Order Tara's Bicycle Touring Cookbook Today!

Free Camp & Fire

by Tara

We went to bed feeling sick. Huddled together, we tried to fall asleep but were unable to drift off over the cacophony of our own hacking, coughing, sneezing, and trumpet-like nose blowing. Our nostrils completely blocked, we lay with our mouths wide open, breathing heavily with water bottles at hand to wet our throats. Rather late at night, we heard a timid "hello neighbors" and it was our kind French caravanners from next door. They wanted to know if they could help us in any way! There wasn't much they could do, but we appreciated knowing that someone was looking out for us. I felt bad because I'm sure they could hear our loud nose blowing followed by uncomfortable, achey whimpers, but they assured us it was no trouble. If we needed anything, we should be sure and ask them! A bit comforted, we were finally able to fall asleep.

Upon waking, we felt a little better. Not great, but okay. It had rained all night so we packed our things wet. We weren't too bothered though, we'd had enough morale boosting sun and relaxtion for a bit of rain in our lives. On our way out of camp, everyone came to say goodbye. We spoke with the cheery British vacationers, the sweet Irish couple who was here buying massive quantities of wine for their wedding and the older French couple camping "next door". Tyler was excited to be on the road again but I was a little bummed to leave what had been our home and community for the past three days. On our way out, we said goodbye to Julie and Marcus, our campsite owning friends. I gave them a drawing I did of one of their roses and they said they would frame it and hang it up with the other paintings in the shower block for all to see!

Rose Drawing

With farewells completed we rode into Ch√Ęteaulin to join our path over the bridge. Our friends waved goodbye to us from across the canal as we passed camp again on our way out. We listened to music as we cycled along the wonderfully flat canal route in the general direction of Nantes. It was so nice to be on autopilot; no cars, sharp turns, navigation or hills to think about! The terrain was fairly rocky in places but we biked along at a good clip and weren't even a bit tired when we stopped for lunch.

Canal Path

While eating our sandwiches some looming clouds started raining on us and it wasn't long before we were fairly soaked. The rest of the ride was a wet one, but we still managed to enjoy it, stopping to see some very bizarre sheep that looked a bit like crazy fish, and a poor sick cat with a runny nose. We empathized with the cat as neither of us were in perfect health—we were still a little achey with very stuffy noses.

Bug Eyed Sheep Sick Kitty

A few hours later, soaking wet, we decided to look for a free-camp. It was a little tricky geting off of the path; the canal was on our right and the ground fell sharply into a small creek overgrown with grasses and weeds on the left. Occassionally there was a break in the creek where we could cross into the woods but it was always very muddy. Finally the ground leveled out a bit and I spotted a dry, grassy trail leading off the towpath. We followed it into the woods where it branched off into three separate trails. A few fresh piles of manure and hoof prints confirmed our suspicions that they were fairly quiet bridleways. Off to the right of the third path I found a small clearing where we would make our home for the night.


We pushed as far back into the clearing as we could and began stomping down the weeds to clear a place for our tent. We set up as quickly as we could and then I and got on my knees to wipe down the wet floor of the tent with my dress (our towels were soaked). I dried it as best I could, but it was a fairly futile task and at best it turned out damp and clammy. After the floor was ready, I set up the tent with clothing bags (pillows), my handlebar bag, and made sure everything else was in its place. I pumped up the air mattresses, and got out the stove and cooking supplies to make dinner.

Coat Hanger

While I was making home, Tyler had gone off to gather stones and wood to make a fire pit. Our spot was far enough away from civilization that a fire wouldn't be a problem, and it would definitely do wonders for our spirits! Dead-set on keeping me warm, I watched as he assembled the circle of stones and collected many standing pieces dryish wood to burn. Then he hacked away at them with our giant knife, shredding some of the wood to make a tinder and the rest into appropriate sized logs. It was still raining at this point so most everything was wet while he was getting his various piles of kindling ready.

Fire Prep

I set up my walkstool near the fire pit and began cutting potatoes and onions into little cubes for soup. Over and over, Tyler scraped the firesteel, sending sparks onto his little nest of lint (saved from the dryer at home) and tinder. He would blow on the pile, and it would to smoulder and then die out. Over and over he ran back into the woods in search of the perfect kindling.

Tara Cooking

Fire-building was not an easy task this evening but Tyler persevered and finally after having gathered the right materials, his spark and resulting flame took hold and he was able to get the fire going. I was so proud of him! He started a fire without matches, while everything was soaking wet! Immediately cheerier with a campfire to bring life and warmth to our camp, we sat in front of it on our walkstools, warming our clammy feet. I ladled out the hearty soup I'd prepared for dinner, and we ate large bowls of it with buttered bread.

Piping hot soup, crackling wood fire, and the sun even came out! Once again, we were warm and dry and all was right with the world.

Tara By The Fire


Beetle Beetle Balance
Previous Entry
Sick Day
Next Entry
The Canal

1 comment

fantastic my friends! you've come far with all you've done. I luv the comments from everyone as well, covering such remarkable philosophies. like arnis, be a spunge, and soak it all up. As told to me by Maesto Jim as he watched Kung Fu Panda with his children; "Yesturday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the 'present.'" keep on keep'n on.

--Maestro Kurt
Posted by Schtick on June 10th, 2009 at 12:36 AM