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Algonquin Park – August 2014

Posted on August 12, 2014

Ever get the feeling that no matter how simple your plans are, that Fate is just hell bent on throwing them out the window? Well I sure do.

It was a simple enough idea…load up the motorcycle (a Russian Ural with a sidecar) and go camping for a few nights. I packed up the bike with my usual camping gear and a bunch of those dehydrated food pouches for my meals and headed off to Algonquin Park. I left on a Sunday afternoon and was expecting to return home Wed afternoon. Not a huge trip but I figured it would be nice to get away for a few days.

As usual, the trip up to the park was beautiful and the weather was amazing. You really couldn’t have asked for better riding conditions. Sure it was hot but at least there was no humidity. Traffic was light and I made good time (thanks largely in part to it being a Sunday afternoon and most of the traffic was heading back towards the city while I was heading away from it).

misc 03As I neared Algonquin Park, I decided to drop in and visit one of my sponsors ‘Algonquin Outfitters’. This was a last minute trip so I hadn’t made any arrangements to test out any equipment from them but I did need some more bug repellant (usually Algonquin Park is infested with mosquitoes in Aug and it can make camping absolutely miserable if you aren’t prepared for it). With my bug repellant in hand, I pushed onward into the Park and found myself pulling into one of the more heavily wooded campsites just off HWY 60 at Canisbay Lake. After getting checked in and finding my spot, I quickly set up my little tent and rode back out to the main road so that I could touch base with people and let them know I was there safely…and my phone battery dies. That’s ok, being out of touch for a few days, especially while camping isn’t really a bad thing. I was pretty tired but so far, everything was going fairly well. Well…until it came time to make dinner.

I had never actually used those dehydrated meal bags before (I usually bring in normal food that I would need for the trip, or if it’s just a 24hr trip I would simply rely on meal bars) but this time I decided to have a go at it. I wasn’t expecting it to be gourmet cuisine or anything close but having never tried them before, I figured I would give it a try now. Fire up the Primus OmniFuel stove and lets boil some water! Now the instructions are simple enough…boil 650ml of water (for this particular bag anyway), remove the oxygen absorber from the bag and pour in the boiling water. Stir well and leave to sit for 13min. Easy enough. So easy in fact that I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing and I FULLY blame that on being so damn tired. Well that’s my excuse so don’t give me flack about what happens next. I really was very tired.

misc 04So in goes the boiling water and I stir it up. Then I reseal the bag and start mixing it up…by shaking it and tipping it over. And that’s where I went wrong. Some of you can already guess what happens next.

POOF! The seal bursts open and my scalding hot food pours all over the table, the ground and of course my leg. Did I mention I’m in bear country?? DAMNIT! Now I have a problem and if I don’t clean it up, I can expect a visit from one of the local Black Bears in the area. Sun light is already beginning to fade and now my only focus is on cleaning this mess up before dark. Sigh…and I was just enjoying my first beer of the night and it would be an hour later before I got to finish it.

Eventually, I get things cleaned up as best I can but I can still smell it (and if I can…so can the bears). I’ve slipped into a of shorts as my freshly rinsed (and still soaking wet) pants hang from a tree branch well away from the campsite so they can dry out. I’m thinking to myself “I really should try again and eat something” but my appetite was pretty much gone now. misc 01Instead of cooking another meal, I open my 2nd beer and focus on getting a fire started. At least that went off without a hitch. Well…until I reached for my headlamp and wouldn’t you know it…dead batteries. Oh come on! Thankfully I had a spare set in my backpack. They say bad things come in threes right? Well lets hope that’s the end of it.

Late into the night I sat by the fire listening ever so closely to the sounds of the forest. Beside me sat a can of bear spray and a bear banger flare….just in case. Every 15min or so, I heard what sounded like the start of rain fall in the trees all around me but not a drop of water fell from the sky. Then it stopped and started up again all night long. You could almost set your watch by it, it was that regular.

misc 02Eventually it was time to break up the fire and head to sleep but it wasn’t exactly one of my best nights in the tent. I was keenly listening to the sounds of the forest for worry that I might be visited by a bear during the night. I figured if my pants (which I left drying in the trees) were gone in the morning, I would figure I had a visitor that decided to run off with them. Bear spray and banger flares stayed close by my side all night (along with my headlamp with fresh batteries).

Then I heard something. It was like a Giant breaking large trees over his knee like we would break a small branch over our own. Each time the tremendous cracking was heard, it echoed throughout the forest. What in the hell was that?! In my foggy sleep deprived haze, I tried to rationalize what I was hearing. Whatever it was continued relentlessly for what seemed like ages. Crrrraaaaack…crrraaaaack…craaaack. It didn’t sound like a bear walking through the woods though. It sounded…bigger. Much bigger. Whatever it was woke all the birds. The Loons began their morning songs and the ravens started squawking, and once they get going…the whole campsite wakes up. Queue the noisy kids but at least the noisy kids scared off the ravens and I was able to get some more sleep. My best guess is that it was a Moose causing that sound of breaking trees. Ya…I’ll go with that…sure…just a Moose. Right?

After finally crawling out of the tent, I was in dire need of some coffee so once again I fired up my stove and after a couple cups of coffee…I contemplated making some breakfast. To be more specific…re-hydrating some breakfast (some eggs and bacon). Ok Shaun…don’t make the same mistake as last night. Pour in some boiling water, stir well, re-seal the bag and leave the damn thing alone.

misc 05After trying the eggs and bacon for the first time, I really wished that I hadn’t bothered. I would have rather been chewing on one of the old MRE’s that used to sustain me back in the day when I was eating in a trench. This stuff was nasty. Note to self…if you can bring real bacon and eggs and a frying pan…do it. Ok, it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve eaten but wishing that I was back 20yrs ago chewing from an MRE pouch…that says a lot. For those of you who have ever served in the military will certainly understand the benchmark that’s just been set. I decided not to finish it all and instead focused on making some more coffee to wash the taste out of my mouth. If I were a dog and able to lick my own arse…that would have worked too.

At least the weather was good and that’s what was worrying me now. I knew that some rain was on the forecast but I was unsure as to how much. Once again I reached into my backpack of goodies and pulled out my solar/hand crank radio and tuned into the forecast. It wasn’t looking good…it was looking really bleak actually. I had only been here about 18hrs and I was now about to pack up and head home. For the next three days, the area was going to be absolutely hammered by heavy rain and thunderstorms. If I didn’t leave soon, I would find myself stuck in my little tent, that I couldn’t even sit upright in, for the next 40hrs. Then I would have to pack up everything in the rain, just to ride home in the rain. Oh man…the idea of that was just miserable so I decided to start packing up and I left the park around noon. Fate seemed to really have it in for me this time (ruined dinner, serious mess to clean to avoid curious bears, some dead batteries, nasty weather coming) but it was far from over yet. Things were about to get even more interesting. This trip was certainly not turning out the way I had hoped. I guess this a second round of misfortunes…I wonder what number three will be this time? I would soon find out.

The ride home was absolutely beautiful…mostly. About 2hrs into the 3hr ride home, the bike started sounding really bad. Now keep in mind, this old bike has a lot of character and can be a bit cranky at times. If you ride for too long at a time, it starts sounding a bit…tired. But after a while, it was more than just sounding tired. The engine sounded sick…really sick. Oh come on…really?? I had this gut wrenching feeling that if I pushed it much further, I would blow the engine and not only would that be really expensive but it could also result in me sliding down the highway on my keester. I decided to stop in a tiny little town with a population of less than 500 people and call for a tow truck to get me the remaining 70km home. I just didn’t want to risk blowing the engine and being stuck on the side of the highway somewhere, or worse…crashing.

So I made the call for a tow truck. I was told I would have to wait up to two hours. Well…at least it’s not raining yet. I pulled my camp chair out of the sidecar and set myself up for a long wait in the parking lot of a small corner store & gas stop. Every once in a while one of the locals would stop and talk to me about the bike. The best thing about breaking down in a really small town…the locals. One offered to bring me a sandwich. I declined since I still had some munchies in the bike if I needed it. He further extended that should I need anything while I was waiting, his house was just down the street. Just walk on in. Another fellow offered to bring me a cold beer for while I waited. I declined that too but that did get me thinking…hmmm…I still have some in the bike. So there I was in a gas station parking lot, sitting in a camp chair, my feet propped up on the sidecar, drinking a beer, while waiting for my tow truck. Ahhhh…well…at least it’s not raining.

It took three hours for the tow truck to arrive and of course…he had little clue how to handle, load or safely strap down a motorcycle. Even one as easy as a sidecar rig. Well fortunately I’m very well versed in such matters. I used to tow and transport motorcycles for a living and towed up to 20 bikes a day, whereas this poor guy handled maybe 20 a year. He keenly followed my lead and learned a few things and before long we were on our way. An hour later and after much idle chit chat, he finally got me home. No sooner had we unloaded the bike and the rain started. I quickly unpacked the sidecar as the rain started falling and that was it…my day was done and my trip was a bust. Hey though…things could have been far worse in so many ways.

Ural Tow

Now for another beer and then it’s time to crawl into bed. Home safe and sound and dry. I’m not looking forward to the repair bill on the bike though but I’ll worry about that after I have the bike towed to the dealership. 18hrs later and the bike was on another flatbed truck heading off to get serviced. Although I’m looking forward to getting it back as good as new, I’m not looking forward to what it’s going to cost. Oh well. I guess it’s still better than blowing the engine and having to replace it and it’s better than waking up in hospital because the engine blew maybe resulting in a crash.

All in all…no matter how bad things go…they can always be worse.

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