Author Topic: Cooking on a van supported tour  (Read 389 times)

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Offline rmball28

Cooking on a van supported tour
« on: February 25, 2021, 06:58:41 pm »
I'm signed up for an ACA van supported tour which i look forward to with great anticipation.  I understand that we will be rotating cooking duties which is fine but I am a bit anxious about cooking for 15 people after a day of cycling.  I understand that people will probably be hungry and not to picky, basically willing to eat a boiled door knob, but it would be nice to be able to produce something other than endless pots of spaghetti.  Those of you with group shared cooking experience what were the good easy meals that you remember?

Offline wildtoad

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2021, 11:00:41 am »
I've done a number of ACA van supported (and self-contained) tours over the years. You are in for a treat! Definitely don't worry too much about the cooking rotation...breakfast and lunch prep is easy peasy and a little formulaic.

For dinner....so there still is an ACA "cook book" of sorts if I recall correctly. The tour leaders often pass this around during your initial orientation so you can get recipe ideas. But coming up w/ ideas in advance of the tour is always a great approach, especially if you have favorites (and being more prepared might reduce your anxiety).  Best approach is simple and nutritious, while having a flexible and relatively easy way to accommodate different dietary preferences.  One pot base meals are best, and prepare meat that can be added to the meal in a separate pot.  So a base vegetarian chili can be good and is generally very easy to make, and then you make a side of chicken, ground turkey, beef or whatever....along w/ condiments like cheese, et. al.  Cut up squash and red lentils can be a great base for all kinds of stuff as well. And nothing wrong w/ spaghetti or other pasta if you've got a good sauce and stuff to add to it (veggies, etc.).  Keep it simple.

So IME the most important part of your meal rotation is when you go shopping w/ your cooking partner.  On most of the van tours that I've done, everybody shops at the same time at beginning of the tour, and you store your food in coolers in the trailer and access it when it's your turn to cook.  That may vary a little bit depending on location of your tour and services along the route.  Anyway, you will have a budget to work with. Working within that budget, you will want to think about what "splurges" you can make that will make food prep easier and faster....e.g., cut up pieces of chicken breast instead of whole, pre-cut veggies, etc. 

Also, think a little about cleanup!  Yes, we had no choice but to prepare mac and cheese one buggy night in Yellowstone (self-contained tour). And me cleaning out that cooked on cheese in the bottom of the pot in buggy twilight was seriously unfun.

Finally, you never know, your cooking partner might just be a culinary whiz and you will just go along for the ride :)  Regardless, you will have a wonderful experience...and the cooking part usually ends up being a lot of fun.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2021, 11:21:33 am »
My first tour was ACA's unsupported Northern Tier tour in '99. 13 of us for 93 days. Except for the relatively few times we at out, two people would take turns cooking each night. I had never even seen a camp stove before the trip started. I asked to be in the last pair so I could observe what others did. Today, I am a great camp cook and actually enjoy the challenge of making dinners that involve more than opening cans and/or boiling water.

If you ride a lot each day, a pot of pasta ain't so bad, especially when grocery picking are slim. Get creative with what is available. Top it off with some bagged greens and dressing. Much more prevalent now than BITD. A couple of special "treats" I remember were quesadillas and fish filets. Thing is, the more complicated a meal the more time it's usually going to take to prepare. One day we planned our shopping poorly and ended up having omelets for dinner. There were basically only two frying pans appropriate for omelets so it took a while to feed everyone. Speaking of time to cook, post-ride snacks are usually welcome to tide people over. We went through a lot of bags of chips and jars of salsa. One woman liked to get a block of cream cheese, a jar of red salsa and a box of Trisquits. She'd put the block of cream cheese in the center of a pot lid that doubled as a pan and pout the salsa around it. Surprisingly good, with carbs, salt and fat.  Hummus has grown in popularity since then, so that is another snack possibility.

Worst meal was probably in Rexford, WA.  It was too long and hard of a day to carry groceries all the way from the town we left that morning, so we relied on what was available at the campground store. We had pasts with jarred sauce, canned peas and canned corn. At the hostel at Lake Itasca, which wasn't yet open for the evening when we arrived, we were forced to make do with brats and an industrial sized can of baked beans from a nearby store, which pretty much only had picnic-type stuff for people going to the park. The vegetarians, of course, were stuck with just the beans. On top of that, we had to cook/heat everything up on the hostel's outdoor grill under a tarp to keep us dry from the rain.

Keep in mind that if there are vegetarians in the group (We had 3 in our group.) the "base" meal will have to be vegetarian, but that does not mean you cannot have a side of meat that can be added. For example, I remember pasta with ground beef and veggies. The meat was cooked in a separate pan and had to be added to your own bowl containing the pasta with veggies.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2021, 11:29:03 am »
Heh. Seems our responses crossed in the mail.

Great point about ease of cleanup. It cannot overemphasized. Another treat were the few nights we stayed inside at places a cooked in real kitchens. Much easier to do the dishes.

Offline wildtoad

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2021, 12:24:52 pm »
Good stuff, I imagine a cooking rotation over a 90+ day trip probably stretches the limits of menu creativity a bit!  LOL. My ACA tour experiences have generally been in the 10-14 day range (I've done much longer trips on my own or through other venues). On the 10-14 day trips, you generally only have 1 or sometimes 2 cooking days per person (there is usually at least one restaurant night and sometimes 2 if the group does really well with the budget).

One additional thing I will point out is a difference between van supported and self-contained as far as ACA goes.  For self-contained, you generally use small backpacking camp stoves (since you are carrying all group gear on bikes), which can work well but sometimes pose a few constraints/challenges.  For van tours, you are generally using more of a "car camping" style set up w/ larger coleman style camp stoves that are transported in the van trailer.  So you have a little bigger/more user friendly setup for cooking in the van tour context.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2021, 02:36:35 pm »

One additional thing I will point out is a difference between van supported and self-contained as far as ACA goes.  For self-contained, you generally use small backpacking camp stoves (since you are carrying all group gear on bikes), which can work well but sometimes pose a few constraints/challenges.  For van tours, you are generally using more of a "car camping" style set up w/ larger coleman style camp stoves that are transported in the van trailer.  So you have a little bigger/more user friendly setup for cooking in the van tour context.

Interesting. We had 3 Coleman Peak stoves, which are small, self contained units. Getting water boiling for 4 lbs. of pasta was challenging in windy conditions and/or when the ground was not level. (No cooking on picnic tables allowed.) In fact, the first time I cooked the large pot fell over. I grabbed one of the stoves to reposition it, touched a hot part due to my inexperience and got a nasty, second degree burn with large blister on my left index finger. Try packing up a tent with something like that. Something like a two-burner Coleman stove would definitely be more user friendly.

IIRC, things were scheduled this way. The pair scheduled to cook dinner the following evening washed group cooking gear the previous night (Each person always washed their own personal bowls, plates, etc.), put out breakfast and lunch stuff for people the next morning, cleaned group gear used before leaving camp, were in charge of shopping the next afternoon (although we usually all pitched in to carry groceries) and then cooked dinner that evening.  The piar scheduled to cook dinner the following night was then on clean up duty. It was nice to not have to clean up group gear after having done so much during the day.

The only other ACA tour I have done was fully supported (Cycle Vermont) and thus catered.

Offline rmball28

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2021, 08:42:21 pm »
BB and Wildtoad thanks for the info.  The need for a vegetarian base will have me thinking.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2021, 07:54:17 am »
I cook for large events at our curling club. It is a little different since I have a commercial kitchen at my disposal but I have also camp cooked for more than 50 years. Gluten free and vegetarian can be easily handled buy picking up Uncle Ben's Minute Rice. When I hiked I found it in white and brown. Plenty of fresh veggies, peppers, zucchini, garlic, etc. all pack well. Add a block or two of Tofu for protein if you can find it or chickpeas and/or black beans. Don't be afraid to ask the vegetarians for help shopping, most will gladly pitch in to get a better meal. :)
Long Distance Hiker - AT Thru-hike 2007
Long distance cyclist - multi day tours - TDF tour Alpes 2005
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Offline driftlessregion

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2021, 02:16:18 pm »
Always (most always) pasta but vary the toppings. Pesto is good, doesn't need to be heated. Add tofu or chicken for protein.
Stroganoff, sort of: essential is the sour cream with egg noodles. Other ingredients can be varied: different vegetables, usually mushrooms, meat for those who want. A must on our tours.
Rice & beans with chipotle and tomatoes, sausage ( we found a potato sausage that was tasty)
Coconut milk with curry and variety of veg and/or meats, over rice or noodles
Goulash, sort of: egg noodles, cans of diced tomatoes, hamburger, onion and lots  of paprika

Offline David W Pratt

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Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2021, 02:28:13 pm »
One thing that might bolster your confidence is practice.  If you look up/plan some meals and cook them, or a proportion of them that you can conceivably eat, a time or two, you will have that as a foundation.  Another thing to look for is local delicacies.  For example, if you find great canteloupes at a farm stand, see if you can get prosciutto at a deli.  No help with the vegetarians, but a treat for everyone else.
If you are going to have a campfire, take a Camembert cheese, remove and discard the plastic wrapper and put it back in its little wooden box.  Best if it is room temp to start.  When the fire has matured, sweep some clear space on the "hearth" put down the cheese, and cover with a shovelful of coals. The box will burn, and after a few minutes, sweep away the coals and retrieve the now melted cheese, safely contained in its leathery rind.  cut a hole in the rind and dip good crusty French bread into the melted cheese. Rd wine goes well with it.  Rustic luxury.

Offline ZiZohn

Re: Cooking on a van supported tour
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2021, 04:34:02 pm »
I have done an ACA self-supported tour (64 days), and recently the ACA Pacific Coast Van-supported tour (41 days). On the Pacific Coast, the cooks met the van-driver at a grocery location at some point on the route each day, to buy the needed groceries for that day, and anything else which was needed to stock up the cooler for drinks, milk, etc. We usually cooked evening meals, and had stuff set out for breakfast for the others to assemble for breakfast and lunch.  We had cooked Old Fashioned Oatmeal, which goes over very well with the others, for several breakfasts. I believe I had to cook 4 times on that trip. On the self-supported trip, the entire group sometimes met the leader at a grocery store to assist carry the groceries, again at some point on the trip each day, depending on how far from the end the last grocery location was. If the grocery location was near the end, sometimes we all rode to camp, and then the cooks rode back to the store with the leader.  At other times the cooks would meet him at the store during the ride if it was near the end. Suppers were usually at 6:00 each evening, but were also flexible compared to the mileage rode. I didn't mind cooking for the group. I retired from a Fire Department, and would cook often for 8-10 people. During the ACA tours, we usually changed partners after each rotation of the group. Depending on the budget, we ate occasionally at restaurants. Usually the cooks were the last to shower each day.