I wake up and my first thought is, is somebody pissed off at me?
Welcome to my home. It's a one-man, super-light tent pegged forcefully onto an ancient gravel road that nature is reclaiming. I looked to the sides of the road for a perfect spot once I began yawning last night and, one kilometre later, I found this. It's flat and peaceful. My food is tied into one of the thousands of enormous trees that hide me from traffic.
I dress myself and exit, and I find I'm still alone with my bicycle. Good.
The problem is water. My bottles only store two litres total, and by the time I stop I'm already closer to one. That's enough to cook supper and moisten my lips, but I can't cook oatmeal in the morning. Granola bars it is.
I hang my tent fly on a nearby dead branch while I effect my morning routine. Pack most of tent; eat; insert contact lenses; brush teeth; apply sunscreen. I finally fold the fly, which is mostly dry by now, and zip everything shut.
My home is my vehicle. I roll it back to the highway and heave it across the ditch. A car passes as I do, and this is my first rumination of the long day of riding: what did that person think I was doing?
Welcome to my home, two nights later. I'm in Quetico Provincial Park, and I've spent a stunning $32.
I told the clerk this is the most I've spent on a campsite, and she knows I've visited many.
“I guess the money goes towards this fancy building,” I joked, gesturing to the enormous registration hall, its walls papered with info-graphics about nature.
She didn't laugh. It's hard to laugh at $32, I suppose.
The tree-lined, lakeside site is beautiful, and since I've just showered, so am I. I eat two suppers; I read; and I munch snacks. A dog from the neighbouring campsite whimpers as I munch.
“Hey, we're about to have corn on the cob and hot dogs, want to join us?” asks the dog's owner. For a second, I don't realize she means me. Our campsites are hidden from one another but I find that hers is only a few metres away, and I recognize her as the person who registered ahead of me in the lobby. Her daughter brought two young friends along, and I help by lighting a fire for the group.
Normally I'd be asleep, but variety is lovely―as is corn. As time melts in the fire we get to the deep questions (“do you carry toilet paper with you?”) and when my lids start closing, I go to bed.
Welcome to my home, the next night. I'm not in Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park.
Camp-hunting at night in urban areas (this one is Thunder Bay, Ontario) is a pain. This morning I had planned to sleep at Kakabeka, approximately 140 kilometres away. However, when I arrived I learned that it costs $37 to camp.
“Just to pitch a tent, sleep, wake up and leave?”
“Yup.” The attendant thinks it's crazy, too. I ask her about ice cream and she directs me to the perfect shack.
The shack's parapet protects me from the rain. The owner serves me a milkshake with his Newfoundland accent, which I won't quote here because I don't understand a word of it.
The next customer, a man with shaking hands and missing teeth, carefully doles out $3.25 for a chocolate-covered soft ice cream cone as tall as his head. He asks me the basics and attacks the top of his swaying tower of ice cream before it topples. I explain my life in 20 words. The conversation lags as our desserts enthrall us.
“It's a shame it's too far, otherwise you could pitch your tent on my front yard,” he says.
I tell him not to worry about it. I finish my milkshake and ride away.
So here I am at Happy Land Campground. It's laid out like a giant parking lot with trees, and since most customers hole themselves in RVs there's little privacy.
But hey―there's Internet.