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.
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.
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....
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.
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.
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.
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.