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Old 08-19-2011, 06:43 PM
CBR250R CBR250R is offline
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Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Default Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Part I

On Wednesday, June 22, 2011, I embarked on my first long camping tour with my newly acquired 2011 CBR250R. The motivation for this trip grew out of my remarkably selective and idealistically fond memories of adventure, discovery, and solitude I recalled from my previous camping excursions across Ontario riding my 2009 CBR125R last year. See here:


Now, with a new stablemate - a 2011 Honda CBR250R - my goal was very much the same: 1) To experience what it would be like riding and camping with the CBR250R over a one-week period over a distance of 3200kms; 2) To try out and report on some new gear; and 3) To meet up with some CBR125R forum members http://www.hondacbr125r.com/forum/index.php for an over-night camping outing at Balsam Lake Provincial Park. Initially, my plan was to include an ambitious ride from Thunder Bay, ON to St. John's, Newfoundland. I even purchased and perused several East Coast tour guide books and practiced some maritime dialects that had me sounding a bit like if Jean Chretien and Popeye had a baby - to whet my appetite for the trip. But like many waiting for their CBR250Rs to arrive this spring, my bike appeared one month later than scheduled, so I had to put these admittedly grandiose plans on hold.

I left my home in Thunder Bay, Ontario under less than ideal conditions. It was pouring rain. And cold. With strong winds. And fog. Friends called to ask "You aren't really going to leave in this weather are you?!?" Such situations call for major cognitive re-framing. I told myself that this would be a great opportunity to test out the resilience of my Joe Rocket Alter Ego pants and jacket with their zipped in waterproof liner as well as my new Icon Patrol waterproof gloves (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0042M1GAK, River Road Boulevard waterproof boots (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ACG8D0), and waterproof duffle (i.e., tailbag) from Cabelas http://www.cabelas.com/waterproof-ba...el-bag-3.shtml. Besides, where is the adventure in riding under only sunny skies?

I was also eager to carry more gear on the 250R, so I purchased larger saddlebags http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com...addlebags.aspx which would allow me to place the heavier stuff lower on the bike. Now with some riding time on the saddles, I continue to be impressed by how easy and convenient the Nelson-Rigg system works and how well the clips secure all my gear. The straps on the Cabelas duffel mate with the Nelson-Rigg saddles as smartly and easily as Schwarzenegger with a nanny. However, if you went this way too, you would have to change-out the side release buckles on the duffel to ensure they attach properly to the Nelson-Rigg saddles. I just transfered the buckles from the Nelson-Rigg tailbag. The duffel has about twice as much room as the Nelson-Rigg tailbag, it is waterproof (so no more fooling around with waterproof covers), and soft shelled (so easier to fit some items), has a nice blue reflective coating for visibility, and a more comfortable (softer) wedge against my back while riding. The duffel also has a convenient carrying handle. My short kayak ratcheting ropes help secure the load, while also doubling as a convenient clothesline (just wrap both ends around two trees and pull to tighten) and guy lines for my tarp shelter on rainy campsite days (not to mention acting as handy deck ring tie downs for securing the bike on ferry crossings).

Normally when it rains - you take shelter or head for home. As such, it was strange leaving Thunder Bay while being pelted by such heavy rain. I rode down the street and pulled into a Shell station for fuel.

Here is my new setup including my Icon Urban tank bag http://www.motorcycle-superstore.com...T.ac=SLIsearch. Admittedly not the best weather for the start of a long trip.

Out on the highway I quickly found myself riding into a fierce, blustery headwind that left me questioning whether the gales of November had come early. The wind was strong enough that the CBR250R had difficulty maintaining my intended speed of 103 km/hr in 6th gear. Then again, sitting up on the bike in full riding gear with an impressive load stretched out behind me - I figured my drag was only moderately less than what Knievel's skycycle encountered after his chute prematurely ejectulated during his ill-fated "jump" over/into the Snake River in '74. However, unlike the CBR125R, a simple downshift to 5th suddenly provided all of the motive force I needed. With that said - for the rest of the trip under normal windy conditions acceleration in 6th gear was never an issue.

My first stop heading east was at a scenic overlook above the town of Nipigon one hour east of Thunder Bay. Fortunately the rain had subsided and the roads were dry. Considerably dryer than my Icon Patrol waterproof gloves. Maybe there should be a disclaimer that says "waterproof" (followed by fine print stating "Unless you are wearing them while riding your motorcycle in the rain"). Well, at least the left glove has a built-in squeegee that makes wiping rain from my visor on-the-fly both simple and effective. Still - I like these gloves alot, and despite their "Luongo at the TD Garden" level of permiability, they now get the nod each time I ride. Nevertheless - I have yet to find a pair of truly waterproof gloves. My boots, however, stayed bone dry. Then again, they do resemble traditional rubber boots in fit and feel (but sadly not in cost), and like real rubber boots, they lack proper toe and heel reinforcements. The Joe Rocket attire thankfully kept me warm and dry too.

Here is a shot that captures some of the town of Nipigon on Lake Superior.

For all you rabid curling fans - Al Hackner grew up in Nipigon, ON. See the famous Al Hackner double below:


On this trip, I opted to take Hwy 11 (the "Northern Route") that follows Lake Nipigon in the hopes of capturing some of the scenic waterfalls that cascade down the cliffs around Orient Bay. This area (Pijitawabik Palisades) is an ice-climbing mecca and one of the best ice-climbing areas in North America during the winter months.

The photo below captures what Hwy 11 looks like just north of Nipigon.

Lake Nipigon is the largest lake entirely within the province of Ontario and is also home to woodland caribou. The Nipigon River is famous for harbouring large brook trout (speckled trout). The largest brook trout ever on record (at 14.5 lbs) was caught in the river in 1915 by Dr. JW Cook of Thunder Bay.

A view of the Nipigon River (Lake Helen).

The twisty and scenic sections as seen in the photo below were great fun. This portion near Orient Bay was even more fun than it looks. Unfortunately, perhaps due to a dry spring, the waterfalls were non-existent.

At various points along the road I could see remnants of the Kinghorn rail line that had been abandoned since 2005. The former line used to run from Thunder Bay to Nipigon, then up to Longlac. If you are interested in rail lines, here are some photos with descriptions of the line.


The photo below was taken past Jellico, ON and aptly captures how empty and remote Hwy 11 can be. But in many ways, this adds to its appeal. Some of the scenery however was marred by evidence of a forest fire that swept through the area in 2000.

The Sturgeon River as seen below became well known in the area from 1934-1935 as the site of the Sturgeon River Gold Rush. While several gold mines became prominent in the area, all have long since run their course - the river gold rush never flourished.

Here is the headframe of the McLeod-Cockshutt gold mine that still stands along Hwy 11 near Geralton, ON as a historical marker of the important impact that mining had on area communities. Interestingly, recent ore body discoveries suggest the possibility of a re-emergence of mining in the area.

I eventually left Hwy 11 and turned south onto Hwy 631 towards my destination for the day - Nagagamisis Provincial Park. I had never traveled this secondary roadway previously and secretly hoped it would yield some twisty and rolling sections. I wasn't disappointed.

I would have taken more photos of the roadway if I wasn't so busy dodging bears along the final stretch (I saw four bears along the 30km turnoff to the park).

After about 500 kms of riding, I finally reached the park.

What would the evening have in store? Stay tuned to find out.


Last edited by CBR250R; 12-13-2011 at 04:32 AM.
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Old 08-19-2011, 10:40 PM
CBR250R CBR250R is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Default Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Part II - Nagagamisis Provincial Park

Upon arriving at the main gate of the park, it became quickly apparent that there would be no welcoming committee. You'd think I'd learn. Prior to the busy season (July/August), the main gates of many Provincial Parks close early. I had arrived around 7:30PM and the gatehouse had closed at 7PM. This meant that I had to find my own empty site, in an unfamiliar park, and then complete the registration process on my own and drop it back off at the gatehouse. Not very appealing. I found a park map and rode down through the maze of roads and sites in search of a nice spot on the water. While scoping out the various trailers and RVs, I began to wonder if some sort of plague had hit the park. Many of the sites were occupied - yet there were very few people around. Were they all in their trailers eating supper? Would they emerge from their trailers once darkness fell shouting out "Brains! Brains!" in a discordant zombie-like chant? There really was some quietly eerie "Omega-Man-esque" quality to this park and I made a pact with myself that if Charlton Heston himself raced by on a Honda SL350 - I wouldn't be far behind. I finally made my way to a nice site on the water and decided to claim it.

Not long after setting up my tent, I was approached by a Park Warden who asked me if I had paid for the site. I replied that I hadn't because there was nobody at the gatehouse to take my money - and that I had planned to stop by later and drop my registration form in the drop box after setting up and safely zombie-proofing all my gear. No other protocol made sense. You really can't pay for a site until you determine what is actually available and unoccupied. Once you find an available site - you claim it. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing it to someone who might grab it while you are off riding back to the gate to register it. Or so I thought. Well, the warden then asked me for my name (I suppose just in case I 3D'd him with a dine, doze and dash maneuver?!?) how long I'd be staying, and what percentage of my body mass was composed of delectible brain tissue - then pointed at me and blurted out "brains!" (O.K. - just teasing about the latter). He seemed concerned, if not entirely suspicious. I thought I'd reasure him - and mentioned that I intented to pay for the site with my credit card within the hour. He looked a bit puzzled and replied that the self-registration process required a fee in cash inside the registration envelope. This was getting a bit ridiculous. I replied that I had self-registered using my credit card at other Ontario parks - and it had never been an issue. He agreed to allow the transaction, but thought it best to consult with other park staff about the issue. As it turned out - it wasn't an issue after all and everything was soon settled.

While dropping off my form at the gate I called my girlfriend on the park payphone (Just like any good Romero movie, my Blackberry showed "no service" in the park) to touch base (O.K. I missed her already) and tell her about my day. As I was leaving, I met up with the warden again and we had a more amicable and interesting chat. I asked about the strange contrast between the number of trailers and the conspicuous lack of people. I told him that this was perhaps the quietest park I had ever visited. He laughed and explained that the park hosted many seasonal campers from outlying areas including Hearst and Hornepayne, and that it was common for them to stay for the weekends and leave their trailers vacant for the remainder of the week.

Back on my site - I decided it was time to make my way down to the lake for a bite. The path featured some finely crafted wooden steps down to the water that (according to the warden) were fashioned by campers. A nice touch.

I decided to sit down on the weathered log seen below and eat an elaborate meal (a submarine sandwich and Powerade drink purchased in Longlac, ON) while taking in the view of the lake from my small personal beach. Nagagamisis is a really nice park. And I couldn't have asked for a more quiet and peaceful evening.

Here is what my view looked like from the trunk of the tree. I returned to my site and read for a while on the picnic table when my attention was drawn to the lake again as the sun began to disappear.

And this is what my view looked like shortly before retiring for the evening. A fine ending to a long and lonely ride.

Stay tuned for Part III: Magpie Mud and Pancakes

Last edited by CBR250R; 12-13-2011 at 04:37 AM.
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:48 PM
CBR250R CBR250R is offline
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Default Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Part III - Magpie Mud and Pancakes

I occasionally get requests to post a map in my trip reports so readers know where I've been and where I'm going - so they can put the trip into 'geographical' perspective. So for those of you wondering where the hell I've been riding so far in my report - here is a map that captures my route so far.

I have to admit - zombies or no zombies - I had any incredibly peaceful and satisfying sleep in my tiny (yet cozy) tent at Nagagamisis Park. No loud revellers, no campers moping around opening and closing doors in the middle of the night. I could definitely get used to this park, at least on weekdays.

I was really looking forward to continuing my ride south to White River, Ontario along the remainder of Hwy 631. Can you blame me? Just take a look at the next photo. If you guessed from the photo that I was the only one on the road that morning - you would be right! Many have had that same peak experience in the early morning on an empty road and know what it is all about. This to me - is the reason I ride - to experience that special secret ingredient in the mix - the remote secondary road. The real road less traveled (unless you are a black bear). Hwy 631 is such a road - an undiscovered gem - and a great diversion from much of the straight sections common to Hwy 11 in the area. Hills, twists and turns, incredible scenery and solitude - so just being there feels special. Based on my experience, the route from north to south is the most scenic, as the road gradually winds its way toward White River - unveiling one panoramic view after another. In fact, the route created the illusion that I was almost continually riding downhill - like one of those spiral illusions your web obsessed grandmother keeps sending you links to - or a reversed rendition of New Brunswick's "Magnetic Hill" - without the vendors. When I returned home, I made a point of checking the elevations along this section and it turns out the road does indeed slowly wind some 400 ft down toward the town of White River. However, for some reason the illusion was much more pronounced than the actual Google Earth data suggests.

Just before I arrived in White River, ON, it began to rain again. I re-fuelled in the land of Winnie, and collected some food and drink and then headed back on the road. I had been keeping track of my fuel mileage and at this point the little CBR250R was consistently yielding around 81 mpg (Imperial) between fill-ups - a figure that would remain consistent for much of my trip. When I first purchased my CBR125R, the perk of obtaining outstanding fuel economy never really figured into my purchase decision. However, once I started to feed it fuel - it began to open up a new world for me - a world where not only did it feel like I was mischievously breaking some sort of law by riding the bike (how can this much fun NOT be illegal) but that I was also breaking some law by paying so little to fuel it. This feeling hasn't changed with the CBR250R. When was the last time you went on a trip and felt compelled to purchase some unnecessary items (chocolate bar, Popeye ciga..er..candy sticks, etc.) at a gas bar because you felt so sheepish for charging so little to your credit card? At times I was certain the attendant would look closer at my fuel purchase, and then put everything on hold (including the dude in line who makes everyone else wait 15 minutes while he suddenly decides that his new lot in life is to earn a living off winnings from gas bar scratch 'n win tickets) to step outside to check the pump.

Once on the road again, it wasn't long before the rain began to come down hard. Real hard. Cars were beginning to pull off the roadway as visibility quickly declined. The thought suddenly occurred to me that if I had been driving in a car right now - my wipers would be set to "ludicrous speed" and my butt cheeks would be clenched so tightly that I would later shit compacted shale - yet here I was on my CBR250R - completely exposed to the elements - with surprisingly decent visibility as the rain cleanly beaded off my visor. By the time I approached the Wawa goose less than a hour later, the rain had subsided considerably.

For many years I have driven right past a sign for Magpie Falls just south of Wawa. Today I decided that this was an adventure that I had waited long enough to fulfill. I also reasoned that it would make an interesting side trip in my report. I planned to bask alongside the torrent of sparkling effervescence - chew on some Popeye candy sticks while transfixed on its raging beauty. Maybe even submit the captured images to some sublime nature photo competition. Then, shortly after I turned off Hwy 17 onto the dirt road leading to Magpie Falls nirvana - something happened. It is hard to describe when and how my bike suddenly became obliquely oriented along the road - but it was exceedingly clear that my bike suddenly and inexplicably decided to accept the spirit of Pazuzu as its saviour (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pazuzu_(The_Exorcist) that afternoon. I like to imagine that I must have looked like a dirt-track racer negotiating a especially tight corner. Only, the roadbed was straight. And I was barely breaking 10 km/hr. What do you do when your front tire points west, while your back tire is oriented northwest? I could see that the road bed was soft and my tires were sinking in a mix of what appeared to be mud and clay. I could have been riding on snake oil, or Slick 50 engine oil treatment for all I knew. I tried pleading with Pazuzu to release himself from my bike and instead select the Electra Glide whose rider didn't return my wave a short time ago - "Just take him instead" - yet he refused to relent. I even lifted my boots from my pegs so they could act like training wheel supports - but my boots were sliding just as much as my slick tires. I decided to head back and almost soiled myself (in two ways) trying to turn around on the road. I cautiously made my way back over the kilometre of hell. Once I returned to solid terra-asphalt - to the hallowed pavement of Hwy 17, I examined my bike. It looked like I had just crossed the finish line on a rainy day at Loretta Lynn's. Strange - the photo below doesn't quite capture the evil nature of that road. Go figure. Magpie (Muskeg?) Falls would have to wait.

There is quite a long climb from Old Woman Bay to Wawa. This view is best appreciated travelling from Wawa. In the photo below the descent toward Lake Superior begins, and it is hard to contain one's excitement as the view starts to open up as Old Woman Bay appears off in the distance. This photo captures the first stunning views on the route from Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie - which must be one of the most under-rated rides in all of Ontario - particularly when it is sunny and clear. Really. Somewhere in the world there may be more spectacular views. However, none around Lake Superior are more spectacular - more scenic - than along this route.

Many riders have taken photos just like the one below. You will know when to pull over and snap the shot when you get there. I occurs just after the cliff face appears and you have to remind yourself to breathe.

What better place to stop and eat lunch, than Old Woman Bay. After taking the photo below, I walked down to the beach and snapped a few shots and then sat on the bench to the right. As I began eating, several visitors passed by and offered comments on the spectacular view.

Lake Superior is a kayaker's paradise. I took the photo below just as I approached the beach. A friend of mine who kayaks on Lake Superior recently said that the lake has a motto that kayakers know well - "Respect it or die". That about sums it up. Just wading in and filling up a water bottle along the shoreline in some areas of the lake feels like you have just volunteered a lifetime of leg submersions in a cold pressor test. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_pressor_test

Strange - but it seemed that each time I climbed back on my bike it decided to rain. I was hoping to take more photos but the rain put a damper on those plans. Katherine Cove is a popular spot to visit during the height of summer. It is really a stunning sight and appears out of nowhere along the highway. What is particularly amazing about this place is that even in the middle of winter the views of the cove don't change much - with the sand remaining free of snow and ice.

Katherine Cove was also the site of a rare wolf attack in 2006.


Once I climbed aboard my trusty CBR250R and headed for Pancake Bay Provincial Park, it started to rain once again. I had passed by this park countless times in the past and wondered how a park located so close to Hwy 17 (actually "wedged" between Hwy 17 and Lake Superior) could make for an enjoyable place to pitch a tent. I soon found out. The park seems to defy the laws of physics, as it offers 260 campsites under a thick canopy of trees.

What would the evening have in store? Stay tuned for Part IV.

Last edited by CBR250R; 09-07-2011 at 01:18 AM.
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Old 08-31-2011, 02:57 PM
CBR250R CBR250R is offline
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Default Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Part IV - Highway Hush and Great Flush

Here is a capture from Google Maps that highlights my route from Nagagamisis Provincial Park near Hornepayne, ON to Pancake Bay Provincial Park near Batchawana Bay, Ontario.

There was a light rain coming down as I climbed off my bike and entered the gatehouse at the park. Seeing as this was June and peak season occurs July-August, I essentially had my choice of sites. I selected one tucked next to the park's main feature - the beach. As I made my way outside to my bike, an older gentleman exited his small pickup truck, then walked up to me and said "It must be pretty miserable riding in this weather!" I looked at him, smiled, and replied "You know - there is nothing like riding a motorcycle in the rain. This is what makes the trip an adventure - riding through the elements. It is never boring". He looked back at me and laughed - my response certainly seemed to resonate with him. It turns out, he had only stopped to ask one of the park staff how much further he had to drive to reach The Chutes Provincial Park near Massey, Ontario. He was pulling an old Trillium trailer and planned to stop there for the night. He wished me luck on my trip and I wished him the same.

Here is another photo of my bike loaded with gear. The rain nicely erased the evidence from my Magpie mud misadventure.

How is the CBR250R out on the highway? The bike really is a lot of fun and its standard riding position is comfortable for longer rides. Even laden with gear it handles remarkably well and has enough power to cruise comfortably at 65 mph (104 kph) - a speed that puts the bike right around the peak of its 6500-7000 rpm torque output. And it feels very quiet, composed, and relatively vibration-free at this speed. In fact, the bike is so quiet at cruise, the sound of wind easily overpowers the sound of the engine. This makes touring with the bike a really peaceful experience. You rarely need to dip deeply into the throttle, as the engine produces such a prodigiously fat and flat torque curve for its displacement - passing traffic at normal highway speeds takes little effort, making this bike appealing for the type of touring this trip report reflects. Want to pass with more urgency? Drop it into 5th. I pulled out to overtake a pickup truck on a passing lane up one of the long and steep climbs that are common north of Lake Superior. For some reason, the idiot decided to suddenly speed up from 95km/hr to 110km/hr. I dropped it down to 5th and applied full throttle and slowly accelerated passed him uphill with my speedo reading 125 km/hr (78 mph). My true speed was probably closer to 115 km/hr (72 mph). Interestingly, driving on the same grades in my 2009 Civic Si sedan, I would need to downshift to 5th gear too to achieve this rate of speed. These hills are steep. I wonder how the driver felt being passed uphill by a bike with only 250cc's of displacement? Some online reviewers claim the Ninja 250R would be a better mount for light touring because it has more power and a 14000 rpm redline that allows the bike to accelerate faster at the upper reaches of its powerband. I think the Ninja 250R is a great bike - I've ridden one numerous times - but I respectfully disagree with this claim. For one, most touring takes place on back roads - with more modest speed limits. And online dyno graphs (e.g., http://www.motorcycle.com/gallery/ga..._itemId=277405) also suggest the CBR250R produces more hp AND more torque than the Ninja 250R from idle all the way to about 9000 rpm, http://www.motorcycle.com/gallery/ga..._itemId=277410 where the CBR250R's power bows to the Ninja as the latter shrieks its way across 5000 more revs, producing a peak of 2.3 more hp at 10250 rpm. The Ninja 250R also yields notably poorer fuel-economy (14 less mpg according to Motorcycle.com's spirited testing). Obviously, there is more to touring than power, torque, and fuel economy - but the way the CBR250Rs engine performs, better matches the characteristics common to touring motorcycles. Want racy? The Ninja 250R is the better bike.

And here is my campsite. With the rain letting up, I decided to capitalize on the narrow time window and quickly pitch my home for the evening.

Below is a photo of my Nemo Andi tent http://www.campman.com/nemo-andi-tent-p-1202.html with cot, air mattress, sleeping bag, and camp pillow inside. I love my Nemo tent. Yet I plan to replace it soon with a Nemo Moki. http://www.rei.com/product/797220/nemo-moki-3p-tent. With 5 tents in my stable, I know that this officially paints me as a certified, card holding "tent whore" club member - but let me explain. The Andi accommodates my cot with barely any space remaining. The Moki is much more spacious. My girlfriend keeps saying it's all about length AND girth. The Andi's height is 42" compared to 48" for the Moki. Is the Moki perfect? Um. Yes. Yes it is.

I have now been using my Camptime Roll-A-Cots http://www.camptime.net/roll-a-cot.htm for motorcycle trips, kayaking adventures, car camping, and even as spare beds for household guests (lest you deem this cruel - I've had more than a few friends want to purchase one come morning) and these cots are now an essential part of my camping gear. Why these cots? They are extremely light for camp cots (about 10 lbs), easily hold 250lbs of weight, are very durable, and offer many advantages for motorcyclists who tent camp. 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, 2) Storing gear under the cot saves an incredible amount of space, 3) Storing gear under the cot keeps the gear dry, and saves you from storing it on the ground inside a vestibule, 4) You can sit on it and get dressed more easily in the morning (sure beats trying to dress standing up in a Quasimodo-like hunch, or lying on ones back on the tent floor awkwardly looking like you are trying to perform a strenous gymnastics "bridge" maneuver while pulling up your pants), 5) When the ground is uneven, or contains a protruding section of Canadian shield (happened to me recently) - you can sleep above the tent floor intrusion - as long as the legs are on even ground!, 6) Did I mention that these cots are also incredibly comfortable? - like sleeping in a bed - especially when you place an air mattress on top. Regarding air mattresses, here is my new go-to mattress: http://www.amazon.com/Nemo-Equipment...4807193&sr=8-2. The above review on Amazon (Nanabijou) is mine. This mattress inflates in 30 seconds with a built in foot pump, is compact, lightweight, 3" thick, insulated for cold temps, comfortable to sleep on, doesn't wake you up when rolling over, deflates rapidly, and is easy to pack back in its sack Jack. What more could you want? The combination of cot, air mattress, and comfy sleeping bag allows me to sleep like I was at home. You really want to be able to look forward to a good nights sleep after a tiring day of riding and exploring. And a good sleep helps ensure you will be well-rested and alert on the road the following day. It doesn't get any more luxurious than this when camping in a tent.

Next to my site was a bridge that provides access to the beach. I decided to take a walk and explore the dunes.

The beach itself is almost 4 kms long with deep, fine sand. There is a lookout nearby where you can peer out as far as the eye can see on the lake to where the Edmund Fitzgerald (the wreck Gordon Lightfoot made famous in song) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Edmund_Fitzgerald went down in 530 feet of water in November 1975. One-hundred years prior, the voyageurs who plied their canoes through the area had just enough flour to make pancakes here on their way east before reaching Sault Ste. Marie to replenish their supplies.

Below is a view of the road past my site. If you are getting the impression that Pancake Bay is a lush, wildnerness-like retreat just off the highway, you would be correct. The sites offer much more privacy than I had ever imagined.

So how was my evening at Pancake Bay Provincial Park? I slept soundly, but I could still hear traffic throughout the night even though my site was located about as far as you could get from the highway. Still, with a park as lush and tree-filled as Pancake Bay, the rush of cars was more of a distant hush and never intrusive. Of note - the park's outlhouses have these amazing flush toilets that mimic real toilets in look and feel - yet retain the traditional outhouse decor and dugout pit that people find so endearing. Why haven't all parks switched to these modern fantasti-crappers!?!??

Stay Tune for Chapter V - Balsam Lake or Iron Butt or Both?

Last edited by CBR250R; 12-02-2011 at 06:57 AM.
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Old 09-03-2011, 07:18 PM
CBR250R CBR250R is offline
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Default Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Balsam Lake or Bust! CBR250R Week Long Touring & Camping Adventure

Part V - Balsam Lake or Iron Butt or Both?

I left early in the morning from Pancake Bay Provincial Park to ensure that I would be able to make the afternoon ferry trip from South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island (about a 5 hour ride) to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.

Below is a Google Maps highlight of my planned trip route from Pancake Bay to Guelph, and then from Guelph to Balsam Lake Provincial Park.

I didn't take many photos on this leg of my trip, as I had already captured some images of this area on my previous tour. Then again, with the poor weather as a loyal companion on this adventure, many of the scenic areas were shrouded in fog and mist anyway. While riding from Lilttle Current to the ferry terminal at South Baymouth, I had a close encounter with Bambi (no, not a stripper - though she threatened to give me a pretty good rash). I recall quickly glancing down at my speedometer, then looking up to find a young deer in the middle of the roadway, darting right to left in front of me - at a 45 degree angle - much like a dog does when it suddenly sprints across its owner's yard to sample one pound of Shylock flesh from your leg as you are innocently riding by. I managed to swerve to the right while Bambi stayed on course, but this dramatic near-miss convinced me to ride even more prudently than I had been. It didn't help that the entire area was surrounded by fog.

I managed to make it to the ferry terminal with about 45 minutes to spare. I was surprised to discover that aside from a hardy rider from B.C., I was the only other motorcyclist in line for the ferry this afternoon. The Victory rider turned out to be a friendly fellow who entertained me with his riding stories for much of our wait. He also shared with me the trials and tribulations he's had over the years with his bike. He conceded that his 1510cc behemoth was the first model year sold (the newer ones are supposedly more trouble-free) but the litany of gremlins he's had to contend with as well as parts supply issues and support problems were collectively wearing on him.

As if a testament to his plight with the machine so far - just as we were about to board the ferry - he couldn't bring the beast to life. My bike was running and I was ready to board, but I decided to stay back just in case he needed a push up the ramp. I suggested he check his kill switch - maybe he had somehow bumped it when climbing off the bike. Nope. As the ferry attendant patiently tried to wave him through, and with the tension building, he continued to desperately work on resurrecting his ride, even though it looked as though his steed had flatlined. Then suddenly, by some strange act of God - the bike abruptly and miraculously came to life! Actually, it turns out - he failed to notice the bike simply wasn't in neutral when he was trying to fire it up. Dooohhh! After intently listening to his entertaining diatribe about the many issues he's had had with the bike, this primed both of us into concluding we were now both witnessing first hand what only minutes ago were mere descriptions. Score one for top-down processing.

Below is a shot from the bow of the ferry, complete with fog. While admiring the lack of a view outside on the deck, a number of curious and interesting travelers came out to chat. Many of them rode bikes and just wanted to know more about what I rode and where I was riding to.

From Tobermory I headed toward Guelph, ON (my next stop for the evening) to visit my dad and prepare for my ride to Balsam Lake Park the next day. It was while I was visiting my father that I checked my e-mail and discovered that I was due back in Thunder Bay in 3 days for a job interview. Uh Oh! (said like Peter Griffin). I wasn't sure how to coordinate this. My initial goal was to stay overnight at Balsam Lake with my fellow CBR125R forum members, as this was supposed to be the climax of my entire trip. Yet, if I stayed there overnight I would then only have two days left to ride the 1300 kms or so back home. To make things more complicated, I had also purchased a birthday gift for my sister that I was carrying on the bike, and wanted to drop it off and visit her and her family in Penetanguishene, ON. What to do? I reluctantly decided that I would only stay a few hours with the forum members and then ride to my sister's place later on that evening. That was the reasonable and rational thing to do. And I had every intention to remain committed to this goal. Honest. Yet, once I had made it to the park - had actually arrived at my destination and began to meet some riders, (some of whom I only knew of previously from online discussions) it really became increasingly more difficult to leave these bunch of great guys. After one of the members (Keith) gave me a short pep talk that strangely resembled the one Mickey gave to Rocky (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sYd2...eature=related) I decided that if I missed out on this opportunity I would regret it for some time. My early return home would have to wait. I would find a way to make it all work out. Later in the evening, after a couple of beers (thanks Wayne, Martin, and others for your generosity) I was so thankful that Keith, JohnR, and the others convinced me to stay. What a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Unfortunately, the photos below were the only ones that appeared somewhat in focus.

Here above is Wayne (navy blue sweatshirt) regaling us with his adventures, including the one where he tried unsuccessful to ride his FZ6 through a gauntlet of 3 moose (no joke) that suddenly crossed Hwy 11 at the same time, west of Thunder Bay last year. Surviving a collision with a moose in a car is incredible. Surviving a collision with three on a motorcycle is legendary. He achieved some much deserved celebrity status while being laid-up in hospital in Thunder Bay.

JohnR (gesturing with his hand) rode down from Elliot Lake. I think he was discussing the fighting tactics he might take if he was suddenly confronted with a South African honey badger. Keith (A.K.A "Mickey" in white T-shirt) looks on while agreeing in principle with John's strategy while offering to use his GoPro Hero camera to film the action. Martin (in yellow) disseminates his encyclopedic knowledge of honey badgers. He suggests Harry Callahan's 57 magnum to slow it down somewhat before wrestling it and then still probably losing the battle.

Keith (red ball cap on right) rode into the meet on his CBR125R - all the way from Florida. Well, the bike was trailered to Toronto. But still, he was the honorary recipient of both the longest distance traveled and longest, most theatrically acted out entertaining stories award at the meet.

The next morning I packed up my tent, said my goodbyes, and then rode with JohnR up Hwy 12 past Orillia, ON and toward Hwy 400. JohnR continued up Hwy 400 toward Sudbury, and evenually Elliot Lake. Now with my plans changed, I hoped to briefly visit my sister, then perhaps head up the Bruce Peninsula again and take the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, or even re-trace JohnR's route around Georgian Bay, to cover as much distance as I could in the direction of home - before nightfall. However, once again I found myself staying the night in the presence of great company. Yes - I decided to live for the moment - knowing full well that this meant that I would have to ride from Penetanguishene, ON to Thunder Bay, ON (a distance of 1300KMs) in one shot on the CBR250R the next day. The ride was long. And the last 300Kms were completed under fierce, stormy conditions, poor visability, and bitterly cold wind. But I weathered through it and reached home 15 hours later. Actually 15 hours and 5 minutes later to be more precise, as it took me about 5 minutes to extricate my frozen and stiff carcass off my bike in my driveway. All-in-all, it was disappointing that I had to cut the ride short. And I had hoped to take more photos. Still, overall it was a fantastic trip that created many lastings memories and I am looking forward to my next adventure on my CBR250R.


Last week I got another kick at the can and rode from Thunder Bay, ON to Wawa, ON to meet up with a good friend who was returning to Thunder Bay from an adventure to Toronto on his 2009 Moto Guzzi V7 Classic. I figured riding together back to Thunder Bay would also be a great opportunity to take a few more photos from various lookouts along the route north of Lake Superior, as I was unable to do so on my epic marathon-like trip back from my last adventure.

The ride north of Lake Superior was really a spectacularly scenic ride. I hope some of these photos capture how amazing this route can be visually when the weather cooperates. And I'd also like to thank the engineers for designing such entertaining curves and dips in the road along the route.

The shot below was taken near Neys Provincial Park just west of Marathon, ON.

The following photo was taken on a pristine beach just east of the picturesque town of Rossport, ON.

The following two photos were taken at a lookout about 20kms east of Nipigon, ON. It is in my opinion one of the most captivating picnic lookouts situated on the entire Hwy 17 route along Lake Superior.

I hope you enjoyed reading through my week-long adventure.


Last edited by CBR250R; 12-02-2011 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 09-05-2011, 02:01 PM
redline redline is offline
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: 11,500 rpm
Posts: 98

That's some lovely stuff, cheers.

Coming from Thai weather it's great to see some freshness.
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