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-   -   1600 KM - Lake Superior Camping Adventure on a WR250R (http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=795225)

Nanabijou 05-29-2012 06:36 PM

1600 KM - Lake Superior Camping Adventure on a WR250R
 
1600 km - Lake Superior Camping Adventure - Part I - Agawa Bay

Nobody wants to leave on a 3-day motorcycle camping trip feeling rushed. Yet that was the situation I found myself in on Friday, May 28, 2012 at 12 noon. There was even a brief period of time where I thought I might have to cancel the trip altogether. Too many things to do - too little time. The "mantra" of the new millenium, if you will. And I wanted to plan out some interesting stops along the way - to provide some substantive fodder for this report - but time ran out. All I could do was set off - take things as they came - and hope the report would write itself as the adventure naturally unfolded. Still, the prospect of taking my WR250R on its first long trip and camping excursion was both exciting and highly motivating. Why take the WR250R? Well, to be honest, I didn't have many choices as far as adventure riding mounts go. I had already taken my Honda CBR125R on a week long camping trip (see here: http://www.hondacbr125r.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5913) and subjected its bigger brother - my Honda CBR250R to more of the same last year (see here: http://www.hondacbr250.com/showthread.php?t=159). I guess I felt it was time to give the WR250R the same opportunity. There is something special about the WR. I see it each time I entertain guests at my place and my bikes sit in the driveway lonely and vying for attention. Invariably, most everyone gravitates towards the WR - like they have selective right hemisphere cortical damage that prevents them from consciously noticing my other bikes - hemispatial sportbike neglect I believe is the neurodiagnostic term. Yes - there IS something about the WR. I also wanted to bond with the bike. I felt like I had had a number of speed dating encounters with the WR, but never really had a chance to develop a more meaningful relationship with it. And what better excuse could there be to try out another collection of gear I had purchased online over the bleak and cold winter months - including a new Shorai battery (http://www.shoraipower.com) and new waterproof Ortlieb saddlebags http://www.aerostich.com/ortlieb-dry-bag-saddlebags.html and tailbag from Aerostitch http://www.aerostich.com/ortlieb-dry-bag-duffel-bags.html. If that weren't enough, I also purchased a new tent - a Nemo Moki (http://www.campsaver.com/moki-tent-3-person-4-season) described in my previous CBR250R trip report - that had me drooling and foaming at the mouth like a St. Bernard being teased with a freshly grilled T-bone steak while enduring a bout of late stage rabies. And perhaps most of all, I was excited to meet up with some adventure riders from the Northern Ontario section of the ADV rider forum and participate in their 5th annual NoFar Icebreaker - 2012 gathering near Echo Bay, Ontario. I had never attended previously, and promised myself that instead of merely reading about it online and clicking my Icon Tarmac boot heels together and wishing to be magically teleported there - I would make a commitment to ride there in person. No, I wouldn't let this little adventure riding event pass me by this time.

So there I was, prepping the WR250R for the trip, meticulously packing all of my gear in my saddles and tailbag, checking the oil and tire pressures, ruminating yet again and thumb-nailing through my mental lexicon of things I'd packed and all the things that still needed to be. Was I ready? Did I forget anything? Did I leave the cats enough food and water? Did I remember to give my friend a key to check on them? And far more pressing and urgent - would I be able to pull this trip off without a tankbag? I decided that I would just have to do without. Something I would later regret. It meant that I had to cram everything in the saddlebags and tailbag. This also meant that I would have to decide which items stayed and which were banished from my pack for good (like an infinitely more interesting version of "Survivor: Cook Islands"). There would be no room for food and drink on this trip. Heck, there was no room for even my sandals, and I wasted precious time debating how vital they were to the cause (Yes - this script is sounding more and more like a "Survivor" episode). I didn't fancy the thought of walking around in shorts, t-shirt, and bulky riding boots, so I attached them to the outside of my tailbag so they could flutter freely in the wind. A little bohemian for my liking, but I reasoned that they needed some airing out anyway, as they smelled remarkably like if a durian fruit and a brick of limburger cheese had a love child together.

Here is my 2009 WR250R fully loaded for travel, complete with Camp-time "Roll-A-Cot" and dangling vile-smelling sandals.


As is customary, I like to top off my tank at a service station before setting off down the road. This way I not only keep track of my fuel economy and range, but also make sure that I haven't forgotten my wallet or credit cards, so the attendant can hold me hostage closer to home if I can't pay for the fuel. At $1.49/litre (CND) for premium fuel (Yes, the WR250R requires premium) I feel like I am being held hostage anyway. It also gives me an opportunity to iron-out any bugs with the setup (e.g., load issues, re-fueling issues) closer to home. One thing I noticed immediately, was that the bike sat almost straight up on the kick-stand due to a lowering of the rear suspension (both stock lowering and Yamalink mods) I'd completed previously. This meant that I needed to find an appropriate surface for the kick-stand to sit - otherwise the bike might be vulnerable to falling over in the other direction. Obviously, I could simply have the stand shortened. However, one advantage that became apparent with this setup was that the bike displayed less of a tendency to "teeter" on the kick-stand when climbing on and off of it, like the bike was attempting a gymnastics head-stand with the kick-stand as the pivot point. I've experienced such teetering in the past with my CBR125R and CBR250R when carrying a full load of gear high up on the bikes, so I was pleased that the more upright orientation of the WR contributed some much needed stability to my setup. The service station attendant stared at the WR and commented "You don't see many of those around here". He was right. Until recently the price of a new WR250R in Canada was $7999. The Kawasaki KLX250S retails for $5899 and is relatively ubiquitous. I wonder why?

Here is a Google Maps image of my route for the day.


It wasn't long after joining Highway 17 East leaving Thunder Bay, Ontario that I realized the wind would be a formidable foe for this part of my journey. Strong headwinds and buffeting can make any motorcycle ride less comfortable, but on a WR250R weighing less than 300 lbs wet, the experience can be significantly more unsettling (like facing turbulence in light aircraft). Perhaps it is a combination of lightweight, height, and less than stellar aerodynamics - but my experience so far on the WR250R has been like no other bike I've ridden with respect to being bounced around by the wind, including my CBR125R and CBR250R which positively slip through the air like competently designed and programmed North Korean rockets. And the buffeting as I approached slower moving traffic tugged the WR's handlebars from side to side in a way that reminded me of the last thing I remembered as a youth just before ditching my tiny ballooned-tired, banana-seated CCM bicycle down a long steep hill after losing control of my wobbly handlebars and surfing along the asphalt on my ribcage to a lengthy stop in a posture that resembled a threatened scorpion with my legs and feet curved painfully over my arched back. My blood-soaked and tattered Canada '76 t-shirt looked like something Dr. David Banner would be proud to show-off after an ill-timed angry outburst. Such was my experience and the images flowing through my mind for the next 3 hours of riding.

Many would consider this a reflection of the "bad" experiences that await anyone riding a small displacement bike on the highway. "The open highway is no place for a small bike" they'd say. But much like airline turbulence, you get used to it. Like the experience of a rickety wooden roller coaster in contrast to a solid steel version for an ACE enthusiast - it becomes an endearing character trait - part of the experience. The WR ain't no Gold Wing. It is more like good old-fashioned "stick and rudder" flying that bored commercial airline pilots often wax longingly for. A true visceral riding experience - what riding used to be - when smaller bikes were the norm in North America. And it is this kind of riding that reminded me of what I find so engaging about piloting small displacement bikes in general. I have to "work" for it. And it is a delicate dance that requires well-coordinated foot and hand work - lots of shifting gears, keeping the engine in the powerband, anticipating hills, tucking-in to eke out a little more speed - things that add character to any bike. These are the traits I knew would help me forge a lasting bond with the WR.

After re-fueling in Nipigon, Ontario I was looking forward to the views along the shoreline of the world's largest freshwater lake. Despite overcast skies, the views didn't disappoint. I never get tired of these unfolding panoramas.

This photo was taken at Kama Bay just north of Nipigon, ON.


People often ask "How is the WR250R out on the highway?" I think part of what they are really asking, aside from the aforementioned wind jostling, is "Does the WR250R have enough power to maintain highway speeds, and to pass slower moving vehicles quickly and safely?" The answer is "no". Not a chance. O.K. I'm completely $hitting you here. :topesOf course it does!!! :D While I've never explored its top speed, various online magazines indicate that it is capable of achieving 90 mph (145 km/hr). Considering that dyno results from these same online publications show the WR producing 25-27 hp at the rear wheel (about 30-31 hp at the crank), this places the WR's output on even ground with a Ninja 250R - yet it has one less cylinder, weighs 75 lbs less, and produces significantly more torque. Moreover, virtually all the highways I travel on have speed limits of 90km/hr (56 mph), and such speeds really place little strain on the overachieving WR's engine. But such explanations rarely placate the naysayers. Just when I think I am through answering questions, I often get one final query: "How about riding on expressways and interstate highways?" My response is usually blunt and deliberate, yet strangely calm as the aneurysm prepares to burst and flood my cranium - "Who in their right mind would ever want to ride any motorcycle on an Interstate highway when there are so many wonderful scenic routes just waiting to be explored nearby?" It is like insisting to the maitre d' of a fine restaurant that your AAA prime rib beef be cooked "well done". The outcome is a hunk of beef that has the consistency and taste of tough, dry, overcooked hamburger - it completely wastes the experience. No gustatory delight whatsoever. With that said, the WR can maintain 112 kph (70 mph) all day long with enough reserve left to pass. Not sure why you'd want to do that though. You see so much more when riding slower and obtain better fuel economy too. Maybe that's why most everyone I've ever ridden with on larger bikes ride slower than that. They don't feel a need to ride faster. It isn't a time trial, and they aren't riding for FedEx. Yet this question gets asked time and time again. Even when helpful forum members continually set the record straight - people keep asking. Like they just don't believe it.

Below is a view from a favourite rest area about 25 kms East of Nipigon, ON. While there I met up with some American riders who passed me at Kama Bay when I had stopped there to take the above photo. They were completing the circle route of Lake Superior and were impressed by the ruggedness of the north shore. One lamented how the south part of the route through the U.S. was rather flat and uninspiring. I asked them if they had been camping at all on their trip and one of them responded "Yes - we've been camping out at the Hiltons" which we all chuckled over. One fellow asked me if I had ridden along Hwy 622 that runs north from Atikokan, ON (west of Thunder Bay, ON) connecting Hwy 11 from the south to Hwy 17, 130 kms to the north. At first I wasn't sure what he was asking, as he pronounced Atikokan in a way I never thought could be humanly possible using phonemes native to the English language. Much like the first time I saw David Letterman try to pronounce "Saskatchewan" on Late Night. I thought he was having a stroke. I informed him that I had driven the route by car, but not on a motorcycle. He added that he thought it would be a great road to ride the WR250R on. Hmmm. The speed limit of that highway is 80 km/hr (50 mph). What was he getting at? His recommendation wouldn't be the last time someone had suggested this route as being "suitable" for the WR on this trip. As we were making our way to the parking area, a guy on a Harley was arriving and beneath the roar of his pipes one of the group comically exclaimed to everyone within ear-shot "Oh No - not one of them!!" and we all shared another laugh. They seemed like a good bunch of guys and I wished them the best. I would later see them again when re-fueling at the Shell station in Terrace, Bay, ON.

Scenic rest area about 25 km (15 miles) east of the town of Nipigon, ON along Hwy 17.


Coming down one of the long climbs along the north shore of Lake Superior. In the distance is St. Ignace Island and the profile of broad shouldered Mt. St. Ignace which towers more than 380 m (1250 ft above Lake Superior). Enjoying mild weather while riding around Lake Superior on a motorcycle in May is unusual. However, this time out - the weather was surprisingly cooperative, hovering in the low to mid 20C's (upper 70F) for most of the day. Quite mild for this time of year.


When I stopped along Hwy 17 at Marathon, ON to re-fuel, the service station attendant showed interest in the WR. "How much does it cost?" he asked. "About $7000 in Canada" I replied. I added, "It's expensive. But it has a host of high quality components, is fuel-injected, and has more power than your average 250cc single". He told me that in his native Philippines he rode a Honda XRM (Cub) motorcycle that was extremely fuel efficient. He hoped to buy a dual-sport in Canada in the near future.

Speaking of fuel economy - how economical is the WR250R out on the highway? Running a stock (13T) countershaft sprocket and a 47T rear end (stock is 43T), my observed fuel economy while traveling about 104 km/hr (65 mph) (GPS) fell between 60-65 mpg (50-54 mpg U.S.) with full gear. So at highway speeds, the WR250R is reasonably fuel efficient too for a dual-sport. And with my aftermarket IMS 3.1 gallon tank, I could ride a comfortable 200kms (125 miles) before needing to re-fuel. I never stretched it out that far though, because I quickly discovered that my Corbin saddle just wasn't very comfortable for more than 1 hour of solid riding (and yes, I mean solid) - unless you are J-Lo. The term aptly describes how plush that saddle isn't. Then again, I prefer to stop, stretch, rest, and take photos at least every hour, so the ass cramping nature of the thinly disguised leather-clad park bench I was sitting on really didn't put a crimp into my plans. I will to try out the stock saddle again, now that my WR has been lowered.

The next photo was taken along Hwy 17 just after the Little Pic River bridge looking toward Premier Mountain and Ney's Provincial Park just west of Marathon, Ontario. I have never stayed at Neys, but hope to tent there this summer on another motorcycle trip. It seems that whenever I've informally polled travelers who claim "frequent visitor" status at Ontario's provincial parks, Neys is one place that they consistently identify as their favourite. It is also the site of a former WWII prisoner of war camp.


Hwy 17 moves inland from Lake Superior after leaving Marathon and winding toward White River about 90kms (56 miles) further east. I noticed that the wind improved considerably away from the big lake too - and this led to some very comfortable riding along this corridor. About 50 kms (30 miles) before reaching Wawa, near Obatanga Provincial Park, the weather started to change for the worse, and I knew that my waterproof Ortlieb luggage would soon be put to the test. It started to rain hard. What I didn't expect was heavy thunder and lightning in the distance. I reasoned that if it got worse, I could take shelter in Wawa, where I would re-fuel, eat supper, and stay the night if necessary. Arriving in Wawa I was greeted by several ominous lightning flashes and thunder claps that set-off car alarms nearby. I re-fueled and waited out the storm while inside the local Subway restaurant.

Within the hour, the storm let up considerably and I could make out some clear skies so I hopped back on the WR250R and made my way toward my intended destination for the evening - Agawa Bay. The photo below was snapped just south of Wawa at Old Woman Bay, a popular picnic area for travelers.


Every turn in the road seemed to unveil another panoramic view and photo opportunity. Having the highway virtually to myself, it was easy and safe to pull off the roadway and snap a few shots like the one below.


Katherine Cove is one of those special gems that quickly catch your eye when riding by. Yes - the blackflies were out in full force. And they have this uncanny ability to squeeze into your helmet just in front of your ears that is particularly annoying and distracting. This would be a quick stop.

If you want to see a video of Katherine Cove I shot while feeding the blackflies, click the following link:

Katherine Cove video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mllq9PeLbfk


Here is a photo taken near a scenic lookout along Hwy 17 above Agawa Bay. The Algoma Central Rail's Agawa Canyon Train Tour stops in the canyon nearby (see: http://www.agawacanyontourtrain.com/content/gallery/index.html?sid=1). The taller hills in the distance are in the vicinity of Montreal River Harbour and rise over 345 m (1130 ft) above Lake Superior. It is one of the longer climbs heading west on Hwy 17. In the winter it is not uncommon to see transport trucks stranded on the Montreal River hill - unable to climb the grade in a snow storm.


Below is another photo overlooking Agawa Bay and my destination for the evening - the Agawa Bay campground section of Lake Superior Provincial Park. The park and beach are located just out of the frame in the photo below.


I arrived at the Agawa Bay campground about 7:30PM. This early in the year (outside of peak season) it is rare to find anyone occupying the gatehouse. Visitors are required to self-register. So I examined a park map and rode through the campsites. My goal was to camp in the 300's section at the far end of the park, right along the beautiful sandy beach. It would afford plenty of privacy and provide a spectacular backdrop to my home for the evening. As it turns out, the entrance to the 300's section was closed. So I took the first site nearby that offered some great views of Lake Superior - site #147. I was pleasantly surprised to discover after I had set up my tent that I was only a stone throw away from a modern comfort station with flush toilets and hot showers. As you can see from the photo below, this section of the park doesn't offer the most privacy between campsites. This ended up being a non-issue anyway, as there were few campers at this time of year.

My campsite for the evening at Agawa Bay campground. My minimalist setup and WR250R pack mule.


So how did my new Ortlieb bags fare? Did they handle the wind, rain, and elements? When I opened the bags to remove my gear, I was pleased to discover that everything was bone dry. I love the notion of never having to put rain-covers on my saddlebags ever again. One less thing to deal with out on the road. These bags should serve me well. And the bags were quite stable on the bike too. However, because the bags are soft, I felt a need to tighten the load at each stop to ensure everything remained secure. Attaching the bags to the bike wasn't an issue, as there are extra straps and connectors that allow for lots of mounting options. One area of concern though was heat from my exhaust. I have resisted replacing my stock exhaust with an FMF pipe in order to retain the stock heat shield and use soft saddlebags that fit snugly against it. While there is heat resistant material attached to each saddlebag, I noticed one area where some minor melting of the material had taken place. I suppose this may have happened when I was re-tightening the straps at a rest stop and failed to realize that part of the bag had come too close to the un-protected part of the exhaust. While only slight cosmetic damage was noticeable - I made a mental note to pay more attention to this in the future.

It was evident that it had rained at the park throughout the day. So when I began organizing my gear and setting up the tent, I anticipated having to contend with more blackflies. My previous blood donation at Katherine Cove served as ample warning that these critters would be waiting for me - and they were. Fortunately, I now had easy access to my insect repellent. I think when Karl Malden said "Don't leave home without it" I believe he was referring to insect repellent in May at Agawa Bay Provincial Park.

For a brief experience of what the view in front of my campsite looked like, and a sense of the soothing soundtrack lullaby I would experience throughout the night, click on the following link to see a video I shot on the beach.

Agawa Bay campsite and Lake Superior wave action http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZShKILBdcrk

The photo below is what I witnessed shortly after setting up my home for the evening. What a way to cap off a long, satisfying day of riding. It took me 7.5 hrs to travel 570 km (356 miles) on the WR250R, with plenty of stops in between. A nice unhurried pace.


As the sun was setting and I was gazing over the big lake, I knew I had to take another shot across the beach.


So what do you do in the evening to pass the time when adventure riding on the WR250R? Umm. Not much. Particularly with my minimalist setup. I do carry a Blackberry when I travel. But strangely, I never use it at other times when home. I was able to get a signal from the park so I called my best friend Paul and chatted about my day as an excuse to ask him if he had checked on the cats yet, then I called my dad and chatted about my ride and about my adventure so far, and then finally called my girlfriend - and simply enjoyed just hearing her voice. As Burton Cummings sang in "Timeless Love"....."It feels good even missin' ya". It is amazing how riding alone for even one day reminds you of the little things you cherish and why they should never be taken for granted.

Now that I've reached my sentimentality quotient for Part I of this report - what else was left? I had absolutely nothing to do. I simply had no room for even a book. It was a beautiful evening, likely about 15 C (60F) with a light, warm wind. But there was a fire ban in effect, so no open campfires this night. If I had been riding with a friend, we would have sipped on some scotch and recounted the day's events to consolidate the images in our respective memories. But there was nobody else. Not even a neighbor to steal a drink from, as I didn't have room for alcohol on this trip either. So I stepped into the tent, sat on the cot, and then crawled into my sleeping bag. I then placed my headlamp in the netting up above, turned it on and (I'm embarrassed to admit it) satisfied my voracious appetite for stimulation (O.K. - not what you might be thinking here.....) by reading through the Agawa Bay campsite map and pamphlet. I figured that I could at least call 911 if I noticed myself engaging in any other - more unusual behaviour. Yes - I was actually excited to read through the park guide cover to cover. Then I fell asleep at around 10:30PM, probably the earliest I've fallen asleep in 5 years. Heck, there was no reason to stay up later. The fresh air, and sound of wind and waves slapping against the shoreline contributed to such a deep and satisfying sleep. No sound from any other campers. I think everyone appreciated how perfect that night was and were probably all retiring early too.

What would the next day bring? Stay tuned for Part II - In Search of Mishipeshu

Mike

Klay 05-29-2012 06:55 PM

:lurk

Ontario GS 05-30-2012 03:13 AM

Great report Mike!

ZZR_Ron 05-30-2012 01:11 PM

I'll have to ride up there some day....:norton

ZZR_Ron 05-30-2012 06:45 PM

You can start part 4 after tomorrow...

PiffleMaster 05-30-2012 07:18 PM

Ride report...
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Nanabijou (Post 18794561)
1600 km - Lake Superior Camping Adventure - Part I - Agawa Bay

That was a delightful read Mike, thanks for taking the time to compose and post! :clap
Cheers!

guzzirelic 06-01-2012 06:30 PM

What would the next day bring? Stay tuned for Part II - In Search of Mishipeshu

Mike[/QUOTE]

Awaiting part two! Great stuff Mike.

Relic

Nanabijou 06-16-2012 08:53 AM

1600 KM - Lake Superior Camping Adventure on a WR250R
 
1600 KM - Lake Superior Camping Adventure - Part II - In Search of Mishipeshu<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
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I understand the convenience and luxury offered by hotels when traveling by motorcycle. After a long day of riding, it really is a satisfying feeling to enjoy a hot shower, eat a nice meal, have a drink, return to your lair to rest your head on a fluffy pillow, and slide under freshly laundered sheets (that don't smell like a stale mix of campfire smoke, wiener water, and Deep-Woods Off - from the previous camping trip). But hotels feel like "cheating" to me. I feel like I am cheating myself out of the full experience. While after spending the day on the road being exposed to the elements – variations in sounds, smells, temperature – with every sensation so immediate - I can understand why some choose to take a break from this overstimulation and yearn for some well-deserved pampering. Still, I'd rather continue this unique and stimulating sensory assault long after I've left the roadway. This explains why I am more apt to even set up a tent in someone's backyard - than accept the invitation to come inside. In my youth, I would often sleep in our tent trailer set up in the back yard during the summer. I preferred to sacrifice the comfort and sensory isolation of the house, for the less comfortable, more authentic experience of the trailer. Yes - there is something particularly enticing about sleeping outside. It just feels more "real" and immersive. <o:p></o:p>
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Few things are better in life than waking up feeling refreshed and rested after breathing fresh, cool, clean air all night in a tent. When I woke from my slumber at 7AM, I knew I had had a great sleep - the kind where I didn't toss and turn all night - or suddenly rise in bed in a violent Regan MacNeil-like sit-up, drenched in sweat, and disoriented - wondering where I was, nor did I strangely incorporate ambient sounds from outside my tent into my REM episodes. I just slept deeply and comfortably. <o:p></o:p>
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Yet experiencing a restful sleep in a tent hasn't always been that simple. As I age, I find myself less willing to suffer for the "raw experience" like I did when I was younger. Back then I slept on the cold, hard, and uneven ground. Invariably, when I awoke - imminent hip replacement surgery seemed likely. So I elected to add a rubber air mattress (the kind that you can either sleep on or float on a lake with - or both) to my set up. But I could never get comfortable lying on a bed made of long protruding baffles that dug into my flesh all night. If baffles were so comfortable - I think Serta would have implemented them years ago. And the "built in" pillow must have been Coleman's idea of some kind of sick joke, as it was canted at such an obscene angle, that after one night "in traction" on this medieval torture device my camping friends wondered if I was suffering from a severe bout of torticollis. Better yet, I would often wake up to find that I had "run aground" - feeling as defeated and deflated as the mattress itself. And it slept cold too. No insulation whatsoever. So with the promise of new affordable sleeping pads in the 1980's - I purchased a Therma-Rest. This was certainly an improvement over what had come before. But even the thicker ones left me with crippled, stiff hips in the morning and they too slept cold. I then tried a large unwieldy "airbed" from Canadian Tire. You know the kind? It looks to be about as thick and high as the captain's bed from your youth and promises to be about as comfy. Unfortunately, by the time I finished inflating it with a hand pump, it was time to break camp again the next day. And there should be a warning that comes with the bed for prone sleepers, as my torso would invariably sit about one foot lower than my head and feet above my arched back. It's no coincidence that I would often have dreams that I was skydiving when sleeping on this bed. And when I exited the tent in the morning people questioned why I was trying to "limbo" my way to the outhouse. I wish I could say I was doing it "for laughs". <o:p></o:p>
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The first revelation in tent sleeping comfort came when I purchased an army cot from Cabelas. It was one of those heavy, extremely taught cots that required the strength of 4 Nepalese Yetis to insert the last crosspiece into place. But it was comfortable. And at least I knew I was finally making progress in the sleep comfort domain. Yet - even these beds had short-comings. It wasn't long before my cot started losing nuts and bolts faster than an after-market WR250R rear sprocket without blue Loctite. And at 25 lbs, it was relatively heavy - too heavy to bring motorcycle camping. After exploring a variety of other cot designs, I settled on a Camp-Time "Roll-A-Cot". This bed promised something different. It was not only quick to set up, but physically easier too. It was affordable ($110), could withstand 250lbs of corpulence, and only weighted 10 lbs (a full 15 lbs less than the army cot). It also sat 15" above the tent floor, so I could conveniently store my gear underneath to save space, as well as enjoy the luxury of sitting down when changing clothes in the morning. Changing clothes while lying on a tent floor would make my abdominal muscles spasm more than watching this video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePNdcdNm9fY&feature=player_embedded while smoking delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol derived from the flowering tops of the female plant. With the "Roll-A-Cot", I could even use it as a bench around the campfire, or as a camp chair if need be. And it came with its own carrying case that doubled as a storage pocket. It was assembled with rivets instead of nuts and bolts - so I could take heart that there would be no "backing out of this one". The bottom line? This is the only cot I've purchased that has stood the test of time. It is the lightest - and surprisingly - the most durable cot I've owned. I now own four of them. Yes, I believe it is the holy grail of sleeping cots. And with no cross pieces - you lie in suspended comfort above the tent floor. I have never woken with a sore back using this cot. Any drawbacks? I suppose it isn't the easiest item to carry on the back of the bike (it is about 3ft long), but it has loops on each end that can be used to help cinch it down. I purchased four wooden furniture coasters for each leg to save my tent floor. As you can see from the photo below, I also place a Nemo Cosmo Air sleeping pad http://www.amazon.com/Nemo-Equipment...cm_cr-mr-title on top of the cot. After sampling many sleeping pads, this is now my "go-to" camp pad. Why? It is lightweight (2 lbs), packs down smaller than a football, is affordable, is 3" thick, is filled with synthetic insulation for good warmth, it doesn't make noise when you roll over on it, I don't get sore hips sleeping on it, and it has never leaked air on me yet after two years of use. The best part? I can inflate it in about 30 seconds (no typo here) using the built-in foot pump! A marvel of simplicity. You just step up and down on the end of the pad itself and the one-way inflation valves take care of the rest. Open the dump valve to release the air and you can roll it up in about a minute. I am so impressed with this pad that it is hard to imagine other manufacturers not scrambling - as I write this - in an effort to re-design their line of sleeping mattresses. It seems light-years ahead of the others I've tried in terms of comfort and convenience. It is that good.<o:p></o:p>
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I had been waiting for almost a year to buy my new Nemo Moki tent. All of them were sold out online and I was informed by Nemo that no new stock would be immediately forthcoming. There are a number of things that set apart the Moki from its brethren. Like my other Nemo tent (the "Andi" model), the Moki is single-walled, so no tent fly is required. This not only saves time and effort in setting it up, but also saves weight and prevents me from somehow losing the fly out in the field (literally). Yes - the walls of the Moki are both waterproof and breathable. I have endured full nights of hard driving rain in the Andi and the Moki is made of the same rain-proof material. The Moki also boasts a ceiling height of 48" which makes it taller than many similarly sized tents, and easier to walk around in while imitating Igor (EYE-gor). It also uses an incredibly sturdy 4-pole design (a tiny 5th pole is used as a "stretcher pole" across the roof) that makes it suitable for Four Seasons use, even by Frankie Valli in late December in minus 63. It sets up very taught as well - no flapping in the wind from this puppy. It comes with a vestibule - but the tent is so roomy, I just placed it in storage to save a few pounds. In this configuration, the tent packs down to a size similar to an armadillo's exoskeleton - and weighs roughly 7lbs, so relatively small and light-weight too. The tent poles are carried separately in my tailbag. Any disadvantage? Well, the Moki is expensive at $799 retail (I paid $610 on sale with a free ground sheet). Also, while Nemo touts the fact that one can take shelter from the rain during setup because the tent is partially erected from inside - during "mosquito and blackfly season" you will also end up providing shelter for several species of small furry insects - gathered in your cave and grooving around your Pic (coil insect repellent). I've also slightly bent the two interior poles. Because the pitch is so tight - the inadvertent bending of poles seems inevitable. However, this shouldn't affect the overall structural rigidity of the tent in any way.<o:p></o:p>
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I decided to take a few more photos on the beach in front of my campsite as the sun rose into the sky. Occasionally I get messages from people who have recently perused the photos from my reports and wonder "Where is this place!?! It looks amazing!". I think they are expecting me to reply that it is some exotic locale - perhaps along the northern coast of California - right alongside the Pacific Ocean. They invariably seem more stunned than Simon Cowell following a Susan Boyle audition when I tell them, "No, this is from the north shore of Lake Superior" in Northern Ontario, Canada. Take a look at the photos below and you might be able to understand why. I wonder if those who have never driven this route have a hard time assimilating the greenery and rugged, rocky shoreline and endless expanse of water into anything other than an ocean panorama. <o:p></o:p>
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The photo below captures the aforementioned rugged nature of the Algoma hills east of the park. If you look closely, you can see the communications towers at the top of the Montreal River Harbor hill.<o:p></o:p>
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This photo was taken looking west along the beach and toward Highway 17 that winds down the hills in the distance. The imposing wall of shadowed rock and conifers to the right rise over 305 m (1000 ft) above Lake Superior and the Agawa River. This is truly a wild and beautiful area of Ontario.<o:p></o:p>
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Before leaving the park, I took a nice hot shower, shaved, brushed my teeth, and changed my clothes. I couldn't have imagined feeling more profoundly euphoric than if I had just left John Travolta's favourite Manhattan spa. I really did feel so much better. Granted, I had to use a fresh merino wool sock as a towel (no room in my bags for a towel either). Still, at that moment - nothing could taint my mood - nothing could spoil my desire that morning to set off and explore. Until I realized I had forgotten some extra t-shirts. I had laid out a pile of freshly laundered shirts on my bed back home, yet somehow only brought 2 extras with me. How does that happen? In my mind I kept playing back mental images of what that pile might look like folded on the end of my bed - like I was trying to convince myself that by continually re-imagining it - I could somehow reverse the event. At least I had grabbed several pairs of underwear. I also didn't have extra room to store my Joe-Rocket Alter Ego rain-gear either, so I had to wear it underneath - at all times - in hot weather. And no - it isn't breathable. And no - I didn't lay it out to dry overnight. Putting on "cold sweat-soaked gear from the day before" has this uncanny way of reversing the fresh, clean, euphoric feeling of a nice hot shower. That the day-time high promised to hover around 30C (86F) didn't help the cause either.<o:p></o:p>
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Each time I purchase new gear, it takes some time to develop an efficient system of packing and unpacking the bike. I removed all the items from the tent and laid them out on the picnic table, organizing them in a manner that would make Felix Unger proud. All told, it took about 1 hour to have everything neatly and securely loaded on the bike. I then took a last look at the site, bid farewell to my temporary home, took a deep breath - and prepared myself mentally for the adventure ahead. All without a motorcycle key. It was missing. In stunned silence - I suddenly experienced a moment of utter clarity - a moment of sheer astute and focused cogency..... that camping on a motorcycle is really a frustrating and cruel lesson in working-memory failure. That about sums it up. I am convinced that various batteries of neuropsychological tests used to measure working-memory could be simply replaced by creating a standardized measure of subjects' memory and behaviour while assembling and disassembling gear on a motorcycle for a simulated camping trip. For a brief moment I thought I might have to remove everything from my bags to facilitate the search. However, I had a fleeting recollection of having placed them next to a zip-lock bag on the picnic table and reasoned that they might have "slipped" in there "accidentally". After a quick search - I hit pay dirt. At least it felt that way at the time. Pain and frustration averted, I then said "goodbye" to my campsite for a second time.<o:p></o:p>
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I had to backtrack west on Highway 17 after leaving the Agawa Bay campground, as I had wanted to check out some pictographs nearby that I had often overlooked when driving along this stretch numerous times by car.<o:p></o:p>
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I took the photo below along the highway near the turn-off to the pictographs.<o:p></o:p>
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By the time I reached the end of the steep and twisty paved road leading toward the parking area - I was already sufficiently soaked in salty sweat. The real test would be the hike to the site under the humid, steamy tree canopy, and the arduous trek back - all up hill. One fellow had arrived just before me and had already set-off along the trail. Being an avid hiker, I felt a little silly walking down the 500 m long winding path in what effectively was a thick, black, waterproof, snowmobile suit - in summer weather. <o:p></o:p>
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The trail was well-marked and seemed to follow an old stream bed. The path even featured stairs (see photo below) that were built with flat stones and concrete to make it easier to negotiate the steeper sections of the route.<o:p></o:p>
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Here is what the end of the trail looked like as I began to walk down the rocky approach to the lake.<o:p></o:p>
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At this point, the water looked quite enticing. I briefly considered going for a swim in the refreshing ice-cold water - then wondered if heat stroke might have been toying with my sense of good judgment. I think the photo below nicely fits the prototype of the rugged and rocky shoreline so common along Lake Superior.<o:p></o:p>
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Approaching the cliff face, I looked out over the water and imagined what it would be like hundreds of years ago - to ply a canoe along this rocky shoreline and stop to etch images in red ochre across this vast cliff face canvas. I bet the watery view below hasn't changed much since the Ojibwe people responsible for these pictographs paddled through here. What were the lake levels like then? I wondered if they had to avoid some of the more conspicuous rocks I was looking at right now - just beyond the cliff ledge.<o:p></o:p>
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Beside the interpretive panel there was a sign warning visitors to not venture out to the pictographs in windy, wavy conditions. After all, wet rocks are slippery rocks, and a large rogue wave could easily suck you down into the deep, icy water beyond the lip. I could see the remnants of old anchors and post holes along the ledge that likely held up a railing and walkway at one time. I wondered if years of shifting ice had claimed them. An orange lifebuoy fixed ominously to a nearby post provided a "not-so-subtle" cue that sliding into the icy depths over the ledge was a "not-so-remote" possibility, and the warning sign confirmed in writing that the lifesaver saw regular duty each summer. It turns out, the fellow who had walked ahead was waiting for me to arrive so we could step out on the ledge together. His named was Raymond, and he had travelled up from Windsor, ON. He worked in Detroit for an electronics firm that specialized in designing card readers (e.g., NexPress) for toll booths, and border crossings. He was staying over-night in Sault Ste. Marie, ON, and hoped to later rent a canoe on a nearby lake and explore the area further. A noble adventurer at heart. After confessing that he thought it wise to wait for me before walking out and being quickly washed away by a wave, we took the er... plunge.. together and carefully made our way along the narrow rock way. And then it happened. It amazes me how things can happen so quickly and unsuspectingly. Just as I was taking my next step Raymond cried out........"I see one of the images!". As the one in the lead - I think I was concentrating too much on my footing to notice the story-board unfolding next to me on the rock face. Yes - I looked up and right in front of my face - at eye level - was the faded artwork.<o:p></o:p>
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Below is the cliff face containing the pictographs. If you look closely at the island to the right you will see the outline of a cottage. Raymond and I wondered who might own that little piece of paradise across from the pictographs.<o:p></o:p>
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Here is the view looking back to the lookout and interpretive panel. I can imagine how treacherous venturing out along the wall might be if the wind suddenly picked up. As you can see, we were quite a distance from the safety of the path.<o:p></o:p>
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Growing up, I've always been fond of animals. I developed a particular fascination with cats, and used to draw pictures of Canada lynxes in a little art book I coveted as a youngster. I think what drew me to drawing lynxes was the enticing image of a shy, elusive, strange looking tufted ear and ruffed neck cat that resembled something like if Chewbacca and a Maine Coon feline had a baby - that lived, hunted, and survived in the bush. One summer while rock sampling in the Onaping Lake area of Northern Ontario, I saw a lynx in the wild for the first time - from the comfort of a company pickup truck as we were about to begin work in the morning. The first thing I thought was "What is that?!?", as I wasn't expecting to suddenly witness a large cat emerge from a dune only a few metres away from where we were parked off the main road. It walked more like a puma than a house cat, and slowly sauntered toward the cut line that we would soon be hammering outcrop along. It seemed just as bothered by the blackflies and mosquitos as we were about to be. At the time, I learned that the lynx was a good swimmer too - an activity you don't readily associate with cats - especially after trying to bathe one. A few years later, I adopted my first cat - a Scottish Fold - with markings that resembled a lynx and creased ears that gave it its namesake. He liked the water too and I would often find him playing in the bathtub. At one point when he was still a kitten, I was teasing him and trying in vain to get his attention - but he seemed content to call my bluff - he simply wasn't falling for it. So I decided to utter some unusual vowel and consonant sounds to test whether these unique aural combinations might finally capture his interest. What came out sounded like "Ship-a-koo". Suddenly, he jerked his head toward me and stared at me intently with his large fixed and focused eyes. I laughed at his response and decided that this new nickname "Shipakoo" would stand, as would another variation "Shipashoo" and he would forever respond faithfully to these nicknames - whenever I called on him.<o:p></o:p>
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You can imagine my surprise when I discovered years later that the Anishinabek of Northwestern Ontario told stories of a cat that lived in the water, resembled a cross between a lynx and a sea-serpent, and went by the name of Mi-shipeshu. This cat could bring forth storms, play tricks on people, and sink canoes. I wondered if he liked to also play in bathtubs.<o:p></o:p>
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And here is an image of the "Great Lynx" of the water - Mishipeshu. The first image I saw on the cliff.<o:p></o:p>
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<o:p>What other adventures lay ahead? Stay tuned for Part III - Lonely Lake</o:p>
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<o:p>Mike</o:p>

Nanabijou 06-16-2012 08:58 AM

1600 KM - Lake Superior Camping Adventure on a WR250R
 
1600 KM - Lake Superior Camping Adventure - Part III - Lonely Lake

The walk back to the parking area was more uphill than I had remembered. By the time I made it back to my bike and wished Raymond "Good-luck" with the rest of his journey, I was really looking forward to riding again and cooling off. I removed my eye-glasses, put on my helmet and gloves, mounted my trusty steed, and thumbed the starter. Nothing. Not good (Please don't let it be the new Shorai battery.....). This called for a steady head, an even disposition, and a plethora of privately uttered profanity. I irrationalized that if I couldn't start the WR, I'd be toast - just a little hotter, a little darker, slightly more burned, and tons more crispy in this heat. I tried the horn. Yep. Good sign. Signals? Yep. So I had power (the Shorai Gods were looking favourably upon me). Did I bump the kill switch when I had previously clmbed off the bike? Nope. Kick stand up? Check. Then I remembered placing the WR in gear, as I had parked on a slight grade. Now realizing I was only a short, upward snick away from green-lighted instrument panel heaven, I engaged neutral and pressed the starter. With the bike now running - I darted across the parking lot toward the exit. It was about then that my amygdala detected a slight discrepancy in processing fluency - like the reverse of deja-vu. Rather than "Wow - something about this seems familiar" - it was more like "Wow - something about this seems too unfamiliar". Something wasn't right, but it was unclear what that might be. What important piece of implicit information was my amygdala trying to tell me? Things weren't very clear from my perspective - they lacked acuity - were a little "fuzzy". Literally. Was my vision blurry due to heat exhaustion - or just salty sweat welling up in my eyes? I reached to my face and realized that I wasn't wearing my glasses. I remembered debating whether or not to take my contact lenses prior to leaving. The contacts make it easier to remove one's helmet at rest stops, and they don't get fogged up in rainy, damp, riding either. But they are a pain to put on and take off. I now regretted not bringing them. So what next? What was I to do? Where were they? I remembered putting them on top of my tailbag when I put on my helmet. They weren't there now. Did I run them over? I decided I would have to perform a dishonorable dismount and find them. As I was extending the kick stand with my foot - I tried to stay positive - yet it was hard to deny that a feeling of despair, shock, and hopelessness was creeping in - mixed with a sudden feeling of exuberance, as I spotted my glasses lying next to the kickstand. Perhaps this was a gift from Mishipishew. They appeared unharmed. Ironically, they must have fallen off the bike after my near stoppie-like brake stand. I asked a youngster on a bicycle nearby if he could grab my glasses for me - and he politely retrieved them. I thanked him and was then on my way. It felt good to feel the wind on my face. I left my visor cracked slightly open to take advantage of the breeze. Everything was right in my world again.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
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Highway 17 hugs the scenic shoreline for much of the route from Agawa Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, ON. I stopped at the Can-Op (Northgate) near Montreal River Harbor to fuel up. An incredibly friendly couple and their son - all on cruisers - were at the pumps when I arrived. Turns out - they were from the Soo and were headed to - you'll never guess.......that "little piece of paradise across from the pictographs". Yes, they knew the owner of the cottage and they were heading there for the weekend. They also provided me with some useful suggestions on where I might find an Internet cafe in the Soo and an LCBO in Echo Bay, ON. I thanked them - wishing them the best, and continued on my way along the coast and through Sault Ste. Marie. Once I reached Echo Bay, I stopped at the Pit Stop Gas Bar at the intersection of Hwy 17B and Hwy 638 (the one I would be heading east on toward Lonely Lake). I would later stop by Dinelle's General Store at the same intersection to purchase my daily quota of Miracle Whip (lite) and was impressed by how well this store was stocked. The attached LCBO had two of the friendliest employees I had met on the entire trip. One of them rode a motorcycle, and when she saw my gear she had lots of questions. She also showed me an old photo taken from around Echo Bay during the '40s that included her father on a group ride with some other bikers. We chatted for quite some time. I asked her if she had seen the movie "The World's Fastest Indian" and she yelped with excitement and exclaimed "That is my dad!!!!" For a few brief moments I thought that Anthony Hopkins was actually her father until she explained that the personality of the character he portrayed in the movie (Burt Munro) perfectly matched her father's quirky nature. I felt bad when I had to end our conversation early, as Dinelle's was about to close and I feared the repercussions and reprisals that awaited me if I returned to the camp "Miracle Whip Lite-less". Still - how can anyone not thoroughly enjoy chatting with someone who is so engaging and genuinely passionate about riding?<o:p></o:p>
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The road to the camp and gathering was strewn with fist sized rocks, eroded sections, and various natural obstacles. Like Highway 17 around Thunder Bay after the recent flood. It is in situations such as this that the WR250R shines - with its light weight, long-travel suspension, and sharp handling. What it taketh away in highway stability, it giveth back in off-road prowess. When I made it to the camp, I fully expected to arrive to an ADV Rider version of Sturgis. Yet - except for several tents tucked off to the side - the place was largely empty. No bikes. Was I at the correct place? I noticed one fellow sitting and reading near a smoker and asked him the same question. Yes - it was the right place. The other forum members were out on group rides and would be back shortly. It turns out, Scott sacrificed participating in the ride to tend the smoker, which was slowly and tenderly cooking succulent pork for the evening's pulled pork extravaganza. As much as I like riding, the enticing aroma wafting my way made me think that tending the BBQ was not all bad. He guessed that I was "Nanabijou" from the forum and mentioned that the hosts had expected me to arrive yesterday. Oops. At least it felt good to know that someone was looking out for me. So we chatted about the usual things adventure riders chat about - you know - things like "Which company makes the absolute, undisputed - if you disagree with me you are a moron - best oil ever", and "Is synthetic oil really any better than non-synthetic oil?". It was tense. Did I say something wrong? Just kidding. I knew better than to broach this topic, as I've witnessed first hand the destructive consequences of such postings in online forums on numerous occasions. The collective response was not unlike how a fellow inmate reacts to being called a "goof" in prison. I think this is where the saying "And everyone went Ape$hit" originated. So instead we talked about...bikes. What else? I quickly asked him about the picnic table close by that was painted in KTM orange and black regalia complete with logo. I wondered how obsessed one would have to be about a bike and manufacturer to create a shrine out of a picnic table. Did I have to ingest a piece of consecrated bread before I approached this hallowed structure? I later found out that Dan - our host (no, not the thin, round, wafer) - was a "Rush" fan and worshipped Neil Peart just as much as KTM - so I knew that his heart was in the right place. It was interesting to also learn from Scott that Lonely Lake was also deep enough to contain a healthy stock of lake trout. We also discussed where I might pitch my tent for the evening. There weren't many spots available. I was later forewarned by a number of people that one of the tents I was considering setting up next to - housed a snorer whose soft throat tissues registered a rhythmic sound only slightly less obnoxious than a baffle-less straightpiped Road King. Thanks for the tips! So I chose a spot down towards the water, near the dock. It looked a little wet there - but I knew it would offer a nice view when exiting the tent in the morning.<o:p></o:p>
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It wasn't long afterwards that groups of riders started to stream into the camp following an afternoon of riding, exploring, and sight seeing. The photo of my tent (below) was taken by Rick (Thanks Rick!) who rode an old Triumph Scrambler 900 to the gathering. Here is a video of him flying his Cessna on floats around Chapleau, ON. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6my0FM9F_Q. If you can find any video that better captures what it is like to grow up in Northern Ontario, and one that makes you more proud to be Canadian - I'd like to see it. My dad used to fly a Piper J-3 (Prospector model) in the mid 1950's. <o:p></o:p>
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It was refreshing to meet such a diverse group of friendly, funny, knowledgeable, and interesting riders. If there is a "squid" version of an adventure rider - I didn't see one at the gathering. Just a great group of people. It was nice to meet Ron, a rider on a BMW F650GS Dakar who showed up later in the evening - straight from Thunder Bay - after a long day in the saddle. I was looking forward to meeting him, as he also owned a CBR125R and lived only a short distance away from me. He also brought with him some unfortunately news. A fellow rider (Feliz) from his group low-sided into a ditch not far from camp on a dirt road while negotiating a blind and dust clouded corner. It turned out that the rider would be fine - except for what was later diagnosed as a broken shoulder blade (scapula). This is the kind of news that affects everyone deeply - but we were relieved to hear that ultimately he would be fine. I was also surprised by how many riders found it notable that I rode in on a WR250R. I suppose with the bulk of the riders piloting Kawasaki KLR650s, Suzuki DR800s (Big), KTMs and BMWs, the WR250R was sort of the "odd-ball" adventure mount of the group - at least in terms of displacement. I was beginning to suspect collusion when I was witness to even more suggestions that the WR would be a "Good bike to ride north on that [80km/hr] highway from Atikokan to Highway 17". Was I missing something here? I reasoned that because the WR250R is relatively rare and doesn't sell in large numbers, people just weren't very familiar with the bike. One of the riders (Gord) brought with him a Warbonnet tent hammock that he had strung up between two trees alongside a nearby slope. He found it incredibly comfortable to sleep in. He claimed it was even comfortable when curled up on one's side. This peaked my curiosity. Here was a sleep system that was waterproof, packed light and small, required no mattress or air bed, was comfortable, required no amount of level ground, and was quick to set up. This would seem to be the "perfect" sleep setup for an adventure rider. The ideal boon-docking sleep system. For the remainder of the evening I sat in front of the fire, devoured the most succulent smoked pulled pork my palate has ever made contact with, chatted with fellow riders, and sipped what tasted like ambrosia (Coors Light - O.K. I was stunned too) - after such a hot, dehydrating day of riding in the sun. All arranged by the most generous and gracious hosts you will find anywhere. Thanks again Dan, Greta, Scott, and Nancy for all the time, effort, hard work, and money you invested in the gathering. I was one of the last ones to retire for the evening - retreating to my little home down near the dock.<o:p></o:p>
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For photos and highlights of the gathering see the links below:<o:p></o:p>
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http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=183099&page=344<o:p></o:p>
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http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=183099&page=348<o:p></o:p>
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Early the next morning - after eating a delicious breakfast - I reluctantly decided to cut my trip short. I really didn't want to leave so soon. But I had some academic responsibilities back in Thunder Bay that needed tending to (much like the succulent slow smoked BBQ pork) and I knew going into this adventure that I only had a limited window of opportunity available. I also reasoned that it would be enjoyable to ride back with some new friends who were also heading in the same direction. Hello?!? Friends?!?!? (sounds of distant echo bouncing off Canadian Shield). I may have taken a little too long to pack up. They went ahead without me. I would be on my own for the first part of the leg - but figured I'd meet up with them later anyway, as we would all be traveling the same route. While loading the bike, I also noticed that one of the nylon straps from my Ortlieb saddles had made contact and partially melted against the exhaust. Damn. I decided at that moment that it would be best to purchase racks to help keep the saddles at a safer distance. After thanking the hosts and wishing others a safe trip, I rode out along the dirt road towards highway 638. Just before reaching the pavement I met up with Brian and John who were seeing off some other riders. Ken was there too with his Yamaha DT400 air-cooled 2-stroke. I think Ken had an option to choose between a Hummer H3 or the DT400, and picked the DT because he didn't mind getting significantly poorer fuel economy (just teasing Ken! :D ). I also took a moment to make sure my bags were secured on the bike after the rough ride from the camp. When Brian tested the setup by tugging on the saddlebags and practically extricating the entire mass from the bike - I realized that it needed some fine tuning. Turns out - the straps that were positioned under the seat weren't as secure as the same setup on my CBR250R and CBR125R. Granted - I rode 800 KMs (500 miles) to the meet without any difficulties. Still - connecting two straps to tie downs on either side of the bike helped button-down the gear more solidly. Thanks Brian and John. My next stop would be to pay a visit to the fallen rider (Feliz) from the previous day at a hotel along Great Northern Road in Sault Ste. Marie. Some other riders had gone ahead to provide him with some moral support. However, as I rode past the hotel there were no bikes in the parking area - so I continued on (I found out later that he had been kidnapped by some Lonely Lake inmates who convinced him that his day would be better spent - relaxing in pain - back at camp). I planned to fuel up again about 45 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie, at the Canadian Carver Esso. When I arrived, I immediately recognized Steve's DR800 Big and Lee's Suzuki Burgman 650. They had decided to stop here as well. So did Doug, who was riding a Honda Gold Wing. Apparently Ron was missing in action. We also assumed we'd meet up with him later on.<o:p></o:p>
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The ride back up along Lake Superior toward Wawa, ON was simply incredible. The sun was shining, the scenery was equally breathtaking from this direction, there was little wind, and it was warm. So warm that one of our group (Doug) elected to ride the route in a t-shirt. He later commented that a brief cool breeze near Old Woman Bay provided some much needed relief from the heat. Over-taking slower moving traffic was no problem on the WR. On a couple of passes - with the throttle cracked open - I felt like I needed to hold on especially tight as the rush of wind was pushing on my chest, while the eager WR was energetically tugging me forward - like I was being pulled on water-skis by an accelerating speedboat with a parachute attached to my back. Once on the cam the WR250R just keeps pulling. When we reached Wawa to fill up with fuel, Doug, who was riding at the front of the pack asked (though it sounded a little more like a bit of good-natured ribbing) "Did you have any problems keeping up with us back there on that 250"? Now, keep in mind we were all riding at between 100-104km/hr (60-65 mph). I said "Not at all - I still had lots of throttle left". I looked at Steve who had been riding the DR800 Big behind me for much of the stretch, and asked him rhetorically "What do you think Steve - did the WR250R look like it was struggling?". He said "I was surprised by how much pull that thing has - were you dropping it into 5th gear when you were passing?". I said "No, I was still in top gear (6th)". He said it "looked like the WR250R had as much "jump" as a KLR650!". Now I don't wish to offend any KRL650 owners reading this report - but when I got home and checked some online reviews that included dyno tests and wet weights for both the WR250R and the KLR650, I discovered that indeed - the power-to-weight-ratios between these two bikes were remarkably similar. <o:p></o:p>
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When riding along the north shore of Lake Superior - you can count on the weather being predictably unpredictable. Shortly after Doug turned off toward home just past Wawa. the weather changed from a balmy 30C (86F) to about 10C (50F) in about one hour. What can I say about the rest of the ride home to Thunder Bay? After eating a nice meal in White River, the weather continued to get worse. By the time we reached the turnoff to Manitouwadge, it started to rain and Steve put on his raingear. After that - it was wet, blustery, cold, and miserable. Even though my Joe Rocket Alter-Ego suit kept me dry - I was shivering noticeably under my gear. We stopped every hour to pry ourselves off the bikes, warm up, and sip and cradle hot chocolate like it was Coors Light from the day before. Lee was concerned that hypothermia might be setting in (as we all were) and figured that she would wisely end her journey for the day in Nipigon, ON - one hour shy of Thunder Bay. We almost didn't make it. About 10 KMs before reaching Nipigon, Steve slowed, pulled over to the side of the road, and was slalom-ing his bike like an F1 car with an empty fuel cell. He had run out of gas. After inspecting both fuel tanks (the DR800 has two) it appeared that one tank was still full - yet the bike wasn't getting fuel from that side. Fortunately, Lee came to the rescue with a 1 L Primus fuel bottle, and once Steve fired up the DR800 again, we pushed on to Nipigon. With Steve riding ahead and doing his best hypermiler imitation, he made it to the pump with fuel to spare. After some food and drink, Lee rode off to the Beaver Motel in town, while Steve and I continued to stubbornly freeze our a$$es off on the last 100 KMs (60 miles) to Thunder Bay. We got in at around 9:30PM. It was one of the coldest rides I've ever completed. When I drove around Boulevard Lake near home, I noticed some people walking around the path in shorts and sweatshirts. It felt like 0 C (32F) on the bike - yet from what people were wearing - it couldn't have been that cold. Minutes later when I arrived home, I took a 30 minute hot shower and felt better, but still had the chills afterwards (I just couldn't warm up) so I plugged in a portable heater and sat at my computer in front of it. Eventually, I started to feel "warm" again. I checked the current temperature online and it showed 10C (50F). It was only after I read through postings in the Northern Riders section of ADV Rider later that evening that I discovered that Ron had beat us home by about 2 hours. He concurred that it was one of the coldest rides he had ever experienced.<o:p></o:p>
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One of the original goals for this trip included a desire to more fully "bond" with the WR250R. So after 1600 KMs of riding in all kinds of weather conditions, on pavement and gravel, with the bike loaded up behind me with camping gear, over-taking highway traffic, riding slow, riding fast, feeding it fuel, climbing on and off frequently - actually "living" with the bike for a few days - had my previous impressions of the WR250R changed at all? I remember months ago thinking about the WR and comparing it to my other bikes and wondering if it lacked "character". This may not have been a fair assessment, as dual-purpose (dual-sport) bikes by their very nature are designed to be all-purpose bikes - a bike that can do it all, yet not excel in any one domain. But the more I thought about it - the more I realized after my recent trip - that the best way to experience the character of the WR - was to ride it like I did - through a variety of conditions - put it through its paces and allow it to show you how it can shine - when in its element. And by allowing it to do just that, it opened my eyes to how fun and versatile this bike really can be if you give it a chance to let it show you. Its character shows through in these environments and really offers up lots of value for the minimalist adventurer. From the fearless and confident way it handled rock-strewn dirt roads, to the entertaining way it braved buffeting and gusty highway riding, to its spirited "this bike produces more power than a 250cc dual-sport ought to" feeling when cracking the throttle and accelerating to pass out on the highway. A few days after the ride, I found myself investing more time and money into the bike. I smiled thinking that I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think it was worth it. So there I was, purchasing a new $200 rear rack so I could eventually mount a Givi hard case - to make loading and off-loading camping gear quicker and easier. I also purchased new under-the-bar mirrors to help protect them from the ravages of tight trail riding. And I purchased a Kriega US20 tankbag and adaptor, so I need never go without again. I re-installed my stock seat and found it much more habitable. And this led me to think about the trip again, and how natural the upright riding position of the bike feels. The WR rides like a veritable Gold Wing compared to my CBR125R and CBR250R in terms of leg room and overall comfort. And I thought about how much easier it is to see above city traffic - on the WR I feel like Marshall "Sam McCloud" riding a horse through NYC. Yes - I realized I was giving this bike more attention than I had had in a long time. I had to resign myself to the fact that I too was now suffering from "hemispatial sportibike neglect". I remember thinking to myself......Yes - there IS something special about the WR.<o:p></o:p>
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I hope you've enjoyed this trip report and found the description and details of my gear, the bike, and the riding area both useful, enjoyable, and entertaining. And I also hope that sharing this adventure helped you imagine for a moment just what it might be like to ride the WR250R along the north shore of Lake Superior, camp over-night, and make new friends over on the Northern Riders section of the ADV Rider Forum. Maybe like me, you will find satisfaction and some excitement in reading through this report in the middle of January in anticipation of the spring thaw - and that first opportunity to set out on another new adventure of your own.<o:p></o:p>
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Mike <o:p></o:p>

nofate 06-16-2012 11:45 AM

Great ride report Mike. You sure have a way with words...and they're all spelled correctly too. :D

sendler 06-16-2012 02:26 PM

Nicely done.

Cannonshot 06-16-2012 02:29 PM

Nice ride. Beautiful scenery. Really liked the pictograph pictures. :thumb

OldSilverFox 06-16-2012 04:29 PM

Nanabijou
 
Great RR. Have been around Superior several times but always find I've missed something and need to ride around again. It never gets tiring and never seems the same. Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

PiffleMaster 06-16-2012 07:12 PM

Thanks!
 
Mike, thanks for coming through with the final two chapters in this entertaining report.
Much appreciated. :clap

ZZR_Ron 06-16-2012 10:26 PM

Hummphhh! About time!

The best ride report of NOS ever!!!:D


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