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Old 12-07-2014, 04:47 PM   #1
Nanabijou OP
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Bears, Lairs, Snares, and Other Scares. The 2014 CBR125R Gathering

Part I - I Can't Believe I'm Doing This Again

It was hard to fathom that this would be my sixth trip and ride report from around the spectacular north shore of Lake Superior, and my third meet-up at our annual CBR125R gathering in Southern Ontario. On a 2011 CBR150R. And all involving thousands of (lumbar) kill-ometers of riding. Yes. I'm both an addict and masochist by even the most loosely and hastily assembled ivory-tower definitions. Many other riders have conveyed their sympathies over the years with comments such as "Hey, you ride with what you have" or "You ride with what you can afford". While that may be true in at least some instances - it certainly wasn't true in my case. I have sampled many large motorcycles. Liked every one of them for different reasons. And I could easily afford any motorcycle I desperately craved right now (Well - except perhaps a Ducati 1199 Superleggera). But let me be clear at the outset (Umm...or an NCR M16.....), I don't ride small displacement bikes because I have no other options. At least at this time - I prefer them because I simply find them to be more fun to ride. So in that sense - the best single riding mistake I've ever made was to buy that first CBR125R years ago. For some - my current penchant for small displacement bikes will likely produce more disgust than vomiting in one's mouth, swishing it around, gargling it, and then swallowing. If that's the case - fine - just take a swig of Scope, pop an anti-emetic, and decide whether you wish to read any further.


So how does one prepare for yet another encore performance? I thought I had the answer when I found myself reciting "Just do the same thing you've done previously - only spice it up a bit - take advantage of some sights and adventures you weren't able to capitalize upon the last time you passed through. Don't meddle with the formula that drew in umm... a small handful of puzzled followers the last few times". This wasn't a new mantra. Actually far from it. Still - I knew that if I wanted to keep the trip fresh and interesting (if not completely predictable) for those three inmate followers - I'd have to re-adopt this perspective. Yet, as much as I thought it necessary to change things up with different photos and some new locales - I just figured that - like the previous trips - the ever-changing adventure would provide all the new character I needed for this report. Each time I re-trace this route - I re-discover how much there really is to see and experience. Depending on the season and weather, the views can look strikingly different each time. And of course - the adventure always brings with it something new.

So what were the more obvious differences this time around? Anyone who has read my previous reports knows that I like to make changes to my setup, and that my gear has been slowly and (somewhat) methodically evolving over time. As a testament to my madness - I purchased a set of CBR250R Hepco & Becker C-Bow pannier holders from Moto Machines knowing they wouldn't fit my CBR125R. Despite ample warnings, I believed I could make some modifications that would enable them to work - accepting that both bikes are remarkably similar in design. I also upped the ante by purchasing a set of C-Bow accessory adapters that are made to thread into any soft luggage so they can then be mounted to the C-Bow holders. The costs incurred for something that wasn't supposed to fit was staggering. And I knew this too. Of course, I didn't let money get in the way of crazy spending. Or my goal of using my Ortlieb Dry Saddlebags from Aerostitch with the new C-Bow pannier racks. I love the Ortliebs. They have held up great for me - always coddling and protecting their contents, and ensuring everything stayed absolutely, bone freakin' dry. The current thought of giving up these panniers immediately conjures visual images of Charlton Heston, the NRA, and an image of cold dead hands. The prospect of being able to simply lift them onto the holders and "click" them in for a terrifically quick, simple, and secure attachment to the bike has been the equivalent of a teenage "Eno fuelled paper-mache volcano" wet-dream of mine for quite some time. No more fiddling with straps while eating up valuable time - and invariably letting frustration dampen the excitement and anticipation that defines the start of each and every new morning's riding adventure. With just a few slight design modifications I figured would work - and the invaluable assistance of my good friend Ron who - with the help of his trusty pneumatic compatriots that included his Bavarian sidekick "die grinder" - we carried out the finely detailed changes that culminated in lopping off the forward support bars and bolting them directly to my passenger peg brackets. You can imagine my surprise when everything lined up great and the finished work looked like a custom fit. Thanks Ron!

Here is the bike - almost ready to go. Like a dog eagerly anticipating a car ride.



I also replaced the stock 130/70-17 rear and 100/80-17 front bias-ply IRC Road Winner tires with a 120/70-17 rear and 110/70-17 front Metzeler Roadtec Z8 radial rubber. Surprisingly for some - both are actually "front" tires, as no manufacturer I could find makes a 120 section rear radial. Common wisdom also suggests that the rear be installed "backwards" - but others who have tried both configurations with their CBR125Rs report experiencing no noticeable difference. Some may wonder why I would opt for a narrower width from the stock 130 rear as well. The fun reply would be that if a 120 rear is fine for 250cc Moto3 prepped bikes - it would be fine for my bike too. But a more realistic answer simply involves rotational mass. The new rear Metzeler weighs more than 2 lbs less than the stock tire, and this weight is located at the outer rim - where the effect is even more pronounced. While the weight difference between the two tires at first glance doesn't seem notable, the effect that it yields on a bike with barely 15 hp - is surprising. A few years back I replaced the stock IRC rear (100/80-17) on my 2009 CBR125R with a Michelin Pilot Sporty (110-80-17) without any knowledge or consideration beforehand to rotational mass and tire weight. During the bike's shakedown cruise I immediately detected that something was amiss during acceleration. There was less of it. Yes - I know - less of something that most people feel doesn't actually exist on the bike in the first place is the motorcycling equivalent of cold fusion. I think Billy Preston's line "Nothin' from nothin' leaves nothin'" accurately depicts the bikes pull when accelerating. Still - as Weber's Law would suggest - I noticed a difference - and following some systematic investigations - it appeared that rotational mass was the likely culprit. So when recently re-evaluating my tire needs - I reasoned that with the addition of modern, technologically sophisticated radial rubber on the little CBR, I expected to see some improvements in grip, handling, ride comfort, acceleration, and maybe even fuel economy. All with a narrower rear tire. I put on about 800 km (500 miles) of testing before commencing my tour, and I can say that these tires have been excellent. Outstanding grip in the wet or dry. I even installed a DID x-ring chain, and replaced the sprockets - returning the bike back its original (taller) stock gearing. Now cruising at 100 km/hr (62 mph) in 6th gear occurs at 8000 RPM (instead of at the torque peak of 8500 RPM). These changes appear to have improved fuel economy a bit at highway speeds, with the side benefit of reducing bar vibrations at cruise even more - though vibrations were admittedly never really an issue beforehand. Of course, I've had to address questions of tire wear, as front tires aren't designed to endure the stresses inherent in being driven. And this was one reason why I chose Metzeler's harder compound sport touring tire rather than their softer Sportec M5 sport tire. Now at a little over 6000 km (4000 miles) of riding, the rear is starting to wear a flat spot (not enough twisties around here) along the centerline, but otherwise it's still in good shape. At only $100-$120 to replace, that's what I'll be doing next season.



I had also replaced my stock Huasa battery with a Shorai lithium-iron version to shave a few more pounds. But this pales in comparison to the one major "I didn't see that coming" like an episode of "The Walking Dead" change that I made after much careful consideration. If you know how passionate I am about my Roll-A-Cot bed - I would advise you to either stop reading now and distract yourself by referring to the latest "Cloud" breach of nude celebrity photos, or continue reading but pop a sublingual nitroglycerin tablet just in case what you're about to encounter induces severe intractable chest pains. Granted it you were already shocked by its conspicuous absence in the loaded up bike photos - you probably already need the application of some strategically placed paddles. Either way, here it comes....I purchased a Helinox Cot One to possibly replace my Roll-A-Cot. Why Mike? Why?!?!? Well after much soul searching, this is what I came up with...... 1. I just simply can't stop buying stuff and I need help. 2. I was enamored with the idea of being able to store a cot in my Givi Maxia E55 case and shield it from the elements. 3. I also thought I could improve my aerodynamics a bit on the highway by eliminating what looked like a rolled up kitchen rug sitting across the back of my bike. 4. I figured I could eliminate some bulk, as The Cot One weighs only 4 lbs (6 lbs less than the Roll-A-Cot) and packs much smaller too. 5. And the new cot promised to save packing frustrations as well. I simply wouldn't have to spend needless time securing it to the bike. 6. It would also free up some room for gear on the pillion seat. And finally 7. So I wouldn't have to worry about "taking out" unsuspecting pedestrians at cross-walks like a bowling lane pinsetter "sweep bar" when making right hand turns. So there you have it. How did it all work out? I'm afraid you'll have to read on to find out.

Click-and-go pannier functionality is so wonderful to have. It came in useful on many occasions during this trip.



So what were my goals for this trip? I had several in mind. Of course, I wanted to meet up with the great group of CBR125R riders (current and former), knowing that it always promises to be a fun and entertaining time with lots of laughs and incredible camaraderie, and that the group ride routes are always creative, interesting, and enjoyable. And just like on my previous trips - I wanted to sample some new (to me) Provincial Parks along the way. And this time, I actually planned to have some mechanical work done on the bike. I had been considering upgrading my rear suspension for a while - to something more suited for the extra weight the bike typically carries in touring and camping mode. The stock rear shock is non-adjustable and tends to "pogo" a bit when pushed hard in corners while fighting the mass of a full complement of gear. As luck would have it - Elka produces an adjustable one specifically made for the CBR125R. Even better, the install would be professionally done just outside of Buckhorn, ON at Accelerated Technologies by the owner himself - who had a hand in helping design the shock. Sign me up! What else? Well after living a rather Bohemian lifestyle while suffering a week of riding and camping - it's nice to visit family and integrate into society again - at least for a bit. So I planned to visit my dad as well as my sister and her family who all now reside in the Penetanguishene area, nestled next to Georgian Bay. But wait! There was yet another reason for this trip. I've tried to entice some of the CBR125R riders from Southern Ontario to trek a bit further beyond their comfort zone - and coordinate an epic tour along the North Shore to Northwestern Ontario. These riders seem to enjoy reading my reports, and riding a small displacement bike is something they can surely relate to - it's something that uniquely bonds us all together. So by priming them year after year with photos and accounts of my adventures, it has always been my sincere hope that I might be able to get some of them to visit - and have them experience the same locales that I've tried my best to share with them in words and pictures. And maybe witness them write about it too. One rider actually mentioned that he hoped to make his way up - in September 2014 - touring and camping on a 2008 CBR125R. Well - we are currently well into December 2014 - so unless Nathan has been secretly corresponding with "It's so cold my eyelids are frozen to my eyeballs" Bwokentoof - his adventure would now have to wait. Still - I like to believe I'm slowly making some headway in encouraging other small-displacement riders to follow my lead.

So on June 17th, 2014 I set-off on another week and a half long adventure to Southern Ontario. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do and see each day, but also knew that I needed to be flexible based on weather and other hindrances. With that said - my first goal was to grab what would eventually be my lunch and supper at Subway, then ride out to Nipigon, ON and head west along an isolated dirt road to a lookout near Moseau Lake. Clearly, the CBR150R isn't as suited for this kind of riding as my WR250R, yet it holds its own reasonably well due to light weight and a low center of gravity. I wondered what views could be had from the top of the lookout and intended to find out.

Here was a portion of the planned route for day one.



As one approaches Thunder Bay from the west - there is a new divided highway that begins about 25km outside of the city. This new route is elevated over the old one, allowing images of the lake and surrounding area to spring into view. I thought I'd turn off the highway and ride even higher still - to capture some of the scenery.

Across the bay lies the Sibley Peninsula which extends out to Sleeping Giant Park.



It was only after I had climbed off the bike, made sure that all the gear was still securely attached, and snapped a photo that I realized I had stopped in the middle of the entrance to someone's long driveway. I didn't stick around long. Trespassing or not - I like to think I'm making some progress in at least the act of stopping to take photos. It hasn't always been this way. One of the first things I like to suggest to newbies who occasionally seek my advice about touring on a motorcycle is to: 1. Stop often to take photos - even though it seems like a "pain" to do so at the time. 2. Then... after the trip, when reviewing those images and reveling in how they suddenly bring back vivid recollections from those special moments - create a cortical GPS-like way-point to yourself immediately. 3. Next, when you set out on a subsequent trip - ask your cortex to remind you of how much you enjoyed those photos and how thankful you were that you took the time to take them. 4. Then continue to repeat this to yourself as you embark on your next adventure. The take home message is "Stop often. And capture lots". Just think about it - how many times have you looked at your shots after a trip and said "Geez - I regret stopping to take these photos of my adventure" and how many times have you said "Geez - I wish I had stopped at the one spot where the view was incredible - yet wanted to make better time so I kept going..." Besides, depending on where you live, you may need those photos for inspiration - to get you through a long winter of no riding.



While I've set out on trips in windy, rainy weather before, it really puts a damper on so many satisfying aspects of the adventure. I will now delay heading out if the forecast doesn't look promising on my intended start day. And I actually really enjoy riding in the rain. Honest. I even made a new acquisition this year for such occasions that included a set of fully waterproof Klim Latitude Misano jacket and pants, and heated, fully waterproof, VR-Pro gloves. But traveling and photographing various assortments of grey mist at supposedly scenic locations along the way isn't my idea of digital imaging Nirvana. I feel bad for those who find themselves riding north of Lake Superior in rain and fog laden weather. There really isn't much to see in these conditions. It's like visiting a scenic overlook at night. Or visiting the top of Mount Washington, NH encased in fog. With Lake Superior, many just treat it as a "riding to get to the next destination" kind of day. And that's no fun.

The ride to Nipigon, ON was really relaxing. Traveling in June almost guarantees that traffic will be minimal (especially holiday traffic) so if you prefer endless sections of solitary riding - it's an excellent time to go. I had some reservations about the taller gearing mods to the little CBR, especially when riding into strong head-winds - but I soon realized that such concerns were largely unwarranted. Contrary to what I've intimated, the bike is actually a pretty comfortable tourer. The rider's triangle is pretty ideal and ergonomically more closely aligned with conventional sport touring machines than aggressive supersport missiles. And while the bike isn't imposing, it's actually much larger physically than its meagre displacement would suggest which allows even taller riders to stretch out a bit. Of course, there are limitations too. The bike doesn't have gobs of passing power (No Really?!?) so you have to carefully plan such manoeuvers. Yet it still manages to surprise me at times when it defies my expectations of what is possible for a machine with only one cylinder that's less than half the size of a pop can. But it's these times that I cherish. It's what riding a small displacement bike it all about - and perhaps why you've managed to continue reading this far - through all the preamble. It's about interacting with the bike. Feeling an intimate connection with it. Knowing what its strengths and limitations are and exploiting them in the name of fun. And knowing how the bike will respond to your inputs - because you understand its quirks so well. Where's the fun in a bike that can accelerate hard in any gear - just by merely twisting the throttle? That's too easy. I'd prefer a more immersive experience. As I've indicated in other reports, the bike can hold the speed limit of 90 km/hr (56 mph) all day without no complaints. Yet - I prefer to ride at about 100 km/hr (GPS) to stay with the normal flow of traffic and avoid being an obstacle on the road. And with the CBR150R - this has never been an issue. Some might argue that maintaining a speed of 100km/hr wouldn't be adequate for Interstate and express highways - but surprisingly - this is rarely an issue either. Why? Because when among a group of vehicles traveling at let's say 120 km/hr, the bike naturally goes with the flow - it's like riding a wave of 120 km/hr wind all generated by large vehicles pushing through the air in the same direction - it pulls you along like a high speed airport moving walkway. I often find myself throttling back a bit in such situations. Without the presence of other traffic, I'm unable to blast up long and steep highway grades, but I usually still maintain the speed limit. Climbing long hills can actually be quite fun because you get to rev the engine in a lower gear and hear it sing it's melodious mechanical tune at an RPM that is Moto GP-like, and unobtainable by any mass produced reciprocating automobile engine. And in such situations, I still make a point of paying vigilant attention to my mirrors. If I see someone tailing me, I graciously pull to the right and let them pass. I want to take my time and enjoy the full, pure experience of riding, without frustrating and thwarting those with more urgent plans - poised dangerously close behind me. A few years ago while I was "caging-it" to Winnipeg and cruising along an hour west of Thunder Bay, I came up behind a rider piloting a GS with European plates. He sure had good head movement. Perhaps he was admiring the views across the "height of land" we were traveling through. Or maybe he was on the look out for moose. Nevertheless, his speed was a closely monitored 90 km/hr for as long as I was following him. I think there's a lot to be said for this type of riding. After some time, I passed him and honked while waving. I get it.

After re-fueling in Nipigon, I re-traced my steps back to Peddler's Road and began my 20 km expedition to the Moseau Lake mesa. After about 30 minutes of riding at no more than 40 km/hr (25 mph), and paying close attention to various forks in the road (I prefer the challenge of finding my way without a GPS) I could see my destination up ahead. You can see two communications towers standing on both highpoints at the top of the hill.



Even a small dual-sport would have easily made its way up the steep, cratered road that winds to the top. But for a street bike lacking knobbies and impressive inches of suspension travel - it was considerably more tricky. There were many sections that were washed out with loose gravel and pieces of chip sealed roadway scattered here and there. Navigating to the top felt like negotiating a slalom course - but one that ran up hill and included loose rocks. Momentum was essential. But too much would see the bike careening off in unpredictable directions. The key was to plan in advance - watch far ahead for the best paths and then commit to them. Clearly, there were lots of places where things could have gone wrong on this ascent. And it's times that this that I briefly pondered the benefits of a riding buddy. But I persevered and gradually made it to the top.



It was a strange feeling to have survived the ascent, yet experience only stifled relief in recognition that I'd have to make a return trip at some point. Once I allowed myself to take my eyes off the road and survey the views, I must admit that I was impressed, and immediately thankful that I decided to explore this lookout some distance off the beaten path. Is this not what adventure is all about? The top of the hill sits about 150m (500 ft) above the surrounding land.



I decided to approach the edge to take in the full panorama. Views like this have led me to wonder what it is that attracts me to such high points. And I believe part of it stems from spending a good portion of my youth alpine skiing and experiencing a multitude of views from the top of various high points - always wondering what it would be like to climb other peaks seen from a distance. And it was those monadnocks that stood tall above everything else that always held the most interest for me.



The prominent height of land at the center of the frame below is part of a ridge that follows the Black Sturgeon River up to a separate high point at Eagle Mountain - 305 m (1000 ft) some distance to the right of the image below. This part of the ridge rises about 260 m (850 ft) above the river, which is hidden within a deep valley. I bet it would make an excellent ski run.



As I started to make my way back down the hill, I snapped a shot of the rugged topography between the towns of Nipigon and Redrock with Lake Superior in the background. Coincidentally, the slope that appears below where the communications towers are located (actually an illusion as the towers are situated some distance back along the ridge) in this photo used to be the location of Nipigon's own small ski area. I hope to do a ride report in the future that explores abandoned ski hills and sites with new ski area potential.



And this is what the road looked like near the top of the hill as I was about to descend. Of course, the steep downward angle is conspicuously missing from the photo (the road almost looks like its heading upwards). And the surface became much worse than this further down - but my focus was biased towards completing the descent and surviving rather than manually selecting the right one with my camera. Fortunately, both me and the bike survived the gravity fed route back down to the main road.



The side trip had taken a bit more time than I had anticipated, but I was happy to have "bagged" it with no casualties, some captivating photos, and another adventure under my belt. I even managed to remember which direction I needed at several forks in the road on the way out. I was also quickly getting used to how the little CBR handled the gravel, but I made sure to keep to the bare vehicular tire tracks just in case.



Once I made it back to the Trans-Canada once again, I continued on my way west. It wasn't long before I encountered some highway bridge repairs at the Jackfish River which resulted in a short delay. Good thing, normally near the Big Lake you can count on a nice cool breeze. Not this day - it was sweltering. I wondered how breathable Gore-Tex was as I endured the heat. Apparently, it was the season for bridge work, as there were several other delays by the time I reached my destination for the day - Neys Provincial Park.



But before reaching Neys, there were some other places I wanted to stop. One of them was a scenic lookout at Kama Bay Hill. I had the intention of capturing the area on a number of previous occasions, but the weather and lighting hadn't cooperated on those days. It was clear that today would be different. The photos below were taken next to the highway and highlights the quality of the views available along this route as you wind your way through.



Here is a view looking back towards Redrock, ON.



And here is what the rest-stop looked like at Kama Bay.



And looking back from where I had come, you can see a waterfall (just a little down and to the right from the middle of the image) that cascades from the top of the Kama Bay ridge which lies more than 277 m (900 ft) above Lake Superior. There are some hiking trails up there that I'd like to explore at some point in the future.



And here is a view that riders typically see on a bright and sunny day, as they quickly contemplate whether or not they should continue on - or stop for a break and admire the scenery.



I knew that the weather would be ideal for a stop at a picnic area just past the turnoff to the sea-side-like village of Rossport. The views from this vantage point are terrific and parallel the panorama that unfolds before you along the highway. With no other roadside lookout close by - this one offered up the most convenient snapshots.



As I was framing a shot of the bike in such an idyllic setting, a fresh-water sea serpent broke the surface of the water and floated just off the shoreline. Of course - I could have taken a closer photo to determine what this really actually was. But doing so might have led me to recognize it as a stick or some other ordinary object. We wouldn't want that. Besides, my resource guide "Photographing Sea Serpents and Other Supernatural Phenomena For Dummies" suggests the best shots of mythical sea creatures can be had with no zoom, poor lighting, and a really, really soft focus.



After taking another shot of the little CBR, I had lunch.



And then captured one more shot of the beach before continuing on my way to Terrace Bay, ON, where I stopped to re-fuel. Consistent with my previous trips along the north shore - I calculated that I was netting about 85 mpg (71 mpg U.S.). About 10 mpg less than traveling without luggage.



I was excited to be spending another evening at Neys. The last time I had camped here on my CBR150R I vowed to return and explore this park more fully. Before my first visit a couple of years ago, people used to tell me how special this place was. You really have to experience it to understand. A couple of weeks after returning from my trip, I ended up car camping here with my sweetheart. I couldn't help myself. I needed to share this incredible gem with someone close to me. I needed to see whether she felt the same way about it as I did.



What secrets would be revealed at Neys this afternoon and into the evening? Stay tuned for Part II - to find out.

Nanabijou screwed with this post 01-15-2015 at 11:11 AM
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Old 12-08-2014, 07:52 PM   #2
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Good start to your ride report and lots of nice pictures of places I have been or drove by, and never stopped to photograph. Thanks
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Old 12-09-2014, 07:47 AM   #3
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Trip part 1

Thank you so much for sending this trip report!! I'm into the "yes it's to bad out there to ride time", although we did get a good day or two and I caught a quick ride to ease the shakes. Even a short ride does wonders for one's soul this time of year. Your ride report was outstanding as always. I agree with the smaller CC bikes ,I can always take the DL 650 but end up on one the 250s. There is a bonding with the bike that makes for a very enjoyable ride. Also, you can't take enough pictures, beautiful scenery. Looking forward to part 2. I miss the CBR 125 Forum, and just recently wondered if you were still out there riding [should have known better]. Great hearing from you. I'm thinking already of a camera upgrade for this coming riding season. Again, thank you for sharing your ride and so good to hear from another who understands the pleasures of the smaller bikes. Have a good Holiday and Merry Christmas /Happy New Year. Terry CMS
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Old 12-09-2014, 10:43 AM   #4
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Awesome once again, eagerly look forward to more continuing chapters!

As much as I love the pictures, for me, the narration content and style is what I truly love about your RR's, man

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Old 12-10-2014, 03:25 PM   #5
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Old 12-10-2014, 10:25 PM   #6
Nanabijou OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Klay View Post
Klay - you've actually ridden my CBR150R. So I'm sure you can truly imagine what touring and camping would feel like on it. I remember after you rode it you said "Hey - I could tour on this!" And then said something about the suspension being a bit inadequate. Well - let's just say I took your evaluation seriously - hence why I started shopping around for a suspension upgrade.

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Old 12-10-2014, 11:00 PM   #7
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I suspect that this is the first ride report in the history of ADV that has had a reference to psychophysics! Weber's Law indeed! Well done. As always, your reports stand out. And not by a just noticeable difference!
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Old 12-10-2014, 11:12 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Nanabijou View Post
Klay - you've actually ridden my CBR150R. So I'm sure you can truly imagine what touring and camping would feel like on it. I remember after you rode it you said "Hey - I could tour on this!" And then said something about the suspension being a bit inadequate. Well - let's just say I took your evaluation seriously - hence why I started shopping around for a suspension upgrade.
That road was exceptionally bumpy, now that I think about it in hindsight. I am interested to find that my new CB500X feels the same in the suspension department as your CBR150 felt. I think there may be similar DNA in the bikes. And yes, I can tour on either of them.


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Old 12-11-2014, 05:34 AM   #9
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Hey Mike! I know that one spot!



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Old 12-12-2014, 06:52 PM   #10
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Neys was really, really pretty when I was there. I only hope it was much less buggy for you, although you seem to have a much higher tolerance for mosquitoes than I do.
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Old 01-08-2015, 08:42 PM   #11
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Part II - Lookout!

The road leading down from the Trans-Canada to Neys provides the first sense that something special this way comes. As I write this, I'm left struggling to find words to capture the sensations experienced as I crossed the rail tracks, and began my slow descent along the flowing paved tarmac, richly immersed within a canopy of trees offering shade from either side. Dogs stick their snouts out car windows to capitalize on the freshest, richest most interesting and varied mix of smells available at the moment, and it's rides like this that make me understand why. Something as simple as suddenly being engulfed by new and interesting wooded scents is just so rewarding to a motorcyclist, and is often neglected in any discussion of why we ride. If I had been driving in a car - I would have missed out on an entire menu of olfactory main courses at that moment - and it might as well have been a completely different trip - because in many essential ways - it actually would have been. I made sure to crack open my visor. Even the aural sensations were different. The ever-present drone in my helmet from continuous highway riding was now abruptly contrasted by a muted hush. This really felt like being in another world - one remarkably different, and even more satisfying, than the one I found myself immersed in - on the highway only a few minutes ago. Within moments, the sound of traffic from the Trans-Canada became a fading, distant thrum that was replaced with the serene, peaceful wilderness signature that is the welcome mat for Neys. I remember feeling struck by these sensations, reveling in it, with my engine barely above idle, as I snaked through the beams of hot bright sunlight that competed with the cool, dark, looming shadows as I edged closer to the largest freshwater lake in the world. Yes - this place is special and now you can appreciate why it's even more so - on a motorcycle. I was startled back to reality as I pulled up to the park gatehouse and realized that I had arrived at a time when the gatehouse attendants apparently had come upon a recently discarded, low mileage, Klingon cloaking device. There didn't appear to be anyone around, and the gatehouse was closed. If you have read through my previous reports - you know that I am now quite accustomed to this turn of events. I knew the ritual. I grabbed a map of the park, pulled my now cool-sweat-soaked helmet over my head, and made my way into the campground.


You can tell you are getting closer to the big lake when you find yourself crossing through waves of intermittently dispersed cool and fresh lake air. When the wind is blowing - it's like a fan pushing wind over a tray of ice cubes - and on this day - I felt the occasional wisp of Lake Superior's natural air-conditioner and was thankful for it. Few things can prepare you for the first images that appear. I wondered how many others stopped at this very spot - to capture their first up-close and intimate meet-up with the Big Lake. In my previous visit - there was an irresistible draw to pull out my camera here. And the same was true now. This is what I saw.



There was some fog rolling in from the distance, that would later overwhelm the entire campsite. Yes - this was Neys. Always offering up something interesting. Always captivating. Never completely the same.



I knew that on this visit I wanted to camp right next to the water, and so selected Area 1 on the park map. As I made my way through the campground, it became immediately clear that I would feel like I had the entire place to myself this afternoon. There were a few RVs dotting the landscape, and some travel-trailers scattered here and there (likely vacant, waiting to be occupied on weekends) and that was about it. I selected site #12 as my cozy territory for the night. Some moments later, after perusing a park pamphlet, I discovered I had selected a spot that had been formerly occupied by Camp 100 - the prisoner of war establishment that existed long before the park existed - in the 1940s. I wondered if - despite their predicament - they were as blown-away by these views as I was at this moment. And this area felt very isolated even now - so I can't imagine how much more remote it felt, when there was only rail access - at that time. I also wondered about mosquitos. Not the plywood, twin-engined, dive-bomber type, that my WWII reverie was directing me toward. The breeze that was in charge of escorting the mist in this direction from across the bay would likely - at some point - add to the slight wisps that cooled my brow - and provide a turbulent challenge for even their most ardent full-flaps, flared, and slide-slipped landing attempts. At some point. I quickly found myself blitzkrieg-ed by these flying pests while unpacking and assembling my tent. It was too hot to keep my helmet on, and not breezy enough to remove it and suffer the ravages of flying Northwestern Ontario vermin. I opted for the latter and then showered myself with Deep Woods Off. Half-way through tent assemblage - a fellow in a motorhome pulled up next to my site and got out and walked over to speak with me. He wanted to know where to deposit his park registration fees. I had seen no other human in the park yet - and he probably figured that I might be the only one available for assistance for some time. As much as I wanted to help - I had to concede right off the bat that I had absolutely no clue. I mentioned that there is usually a drop box attached to the gatehouse. He stated that he had looked all around the building and couldn't locate any place to deposit the envelope. I reassured him that there would be one somewhere, and that I'd be looking for it too shortly. I simply would pass this information on to him once I made the discovery. I noticed that he had a European accent and was traveling in an RV with the words CanaDream sprawled across the top cabin. It sounded very much like a German accent to me (was the heat and the Camp 100 literature getting to me?). When I asked him if he was from Germany - he immediately said "No. I'm from Holland - but it's similar". He said it so politely and matter-of-factly that I wasn't sure if he meant the country itself - or his accent. Of course - I promptly apologized for being so presumptuous, but he quickly and repeatedly downplayed my blunder. We briefly discussed his itinerary and it turns out he was traveling across the country and decided to stay at Neys for the evening. I never had the chance to ask him why he picked Neys. But I wished him a great stay as he stepped back into the RV and carried on to his site just a short distance away. I later encountered several CanaDream labeled RVs on this trip and wondered if I just hadn't noticed them everywhere previously.



Once I had the tent set up and much of my gear stored inside, I decided to take a few more photos of the lake from my vantage point next to the beach.



The focal point of Neys is the picturesque sandy beach. Some of the campsites in Area 2 located further west of my site offer trails that run directly from the sites to the expansive, sandy haven - offering the benefits of wooded privacy for camping, and a spectacularly immense beach for swimming and lounging in your camp chair.



I have often wondered what these views would look like from up above. I knew that there was a road to the top of Premier Mountain adjacent to the campground that held some promise. While I wasn't looking forward to riding up another washed out, gravel strewn road to capture this footage (I had already filled my quota on this trip) I new that this one would be spectacular.



Before embarking on this enticing side-trip, I climbed onto the bike and made my way to the gatehouse to pay my fees. The first thing I noticed was that the little CBR suddenly felt much more responsive. You get used to cranking on the throttle when riding fully loaded. That same habit on my now unladen bike made it lurch forward like it was trying to pounce on unsuspecting prey. It felt like a different motorcycle. Along the way I spotted the Dutch fellow I'd just conversed with earlier, walking with his significant other toward the same destination and I waved as I rode by. Arriving at the gatehouse, I was soon introduced to the mystery of the invisible drop box as well. Carefully examining every nook and cranny of the old-style park structure turned up nothing. While scratching my head, my attention was diverted to the hum of a motorcycle approaching from the distance. As the rider came to a stop at the gatehouse, I immediately recognized the bike from my mental storehouse of motorcycle magazines I used to collected in the 1980s. But I couldn't remember the model. It was a Honda GL500 Interstate. Complete with longitudinally mounted engine (ala Moto Guzzi). Remember when Honda was so much more creative and daring in exploring different and exciting engine configurations? His name was Dave and he was traveling to Southern Ontario as well - from his home out west. Of course, I had a lot of questions about his bike. While his ride would have been considered a "midsized" motorcycle at the time of its release, it would undoubtedly be considered a small displacement bike by today's standards. I must admit that I felt some special kinship with this guy that was touring on what looked to be an early 80's Honda Goldwing, wrapped around a small engine. That was small-displacement enough for me. As we were talking I had almost completely forgotten about the drop box and we noticed that the fellow and his wife were now within sight. I asked Dave if he had any idea where it might be located. He pointed to a pole next to the roadway some distance away from the building and suggested I look there. Not sure how I missed that. I motioned to the Dutch couple - but they were already making a beeline to the pole like it held a highly sought after geo-cache. Knowing that I still needed to explore the views atop Premier Mountain, and hike along another lookout trail in the park before dusk, I needed to get moving. I re-traced my way back toward the highway and then just before reaching the rail crossing, turned right towards the trail road. When I arrived at where the start was supposed to be located, I was disappointed to find that the cart-track route to the top was gated, and it was now accessible only by foot. I knew I wouldn't have enough time to walk the 10 km path (return) on this day. With that in mind - I rode back down to my campsite and prepared to explore the 2.5-km long "Lookout Trail" and get my fill of photos this way.



So with nothing but my camera in hand, I made my way west toward the Area 4 campground section of the park.



Along the way, I noticed the mist slowing moving in from the lake. Such is the ever-changing beauty of this place. I thought it best to snap as many photos as I could before the best views disappeared.



This scene looked more appropriate for the set of The Beachcombers than a park along Lake Superior in Northwestern Ontario.



I also knew that there was a conveniently located Par 3 course located adjacent to the campground so I made sure to take advantage of the opportunity to strike a ball cleanly with a slide fade to the right of where the picnic table is located in the distance and a tree is shrouding a view of the pin placement and flag. Well, at least that's what ran through my mind as I approached this area nestled near where the Little Pic River spills into the bay. With the mist in the background, and nicely trimmed fairway - it looked pretty authentic.



With a lifebuoy located nearby, I could only assume that this was a popular swimming area. I suspect the shallower water here would warm up greatly in the summer months.



While feverishly snapping photos, I could suddenly hear the rumble and screeches of a distant train approaching so I tried to capture an image of what it would look like as it snaked its way around the rugged rocky hills, clinging precariously to the cliff edges bordering the park. If you look closely you can see the rail cars through the trees. I remember thinking that this scene would not have likely changed very much from the time that Camp-100 existed nearby. Steam engines would have reined supreme. But the route hadn't changed, and I imagined that the length of cars winding around the lake and the backdrop would have created an almost identical image. The last spike of the Lake Superior section of the first trans-continental railway crossing Canada was located not that far west of here, near the ghost town of Jackfish.



I continued along to the boat launch area and the Little Pic River. You can see the rail bridge off to the right. I believe the crevice towards the middle of the sparsely treed rocky outcrop in the distance is one you can hike through and eventually climb up to the top of - for some impressive scenic views.



When I finally came upon Area 4, it was clear that this section of the campground was closed. This area would undoubtedly be opened for the busier season that July and August sees. I heeded the baby blue arrow - and crept around the gate and headed towards the Lookout Trail.



Once inside, it suddenly occurred to me that this section could serve as a wonderful locale for a new video game chapter of Silent Hill. Silent Hill 5 - Neys Area 4. The entire area looked completely abandoned, and eerily quiet. I even started hearing the Silent Hill background music playing over and over in my head. There were picnic tables on end, leaves on the ground, and even yellow caution tape wrapped around an old outhouse like a toilet paper prank. All the birds seemed to have wisely abandoned this section as well. With one exception. About the only sound and sole comfort I could find, was the distant work of a woodpecker flitting around on the bark of a nearby conifer. As I continued walking the sound grew louder and it became even more familiar. I had seen porcupines high up in trees before - and the distinctive sound of claws clamoring - scrambling - while flaking off bark on their way up was a sight to behold. I wouldn't allow this to pass without a good photo. I reached for my camera and looked around. He could be on virtually any of a number of pines that filled out the spaces between campsites. While I was desperately searching for the quilly rodent, I was blissfully unaware of some huffing, puffing, and snorting, coming from some large dark object that was rapidly pacing and darting through a veil of trees in an open area (campsites on the other side of the loop) not more than a hundred feet away. Right about that time my primitive subcortical amygdala began sending frantic, rapid bursts of signals to my front cortex that something was amiss here and it wasn't a good thing. And right around that same moment I discovered the porcupine in the tree. But strangely, I was surprised to discover that it more closely resembled a porcupine sporting a pretty convincing and elaborate Rubies bear cub Halloween costume. $hit on a stick this was not good. The most pressing question I had at that point was remarkably simple and straightforward. "Where was the mother?" And I suppose the second most pressing question was "Was I between her and the cub?" In actuality, I also had another question that I wanted to ask the mom directly. Could she "Please consider uttering some higher pitched imminent death knell warning sounds, rather than the low frequency huffing, puffing, snorting and teeth gnashing" that I was hearing? I just couldn't determine where she was located for the life of me. "Umm...mama bear, the guttural sounds you are farting out of your incisor filled mouth are very low in pitch and remarkably difficult to localize. Honest - you can ask Bose about this and I'm sure they could show you histograms and schematics that attest to the unique non-directional characteristics of low frequency acoustics." This reminded me of when a grouse does the "drum thumping" thing - that sounds like they are testing a kick drum for the sound guy before a rock show - you hear it somewhere in the forest - but it's a real challenge to identify where it's coming from. And I've always just suspected that it was a grouse. I had never actually seen one do it. The other problem was that if I continued along the road - this would put me marginally closer to the cub in the tree. Against my better judgement, I slowly continued along my route while vigilantly scanning for motion through the trees. Suddenly, there was a brief separation in the foliage on the other side of the cub. And just like that - I was looking face to face at the bear across some distance. And I swear she did a bit of a double-take when our eyes met. I briefly considered asking it to hold that pose while I snapped a photo for my trip report - but I didn't want to do anything that might prompt some bizarre fixed action pattern or otherwise piss her off. Bears don't have the greatest eye-sight. It was a weird and strangely vulnerable feeling. I had left my Swiss Army knife back on the campsite too. It probably wouldn't have done me much good anyways I later reasoned. What could I do? Use it to whittle a Kanji character tattoo in the bear's upper left shoulder that inspirationally signified "strength and sharp claws" while she continued to gnaw on my skull like it was a dissatisfyingly meat-sparse bon-bon spare rib? I was able to create some distance from the bear, but on occasion, I found myself looking back over my shoulder - just in case.



Not long afterwards, I found the sign that indicated the start of the lookout trail and eagerly began my trek that slowly wound through the forest and eventually up to some high scenic overlooks.



At first I came across some less than spectacular views that I hoped were not the grand finale. It turns out that the best ones were still some distance along and required just a little extra patience.



I must admit that having a 20x super-zoom camera has really come in handy and I find myself using it more often than I would have thought.



This is a photo of Premier Mountain. Seeing as I wasn't able to hike up to this high point earlier in the day, I might as well capture a photo of it from the other side of the park. And yes - I've wondered if it would make a good ski hill. It towers over 800 feet above the lake.



This view is rather similar to the one you see from the highway as you ride past the park on the Trans-Canada.



On this day the mist out over the water kept rolling in.



My trek took an interesting turn when the trail suddenly descended into a narrow rock walled valley. The first thing I noticed was that the right-hand rock face "housed" some deep crevices and I laughed as I immediately thought that these wide mouthed caves would likely be prime real-estate for my ursine friend and youngster. The irony that these looked just like what I imagined a bear den to look like wasn't lost on me. I decided - just for laughs - to take a photo so I could include it in this report. If nothing else - I thought it'd be amusing. And it really was an entertaining thought at the time, up until I pressed the shutter half-way down to focus, and I heard an audible grunt come from the cave. No joke. At first I thought to myself "Could I have imagined that?". But it wasn't subtle at all. Whatever it was - it voiced its displeasure at me taking a photo through its picture window. Of course - this doesn't necessarily confirm that there was a bear down in there. But what other animals grunt like bears? I decided at that moment that I had absolutely no curiosity - no desire to find out. Of course - just like in a low budget horror movie there was a dead tree that had fallen on the path (the lichen encrusted branches you see in the photo are part of that) so I had to go around it. And I wasn't about to pick the route that had me passing by the cave opening. As I started to gingerly traipse through the branches aiming for the straightest and most efficient route back onto the trail and away from this area........



.......... my foot became trapped in some wire. I am not joking. I seem to remember thinking "You gotta be fuc#$ing kidding me". Was this set intentionally by the bear?!? And even before I was able to release my foot - I took a photo of it. Why? Because I figured that if the worst happened here and in the next few minutes there was a "whole lot of mauling goin' on " and I ended up being the unfortunate recipient of it, at least my SDHC card would contain some photos to help explain my painful, awkward, and humiliating passing. I also thought that people would get a laugh out of this as well - if I happened to survive - and that it would be easy to free myself. Yet the relationship between my foot, the wire, and the branches was such that it took several concerted attempts to free my limb. It probably didn't help that part of my attention was focused on the cavern.



At this point my adventure so far vaguely resembled The Twilight Zone" and I was just looking forward to the end of the episode.

Everywhere I looked in the dunes toward the end of the trail - I spotted bear prints.



But eventually I came to the end of the trail - which exited only about 20 feet away from where the entrance had been located. Like a Carnival funhouse I thought.



Fortunately, the walk back was uneventful. Before reaching my campsite - I passed by where Dave had opted to stay for the evening and filled him in on the bear sighting. As we were chatting about other things - including riding - he drew my attention to a thumping sound and said that it was coming from a ruffed grouse just off the side of the road. We watched it for a few moments before it abruptly started to shake and make the characteristic sound. Dave confided that he had heard that distinctive noise so many times in the bush - but had never been able to locate the source of it. I had to admit that I was in the same boat.



And here was the culprit.



Eventually, I made it back to my campsite and decided to get ready for the long day tomorrow. Fortunately, Neys has cell phone access, so I tethered my phone to my laptop and checked my e-mails. I had planned on heading east from Wawa and sampling some roads and sights along routes I hadn't previously explored. Yet when I received a private forum message from my friend John in Elliot Lake, ON suggesting that I pay him a visit - I decided that an abrupt change in plans was necessary. His message went something like this: "It would have been nice if you showed up here on Friday. Then I could ride with you on Saturday for a couple of hundred kilometres. Your welcome here whenever you arrive." How could I say "No" to that? I spent some time that night planning my new itinerary, reviewing the days events, calling my girlfriend, and eagerly anticipating the next day's adventure.



I also captured a photo of the sun setting and then retreated to my tent to do some reading (I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Life and Times of Warren Zevon). It wasn't long before I retired for the night. And my sleep was incredibly sound, restful, and bear theme free.



Stay tuned for Part III.

Mike

Nanabijou screwed with this post 01-16-2015 at 07:38 PM
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Old 01-09-2015, 07:00 PM   #12
JohnRcbr
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I agree with the impact smells have on your riding experience. In 1978 I took an early season ride from Sudbury to London Ontario. The musty smell in the fog filled Southwestern Ontario river valleys was a sharp contrast to the crisp clean air coming off Georgian Bay earlier that day. But the strongest memory is riding in the dark and running into the walls of aroma caused by the farm fields being freshly soaked with liquid manure.
Thanks for the report and next time your here maybe we can go bear watching, occasionally we do it from our front stairs.
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Old 01-10-2015, 08:55 PM   #13
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part 2

Mike , excellent as always. What a good read on this snowy/icey cold night. Winter is way to long already and we have at least two more months to go. looking forward to part three for another winter night read. Thanks again for sharing your rides. Terry///cms
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Old 01-12-2015, 09:52 AM   #14
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I guess we pay for our beautiful area by dealing with this intense cold all winter. Sigh.
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Old 01-13-2015, 04:29 PM   #15
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Part III - The Gathering Begins

One notable consistency I've observed from all of my small-displacement adventures is that I typically find myself beat, enervated, and lifeless by the end of the day. There's something to be said for a combination of heat, cold, walking around in a heavy, stifling, pseudo-space suit, fighting the wind, suffering dehydration, struggling against steep, rocky climbs, using my mouth and lungs as a RAM air O2 intake on the highway, and exploring hiking trails at the end of the day - that just completely exhausts me. The side benefit is that I am regularly up at 6 AM and ready for a new adventure. It was no different this morning. I remember thinking that it's almost impossible to evaluate the quality of ones night's sleep - when you are so exhausted that almost nothing could disturb your slumber anyway. I think I just lied prone on the cot - and didn't change my position for 8 straight hours. I'm not sure if this is because I was implicitly aware that there was no room to move around anyway - or I was just comatose for the entire time. Needless to say - I slept pretty hard. And despite really looking forward to providing a honest, genuine review of my new Helinox Cot One bed, I was left wondering how objective my evaluation could be when almost any sleep surface would have sufficed. My initial thoughts revolved around comfort and convenience. The Helinox is 25" wide compared to the 32" of my Roll-A-Cot. So the Roll-A-Cot is wider by a...er... wide margin. This enables you to move around on it somewhat - like a real bed throughout the night. And I knew that climbing off the Helinox in the morning would involve an unconventional dismount, with it lying just 6" off the ground. I just rolled off and onto my knees atop the tent floor. And changing my clothes sitting on the edge was out of the question. With that said - I have to admit that my back wasn't sore. This was something I had to suffer time and time again when sleeping on the ground - no matter which airbed I was sprawled out on (the worst offenders were the large, thick, rubber, electrically inflated ones). Without question, the quality of sleep I had on the Helinox was surely better than any I would have had on the ground. And I had to admit that the design is absolutely brilliant, and it's so quick, easy, and intuitive to set up. The convenience of storing it in my Givi is hard to dismiss too. This cot seems best suited to a slender hiker who wants a great sleep, on a lightweight, and well-built bed suspended off the cold, hard ground. But for me - I found myself already missing my Roll-A-Cot. And this was a trend that grew stronger - the longer I lived with the Helinox throughout the week. Yet - it has so much potential. In a perfect world, I'd suggest making a wider 32" version, with legs that suspended it 15" off the floor, so you could store gear underneath it to save room, and make it super comfortable to get dressed from in the morning - just like the Roll-A-Cot. And if they could create an adjustable backrest so you could also use it as a camp chair (not to mention keeping the tiny dimensions in check as much as possible) - I think my dream cot would finally be realized. Of course - I would buy two - to take with me and my girlfriend on our Caribbean vacations so we'd never have to fight for or get up at 6 AM to "reserve" a pool lounger with a beach towel ever again. I'd just set mine up wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Helinox - remember you heard it from me here first. Then again - if Camptime could also create a Roll-A-Cot version with three-piece side rails rather than two - this would reduce the length of the disassembled Roll-A-Cot to a size that would disappear in my Givi. As it stands - I'm thinking of modding my cot (rather than my bike for once). *Update* - Helinox may be releasing a new wider and taller cot! (See link below)*

http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1035518

After John's second message (actually his first message was to inform me that my inbox was full), I had to scramble to alter my route and plan for the next day. This was the original route (see below). My goal had been to split the trip by stopping and staying at Wakami Lake Provincial Park overnight. Then the following day, setting a course for adventure and treacherousness on the 50 mile (80 km) gravel Sultan Industrial Road and onto the never-before-traveled paved Highway 560 past Shining Tree and Gowganda, and down Route 65 through the Temagami area and ultimately to Restoule Provincial Park.



Now - the substitute route was to include some very familiar territory. Yet I knew there were so many places left unseen, as well as many new photo opportunities awaiting - that this wouldn't be an issue. Well, except for the timeline. I was now on a tighter schedule - and needed to complete well over 600 KM (400 miles) before day's end. I would be pressed for time and would have to pick and choose my rest stops carefully. This meant there would be fewer of them on this leg, and photos would be scarce too. When I agreed to change my route and visit JohnR - he knew it would be a long day. In his message he noted that I would be contradicting my own small-displacement touring advice when he stated: "You are planning to ride here from Terrace Bay - what happened to 400 km days?". Moreover, I still had some priorities in mind too. There was one spot that I wanted to visit that just happened to be another view from up top. I had heard about an incredible hike across from the picnic area at Old Woman Bay just south of Wawa, ON that apparently held stunning views above Lake Superior, the beach, and the old woman's pareidolic profile eroded into the cliff face. I quickly placed this on the list of goals for the day. As I was walking to the park comfort station, I could hear the nearby rumble of what sounded like Dave's GL500 firing up and leaving the park. I figured it would be the last I'd see of him - he would most certainly make better time than I was able to out on the open road.

Some park showers seem to have a low cut-off for the hottest of hot water available. Neys wasn't one of them. I suppose it was special in this regard too. And I appreciated it this morning. I knew the night before that I simply had no packing room for a towel on this trip - so I did the next best thing. I used my oversized microfiber facecloth instead - with the only downfall being that it required several dry/ringing-out water cycles before I got the job done. When I left the building and headed back to the site, I remember thinking that it was remarkable how much better I felt. Showers at home never feel this good. Then again - they aren't normally followed up by a jaunt through the freshest, tree and greenery-scented outdoor air either. But it helped me understand why I love riding and camping on a motorcycle. Some wonder why anyone would wish to subject themselves to the common daily struggles and continual accumulation of hassles and inconveniences that riding a motorcycle across the country involves. After leaving the shower - I thought I had the answer. It was simply the multiple little rewards that fell in between all the exasperating struggles and inconveniences. You need a bit of the "bad" to make the "good" stuff - feel better. Surrounded by so many conveniences at home - one lives a veritable life of luxury - such that a 10-minute trip to the shower goes largely unnoticed - it's a part of a daily highly habituated routine. Comparatively, the small positive events like taking a shower just don't register much of a signal "blip" from your daily reward baseline. Yet - when you've been riding all day, sweating, gathering dirt, dust, and grime - punctuated by the suffering - the price of two-wheeled freedom intertwined with the pulses of raw visceral sensory stimulation nirvana it also offers - and then you take that same shower - something amazing happens - you recognize the little rewarding things - like how something as simple as a shower can suddenly mean so much to you.



And yes - it was another cool, crisp morning along the north shore of Lake Superior. I'd been reading through other north of Superior trip reports before setting off on my own - and one thing that seemed common among them was cold, rainy weather. Is this the norm? Yes - and no. Warm day riding is possible along this route. But you have to plan for it. Of course - I had the convenience of being able to leave when I knew the weather forecast was favourable. For the best experience - that's absolutely ideal. Most don't have that option. And even on sunny and relatively warm days (80 F) you will experience pockets of cold air as you near the lake, and within the deeper valleys between the long hill climbs. The contrast can be startling at times. Driving my car from Sault Ste. Marie, ON to Thunder Bay - it's not uncommon to see temperatures vary from 26 C (80F) to 10 C (50F) - then back again - all within the span of just a few minutes when hugging the Lake. This is the reality of the north shore. Granted - this past summer behaved more like a perpetual spring. It rarely warmed up. So I was fortunate to be riding in some of the best weather we would see the entire season.

After I had packed my tent and gear and loaded the bike, it was nearing 10 AM. It was strange that as excited as I was to be back on the road - I sure seemed to be taking my time. I would leave Neys Park knowing that I needed to find an excuse to come back soon. And I did..... less than a month later - by car with my girlfriend. And we had such a fantastic evening, eating supper on the beach, and sipping wine by the campfire. We even did something I swore I would never do (O.K. - it's not what you're thinking...). We took an assortment of scenic photos and some sugary sweet selfies and then sent them to a huge honkin' pile of our friends. We really needed to share this experience. We even had some respond that they wanted to join us - and we felt bad notifying them that we were only a 17-hr drive away. Yes - it is isolated too. But perhaps that's what contributes to the hidden part of the this polished gem. I made my first stop along the highway at White River for fuel. While this small town prides itself as being the coldest spot in Canada (Sorry - Snag, Yukon holds that title) with temperatures as low as -58C, it is somewhat ironic that it often presents as one of the warmer areas along the route - situated a considerable distance inland - and rather isolated from many of the moderating effects of Lake Superior. This was followed by another rest in Wawa, ON, which allowed me to top-up of fuel, grab some food at Subway, and quickly check my e-mails. I didn't stay very long, as I was looking forward to the panoramic 220 km (140 mile) stretch between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie. My next stop was only a short (20 minute) distance away from Wawa - where the road looks like it's going to spill into the Big Lake itself - at Old Woman Bay. If I was going to do the Nokomis Lookout trail this would have to be it. I knew that this side-trip would take a 2 hour bite out of my schedule. But this wasn't the most pressing issue. There was no place to park at the trailhead on the other side of the Old Woman Bay rest area. It appeared that I would have to change into my hiking gear and leave my bike parked across the road. I'm a pretty trusting person - but this just didn't sit well with me, especially knowing that I would be leaving the bike unattended for more than a couple of hours. Of course - I could always lock all my valuables in my Givi - but there wasn't even enough room for my riding wear, helmet, and boots in the case. It was clear that I needed to plan better for these kinds of things. I was stymied once again. But I vowed to return again some day with a better plan.

Here is the CBR150R at the Old Woman Bay rest area.



The sunlit scenery along this stretch never disappoints. There were times where I was tempted to stop and take another photo - but I reluctantly soldiered on. Didn't this fully contradict the advice I'd given others to relax, take your time, and take lots of photos?!? Well - not 30 minutes later - I did stop again. To take a break, "drain the main vein", and capture some images at Katherine Cove.



I hadn't stopped for more than 2 minutes when I heard the familiar rumbling of a GL500 slowing nearby on the highway. It was Dave. I think we were equally surprised to have crossed paths again. We chatted briefly, and I snapped more photos, and then was on my way again.



I had never stopped at this lookout previously - even though I'd passed it many times near Agawa Bay. I found myself mesmerized by the shimmering water amidst the backdrop of the rugged land. I had stayed at the Agawa Bay campground (of Lake Superior Provincial Park) near here a few years ago while on my CBR250R and felt that it was among the nicest parks I had stayed in. You can see the imposing Algoma hills across the lake. I knew that in a short while I'd be winding up and over them in a game that involved the constant interplay of toe and shifter, tucking in, gaining momentum, and maintaining engine revolutions. When people talk about how fun small bikes can be - these are the scenarios they are referring to.



A closer look reveals the communications towers on top of the Montreal River Harbour hill. For perspective - the top of these hills sit more than 1100 feet (350 m) above Lake Superior, while the roadways that claw their way through this old mountain range rise up to 700 feet (213 m) above the lake surface. My ears would soon be popping as I accelerated at the bottom of these long climbs - and snicked through the gears trying to maintain my speed.



Eventually, I made my way just past Pancake Bay Provincial Park, and stopped for fuel at the Canadian Carver Esso. There, a gas attendant looked at my bike and before I even had my helmet removed said "Wow - your bike looks brand new. You clearly take great care of it". I responded with "Actually - I beat the crap out of it and wring it's neck out constantly on the highway every chance I get. I need to - it has less engine displacement than your average lawnmower". He was surprised that it wasn't a 600 cc supersport. I thought the narrow tires gave it away. I didn't know it at the time - but this was to be the last fill-up for the day (cue theramin for eerie low-fuel foreshadowing music). I decided that I needed to make better time if I was to meet JohnRcbr at a reasonable hour so he could ride with me on my way to Chutes Provincial Park in Massey for the last leg of the day. Unfortunately, I had neglected to give John a heads-up on my plans - so the mission I was on wasn't the most effectively devised and carried out. While carving some immensely enjoyable corners near Harmony Bay near Sault. Ste. Marie, I passed by a fellow on a black and white 2008 CBR125R at 4:30PM riding in the opposite direction. I wondered if he was a member on one of the forums I frequented. By the time I negotiated the Sault bypass - I knew that I'd be cutting it close and needed to "Christopher Cross it" - by riding like the wind and enduring 2.5 hours of straight butt numbing, achy, stiff, and dull pain inducing non-stop motorcycling. I had such a long way to go (cue Michael McDonald's background vocals) to the junction of Highway 17 and 108 that led north to Elliot Lake. Signs of low fuel load were becoming apparent as I rode into Blind River, ON and started singing Neil Young's "Long May You Run" into my visor. I wasn't sure how much longer before my homage to Neil took a turn for the worst and I was sing "Long May You Walk". I reasoned that it was only another 30 km (20 miles) to my checkpoint with John. And um....only another 40 Km (25 miles) to Shell Service Station salvation from there. When I finally reached the Elliot Lake turn-off, I was pleased that my low fuel light had not lit - yet. Jubilant - I called up John to notify him where I was (only about 20 minutes from town) and whether he'd be able to rendezvous with me at a moment's notice. I immediately got the strange sense that I had caught him in his P.J.'s and he had just brushed his teeth while preparing for bed. I believe the first thing he said was "If you had called me from Blind River - I could have timed it perfectly and met you at the junction". How dare he be so rational and cogent this late in the day? He followed that up with: "I'll be there in 30 minutes".

As I was waiting for John to arrive, I heard the distant, unmistakable sound of a small Honda twin chugging along the highway. And with it - another sighting of Dave. At this point - I was no longer sure that it would be the last I'd see of him. This was followed by the unmistakably low frequency, muffled hum of a decelerating CBR125R big-bore. John had arrived.



What I found odd though was that he didn't exactly head directly towards me. In fact - his heading left me a bit confused. Had he not seen me? Instead - he took a wide arc that had me anticipating - convinced - that he was about to put on an impressive and showy gymkhana exhibition for my own amusement - in this large dirt parking lot.



I must admit - it was good to see him again. How could anyone not appreciate the genuine greeting seen in the smile furtively captured below. We quickly got caught up with what each other had been doing lately, and he gave me a gift that is common among Honda riders that dates far, far back about 5 years ago. A Honda CBR150R ECU, that he had experimented with on his big bore kit. If memory serves, the CBR150R injector ended up being the magic ingredient to fuel his new Mallosi 166cc upgrade. It was a very kind gesture. Knowing I had to mention it at some point - I subtly mumbled that I was low on fuel and that we'd better ride the final 25 minutes - at slower speeds. I think his response was "Why didn't you just get fuel in Blind River? Or tell me on the phone - I could have brought some fuel with me?" I remember thinking to myself that this wouldn't provide the same kind of tension - suspense - like the grim prospect of running out of fuel would lend to my trip report - but I don't think I said it out loud. We both knew that riding back home in the dark is never the best option in Northern Ontario, so we cut the conversation short and climbed aboard our small-displacement blood relatives and headed for Massey, ON. As soon as John pulled out - he was gone. No really. He was crouched so low on his bike that I could only see this taillights and handlebars from behind. I wondered if his front wheel even touched the ground between up-shifts. Of course - this could very well have been his idea of "going slower". I suppose I should have clarified this before-hand. Not one minute after accelerating up to speed on the highway - without a hope of catching up - my low fuel light suddenly flashed on. I had been here before. It was partly for this reason that I remained confident that I'd make the next service station. Eventually John sat up, and braked enough for us to ride together, and we had a really enjoyable cruise along the Trans-Canada before reaching town. From my last fuel stop I had ridden 286 km on the tank, which seemed consistent with the 300 kms I had ridden before my bike suddenly stalled while pulling into a Petro Canada on last year's CBR125R annual gathering adventure. After filling up, I dunked the car windshield squeegee and proceeded to clean my visor with it. John looked at me like he was about to projectile vomit like "The Glutton" on Monty Python's "History of the World - Part I. I seem to remember him spouting "That's gross" - in a puzzled disgusting way - while I just laughed. Honest - John has a great sense of humour and I was just eating it up.



Then we rode for the better part of...like....1 minute to the park - which was conveniently located almost smack dab in the middle of the town of Massey. What a perfect retreat after a long day on the highway.



Of course - the gatehouse was closed by this time. So we just rode around the campground and I selected a site that was close to the comfort station.



And here is a view from the park entrance facing the town.



I could hear the roar of some rapids and falls nearby, and it made me curious and excited about exploring it the next day. John and I continued chatting while I set up the tent. I remember him commenting in the most carefully sensitive manner: "Hey - you look like you've gained weight". I'm sure John was a hit with the ladies. He admitted that our short adventure really had him suddenly lamenting not attending the CBR125R gathering this year, and he found himself contemplating changing his mind - on the spot. Unfortunately, he conceded that he had far too many obligations at home that required his attention. We both hoped that the gathering would take place in northern Ontario next year. As dusk began to set in, it was John's cue to depart. He wished me a good trip and I wished him a safe ride back home. It was sad to see him go. Suddenly, I was alone again. But meeting up with John and riding and laughing with him made me feel like the gathering had already started. Indeed it had.



It was only a few days later - after the gathering when I had returned to Thunder Bay that John informed me that he blew out his knee unexpectedly while innocently walking around at home. The injury was so serious that he wouldn't be returning to work for several months, and his riding season had come to an abrupt end. It made me extra thankful that I was able to get in that short ride with him when I did.

Stay tuned for Part IV.

Mike

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