Despite having had a pretty crummy sleep due to the super loud and horny frog, I was really pumped for the next leg of my trip. I setoff around 7 AM and headed towards Elliot Lake, about 25 kms away. Sometimes when you are riding – everything just feels right. The sun is shining, the road is empty, hilly, twisty, the air is crisp and cool, and the scenery is inspiring – filled with distant hills mirrored in crystal clear blue lakes. This aptly describes my ride into Elliot Lake that morning. I had a perma-grin on my face the entire way. Maybe I was just feeling “Towelie” high due to major sleep deprivation – but I felt great either way.
The last time I had been to Elliot Lake was about the same time I had last camped at Mississaugi Provincial Park. My family had also camped on a small ridge right along the main road just entering town from the north. I was eager to see how my memories of this trailer park compared to the view today. I also thought about JohnR. I briefly considered trying to contact him through the forum with my Blackberry while at Mississaugi Park. It would have been nice to meet up with a fellow forum member who knew so much about the CBR125R and to chat about his setup including his full Giannelli exhaust and Athena Big Bore Kit. However, after realizing I had no cell signal in the park, I gave up. As I was nearing Elliot Lake I also laughed to myself thinking that it would be incredibly Twilight Zone-ish if I were to somehow see him while riding through town. Elliot Lake has a population of about 14,000 residents and it takes about 2 minutes to traverse the downtown section. The likelihood that I would see him was well – unlikely. But it was amusing to imagine nonetheless. As I was holding onto that thought and entering town, I spotted a black CBR600RR in the distance. As the rider approached I stuck my hand out and offered a slow wave and in kind – they waved back. But as we were about to meet I suddenly realized that it was a CBR125R. My slow wave suddenly turned into an energetic thumbs-up sign as we passed each other. I glanced in my mirror to see whether they were about to turn around, but the rider turned onto an industrial road, so I continued into Elliot Lake. I was stunned. Could this have been JohnR from the forum?!?!? No. To accept this would have been just too bizarre. There must be more than one CBR125R in Elliot Lake. What would the chances be that I would pass by another forum member – within such a narrow time and place? I laughed to myself again wondering about this unlikely possibility – but checked my watch just the same so I’d have a time reference. It was 7:20 AM. I was still deep in contemplation when I passed by the trailer park on my left and forgot to scope it out. Doh.
Two days later I was on my dad’s computer in Guelph and decided to message JohnR and ask him if he had indeed been the rider I’d passed earlier. I felt surprisingly sheepish doing this because it felt kinda like meeting a Torontonian living in Thunder Bay and asking them if they happen to know “John from Toronto”. But I thought I’d give it a try anyway. Yep – it was him. His reply? “Yes it was me, I was on my way to work. I thought it might be you because of the gear and the windshield. If you changed your exhaust it would look like mine.” When he passed me he said it looked as though he was looking in a mirror. Really. What are the chances?
Elliot Lake is really a beautiful little place. I recall thinking to myself “I could live here”. I fueled up at the Esso, re-supplied my tankbag with another two Green Squall Powerades and then enjoyed a really nice morning ride towards Hwy 17 (Trans Canada) just 30 kms down Hwy 108. I wasn’t sure if my next stop in Espanola actually had a Subway – but come on – is there any place that doesn’t now have a Subway? They are more abundant around the great lakes than zebra mussels. I faced a pretty strong headwind for my short stint on the Trans Canada. I was tucked-in most of the way to maintain a speed of 100km/hr but the CBR kept pace even loaded up like a pack mule. How can you not love a motorcycle that you spend so much time hugging? Behaviour has a strong influence on attitudes. Not the other way around. When you spend so much time hugging the bike – hunkered down in a crouched position, with your entire body wrapped around it’s small curvy frame – how can you not feel some attachment to the little overachiever – to like it more? Like a border collie hauling a loaded dogsled – it might not be the top dog for the job – but I can always rely on it to give me its best, never faltering or failing to surprise me with its willingness – eagerness to do what I ask of it. And when the destination arrives – you love it even more for the herculean effort and the small amount of fuel (or small can of Alpo) it asks for in return.
My sister was recently talking with her husband about why anyone would ever want to ride such a small bike on such a grand journey. He was smitten by the adventurousness of the trip – but had a hard time wrapping his head around my motivation. It didn’t make it easier that his dad rides a large Honda Shadow. But my sister got it. She said that Mike was probably doing it for the same reason that Buster Keaton chose the little speeder to see and experience Canada in one of his last movies – The Railrodder. Wow. She reely hit her mark on that one. Her line even gave me chills right now typing it out. There are certainly much bigger choices when riding the rails. But would this movie have had the same impact if he had opted for a large locomotive? There is something enticing about a small bike doing something that it shouldn’t be able to do. Will it make it? Will you make it? Buster experiences these sorts of challenges on his trip. It really makes you want to root for the hero. And by moving more slowly it really allowed Buster to achieve his goal. To really see Canada.
Here is some information on the Railrodder.
Watch The Railrodder here:
The ride from Espanola to Little Current on Manitoulin Island is very scenic. The topography around Willisville, ON changes dramatically, as the LaCloche Mountains of Killarney extend their reach through the area. I would have liked to have stopped and climbed up to where the old Willisville fire tower stood, but was a little pressed for time. Still, I am a little regretful that I never took any photos around Willisville. I then made my way over the swing bridge at Little Current and then headed south on Hwy 6 towards South Baymouth. I made my first stop at a lookout situated only about 15 kms south of Little Current.
Here is the view from the lookout.
And here is the historical plaque located at the lookout.
To my surprise, I ended up arriving in South Baymouth with a full two hours to spare. I quickly found out (as did a few others) that you don’t enter the large terminal building to pay for the crossing. You simply drive your bike right up along the lanes heading toward the dock and then pay at one of the booths. I paid through Interac and was told to proceed to the front of the line where the pavement was labelled with a large “motorcycles” stencil. I then remembered what Keith (A.K.A. KFSRQ) mentioned on the forum about motorcyclists being treated like royalty on the Chi-Cheemaun. I had brought along my ratcheting kayak tie down ropes too. Thanks for the tip Keith! These things were gold. I think I was the envy of everyone who had to tie their bikes to the ferry deck rings with the provided conventional-type ropes. It took me only a few seconds to attach and then secure my bike. The ferry staff instruct you to secure both sides of the bike up high (e.g., handlebar area) with each rope and then attach them to the deck rings on either side of the bike.
Here are my ratcheting tie down ropes.
Here is the border collie humbly nestled beside the siberian husky. In behind to the far left is Burt Reynolds behind the wheel of his Pontiac Firebird getting ready to film a scene from Smokey and The Bandit 4 – Brews Control. His goal will be to haul 1 million cases of Labatt 50 from South Baymouth to Tobermory on the Chi-Cheemaun without being caught by the coastguard for illegally hauling old guy beer.
And here is what you see ahead of you when you park your bike.
Motorcycles have the privilege of being the first motorized vehicles to board the ferry as well as being the first to disembark, as Keith has mentioned. Once on the ferry it was nice to take a break and relax. I took a few photos from the deck. One of them surprised me. Most anyone from Thunder Bay would recognize the following photo as our beloved Nanabijou – The Sleeping Giant that lies across the bay from our harbour. But they would be wrong. This one was snoring between South Baymouth and Tobermory.
The profile of the sleeping giant from Thunder Bay? Nope.
What course would my adventure take once I reached the hallowed ground of Southern Ontario? Stay tuned to find out.