Moose sighting

Starting out, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.
We left for our bike camping trip to Newcastle Island on Tuesday morning at about 10:45 am. Not the earliest get away, and this is after a Monday night of packing. At about midnight when the packing was not just a creative editing process, but continual additions I started to get a little cranky. (We’ll deal with this in an upcoming post, but let’s just make the note here that I can get cranky.)

The top of the Lion’s Gate Bridge, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

The ride from East Van to Horseshoe Bay is a pretty good pedal for anyone, but load camping gear and supplies for a  family of five and a dog on your bike and that ride, at least for this 40 year old, is daunting. I do have a bit of a sense of humour, or more accurately a sense of the ridiculous, so I could crack a smile after a bit of time passed.

This is the second year for the bike trip, and there is a philosophy, or an ethic behind the trip. After reading Hold on to Your Kids, a few years ago, I started thinking about things we could do as a family. Camping is an easy one. Kids love it and I’m a fan myself, but I have issues with car camping. I do it, I car camp, but I have issues with burning gas and the militarized capitalist system in general. So the idea of bike camping had appeal.

Problem is that we have 3 children under 8. The two little ones can’t pedal their own weight, so we’ve got to carry them and all their stuff. Luckily in 35km we can pedal to some sweet campgrounds. We ride to Horseshoe Bay, take the ferry to Departure Bay, ride a kilometre or so and take a small ferry to Newcastle Island.

Last year I carried two kids and gear on my bike. This year one was on a trail-a-bike. This made room in the trailer for a cooler. At some point the kids will be on their own bikes and we can disperse the weight, but for now I’m carrying pretty much everything.

There’s a tent, sleeping bags (5), sleeping pads, towels, clothing, a kitchen, cups, bowls, plates, cutlery, a cooler with food for 4 days. There’s not a way I can think to bring less than this. But the little ones brought their suitcases filled with toys. I could have saved a little weight by packing for the girls, but there’s an area that’s tough at this age. The kids love packing their own bags.

Our son rides his own bike. He packed and carried his own bag. He gets the idea that you only bring what you need. He also revels in wearing the same clothes for days on end. He loves the idea of washing your clothes as you ride. Check out Return of the Scorcher, for among other things, some tips on bike touring. Eventually the girls will understand the need for less, but you see the picture, the toys are the least of my worries.

Moose sighting, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

Beach, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

Horseshoe Bay Village, originally uploaded by Rodger Levesque.

There are no cars on the Island so that is a plus. There are good biking trails and hiking trails and beaches. We take a day to get there, and a day to get home, and spent two full days exploring the island. The day we left, the kids wanted to stay. That’s a good sign. As we were packing up to leave, the kids were talking about coming back. I think we’ve found something we can do together that we all enjoy.

We didn’t bring anything we didn’t use, and there were things we didn’t bring that we could have used. There is an idea of practice here. We want to be a bike camping/touring/travelling family. As the kids get older we will go further, for longer periods.

Last year we rode multiple days to Porpoise Bay, we stayed in hotels, backpacker hostels (there’s a picture of us on this page, Rene was 7 here, notice one girl in the trailer and one in the seat), and campgrounds. We mostly ate at restaurants. This year we brought the cooler so eating wouldn’t be as expensive. We’re hoping to learn over the years, to become better touring cyclists. The cooler idea comes from a session with Gwendal Castellan at the Bike Doctor on Broadway last summer. We also learned to use a pressure cooker to make a camp stove much more efficient. That was a good session to attend. Later we saw his bike at the Museum of Vancouver during their bike show.

One trap I want to try to overcome is the gearhead trap. Camping can be a consumerist event. This pull to purchase your way into a lifestyle, is a tendency I need to be on guard against. Our bikes and trailers are not just for touring, but our main everyday mode of transportation.

My bike is 10 years old. My xtracycle kit is 4 years old. and our trailer/stroller is 5 years old. The stroller was used daily the first 4 years of its life. We have literally worn the wheels off the thing. The first set of stroller wheels failed after about 2 years, and were replaced free of charge by Cambie Cycle. That replacement set just failed. We now use the jogging wheel attachment for hauling groceries. Like I said we used it as a cart everyday. We have regularly overloaded the thing. You can see from the picture here that it can handle quite a bit of weight. We don’t use it to carry kids anymore, so I’m more apt to treat it with a little less respect for stated limits.

I’m going in to detail about this trailer because while the chariot is a purchased solution, and it can be the mark of a gearhead (obssessive-compulsive consumer), it can also be the mark of a greasemonkey (hacker/tinkerer/smith). The chariot is a smooth moving piece of machinery that you can actually use. I’m eventually going to fashion it into a touring trailer at some point. This is an area I want to stick with in my posts. Camping/touring is a consumer field, like pretty much all fields. What I’m interested in is ways of purchasing that are not wasteful.

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