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Old 07-31-2012, 08:38 PM   #3
Nanabijou OP
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Joined: Jun 2010
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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4 Parks in 5 Days: Touring and Camping on the CBR125R

4 Parks in 5 Days: Touring and Camping on the CBR125R

Part VII - The Little CBRs Converge

At 6:20PM I thought I could make out the distinctly muted single-cylinder hum of a CBR125R drawing near, then I quickly realized that it a staff member cutting a nearby section of grass with a John Deere riding mower. Just teasing. Sure enough, one of the riders -Travis (Ride_Safe) appeared on his white and black WeeBR. One of the first things I noticed about his bike was that he had more gadgets splayed out in front of him than a Cessna 172. I also recognized the dual-sport tires. His is the only CBR125R I've encountered with knobbies. A true adventure bike. And John (JohnR) wasn't far behind. He had succeeded in making a grand entrance - that is - until I heard the sudden, abrupt, desperate redline shriek that is characteristic of an unceremoniously performed "dishonorable dismount", from the bike. Well, to my surprise, John had remained seated - and the bike did not nap. I think John just preferred that sound to announce his arrival rather than the roadrunner-like cartoonish "beep-beep" from the CBR's honker.

Here is Travis arriving on his CBR125R.

It wasn't long before these intrepid adventurers unpacked their gear and began to set up their homes for the evening. I was relieved that they had made it safely and both seemed to be in good spirits. I asked about the others. Apparently, two of the riders on large bikes (Kawasaki ZX-14 and Concours-14 - wow what a contrast in touring mounts compared to the WeeBRs!) and the other two CBR125R riders, Brian (GoFaster) and Adam (Adamski) - continued along Hwy 129 on to Chapleau to refuel and eat dinner. I wondered if it was a coincidence that the CBR125R riders camped - while the big bike riders retreated to the comforts of a hotel. Both Brian and Adam were expected to arrive in a couple of hours. Curious about the day's events, I asked John what the ride had been like on the way up from Elliot Lake. Apparently, the Deer-Trail route had some gravel sections that appeared to slow most everyone down. Except for him - he actually sped up. Did you at least stop to take photos? Stop?!? What is that?!? Many of the riders were looking forward to the twisty sections along the Mississaugi River, but unfortunately some sections were in the midst of (much needed) road repairs. This section of highway is normally incredibly fun, narrow, and twisty, with roller-coaster like air-time. Still, from what was described, there were some fun sections remaining. Travis mentioned how startling the scenery appeared near Willisville, ON earlier that morning - and I too recalled from my previous trips through that area that it was indeed quite stunning - particularly how abruptly the topography changed and how it suddenly unfolded in front of you. John reported having a sore neck - which usually comes from too much tucking-in behind the windscreen - which made sense, as he had been leading for much of the route north of Elliot Lake. Travis reported that his bike just didn't seem to be as fast as the others. I wondered if the 500 lbs of gadgets, large hand guards, friction-robbing knobbies, and the missing aerodynamic belly-pan had anything to do with it? But they made it. Highway 129 is a great ambassador for Northern Ontario riding. Empty roads, continuous bush on either side, changes in elevation, twists and turns, countless lakes around every corner, and clean, dry, fresh air (and sometimes the smell of a nearby forest fire). Just riding it feels like an adventure.

The bikes nicely lined up on the site. From left, Travis' CBR125R BMWGS, My CBR150R Multistrada, and John's CBR125R Cargo Van. The CBR125R is fun to personalize. Travis is waving in the background. This was around the time we were concerned that he may have experienced a psychotic break that led him to erect his tent on the steep edge of a slope (see below). You have to give the guy some credit though. He is pretty creative. And rarely have I met someone so passionate about his ride. He has really put his heart and soul into it. I recently read a ride report where a fellow recognized that out of all the bikes he'd owned in his lifetime - the only ones he truly missed were......the ones he interacted with the most - the ones he devoted the most sweat and toil to - the ones he developed a relationship with. The other bikes were merely "appliances" by comparison. I'm sure Travis has a solid bond with his bike.

I suggested to Travis that he place his tent on some flatter section of the site. That didn't sit well with him. At first he wanted to pitch his home on the beach. Then worried about tides (Wakami Lake tidal bore?), he then opted for a most unusual spot. Perhaps due to a strong desire to be different - he began setting up his tent on the side of a hill. I was worried that after two long days of riding his WeeBR, that he was beginning to "lose it". Did he plan to pour water through it and ride down it like a "slip and slide"? Would this be the much anticipated Apocalypse Now 2 -sequel in the making?

At least John seemed to have the right idea. He picked some flat ground. Only he didn't bring an air mattress with him. When I offered my Nemo Cosmo air bed - he declined. He had slept on the ground in his sleeping bag at our last meet-up, and was content with that. He really meant it. He was going to sleep on the ground. John is one tough SAH-minna-BITCH! (said with thick Italian accent). But I couldn't have my friend sleep on the ground. I would remain awake all night - my mirror neurons reacting to his pain. So I insisted that he use my air mattress, and that I would just place my sleeping bag on top of my cot - which I've found to be reasonably comfortable. It didn't matter to him, but he let me have my way and accepted the air mattress.

The others finally arrived at the campground around 8:30PM. I met Adam (Adamski) and Brian (Gofaster) just as they were leaving the Park Office, and I was arriving - to use my $5 photo card to say good-night to my girlfriend, and to ask her to "Google" the exact phrase "How to deal with duck extortion" on the Internet and tell me what came up. Back at the site, Brian wasted no time getting his shelter constructed. He had the most unusual tent design I had ever seen. I wasn't sure if he was in the process of erecting a geodesic dome from the '67 World's Fair, imitating an Amish barn raising, or carefully building a covered wagon. I think it's only a design a mechanical engineer could love. I bet it's sturdy though. His air mattress was another thing altogether. It seemed like it took at least 20 minutes to inflate - and I'm surprised he wasn't evicted from the park considering the indecent sounds it was making. Surely that, mixed with the continuous, fast, reciprocating full arm movements and sweat beading from his brow would qualify as lewd behaviour in virtually any public place.

Brian, Travis, and Adam took a refreshing swim in the lake - which according to them "felt great". I didn't have the heart to tell them that I hid the "Swimmer's Itch Advisory" sign. Those ducks were running a real racket here.

Before it got too dark, and at John's suggestion - we gathered the bikes all on one site and took some photos. I have to admit - Brian's orange, black, white, and silver 2011 CBR125R is a real head turner. As soon as a friend of mine saw the photo - he wanted one - just from the colour alone. It wasn't long after this shot was taken that the mosquitos started to arrive in full force. Even for someone who grew up in Northern Ontario - and rarely wears insect repellant - I had to admit they were hungry this night. Brian smartly retreated to his tent - every now and then answering questions or making comments - joining the conversation from somewhere deep inside his St. Louis arch. I tried to stay up for a while chatting with Adam - but I was feeling a little light-headed - the pests were getting their fill, and I knew that Brian and Adam were planning on an early start tomorrow morning. Brian, Adam, and Travis were aiming to catch the 5:50PM Chicheemaun ferry the next day and wanted to leave a large window of time open - in case they encountered any slowdowns along the way. It was too bad everyone couldn't stay one extra day to rest, relax, and refresh.

It was a small turn-out this year. From left to right, Travis (Ride_Safe), Brian (GoFaster), John (JohnR), and Adam (Adamski), and Mike (Nanabijou) - me - snapping the photo. Just five of us.

We all retired to bed. The loons continued their soothing banter, which was later followed by the constant pitter-patter of rain and brief flashes of lightning and thunder. It would continue to rain on and off until early morning.


Part VIII - The Voyage Home

The rain had subsided by the time we all arose - somewhere around 6AM. Brian and Adam quickly and efficiently took down their tents and packed their gear back on their bikes. Time began to slip away and before I knew it - suddenly they were off and I missed an opportunity to take their photos as they left. I made a mental note to avoid making the same mistake twice with John and Travis. Turns out - they weren't too far behind. Travis left first around 7AM and then John left about a half hour later. Their intention was to meet up with the others who were having breakfast at the Aubrey Falls Trading Post, a little more than an hour's ride down Hwy 129. It was sad to see them go. The meet-up - however brief - was now coming to a close. This definitely felt like the denouement section of the adventure novel that I had been narrating to myself throughout the trip.

Here is Travis just about to leave. It was only later, when I had returned home that I found out he had run short of gas a few kilometres from the Trading Post. A Good Samaritan stopped to help and kindly donated some pre-mix which was enough to get him to the restaurant. I wondered if his bike was spouting blue smoke like a two-stroke for the extra 2 km ride.

I believe John ate some cereal (minus the milk!) and shared some roasted almonds with me - and then he too was on his way. I hoped the weather would hold out for them. John wasn't too optimistic about it. It looked to me at the time that it might clear up. Here is John (below) just as he left the campsite. The tool box on the bike does a pretty convincing Givi impression. It houses much of his camping gear. John used to ride with it oriented the other way. However, he cleverly re-configured the mount to improve aerodynamics. Hey - with the CBR125R, every little bit counts! If he backed it up to the water - we might have been able to use it as a diving board.

After John had left - there was some unfinished business that needed tending to. I had to go back to bed. Check-out was 2PM, so I had plenty of time remaining. I didn't fancy taking down my tent while it was still wet either. I figured that I'd sleep for a couple of hours and wake up at about 9:30AM. As soon as I retired to my tent (or Bee-B-RV) - it started to rain again and I laughed at how poor the timing had been for both Travis and John. They were likely now riding in the rain. I was hoping that my own fortunes would improve - that I would awake to sunny blue skies - and then dry-out my tent under the hot sun. It didn't take long to fall fast asleep again - with the rhythmic sound of rain tapping on the tent exterior - inside my warm, dry, and cozy sleeping bag. And I really didn't expect things to go completely as planned. I knew better than that. Yet - when I awoke at 9:30AM, the sun was suddenly shining again - hard to imagine -after the dark, wet, and bleak conditions that had been our early morning. I wondered if I had merely dreamt the earlier episodes. Nope, everyone had left. Fortunately, I was able to completely dry out my tent and groundsheet in the sun, and was elated that it would all go back on my bike - bone dry.

I decided to take another photo before I left. Wakami Lake seems like a chameleon. Each time I looked over at it - the sky, the clouds, the water - the entire scene seemed to morph. This was one of those times.

Now it was time for me to pack up my gear as well. I find it hard to say good-bye to anything - and this was no different. I needed to say farewell to Wakami Lake Park. It is always a lonely, isolating feeling being the last in a group to leave a meeting place like this. It can create such an empty, hollow feeling inside - and that was what I was struggling with right at that moment. Then, in the midst of such self-reflection - as I was packing up the bike - a women walking along the road said "hello" and commented about how fortuitous it was that the weather had improved. She mentioned the keyword "kayaking" - and then the floodgates were opened. Our conversation lasted for a hour - with the discussion ranging from kayaking, to hiking around the park (she had already hiked some more remote trails by herself), to parks we had recently visited in the area - and other parks we hoped to visit soon. Like me - she had been traveling alone - and it felt nice to connect with a fellow soloist adventurer. To top it off - she would be staying for another day. So in a strange way - this seemed to be the buffer I needed - the emptiness of being the last to leave - started to fade. I now felt less like the last one to move on. It was like I was playing a friendly game of "last to leave" tag - and this woman was now "It".

Once my bike was packed, I filled out the visitor comments section on the registration form. I had enjoyed my brief stay and appreciated the care and attention shown by the staff. In my conversations with the kayaker, we shared our one disappointment with the park - that the premier logging exhibit - the much lauded feature of the entire park - had been closed for some time. I decided to include this comment on the form before dropping it off at the gatehouse. As I stepped off the bike and walked toward the office door, I glanced back at the Bee-BR and was struck by how perfect this little touring machine looked. I knew I had to immediately capture a photo of it - just in case the moment was fleeting and the window disappeared. I walked back to the bike, took out my camera, and snapped some shots. I think the photo below is my all-time favourite image of the Bee-BR decked out in full gear. It just looks so sporty, casting a shadow, with the colourful luggage so precisely positioned on the bike. So lithe, sleek, cute, and lightweight. I just stared at it long after the last photo was taken.

On the 8km (5 miles) or so gravel extravaganza that winds back to the highway from the park, I decided to stop for a moment and capture a section of the road. The photo below was taken not far from where the logging exhibit area is located.

Then it was back to Hwy 667, Hwy 129, and Hwy 101 and on to Syd's Esso again in Chapleau, ON to re-fuel. The same enthusiastic gas attendant was there to greet me again and he remembered my visit from the previous day. He asked how my stay at Wakami Lake Park had gone - and I filled him in on all of the details. I remember thinking about yesterday and my ride through here. At the time, I was full of excitement and anticipation. Now riding back - I was full of quiet, subdued reflection. It had only been one day ago - yet I was already starting to miss this area - like we'd been long-time friends. After another pensive 150kms of riding reminiscence, I was once again entering Wawa, ON - this time from the east, and decided to snap a photo along Wawa Lake. I stopped at the Subway again, re-fueled at the Petro-Can, and then twisted the throttle more enthusiastically on the Trans Canada toward Marathon, ON and Pukaskwa National Park. The wind was at my back - the bike was running great - and I was making my way - slowly towards home. It felt good. At one point I briefly considered skipping Pukaskwa altogether - but then talked myself out of it. I wanted to stay committed to the plan that I set out for myself. Four parks in five days.

I ended up pulling into Pukaskwa (PUCK-ah-saw) National Park around 7PM. Somehow I missed the "Welcome to Pukaskwa Park" entrance sign. I have to admit - the variety of signs that appeared as I was entering seemed much grander than your average provincial park. Then again, with the prestige of being a National Park - you'd think the gatehouse hours would be equally grand - right? Nope. I couldn't believe I would be self-registering yet again. The only saving grace was that a German couple had arrived just after me (in a carefully chosen, European-looking new Fiat 500 rental - how appropriate I thought) and I could take some comfort - some schadenfreude if you will - that they had to endure the same hardship as I. They quickly became confused over the cryptic registration process - like I had experienced the first time. So I helped these unwitting victims through it. Clearly, I was becoming very skilled at this task. In our conversations they mentioned their goal of meeting up with another couple and staying overnight in the campground, then hiking the backcountry and camping along the Coastal Hiking Trail that runs 60 kms along the rugged and extremely isolated, shore of Lake Superior. I had always wanted to hike this trail. I even contacted the park via e-mail several years ago to inquire about trekking inland from the Coastal Trail and climbing Tip Top Mountain (identified as the highest point in Ontario at 640 m ASL right up until 1967...Incredibly, it is now officially relegated to 14th highest in Ontario following more precise mapping!). Park staff cautiously recommended the coastal trail - but in the most delicately polite wording possible - informed me that a rogue trip to Tip Top Mountain was essentially crazy and out of the question. Now - here I was chatting with two travellers from Germany, who were actually going to hike my dream trail for a couple of weeks. Good on them. They were very kind - and teased me that I had better not steal the "best site" away from them that evening. I wished them luck on their courageous adventure. I never did find out what campsite they had selected. I grabbed site #47 in the Hattie Cove (North) section of the campground. What would the evening and next day have in store?

Read Part IX to find out!


Part IX - What I Saw At Pukaskwa

One regret I had about visiting four parks in five days was that I knew I would only be able to spend one night at each location, and thus had only a limited amount of time to explore what each park had to offer before moving on. Ideally, I would have extended my stay by one extra day at every park - so I could walk some hiking trails, visit more points of interest, and explore the more notable features unique to each area. If anything, my plan made me realize just how much I had been missing and that a return to these places in the future was needed. This was particularly true of my stay at Pukaskwa National Park. After setting up my tent, my plan for the evening was to walk down to the shoreline of Lake Superior, sit on the beach, eat my Subway sandwich, sip a drink, and hopefully call (I had no signal from my campsite) my girlfriend, family, and friends from the shoreline to give them an update of my whereabouts.

Here is what my site looked like. The soft beach-like sand made it extremely easy to peg my tent down. The drawback was that I likely could have built an impressive sand castle, complete with moat from all the grains that managed to find their way into my tent.

For those curious about my sleep system, I decided to capture a photo of my bed as I was building it out on the picnic table. The setup you see here includes my Camptime Roll-A-Cot (Regular size) and Nemo Cosmo insulated air bed. The cot weighs in at 10 lbs, and the sleeping pad nets another 2 lbs for a grand total of 12 lbs. Add my sleeping bag and camp pillow and that's about 16 lbs of what I consider to be excellent sleep insurance.

After setting up my gear and riding back to the gatehouse to submit my fees and registration, I decided to take a walk down to the beach. The trailhead was only a brief 2-minute jaunt from my site.

A short stroll along the trail opened up into what was a truly stunning view. The beach was filled with a vast collection of driftwood - scattered across the far reaches of one end of the bay to the other. The shot below looks like something you'd see along the coast of British Columbia. I started humming the "Beachcombers" theme in my head "Dah nah nah nah, Dah nah nah nah, Dah nah nah nahhhh". Everything looked so beautifully raw, rugged, and pristine. With no dramatic disputes between Nick and Relic to spoil the moment.

Here is an HD video I took across the bay and beach.

I spied some strange looking land formations in the distance and decided to zoom in a little closer. It looked to me like a pretty spectacular golf-course, but I didn't recall seeing that advertised in the park pamphlet. It turns out -the distant sandy mounds are dunes located at the mouth of the Pic River.

I took the photo below as I was eating my sandwich. It was an incredible feeling to be sitting on these rocks all alone - admiring the power of this place. I had only scratched the surface of this park - yet I quickly understood why this area became protected - this is clearly a special place. I tried my cell again and was pleasantly surprised to find a signal from my vantage point out on the rocks. I made a few phone calls and tried not to over exaggerate the description of the views I was currently ingesting. That wouldn't be possible.

After returning to my site and retiring for the evening, I remember being impressed with how quiet the campground had been. This feeling wouldn't last long. Shortly after retiring to bed - I heard some revellers arrive somewhere deep within the campground, turn on a loud stereo, shout at each other, laugh loudly, and generally carry on like they were all alone. This appeared as such an ostentatious display of self-centered inconsiderateness - that for some moments I wondered if the entire park had been taken over by a new "Candid Camera"-like reality series and that the campers' shocked and indignant reactions were being secretly filmed to be later packaged as low-brow entertainment. It just seemed too ridiculous to believe - if it hadn't sadly been true. These people were obviously looking to cause trouble. The disturbance lasted until around 3AM. Needless to say, I didn't have the best sleep that night. I wondered if there was an "emergency number" I could call to report these pricks or at least some readily available police Tasers on display like "life-saving rings" located on strategic points along a non-patrolled beach. Notice I didn't use the term "a$$holes"? As an aside, I wish the term "prick" would re-enter our collective vernacular. You see, a prick used to aptly describe an "intentional" a$$hole - someone you still witness all too frequently, yet there is no longer a word to describe these deliberate dregs of society. Merely calling them an a$$hole misses the point, lacks precision, and may actually be taken as a compliment by these goons - and absolve them from any accountability. Prick - on the other hand - is much more informative - describing actions clearly more deliberate. And best of all - you could once again be able to visit a law firm urinal and comment to the fellow beside you "I guess this is where the pricks hang out" - and he would actually get the joke and not think you were coming on to him. Where did this word go? Come back!!!

It didn't help that I awoke around 8AM to the sound of thunder and heavy rain. For a brief time I thought I might actually escape wet riding on this trip - now it appeared only my luck would run dry. By 9AM it became clear that the weather wasn't going to, so I began to pack up my things. Thankfully, I was able to fill my Ortlieb dry bags with gear while sitting comfortably on my cot inside my tent. This meant that everything would go on the bike dry - with the exception of my tent. The 3 hour ride back home was largely uneventful except for exceptional amounts of rain. There were some sections just past Nipigon, ON where it poured so hard that vehicles began to pull over - yet visibility was still good through my visor - as I intermittently wiped it with my glove. I arrived home at about 3PM and was pampered by my girlfriend which was almost as rewarding as riding the Bee-BR. I need to take more trips to know for sure. I'll keep you posted.

So what did I learn from this 5 day touring and camping adventure gathering? What would I change for my next trip in terms of gear and planning?

1. The next time I will make sure to check the gatehouse hours of operation for each park I planned to visit - before leaving - and try to coordinate my arrival so it fell within the park office's hours of operation.

2. If planning another forum meet-up/gathering, it would be better if we could get everyone on-board to book each site for two nights - so we could spend more time sharing stories - perhaps all do a ride together - and not feel so rushed.

3. If time permitted, it would be ideal to stay at least one more day at each park and explore more of the attractions in each area.

4. I would demand a phone number - a "Park Prick Hotline" has a nice "ring" to it - to report loud, intentional a$$holes in the park - to park staff.

5. In terms of gear? Not much. My current setup is pretty solid. I must say that I loved riding the Bee-BR. It handled great, was incredibly fun and rewarding all the way to redline, and it yielded excellent fuel economy to boot. It was likely the most comfortable yet stimulating motorcycle trip I've taken, including similar excursions on my CBR250R and WR250R. The only improvement I could see currently is downsizing my sleeping bag. My current one is big, fluffy, full of flannel, warm, inexpensive, and durable. But even in a compression sack it takes up about half of my Ortlieb tailbag. I recently purchased a new North Face Dolomite 3S (20F) rectangular bag. This past weekend I put it to the test on a camping trip at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near my home in Thunder Bay. The verdict? It was warm (perhaps a bit too warm), with lots of roomy rectangular goodness, was relatively inexpensive ($79) to purchase, and pretty comfortable (can't beat flannel though). Best of all? It should only consume about 1/3 of my available tailbag space. This would leave more space available for future fun gear purchases, as I refine my setup further.

Overall, I've yet to find a bike like the Bee-BR that makes me giggle and smile so often behind my visor. Yet - clearly no bike is perfect. So I am thinking about taking my WR250R on my next adventure. There are a lot of highpoints along this route that would likely yield some pretty spectacular photos and perhaps even unique camping sites. I wouldn't want to submit the Bee-BR to such harsh conditions - force it do what it wasn't really designed for. Then again - I'm sure the CBR125R was never specifically designed for sport-touring and camping either. Still - I can't imagine a bike that could be more fun than the little Bee-BR has been over these exhilarating past five days.

I hope you enjoyed the report, learned a little about my selection of gear, saw a little piece of what the north shore of Lake Superior and beyond has to offer, sampled a little taste of adventure along the way, were awestruck by the overachieving abilities of the Bee-BR fighting for a spot on the sport-tourer Olympic team, and was both amused and entertained by the insights and perspectives I've contributed to this trip - my adventure.


Nanabijou screwed with this post 03-14-2013 at 08:17 AM
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