For over seven years, Langford Elementary School and Ghisallo Cycling Initiative have collaborated to bike with kids in the south Austin community. Each week, Langford Bike Club students meet after school to build their riding skills, explore the neighborhood trails, and grow friendships. On May 11, the students set out on their bikes like any other week, but this time, they did not return to school as they usually do — they had another destination in mind.
The Bike Club kids adventured on a bike camping overnight at McKinney Falls, a six-mile ride from their school, for the second year in a row. Five of the seven kids had never camped before, so they were in for a real treat, arriving at the campsite after a joyful ride. One of the students who joined us on last year’s overnight joined again because she loved swimming at the falls after biking.
Before we set out, we prepped our bikes, filled our water bottles, ate snacks, and gathered gear. We borrowed four-person tents and sleeping bags from a local middle school and piled them in our SAG wagon. Together we rode calm neighborhood streets, the new Meadow Lake Boulevard protected two-way bike lanes, sidewalks, and the Onion Creek Greenbelt Trail to reach our destination. The group was supportive of one another on the road and stuck together.
Everyone was excited to turn left into McKinney Falls State Park, a pleasant getaway from urban living not too far from home. Limestone ledges of delight give way to the Onion Creek, winding trails, and majestic trees. We created our camp home, and the kids were so cooperative and hands-on with setting up the tents and hammocks.
We then rode over to Lower McKinney Falls to swim. The water flows from Onion Creek and temperatures were refreshing after the week's rainfall. The swimming holes were lots of fun, and the kids enjoyed swimming to the rocks just before sunset. Once we got back to our campsite, everyone enjoyed grilled fajitas. Eating together outside after a full day of learning, riding, and swimming never tasted so good! The campfire kept everyone warm after post-dinner showers and washes. The kids ate s’mores until all the chocolate and graham crackers were gone.
Now for a real treat — we had a Bike Story Night, in which the kids and adults shared stories about journeys learning to ride bikes, bike touring the country, biking with parents, and more. We concluded with karaoke featuring songs by Cyndi Lauper, Dolly Parton, Shakira, and Idina Menzel. Would it be a true kids’ karaoke night if we didn’t sing “Let It Go” from the Frozen soundtrack?
After a humid night, we woke up, packed up our tents, ate a light breakfast, and rode back to school. Along the way, the kids said good morning to the wildflowers and enjoyed a more downhill track back, feeling at ease after spending the night outside or knowing the weekend was just around the corner. Everyone was smiling. What a fun adventure!
Langford Principal Castillo welcomed us back and congratulated the group on our feat. We were then glad to be off our feet and enjoy breakfast tacos sitting on the benches at the school entrance. We took in the moment and recounted some of our favorite moments from the bike camping trip.
We are so grateful for everyone that helped to support our joyous adventure. Thank you, Miss Bobby, Miss Caiseda, Girmawi, Lily, Briana, and all the students for riding all together, sharing trails, water breaks, road safety, and wildflower sightings. Thank you, Valerie, for running our SAG wagon and bringing Bike Story Night to our campfire. Thank you to Ms. Cale, Mr. Jimenez, and Mirna, for tacos and gear transportation. Thank you to the Parks & Recreation class at Kealing Middle School for lending us gear. Thank you, Bobby, for cooking delicious fajitas and packing all the snacks. Thank you to Ghisallo, Langford, Adventure Cycling, Texas State Parks, for all you do that led to making this camping overnight a dream come true!