People seem to be deeply divided these days and have a lot of strong opinions on all sorts of topics. Who would have thought camping would be one of them? For some it’s an unequivocal non-starter. Not interested, not happening. But some people really enjoy it. Like most matters, the criticism comes from not understanding the other side’s point of view.
My introduction to “camping” consisted of annual family summer road trips in an RV. During my teens, I did plenty of car camping with my hockey buddies. The motivating factor was basically to get loaded and not have to worry about getting the third degree when arriving home at curfew. If the weather was crap, we could always drive into town to get warm and dry out in a restaurant. Otherwise, our diet consisted of Pop Tarts, hot dogs, and beer. Fine when you’re 16 years old, but at 40? No thanks.
A few years ago, another friend invited me to go winter camping. Admittedly, I didn’t understand the concept or the appeal. Intentionally trek out into the remote wilderness to sleep in a tent and freeze your toes (among other appendages) off? No thank you. At least there wouldn’t be any bears or black flies at that time of year.
There’s camping, and then there’s motorcycle camping. My friend Grant has crossed the country by motorcycle numerous times, camping along the way in all kinds of weather. Mostly bad.
The next trip he had in mind was a two-wheeled pilgrimage to Fort La Cloche. Located south of Massey, Ontario (west of Sudbury), the site was established in 1790 by the North West Company, then operated as a Hudson’s Bay Company post from 1821 to about 1888. There was an HBC Chief Factor assigned who hired several labourers, including two of his Métis ancestors.
I was up for the ride but wasn’t so sure about the camping part. Nevertheless, Grant somehow managed to convince me that this would be a fun thing to do, so I arranged a Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special and Road Glide CVO. Both accustomed to riding our respective Triumphs, these big bore V-Twin tourers offered more than enough comfort for a few days on the road with room to store a sufficient amount of gear if we left the cooking equipment and coolers at home. We loaded up the hard saddle bags with a hatchet, clothes and rain gear, then each strapped our tent and sleeping bag to the passenger seat.
We experienced two kinds of weather over the course of the excursion – scorching heat and cold rain. The weather had us stopping to shed or add layers more often than an exotic dancer. Nevertheless, we pressed on. Staying at a different location each night meant setting up camp every evening and packing it all up every morning. Breakfast consisted of a granola bar and a can of cold brew coffee from a gas station. It did the trick.
Our days were spent exploring while enjoying listening to our own playlists through the speakers on our bikes. The shark nose fairings provided good wind protection, and we made full use of both the GPS navigation and cruise control which were both welcome novelties to us. I may have even turned the heated hand grips on for a few minutes when the temperature dipped and we’d been riding in the rain most of the day.
While we were standing in a light drizzle heating up our cans of chili over the fire, we still couldn’t help but look around and laugh at the so-called campers who had seemingly brought every possible comfort of home. From the mammoth luxury RVs with marble countertops and a fireplace, to palatial tents big enough to host a wedding reception, our park neighbours brought full-size BBQs, tiki torches, carpets, patio furniture, and living room recliners – even projector screens to watch movies. At a certain point you have to wonder, why even bother leaving home if you’re going to take it all with you? Although they may wonder what kind of a biker I am using heated hand grips.
Granted, there was a moment when we were riding through a particularly heavy downpour that I debated suggesting a hotel, but I’m glad we pressed on. The sun came out and we watched a beautiful sunset over the lake from our site. We also enjoyed many kilometres on some beautiful roads and took in some history of the region. We shared a lot of laughs and I realized how precious little we actually require to sustain ourselves and be happy. A motorcycle and an open road go a long way. But a hot cup of coffee, a long shower, and a restful sleep in my own bed aren’t too far behind. I guess we all spoil ourselves in different ways.