You Can't Tour On That! A 4000KM Ontario Trip On A 2011 CBR150R
Part I - Starting Out Along the North Shore
You can't tour on that. The message seemed clear enough. Yet - I still felt like asking: "You don't have to beat around the bush - give it to me straight - what is it that you're really trying to say here?!?" I've heard this so many times from so many people. Most of them actually rode vehicles of the two-wheeled variety too. They were a convincing lot. And they almost had me believing them. This all began after I purchased my 2009 CBR125R in 2010, and just before I rode it from Thunder Bay, ON to Winnipeg, MB - and back (a total of 1600kms in 3 days) on a camping trip a few months later - to see if I could answer that question myself. To determine if this assertion was indeed true. Kinda like Descartes' epiphany - to question everything - to accept nothing as true unless it could be unequivocally demonstrated to be so. I wanted and needed to find out. Would I be able to quip: "I rode - therefore I can."
I suppose yet another reason for the trip was to prove that the CBR125R could actually do it. By the time I set out on my first trip - I had already kindled an emotional bond with the bike - with it surprising me in many ways - coming through when I needed it most - to the point where I was ready to fight to defend the honour of this supposedly inferior mechanical specimen. A final question I also had to ask was whether "I" could do it. Did I have the physical endurance and mental stamina to ride a small bike farther than the few kilometers to the nearest local Tim Horton's that all the big bike riders boasted of being able to do? And then there were the derogatory comments. I had to fend off frequent, and at times - heated criticism for purchasing a "beginner's bike" - a "toy bike" as it was referred to. Did the dealer fiendishly affix the Honda label over the one that read Fisher-Price on the fuel tank? One local motorcycle dealer even made a friendly bet with me that I'd be in his shop within two weeks of riding to purchase a 650cc "upgrade". He swore that I would change my tune once I rode a "real" motorcycle. By real motorcycle, I figured he was referring to one that cost ungodly amounts of money, was heavier than a Smart car, cornered like Wile E. Coyote perched on top of an ACME rocket, netted poorer fuel economy than my Honda Civic, and required me to take out a second mortgage to pay for insurance and maintenance. Yet - he was the expert. Maybe he was right? Granted - I conceded that buying a bike didn't necessarily have to be strictly a rational thing - and accepted that it could be driven more by desire and emotion. Then I was also fed the bizarre insidious belief that the bike would be exceedingly dangerous and "unsafe" as it wouldn't have enough power to "accelerate rapidly at highway speeds to....[wait for it].....avoid danger". Did brakes not come standard on these large bikes? Ironically, all the data I had read from the U.S. National Traffic Highway and Safety Administration suggested that the danger and risk of motorcycle riding lied primarily in purchasing large displacement bikes (over 500cc) even accounting for the number of bikes sold. And the most common risk factor involved in fatal motorcycle accidents was "speeding". Not wearing a helmet and alcohol consumption were also mentioned.
While I assumed much of the banter I'd experienced was largely playful in nature - I was wondering how people might react to finding out that the CBR125 could hold its own in a touring and camping environment. Since that time I've reported on four trips I've taken on small displacement bikes. Here they are:
Below is my newish 2011 CBR150R decked out for touring. It's sitting outside of my girlfriend's place - eager to go - after I washed it, checked the tire pressures, changed the oil, and inspected, cleaned and lubed the chain. I love my girlfriend deeply for many reasons. The fact that she has a huge virtually unused garage sitting at the end of her driveway where she insists I store and work on my bikes - simply adds immeasurably to her charms.
So where am I now? Well - in a shocking turn of events - the motorcycle dealer and I are now like "BFF's". After riding my CBR125R to Toronto and back later that year - I entered his shop and was treated like I had been recently awarded the Victoria Cross for valour in the face of fighting an enemy disguised as a small-displacement bike - for 3200kms. We may have even bumped fists and he may have even muttered "respect". Not sure though - I was so stunned at the time thinking that I was suddenly being ushered - accepted - into the local freemason-like exclusive motorcycle fraternity - that the rest was a blur - a combination of strong elation and severe confused dissociation. I'm also still in traction at our local hospital and popping Oxy's from a Batman themed Pez dispenser for the damage to my lower back that riding a slow bike over long distances for 3 years - tucked in most of the time - has created. They were right all along. Who knew?!? (Teasing - no really - don't PM me - I'm not in the hospital). My camping and touring setup has also evolved over this time and I've since purchased an assortment of new gear - replacing older stuff that ultimately either didn't work, was bumped by something that did a better job, was lighter in weight, took up less space, cost a crap load of money which through cognitive-dissonance led me to believe that it must be better, or all of the above.
So here it is. My fifth report. I decided to head out on June 19th, 2013, for a 4000KM , 10-day trip across Northern and Southern Ontario aboard my 2011 CBR150R. Like my previous excursions, I had a few goals in mind. I'd traveled along the north shore of Lake Superior numerous times and wanted to snap some photos and capture some places that I hadn't visited previously. And as I age - I find myself thinking about my youth and the fun I had growing up in a small town in Northern Ontario and I've been yearning to travel back there. Have you ever had the urge to explore some places that you last visited as a teenager? You know - those special places where you and your friends used to hang out - where every day seemed to be sunny, and staying in the house and watching T.V. was about as appealing as being water-boarded? When I look back on these places now, they continue to hold a special significance for me. But surprisingly - I remember how they held a special significance for me back then too. I'm thankful that I had at least one limbic neuron fire like a iridium plug - at just the right time - at a much younger age - that helped me consolidate and appreciate the present - the here and now. How long had it been since you returned to where you grew up - re-visited these places - and re-ignited the fires of youth? It was time for me to go back. And there was yet another goal. It involved a boat-launch site on a lake near where I grew up. To the other side of the inlet - across the water - was a fair distance. I remember my dad asking me if I thought I could throw a rock across to the other side. We both had pretty good throwing arms. I could throw home-runs in some local ball diamonds. After several tries - I finally launched one over to the other side. My dad came close (and despite what he might say when he reads this) he didn't quite make it. Now - more than 25 years later - I just needed to give it another try. It was just something I had to do. I wanted another shot at it. Could I still do it?
Another important goal involved meeting up with several other CBR125R forum members at our annual gathering - this time near Bancroft, ON, just a few hours ride north east of Toronto. I met up with them already at Balsam Lake a couple of years ago, and at Wakami Lake Provincial Parks last year (both were covered in my previous trip reports). I enjoyed both gatherings immensely and looked forward to another eventful get-together.
Here is a Google Maps capture of the first portion of my trip. From Thunder Bay to Rabbit Blanket Lake Provincial Park just south of Wawa, ON. This first leg would be about 522 kms (326 miles) with several stops for photos.
I'd also been eager to try out some new gear and embark on the first tour with my newest acquisition - a 2011 CBR125R picked up in September 2012. Shortly after it was purchased - it was endowed with the 4-valve 149cc engine hand-me-down that was recently cradled inside of my 2009 CBR125R chassis. I loved the new 2011 re-design of the CBR125R and so was really looking forward to this engine breathing new life into the updated bike. One significant change to my setup this time around involved a Hepco & Becker rear rack, and a Givi E55 Maxia top case - the largest one they make. If it was any larger - I could curl up in it and use it as a tent. I admit that I've been resisting adding a hard case to any of my bikes out of handling and balance concerns mostly stemming from the prospect of having a large bulbous and heavy container sticking out and up from the back of my bike. I needn't have worried. Handling never seemed adversely affected, aside from presenting a formidable barrier to the wind at highway speeds. Still - the convenience of having quick to load, and easy to secure - lockable storage - outweighs any other foreseeable negatives for me. Many think this case is overkill for such a small bike - and they'd be correct. Yet when you're camping exclusively and are carrying what essentially amounts to a bed and home with you on the bike - the extra carrying capacity is always appreciated. Speaking of which - there was at least one other additional perk to this new setup that had me excited. My cot could now be quickly and easily latched onto the front arms of the rack. It was like a revelation. Two carabiner bungee cords - wrapped around a few times on each end - and secured to the struts. No more fussing and fiddling trying to find creative ways to carry my cot. I also purchased a pair of Sidi Canyon water-proof riding boots. This is my fourth pair of supposedly water-proof boots. I've been told that "Unlike what has been said about other boots - these ones are actually water-proof". The best I can say is that they haven't leaked yet.....
Invariably, just before I departed I found myself plagued by obsessive thoughts that I was forgetting something important. Riding a motorcycle on a camping and touring adventure means there are so many little things to remember to bring. Still - I decided to fill up in town - to ensure that I wasn't 200kms away when I suddenly discovered via an empty pocket - a jolt of electricity throttling my spine - and a eidetic mind's eye image of my wallet sitting in the garage on the shelf next to the can of Invisible Glass - that I was missing something.
After fueling I rode out Lakeshore Drive along Lake Superior for my obligatory warm-up and customary stop at Wild Goose Beach Park a mere 15 minutes east of the city. Why? I told myself that it was for practical reasons. For one last check to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. You know - and to ensure that the gear was still faithfully secured on the bike.
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But the real reason involved paying my respects to Nanabijou - the Sleeping Giant out on Lake Superior - the rock solid centrepiece of the region - and iconic landmark of Thunder Bay. This time I noticed I wasn't the only one giving my regards. Despite his owner's insistence that he return to the car, this guy just sat there and stared out at the big lake. His owner didn't appear pleased. After she pleaded with him a bit - he slowly got up and faked both of us out - by heading down to the beach - in the opposite direction. Must be a male dog - I thought. Like me - he seemed similarly drawn to this place. And like a furiously focused honey badger - he just didn't care about no car ride! Hey - turns out we have a lot in common! I should have whistled and pointed to my pillion seat. I bet he would have been good company. Sorta like the motorcycle equivalent of B.J. & The Bear.
When some people ask me what it's like to ride a motorcycle along the north shore of Lake Superior - one thing I often tell them is that depending on the time of year - it can be a remarkably lonely experience. But if you are the kind of person who craves solitude and isolation once in a while - it might be one of the best lonely experiences you'll find anywhere. You rarely meet up with other people on your adventure. Laconic and depressed gas station attendants provide your only stimulating conversation for the day. It's just you and the bike. As I was riding the north shore this time - a song kept resonating through my head - an "earworm" is the scientific term. You know - the catchy tune that you just can't excoriate from your brain fast enough - and the harder you try - the more it starts ringing in your ears? I owe this one to Three Dog Night. ¯"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do".......¯
So what was it like riding the CBR150R out on the open road? It was evident with the large case out back that my drag coefficient was hovering around the freightliner truck range. Thankfully - I was only carrying my sleeping bag, air mattress, sandals, and rain gear in the Givi - so it remained light in weight. And while I made sure the heavy stuff was packed down low in my Ortlieb bags - the saddles stuck out enough that I'm sure they didn't help my aerodynamics much either. So despite carrying an abundance of weight and wind-fighting luggage - I found I was still able to cruise around 100km/hr (GPS) on the flats in top (6th) gear - sitting straight up - most of the time. I opted to go one tooth down on the front sprocket - so cruising at this speed placed me right on top of the torque peak for the CBR150R. What about the long, steep hills that tower over the north shore? The smaller ones I was able to climb in 5th at about 90km/hr. For some of the larger ones - it required a downshift to 4th and a comfortable 80km/hr. I could have ascended them faster if desired - but there was no need. I was alone for most of the trip - and there wasn't any one around to hold up. ¯"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do....¯"
But is it crazy to want to ride a CBR150R on a 10-day, 4000km camping adventure? Maybe. Particularly if you are used to riding a Goldwing and are looking for something a little lighter in weight that handles better. This wouldn't be the bike for you. You need to be physically and mentally prepared. Think of it as somewhat akin to the banshee-like flying creatures in Avatar ...... (O.K. - trust me - I think I know where I'm going with this). You may believe that the bike is the right fit for you - and that you have selected it. However, the harsh reality is that the bike actually selects you. If you aren't worthy it'll tell you. Granted - it won't try to spit you off like this epic Spanish rider's tank slapper (see here for reference:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Fa0GmdSN4A ) but you will be fighting it.
As mentioned, one of my goals for this trip was to try to capture some photos of Lake Superior and the north shore scenery that I hadn't captured previously. This presents quite a challenge and requires some thoughtful preparation. On each of my trips east of Thunder Bay - I've always stopped at this lookout about 25kms east of Nipigon. The only thing that identifies it is a long highway hill - and then a roadside picnic table sign on the right-hand side of the road. This rest area includes outhouses and an incredibly spectacular view. I wish such rest areas were built on top of more climbs like this along Lake Superior.
While I made a conscious decision to focus more on scenery I hadn't captured on my previous trips - I just had to snap another photo of this view from the rest area lookout. It was hard to resist the urge - yet each time I travel this route the views look so different - that I never truly feel like I am taking the same photo twice.
<o:p>Eager to snag a shot that I'd never taken before - I walked, stumbled, tripped, and then crawled through dense bush in the direction of the highway rock-cut - graciously taking one for the team - for your viewing enjoyment. All this bushwhacking yielded a photo that gives you a bit of a sense of what you'd be seeing coming from the opposite direction (heading west) along this route. Just out of the frame was a flagman directing traffic. I was dying to talk with him. ¯"One" is the loneliest number that you'll ever do....¯"</o:p>
There. One original photo under my belt. And there would be more. I was both excited and somewhat apprehensive about the next photo. In a trip report from last year, I met a son and dad team camping at Neys Provincial Park who were riding Suzuki V-Stroms along the north shore. They had explored what they described as a treacherous road across from the park entrance that meandered up a high hill and ended at a communications tower. They insisted that my CBR wouldn't make it. I secretly regarded this as a challenge. Yet I realized that I wouldn't have another rider available if something went awry. Still - I do have an affinity for high points - and one of my goals was to snap some original shots of the north shore - right?!? How would it turn out? Stay tuned for Part II.
Small bikes can handle big challenges!
Great looking bike and scenery.
You Can't Tour On That. A 4000KM Ontario Trip On A 2011 CBR150R
Part II - Rabbit Blanket Lake Provincial Park
The ride along Hwy 17 between Terrace Bay and Marathon is still one of my favourites. Nice changes in elevation, spectacular views of Lake Superior, and an incredibly twisty roadway. By the time I was nearing Neys Provincial Park and my nemesis for the day - the hill lookout - I was fighting excitement mixed with some understandable trepidation. How daunting would the climb be? Were Dan and his dad Art correct in stating that the CBR wouldn't make it? These were the thoughts running through my mind as I turned off onto the tower road located adjacent to the Neys Lunch Restaurant across from the park entrance. For the first hundred meters or so everything felt great and I began thinking that this actually might be much easier than I'd expected. Yet it's usually this kind of overconfidence that precedes being dishonorably thrown from the bike. This train of thought was suddenly interrupted as I encountered a lengthy section of road that looked remarkably like Veradero beach. How would the CBR handle fine, soft sand? Terribly as it turned out. From behind - I bet it looked like I was trying to imitate Chubby Checker with the rapid back and forth slaloming action that the bike was now showing. This wasn't going to be as easy as I had figured a few moments before. I didn't fancy having my CBR150R take its first nap out on a sandy road in the middle of nowhere. Then again - my Ortlieb saddles stuck out further than the Givi case - so if I happened to meet such a fate - I was somewhat confident that the soft bags would provide some good cushioning and prevent the top case from contacting the ground. Still - I wanted to avoid such peril at all costs. At least the route to the top was well travelled with no guess-work needed. Soon it became apparent that the road gods weren't about to rule in my favour as the grade became steeper and the roadbed became noticeably rougher. With the increasing steepness came ruts, eroded sections, loose gravel, large rocks, unpredictable off-camber sections, and an assortment of other obstacles (e.g., tree branches, grass, guardrails) to remind you that a constant mental focus was absolutely essential to climbing through this gauntlet. Such intense focus prevented me from keeping track of how many times I experienced a near upset on the way up. Each loose rock jarred the CBR and threw it off course, and with the significant weight I was carrying, not to mention the scant suspension travel I was sporting - the punishing ride up felt much like what it looks like to ride a mechanical bull. By the time I reached the tight, hairpin-like bends in the road (clearly seen in the image) - I wondered what else the road might throw at me. It became almost comical.
Here is a Google Earth capture of the hill and the meandering road leading to the top. The hill is over 500ft above the road below and sits about 850 ft above Lake Superior.
I could appreciate what Dan and Art had warned me about the year before - and I seemed to recall them describing some dramatic near "get-offs" during their ascent as well. This was a tricky climb - fully loaded with gear on a street-bike. Granted - it would have been much less challenging on a dual-sport - like my WR250R. Yet - just when it seemed at the time that the obstacles would eventually wear me down - and ultimately catch me off guard - the road started to return to a more gradual climb again - and I could tell that the worst was over for now. Fortunately, I was rewarded with some spectacular views.
Here's a view from the top looking west toward Neys Provincial Park.
This photo was taken looking southeast toward Coldwell.
So how was the ride down the hill? Not any better. I remember at one point thinking "Hey I should take a photo of this so people will apprecia....." and in that brief lapse of attention - I almost did a brake-stand...with only my rear brake in use. I thought it better to just concentrate on getting down in one piece - and then write about it as descriptively as I could - later.
My destination for the first night was originally supposed to be White Lake Provincial Park between Marathon and White River. However, this would have meant that the next leg of my journey would be a more lengthy 750kms - and an extra long day in the saddle - so I chose instead to find another campground closer to my route inland from Wawa. That turned out to be to Rabbit Blanket Lake Provincial Park - about 33 kms south of the large goose. Just before reaching the park - a young bear ran across the road and scrambled up an embankment in front of me. One of several wildlife encounters I experienced throughout the day. If you are looking to spot wildlife on a motorcycle tour - the north shore is as great a place as any. A few moments later - when I reached the gate - I was elated (actually jubilant) that there was an attendant there waiting to assist with registration. I admit - I was so starved for human contact at this point that perhaps seeing another human probably contributed to my exuberant display of hypo-mania. I felt like kissing the park attendant. If you've read my previous reports - you know how I abhor the tedium, pain, and indignation of having to go through the throes of self-registration. You know - looping endlessly - struggling to find a suitable and un-occupied site, then being burdened with completing the self-registration form (if you can find a pen) - and paying well over $30 for the opportunity. So you can understand my joy and relief in having the entire process completed quickly and efficiently by another human - who had quick access to available site, could pull my address and information instantly from the computer - and could charge my Visa card - without the need for exact change - with little fuss. This is how every visitor should be welcomed. Yet - this elation was only short-lived - cut-off abruptly by the her carefully worded caveat - "Unfortunately we have no water in the campground". She added that some potential visitors made haste in the direction of Agawa Bay Campground - 55 kms further south - as an alternative. I really didn't see that as an option. Perhaps as a way of softening my disappointment - she informed me that I would likely be the only one staying in the 60-site campground this evening. Yes - I'd have it all to myself ¯"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do....¯". One benefit was that I could now choose any site. The attendant recommended #11, as she had heard (umm....apparently from hoards of visitors?!??) that it was the nicest site in the park. I was about to find out. I joked that I'd seen a bear just up the road so perhaps I'd have some company this evening. The fact that she didn't offer any reassurance, and didn't exactly deny that possibility - gave me pause. So out of curiousity - and a strict desire for self-preservation I asked "So who can I call if there is a problem tonight?". While her answer was kind and compassionately worded - it came out sounding to me much like "no one". She added that there was no cell phone signal in the park either. I thought that this would make for a pretty compelling plot-line for a new slasher film. As I was leaving the gate - I thought I could make out the faint whispering "chih-chih-chih-chih......hah..hah..hah" sounds common to the Friday the 13th franchise. Heck - it was Wednesday the 19th - and unless a few pages stuck together in Jason's day-planner - I considered myself in the clear. I could now take comfort that the Three Dog Night ear-worm was gone - but was concerned that it had now been replaced by something more sinister that sounded nothing like Chuck Negron on vocals.
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The site did look great situated right on Rabbit Blanket Lake. I also appreciated how straight-forward the campground layout was organized. Essentially two adjacent loops - with a comfort station in the middle. Apparently the park was named for a blanket made of rabbit fur pelts crafted by aboriginal people - the first visitors to the area.
As soon as I arrived - I removed all essential gear from the bike and began assembling my home for the evening. I'm still loving my Nemo Moki single-walled, water-proof tent. It packs fairly small (about the size of a football) and I appreciate the simplicity of not having to setup a rain-fly. Any drawbacks? Nemo touts the convenience of being able to erect the tent in the rain, as the design necessitates that two cross poles be inserted inside - thus permitting partial assembly of the tent while staying dry (there are two other poles that clip to the exterior of the tent). What they didn't mention is that you need an open door to position these poles inside and this allows swarms of mosquitos buzzing around you - to gain easy entry. While the tent is completely bombproof and retains its rigidity even under the most determined wind and rain - I would be willing to forego the bombproof-ness of this shelter for the same tent - with a three or four exterior clipped pole design. Why am I mentioning this? Well the mosquitos drained me of more blood than a distracted ADHD-diagnosed cell-phone texting nurse at an emergency blood drive. I was making my contribution to their healthy ecosystem. And their numbers seemed to multiply as time wore on. Yes - there WAS something I had forgotten to take with me - insect repellant. Lest you think I might be complaining - whining - unnecessarily - keep in mind I'm not talking about a few mosquitos here and there. I could handle that. To get an impression of how ubiquitous they were - later in the evening I slapped the calf of my leg and counted 11 dead mosquitos on the palm of my hand. I opted to leave my gear on - including my helmet. It seemed to make the most sense at the time. But running around swatting flies and performing frequent squats - made me feel like I was like doing a Billy Blanks Tae-bo workout in a snowmobile suit.....inside a Finnish sauna. Did I mention it was rather warm outside? I hoped my fortunes would soon improve.
<o:p>After my tent was assembled, I decided to ride back toward Wawa for some fuel, some eats, and an opportunity to contact my girlfriend to reassure her that I had reach my destination for the day. I had read online that the Subway in Wawa boasted a wireless hotspot - so I was eager to check my e-mails as well. And to be honest - I was really looking forward to escaping the mosquitos. Can you blame me? Unfortunately, once I was on my bike again - some stowaways managed to limbo themselves between my helmet and my temples. I thought I was in the clear after stopping, removing my helmet, and slapping myself silly like a Three Stooges skit - but for some reason - and I'm not sure if I was just imagining this or if the critters were really in my helmet - (kinda like the mosquito equivalent of cocaine formication or methamphetamine "crank bugs") I continued to feel the sensation of them crawling around for much of the ride into Wawa. Once at the Subway I was looking forward to sitting in a mosquito free environment, sipping on a drink, eating a healthy sub, checking my e-mail, and touching base with my girlfriend. Part of the reverie was shattered when I asked an associate for the wireless password - and was informed that they were "Having some problems with the connection today". Sure enough - when I finally sat down to eat and removed the laptop from its home inside my Kriega waterproof bag - and tried to connect - I couldn't. And a quick call to my girlfriend ended even quicker with me having to leave a message. As I was leaving the restaurant and retrieving my helmet and gloves from the top case (the convenience of locking my helmet and gloves inside the Givi made life so much easier) a fellow stepped outside and inquired about the bike's displacement. I said "Take a guess." He said "Hmmm...about 500cc's or so?". </o:p>
<o:p></o:p><o:p>When I returned to Rabbit Blanket Lake Park, the sun was slowly starting to set so I decided to capture a few more photos of the lake. I thought the one below nicely reflected what I observed as I was getting ready to turn in for the evening. The shot even managed to capture a mosquito towards the lower right-hand corner. How fitting! I had run down to the lake to escape them. They were in hot pursuit.
Before retiring, I decided to head to the comfort station to re-charge my cell phone and see whether taking a shower was possible. I had assumed that no water meant "no showers" as well - but I brought along a change of clothes and my toiletries just in case this wasn't the case. I was pleased to discover that there was indeed hot water for a shower - but no current from the wall outlet. I've learned to be flexible and accept such obstacles - particularly when touring before peak season. The priority was taking a nice, long, and hot shower anyway - so this really wasn't the end of the world. The long ride - mixed in with wearing waterproof and non-breathable raingear - on top of my heavy Joe Rocket textile jacket and pants - combined with the sweltering tent raising workout - meant that a shower was not only desired - but necessary. This is another perk to traveling on a motorcycle. The little things that you normally take for granted - often produce such hedonic pleasure - that the you wonder if part of the reason for the discomfort during the day is to reap the incredible rewards found at the end of it. Life was good again. The shower felt incredible. I had the entire park to myself. I was wearing fresh, clean clothes. I smelled good. Once I cleared my tent of flying insects - I would be golden. It was going to be a good night. I decided to retire early - partly because there was nothing else to do. After a few minutes of sporadic hand claps that mimicked the puzzled audience reaction to the end of the first pre-screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey - I figured the mosquito culling was near complete. I decided to leave the screen up on the door to allow a gentle breeze to waft through. Not only to enhance my slumber - but to hopefully air out my gear at the same time. Once in the comfort of my sleeping bag - I took out some reading material. There was no one around except for some loons, birds, forest floor critters, and what appeared to be a guy in a goalie mask taking cover behind the comfort station. I hadn't read for pleasure in a long time. Yet - I craved something a little more intellectually stimulating. Under the light of my head-lamp, I pulled out Scott Lilienfeld's "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behaviour" and began to read.
There's something to be said about being alone in a park, in your tent, with virtually nothing to do. Without a watch - I wasn't even aware of or even cared about what hour it was. Nor did I even consider turning on my cell phone to find out. I figured I fell asleep around 10PM that night - the earliest I've gone to sleep in a very long time. It was nice to not have to keep track of time. I slept incredibly deeply and soundly. When was that last time you slept so soundly in a tent?
Stay tuned for Part III.
Good on you. This is my next bike!
In Europe they call a variant the Varadero 125. I am a believer that this is the way to go. Cheap to buy, run and abandon when things go wrong.
People go agog when I say small is better. I just sold my F650GS Dakar the day after finishing the the Trans Lab; just a couple of days ago. The Dakar was flawless, but what is the point of 100kph 'adventuring'?
I am quite disappointed at all the 'up-sizing' of adventure bikes these days. Fabricating 'need' and creating envy to feed a consumerist agenda. Ever take note of Ewan McGregor's tears and sweat for picking up his 1200GS (over and over again) or the fact that the cameraman had much more fun on his tiny Russian bike? Note to self....
You Can't Tour On That. A 4000KM Ontario Trip On A 2011 CBR150R
Part III - The Long Road To Finlayson Point
When I awoke I was unsure of the time, but estimated that it was around 7:00AM (*Update: the data attached to the photo indicates that it was taken at 5:05AM!!). My decision to leave the tent mesh open was a good one. There was virtually no early morning stuffiness (i.e., rank odor) in the tent - and my Joe Rocket jacket and pants smelled noticeably fresher than I traumatically recalled from just last night. When I stepped outside I was greeted with the following view captured below. I capitalized on a rare mosquito free opportunity and snapped a few photos. So this is what it looked like that morning on Rabbit Blanket Lake. It's great to look at photos following a trip - and then suddenly recall the feelings, thoughts, and sense of wonder you had when the original image was captured.
My view of Rabbit Blanket Lake at um....5:05AM.
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I knew that the mosquitos would be back for another round - so I donned my helmet and got to work on my morning packing ritual which included 1) returning my sleeping bag it its stuff sack, 2) deflating and rolling up my air bed, 3) disassembling my cot, and 4) placing all of the remaining gear in my tent out on the picnic table. With the new Givi case already secured to the bike, and the convenience of being able to quickly tie-town my cot to the rack - I figured that it took me about 45 minutes to have everything smartly stored back on the bike again. This seemed reasonable considering the level of comfort I was able to enjoy with this setup.
What were my thoughts about Rabbit Blanket Lake Provincial Park? I'd definitely stay here again. Granted - the mosquitos were nothing short of ravenous - but I've learned to expect that in any Northern Ontario park. The keys for me were 1) The convenience of having an attendant there when I arrived at 6:30PM, 2) The convenience of being located just off of the highway (I didn't find the sound of traffic in the night to disturb my sleep in any way), 3) A nice and intuitive campground layout, and 4) A comfort station. At the end of the day, a hot shower, flush toilets, and a sink so you can brush your teeth and shave in the morning is hard to beat.
I was satisfied that I would be leaving early (even though I had no notion at the time - that it was as early as it was) knowing that I had a long day ahead of me. If I wanted to adhere to my goal of reaching Finlayson Point Provincial Park in Temagami by late afternoon - I would have to make good time. Lamentably, this also meant that I wouldn't be stopping as frequently, and snapping near as many photos. I re-traced my route back into Wawa and headed east on Hwy 101 toward Chapleau.
I had ridden this route a few times previously (described in my earlier trip reports) and had driven it often. While it may be hard to grasp after my description of how isolating it can feel riding along the north shore on Hwy 17, this long stretch of blacktop is even more remote and lonely. Yet this is what I was looking forward to - the tranquility of Hwy 101 and the mossy and sandy sections on either side of the road that reminded me of home. I was also intent on paying a visit to Potholes Provincial Park (a day-use area) about 35 kms east of Wawa. I had passed by the sign on many occasions and had wanted to pay a visit for several years. Now I'd have my chance. <o:p>As soon as I climbed off of the bike - it was clear that the mosquito situation wasn't going to be any better here - so I opted to keep my helmet and gear on. At least I could find comfort in the coolness of the morning (it was about 7:30AM!) and from the posted signage - the trail was only a few hundred metres in length - so I'd hardly break a sweat. Once again - I found myself all alone. I have to admit there was a certain feeling, a special kind of privilege in being in the middle of nowhere and realizing I had the entire place to myself. When I dream of riding while sitting on my computer chair with a space heater directed at my legs in the middle of the coldest part of January - this is the feeling that I yearn to re-live. And I find myself re-visiting these reveries often. </o:p>
<o:p>The uniquely sculpted "holes" in the bedrock were thought to be created when the rocks and debris from glacial melt waters churned around at the bottom of the riverbed and carved the bedrock into the forms you see here. The modest flow of the Kinniwabi river shown below is nothing like the torrent that preceded it when this part of the Canadian Shield was shaped. I was curious about the depth of the water in these holes. Apparently, the water is about 1.5m (5 ft) deep.</o:p>
After I left Potholes Park, my next stop would be Chapleau, ON for fuel and food - another 85km further east. Along this stretch, I don't believe I encountered any vehicles traveling in my direction, and only a few coming from the opposite way. This truly is a barren highway as far as traffic goes. No road rage to be found here, as there's nobody to direct your rage at. The only drawback is that it's relatively straight - so if you're looking to scrape some pegs - you won't find it here. I filled up at Syd's Esso on the outskirts of town and asked the gas station attendant where I might find a WIFI hot-spot in the area. You can imagine my shock and surprise when she stated there was a Subway restaurant downtown that fit the bill. After my experience in Wawa, I knew enough to not get overly excited. I'd visited Syd's on my previous trips, yet this was the first time that I would actually ride into Chapleau itself and I was immediately struck by how much larger it was than I had expected. And I was shocked to see a free-way-like overpass (over the railway tracks) that would have looked more at home along the 401 skirting Toronto. It curled in a tight 270 degree arc that allowed me to enjoy leaning the bike more than I had the entire day - before twisting the other way and emptying out onto the main drag. I found the Subway to the right of the first intersection. I tried to hide my utter look of amazement when informed that the WIFI connection was functional - and I revelled in being about to communicate with the outside world again. While I ate, I checked my e-mail, and sent out a message to notify others where I was and my intended destination for the day.
After leaving Chapleau, my plan was to ride non-stop to Timmins, ON to re-fuel - a distance of about 200 kms. With the larger fuel capacity of the newer CBR (13L vs 10L) I had the flexibility to ride for longer stints at one time. Almost immediately after re-joining Hwy 101 - I was greeted by a sea serpent-like series of rolling roadway that made me think of the air-time hills of roller-coasters I'd ridden. This treat lasted for about 40 kms. On one of the final hills I noticed the brake lights of a pickup-truck flash some distance ahead as the vehicle crested a hill. I slowed down as a precaution. Turns out - a large black bear - umm...make that an extremely large black bear about the size of Jabba the Hutt - had cross the road in front of the truck. It was the largest black bear I'd seen in a long time. I actually felt relief for the truck. After another 50 kms had passed, I spied the sign to Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park. I intended to stay here on my return trip from Southern Ontario and wondered what stories I'd be able to tell by the time I passed through here again in a little more than a weeks time.
Once I reached Timmins, I re-fueled at a Shell station and made sure to purchase a small pump bottle of OFF! so I could enjoy the experience of setting up my tent without being driven crazy at Finlayson Point Provincial Park. I had never traveled Hwy 101 from Timmins to Matheson previously so I was curious to see what this area had to offer. The scenery around Nighthawk Lake looked quite stunning - but soon the road became more typically Northern Ontario - straight - with lots of bush and tall trees on either side of the road - tunnel vision-esque - and no views. As we approached Matheson, the views began to change with the landscape opening up to reveal an expanse of fields and farmlands on either side. After Hwy 101 subtly turned into Hwy 11 - I found myself riding for another 100kms or so before I noticed a picnic sign on the right side of the road and decided to take advantage of this rest area next to Aide Creek. I also finished the other half of my Subway sandwich - that looked like it was composting in my tank bag in the hot sun. As I was sitting at a picnic table facing the highway - I heard the distinct sound of an inline-4 engine approaching from off to the side. Not sure how the fellow piloting it saw me - as he appeared to be looking straight ahead - but he somehow spotted the bike and me - and returned a big thumbs up and then soon disappeared along Hwy 11. <o:p>By this time, I discovered that Temagami was only about 100 kms away and realized I would be arriving at Finlayson Point Provincial Park on-time. Sweet.</o:p>
<o:p>The Finlayson (pronounced "FINN-liss-in") Point Provincial Park sign. It's just beyond a tightly cornered highway rock-cut. It kinda creeps up on you. I'm embarrassed to say I missed it a couple of times and had to turn back - even though I knew full well what to expect.</o:p>
About 50kms away from Temagami, I noticed that my fuel tank was down to the last two bars (about 1/3 of a tank remaining) from the 6 that identified a full tank, but I decided to carry on anyway, as there appeared to be numerous service stations along the route. When I arrived in Temagami with only one bar remaining, I estimated that I had traveled a total of about 260kms on the tank. I didn't realize it at the time, but this piece of information would unexpectedly foreshadow the next fateful leg of my trip. I re-fueled at the Petro-Canada station (that was also home to a.......Subway restaurant) in town and was told that the park was just around the corner. I entered Finlayson Point at 4:30PM, and quickly discovered that the gatehouse was closed and that I'd be self-register this evening. A young man and women in a pick-up truck pulling a trailer arrived at the same time and appeared surprised and just as indignant that they would be following suit. I decided to jump back on the CBR and ride through the campground hoping to find a spot next to Lake Temagami, in a quiet section of the park. There were many sites available. After about 10 minutes of riding - I found a few that looked promising, but when I spotted #37 right next to a beach - I decided to claim it. Now equipped with some insect repellant - I had the protection I needed to go toe to toe with the mosquito dive bombers. Strangely - there was hardly a bug in sight. At the time - I attributed this sudden good fortune to a moderate breeze blowing in from the lake. However, at no time during my stay were the bugs ever an issue. Despite now being equipped with some bug dope - ironically - I didn't need it - and so I set up my tent without any spray at all. Strangely - I also discovered that I couldn't get a cell signal from the park either.
Once my home for the evening was in place, I set off on my bike back into Temagami - to raid the Subway. Only this time there was another WIFI problem. It wasn't so much that this one wasn't functional. The issue was that it simply didn't exist. After I returned to the campsite, I just sat at the picnic table and looked around and daydreamed for about an hour. It was splendidly quiet. With no bugs. I needed to take advantage of this opportunity to reflect on the day, the ride, and the wilderness scene around me. Did I mention there were no bugs?
Then as the sun was beginning to reflect a surreal image on the lake , I thought I'd take another photo before retiring to my tent for the evening to read from my book and do some of my own reflecting. Not long after reading a few pages - my head started to bob like a freshly struck bobo doll. I can't believe I was ready to sleep by 9PM. It had been a long day. I was beat.
Here is a view from the shore next to my campsite.
Tomorrow I planned to visit Caribou Mt. and climb a re-conditioned fire tower that promised some great views of the area. Then it would be off to North Bay, and east toward a waterfall that a friend who grew up in North Bay suggested I visit. I was excited to be joining up with the other riders tomorrow as well.
Tune in to Part IV to see how the next part of my adventure would unfold.
That's a great area to ride, passed through in April in 2010 on my heavier than a smart car bike :lol3. It was coolish and snowing at times but still spectacular. When I did my bike course they had a 125 that they were trying out as a possible replacement for their bikes, it was a hoot to ride, put smiles on your face for it's fun factor. How is it on the hwy loaded up for travel?
You Can't Tour On That! A 4000KM Ontario Trip On A 2011 CBR150R
Part IV - Running on Empty
I was particularly excited about rising from my slumber and getting back on the bike. Not only did I have a great, long, and satisfying sleep that I found incredibly invigorating - I was looking forward to climbing one of Temagami's featured attractions - a fire tower located nearby at the top of Caribou Mountain. I was sure the views would be breathtaking up there - and I had fond memories of climbing fire towers as a youth. Today I'd also be joining up with the group of CBR125R riders at our planned meeting site for our annual gathering - a camp along the York River near Bancroft, ON.
As I was packing the bike at around 7:30AM I heard the engine of a DHC-2 Beaver sputtering to life, and watched as it loped along - scouting the lake in preparation for what was sure to be a memorable take-off. I grabbed my camera and took a shot as it was turning around from the rocks below my site, then walked to the beach to capture a video of the run-up. A DHC-2 Beaver taking off from a lake in Northern Ontario. How Canadian can you get?!?
Click on the following link (select 1080P and full-screen) to see the take-off run that I saw from the beach next to my campsite.
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I said my goodbyes to Finlayson Point Provincial Park and rode back into Temagami to look for O'Connor Drive - the turnoff I needed to access the tower. The road to the climb couldn't have been more straightforward. After exiting from Hwy 11 - the signs led me all the way to the top of the mountain which sits about 300ft (88m) above Lake Temagami. Aside from a pickup truck in the parking lot - I was the only other visitor and the museum was closed. There was a $3 charge to climb the tower - so I dropped a $5 donation inside the fee drop box and then made my way up the short trail to the lookout.
<o:p><o:p>The tower itself was quite impressive. It certainly wasn't the traditional single-ladder straight-up rung equipped configuration that typified the original structures I had been used to climbing years ago. Then again - it wasn't nearly as dangerous either. Instead - it incorporated a spiral staircase all the way to the top - save for a short ladder that extended into the cupola opening. Still, for those afraid of heights - this would most certainly be an intimidating 100ft climb. It's higher than it looks....</o:p>
<o:p>The views from the cupola were pretty spectacular considering it was slightly over-cast. In the foreground just below the tower is Caribou Lake. Further out from there is Lake Temagami and Finlayson Point Provincial Park. To the lower left-hand corner of the image you can see the road that takes you to the tower.</o:p>
So what did my route look like for the day? Here it is - all 433kms of it.
After taking several photos and enjoying the cool breeze from the top - I climbed down and walked back to the bike - excited to get started on the next leg of my adventure. Soon I was cruising along Hwy 11 again - making my way toward North Bay. Strangely - this was one of the windiest sections of roadway I had encountered so far. Unfortunately, strong head-winds are the CBR's kryptonite, particularly when carrying a bulbous load of un-aerodynamic gear out back. Still, I was able to cruise at about 97km/hr (GPS) in 5th @ 9000 rpm (Redline is 11,500RPM) so I reassured myself that I wouldn't be holding up traffic at this pace. Unless I happened to try to overtake a transport truck that suddenly sped up as I was trying to overtake it - thus leaving me stranded in the passing-lane blocking traffic. Yes - I admit it. This is something that I take great pains to avoid. I recall following the semi at a consistent speed of 80km/hr for quite some time when a passing lane presented itself - and I saw an opportunity. When riding the CBR150R - such opportunities still require careful planning and an intimate understand of the tricks required to make the bike do what you want it to do - best. This usually involves creating a bit of distance between you and the truck - so you can benefit a bit from some drafting and beneficial turbulence moving along in the same direction. Then as you approach the passing lane - you wrap your body around the bike and tuck in while twisting the throttle to the stop in 5th gear to build up the revs, signalling, and checking your mirrors and blindspot - while accelerating and closing the gap behind the truck. If all goes as planned - you then slingshot past with all of the momentum of a scalded turtle. If you do it right - it truly is a thing of beauty. Rider and bike - working in harmony. When you miss it like I did - you suddenly feel like Han and Chewie when the Millennium Falcon crapped out while the crew were desperately trying to hit warp speed. The bike loses momentum and you remain in the left-hand passing lane feeling embarrassed, helpless, and vulnerable - wondering about the level of profanity being uttered within the hallowed compartments of the cages behind you. Or the quizzical looks on their faces as they plead "It's a motorcycle for Pete's sake - why is it taking so long to pass?!?!" My timing was indeed off. I didn't give myself enough room for the acceleration run (unlike the DHC-2 Beaver above) and when I entered the passing lane - I found myself stuck in the strong wall of turbulence created around the rear left-quarter of the truck. It didn't help that the road was climbing too. I felt like I was caught in a vortex. I looked down at my speedo and I was doing 100 km/hr (GPS). That the transport has been consistently cruising at 80km/hr and then was suddenly beside me keeping pace at 100km/hr suggested to me that he sped up. Whether it was intentional or not wasn't important. I tried dropping it down to 4th gear - but all I got was more revs - and no change in speed - so I returned to 5th and tucked in even farther onto the tank - and hoped the speed gods would show some mercy. Slowly I managed to pass the truck in what seemed like an entire minute - though it was only about 15 seconds - and immediately returned to the right-hand lane to let the trailing vehicles pass. Fortunately the passing lane was long enough that the entire convoy was able to follow - and with that - my sudden sense of guilt slowly diminished.
Not long after reeling from the humiliation - and as I was heading into North Bay, I noticed a few signs warning of a steep hill entering the city (known as Thibeault Hill). There were even signs indicating a truck run-out (a runaway truck ramp no less!) to physically catch "out-of-control" rigs. The actual hill wasn't as high, long, or as steep as I had envisioned it from the warning signs - but it afforded a great view of the city and surrounding area. Once in North Bay, I turned onto Hwy 17 east and for a brief moment considered stopping for fuel - but ultimately decided to wait (queue eerie foreshadowing music) until later. I had lots of fuel left - and my tank was huge....right? Why stop now?
A friend from North Bay (who I met in Thunder Bay) found out that I'd be riding through the area - and strongly encouraged me to visit Au Claire Gorge located a short 50kms east of North Bay. I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a break (I had ridden for 150 kms) and check out the falls. At this point in the day it was getting quite warm - yet I didn't feel like removing all of my gear for the trek down to the river - so I just placed my helmet next to the bike and began walking along the trail to the gorge. Soon it became quite clear that 1) The trail was longer than I had anticipated, and 2) I was horribly over-dressed for this hike in my full Joe Rocket attire. By the time I reached the falls - I felt like I was already swimming inside my gear.
There were several signs placed along the trail warning canoeists to not make an attempt on these rapids and for the love of god - portage around the them. Or something like that. I had to admit - the falls were quite impressive.
<o:p>I continued to walk the path further down the river in case I missed some important photographic scene - but the current began to subside and I was then treated to what you see below. It looked rather inviting and for a brief moment I contemplated taking a quick dip. </o:p>
Shortly after snapping this photo the trail started winding its way......up hill no less.....toward a logger's cabin. By the time I crested the top and reached the cabin, I encountered a group of hikers resting and having their lunch there. I offered a friendly "hello" and they returned the greeting - but by the expressions on their faces - I'm sure they thought I was nuts to be dressed for what looked like a snow-storm - in hot and humid late June weather. I slogged on as the trail continued to climb upwards - in what felt like nature's version of a practical joke - and was beginning to think that heat exhaustion was near. By the time I reached the bike again - I wanted nothing more than to ride away and feel the breeze touch my face - and blow through my helmet and vented clothing. The actual experience was sublime. It felt so rewarding - I couldn't recall a breeze ever feeling that good before. Another 7kms or so and I was back on Hwy 17 and feeling more normal again. The sudden high had worn off.
Before long I found myself riding into Mattawa, and decided that I would again dismiss another a fuel stop opportunity in exchange for the largest liquid beverage I could find. It came from Subway. It was cold. And it was in the largest cup they had to offer. It was Brisk Ice Tea. One gulp and my eyes started to water - not because I was suddenly being hydrated - it was clear that the drink was immediately evaporating as it hit the floor of my mouth - but the raw sensation just felt so good. I needed a rest. After downing what seemed like 3 litres of beverage - I decided to move on. Fuel? Who needs it?!? There'd be many other opportunities for fuel.....right?
As it turned out - I was wrong. The trade-off though was the spectacular views of the Ottawa River, and the enjoyable hills and vistas provided by Hwy 17. If the views weren't so stunning - I wouldn't have been so distracted to notice that my fuel gauge was now reading only 1 bar. And to make matters worse - that one bar was now flashing in a rather menacing manner. I vowed to stop at the next service station - but unfortunately I had to ride an uncomfortable distance before salvation appeared as a lone Esso station and restaurant/motel in Ralphton. I almost wept with joy. The feeling was fleeting as soon as I pulled up to the pumps and suddenly realized that they were closed. No joke. O.K. How far away was Deep River? About 20 kms. I reassured myself that the CBR was pretty easy to push.
There were some tense moments as I started making my way into Deep River, about 15 minutes later. I spotted a Petro-Canada station and figured that the mental torment was over - I was now home free. Yet - just as I was signalling to turn off the road - my bike stalled. It didn't sputter, hesitate, or hiccup - it just gave up. I pulled in the clutch and coasted toward the station and made the turn - with enough momentum to reach the pump. Out of curiosity - I put the bike in neutral and hit the started button. It turned over - but wouldn't fire. Wow. It appeared that I had just dodged a bullet. So how much fuel did it take? I have the figure of 10.65L burnt into my brain. From a 13L tank - a full 2.35L remaining seemed like a lot to me. I had travelled about 300kms - yielding a fuel economy figure of 80 mpg (Imperial) or about 67 mpg U.S.
It wasn't the best way to find out the range of my new bike in touring mode - but it was an educational experience nonetheless.
Stay tuned for Part V.
Well you know I'm going to like this, right? :D
Great pictures, and your report humour style is totally in my wheelhouse :beer
*secret CBR125R owner handshake*
Nicely done, but what happened to the 250R :huh I bet it was just too much horsepower :rofl
I'm in ;)
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