We’re about to head back into stay at home orders here in Ontario. Once again, this means no camping, despite the fact that we normally see fewer people than when we walk Chester around the block. I struggle with being stuck at home at the best of times, but lockdowns are hard. I thought I’d share a little about what I did to keep busy during the first lockdown last year.
Shake’nBake and I somehow managed to get our hands on two gravel bikes, right before every single person in North America decided it was the perfect summer to buy a bike. We bought two Salsa Journeyman bikes. Most of the riding around Ottawa is either on paved or gravel roads, so the bikes seemed perfect. I dreamed of bikepacking, and exploring the area around my new home. But bikepacking bags are expensive, and with the sudden explosion of interest in outdoor pursuits, it seemed like buying bags would be impossible.
I had no idea how to sew. I’d never even so much as hemmed curtains. But we found a sewing machine to borrow, and shipped some X-Pac fabric up from the US. I made paterns out of Tyvek, fitting them to our bike frames. I taught myself to sew, practising stitches and seams on Tyvek. Finally, I cut out our precious X-Pac, tracing the patterns I’d made. I stitched everything together, occasionally having to backtrack and rip out my seams. Finally, everything started to come together. I made one frame bag, then two. I made gas tanks and harnesses. We figured out how to strap our lightweight backpacking gear to our bikes.
It took a little while until we were allowed to go anywhere. We pedalled from our house to some nearby crown land, stealth camping in a grove of trees. Chester rode in Shake’nBake’s backpack, looking exactly like a dog sticking its head out of a car window. He didn’t seem to mind that he wasn’t hiking: he was just happy to watch the world go by.
We switched to canoe camping for a while, but later in the summer, we drove to the Griffith Highlands for an overnight trip. Swarms of deer flies followed us, and we packed Shake’nBake’s backpack with ice packs for Chester as the temperature climbed towards 35 degrees. I lay in the shade towards the end of the route, fighting heat exhaustion. It wasn’t my favorite trip ever. But I’m excited to try it again this summer, before the deer flies are out and when it’s still cool.