Two-up touring & camping - first impressions

submitted by
Ed Robinson    MOA #83378,   BMW RA #25364

Well, my wife, Alyne, and I finally got ourselves organized and sufficiently fortified to attempt the two-up camping thing.  Well, truthfully, it was a mix of camping, B&Bs, and motels.

Why would two, reasonably sane, fifty somethings, load up their K1100LT with tent, sleeping bags, clothes and all the other necessary gear and try biking and camping for the first time?

Some said "You must be nuts ! " 

More to point though.

At our first MOA Rally in Rhinebeck, summer '99, we stayed off-site in local commercial accommodations.  By doing so, we missed many of the evening social activities.   Many rallies and events seem to be designed to cater best to those who live on-site.


The information provided in camping articles in BMW ON (May 99 and 00), and at various websites was very positive and useful.

We had camped before; the bike version added some interesting new challenges.   Like .. Where should we tie down that wonderful lobster trap, honey ?

So, what did we do and where did we go.  From our home near Kingston, Ontario, we had a full day's ride in the rain to York Beach, Maine.  After enjoying the local sites, wer rode to Bar Harbor and took the high-speed "Cat" ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  Once in Nova Scotia, we saw the tall ships in Halifax and then toured the Cape Breton's famed Cabot Trail, and returned home via the Trans -Canada highway spiced with a few scenic detours.   A total of ten days, nine nights and over 4000km.


Two nights before our scheduled departure, we decided it was time to trial our luggage and packing arrangements. First decision ... integral top box gets the boot.  Why ?  The integral top-box was not long enough to house our tent poles and we thought that we could design a bag that was lighter and lower than the integral box.   Alyne just happens to be very clever with a sewing machine, and in a matter of a few hours; we designed and she made the final version of our travel bags.  A 26 inch long, 14 inch diameter nylon bag with full length zipper and full length Velcroed six inch flap to provide a rain seal on the zipper.  In this bag we put our tent complete, a camp chair, a pair of sneakers and more.  This, our largest bag , was tied to the rear luggage rack.  Initially, I attempted to secure the bag with bungy cord, but my 1/4 inch nylon braided rope seemed much more secure.  This bag now appeared to be a success however, not knowing its true durability, we carried a spare identical bag.   Two bags done and we thought, let's build more.  Two more bags soon appeared from the sewing room, same material and diameter but now 20 inches in length.  Each of these held our bulky old sleeping bags and thermarest mattresses.  We tied these bags  to the luggage rack frame above the hard cases on each side of the bike.  Each of us then had a hard case for clothing and other personal items including rainsuits.  Alyne then produced spacious bag liners with some leftover material.


The torrential downpours experienced in Vermont on day one provided an unwelcome, but real test for the homemade bags.  The very heavy rain forced us to pull off to the shoulder of I-89 in near zero visibility and wait for the rain to subside (an overpass or other form of shelter was not available).  Needless to say, we were soaked and some parts of our clothing and anatomy stayed very wet for the remainder of the day.  Rainsuits, had we put them on, may have helped us to stay drier, but would not have helped me to see the road any better.   The luggage that Alyne made, proved to be strong and rainproof.  

Our tankbag held an assortment of maps, tour guides, first aid kit, tapes, camera, tire pressure gauge and some of the usual glove box stuff.   Some of which got wet.  All photos shown with this article were shot with our Minolta Weathermatic Dual 35.

Ed's suggestions

For Canadian riders, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) Plus Membership covers towing (up to 200 km) and other emergency roadside services for motorcycles.  Thanks to Helmut Haus' Rolling Broccoli Riders website for this tip.  Helmut is one of  Canada's BMW MOA Ambassadors.

 Remember to pack and use the sun-tan lotion.  Even with full-face helmets and visors, we found our faces burnt after a long day of riding.

 If you leave your helmet outside your tent overnight, shake the critters out before donning your helmet the next morning. Failing to do so, Alyne found a monster critter literally in her face one morning.

Remember the cell-phone and the duct tape.

Ed and Alyne's Northeast coast favourites.

 After very wet first day, we decided a motel might warm the spirits and dry our clothes.  The good folks at the Cutty Sark Motel in York Beach, Maine were kind enough to offer to the use of their underground garage to park the bike.  This motel also offers beautiful unobstructed views of the beach.

 In York Beach  Maine, experience a breakfast at the Purple Palace.  It's a classic.

 At Necum Teuch, Nova Scotia, stop in and see the Angella Geddes' collection of scarecrows.  Hava cuppa with Angella in Aunt Mary's old-fashioned tea room.  While there, browse the wonderful children's books that Angella writes and publishes using her scarecrows as book characters.   Necum Teuch can be found on Highway #7, approximately 10 km West of Ecum Secum.

 Cape Breton Island's  Cabot Trail is a definite must do.  Some bumpy highways in the area, but the vast majority are smooth.  Although there are many great campsites within Cape Breton Highlands National Park, we stayed at Whycocomagh Provincial Park.  For the day of Cabot Trail touring, we left most of our gear at campsite and did a full counterclockwise loop (approx eight hours with scenic stops).    Don't forget to stop and experience the Acadian communities of Petit Etang, Cheticamp and Grand Etang.  The term "Cajun" is derived from the word Acadian.

Lockeport Nova Scotia is a quiet, secluded fishing community with a beautiful beach.

To enjoy great views of the St Lawrence River and soak in some Quebec culture, ride route 132 from Riviere du Loup to Quebec City.  There are several campgrounds along this route and it is very popular with the Quebec bikers.   The Canadian equivalent to New York's Ellis Island can be found at Montmagny.  It's called Grosse Isle, an island in the St Lawrence River, and is a National Historic Site.  Used as a quarantine station, European immigrants were detained here during the period 1835 to 1937.  

Oh yes, we will be on the road again soon and camping too.  Hope to see ya out there.

If you are  interested in more information about  Nova Scotia, you may contact their tourism office at 1.800.565.0000, toll-free in Canada and US.