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Old 07-31-2012, 08:27 PM   #1
Nanabijou OP
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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 I - "Flying" to Neys Provincial Park

On July 12, 2012 at 1:30PM I left Thunder Bay, Ontario to start a 5 day, 1300 km (800 mile) touring and camping adventure that included a meet-up with other CBR125R members from the CBR125R Forum www.hondacbr125r.com at Wakami Lake Provincial Park near Chapleau, Ontario. I was looking forward to touring on the CBR125R, as it had been two years since I'd last enjoyed a big trip on the little bike (see: http://www.hondacbr125r.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5913. And I wanted to visit some provincial parks that I had passed by on the highway many times - but never stopped to explore. I also yearned to re-experience the addictive and engaging feeling of piloting the CBR125R along much of the same route I had taken previously. So what is it that makes the CBR125R so fun to tour on? I believe part of this answer involves the strong desire to "do more with less". It is simply enticing to try to extract as much power as possible - use all of the powerband - and explore the entire performance envelope of the bike - revel in the intoxicating sound of a small engine singing in the upper register...often....without losing your licence. You have to really work with the bike to receive the rewards. It isn't easy. But the rewards you reap once you understand the bike and accept its limitations - are plentiful. One other side benefit is that the bike typically garners much attention when fitted for touring. There is something particularly entertaining about telling people that you are touring on a bike with such small engine displacement. It just feels good to think you are doing something that many think "can't be done" or that they wouldn't do themselves. And you didn't spend $40,000 doing it. The CBR125R is the perfect anti-hero Goldwing. Peoples' reactions vary - but they are always gratifying in some way. Those who haven't already performed an inelegant "spit-take" - usually follow up with "pardon me?" Touring with the CBR125R is rewarding for many reasons.

Yet many things can happen in 2 years. This time around - the CBR received a heart transplant in the form of a 4-valve, fuel-injected 149cc Honda CBR150R engine from Thailand. In the summer of 2011, I managed to purchase a 2011 CBR150R mill from Tyga Motorsports, who had acquired a new 2011 Honda CBR150R and planned to design a new exhaust around it. After they were finished with the bike, it was sitting idle in their shop. In the Fall of 2011 the engine was swapped into my CBR125R chassis, and with its new heart pumping again - the WeeBR was re-born. As one of the more eminent CBR125R forum members has said "This is the engine that should have been in the bike all along". Not that the 150R is a rocket. The 4-valve head naturally breathes better than the 125R two-valver at the upper reaches of the powerband - with the 150R screaming 500 rpms higher at redline and yielding 19.5 hp in the process – about 6 more than the 125R can muster. Now, almost a year later, I was eager to experience the 150R's charms out on the highway, under battle conditions, with a full complement of touring gear. How would the new iteration of the CBR handle highway speeds compared to the CBR125R? Would it be able to tackle a strong head-wind? Would I have to tuck behind the windscreen under such conditions to maintain 100kph (62 mph) like with the 125R? How about the notoriously steep and long scenic climbs along the north shore of Lake Superior? Would it noticeably outperform the CBR125R? How might the fuel economy compare? And perhaps more importantly - would the character of the old bike still be there - would all those old traits that endeared me to riding the CBR125R and touring with it in the first place still set my heart aflame?

I like to try out new gear. This trip was no exception. I had already sampled my new Ortlieb Waterproof luggage on an earlier trip this past spring (see:http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=795225&highlight=1600) on my Yamaha WR250R, and found that this setup worked well, and weathered through an impressive amount of relentless rain while keeping everything completely dry inside. I was curious to see how they'd fit and work out on the CBR. I had also installed a new windscreen - originally designed for a Ducati Multistrada. I purchased this 20" dark grey sheet of curvy acrylic from Cee Baileys after they ignored my e-mailed plea to produce an aftermarket screen for the CBR125R. Lots of careful planning, measuring, fitting, creative profanity, and tender loving care went into mounting this sleek laminar lipped lorica onto the nose-cone of my CBR, and I was curious to see if this longer and wider screen would provide a substantial benefit in wind protection on the highway.

After having saddled up the bike, I took the following photo. I was immediately taken by the contrasting black and yellow livery of bike and gear. My girlfriend thought the WeeBR looked like a wasp. I don't normally name my bikes - and Piaggio already had dibs on the Vespa moniker - so I settled for "bee" instead, knowing full well that Piaggio had also named their 3-wheeled utility vehicle the "Ape" (Ah-Pay) – or "bee" in Italy. My Italian barber told me so. I needed something clever. So instead of calling it a CBR, or WeeBR, I resorted to calling it the "Bee"-BR. Hope I don't receive a cease and desist letter from Brown Brothers Racing. What I didn't expect on this trip was the number of compliments I would receive on the little Honda. Many said "That is a beautiful bike". What prompted them to fall for the Bee-BR? Was it the yellow luggage? The Rizoma mirrors? Was it the new windscreen? Or a combination of all of the above? I must admit - I liked the "look" too.





I decided to stop at Wild Goose Beach just 15 minutes outside of the city. The water is relatively shallow here and warms to a more comfortable "just slightly above beer cooler ice-water" temperature during the summer months. A young lad of about 8 years of age walked up the path right after I had captured the photo below and yelled at me "Are you coming swimming!?" I was startled not so much by his question - but that he would be brave enough to initiate a conversation with a complete stranger dressed in black - straddling a dark, ominous, motorcycle. Most people react to me like I am Darth Vader. This kid had balls. Or at least one - the inflatable beach variety he was carrying in his hand. Only a few moments earlier, as I was pulling into the parking area in 1st gear - traveling at what could only be described as a "walking pace" - a family heading toward the beach far in the distance ahead looked over at me and then promptly snatched their kids off the road like I was erratically charging toward them in a Slant-6 powered Sherman tank. Yes - it seems that a fear of motorcycles and motorcyclists runs deeper than the water at Wild Goose Beach. I told the kid that I would love to take a swim, but I had somewhere else to go. He seemed content with that explanation.

In the distance you can see the outline of Nanabijou - Thunder Bay's famous landmark - the Sleeping Giant.






As soon as I turned onto Hwy 17 heading east from Thunder Bay, and quickly accelerated the Bee-BR up to highway speed - I felt at home. Images and feelings from my previous trip were suddenly readily available. I remember thinking how comfortable it is to ride for a smaller bike. And it carried the extra weight of the luggage remarkably well - so much so that I had to look back a number of times to ensure that it was still attached to the bike behind me. What also became immediately clear was that the bike felt like it had been suddenly and miraculously endowed with about 5 extra ponies. How could this be? To those uninitiated with riding a small-displacement bike at highway speeds this might sound puzzling. For those familiar with the CBR125R - this makes perfect sense. I had a nice tailwind. The CBR125R's performance is often dependent upon wind direction - much like when sailing a boat. On this "run", I was easily able to sit-up at 100 kms/hr (indicated) and had gobs of throttle left. Life was good. I was experiencing what Volkswagen would call Fahrvergnügen.

The photo below was taken near Kama Bay, a short ride past Nipigon, Ontario. During the spring, you can see water cascading down the cliffs. Such flat-topped mesas are a signature feature of the Thunder Bay area.






So what is it really like to ride a motorcycle along the north shore of Lake Superior? I think the next three photos do a better job of answering this question than I ever could. When on an epic ride - I often try to capture the moment - try to be mindful of what it is that makes the ride so enjoyable. I remember thinking about this while negotiating the twists and turns along the lake. The best that I could come up with that explains why riding a motorcycle along this route can feel so satisfying is that the bike feels like it is floating along the road - flying along – rather than riding on top of it. With all the changes in elevation and banking you experience - high above the lake - it really feels like flying. A couple of riders I spoke with commented on one particularly scenic roller-coaster-like stretch between Terrace Bay, ON and Marathon, ON as being "an incredibly amazing ride". That about sums it up.






This photo was taken about 25KM (15 miles) east of Nipigon, ON at the top of one of a multitude of climbs the route follows.






A few moments later, as I was descending a climb, the following image appeared above my windscreen. Mt. St. Ignace towers more than 380 m (1250 ft above Lake Superior) and is now part of the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.






I re-fueled in Terrace Bay after riding about 220 kms (138 miles) and the bike used 7.4L of fuel, netting about 84 mpg (70 mpg U.S.). Not bad for a bike loaded up like an Aspencade. I knew I was getting closer to Neys Provincial Park - my destination for the evening. I had wanted to visit this park for quite some time. Many avid Ontario Parks campers I've chatted with over the years have identified Neys as their favourite park in all of Ontario. I needed to know why. I wanted to experience it for myself. What was it that made Neys so special? I would soon find out.

Stay tuned for Part II - Neys

Mike


Part II - The Bee's Neys

So how did the Bee-BR perform out on the highway? When the wind was at my back, the bike surprised me by deftly passing a truck pulling a camper traveling about 95 km/hr on a straight stretch of road. Normally in this instance, I would downshift to 5th, grab a handful of throttle, squeeze the tank with my knees, point my toes inward, pull in my shoulders, clench my butt cheeks tightly together, tuck in my upper torso on top of the tank, tilt my helmet upward for better visibility, close my mouth, and hold in my breath - in effect do anything I could to become more streamlined – and then gently ask the bike for power. This time - I kept it in 6th, and just tucked-in. It wasn't the quickest pass - but the bike accelerated evenly and briskly enough. When I returned to the lane, I looked down and the speedo read 120 km/hr. Impressive for a bike with only 149cc of displacement and carrying a significant load. Then again, my tailbag and saddles were probably acting like a spinaker - helping to propel me forward in the direction of the wind. By comparison, with the 125R I was generally able to maintain 100 km/hr (indicated) under most conditions - but doing so often required lots of tucking-in, particularly when facing a headwind. On the steep climbs I remembered sustaining a speed of 80km/hr (50 mph) in 4th gear. “Dancing” with the bike in this way is part of what makes it so engaging to ride. Compared to the 125R, the 150R was able to maintain 100km/hr more easily - I didn't need to tuck-in nearly as often (under similar windy conditions), and I could crest the hills about 10 km/hr faster (90km/hr or 56 mph) in 5th gear. The power and torque characteristics of both bikes seem rather similar up to about 8000 rpm. Beyond this rpm is where the 150R's greater 4-valve lung capacity enters the party – continuing to produce a narrow spread of extra power all the way up to its 11,500 rpm redline. Just out of curiosity, when approaching some of the hills, I slipped the bike into 4th gear and let the revs climb to 11,000 rpm - let the bee furiously flap its wings - and saw an indicated 100 km/hr on the speedo - something I could never do with the CBR125R up these hills. And the 150R engine feels smooth at this frenetic pace - much smoother - surprisingly - than my CBR250R feels near redline - with virtually no vibration from the grips and foot pegs. Yes - it is more fun to the rev the 150R than the CBR250R. The 150R just doesn't punish you with vibration at high revolutions. Fortunately, the 250R is such a torque-monster - you rarely need to rev it that high.

The beach toward the middle of the image below is part of Neys Park. While I had only been riding for about 4 hours - I was looking forward to setting up my tent, eating some food, and settling in for the evening.






As I was approaching the Neys turn-off from a distance, I could see two riders in high viz yellow jackets heading into the entrance of the park. I remember thinking that it was nice to know there'd be other motorcyclists camping tonight.






When I approached the gate, I pulled up behind the two bikes that had arrived just moments earlier. Two Suzuki V-Stroms. I noticed the licence plates were from Michigan. When I entered the gatehouse one of the riders waiting in line turned towards me with a big grin and asked "Is that a CBR250R you are riding?". There it was. I smiled and said "No - that is a CBR125R". I believe he said "Pardon me?". I replied "A CBR125R". He then responded "Wow - we don't have those in the U.S." He was right. So we spent some time chatting about our bikes and what it was like touring with the Bee-BR. I told him about the CBR's heart transplant. It turns out, Dan and his dad Art had both purchased used V-Stroms so they could complete the circle route of Lake Superior together - something they'd wanted to do for a while. Who wouldn't want to tour Lake Superior on motorcycles with their dad? I was really starting to like these guys already. They were very friendly and after registering - invited me to their site (site #63) - which just so happened to be a short walk from where I would be staying this evening - site #75. Both were located right along Neys' spectacular beach. It was a great feeling to be able to secure such a nice site along the water at this uncrowded park. I heard Harry Callahan's voice ask me if I felt "lucky" and I replied "Yes. Yes I do Harry". Before leaving the gatehouse - I purchased two bags of firewood. I didn't anticipate making a fire - just thought it would be a nice gesture to leave it on the site for the next visitors. The gate attendant told me that the park warden would deliver it to my site in person - so I didn't have to find a creative way of carrying it down on the bike!






Here is what the road looked like in front of my home for the evening. The privacy between sites seemed better than average. One perk was that I was only around the corner from an outhouse. Wait....that's no outhouse...it's a comfort station! (said like Obi-Wan Kenobi).






I thought I'd take a few more photos of the Bee-BR and gear before dismantling the bags and setting up my tent. While it was a pretty hot day so far - being nestled so close to Lake Superior provided just the right amount of air-conditioning. The temperature felt perfect.






And here is my setup. Yes - I like to sleep in comfort. But packing gear on a bike is a lesson in compromise. For me, the most important part is having a good sleep. The Camptime Roll-A-Cot, Nemo Cosmo Insulated Air Mattress, and Eureka Cayuga 30-Degree rectangular sleeping bag have stood the test of time. The sleeping bag is roomy, warm, luxuriously flannel-ishous, and inexpensive. The downside? It takes up half of my tailbag volume. Ouch. Yet - if it didn't work for me - I would have replaced it long ago. As it stands -this is my "go to" setup. One of the most common questions I get asked by campers passing by my site is "How do you fit all of that on your bike?" I guess it doesn't help that it looks like I have a bed in my tent. Nevertheless - it is surprising how much gear the Ortlieb bags can swallow.






After setting up the tent, I ate a Subway sandwich I had carefully stored in my tankbag, and drank an elixir known as Green Squal Powerade. I wanted to take some photos of the lake, ride out to the highway and purchase some beverages from the Can-OP across from the park entrance, and then pay a visit to Dan and Art. How would the evening unfold?

Stay tuned for Part III.

Mike


Part III - Neys Beach

Once I had set up my tent, it was time to take a few photos of the beach in front of my site. I have spoken with many people who claim the beach is really the center piece of Neys Provincial Park. I can see why. It is huge, incredibly picturesque, pristine, sandy, and intimately surrounded by rugged hills. It really does feel like a special hidden gem.

Here is an HD video I shot of the beach.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65ZjyQJUNng&feature=youtu.be






I took a walk along the shoreline and dipped my hand into the water. It felt surprisingly tepid - maybe just a little cooler than bath water! That's unusual for Lake Superior. However, we've been experiencing a warmer than usual summer so far around the big lake.






After snapping some photos, I took out my Galaxy S Glide phone and was pleased that I had a signal from my site. Sweet. I made a few calls to my girlfriend, dad, and good friend to tell them that I had made it to the park safely. I then decided to take a trip on the Bee-BR to the Can-Op store (Neys Lunch and Campground) and stock up on some beverages. I first rode by Dan and Art's site to see if they needed anything from the store. They weren't on their site. Hmm. I wonder where they were? So I continued on my way to the store to purchase more Powerade.

Upon returning, I walked over to Dan and Art's site again. Still no sign of them. I spied a trail leading past their bikes to the beach, so I followed it. When the view opened up, I spotted them. In plain view. Sitting down, with a cooler between them. They apparently knew how to enjoy the moment. As I approached, they immediately recognized me and enthusiastically offered me a beer in the most discreet manner possible. I was hot. Sweaty. Tired. Dehydrated. Parched. It is hard to describe how intense my desire for a cold beer was at that point. I would have braved running across an electrified grid to receive a beer injection - just like a rat in a 1950's Olds and Milner experiment. When they offered me a tallboy can of Molson Canadian - fewer words could sound more profound at the time - I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Yet - I didn't want to drink their beer, as I knew their supply was precious and limited to a mini cooler. When I politely resisted - they said "No - we've been waiting for you and saved a beer specially for you!". Did I mention already how much I was starting to like these guys? When I had seen them entering the park earlier in the day, they had picked up some libations from the Can-Op (Neys Lunch) which doubles as an LCBO and Beer Store agency. There is nothing like a cold beer after a hot day in the saddle. Even better when you have some great company to share it with.

I learned that Dan was a mechanical engineer and used to ride a Honda VTR1000F, also called the SuperHawk in the U.S. He said the bike just had way more power than he needed and unless it was ridden to its full potential - he found it boring to ride. He reiterated the phrase "It is more fun to ride a slow bike fast than ride a fast bike, slow". His father Art used to race enduros in his younger days and it sounded like he had been quite an accomplished rider in his time. Besides the V-Strom, he also owned a 1960s Honda C160 and a whole assortment of other older - yet special bikes. Both of them shared a passion for restoring motorcycles. And their hearts were especially tied to Yamahas. Art seemed to have a particular fondness for DT100 enduros. Dan had restored an early 80s Yamaha XS650 that he sold to a friend and then recently bought back from him. And they both really liked the V-Stroms - and had creatively modified them to carry their gear for the trip. I had a great time chatting with them, but it was now after 10PM and I knew they had had a long day. I suggested some places they might like to visit - including the Agawa Bay campground section of Lake Superior Provincial Park, near where they planned to stop the next evening, and the pictographs located nearby. I also wished them a safe and enjoyable trip and hoped that our paths might cross on our adventures the next day. It was a pleasure meeting and chatting with these friendly and interesting riders.

Dan and Art were relaxing on the beach just like these campers I zoomed in on in the photo below.






After I returned to my site, I stepped out onto the beach again and took a few more photos. I decided to try out the 20x optical zoom on my new camera, a Sony HXC-20V and captured this distant rock formation.






As the sun was setting, I knew I had to take one more photo of the lake to cap off a very satisfying evening at Neys park.






I then retired to my tent for the evening. I had already perused the park brochure, so I was a little short on reading material. I thoughtfully packed a couple of motorcycle specific books in my Icon Urban Tankbag - including the concisely titled "Lightweight Unsupported Motorcycle Travel for Terminal Cases Being a Treatise on Touring by Motorcycle in a Practical and Efficient Manner" that had been recommended to me by Ken, a ADVR forum member who formerly rode a Yamaha TW200 and appreciates the thrill of riding small-displacement bikes, and "Street Strategies: A Survival Guide for Motorcyclists". Hard to imagine experiencing a more satisfying evening. Of course, I slept well too. The rhythmic sound of the waves crashing on the shore all night certainly contributed to my restful slumber.

Stay tuned for Part IV.

Mike

Nanabijou screwed with this post 10-26-2012 at 06:48 AM
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:33 PM   #2
Nanabijou OP
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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 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.

Mike

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.
Mike

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tfS8LMb-dU



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:

http://www.hondacbr125r.com/forum/showthread.php?t=6768&highlight=munden

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4RrTYx1iM4&feature=youtu.be



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.

Mike

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Old 07-31-2012, 08:38 PM   #3
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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 moth...er...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.

Mike

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!

Mike

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVj21r-2p9Q&feature=youtu.be



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.

Mike

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Old 08-01-2012, 04:58 AM   #4
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Thanks for a great report. Looks like you had a blast on the 150. It really inspires me to load up my XT225 and try it too. There's a special kind of fun from "squeezing" more out of a small bike than it feels like you should.

I think it's because everything has become so "easy" these days compared to the challenges that folks used to face in their everyday lives. We have to go out of our way to create a level of difficulty.

I saw a video of a Japanese guy who rode a 125 or 150 Yamaha around the world. By the time he crossed Siberia, zigzagged through Europe, sailed to the tip of Argentina and worked his way up to the States the motorcycle shops where he had to stop for some repairs were treating him like a celebrity and wanting to get photos with him. They even machined some free parts for him in Oregon, because his bike was Japanese specs and the parts weren't available there.

Thanks again for the great story & photos.
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:37 PM   #5
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Thanks for a great report. Looks like you had a blast on the 150. It really inspires me to load up my XT225 and try it too. There's a special kind of fun from "squeezing" more out of a small bike than it feels like you should.

I think it's because everything has become so "easy" these days compared to the challenges that folks used to face in their everyday lives. We have to go out of our way to create a level of difficulty.

I saw a video of a Japanese guy who rode a 125 or 150 Yamaha around the world. By the time he crossed Siberia, zigzagged through Europe, sailed to the tip of Argentina and worked his way up to the States the motorcycle shops where he had to stop for some repairs were treating him like a celebrity and wanting to get photos with him. They even machined some free parts for him in Oregon, because his bike was Japanese specs and the parts weren't available there.

Thanks again for the great story & photos.
Absolutely Glenn. Yet - it is easier than I think some think it is. I felt almost guilty at how well the CBR150R handled the weight of the gear - and purred on the highways. And it just sips fuel - which is just icing on the cake. At no time on this trip was I ever left "wanting" for more power. The small-displacement of the bike ensured that my left toe got a pretty good workout though - but I just love listening to a motorcycle revving up through the gears - it is music to my ears - and on a small bike - I don't have to fear losing my licence while doing it. And it really was a cute conversation piece - for those who recognized it as a small displacement bike.

Mike
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Old 08-01-2012, 04:24 PM   #6
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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.
YES. Excellent report Nanabijou. I have only ridden as far West as Pancake Bay, so haven't experienced much of the Superior shore yet, but I'll fix that one day.
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Old 08-01-2012, 05:08 PM   #7
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YES. Excellent report Nanabijou. I have only ridden as far West as Pancake Bay, so haven't experienced much of the Superior shore yet, but I'll fix that one day.
Hey Jon - you can even stay here when you make the trip up. If you are interested in camping, based on my recent trips around Lake Superior, I would recommend the following for scenery, attractions, and amenities...... Agawa Bay Campground section of Lake Superior Provincial Park, Neys, Pukaskwa, and Sleeping Giant.

Mike
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Old 08-03-2012, 12:48 PM   #8
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Great report, hwy 17 is one of my favorite rides.
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Old 08-03-2012, 05:10 PM   #9
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Great report, hwy 17 is one of my favorite rides.
Hey - from Geraldton!!! Does the gepeze stand for GPZ 550? That was a great bike. I used to teach a bit in Geraldton.

Cheers!

Mike
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Old 08-04-2012, 12:10 PM   #10
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Have you ever happened to meet Neil Peart out on the road. I believe he would like your writing style too. I wonder if he lurks here. His books are ride reports.
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Old 08-05-2012, 09:24 AM   #11
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Hey - from Geraldton!!! Does the gepeze stand for GPZ 550? That was a great bike. I used to teach a bit in Geraldton.

Cheers!

Mike
A 750 actually, It was my first road bike.
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Old 08-15-2012, 11:56 AM   #12
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Have you ever happened to meet Neil Peart out on the road. I believe he would like your writing style too. I wonder if he lurks here. His books are ride reports.
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http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Rider-Tr...rds=neil+peart
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Hey Sendler,

I purchased all of his books - with the exception of the newest one. It would be a real treat to ride with him. I would be sure to bring a bottle of 18-year old The Macallan if he wishes. While he likes to "camp" at hotels, few things would be more satisfying in the world of adventure riding than sitting around a campfire after a long, eventful ride - sipping on some scotch - and chatting with Neil Peart.

Mike
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Old 08-15-2012, 12:56 PM   #13
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You have probably ridden right by him with a wave and a nod and never knew who it was.

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Old 09-04-2012, 08:56 AM   #14
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For those who always wish for more photos - here are some extras that didn't make it to the report.

This is one from near Nipigon, Ontario.



And a little further past Nipigon, Ontario along Hwy 17 (Trans-Canada Highway).



This is a shot overlooking the main portion of Ney's Provincial Park. The campground is right along the shoreline towards the middle of the image - even though it isn't visible from this perspective.



This is one of the first views I captured as I was riding into the Ney's Provincial Park campground.



A shot of my campsite and my CBR125R.



O.K. Another gratuitous shot of the bike at the campsite.



Highway 101 leading east from Wawa, Ontario towards Chapleau, Ontario.



A burnt section of trees from a forest fire across Little Wawa Lake at The Shoals Provincial Park near Chapleau, Ontario.




A shot of the beach in the early evening at The Shoals Provincial Park.



Yes - The Shoals has some nice campsites along the lake too. This one was "reserved". I wonder why?



I was surprised by how well my 20X optical zoom on my compact camera captured this loon.



Here is a view of the pathway along the Lonesome Bog Hiking Trail at The Shoals Provincial Park.



A view of Wakami Lake from my campsite at Wakami Provincial Park near Sultan, Ontario.



I took this shot from the shoreline of Wakami Lake. Sure makes me want to get more camping in before the end of summer.



I exercised my zoom once again to capture an island far out from my campsite on Wakami Lake.



This is a night-shot of all the CBR125Rs gathered together on one site.



Here is a shot heading back toward Wawa, Ontario. I believe this photo was captured near Potholes Provincial Park, along Hwy 101.



This is the first view that opened up in front of me on the beach at Pukaskwa National Park near Marathon, Ontario.



Another view of the beach out over Lake Superior a few moments later at Pukaskwa Provincial Park.



A few minutes later the view suddenly changed again.



And a few more moments later. These views seemed to change by the minute.



Hope you enjoyed some of these extra photos.

Mike
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Old 09-04-2012, 09:50 AM   #15
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Ah, Lakehead U, the trans can, Superior.

Three very memorable things for me. Fantastic pictures and great writing.

Thanks alot.
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