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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by GearDrivenCam, Jul 8, 2013.
Waiting for part V, excellent read, Bravo!!! cms
Part V - Baptiste Lake
Rarely have I ever celebrated - revelled - in having my tank topped off with fuel. This time was an exception. After leaving Deep River, it was evident that Hwy 17 was losing much of its captivating scenery - so I was looking forward to a change - leaving the Trans-Canada for the quieter, relaxed, and more intimate riding east of Algonquin Provincial Park. As I was nearing the town of Alice, I snapped the photo below to mark my new transition into this more serene riding environment. Even the smells were different - something that would go unnoticed when riding in a car. I remember thinking to myself "I can't believe I've made it this far". I could tell that the hardest part was behind me for now - and looked forward to riding through some new areas of Ontario that I had never before visited. And I was sure there'd be more stunning scenery along the way - as I slowly edged closer to Baptiste Lake and Bancroft.
Nearing the town of Alice. It was nice to be riding off the Trans-Canada and into a less crowded, quieter, and more relaxed setting.
Maybe it was the excitement of knowing I was getting nearer to my destination for the day - but one regret from this portion of the trip was the lack of photos I'd taken of this area. Then again - it's not like the intent wasn't there. I attempted to take some photos near Bonnechere Provincial Park and 'round Round Lake in all of its impressive circular-ness. Judging from what I could see from the road way - I could tell that any open view of the lake would be breathtaking. But there were few opportunities, unless I boldly rode up someone's driveway and walked around their cottage for a peek. So I just continued onto Hwy 60 into Barry's Bay, and along Kamaniskeg Lake down the picturesque Combermere Road. I have to admit this section hugging Kamanisikeg Lake really caught my attention - particularly as I was leaving Barry's Bay and then again as I was climbing a hill west of Combermere where a panoramic view of a large rolling hill next to Kamaniskeg Lake suddenly came into view. A day later - when we were re-tracing the same route on a group ride - others were startled by this same view - and agreed that it'd make a great photo opportunity. But the challenging logistics of doing so on a group ride meant that we never did capture this group image.
As I rode west through Maynooth, and then down Hwy 62 toward Bancroft, I was also impressed that there was no need to consult my map - it was remarkably easy to just follow the signs leading to Bancroft. Perhaps it was this overconfidence that led me to dismiss bringing a more detailed map along that would give me a fighting-chance to actually make it directly to the meeting place. Granted I knew approximately where I was going. Yet, in hindsight - I can't believe that seemed good enough for me at the time. What was I thinking? Maybe it was my need to discover the place myself, or just my desire to create my own adventure before stumbling inadvertently upon the camp. All I know is my first mistake was riding down North Baptiste Lake road. I knew I needed to turn at a Baptiste Lake Road. Yet I suppose I hadn't paid enough attention while trip planning to realize that there were - in fact - two Baptiste Lake Roads. And as Murphy's law and chance might suggest - I was riding down the wrong one. For at least 20 minutes. I remember thinking - "This doesn't make sense - I should have seen the river long ago"...... So I briefly entertained asking someone for directions, yet on this beautiful sunny day - perhaps due to a zombie apocalypse - there was nobody outside - nobody anywhere. Finally I saw a woman placing clothes on a line in her yard that backed onto a spectacular view of Baptiste Lake. She was incredibly friendly and helpful and apparently frightfully unaware of the devastating zombie apocalypse that was taking the region by storm. She even offered to have her sons "Google" the address I was seeking on their computer. Geez - now that I think about it - her offer may have actually been a thinly veiled "dig". Well played...well played. But pride stood stoically in the way - and I just followed her Jedi Mind Trick tip to try out South Baptiste Lake - because she felt it was likely that "this was the road that I was looking for". I had no idea myself - but through a process of elimination - with only one option left - it did seem a likely candidate.
So back to Hwy 62 I went - feeling a little bit humbled. When I finally reached South Baptiste Lake Road - I knew from my keen sleuthing skills and fine directional sense - that I was getting closer. I could smell it. Or maybe that was my own stench (the hot and humid S. Ontario weather was now upon me). At one point I smelled ammonia when I removed my Joe Rocket pants. I apparently had a chemical lab specializing in sweat metabolites beneath my gear. As luck would have it - I was getting closer. But unfortunately, I had no idea how much closer - as I rode up and down this stretch several agonizing times. All that was missing was the connecting road that would lead me to camp Nirvana - yet - there were many - and I couldn't recall which one I needed. I took a moment to think this one through and approach things more systematically. I knew that a couple of other riders were supposed to either be at the camp already - or would be arriving about the same time. I had one of their cell numbers. Good. I'll just ride back to the highway and call them on my cell phone I thought.
While riding back toward the highway - I found myself following a pick-up truck that suddenly made a right-hand turn (without signalling) and as I was braking I met two riders coming the opposite way through the same intersection. Could these be the two forum members? I tried to mentally calculate the probability. That likelihood took a steep nose-dive as they passed by - one riding a 750 Katana, and the other a CBR600RR. One of them waved, and I managed to stick up my hand - as I was braking - after they'd passed. A few minutes later I was back at the highway and took out my cell phone. As I was doing so - a vehicle full of older adults pulled up alongside and a fellow asked if I needed directions. I must have looked pretty discombobulated. I remember being taken aback by the thoughtfulness of this gesture. After sharing the camp address - there was some muffled consultation across the back-seat - and the driver spoke up and suggested I ride back, and after crossing a bridge, and cresting a large hill - I should turn left at Woodcox Rd. That would get me closer. I thanked them for the help - and reassured them that I had a cell number available - and would call to make sure. They wished me good luck and drove toward Bancroft. When I turned on my phone - I was dismayed to find no signal. I'm sure you know the feeling. Then remarkably - the "no signal" changed to my carrier and I was suddenly "good to go". After dialing Nathan (hoping he would be somewhere with a signal as well) there was no answer - so I followed the advice I had been given and headed back along South Baptiste Lake Road. As I was putting my phone away - I heard my messaging app chime a few times - but I dismissed it. I figured it was likely some older messages coming through now that my cell was turned on and I had a signal. As I was making my way - yet again - along South Baptiste Lake Road - I spotted what initially appeared to be a roadway mishap on the top off a distant hill. I made out a few figures - with one waving frantically for help - arms flailing wildly around in the air - in the middle of the roadway no less. I remember thinking that my boring, repetitive ride up and down this stretch of blacktop was about to get more interesting. As I got a little closer - I realized that the S.O.S. was really more of a beacon - that these were the two riders I had passed only a short while before - and that they were indeed the two members from the forum - desperately trying to show me the way. Oh....and those messaging alerts I had heard before? They came from Nathan texting:
Mike? 5:58Pm, Jun 21
U passed us buddy 5:59PM, Jun 21
Woodcox rd on you left heading east on s. baptiste 5:59PM, Jun 21
He had heard his cell ring - but couldn't answer it in time. It felt like a rescue in progress. I had met Nathan before (at our previous meet-up at Balsam Lake), but I had never met Richard previously. Both of them had owned CBR125Rs at some point - and unless they had some expensive cloaking technology at their disposal - they weren't riding them now. At least with the three of us - I could assume the route to the camp would be easy - right?! Not exactly. Even with Nathan's cell GPS - the way from Woodcox Road was still a bit confusing with a few forks thrown in for good measure - and a lack of clarity about which one to select at each junction. But ultimately - we arrived at the site. It was good to finally be there. To relax. To celebrate after what seemed like a triumphant victory. And to actually converse - a skill that I worried I had lost through an acute lack of practice. While I think my first few words had me struggling like Tarzan at his first Toastmaster's meeting - the rhythmicity of my usual linguistic ability soon returned. Before things got out of hand however, we needed to re-group and map out our priorities. First we needed to setup our tents. Next - it was agreed upon that we needed beer. That was all.
Some tents on a perfect little site along the York River.
We even had a river to swim in.
The camp came well-equipped. It even boasted a new invention I hadn't heard of in a while called electricity. After battling it out in the trenches for a few days - I really felt like I was going to be pampered here (not in the diaper sense - though admittedly this might be an avenue to explore on future trips) - by such extravagant luxury.
Once our tents were taken care of - we headed in to Bancroft and straight to the LCBO....er.....actually M&M meats. We were kind of hoping for some large juicy steaks so we could punch a stick through them - dip them in the camp fire for a bit - then howl a few times as we gnawed on our freshly roasted kill. But the kind lady at M&M only had frozen, bacon wrapped fare available. So we decided to head to the local Foodland grocery instead. As we were leaving M&Ms we noticed a disheveled teen, talking loudly to nobody nearby - and stumbling around our bikes. Worried about theft - Richard quickly blurted out a warning that didn't sit well with him - and this led to what could only be described as an alcohol fueled Oscar level tirade that began with "Do you know who I am" clearly lifted from Reese Witherspoon's play book - and ended with him actually spelling out his name - and I'm not joking here - letter by letter. Though judging by how much he was struggling - I think he may have cheated by quietly humming the alphabet for assistance. We cut his proclamation short by starting our bikes and moving on to the LCBO - where I picked up some boxed wine (for everyone at the site) and some tall-boy cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Ambrosia in a can. Now I know why - when we were kids and our family visited the U.S. - my dad would pick up a few cans of this liquid gold and covet it. It went down a little like beer-flavoured drinking water - but it sure was refreshing. At the Foodland - Richard thought it best to stand watch with the bikes this time, while Nathan and I fetched some steaks and snacks. Nathan then relieved Richard who did the same. When I exited the store - Nathan reported that I had just missed a street fight. Welcome to Bancroft on a Friday night - I thought.
When we returned to the camp, we broke out the drinks, made a campfire and enjoyed the moment. I called my girlfriend (there was cell service!) who - as it turns out - was doing the exact same thing. The requisite Thunder Bay Friday evening residential backyard fire-pit circle - sipping drinks with friends. Welcome to Thunder Bay on a Friday night - I thought. Before long, the others arrived from Orangeville including Brian (who has been to every annual gathering) and Adam (who I had met last year at Wakami Lake and who generously offered his camp for the weekend) and some other forum members who I had not met at our other gatherings - including David from Burlington, and Bishop from Toronto who rode in on a modified seat that was only slightly more comfortable than sitting on a severed tree stump. It's hard to describe the kinship you feel toward other riders who you've conversed with so frequently online, and have shared the same excitement and adventures with.
Here's a group huddle taken with Richard's camera. Can't believe we had the motor coordination to pull this one off at the time. From left to right: David, Mike (me), Richard (kneeling) Brian, Bishop, Adam, and Nathan.
It seemed that each new conversation around the fire squirted a few more finely metered molecules of dopamine fuel at my nucleus accumbens (adding to the the pool that was already accumulating from the intoxicating Pabst Blue Ribbon). Needless to say - I was feeling pretty "happy" as the night wore on. It didn't help that Adam had the local radio station pumping a terrific array of great oldies from the local Bancroft radio station. How can you not feel unbridled euphoria when exposed to an assortment of arena rock anthems from REO Speedwagon, Journey, Bad Company, Boston, Max Webster, Supertramp, and an entire cornucopia of other similar gems. When Van Halen's "Jump" suddenly began bellowing through the speakers -my frontal lobe had had enough - and just couldn't hold back anymore - unable to resist such alcohol fueled impulsivity - I blurted/slurred out "Hey - I can play this on keyboards". It was clear that my limit for frontal-lobe inhibition had been breached. Not wanting to miss out on such a glorious opportunity - Richard said "Great - you can play it on the piano keyboard on my iPad then". Now bristling with bravado and the most confident uneasiness I've experienced in a long time - I awkwardly grabbed the iPad with all of the grace and motor coordination of a punch drunk prize fighter and put my money where my Pabst Blue Ribbon saturated mouth was. I was also thankful that the weight of the device didn't tip me over into the fire. I like to believe the end result sounded like a reasonable rendition - but because the iPad was handicapped by a glaring lack of polyphony, and the uncanny quirk of only rendering every second note when played quickly - the solo with the fast arpeggio part came out sounding more like the beginning of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" instead.
The candid photo that Adam captured of me using my one-handed technique trying to play Van Halen's "Jump" on an iPad around the fire.
What can I say? It was a fantastic night. It made the long journey down so much more meaningful too. Can it get much better than sitting around a campfire, sipping drinks, telling storing, iPad-ing Van Halen, laughing, and connecting with other motorcyclists?
Stay tuned for Part - VI.
Yeah, the tentative plan is to head out there next month
Those are some cool two lane roads a 125's & 250's natural habitat!
Keep it going
I love the idea of smaller (lighter) bikes.
(Currently ride a vstrom 650).
However, at 260lbs (and losing - 20 pounds in the last three months) I worry about the suspension. I am also 6'4" tall so that might be an issue for me as well.
Even when I lose the remaining 45 lbs I set a goal to lose I think I would still be too big for most smaller bikes. I am thinking a dual sport like the CR 250 or WR might work with some spring/shock upgrades.
I like the looks of the GROM - the only non dual sport smaller bike I know of that will be available here. (No counting the Rebel and Suzuki's 250 street bike which both seemed to small for me). But I am sure it will also feel like a mini bike due to my height.
I was in Italy last week and saw several "full size" bikes with only 125CC engines and even a few 50 CC bikes that were full size. Of course, due to our licensing and insurance differences there wouldn't be a (need) demand for those here - I wish we could find a way to import though!
Part VI - Blacktop Bliss
The goal today was to complete a 400km loop from Bancroft to Calabogie and back - that we were informed by Brian would involve some incredibly fun, twisty, scenic, and entertaining paved two-lane roadway. While being well aware of how easy it would be to exaggerate how entertaining this route really was - I can say in all honesty - that this was unquestionably the most entertaining ride I have ever experienced. It's a gem. Really. Granted - it could have been even better if the weather worked more in our favour and didn't spit down on us as often as it did. As luck would have it - each time we attempted to leave the camp - it would begin to rain again - like we were being mocked by mother nature. Still - once we were under way it was clear that the weather wouldn't dampen the grins we were sporting behind our misty visors.
Such conditions require desperate measures. Boy do they ever look Glad. Surprisingly - both David and Bishop claimed that these last-minute make-shift rain garments actually kept them reasonably dry.
Here's a photo of the team just before setting off on the group ride. Apparently two of us were less self-conscious of our bed-head.
And here is what our ride looked like for the day. The route took us from Bancroft, up to Maynooth, north east to Combermere, southeast to Denbigh, east to Calabogie, then southeast to Lanark, west to Plevna, then northwest and back to Denbigh, and west back to our starting point in Bancroft.
The posted speed limits on these highways is 80km/hr - which ironically - seemed actually too fast at times. And while we were riding the twists and turns a little faster than that - it soon became abundantly clear that even adhering to the posted limits along these two-lane roads still promised plenty of thrills. While we knew enough to not create a race out of this group ride (sometimes appropriately referred to as a "Ride and Crash") it became clear once we started riding together that we could trust others to ride confidently and safely. Still - while all were competent - at least one was a little more competent than the others. Brian not only supplied the route - but he led throughout the entire course of it. Often from what looked to be about 1 km ahead. The fact that he regularly races a ZX10R and a FZR400, and had some familiarity with these roads meant that it would be foolish to try to stay with him on this ride. Still - with some effort, I managed to trail some distance behind him. While it would be great to brag about how far ahead I was from the other group - there really wasn't a large a gap separating them from me - and I think this had more to do with the extra performance of the 150R rather than anything to do with riding ability. If there was any bragging - it would center around how suited the twists and turns were for the CBR125Rs. This was highlighted when Richard - who was bring up the rear of the group on a CBR600RR - commented that he wasn't able to take the tight corners as fast and easily as the 125Rs were attacking them. He would no doubt catch up in a flash - even on the smallest of straights - but the advantages of a feather-weight, sharp handling bike along a twisty roadway soon became evident.
Any highlights? I remember catching up to Brian who was waiting for the pack at an intersection. He said "I think the pack is going to be quite a ways back on this one" attesting to how challenging this particular section had been (surprisingly, right after he finished saying this - the group appeared in the distance). As the group approached I was still giddy over what we'd just completed and commented "That was an absolutely fantastic ride. What road was that?!?" He said "Centennial Lake Road". There you go. If you want a great representation of the kind of riding in store for you in this area - ride Matawatchan Road to Centennial Lake Road for an excellent representation of what this area has to offer. Not only was the route entertaining - it was largely void of traffic. Brian felt that this was due to its location that places it just beyond a comfortable day ride from Ottawa to the east, and Toronto to the west.
It was challenging to find a straight-away that provided a suitable place to stop, rest, and take some photos. The group behind all agreed that I had Hi-Vis down to an art form. My outfit apparently acted like a lighthouse beacon - leading the way through the wet and sometimes foggy - route.
Eventually, we made our way into Calabogie. As we stopped for fuel and lunch at Munford's Restaurant in town, Bishop asked me if I had heard an aircraft circling overhead as we were approaching town. I replied "Yes - I heard it and saw it many times. It was Adam and his Hindle exhaust." No joke. When Adam's Hindle exhaust-equipped CBR125R was anywhere in the viscinity - it sounded like we were riding on a runway right next to the DHC-2 Beaver featured earlier in my report (see video at the beginning of Part IV of this report for all these aural details). Hindle should try to capitalize on this in their advertising. If you ever wanted to know what it's like to fly a Beaver and ride a CBR125R at the same time - the Hindle now makes it possible. Just purchase the Beaver Edition - slip-on exhaust. With this pipe - you can even brag to your friends that you are "piloting" a CBR125R. As we were eating, Zac Kurylyk from CGM Moto Guide.com approached our table to handed out his card and informed us about the upcoming Dusk 'til Dawn small displacement bike rally on the east coast. (http://rallies.canadamotoguide.com/d2d-about).
We knew that our group ride would coincide with the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally (http://rallies.canadamotoguide.com/about) that occurs every two years in the area. Their 800km route extends from Belleville, ON and encompasses the same region that our group ride covered. It was a common and welcoming sight to wind around a bend and suddenly see a pack of small scooters working their hearts out coming the other way. At one intersection we were taking a rest when two female riders approached the stop. One was singing loudly. Both were using their feet "Fred Flintstone"-style to help them brake to a stop. We all agreed that everyone we saw on scooters seemed to be having tons of fun.
One Mad Bastard (see below) was riding a Honda ZB50 with a sneaky not-immediately-noticeable - not quite 49cc - Piranha engine upgrade. On the other side of the pump you can just make out a Super Dave Osborne impersonator filling a Honda CT70 Mini Trail - also with a not-so-Honda-but-similar-configuration-ish Piranha engine. Top speed for a Honda CT70? About 45 mph. Top speed for these bikes? About 75 mph. Now that would be fun.
After returning to camp - it looked like everyone had just finished a tasty multi-course gourmet meal. We were all tired - yet the look of utter satisfaction on everyone's face was a testament to how much fun we had that day. I recall both Bishop and David thanking Brian for the best day-ride they had ever taken. Others agreed and thanked him too. It was pretty epic. Later while we were discussing potential locations for next year's gathering - someone mentioned that it would be hard to top what we had just experienced that day. We all agreed. Though we vowed to try again anyway next year.
Stay tuned for Part VII.
Part VII - Onward To Guelph
As much as celebrating a great ride and sitting around the campfire sipping drinks and telling stories can be incredibly euphoric - so too the next day - can nursing a hangover, needing a shower, breaking-down camp, and packing the bike be equally disphoric. It was now time to leave - to say goodbye to those heading in different directions (Nathan and Richard had Belleville in their sights) and to enjoy riding with the remaining group for one last outing together.
It was also time to shake out the sand in my tent. I call this the Hercules method.
It was clear that the notion of boxed wine went down remarkably well with the group - down that is - onto the morning fire. An expensive way to douse a fire - but it was effective nonetheless. Here is Adam demonstrating his technique. You probably won't learn this in Boy Scouts.
And here is the packing ritual almost complete.
The last group photo was taken with Richard's camera back on the road in front of the camp. What a fitting image to close the weekend.
And here was the route Brian had mapped out for the return trip. Both Adam and I planned to head to Guelph (I wanted to visit my dad). Brian's destination was Brampton, but thought that Belfontaine was a good place for all of us to converge before going our separate ways. David was heading to Burlington, but decided to stick it out with us to Belfontaine as well. Bishop headed south to Toronto when we skirted the city on our way west.
I believe this photo was taken around the Port Perry area (labeled "C" above).
Brian - our faithful guide and purveyor of twisting routes - wasn't about to give up - now that we were heading home. There would be no sacrificing riding enjoyment for a quick-fix expressway route back. Any stand-outs? Yes. Although it's a well known and popular choice for those looking for some thrilling curves within range of the Greater Toronto Area - Buckhorn Lake Road was still a lot of fun to ride.
Throughout the weekend, I had promised some of the group an opportunity to try out my CBR150R. I described it as a CBR125R on steroids. Having recently owned a 2011 CBR125R - I guessed that the 150R produced about 16 hp at the rear wheel (the CBR125Rs typically show about 12 rear-wheel hp). The best time would have been during our group ride - but the weather and conditions weren't ideal - and unfortunately - no other opportunities presented themselves. Still with me riding a 150cc, Brian riding a racing cam modified 125cc, and Adam sporting his Hindle exhaust - we were somewhat curious to see how these bikes compared performance-wise. Our test certainly wasn't conducted in any kind of objective manner, as each of our bikes were laden with different gear and there were clearly considerable weight differences (including rider weights) between each bike. Yet all this didn't seem to matter as Adam and Brian lined up at a stop light for the first run. Keep in mind that if you were a pedestrian watching this action from a sidewalk - you'd have no idea that these bikes were actually drag racing. They don't accelerate fast by anyone's definition of the term. You'd probably just wonder why they were so slow to cross the intersection. I think Brian was just ahead of Adam after the first heat - so he won the drag - but not by much. The next drag featured an uphill run that seemed to favour Adam - and he pulled away a bit and claimed his first victory. Even though we were all aware of how much wind drag and weight make a difference in the performance of these low-powered bikes - I remember thinking that these friendly competitions really hit home how the outcome of a short race can change dramatically between the same riders - under slightly different conditions (e.g., weight, head wind, up a hill, etc.).
Adam - fresh off his recent win - was now getting cocky and wanted to drag me and the CBR150R. What I didn't tell him at the time was that I had followed behind on their previous acceleration runs and found myself catching up to them rather easily - despite clearly carrying the most gear, most weight, and the poorest aerodynamics. But I decided to relent anyway. It certainly wasn't a textbook run. And I think Adam's devious trick of drowning me out with his Hindle exhaust on take-off worked because he was almost across the intersection by the time I got my revs up (I couldn't hear my engine on launch and I bogged pretty badly). I still managed to catch up to him and pass him pretty handily though in a relatively short distance for the win. But..... it wasn't long before he got some retribution. We decided to follow it up later with a drag that ran directly into a strong headwind. This time I had a good start and left him for dead right from the beginning.....and he looked to be about 30m back and foundering. But as my speed increased, and the power of the wind became more formidable - I knew the increasing drag from my Givi case and saddles were about to betray me. In my mirrors - Adam looked determined and focused - I could see him drop it down into 5th - and then came the unmistakable and characteristic roar of a DHC-2 Beaver slowly gaining on me and then a mild Doppler effect as he slowly edged ahead at around 90 km/hr. I'm sure he had a big grin on his face. Geez these bikes are fun.
Stay Tuned for Part VIII.
Awesome report, I'm loving all the details! Sadly in this day and age, the story seems to get lost and pictures substituted instead. Sure, pictures may be worth a thousand words to some, but I like pictures *and* the story. I am greedy that way I guess, lol...
Great ride report Mike!
Part VIII - Windy Lake
After enjoying a few days of much needed R&R and reminiscing at my dad's place (my brother Mark and his son Aidan were visiting from Quispamsis, NB) and topping it off with a trip to Canada's Wonderland - that included multiple encounters with a Behemoth and a Leviathan (the FastPass was a guilty pleasure) - I was looking forward to beginning my long trek back to Thunder Bay. But along the way - there were still a number of key areas I wanted to visit - including some that held special meaning for me as a teen at Windy Lake Park near where I grew up, as well as Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park a little ways further up the road - a place I'd wanted to visit for quite some time.
I chose to forego the 400 series highways and instead re-trace my route back up to Erin, and then head through Mono Mills, and up Airport Road past the scenic hamlet of Mansfield all the way up to Stayner. It was an easy choice. The hills, scenery, and relaxed pace made for a much more interesting riding experience. After re-fueling in Stayner, I headed east to finally join Hwy 400 and give the little CBR a chance to stretch its legs. I was hoping for the best - but not expecting much (no offense little Honda). I figured I could ride at 105km/hr (GPS) - in the right-hand lane - and not worry about holding up traffic. Yet - when I finally accelerated along the on-ramp - it was clear that I had more in reserve than I'd expected. On any large displacement bike - this wasn't something you'd even need to consider. Yet when you are suddenly endowed with a little bit of extra power that you didn't anticipate on a small bike - at a time when you could clearly use the extra juice - the relief driven reward was not unlike what Scotty must have often felt after suddenly and unexpectedly finding a bit more thrust power from NCC-1701. I even found myself overtaking slower vehicles at that speed - including some RVs and a truck pulling a large boat and trailer. When riding with other traffic on expressways - you always experience a boost from the large rolling masses moving in the same direction - and you don't need to be drafting dangerously off the end of their bumpers to realize the benefit either. I imagine the sensation is much like (*Caution - two sci-fi references in a row alert*) it would feel to be drawn in by a tractor-beam - a feeling of suddenly being pulling along without any change in throttle position. I won't discount the possibility that I was also the lucky recipient of a moderate tail-wind. Either way - I ended up riding between 107-110 kph (GPS). At one point I noticed a pack of vehicles approaching from behind. Once they had passed - and cut a nice hole in the atmosphere - I decided to enter the left-hand lane and see for myself how much more the 150R had left. The group seemed to be traveling at around 130 kph, and in my attempt to following them over a short distance, I found myself cruising momentarily at a top speed of 120 kph in 6th - sitting straight up on the bike - before I decided to settle down into a more comfortable pace again.
Here is the route. It would be a relatively short 472 kms trek on this day. A very comfortable ride on the CBR.
A short while after the road returned to two-lanes, I re-fueled at the Shell station in Pointe au Baril and took a break to stretch before setting off on the next leg of my journey. Speaking of which - the shape of the CBR's seat is such that over time it has a tendency to cut off circulation to my legs - so stops of 200kms or less were necessary if I wished to remain comfortable. I remember experiencing the same thing with the identically shaped seat from the CBR250R. If this could be rectified - the overall comfort level on the bike would be noticeably improved. A new seat may be in my future. With that said - I really didn't mind having to stop every 100 kms along this section anyway. Hwy 69 isn't the most thrilling experience (except when reacting to the "I can't believe that car is trying to pass that long train of traffic" - that is typical of this route) and at least I could enjoy the ride on a day where it wasn't over-run by hoards of Torontonians clamoring to seek refuge at their northern cottages. It started to rain a bit as I reached the divided highway again while approaching Sudbury. However, it dissipated by the time I entered the by-pass heading west to Sault Ste. Marie. For travelers skirting the city - I recall thinking that this probably wasn't the best postcard image of Sudbury. Still - the way the landscape has seen a stunning transformation over the years is nothing short of remarkable. There is now greenery present along this stretch - which can be really appreciated if you remember what it used to look like here. Before long I found myself on the northwest bypass heading towards Hwy 144 - and decided to stop - yet again - at a Subway restaurant in Chelmsford. Before I even took the first bite - I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a middle-aged fellow with a wide grin "Is that your bike out there?" He was the only patron in the restaurant besides me - and I thought my helmet and riding gear was a dead giveaway. Did he run over the 150R? Turns out - he just wanted to ask me about the bike. When I told him it was a CBR125R with a 150cc engine - he looked flabbergasted. He had recently returned to riding and picked up a KLX250S. Yet once he realized it would never see much dirt and gravel - he replaced it with a new Honda 750 Shadow. He had lots of questions. "How fast is it?" I replied "Around 83 mph". He said "My Shadow doesn't seem much faster!". "What kind of fuel economy does it get"? This interests me too and I've taken some great pains to keep track of it - so I stated "Around town about 115 mpg, out on the highway with no luggage, about 92 mpg, and fully laden with gear - about 80 mpg." I must admit - I enjoyed chatting with a fellow owner. It was rare that a non-rider would ever approach me with so much enthusiasm for the sport. He wished me luck on the tour - and I noticed that he took a lengthy stare at the bike outside as he was leaving.
Growing up in this area - I knew that my first photo opportunity would be where the Onaping River cascades down High Falls between the towns of Dowling and Onaping. It's funny. I wondered how many times I'd passed by this spot as a youth and then as a teen without giving it a second glance. I thought it strange when the town actually created a large parking area, interpretive panels, trails, and lookout. It was clear that I had taken this scenic overlook for granted. Yet - it really is a nice place to stop. Even Paul Gross thought so. He filmed one of the earlier scenes for the Canadian curling movie classic "Men With Brooms" here. And when I was younger - I had no idea of who A.Y. Jackson was either - let alone that he had actually painted our falls. I thought differently now.
As I parked the bike and slid awkwardly off the saddle - there was a group - cameras in hand - making their way up the path. I offered a friendly smile and a warm "Hi". One woman returned the greeting and smiled so widely at me that I figured it must have been due to the fact that I was advertising the worst - most amusing - helmet head imaginable. Can't imagine it was due to the rough, unshaven, crusty road-warrior look that I was sporting at the time. Whatever it was I was oozing - it sure seemed to attract female mosquitos. I eventually walked to the first lookout and snapped the following photo. I figured it was worth getting bitten for this special photo opportunity.
High Falls on the Onaping River near Onaping, ON.
I decided to zoom in for a little more detail. Up near the top you can see a foot bridge spanning the upper part of the rapids. There is a trail that loops around on the other side. I remember walking along it as a youth and thinking that it was an unbearably long slog through the wilderness. But in all likelihood it was probably only about a couple of kms in length.
After climbing back on my bike - I wondered what had changed since I last traveled through. I thought it funny that if I noticed how much things hadn't changed over the years - I'd likely feel that this reflected the tired image of a town that lacked vitality. Yet if I spotted some things that weren't the same as how I had remembered them - I might then lament how things just weren't the same anymore. Maybe the saying is valid here - you really can never truly go back. Still - I wished to find out for myself. And rather than just passing through - this time I would be taking some time to look around - to reflect - to wander off to some special places I hadn't seen for ages. When I approached the rail-tracks at a place we used to call "Dog-patch" I knew enough to ride wide - then cross them at 90 degrees. This sharp, nasty corner would often take people by surprise. You could feel a car's tires slide side-ways along the tracks if you negotiated it at anything above the reduced speed warning sign. Within no time I was approaching my destination for the evening - Windy Lake Provincial Park. It was good to be home again.
The entrance to the park.
Despite having grown up here - I found it funny that the only time I could remember actually camping at this park was about 5 years ago - when a good friend and I used it as a quick stop-over - on our way to Southern Ontario. And even then - it was our second choice - after the trees along Hwy 144 near Halfway Lake Provincial Park fueled a fire that spread across the highway and closed the campground. I recall a water-bomber flying unbelievably low overhead and the tops of telephone poles burning like lit cigarettes - sending wisps of smoke upwards into the sky. It had a bit of a "War of the Worlds" feel to it and I was surprised that 144 was even open to traffic - and that we were driving seemingly right into the middle of it. At that time we made no room in our itinerary to explore the nooks and crannies of Windy Lake. But I believe we drove down to the beach. I was excited and eager to do more on this visit. My excitement suddenly grew exponentially when I noticed the gatehouse was open and an attendant was available to help me find a site. Following some discussion, she suggested that I ride around and find a spot that hadn't been already reserved (she offered me a map listing the ones already taken). I came back and selected #12.
After smartly dousing myself with insect repellent and quickly and efficiently setting up my tent (I was becoming surprisingly skilled in this area) I tried my cell and was impressed that I had a signal. Things were indeed looking up. After calling my girlfriend to check in (it was both the best and worst feeling to be missing her like I was at the time), I called a friend of the family who resided in Onaping (and coincidentally used to work at the park) and asked him if he'd be interested in stopping by for a campfire and an opportunity to touch base (I wondered if he'd remember my e-mailed request for salt & vinegar chips and pop). He agreed to pay a visit a little later - which would give me just enough time to take my camera down to the lake and snap some photos before the evening set in.
Here is a view of Windy Lake through the trees on my campsite. It didn't look like much here. But I knew the views I so cherished as a teen would be awaiting me once I ventured upon its sandy shoreline. First - I had to bush-whack through the saplings and scrub to access the lower roadway. I thought there was a trail down to this road some where along here?!?
As a teen - I used to ride my Supercycle 10-speed out to the park in the early evening - just to sit on a picnic table and look out over the lake. I'd sometimes even take a refreshing nights swim. All alone. I'd ride out here during the day too - to relax on the beach with friends, swim, and work diligently on a severe sunburn. Yet - in the evening - when the beach had only a few stragglers - it took on a completely different meaning to me. I could actually sit and absorb the entire experience. Getting lost in my own thoughts was the kind of profound experience I remember craving at the time and what contributed to the specialness of this place for me. Would this all come back to me now? I was willing to give it a shot.
Stay tuned for Part IX.
I can see where I need to do some further study on this great RR as these bikes have really caught my eye! The detailed information is awesome too, so more reading is in store. Thanks for the time......
Grampa’s Lake Superior Ride
Grampa’s National Monument Ride
Part IX - The Camper's Beach
Well - after several scrapes, some stumbles, and a couple of near falls down the slope - I finally arrived at the lower road that led to the camper's beach. Like a scene straight out of the Simpson's - when I stepped onto the roadway - I looked to my right and saw a nice staircase and trail leading to the campground about 30ft away. Doh! I decided to walk along the beach and take a photo along the length of it about 2/3rds of the way down. Because it was so close to the campground - this became known as the camper's beach. Being the first beach that visitors to the park came upon - many from out of town just stopped here - unaware that a nicer, more open beach existed another couple of minutes further along.
Here is a view of the camper's beach. Not the widest stretch of sand by any imagination. But during peak season - on weekends - this beach was well used.
Here is what the views of Windy Lake look like from the camper's beach.
In the other direction is the Onaping Falls Golf and Beach Club. You can see the 8th hole fairway in the photo below. In addition to a small beach, the club featured a dock and diving board. One afternoon around 1980 -my dad decided on a whim that he'd take up professional diving even though he had no formal training to speak of. His first feat would be an attempt to complete a backward double-twisting feet entry "dive" off the board. The board itself was about 2 metres above the water. I considered myself pretty daring at the time and couldn't fathom that my dad was about to do something that other adults and kids would have considered crazy. Changing roles for a moment - I even asked him to re-consider. As a warm-up he decided to start with a backflip to test the board and his gross-motor skills. People started to gather around. Suddenly - there was a lot at stake here. Remember how you felt when Evel Knievel was about to be launched across the Grand Canyon in his Skycycle? This seemed just as pivotal except that dad didn't have the option to pull a chute. I remember him bouncing on the board a few times. I also seem to remember it bending obscenely under his weight. I secretly hoped it would snap so the attempt would be aborted - with no pride lost. Then he jumped and completed what looked to me like the best damn full layout backflip I had witnessed any human perform. People actually clapped. I was in shock. For his next attempt - he completed the same maneuver with a double twist. Now he was taking requests. The next one involved a pike position back-flip one and a half-with a twist. This request sounded more like a drink order to me. Apparently - some members of the gallery had spent time in gymnastics. Unfortunately, this one didn't go quite as planned. Somehow his cerebellum received mixed signals from his frontal cortex and he ended up spinning out of control kinda like Darth Vader's Tie Fighter at the end of the first Star Wars movie. I don't remember exactly how he hit the water - but from the size of the splash - my guess is that it wasn't a "rip" entry. His reign was over. I still think that Louganis would have been impressed. And on that day I can honestly say that my dad put on a pretty impressive show. I still don't know how he did it.
As teens many of my friends belonged to the local canoe club. We would sign-out canoes and paddle them out to the point seen in the image below and dive for golf balls off of the 8th hole - and sell them. The trick was to be able to do this when the water warmed up in late June. Those courageous enough to brave the deep and colder waters earlier in the season were able to reap a bounty of balls. Titleist were coveted. Golden Rams sold well too.
My friend Curtis sent me this photo a few years ago. That's him standing on the diving board at the Golf and Beach club. I'm in the red trunks. Our other friend Brent is sporting the jean shorts. We sure had a lot of fun back in those days. I'd say that this was probably circa 1980. It was such as strange surprise when he sent this photo. I found it hard to recognize myself in it.
From the beach I returned to the roadway and began to walk the kilometre or so to the boat launch area. I was surprised to discover that the park now featured some walk-in sites along this section. These campsites require you to walk in a short distance from where your car is parked on the road - to your site which is typically surrounded by trees and next to the water. If you want privacy - these sites certainly offer that - and provide a much more authentic camping experience as well. They are by far my favourite sites to book when tenting.
Here is the Windy Lake boat launch area. AKA - the "rock launch" area. In the distance you can see the embankment of the CPR rail tracks.
As mentioned at the beginning of this report - I recall my dad and I challenging each other to a contest to see who could throw a rock across the water to the other side of the channel (remember when everyone didn't automatically win a prize - and self-esteem was something you earned?). I remember that after a few serious efforts - I eventually launched a rock that made it across. My dad I believe - came close - but was never able to clear the gap. Now, 25 years later at age 46 - I wondered why I needed to prove to myself that I could still do it. But what I think it came down to for me was that I was curious. And I simply needed to know. Whether I succeeded or not - I thought it'd make a good story and a fun bit of reminiscence to share with my dad. I've since taken a look at this spot on some online topo maps as well as on Google Earth using the ruler tool to measure the distance. If the measurements are valid - the distance from the gravel (we didn't throw from the dock) to the other side is about 300ft. I knew I had to take some practice throws to stretch and warm up. When I was finally ready I then had to select some suitable stones. Ones that were flat enough to gain good lift, yet heavy enough to maintain their momentum in the air. Apparently, the art of rock throwing isn't something to take lightly. I found a few reasonable candidates - but saved the better ones for last. I threw about 10 rocks that early evening. The first few went reasonably far - but the trajectory was either too high - or too low - and they ended up falling well short of my goal. One of the last ones launched felt great - and I was confident that it would clear the gap - but I was disappointed when it landed about 5 ft from the edge - producing a clear splash and ripple in the water. I had two stones left. And these were the best ones I had. If I was going to succeed - I needed to make it work with these two. With the next one - I cleared the gap - but it wasn't by much, as I could see it ricochet off the ground on the other side. It was good enough. It felt even better than I thought it would. I wonder if there's a type of therapy in California that uses this technique?
From here I made my way to the old beach. I wonder if it looked as spectacular as I remembered it on those early evenings many years ago. Judging by the overcast sky - I had my doubts.
See Part X - to find out.
Part X - Evening on Windy Lake
As I was nearing what we used to call the "old" beach, the sun was beginning to pierce the menacing clouds. The brighter lighting might make for some interesting photos during my wandering photographic journey I thought. I took the photo below along the shore where a group camping section of the park used to exist. I believe it is now being re-claimed by nature in an attempt by the park to return it to a more natural setting.
I also wanted to snap a photo of the Tower Bay Hill seen in the distance below. On top is the Cascaden Fire Tower. We used to canoe to the tower and climb it as teenagers. The hill itself is somewhat of a monadnock in the region - standing out from the lower hills that surround it. At 1645 ft, it's one of the higher peaks in the area and sits 550 ft above Windy Lake. At one time there were rumours of a possible ski resort being built on the hill. There are cliffs located in the bay that we'd jump from into the deep dark water below. As you can see - it creates a nice centrepiece when looking out over the lake.
Continuing my walk along the shoreline - I was startled when the sun suddenly broke through the clouds as I was approaching the old beach. With the contrast of dark, ominous clouds above the brightly lit beach below - I thought this would make an interesting photo. And I snapped a quick image before my fleeting window of opportunity slipped away. The lone picnic table looked just like the ones I used to sit upon while looking out over the lake.
And this was the view I had when lying on the beach under the hot July sun years before. The water looked pretty inviting. When I dipped in my hand - I was surprised that it felt rather swimmable - particularly for late June. It appears that park staff are preparing to set the buoy lines in place - a wet job no doubt. In the late 1980s, my sister had a pen pal from England (Nottingham) come to visit in the summer. I decided to give her a tour of Windy Lake. When we approached this view - she was taken aback by how large the lake appeared. I remember her joking that in England this would be considered a "sea". I would later take a photo of myself in the same spot - with snow up to my waist n the middle of winter - to highlight the remarkable contrast between seasons here.
As I was walking along the beach I spotted what looked like a canoe - far out on the lake. When I zoomed in - I captured not only the canoe - but the fire tower in the background as well. It was a great evening to be plying the waters of Windy Lake, as the lake itself clearly wasn't living up to its namesake. I thought the photo nicely embraced what I'd call a typical Canadian Northern Ontario summer wilderness scene.
After snapping a few more shots, I made my way through a trail out of the park and gave my friend Chris a call on my cell. He picked me up near the CPR rail tracks and we drove back through the park entrance to the campsite.
He also brought a cooler filled with ice and Pepsi. When I took my first sip - there were tears welling up from my eyes. It tasted that good. Ice seemed like a new invention to me. It's hard to beat sipping a cold drink, on a warm evening, beside a hot fire. That is - unless you add salt & vinegar chips. And plenty of reminiscing. Chris works for the mining company Vale, and also builds houses on the side. We looked at a variety of projects he'd been working on - via photos on his cell. It was great to have the company of a good friend tonight. In many ways this place still felt like home.
Before I left for Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park the next morning, I wanted to explore a nearby waterfall that we used to call "The Trestle", as it was hidden behind the CPR rail line. It really wasn't a rail trestle in the strictest sense of the word. But it sure sounded better than "The Culvert".
Stay tuned for Part XI.
Kudos to you for partaking of such an adventure on such a small bike!!
Are you and the chiropractor now on first name basis as he tries vainly to "unwad you" from that cramped riding position on a mini-bike like that?
Part XI - The Trestle Falls
The last time I stayed at Windy Lake I remember being less than delighted by the musical stylings of a CPR air horn, each time a train passed during the night over the nearby crossing adjacent to the park. This time I wasn't sure if there were simply no trains that night - or if I just slept soundly through it all. Either way - I had a fantastic sleep and was ready to do some exploring. I made my way toward a trail near a section of the park that is within a few "boat-launch stone throws" from the tracks. After crossing them, I made my way to a sand pit and dune area where we used to ride our dirt-bikes. I remember a large pit that had steep sides and I aimed to seek it out. It was a bit challenging to find - but eventually I prevailed. There was no mistaking it. It had changed from what I remembered though - as a teen. An ORV trail was now carving through it - and these strange green things called trees were growing on the top. My friend Curtis (see Part IX) was the only one brave enough to attempt to conquer it with his beat up Yamaha IT175. Then again - he was the only one in the group on a bike with enough power to have a fighting chance. I recall some pretty dramatic moments as we heard his 2-stroke ring-dinging somewhere off in the distance as he prepared for his run - and then the distinct sound of it shrieking with every gear change - followed by a feverishly high pitched howl that grew increasingly more intense and frenetic as he closed the gap from his starting place somewhere off in the distance. We would all stare at the foliage marking the entrance to the pit - watching nervously and in suspense - as we heard him approaching. When would he come shooting through the trees? And then it happened - he suddenly appeared - blue smoke rocketing out his end pipe like a crop-duster spraying DDT - and the bike sounding like it might self-destruct at any moment - dancing - on the edge - skipping along the top of the loosely graveled - pit runway. How he managed to maintain any semblance of control on this beast was anybody's guess. We were awed. Yet still smart enough to scramble for cover. But he rarely wrecked. More typically - we were treated to a fine wobbly rooster-tail as he shot his way straight up - like Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster shooting toward the sky - but with an occasional miscalculation that saw him sailing over the lip and disappearing followed by a hard low-travel suspension bottom-out crunch on the plateau above.
The route Curtis took better resembled what can be seen to the left of the ORV tracks. As I'm writing this a funny thought just crossed my mind. I wonder. If I reach 90 years of age, would I be telling the same kind of stories to a younger generation about these really simple engines that used to be featured on some dirtbikes - that operated on a mixture of gas and oil, puffed blue smoke, idled unevenly, and made funny ring-dingy sounds. Oh - and made abrupt, crazy power like the "on-off" character of a light-switch?
I continued up the connecting trail that used to be Curtis' personal runway and turned right when it intersected with a more prominent roadway. I believe this road used to be a former alignment of the "Old Cartier Road" as it was called. I could still see some remnants of the guard-rails that lined the highway at one time. It looks like it's now a snowmobile/recreational trail and featured a new crossing. The sign on the bridge read "Windy Creek". However, we used to refer to this speckled-trout stream as "Lord's Creek".
Just past the bridge, I found the grown-in trail that we used to climb down to access the falls. We used to call this section just above the falls "The Slide" - because the rocks were so slippery - you could sit down up stream and let the current carry you over the smooth rocks below - before bailing out before the drop. Not sure why we didn't call it "Leach Lane" because it seemed inevitable that some naïve participant would be enjoying the fun when all of the sudden they'd scream like Janet Leigh after discovering a small version of the facehugger from the first Alien movie irreversibly attached to the skin between their toes.
And here is the falls. We used to sit under the rushing water, and sometimes move the rocks around and lie in the pools below. When the lake was still too chilly to swim in - this was the place to go. I made a lot of memories here.
I remembered a trail on the left-hand side of the creek - so I waded through the water to the other side and saw that it was still there - though it was heavily grown in now. There used to be so many kids running around this spot growing up. Now - I imagined that this trail was hardly used. Parents were more likely to keep their kids indoors - to shelter them from all the bad stuff that would likely kill them outside. I wouldn't be surprised if this place was off-limits to most kids now. Too bad. We had so much fun here. And we did get hurt at times. We learned much from those encounters though....
A short distance down-stream was the culvert and CPR embankment. I climbed to the top and snapped a few photos of the boat-launch from this perspective. You can see Windy Lake and Tower Bay hill in the background. I wondered about how many great views like this existed along the rail-line - that only rail employees were privy to.
Right after this shot was taken, I decided to walk along the tracks back toward the trail leading to my campsite. I wondered when the next train would be passing by. It might be hard to believe - but just after this fleeting thought - I heard an air-horn - and a train approaching. It felt like I was an unwitting participant in a corny "Just-For-Laughs" T.V. gag. I decided to vacate the tracks before the train helped me vacate my bowels. You can see my haste in the nicely spaced sandal prints dotting the embankment. I captured of a photo of the lead engine.
After the train had passed, I climbed back up to the tracks and used them as a guide as I steered my feet back toward my campsite. Before I got there, it slowly began to rain - so when I reached the site, I packed all my gear inside the tent. That meant that the tent itself would be the only thing packed wet. I hoped that it was sunny when I reached Ivanhoe Lake so I could let my tent dry in the midday sun. As I climbed back on the bike for my last destination before returning to Thunder Bay I reflected on the events of yesterday and this morning. I felt a warm sense of comfort and satisfaction in having returned home to explore some special places. In life - anything can happen. I sometimes wondered if I'd ever visit these areas again. Now I didn't have to wonder. And it felt good. Yes - you CAN go back. At least to visit. And recounting the memories made it all worthwhile.
As I was writing the above chapter - I suddenly recalled something that I bet many kids growing up in a small town - had to endure. The ridicule of those living in a city. Every now and then you'd meet someone who'd seriously wonder why you'd ever want to grow up in a small town. I remember being asked "How about if you wanted to go out with your friends to see a movie?" Clearly they were left with the impression that you were being severely deprived in many ways based on where you lived. And I remember trying to defend myself - but really missing that well-timed, knock-out-punch-of-a-retort that would leave them stunned. Ironically - the answer was lying all around me the whole time. We had the nicest beach in the area where we could swim and even drink the water straight from the lake, a canoe club to sign-out canoes, and nearby cross-country ski trails that were - and still are - well-known across Ontario. I skied down to the nicest alpine ski area in the Sudbury Region on winter weekends, wore out lots of felt playing at a well-kept tennis court down the street, and swam at an indoor pool in our community center during the winter (I'd eventually serve as a lifeguard there). We even had a hockey arena and a Junior B team, an outdoor skating rink, a curling club, and the list goes on. People from the city came here in droves during their free-time! It's hard not to laugh once you develop the wisdom and emotional maturity to see past such a naïve and ridiculous question. It was a great place for kids to grow up.
Stay tuned in to Part XII.
Actually - the newer generation CBR is quite a bit more roomy than the old one. To most people, it looks like a full-size bike now. And it feels more like it too. I find it pretty comfortable - with the exception of the seat - as mentioned in my report.
Part XII - Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park
I knew I had the luxury of taking my time as I wound my way up Hwy 144 past Cartier and onward towards Ivanhoe Lake - a very modest 320km trip for the day. I soon found my thoughts returning again to Windy Lake. Over the past 4 years - I had motorcycle camped at eleven Ontario parks and Ivanhoe Lake would be my twelfth. I would have to put Windy Lake on my mental list of the top 5 parks I'd visited over this time. Why? I'd be the first to admit that my fond memories of the area - and brief yet memorable stay there - biased my impression. But I thought that it deserved some accolades for a variety of reasons. Like the simple things it got right. Like a vast sandy beach offering a spectacular view over a crystal clear lake, large campsites that offered plenty of privacy, cell service from your site, a modern comfort station, proximity to the highway, supplies close by in Onaping and Levack (only 5 mins away) and a gatehouse that stayed open late. All the essentials could be checked-off. The trains rumbling by all through the night could deter some. Yet as mentioned - I somehow managed to escape this annoyance this time around.
The roadway up to where Hwy 144 and Hwy 101 meet is about as exciting as watching a chia-pet sprout. And it feels like it accesses an area of the province that is far more remote than any map will show. That you don't pass through any communities after skirting Cartier - is probably a major factor. It's hard to imagine that a city like Timmins could exist at the end of this route - after hours of nothing but continuous bush and lakes on either side of you. After about 110km I took my first break for fuel at the Watershed Restaurant where the junction of Hwy 144, the Sultan Industrial Road and Hwy 560 - meet.
As I approached Foleyet on Hwy 101 west - I briefly considered stopping for fuel - but decided to continue to the park - figuring that I'd have to return to town again anyway for dinner later that day. As I approached the sign for Ivanhoe Lake Road - I was struck by some surprising mixed feelings. I was first and foremost excited to have made it this far, and to stay at a park that I had been curious to visit for quite some time. I also remembered what it felt like to be riding through here previously on my way to Temagami - only one week ago. I could now recount the stories that only recently had never existed. And I was also both sad that my adventure was nearing the end - and excited at the same time knowing that I'd be soon returning back to Thunder Bay, to hold my girlfriend in my arms -and adjust to a more conventional life once again.
The road to Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park was an interesting and unique visual experience. Many cottages lined the lake along the route. I even passed by an airbase and lodge (Air Ivanhoe) as well as another resort just down the road (Red Pine Lodge). At the bottom of one hill I crossed over a dam spilling out of Ivanhoe Lake and then wound around the twisting, scenic shoreline before reaching the gatehouse. It came stocked with friendly attendants. I picked site #92 - the only remaining site available on the lake. When I asked about places to eat in Foleyet, the attendant suggested some eateries just around the corner. I decided at once that I'd eat at the Air Ivanhoe Lodge that evening. She also mentioned that the Red Pine Lodge had fuel - so I was relieved that it wouldn't require a trip back to Foleyet - even though it was only a 15kms ride away. I was starting to like this place already. Less than a year ago - the prospect of ever camping over-night here seemed unlikely. Last Fall the Ontario government decided to close 9 Northern Ontario parks and turn them into "day parks" (strangely - with a locked gate at their entrances) to save money - claiming that these places required expensive upgrades and had low visitor numbers. The parks included Caliper Lake, Fushimi Lake, Greenwater, Ivanhoe Lake, Mississagi, Obatanga, René Brunelle, Tidewater, and The Shoals. Over the past few years - I've motorcycle camped at Mississagi, Obatanga, and The Shoals and was thankful that I had the opportunity to stay at them when I did. But I regretted that I would miss out on Ivanhoe Lake. I thought our parks were something akin to a birth-rite. A Canadian institution! I guess not. Thankfully, in the new year a few of the parks reached a deal with the government to keep them open - via a short reprieve - with the understanding that any cost over-runs would be footed by the local municipalities. Thus Ivanhoe Lake was spared - at least temporarily - and I thought I'd capitalize on this chance and support the park with at least one nights stay. I remember thinking as I was riding through the campground at the time that this seemed like a really special place. With so much activity around the lake - I bet there was a lot at stake if this park closed down. Apparently there was widespread outrage when the initial list of closures were suddenly announced and Ivanhoe appeared among the unfortunately few.
The views as I entered the campground were quite inspiring.
The sun was now shining and I looked forward to setting up my tent and drying it out in the hot mid-day sun. I even found some nearby tree branches to conveniently air out my riding gear. When I tried my cell phone - there was no signal. I shouldn't have been surprised. Granted - I rarely use my cell at home. It was purchased solely for traveling purposes. But It was hard not to feel so disappointed when 90% of the time that I tried it - there was no signal. This wouldn't bode well if an emergency presented itself. I found it amusing to consider that the only times I used my cell - it wasn't operational. I could tell my friends that cell phones in my experience - were incredibly unreliable devices.
With each of my reports I've always found it necessary to explain my tent setup. Why? Perhaps a recent experience will enlighten. A few weeks ago I was telling a friend about the camping gear that I typically took with me on my motorcycle. When I mentioned the word "cot" she broke out in hysterical laughter - and couldn't stop. Even when she calmed down a bit and seemed to recover...and I then continued - she would suddenly collapse into a fit of uncontrolled giggling that seemed more appropriate for an episode of Beavis & Butthead. Still - many of the comments I've received about my reports concern my sleeping system. People find it hard to believe that the entire she-bang can be carried on the back of a motorcycle - let alone one displacing 149cc's. Yet those I've camped with who have actually tried the cots - all agree - after one restful slumber - they could never go back to sleeping on the ground. The bed consists of a Camptime Roll-A-Cot - the best, easiest to set up, lightest, and most durable tent bed I've owned (including army cots). If you want more information - here it is! http://www.camptime.net/roll-a-cot.htm . This cot is now an essential part of my camping gear. Occasionally - people will respond with disbelief that I carry a cot with me - like it defeats the purpose of camping in a tent somehow. Strangely, these responses mostly come from people who exclusively stay in expensive hotels on their motorcycle adventures. Nevertheless, with the combination of this cot, my Nemo Cosmo Air Insulated mattress, http://www.amazon.com/Nemo-Equipment...4807193&sr=8-2 my new North Face Dolomite 3S (20F) rectangular bag, and camp pillow - I can be assured of having a restful, deep sleep - every night. Not only do I look forward to crawling into bed at night - but I have grown to trust that I will feel well rested when I set-off for another destination the next day. Feeling tired and cranky before setting out on a long days ride - not only dampens your fun - but can be dangerous as well. There are other pragmatic reasons for bringing it along too. Here are some notable perks: 1) The cot sits about 15" above the floor so you can store all your gear underneath as you sleep, and saves lots of space so you can actually bring a smaller, lighter tent as an option, 2) Storing gear under the cot keeps you from having to leave it outside under a vestibule where it can still get wet should it rain overnight, 3) You can sit on the side of the cot and get dressed more easily in the morning, which is worth bringing this cot for this reason alone, 4) When the ground is uneven - you can sleep above the rocks, twigs, and bumps - the cot remains level, 5) You can use the cot at home as a spare bed for guests - it sure beats a pull-out bed that jabs you in the back with cross pieces and coiled springs. For me - it offers much of the comfort of sleeping in a bed - especially when you place an air mattress on top. It doesn't get any more luxurious than this when camping in a tent.
My next plan was to ride naked to the comfort station. At least it felt that way. I wore only my sandals, shorts, tee-shirt, and helmet. I couldn't believe I was going to be actually "squid-ing" it for the very first time. After showering - I looked forward to putting on fresh clothes, shaving, and riding the short distance to Ivanhoe Lodge to re-fuel my body and then onto Red Pine Lodge to re-fuel my bike. As I was riding to the comfort station a number of things caught my attention. One was how tiny my grips felt without large puffy gloves. I'd never ridden bare-handed before. The other was something I hadn't noticed since visiting provincial parks as a kid with my family in our Starcraft tent-trailer. There were lots of kids riding bikes and playing everywhere. This is what I remember from my youth. And it felt great to hear the laughter and screams of delight as they rode on two-wheels too - on their own adventures - that included catching frogs alongside the water. I wondered if they'd write their own trip reports describing "How I Spent My Summer Holidays" when back at school in September. This indeed seemed like a special place.
While the showers and sink area looked to be from a different era - and a little short on the room I needed to perform the limb contortions that were a part of my regular washing ritual - I was so thankful at this point for the opportunity to feel clean - that I didn't mind. After removing the Billy Gibbons-like level of scruff from my face - I felt like I could now risk a public appearance without being unwittingly entered into an impromptu YouTube "Bum fight" contest. I rode to Air Ivanhoe, parked the bike, and entered the restaurant. Before finding a place to sit, I asked a staff member about nearby Wifi hotspots. This seemed like a bold request considering the locale - so you can imagine my shock and surprise when she gave me a password and I was able to access the lodge's Wifi from my dinner table. Did I say that I was starting to like this place yet? While waiting for my meal - I checked my e-mail and connected again with the outside world. It felt great to have this level of luxury only a few minutes from my campsite. And the food was great too. I had a burger and poutine that was incredibly tasty - and filled the plate - making it a challenge to scarf it all down. I managed to find a way. Barely. After the meal I chatted with the Lodge staff about the park and the recent threat of closure and how this would impact the community. It was clear after our conversation that everyone was passionately committed to fighting to keep Ivanhoe open. Yes - there was a lot at steak (oops still thinking of food) here for all involved. The park is an important financial and recreational contributor to the area. I found it hard to believe that it could fall so easily under the knife. Before thanking the staff - I wanted to snap a few shots of the lake from outside. They suggested that I climb up to the second floor for a better view. This is one of the images I captured from up top.
After re-fueling at the Red Pine Lodge and enjoying the cool breeze in my new ATGATT (Absent Typical Gear At The Time) setup - I decided to take a photo of the beach that runs along much of the campground. I didn't realize it at that moment - but this would be my last photo of my trip. The sun would soon be setting - marking the end of the day - so it seemed fitting that so too would my 4000km long adventure. Once back at my site I retired to my tent to finish some reading. At one point I remembered I had left a PowerAde drink in my hard case and reluctantly left the coziness of my bed to venture outside to retrieve it from my bike. As I was fumbling for the drink - I noticed a staff member doing her rounds and said "Hi". She approached me and she asked where I had come from today. She looked familiar. I discussed some of my trip that included a mention of my stay at Wakami Lake last year - when she announced that her brother worked there. That was the cue I needed. I had met her before. Last year at The Shoals Provincial Park. Her name was Heidi and she suddenly remembered me too. We had a good chat and we shared some of our experiences camping at other nearby areas. I found this a pleasant coincidence.
The last photo of the trip.
The next morning I awoke early and quickly arranged and positioned my gear in their respective places on the bike. The sun had been good to my tent - and I was grateful to be now packing it up dry. As I was leaving - I said a mental goodbye to Ivanhoe Lake - and hoped that I might return again sometime. I knew that the final leg would be a relatively long one - covering about 700 kms in total from the park to Thunder Bay. Yet after stops in Wawa, Marathon, and Terrace Bay - I was able to split up the ride nicely. The weather made the trip easier too - encountering only a sprinkling of rain when nearing the land of Nanabijou.
What can I say about the trip? Considering my adventure took place over a relatively short 10-day period - I was surprised by how many things I'd seen and how many memories had being consolidated over this time. You appreciate this even more - when you finally sit down and begin to write up the story mysteriously hidden behind the many photos - knitting everything together on the screen as the tale unfolds in front of your mind's eye. While the ultimate goal of each trip report I've written is to share the experience, insights, feelings, and encounters I've faced along the way with other like-mind people - each time I do so I quickly realize that the experience of writing it out leaves me feeling like I've returned to these very places in a startlingly vivid and compelling way. And it's incredibly rewarding to relive the sights, sounds, smells, and thrill of your own personal collection of these discrete moments in time. When there is snow on the ground outside and ice hanging from the windows - I sometimes re-read these trips so I can once again transport myself back to these special places - to escape.
Many were surprised that I would attempt such a feat on an admittedly atypical adventure bike. Others have since appeared incredulous when I insisted that the bike never at any time detracted from the experience - and if anything - likely contributed an interesting mix of character to the trip - making it even more special and memorable. Recently I heard someone call a Honda Fit a "city" car. And that it could "never be used to travel across the country. You'd definitely need an SUV for that". Granted - you can't deny the comfort of a large, luxurious vehicle. But I think the uniqueness of the conveyance makes the experience that much more memorable and endearing. One of my best trips ever was in 1985 when three of us climbed into my brother's 1973 Super Beetle and headed 700kms to Mont Tremblant, for a week of skiing. Plywood served as the rear seat, the heater barely worked, and many placed bets that the engine would blow up once we were cruising on the highway. But we were young and full of adventure. Heck - we had an Alpine stereo inside that was worth considerably more than the car itself. And we didn't care. It was the journey that mattered. Yet - we still laugh about how much crazy fun that was and believe that it wouldn't have been the same without the character of the Beetle - which came through for us when we needed it to.
As with my previous small-displacement trips - I hope this report inspires others to do more with less as they build a bond with their small bikes - and set off on their own adventures while proving to others that "You CAN tour on that!" Some big bike tourers may scoff at you - but you'll have just as much fun out there. Honest.
Awesome RR Mike!! I'm willing to bet you've inspired many people to go ahead, jump on whatever bike they're riding and take an adventure
Ack Am sad to see this RR end
Thoroughly enjoyed this, thanks so much for sharing!
Excellent RR !! , you have captured the spirit of the smaller bikes. They are more fun, on trips or just riding , to me anyone can tour on a huge 1000 cc monster, but the smaller bikes make it an adventure. Its sad that so many never reach the pleasures of a 250cc [or smaller bike] and IMHO miss the real joys of riding. Take more trips please, can't wait for the next one. CMS