Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
4 Parks in 5 Days: Touring and Camping on the CBR125R
4 Parks in 5 Days: Touring and Camping on the CBR125R
Part IV - Riding my Honda F150GS Dakar
I awoke at 8AM and felt great. In fact, I felt so comfortable nestled in my luxurious cot haven that I just wanted to lay there and bask inside my sleeping bag - in all its flannel-lined glory. When was the last time you felt that way sleeping in a tent? When I finally climbed out of my lair, I walked across the road to the beach again and snapped a few more photos and then packed up my gear and took a hot shower at the nearby comfort station.
I think the next shot nicely captures the spirit of touring and camping on the Bee-BR. Bush, birch, bags, and black bike. I was looking forward to riding the 300 kms (188 miles) to my next destination for the day - The Shoals Provincial Park near Chapleau, ON.
The roadway from Neys Provincial Park to White River, ON is incredibly twisty, with remarkable changes in elevation, and spectacular vistas. The only drawback is that taking photos along this stretch interferes with all the fun of enjoying the moment. It would be like halting a roller-coaster train partway along the track. It ruins the rhythm of the ride. You will just have to sample it and see for yourself.
When I arrived in White River,ON after only about 120KMs of riding, I decided to re-fuel and re-hydrate. It was a scorcher. But I really couldn't complain about the weather so far - it had been consistently sunny and hot over the past two days. Better than riding in the rain. As I approached the fuel pump I noticed a rider in a highly visible yellow jacket. Could it be? When I moved in closer I spotted the Michigan plate. Hey!!! I immediately asked Dan how the ride from Neys had been. He commented that it was incredible. He added that his dad felt that it may have been the best stretch of roadway they'd encountered so far along the north shore. Both of them planned on having a sit-down lunch in White River and asked me if I'd like to join them. I appreciated the invite, and it was difficult to turn down such a kind offer from such gracious people, but I had ants in my pants (no, I really did, I think it was from sitting on a log on Neys beach) and wanted to keep pushing to Wawa, where I planned to re-fuel and raid the Subway restaurant. I was quick in recommending an eatery visible in the distance - across the highway. As I was re-fueling, a van with Ohio plates pulled up to the pump and an exuberant and jovial fellow who reminded me of Boss Hogg from "The Dukes of Hazzard" climbed out and loudly exclaimed "That must be a BMW....What kind is it?" I said "Actually, it's a Honda CBR125R". He still didn't seem convinced. "It sure looks like a BMW!" he said - looking puzzled. I guess engulfing any bike in yellow waterproof bags gives it the "BMW" look. It was at that moment that I realized the restaurant I had recommended to Dan and Art was no longer open. The place I had meant to suggest to them was the Continental Motel - on the other side of the street. Whoops. I can't leave these guys this way. I had unwittingly given them what my dad would call a "bum steer". I led them astray. So instead of heading to Wawa, I went looking for them in the direction of my false information and eventually found them at the Tim Horton's coffee shop in the general vicinity I had pointed to previously. Hey - it could have been worse. After stepping inside I quickly apologized, but they reassured me that they had had a change of plans and decided to grab a quick lunch instead anyway. So we ate lunch together. Both of them remarked about how enjoyable the ride had been that morning. Dan also mentioned a section of exposed highway near White Lake Provincial Park that took them by surprise - with some unsettling wind gusts. Yes - the infamous White Lake narrows - you'll know when you are upon it when you find yourself riding at a 45 degree angle to the road - Bob Seger-ing it - running against the wind. While eating I believe it was Dan who asked if I would like to ride to Wawa with them - to lead the way - on my Bee-BR. I felt privileged. The only caveat was that Art was experiencing some uncomfortable buffeting above 100 km/hr (62 mph) on his V-Strom, so he suggested we ride at 60 mph (96 km/hr) if it "wasn't too slow". Apparently, his aftermarket windscreen had been damaged in a "trailer mishap" in his garage and he had to settle for the stock screen which lacked adequate coverage. They both seemed almost apologetic about riding slow. How fast did they think I had been riding solo anyway?!? They even described pulling over onto the side of the road a few times to allow other vehicles to overtake them more easily, and not burden other travelers. Are these thoughtful and considerate riders or what?!?
Just before we set out on our run to Wawa together - I took a photo of Art and Dan.
The ride from White River, ON to Wawa, ON is relatively flat and not nearly as fun and awe inspiring as the previous stretch. We were riding into a headwind - so I found it easier to ride at 60 mph in 5th gear at 9000 rpm rather than in 6th at 8000 rpm. A few times Dan and Art fell behind - but I slowed down enough for them to catch up again. As we pulled into Wawa, I turned into the Wawa Goose parking area so I could thank them for inviting me along, and wish them a heartfelt farewell. Dan remarked "Wow - the CBR125R really ran great on the highway. It makes me think that there is so much power I have available that I never use". While I'm sure he wasn't planning on giving up his V-strom anytime soon, I think he simply thought it was cool that I was touring on such a small bike. And it was holding its own. He was witness to it first-hand! I told them to watch for an upcoming trip report and to PM me - so the next time they were traveling through Thunder Bay, I could give them a place to stay or when I was visiting my sister in Windsor, ON., they could ride over from the Motor City and enjoy a cold beer on her deck.
After re-fueling, my next stop was the Subway restaurant. As soon as I started placing my order, I could tell a young woman in line next to me was staring. I know Wawa isn't a very large town. Was it something I'd said? Was she not used to "outsiders" in "this here parts?". She suddenly surprised me by calling my name. What the Hell? I looked directly at her face - feeling a little like I was suffering from acute prosopagnosia. Should I recognize this person?!? Noticing my dumbfounded look she explained "You were my instructor for Introductory Psychology at Lakehead University last year. I recognized your voice when you started to speak!" I should have known. I have to admit, I enjoyed chatting with her - it was nice making that connection. Now I'll know her name when I single her out in my Cognition class this Fall. Thanks Kaitlin!
I always look forward to riding along Highway 101 that heads east of Wawa. The roadway and scenery feels like home to me. This route is relatively free of traffic too. If you crave solitude, this highway fits the bill. You can see some evidence of the bridge repairs that were being completed on this section. The speed limit for this secondary highway is 80 km/hr (50 mph) so very relaxed cruising can be had on the Bee-BR along this route.
A straight stretch of lonely highway. If you want to ride in peace and quiet - Hwy 101 and 129 offer just that. In the 150 kms (90 miles) that I rode on this section, I may have encountered maybe 3 or 4 vehicles traveling in the same direction.
I had finally made it to my home for the evening. I had passed by The Shoals many times along this route. Now I was excited and curious to see what this park had to offer. What had I been missing behind the gate all these years?
Stay tuned for Part V to find out.
Part V - The Shoals
When I reached the park gate - I was disheartened to find the gatehouse closed and the hours listed as 9AM-12PM and 2PM-4PM daily. Arriving at 6:20 PM meant I missed my chance. I dislike having to self-register. (*Forthcoming rant warning*). It isn't the most welcoming experience when your first introduction to a park involves having to serve yourself. You cant help but wonder if the park staff even care that you are visiting. You certainly don't feel like a guest. At least if each park kept consistent gatehouse hours - I could plan my arrival accordingly. They don't. Registering takes less than 5 minutes when you have a park representative there to guide you - and at least 30 minutes when you are on your own. What if I have some questions about the campground? It had me thinking.....Imagine traveling by car - driving all day - only to discover once you've reached your destination that there is nobody at the front desk of your hotel - you must register on your own by following poorly laid out and dated instructions, while noticing a sign that says "boil water advisory" that includes both for drinking - and teeth brushing, and the brochure reveals there are no hot showers available (you can swim in the adjacent lake as an alternative), there are no flush toilets (an outhouse will have to suffice), you will be staying outside in a tent, there is no cell phone service, no fires allowed (a fire-ban was in effect), and the closest place for supplies was 50 kms away. And to cap this off - you actually need to pay for these services and amenities - with cash, the exact amount, and include all fees in an envelope slipped into a drop box at the gatehouse. Would you even pay if there was nobody to take your money? Or would you just arrive late and leave really early? Apparently - this is what some do. Now, granted - this is a provincial park, and people frequent these places for the outdoor experience. Nevertheless, I guess I was left wondering where my $30 (The same price as Neys!!!!) was actually going. Even if the $30 included a hot shower after a long day of riding - the outlay would seem more reasonable. I suspect many others have thought the same way. One could even camp in the middle of the bush - on crown land - for free - and receive the same lack of services. Perhaps this is what many were doing, as the park was largely void of campers. To me, this felt more like backcountry camping on an interior site - coincidentally something The Shoals actually offers for avid canoeists. Yet - interior camping costs half as much. Even some semblance of services would have been appreciated. I did meet a fellow who was preparing to clean a nearby outhouse sink the following morning. He was incredibly friendly, knowledgable, and helpful. I remember thinking he would be a shoe-in for a gatehouse position - though he might not like the extremely limited hours. I hate to sound ungrateful - I love camping at provincial parks - I guess it just hurts to see these special places lose services and seemingly wither away. Would some modern updates really spoil the charm of this park? Perhaps they need some local volunteers to stimulate some life back into this place.
So I snagged the park map, studied it intently for a few moments, and then rode through each section of the campground, looking for a suitable site that was either unoccupied, or not already reserved. Usually this requires at least one complete circuit, while keeping a running tally of site numbers that look promising - then returning to a favoured spot - and staking claim to it by attaching the site portion of the registration form to the site post. I decided to pick the clearing shown below. While it wasn't the most level lot I'd ever seen (I was told by a staff member that they were facing continuing problems with erosion at the park), it was nicely situated right on Little Wawa Lake.
As I was setting up my tent, an older gentleman approached and asked if I had been riding alone. It turns out he was a retired school teacher and principal from Orillia, ON. Rob had been a visitor to The Shoals each year for the past 40 years. Incredible. He raised his children at this park - taught them outdoor skills - cooking on a fire, camping, orienteering, and he developed a fond appreciation for the area and consolidated rich memories of shared experiences together here as a family. It was clear that this park held special meaning for him. Ironically, what I had seen as a drawback (lack of amenities), Rob saw as a perk. For him, the remote geographical location, the friendly staff (they were around - somewhere) and campers, and the lack of creature comforts helped to ensure this wilderness haven would attract only those who wanted a true, pure, unadulterated camping experience. We chatted for quite some time and it was interesting to learn about the history of the park from this engaging individual who lived through so many summers here.
Like looking through a picture window - this was my view of the lake from my campsite.
After establishing my home for the evening, I rode to the gatehouse to deposit my camping fee. I included my credit card information on the form even though there was no such payment option. I made sure to sign it as well. I then rode down to the beach to take some photos.
This is what the road leading along the lake from my site looked like.
At Neys I had met a couple from Terrace Bay, ON (George and Janice) just as I was packing up my bike for the ride to The Shoals. They had visited many parks across Ontario, so when I told them that I would be staying at The Shoals later that day (and discovered they had stayed there previously) - I was curious to hear about their impression of the park. They didn't offer many details - and it had been at least 10 years ago since their last visit - but they both chimed in with "We didn't like it." They were unable to remember specifically why (I like to believe it was because they were right pissed there was no gate attendant to greet them). I suppose it just didn't stand out in their minds. However, they DID elaborate on how beautiful they remembered the beach to be. It created a lasting impression on them. And after visiting it for the first time - I could see why. I had to admit - the long, soft-sanded, sun-baked swimming spot really was the saving grace for The Shoals. The ace up its sleeve. The water was clear, cool, and inviting. And the view from the beach overlooking the lake was spectacular. I planned to take a dip the next morning - in lieu of a shower. Maybe Rob was on to something here?
Sitting at the bench facing the beach - I ate my subway sandwich, polished off two Powerades in quick succession, and walked along the shore to snap a few more photos as the sun was beginning to set.
Afterwards I returned to my tent to retire for the evening. In keeping with current trends - I decided to peruse the park brochure to learn about the history of the area. The park actually gets its name from eskers - long ridges of sand and gravel belonging to ancient river beds - that line Little Wawa Lake. Apparently, in low water years - one can see traces of these sandy “shoals” out in the lake. I fell asleep just after 11PM. With so few visitors tonight, at least I could count on my surroundings being completely peaceful and quiet. Well - with the exception of the ever-present reminder of the outdoors - the well timed signature calls from some lonely loon - which to me will forever remain a cherished night-time Ontario park companion.
Part VI - The Mallard Mafioso
The next morning, I was up at 8AM - feeling refreshed from a good night's sleep. By 9AM, I decided to walk down to the beach to have a sho..er...swim. For most people, taking a dip early in the morning might not hold much appeal, but the temperature outside was already around 22C (72F) so in all fairness - this wasn't going to be a polar-bear dip. To my surprise, it turned out to be one of the most refreshing swims I had had in a long time. It felt great. And I had the entire beach to myself. I swam around for 20 minutes. When I got out, I drip-dried on the bench in the warm, fresh wind. I felt like a changed man. Was this better than a hot shower? It sure felt that way this morning.
How inviting do you think the beach looks? I captured the following 1080P HD video just before wading into the water. I will probably view this clip multiple times next January when it is -30C outside - yearning to re-live this experience.
After the swim, I walked back to my site and began my packing ritual. I was excited to be heading to Wakami Lake (pronounced "WALK-ah-me") Provincial Park today - a short 100 km jaunt - as I would be finally meeting up with the other riders from the CBR125R forum. I wondered how their trip had been going so far. What adventures would they recount when they arrived? I hoped they were having the time of their lives. On the first part of this brief leg, I would also find out what kind of fuel economy I was netting on this leg - something I was intently curious about. Normally, I had been cruising between 100-103 kph (60-65 mph) up to this point, but the speed limit for this secondary highway from Wawa was only 80 kph (50 mph) so I wondered how much less fuel I was consuming traveling at 90-95 kph (55-60 mph). After leaving the park, I rode for about 50 kms to Syd's Esso located on the outskirts of Chapleau, ON. The gas attendant immediately recognized the bike as a CBR125R, and was brimming with excitement at my small touring steed. He asked what it was like to ride out on the highway and added "I bet you get fantastic gas mileage". He was right. I had travelled 144km, and filled my tank to the brim with 4.4L of fuel, for a total of 92 mpg (77 mpg U.S.). He said he had been reading a special Honda Ride Guide magazine that featured an article about a guy that completes "Iron Butt" endurance rides on his CBR125R. I said "You mean Bob Munden?" He said - "Yeah - I think that's his name". I told him that he sometimes posts to the CBR125R forum and that he recently completed a remarkable ride from Florida to Alaska - and BACK - on the CBR. You can read the article in the Honda Ride Guide here:
Once inside I paid for the fuel (typically around $6 worth of premium) and he enthusiastically handed me the Honda magazine and told me to keep it. When was the last time you met a gas attendant who was this friendly and so enthusiastic about his job? It truly was great to find someone as excited about the bike as I was. Syd's Esso also features an attached Pizza Hut and KFC, so I ordered some chicken strips and purchased three bottles of my new favourite beverage - Brisk fruit punch. I spoiled myself. I also discovered that my cell phone had a signal so I sat down and called some VIPs in my life to let them know I was safe - something I wasn't able to do at The Shoals.
It was another 30 kms (20 miles) or so of riding along Hwy 101 and then another 35 kms down Hwy 667 towards the small town of Sultan, ON. This is what the blacktop looks like for the first short stetch along the Wakami Lake road.
The first couple of kilometres of the Wakami Lake road are paved - as far as the eye can see. The rest is gravel. Sort of like the basement stairs in Salem's Lot that look fine, as far as you can see - but are severed beyond that point. And the road sported some sizable craters. One section completely crossed the roadway - like the opposite of a speed bump - a speed trench. I bottomed-out the front suspension riding over it at 40 Km/hr (25 mph) - the recommended speed. The next tease involved the location of the park office. It felt like I was on a treasure hunt. Signs kept suggesting the park office was just ahead - yet my mind insisted that I had already passed it, as I continued through the campground. Finally, I spotted a sign pointing left and found the Park Office. When I noticed the gatehouse hours - it was like I had suddenly discovered an oasis after crawling across the Sahara dragging a dead camel. The sign read 9AM to 9PM. I briefly thought that maybe they had quickly changed the sign in anticipation of my arrival or that they had neglected to change it since the 1970's. Yet - when I walked in, the friendly and bubbly staff member (Natalie?) informed me that "Yes" the hours were correct. I felt thrilled that I would be registering - actually conversing - with another human being! I could even ask about the park! To make matters better - I was also told that there was no cell service available - but I could purchase a $5 phone card which would give me about 90 minutes of talk time using their office cordless. If I needed to place a call after 9PM, I could just knock on the staff quarters out back and someone would open the office for me. Wow. Now this was service. And wait - there's more! If I registered within the next few minutes, I could purchase a large multi-litre bottle of water - right from the office (they were under a "boil water" advisory as well). I did. She also encouraged me to fill out the back of the registration form to provide some feedback on my experience during my stay. I happily agreed to do so.
Initially, when I reserved the site, I thought it would be best to camp at one end of the park - away from the other campers, so we could stay up later and chat without disturbing the other visitors. Site #58 seemed like the ideal spot - no campers nearby - and right on the lake. Two of the other riders would be occupying site #57. However, the hard, gravel foundation of both sites made it less than ideal for the tents we'd be setting up. Next time - I would include a grassy area or at least softer ground in my mental list of essentials. As I was setting up my tent, I was suddenly overcome by an ill sensation - a feeling of dread - that something just wasn't right. I couldn't shake this eerie sensation of a "presence" - I could feel it - them - closing in on me. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a fleeting glimpse of movement. Taken by complete surprise, I swung my torso around and yelped as I was flanked by a flock of strange intruders on my site - not two feet away from where I was standing. I didn't have a good feeling about this. They had been ninja-silent. When I spun around - they didn't even flinch. Now they were in my personal space - and like a near-do-well honey badger - they just didn't give a $hit. My voice cracked as I asked them what they wanted. The leader informed me - in a voice that sounded a lot like a mono-toned version of the Aflac duck - that "For a price" they could offer me and my tent and gear some "protection". I knew it. These were cold, hard, thugs. "What if I refused" - I asked? The leader in the middle told me they had just eaten some leftover spicy burritos from a "client" a few doors down and they were "doing their damned-est to keep it from coming out the other end" and that they "Didn't know how much longer they could hold out" and that "It could get very messy......if you catch my drift". What did he mean by that? Was he bluffing? I really didn't care to find out. So I hung my head in shame - fearful of any reprisal - and shrugged, asking for their "price". One cocky a$$hole off to the side quipped "What you got in dat KFC box on the p..p..picnic table? - but was quickly stifled by the leader "Shut your bill Scooter.....we don't eat our cousins". I told him and his henchmen that I really had little food to offer - and what I had was probably not suitable for their diet - much like the aforementioned burritos. They looked me over in silence. Stared. Trying to read my face - to determine if something in my expression might belie the words falling from my lips. "I'll give you half an hour. We will return". They slowly backed away - maintaining continual eye-contact as they did so. Once at a comfortable distance - they turned around and were gone.
Here is a 1080P HD video I bravely captured as they left the site:
Here is what the campsite looked like.
And here was what the view looked like from my site. Wakami Lake is a popular fishing lake.
After eating my chicken strips and downing some Brisk fruit punch, I took out my Sony mp3 player and Imaingo stereo speaker and listened to some hits from the 70's. I had initially planned on saddling up my bike and heading down Hwy 129 to connect with the other riders on their way up - but it was now 3:30PM in the afternoon and I'd figured they'd be arriving soon. Little did I know the first couple of riders wouldn't be arriving until around 6:30PM. I remained content to listen to some tunes, look out over the lake, and enjoy the fresh air.
Nanabijou screwed with this post 02-03-2013 at 08:19 PM