live in an area rich with natural wonders, hundreds of miles of trails, many parks, and we’re just a couple of hours away from mountains and beaches.
Three things inspired our family’s latest bike overnight on Memorial Day Weekend:
A week-long Boy Scout biking/camping trip down the C&O Canal (Chesapeake & Ohio Canal) with my oldest son two years ago sparked the idea in my head.
BikeOvernights.org and an Adventure Cycling Association membership provided inspiration and guidance on how to make it happen.
And our first bike overnight was a big success. We rode from Purcellville, VA to Leesburg, VA on a local rail trail (the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail, or W&OD). My husband and two step kids rode the ten miles easily over spring break and stayed in a hotel. The trip was an easy intro to bike overnights. No one was the slightest bit tired.
So, for Memorial Day weekend, my four kids (ages 16, 15, 14, and 11), our two dogs, and I, decided to up the ante a bit. We secured a Burley bike trailer on Craigslist for the dogs and took them on a couple of easy neighborhood trips to get them used to the ride. They are eleven year old miniature pinschers ready for adventure, especially if it involves taking a ride with their humans.
With two Boy Scouts, two Girl Scouts, and a hiking mom with an REI membership and a glamping problem, we had all the gear needed to make the trip in high style, dogs in tow. We decided on a short route from our home in Lorton, VA to Burke Lake Campground in Fairfax Station, VA, eight miles away.
Because Burke Lake Campground is 'first come, first served', I secured a site on my way to work Friday morning. After school and work, we strapped all of our gear to the bikes and headed off for a weekend of car-free adventure and family fun! There were two or three “car danger zones” on our route, but the majority of the ride into the park was easy and fun––90 percent of the ride was on paved trail with minimal hills! We rolled into the campground with an hour of sunlight left to burn. Tents went up quickly, dinner was a snap, and the weather was extremely cooperative all weekend long.
Burke Lake Park has tons of activities available. The loop around the lake is 4.7 miles long and used quite frequently by hikers, bikers, and runners. We know the park well and have done the loop many, many times. The park also offers mini golf, a carousel, a train, frisbee golf, fishing, and much more. All this notwithstanding, what my kids really wanted to do was go swimming, so we did.
South Run Recreation Center is only three miles away on a connected trail, so we spent a little time in the indoor pool there. Then, we lunched across the street in the Huntsman Square shopping center, which has a number casual dining options as well as a grocery store for resupplying.
Back at camp, we continued to draw attention from other families interested in our bike tour set up. The kids worked really hard and were very proud of the attention the gained for their efforts.
The ride back home on Sunday was breezy and light. With our first bike camping trip a verified success, we are looking forward to our next bike camping trip which will be more challenging and even more fun!
Tip for this Adventure: Watch the sun go down from the park bench at the corner of Burke Lake Trail and the connector trail to the South Run Park Recreation Center. Or, hang out at Huntsman Starbucks: great people, fantastic atmosphere, home away from home.
About Roberta: I am an adventurous “suburban mom” of fantastic kids. I love the outdoors, casual hikes, casual bike rides, travel, and glamping. Hiking all of the Appalachian Trail in bite-sized pieces is my dream, as is walking the Camino de Santiago one day. But first, I plan to ride my bike in Paris, France and in Belize.
Favorite Bike Shop: My youngest daughter had a major flat tire and unfortunately, we have not yet mastered the art of changing a flat tire. So, we did the next best thing. We parked the kids at the Huntsman Starbucks patio with card games and lunch and cabbed the bike over to The Bike Lane bike shop, just three miles away for repair. They fixed the flat in 10 minutes!!
HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!