Camping on Two Wheels

Motorcycle trip day 1
July 6, 2008
Lincolnville, ME to Alma, New Brunswick

Pat, Steve, and I rolled out of Lincolnville, Maine, each on our big twin cylinder BMW motorcycles, on 7 AM on a clear Sunday July morning. The bikes were amply packed for camping and adventure. A year ago, the three of us talked about taking a whole month month to head out to Montana, but that sure isn’t happening. Six days of freedom is what we’ve got. We’re going to Canada.
Gas is now an all time high of close to $5 a gallon, and the first inkling of the economic effects of that big cha-ching were the near-empty motel parking lots that we passed through Belfast, ME. It didn’t get much busier in Canada, where the norm was nearly empty campgrounds and sweatless border crossings.
Steve, Pat and I have done many motorcycle trips together over the years. We knew what to do.
It should have been easy for me to gather up the necessary gear and just go, but it wasn’t. I found that I needed a whole day to pack my stuff. Maybe it was the anticipation, but my packing seemed never ending. I was out of practice for rounding up this specific set of gear. Some of my stuff was out in the garage, some of it was in my “gear room” upstairs, some of it was on another motorcycle, and some of it, I had no clue. I looked in a lot of places for things. I was up and down a lot of stairs. It was exhausting just getting both myself and the motorcycle to the place where I could just go.

We took Route 1 all the way up the coast, skirting Ellsworth briefly and that magnetic turn down to the enchanting Acadia National Park. This time we’re running Down East, and crossing into Canada from Lubec into New Brunswick. After stopping for coffee and a Canadian bacon egg muffin at the Riverfront Cafe, we pulled down onto the beach in “downtown” Lubec few hours later just in time to roll across the sand onto the diminutive ferry, powered by a big lobster boat lashed to the side of a small barge .

The tides here in Fundy Bay are among the highest in the world and for our $5 we were treated to a virtually empty passage, skirting the edge of the Old Sow, normally a sucking vortex of whirlpool, but today a relatively mild drain.

After leaving the baby ferry, we rolled onto Canada where we rode across Deer Island for few short miles where we waited on the north side a bit to ride on a real vehicle ferry, free this time. We were in no rush, and enjoyed the sea air, gull sounds, and distinctive smell of the salt water shore, threading our way around tiny coastal islands and half-submerged rocks where we eventually reached the coastal town of St. George. A short while later , we were back on Rt 1 in Canada heading to the city of St. John. As we approached the rest area just before the city limits, the fog grew thick, temperature dropped like a sinker, and we were relieved to get off the bikes again and take a pit stop to discharge and take on liquids. I ate an energy bar.

It felt great to be on the road. Canada rocks, with excellent high speed roads, frequent passing lanes, and cleanliness.

I hate stopping for tolls when I am on my motorcycle. After years of rushing, fumbling, dropping gloves or coins as I often struggle to deal with cold hands, I now refuse to get frantic. I roll beside the toll booth, shut off the engine, take a big breath, remove my gloves, find the cash, put the gloves back on, start ‘er up and go. Works for me.

After the $.50 toll we cracked the throttles up the big hill out of town and we started working our way through the increasing heat and humidity as we winged toward Sussex.

This is rolling farm country, with a big valley out stage left that extends or miles up toward Sussex, New Brunswick. We were passing everything in sight with Steve pulling strong in front when out in the middle of nowhere I noticed his R80 RT slowing down and then pulling over as we were cresting one of the big hills. Not good. Now we were all on the shoulder. I smelled brake linings. Uphill?

“What’s up?” I asked him.
“Something’s not right. I might have a transmission problem or something. I can’t roll the bike in neutral even now,“ said Steve.

We collectively scratched our heads for a while until we put his bike up on the centerstand and attempted to spin the front wheel. Stuck. No amount of strength grunting on the wheel moved it even a micrometer. The bike has twin disc brakes on the front, and letting things cool down for a while released the calipers enough for us to see that his right caliper was screwed up.

Without excessively bashing him, Steve does have a remarkably long history of experiencing these sort of episodes on our motorcycle camping adventures. I think this was the seventh or eighth time.

All have been related to wheel or tire issues! Now our collective trip was taking that all too familiar shift from the free-and-easy-life-on-the-open-road place to the “ Shit Happens” place and all the tribulation that world brings to our plates.

Steve is a smart guy, and an excellent problem solver. No matter, he’s always managed to work these things out creatively or otherwise. This time we freed up the wheel, pulled it off, and Steve remounted the nonfunctional caliper, temporarily skirting the problem by installing it backwards, so that the unit was not gripping the right rotor at all. He now had a single disk brake front end. It worked enough to get us down the turn to Funday National Park, our destination for the day.

We wanted to camp close to a place where there some supplies to cook up for supper. I was all set, but Steve and Pat ended going to the tiny burg of Alma, where they found a small convenience store that had some canned goods and some Ramen noodles.

The closest campground to the ocean was practically empty, with only a quarter of the Headquarters campground even occupied. We chose a nice spot near a covered cooking eating kiosk where Steve and Pat set up their tent and I mine.

After I changed out of my riding clothes and boots into my camp wear, I became increasingly relaxed. I was now back in my element, camping.

Tent, up. Big Agnes Air Core mattress filled. Sleeping bag shaken out and into the tent. Petzl headlamp around my neck, at the ready. This is it, the old routine.
I’m usually the last to eat, as my little home made Bushbuddy wood burning stove takes care and tending. For that, I always have time. Gathering dry wood is what I do, breaking thin sticks down, stockpiling a little pile near the stove that I feed to get the water boiling.

Only this time I didn’t need to stove to heat up my supper. I have had a few MRE’s around the house that I don’t take back packing because they are just too heavy. The individual meals weigh over a pound and a half, which is usually what I take for one whole day’s food when I am on the trail. I threw a couple of them in my saddlebag this trip. Tonight was fairly decent Penne with Sauce, but the real surprise was the heating packet. When I added just a quarter cup of water in a plastic bag holding another white envelope, the whole thing got so immediately hot that it was burning flesh on my hand.  I  dropped it on the picnic table.  I removed my bandana, used it as a pot holder, placed the heating unit against the meal packet, inserted both into the cardboard packing material, waited 10 minutes, and the meal was piping hot. There was also all kinds of extra goodies in the MRE, like a squeeze packet of peanut butter, raisins, two big crackers, hot drink mix ( apple cider) , electrolyte powder mix, toilet paper, and even chewing gum. Unfreakingbelievable.

Motorcycle camping is backpacking on wheels. But, there are never any problems with having to cut down on gear. I needed some sunblock for the trip. It gets really hot and blistery riding into the rising or setting sun, which burns my face. All I could find in the house was a big aerosol can of liquid sunblock. Pitch it in the tank bag, no problem.

We went to bed early, and I wrote and read a bit in the tent. I opened half of the tent up to the open evening, and as the trip went on, I eventually ditched the fly altogether, possible thunderstorms be dammed. I had this strong need to be closer to the trees, sky, and stars. Any rain that we did have never came at night.

I thought we did pretty well together today.

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About tjamrog

I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, and the Continental Divide Trail in 2013 . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
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5 Responses to Camping on Two Wheels

  1. Pingback: Travelling the UK - caravans » Blog Archive » Camping on Two Wheels

  2. Pingback: Another Day Ruined » Camping on Two Wheels

  3. kanya says:

    Thanks guys, good info.

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