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BACKSEAT RIDER: Go camping on the bike and let versatility be your guide this summer


The Snail, a 750 Honda Shadow, is pictured in Nufrage Harbour, P.E.I., in 2012. - Mark Creamer
The Snail, a 750 Honda Shadow, is pictured in Nufrage Harbour, P.E.I., in 2012. - Mark Creamer

“I don’t think two people could go camping on that,” said Driver Mark.

“I bet we could figure it out,” I said.

It was our first summer together and we were ready for biking adventures.

The bike in question was a 750 Honda Shadow. DM had been camping just before we got together, got cold and uncomfortable, and invested in better equipment. I knew he hadn’t gotten to test it out and I was keen to help.

With both of us measuring an average six feet tall, just riding two-up was a full bike. But with his “can-do” attitude, DM packed the saddle bags, added a trunk bag to the back rest and — our signature move — tied the tent and sleeping pads to the windshield. 

After an overnight test run to Panmure Island, P.E.I., (best beach on the Island, LMHO), we felt ready to roll further afield.

We ended up in Advocate Harbour, N.S.

We found a gem at the Old Shipyard Beach Campground and managed to score the last tent site, the one they save for bikes and little cars.

The sites are wide open and stacked like parking spaces on a narrow strip of land between a marsh and the Bay of Fundy. Despite the less-than-idyllic description, it was magnificent. 

Several beautiful historic homes line the street leading to the campground, a restaurant served delicious meals out of an old warehouse and the lighthouse bordering the campsites boasted the history of the ghost-ship Mary-Celeste.

We staked our tent — a spacious three-season affair DM had picked up used, online — on the shore of the Bay of Fundy and relaxed for three days.

Camping success.

In the years since that first trip on the Shadow — dubbed The Snail, as we carried our house on our back — we upgraded to our current Honda VTX 1800; it came with a trailer hitch and we got ideas. 

My grandfather saw the potential as well and gifted us with a trailer he’d gotten with his Gold Wing experiment decades before. 

It was light and easy to tow and there was space for a cooler. But we soon outgrew even this luxury. 

During a trip on Cape Breton, we were heading across an open stretch of road (to St. Anne’s to see the Gaelic College) when the cover blew open, scattering anything soft along the road.

I scurried to collect our things. I guess we should have been more prepared after it took me lying on the cover to fasten it that morning.

It was time for another upgrade.

Enter my Driver Dad. He and DM designed and built the trailer we use today. Using plywood, a couple of boxes of screws and a piano hinge, they built it on the original base.

“We can take chairs now,” DM said. 

And so we do.

Happy riding!

Do away with road worriers

We enjoy tenting for the connecting-to-nature aspect — as well as the cheap accommodation.

There are lots of bikers who camp and everyone will have their own style. We’ve met up with bikers who camp as a lifestyle and set up next to others who just carry a tent and sleeping gear and eat out for meals. 

We’ve found our groove and are still using the same basic equipment we did that first summer in 2012.

We got a smaller, newer tent in 2013, the chairs in 2015 and a two-burner stove in 2016. 

We try to buy no more than one meal per day and generally eat at the campsite for breakfast and supper.

Tips

  • Get a good tent. I used to have a cheap tent and I’d wake up every morning with moisture coating the inside and dripping onto my stuff. You can get a good tent for around $300. The moisture will stay out on the fly.   
  • Get comfy. Invest in an adequate sleeping pad, a warm-enough sleeping bag and don’t forget a pillow if you need one (I do). 
  • Gather a kitchen set and keep it ready for camping. It doesn’t have to be an ultralight, high-tech cook set, but if it’s all packed up, there’s less chance you’ll forget something.
  • Consider a tarp; a good tarp might mean less need for a fancy tent. For us, it meant a rainy trip to Meat Cove, Cape Breton wasn’t a washout.

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