Just thought I’d take some time to post a trip report from a recent camping excursion that took me from Thunder Bay, ON to Guelph, ON through August 12th to the 21st. It was an incredible experience – and I hope from this report you’ll be able to gain a real sense of just what the experience was like on the CBR125R. Maybe it will inspire you to do the same.
My goal for the trip was to take what I had learned from my preparatory trip in May 2010 when I traveled from Thunder Bay, ON to Winnipeg, MB on my 2009 CBR125R (see here: http://www.hondacbr125r.com/forum/showthread.php?t=5709) and improve upon it. One addition involved taking along a Camptime Roll-A-Cot (see: http://www.rei.com/product/378067) to improve sleeping comfort and to maximize utility and space inside my new (and so far chipmunk free) tent. The cot sits 15″ above the floor and allows you to store all your gear underneath so you’re not sleeping in it – during the night. Also there is just something about sleeping off the ground that seems to contribute to a much better nights sleep. In selecting my new tent, I wanted one that packed up small, was self-standing, and easy to set up. I also decided to try a single-walled tent this time out so I wouldn’t have to fiddle with a fly. The tent I picked for this adventure was the Nemo Andi (see: http://www.amazon.com/NEMO-Andi-Ultr…/dp/B003F5UNP4)
I’m really liking this tent. It is extremely quick to set up and it fits in one of my saddlebags. I carry the poles (only 2 poles!!) on the back of the bike. One other change from my last trip involved bringing a small pack for clothes and extra items. On my last adventure I didn’t quite have enough room for extra clothes and smaller camping luxuries. This time, I even brought along a tarp just in case I got rained on in the parks. When it rains – a tarp can turn an otherwise claustrophobic “I can’t believe I’ve been trapped in my tiny tent all day” anhedonic nightmare into a “Wow – it’s great to be sipping a cold one with my legs stretched out – enjoying the views while dry under this tarp” blissful euphoria. Well no blissful euphoria for me – I never had a chance to use it on the trip – so it just took up space in my pack. However, when you have a need for it – it really contributes to camping morale in my experience.
Here is another photo of the bike packed up. I changed the packing configuration a few times during the trip to ease setup and take-down and to improve aerodynamics. As you can see from the photo, seating was initially rather cramped too and after a few quick stops it felt like I had been hijacked by a rabid mongoose who had mistaken my nutsack for a cobra.
I set off around 10am with a goal to stop every hour for fuel and to take a break. I found that if I stopped every hour, this effectively eliminated any soreness or stiffness throughout the day and really allowed me to enjoy the ride. Even a 5 minute break made a world of difference after 1 hour on the road. The weather was sunny and clear when I left – and it remained so for most of the trip. My first stop occurred in Nipigon, ON for fuel just after around 100kms into the trip. I have traveled the Trans Canada Highway 17 East of Thunder Bay countless times over the past 20 years – through rain, blizzards, severe cold, heat, fog – you name it. It is an incredibly scenic drive – and the views are always breathtaking. However, I had never traveled the route on a motorcycle before so I was eager to re-experience this route from a riding perspective. One great thing I have found personally about riding (as opposed to driving a car) is that it forces me to take my time – and in the end I see so much more and the experience is so much more rewarding. I made a point of stopping at lookouts along the way that I had passed by many times over the years.
The photo below was taken from a highway lookout East of Nipigon, ON on the first of a number of long climbs along the shores of Lake Superior. While most of the climbs involve 500-700 ft gains in elevation above the lake, the CBR125R took these in stride and was able to maintain a minimal speed of 80 km/hr up the longer grades – full loaded – while maintaining a speed of between 100-105 km/hr on the flat stretches. Most traffic slows too when climbing these grades, so it never felt like I was holding up traffic. Actually, I passed a number of tractor trailers and R.V.s up these hills. You can see a bit of the town of Nipigon in the distance. Some people have compared the scenery north of Lake Superior to that seen along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island, N.S.
When taking these photos I met a fellow from Vancouver Island who was traveling with his daughter (and their dog) across Canada. When I told him that I was heading to Guelph, he mentioned that he studied Agriculture there many years ago. He also reflected on a variety of bikes he owned over the years (including an older Triumph) and I mentioned that I had recently picked up a Yamaha WR250R – shipped to me all the way to Thunder Bay from Courtenay, B.C. He said “Wow, that’s a pretty small bike”. And I responded with “But the black CBR that you saw me climb off of in the parking area is only 125cc’s. That’s what I’m heading to Guelph on”. This was the first of many similar exchanges I had with people who had no idea that the CBR was not – in fact – a big bike. It was extremely fun and rewarding in a devious way to witness the look of shock on their faces when I mentioned the bike’s displacement. Though I didn’t realize it at the time – the thought of riding alone for over 3200 kms – in some remote parts of Ontario – would seem like a lonely, isolating experience for many people. Yet every day was filled with such friendly, collegial banter from all kinds of interesting travelers – curious to know where you were riding to, and what you had seen along the way. No – the trip was far from being a lonely and isolating experience.
As we were talking – a train appeared and started to snake its way along the shoreline – so I decided to snap another photo.
I wished my fellow travelers a great trip – and then moved on. A short while later I decided to stop near the bottom of another long climb to take a few photos at a picnic area. I pulled up alongside a cyclist – just one of many I passed who were travelling across Canada. He asked me if I had seen a group of cyclists back my way. I mentioned that there was indeed a group about 10 kms back. He had been riding with them for a bit but they were experiencing some mechanical difficulties that put them behind. He actually recognized my bike as a CBR125 – and said he was hoping to buy one in the near future. As I took a few photos, a car drove by and honked. It was the fellow from the last lookout. I took a few more photos and then continued on my adventure.
It was at this point that I was suddenly confronted with an unforeseen dilemma. “Should I take another photo?….or risk ruining the moment by stopping and spoiling the immediacy of the experience – the Gestalt unraveling before me – as I was riding by. This kind of experience just simply doesn’t captivate you the same way in a car. A motorcycle immerses you – you become a part of the experience – and the experience feels so much richer. I decided to seize the moment – just enjoy it – but promised myself that I would try to re-capture these moments again on my camera on the return trip – hoping that the views would patiently wait for my return.
Riding the CBR125R for lengthy stretches on the highway requires considerable attention, skill, patience, physical endurance, as well as an insatiable appetite for adventure to help you overcome anxious thoughts about how numb your lower back feels. It can be taxing. So you’d think that with all this exertion – time would seem to slow down and the destination would seem to be forever out of reach. Yet – I didn’t find this. The bike is too engaging to ride – to ever get boring. Tucking behind the fairing – changing gears – streamlining my profile to extract a few extra kms of speed. Riding the CBR is like playing a video game. Before I knew it – I had reached my first stop for the night. I was about 430 kms from Thunder Bay and only about 50 kms from Wawa. My highway escapade was coming to an end for the day.
I had passed by Obatanga Provincial Park often on my way East and always wondered what it would be like to camp there. My parents and my two younger sisters stayed there overnight on their way to Expo ’86 in Vancouver. At the time I elected to stay home and relished the prospect of having the house to myself and living each day to the fullest at the beach with my friends. Now at Obatanga, I wondered which site my family stayed at in 1986. On this occasion, the park was virtually empty with a few scattered trailers and tents strewned throughout the park. I was given what is called a “walk-in site”. These are by far my favourite provincial park sites. They are typically on the water – and the privacy really enhances the camping experience. You park near the road – and then walk into your site along a short path. Here is what it looked like.
And here was my view for the evening.
What would the night bring? Stay tuned.