Part 2: Camping and biking at Parc de Plaisance

As if biking to our campsite wasn’t a big enough challenge, we decided to tent camp as well for the first time.  We’re pretty urban and enjoy our creature comforts of good coffee and comfortable pillows, but we were up to give it a try.  Tent camping seemed like one of those childhood experiences that everyone needs to do at some point.

After a “test camp” in our backyard, we were ready to tackle the “great outdoors” albeit with some inflatable air mattresses.  An achey backed parent is not a fun parent.

We rolled into our campsite at Parc de Plaisance and got set up.  Tent design seems to have gotten a lot better since my youth and we had the tent popped up within minutes.  Out rolled the sleeping bags and mattresses.  Easy peasy.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

And we all put our bug spray on.  The mosquitoes were plentiful and hungry.

We cooked our food on a little portable gas stove.  It worked really well.  We cooked a combination of packaged freeze dried meals (better than they sound), pasta, popcorn and even pancakes all on the little flame.    Much easier than getting a campfire set up.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

Since we used a lot of energy with biking – we always added more carbs to the packaged meals by cooking extra rice or pasta.  We love our carbs.

We unhitched the trailers from our bikes and set off to explore the park.  Alden rode on the back of the MinUte which proved to be the ideal kid transport vehicle for the weekend.

First stop – the floating boardwalk.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

DSC00644
Second stop – the marmot house and playground.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

We had a good walk around our camp area and then settled in for the night.  We needed to be up early the next morning for the bike and turtle tour.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

DSCN4006

Yes – a bike tour to a turtle nesting site.  Technically, kids had to be over 12 to join the tour so that they could keep up on their bikes, but with the MinUte, we didn’t need to worry about that since Alden rode along at our speed on the back deck.

The first part of the tour required a pontoon ride to another area of the park.  The pontoon is set up for cyclist shuttling with side rails serving as bike parking.  Roll on, roll off.  Easy.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

We learned about the work being done to protect turtles along the highway and within the park.  Our guides explained how the new gravel bikes paths in area affected the turtles (and their predators).  Turtles were digging holes in the bike path and predators were using the path as a turtle egg eating buffet line.  Problems.  But they seem to be working that out by protecting more nesting sites and adding nesting “buffer zones”.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

Those snapping turtles were big.  And snappy.

Bike camping to Parc de Plaisance

There was an option to bike the 10km back to the main part of the park, but we opted for the speedy and comfortable pontoon again.

After a lunch time picnic, we ticked off another “Canadian to-do” item by renting a canoe.  We are not great boatists and after 45 minutes “on the water”, I was ready to hang up the paddles.

DSCN3981

DSCN3985

We rode the bike trail back to the campsite, cooked dinner, and told stories in the tent looking out of the “sunroof” and onto the trees.  We popped more popcorn and settled in for our last night.  On Sunday night, we had the area to ourselves.  Everyone had returned home for the start of the workweek.

DSCN4013

The next morning, we packed up our trailer and rolled our way home.  But not before one last turtle sighting.

DSCN4025

Overall, we’d give our Parc de Plaisance experience top marks.  Between the complete bike paths throughout the park, range of activities and friendly staff, we couldn’t have asked for a better holiday and first camping experience.

Top marks!

Now, to fix a persistent squeak that developed in my front wheel.  Hmmm.

IMG_5421

You may be interested in:

Did you like this? Share it:

Training for bike camping and riding to Montreal

Last Sunday, I spent the better part of the day on my bike (well.. bikes) “training” for my upcoming ride to Montreal and our family bike-camping trip.   I registered the family for the CHEO 35km bike ride in the morning and in the afternoon, I booked off some “mom time” and rode to the Chelsea Pub with a good friend.

Starting line

Starting line – we are way back

There were lots of cyclists out for the 35km CHEO ride.  We arrived early before the 70km group left and there was a lot of spandex on display. There were many fancy road bikes.  For our shorter ride, I wore my new Lole dress (with spandex shorts underneath – turns out 35km requires a bit of cushion).   Despite the distance, I wanted to attempt a bit of ‘cycle chic’. The dress worked out great and I even got a compliment. Who says you can’t do a bike tour in a dress? I’m packing it for Montreal. (THUMBS UP!!)

Future bike lane

The CHEO ride was a good test ride to see how many kilometres the kid could tolerate pedalling, and more importantly, how many kilometres I could stand pedalling with a 40lb kid in the Weehoo.  And perhaps the biggest test of all, could my Raleigh commuter bike cut it for our camping trip?

IMG_5078

Post ride snacking – “Mom that was a long bike race”

The kid was a trooper.  He thought the ride was a race, so we didn’t stop at any of the food stations, but I insisted on having a couple of water breaks.  There were no complaints from the back seat, so I’m confident he’s going to be an excellent bike camper.  I’m less confident about the bike.  My Raleigh makes a great commuter bike, but after 20km, it didn’t feel so great.  My hands were going a bit numb and with only 8 gears, even minor hills were a challenge.

My bike conscience is telling me to run out and buy my dream camping bike, the Surly Troll, rather than simply raising or swapping out the Raleigh’s handlebars for something more swoopy.  So far, my spending conscience is winning so far.  I really want the new bike.

It was also good to know that towing the Weehoo for 35km works up a serious appetite.  After the BBQ part of the event, I went home and ate an entire package of Jarlsberg cheese.  (Note to self: pack lots of cheese for Montreal!)  On a related note, are there any energy bars on the market that don’t taste like roadkill covered in chocolate?

At home, I swapped bikes for the afternoon’s adventure.  I pulled my Steelwool out for the first ride of the season and attached my Arkel handlebar bag for the ride.  I’ll do a full review of the bag in another post, but suffice to say, it’s a great bag but I don’t think it works well on the Steelwool. (Too much bag for too light of a bike.)  I probably would have been better off getting a seatpost bag.  Ah well, live and learn.

To avoid the not so fun ride to get to Gatineau Park, we plopped the bikes on top of the car and headed off. (Yes, I know there are ways around the not so great bits, but sigh, it was nice to get a drive.)

Multi modal

Bikes on a car.

With the Parkway closed to traffic, it was a great day to be riding.  Except for the climb to Pink Lake, which I am pretty sure is much steeper this year.  The Weehoo towing in the morning did not make me a very good hill climber. Although, I’m not a great hill climber on a good day.

I stopped to “take photos of trilliums” rather than admit “hey, I’m spent, let’s stop for a few minutes.”

Trilliums!

La nature. Trilliums (Ontario’s provincial flower) that I have only seen growing in Quebec.

I’m a much better coaster than a climber.  I’m also a much better ‘sit on a patio with a beer and eat salmon gravlax’er’ than a climber.

Chelsea pub

Chelsea Pub

All in all, there were 65km covered on the bike. My trip to Montreal will be almost twice that distance each day, but I feel that without the burden of Weehoo towing or Gatineau Hill climbing, I’ll be able to tackle this.

Gatineau riding

Nice day in the park.

And I biked to work on Monday without needing any Advil. A positive sign.

Did you like this? Share it:

Mom on the move. Have kid, will tow.

Ready to weehoo!
I’ve been reading a bit over the past week about why more women aren’t cycling.  Studies say, women are really concerned about their safety and are generally more cautious riders.  More women would cycle if they had separated cycling lanes to avoid cycling in mixed traffic.  Women also shoulder more childcare/household responsibilities on average, so this affects their choice of transportation.

I expect the reasons why there are fewer women cyclists are the same reasons why we don’t see more families out biking – except recreationally on the weekends.

Our North American “bike infrastructure” staples of sharrows, a casual “bike route” sign and painted lines on the road don’t provide the level of comfort that would make more people switch to biking their kids to school.  This became really obvious once we had a kid and tried to figure out how we could fit biking back into our lives.

Roads and intersections that you may have been comfortable riding through or tolerated present new worries (not necessarily new dangers) when carrying small people.

For me, I worry about the low profile of our bike trailers and their visibility to drivers.  I worry about being less nimble when towing the trailer.  I worry about not being able to make quick decisions.  I worry that even when we use a road designated as a “cycling route” that we will be hit from behind.  I worry about taking the lane.  I worry about how getting into position to make a left turn.  I worry about being stuck in the middle of the road waiting to turn.

Surely, these are enough worries to turn most people off the concept of cycling with kids.  And these are my fears with over 10 years of biking downtown under my belt.

Sure, these dangers always existed when biking alone, but they weigh more heavily on me now that I’m towing human cargo.  With someone else’s life in my hands, my decision making swings to the super-cautious side.  In this zone, it’s easy to see where we could do better to design our active transportation infrastructure to be compatible with the 8-80 cities concept.  Cities designed for children through seniors.  Not just active 30 year olds.

This is the first spring we’ve tried biking together to daycare.  Normally, we would opt to walk with the stroller or use a tricycle with a pushbar attachment. Figuring out a route that I’m comfortable with in morning and afternoon traffic has been … interesting.   And it involves a number of detours.

Despite living on a designated cycling route, I am not comfortable cycling with the trailer in the morning or afternoon traffic.  Our street is also a collector road (and shortcut for motorists to avoid getting on the Queensway from Bronson.)  The route has no markings on the pavement and only a handful of “bike route” signs.  Also, I am 100 million percent against cycling through the intersection of Bronson and Gladstone.

So, where does that leave us?  The family that wants to bike, but has a hard time finding a “safe” route to follow?

Sadly (well, not so sadly, we love our bikes) it involves some quirky detours.

 

Direct route via official cycling route: 1.05km

Morning route (detouring to side streets): 1.95km

Afternoon route (detouring to Laurier): 2.45km

 

In order to feel safe and avoid the Gladstone/Bronson intersection, our afternoon commute is an additional 1.5km.  Yes, more than the distance to the school itself.  Since none of the streets match up between the east and west sides of Bronson, there are only a couple of places to cross that are not major interesections.

But I am determined.  We will bike to school. So, we detour.

I drop the boy off and leave the trailer hitched to my bike.  I track back to Bay Street and cycle up to Laurier and on to my office.  My trailer is my calling card that I am a “mom who bikes”.  Maybe some other parents will see that and think “maybe we could do it too”.

At work, I unhitch the trailer and lock everything up tightly.  It draws some stares as I get it organized in the morning.

Someone else locks their child trailer at the same rack.  Maybe I’m not so crazy afterall.  And it gets me to work 15 minutes earlier – enough time to enjoy a coffee.  Totally worth it.

In the end, we have a long way to go before biking to school is as normal as it is in Amsterdam.

Good reading:

 

Did you like this? Share it:

Weehoo: Test wheeling in Ottawa

Ottawa River Pathway

We purchased a second hand child trailer from our neighbours when they upgraded to a proper pet trailer for their dogs. (Yes, you read that right.  That’s Centretown for you.)  Sure, it wasn’t a Chariot, but it did the job of towing the small boy around town.  But the problem is – he’s outgrowing the trailer.  With his helmet off, his head touches the roof of the trailer.

Parade outing

So I started researching what to do next with a boy who still falls asleep on longer rides, but is quickly outgrowing the trailer set-up.

First, I looked into cargo bikes.  Ottawa has a surprising number of options – Babboe, Nihola (special order) and Zigo.  As much as I loved these options (especially the Nihola – mega swoon) they were out of my budget and difficult for us to store.

Then, I started looking into the Big Surly Xtracycle option – a flat deck and footboard with a “stoker” handlebar.  I felt Alden was still a little too young for this option.  His feet wouldn’t touch the footboard and napping would not be possible. But I’m thinking once he’s school-aged, it could be a great alternative to the school bus for our family.  Plus, it looks pretty cool.  Good for short rides.

I popped into Fosters on Bank Street on a very snowy afternoon  (knowing that no one would be shopping for bikes in a snowstorm)  and I explained my situation. They showed me their two “trail-a-bike” options.  The first was the normal upright trail-a-bike and the second was the recumbent Weehoo.

The Weehoo’s movable seat makes it a trailer that will grow with your child – they say it can be used from ages 2-9.  So, even with minimal use, this trailer has a really decent riding/cost ratio.

A harness keeps them safely in the seat and Velcro straps keep their feet from dangling out.  So, if your kid decides to konk out and catch a nap – they’ll stay nice and snug in their seat.

Alden was initially very fond of the two large saddle bags on either side of the seat.  He remarked there would be “lots of room for snacks.”  I should note, that they are also large enough to carry around large stuffed dogs who may also want to go for a ride.

Ready to weehoo!

On our first major outing with the Weehoo a couple of weeks ago, the melting snow had left a lot of puddles on the canal pathway.  I thought my fenders would prevent any splash-back onto the boy, but I was wrong.  He got particularly coated around 5th Avenue and we had to stop and de-muck him.  After watching the video of our ride – it seems there was a lot of water coming off my back wheel, but also water coming off his Weehoo wheel and spraying him from the back too.  So, this is something we’ll try to get resolved because we’ll obviously be biking on some rainier days.

Alden has mastered pedalling on his tricycle so moving to pedalling on the Weehoo was not a big deal.  Since the Weehoo is a real “bike” – the pedalling does help propel your ride.  It’s nice to have a helper.

Last weekend, the weather was so nice that he didn’t want to go back inside after a morning of riding.  He cried when we returned home.  So we kept on for another 30 minutes or so until his batteries wore out and he fell asleep.  Cue “aaaahs” from pedestrians on the pathway.

The Weehoo definitely gets some stares out on the roads and pathways.  But most of all, Alden loves it.  Especially with the warmer weather these days, it’s nice not to be cooped up in the trailer.  New models of the Weehoo have a sun/rain canopy attachment, although I don’t know how much protection it would really provide.  With a brimmed helmet and sunglasses, you’re pretty set for the sun.  And I can’t see us using the Weehoo on rainy days until we get the fender situation resolved.

Update: Turns out the Weehoo came with a mud flap.  It was tucked in one of the pockets.  Oops.  We’ll be installing that right away.

Did you like this? Share it: