Motorcycle Camping: A Learning Experience
For the past three years, our summer vacations have consisted of travelling Newfoundland by motorcycle, staying with Mark’s folks in their camper or sometimes in B&B’s along the way. This year, since we had such a good experience on the Bonavista Peninsula back in July, we decided to pack up the camping gear again and give it another go. With the forecast looking half decent for two days at least, we booked a camp site in Frenchman’s Cove Provincial Park on the Burin Peninsula for two nights and figured we’d “play it by ear” for the rest of the trip.
To put it mildly, this trip was a learning experience for these two camping novices. Something as rudimentary as picking a tent site turned out to be the first lesson. We booked online and while the system is pretty good, it really doesn’t give you much of an idea of what the site is actually like with regard to trees, shelter, privacty, etc. Anyways, when we pulled up to check in, we were told that we had picked one of the nicest sites in the park. And it truly was beautiful, a spot overlooking a pond. By nightfall the gentle breeze had flattened out to a dead calm, and after an evening spent star-gazing beside the campfire we headed to bed.
The next morning was beautiful as well, with the sun through the trees waking us. After coffee and oatmeal we headed off for a ride around the peninsula, which took up the best part of the day once we made a few detours (more about that in a future post!). On our way back to the park we stopped at a neighbouring community to pick up something to cook for supper. The steaks we barbequed in the firepit the night before had been delicious, so we decided to pick up a couple of porks chops. It was there that I noticed the sky getting black to the south, and the radar picture verified that there was heavy rain heading right for us. We high-tailed it for the park and got there just as it started to sprinkle. When we got back to our camp site, it was clear that we now had the WORST site in the park. Lesson 1: What odds about the view, always pick a sheltered camp site.
The wind was now blowing a gale directly off the pond, complete with white-caps reminiscent of a January Nor’Easter. The trees at our site created a wind tunnel and our tarp was flapping like a flag in the wind. And it was FREEZING. Mark suggested that we move to a more sheltered site. “Nah…it’s only one night, we’ll manage” I replied, really not wanting to pack up everything again, only to have to do it all over again the next morning. So we started cooking supper, him manning the bbq and me cooking a pot of rice on the campstove. Within ten minutes the weather worsened, the wind got stronger and wetter, and I realized that we would have a much more comfortable night at a more sheltered campsite.
It was the most hastily moved camp ever. Within minutes everything was packed up on the bikes except for the tent. “We’ll have to take it down”, said Mark. “No we won’t”, said I, and we each grabbed two corners and proceeded to carry our six-man dome tent three sites up the road, fighting the wind that threatened to send it airborne. It must’ve been quite the spectacle.
We laid down the tent and went back to the original campsite to grab supper, arriving just in time to see a crow flying off from the hot barbeque with both of our pork chops in his mouth. Lesson 2: Never turn your back on your food. I felt like a child whose scoop of icecream had just fallen from the cone onto the ground. Instead of pork chops and rice, it was canned tuna and rice for supper that night. But at least we were out of the wind.
The next day called for rain, so we were up at six to get the tent down and packed away before the weather started. We knew we were leaving the Burin Peninsula, but had no clue exactly where we were going. We rode in and out of rain, through thick fog and finally hit a cold patch right before the TCH. The radar picture told us that there was lots of rain left to come, so instead of arriving at another campsite soaked and setting up a tent in the rain, or riding back to St. John’s in the rain and calling it quits (and admitting defeat to the weather) we decided to hang her down in Clarenville for the night and splash out on a nice hotel, hoping that the forecast was right and the skies would clear the following day. Lesson 3: Be flexible in planning, because you are completely at the mercy of the weather.
The swimming pool, hot shower and king-sized bed at the hotel were a real treat after camping and riding in the rain, and supper at Shamrock City was a nice change from Fast & Fancy rice. When morning came we still weren’t sure where we were going to spend the night. I couldn’t go much farther west than about 100km, in order to ensure that I had enough tread left on my rear tire to get me back to St. John’s. Lesson 4: Do not leave it for last minute to order a new tire.
At some point that morning I took it in my head that this trip would just not be complete if I didn’t get to go sea-kayaking, even though I’ve never been sea-kayaking before and to be quite honest I’m a bit apprehensive of any activity involving the ocean. But it gave us a direction to head in and a plan for the day, and we hit the road for Terra Nova National Park. We pulled in to Newman Sound Camp Ground, and were told that there were only four sites left (out of 300!). We took a spin around the park and picked the most suitable one for tenting…just as it started to sprinkle rain. I went back and booked the site while Mark put up the tarp, and that’s where we stayed for roughly three hours, waiting for the rain to stop.I checked the radar so often I thought I’d crash the server. No sooner had I said “this is the last shower now, Mark b’y”, another green blob would appear. But the forecast was right, the rain DID stop by late afternoon, the sun came out and all was right in Newman Sound. Lesson 5: Bad weather is inevitable, it’s how you deal with it that counts.
My thoughts on Newman Sound: It’s quite nice…if you have a camper. The campsites are small and squat together with very little privacy. And because they’re mainly unserviced lots occupied by campers, come evening all you can hear is the drone of generators. There aren’t any firepits at the campsites either, if you want to have a fire you have to use one of the communal firepits in the centre of the camp ground. Um, no thanks. So being in a tent, unable to enjoy a campfire, we were in bed not long after dark…while everyone else around us had their generators going until shut-off time at 11pm. Lesson 6: Getting a good nights sleep in a park means having really, really good earplugs.
The next morning was beautiful, the sun was blazing hot when we set out for the sea kayak rental place. We decided on a tandem kayak, as I’d never kayaked before and they are more stable than a single kayak. It was really windy, and there was a good lop on the water but we still had an absolute ball. I think if I wasn’t so into bikes, I’d put a roof rack on the Subaru and spend the summer kayaking in different areas around Newfoundland. Lesson 7: Be open to new experiences, you never know when you’ll discover something you will love.
Everything was bone-dry the next morning as we packed up to leave, which is always nice. We took the very scenic route back to St. John’s, stopping at least a half dozen times. It was a short trip, but it served the purpose…we got out of the city for a break from reality, got to see more of our province, ride different roads, and relax and recharge.
Posted on August 30, 2015, in Roads of Newfoundland and tagged adv, ADV motorcycle, burin peninsula, camping lessons, frenchmans cove, Kawasaki Versys, motorcycle camping, motorcycle touring, newfoundland travel, newman sound, sea kayak, Suzuki Vstrom, terra nova park. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.