A Daddy/Daughter Trip: Southern Ontario
We took delivery of our new Surly Big Dummy cargo bike in July, and I was itching to do some loaded touring with it. I decided to take Eden out on a daddy/daughter overnight trip, allowing my wife Heidi to relax while we were away! Well, as long as the baby didn't come while we were gone (the due date was in less than two months).
My wife Heidi and I have always toured together. In fact, it had been more than five years since I was out on my bike for a significant distance on my own, so I was a little apprehensive about going out on this solo ride, especially since this was also Eden's first long ride on the Big Dummy, and she hadn¹t ridden with us much.... This would be my first S24O-type trip (pdf) -- though it would end up being more than 24 hours long. In planning the trip, I chose to avoid free-camping, thinking having a set destination would take some of the stress out of the ride, and instead chose to ride to Byng Conservation Area, a campground on Lake Erie, about an 80km ride from our house.
We were planning on using the Big Dummy as a double-kid-carrier once baby #2 joined us, so I built a prototype child seat just for Eden to see if things would work out. We could test it out on this trip, and if the design was right, I would rebuild it with room for two. I got a lot of inspiration from other folks online who have built similar kids seats. Many thanks to the Stouts, Bikerfish, Mark Kohr, Gunther, and others for posting images of their builds!
We left mid-morning, heading up the rail-trail behind our house to get us out of the city. The plan was to get to the end of this trail and connect to the Caledonia trail system, taking us all the way to the Grand River, which we would then follow the rest of the way to Lake Erie and our destination for the night. However, I realized at the top of the trail that heavy summer rains had washed out the approach to the bridge that would connect the two trail systems. There was no way I could lift this massive bike over the obstruction, so, 6km into our trip, it was time to backtrack and find a new route. We took a little break here, and Eden had her first experience using the outdoors as a bathroom. Peeing in the grass would soon become a highlight of the trip for her!
We finally did connect to the Caledonia rail-trail, which was pretty much a flat, straight shot for 20km. We rode in the warm September sun, cutting through peaceful Ontario farmland with the gravel crunching beneath our tires. It wasn’t long before I felt Eden’s sleeping, helmeted head bobbing on my back. While I pedaled on, I realized I would probably need to adjust her seat to be in a more reclined position. When she woke up, we stopped for a fruit-and-trail-mix snack-break and to allow her to run around a bit on the side of the trail. I just rested -- I was already exhausted -- I didn¹t realize how out of shape I was from no longer commuting daily on my bike. When we got back on the bike I realized Eden was out of shape too. "My bum hurts, Daddy," she complained. Unfortunately, the lack of recline in her seat also made it uncomfortable for her to sit for longer periods. I added some extra padding underneath her, using spare clothes and pajamas (good thing I packed so much stuff!), which made her a little more comfortable.
We exited the rail-trail and followed the Grand River on proper roads. The distance began to be monotonous for me without Heidi there to chat with. So, way too early in the day, I started to wish for camp. Maybe it was because I was out of shape, or I had a little two-year-old with me that was tiring of the bike, but my frustration started to build. I watched my bike-computer tick off the kilometers and I kept my eyes open for the signs for Byng Conservation Area, which just never seemed to come. Riding without enjoyment is never a good recipe for touring, so I tried to shake myself out of it.
When we finally did arrive at camp, I was exhausted, but found the energy to set up our tent and then bike into town to grab some supplies and firewood. Marshmallows by the fire were going to be a necessity! Dinner time alone with Eden was a quiet, peaceful experience, and we both ate well. I tucked Eden snug into her sleeping bag and, resisting the urge to immediately fall asleep beside her, I rose and enjoyed the fire as darkness fell around me.
Morning called for an extended story-time in the tent, and then bake-packer pancakes with syrup for breakfast! Our ride home followed the same route as the day before. Even with sore muscles and lots of rest breaks, it was happily uneventful. We glided down the escarpment rail-trail, arriving at home in time for dinner with Heidi. I am looking forward to future S24O trips, hopefully next time Heidi and our second child can be along for the ride.
Tip for this adventure - 160km round trip might be a little long for a first bike overnight with children...
Check out our favorite local bike shop, Downtown Bike Hounds