This past weekend was the first real test of Gunther’s road worthiness while loaded down and my ability to go camping using only stuff I can carry on a motorcycle.
It was just a quick run up Simcoe Road 10 to the shore of Georgian Bay and then a bit West around the shoreline to Craigleith Provincial Park, across the road from Blue Mountain. I have to smile at that name; it’s a far cry from a mountain. I think I smile more, though, at the fact that Craigleith is called a provincial park as it is little more than a glorified roadside picnic area. No matter, it served its purpose as a testing ground.
Ah, Simcoe Road 10… now that brings back memories of fast rides up to Wasaga Beach with friends in the late 80s and early 90s. Kilometers upon kilometers of straight tarmac — perfect for opening the throttle to clean out Suzi’s carbs, slowing down only for brief interludes through the small towns along the way. It’s a different road, now, though, with a massive Honda manufacturing plant smack dab in the middle of the original road making it necessary to come to a complete stop and take a bypass around the sprawling infrastructure.
Gunther handled remarkably well all the way, inspiring confidence despite one of the side bags being a bit heaver than the other (need to tweak the packing a bit still) and a soft suspension which has not yet been adjusted for the additional weight.
As far as the camping went, the tent went up relatively easily and the sleeping bag was sleepable. I did have a bit of struggle with the camp stove. After pressurizing the fuel container and connecting it to the hose that leads to the actual stove, you need to prime the stove by opening the valve at the fuel container; and letting raw fuel dribble out from the jet on the stove. Once you have a small puddle of fuel, you close the valve, ignite the raw fuel and, as the stove becomes engulfed in flames, you open the valve again, fuel begins flowing through the stove’s burner and is ignited by the flames which die down as the puddle of fuel burns off. It sounds complicated and prone to
3rd degree burns; but it’s not that bad, actually.
Here’s the thing, though: When I opened the valve to let the raw fuel dribble into the stove jet, it would dribble for a second or two and then stop. I tried the procedure several times with the same response (I don’t know why I expected a different response… oh wait… yes I do 🙂 ). Thinking there was not enough pressure in the tank to push the fuel out, I tried pumping up the fuel canister and trying again. Still nothing. This went on for, oh, an hour or so before I decided to have a good look at the instructions that came with the stove as a last resort. It was then that I realized the stove was upside down! Ah yes, a true Homer moment. OK, in fairness, if you have a look at the photo, you’ll note that, if you turn the thing upside down, it doesn’t
look that much different.
Once I had the stove right-side up and opened the valve, the fuel dribbled freely; and I had the stove lit and boiling water for tea within minutes. I think the heavens opened and angels sang as well; but I was too focused on gloating over the fact that I had got the thing to work to really notice. Fire good.
After relaxing with a cuppa, I was beginning to feel a bit peckish; and decided it was time to try out one of the Meals Read to Eat (MREs) I had picked up the previous day at MEC. The Hot Huck’s Curry Veggie Ground
looked pretty yummy based on the photo on the package; and promised to be a good source of protein, high in fibre, and free of trans and saturated fats and cholesterol. The best part was, preparing it required merely dumping the packet into a tray, and adding some of the water left over from tea. This was going to be better than the main dish at a London curry house!
Now, I had been warned that MREs take some getting used to; but nothing could have prepared me for this… this… this crap. I tried; God knows I tried; but after a few mouthfuls I could eat no more. The texture was like kibble mixed with ground particle board. The flavor was unlike anything I have ever tasted — like ancient Cheerios mixed with a half bottle of Curry powder with ground aluminum thrown in for good measure. It was awful. Just horrible! So, dinner on Saturday night consisted of some almonds I had packed and granola bars. This is not the end, though. I will not be defeated. I still have one packet of hash browns and veggies as well as a Texas beef stew to try out. I’ll be back.
The agenda for Sunday was pretty-much shower, re-pack the bike and head back down to the city. Packing took longer than planned — which is to be expected until I’ve got the routine down. The weather was sunny and warm and I was able to time a nearly perfect stop for lunch consisting of a homemade mushroom cheese burger and a pint of Flying Monkey dark ale on the deck of a 3.5-star (in my opinion) restaurant along Horseshoe Valley Road to make up for the previous evening’s meal.
I did have one small hitch on the way back: I had planned to take The Trans Canada Highway (Hwy 12) to Hwy 48. Chalk it up to exhaustion or the pint of Flying Monkey; but I didn’t clue into the fact that there is a Side Road 48 running off Hwy 12 a few kilometers before you reach Hwy 48. You guessed it — I took the side road instead of the Hwy. To make matters more interesting, Side Road 48 goes East rather than Hwy 48, which goes West; and before long, I was waaaay into the Kawarthas with little gas and no gas stations in site. When Gunther’s yellow fuel light came on, I knew things were getting serious–particularly since I have not had Gunther long enough to know how many kilometers the reserve tank will carry me. Worse yet, the sun would be down in a few minutes; and it’s no fun being out of fuel by the side of the road in the dark.
Keeping cool, I turned to that gizmo of gizmos, my BlackBerry (have I mentioned what an awesome device the BlackBerry Classic is?). The Classic has an assistant (like a BlackBerry Siri) that you can ask for advice in moments of desperation; and it’s pretty good. “Where is the nearest gas station?” I asked. Within seconds she had pulled up a gas station on Side Road 121, just passed Fenelon Falls. Trouble was, it was 21 km away. Would Gunther’s reserve carry me that far? Having nothing to lose, I began heading back up the road to SR 121, being careful to accelerate smoothly and slowly so as to conserve what remained of the precious petroleum byproduct that was left in the tank. Then, it was onto SR 121 — more throttle going downhill; less going uphill… come on old boy… you can do this. Suddenly, we came around a corner, and we were in Fenelon Falls. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an Ultramar Station lit up like Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras. Coasting in on fumes, I brought Gunther to a stop in front of the closest pump and filled him with fresh, clean 91 octane.
Whew. That was unexpected. It’s funny though, I wasn’t as stressed as I would have been in the old days. I think, perhaps, over the years, I have just learned to keep moving forward regardless of the circumstances. Freaking out doesn’t help. This was a good learning experience (this whole weekend was, in fact). I figure Gunther’s reserve tank is good for 20 km or so. No need to confirm this, though; been there.