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Unexpected Progress: CRF250 Rally mini-adventure Day 2

Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada

I don’t know if it’s age, but the ground seems a lot harder when sleeping upon it than it used to….  As such, sleep was a little tossy-turny.  New sleeping bag was cozy.  The campsite wasn’t very private but being up early, it didn’t much matter.  The threat of man-eating mosquitos fortunately didn’t materialize.

No need for an alarm clock – the Canada geese took care of that as they strolled by on their morning forage along the lakeside.

Since I was up… well might as well keep movin’ on.  I was soon packed and ready to roll.  Harvey wasn’t up yet, I didn’t feel like waking him either.  I bid him a silent bon voyage.

Campsite on the water

Campsite on the water

Proof that I motorcycle camped (or tented anyway)

Proof that I motorcycle camped (or tented anyway)

Rally and Tent 1

Rally and Tent 1

Rally and Tent 2

Rally and Tent 2

Topped off the oil before setting off.

I recalled a café on the north edge of town where I’d had an excellent breakfast on a previous trip, and so headed in that direction with anticipating eggs and bacon.  Unfortunately, the café had changed its hours now only serving lunch and supper.  Never mind – there were sure to be more establishments along the highway.  At least for a cup of tea?

The oil leak situation drove me more than hunger, so set off northbound.  Riding at 8 am was wonderful and I vowed I should make more of an effort to embark in the early hours.  Not sure what made it great specifically – the light?  Cool breeze?  Freshness?  All three?

As marvelous as it all was, the oil leak was still a worry.

Adapt. Overcome.  Keep movin’ on….

Day 2 first leg

Day 2 first leg

Little Current, the point between the mainland and the island, didn’t seem to offer much food-wise at that hour either.  (but I only took a quick loop-through so I probably missed something…)

Other riders have said how lovely Manitoulin is to ride, but I like the run from Little Current to Espanola the best – especially around Whitefish Falls where the highway twists through picturesque deep cuttings in the rock.

Keep movin’ on…

The day was promising to be a very warm one (dare I say hot?) as Espanola appeared out of the rocky hills.  I pull into the Canadian Tire.  Time to put my plan into action.

I wandered the automotive department and picked up an oil drain pan, a couple litres of oil, and a roll of shop rags.  I also picked up some brake cleaner because the dripping oil had splashed onto my rear brake rotor, severely reducing its effectiveness.  I went to the checkout behind another customer who was purchasing a jug of oil himself.  He inquired what I was doing, and I explained about the leaking oil filter cover and how I was planning to do some parking lot maintenance.

Out of the blue he says:  “Why not come to my place?  You can use my drain pan – save yourself some money – and I’ll take care of your used oil.  I’m just around the corner.  I’m a rider, too.”

How could I refuse?  I don’t know if it was just a rider helping out a rider, or it’s part of life in less populated parts of the province (or indeed Canada) – life works better when everybody lends a hand.

What a great lesson that we can use today.  Mind you, it’s not a new lesson….

Trevor’s place was indeed around the corner, and upon arrival, we drained the oil and then loosened the four bolts of the oil filter cover.  Trevor remarked that the bolts didn’t look very tight.  I assured him that I had checked the tightness yesterday during the ride (in Lion’s Head). 

The gasket, surprisingly I hadn’t noticed previously, was a metal one.  According to the official Honda service manual, the gasket should be changed at each oil change (I found out after).  Mind you, I do oil and filter changes more frequently than the service interval specifies.  I had done an oil change earlier in the spring and reused the gasket to no ill effects.

The gasket and the mating surfaces seemed in decent shape and was wiped clean again.  Trevor had some gasket maker/sealant which we applied and reinstalled the filter and cover.  We refilled the crankcase with oil and started up the engine.

Oil still leaked.   Uh oh.

Trevor suggested I torqued the bolts a little tighter.  I was reluctant to do so as the crankcase is aluminum alloy… but ok….

Snap went one of the bolts.

Oh.  Crap. 

Just that fast, things went from bad to worse.

Running on three of four bolts was not an option.  (tried it – it leaked worse)

Trevor brought out the drill and a bolt extractor but fortunately, I was able to work the remnants of the bolt out of the crankcase.

Trevor continued to rummage in his garage and came up with a bolt of the same length and thread – it fit just fine, thankfully.  I dug out the sealant I had purchased the day before and liberally spread it around the gasket and mating surfaces.  One final chance….

We decided to let the sealant set up for a bit and so had a water break and chatted for a while.  The previous winter had had more snow than average and showed me a picture of his yard more than four feet deep in snow.  Looking around at the many blooms in his flower beds and green lawn, I remarked “what a difference six months makes…”  (this was end of July).

It suddenly dawned on me that this really was an adventure!  In the adventure accounts of other riders, there are always obstacles to overcome – some mechanical, some geographical, some political and governmental policies, some physical, mental and emotional.  These accounts also highlight people that one meets on these journeys, usually very helpful – ordinary folks in the middle of nowhere coming to the aid of (often strange) travelers and going above and beyond.  In fact, one rider insists that it is imperative to remove one’s helmet while on an adventure (when stopped – duh!), otherwise the experience of the human mosaic is lost.

My focus thus far had been on the scenery, the routes and roads, rather than the whole experience.  The obstacles you encounter and people you meet are inherent to the true adventure ride.

After a while, we started up the bike and the oil leak seemed to be stopped.

Trevor of course, wouldn’t take any money and even refused help on his own car that he was working on.

I told him he was welcome any time when visiting the Niagara Region.  I promised I would pay it forward.

By this time, having missed breakfast, a slight late lunch was in order.  Preferably something greasy and fattening.  I was able to relax for the first time in a day.

Or so I thought….

When I got back to the bike to resume my journey, I spotted tell-tale oil drip marks under the bike.  The adventure continues…

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

What I needed, perhaps, was a thicker gasket.  New plan:  get some gasket material from the local auto parts store, head to my friends’ place in Blind River directly and spend the next day fabricating a temporary gasket using the original as a pattern.  Done.

Keep movin’ on…

Since the Trans-Canada highway (Hwy 17) between Sudbury and “the Soo” is more of a racetrack than a two-lane highway, side roads are always welcome on my trips.

West from Espanola via Lee Valley to Massey then along to Walford.  Onto Hwy 17 – the speed limit is 80 or 90 km/h depending on the section, and there are fairly frequent passing lane sections (a right hand “slow” lane is added so the maniacs can whiz by on the left side).  But the “vox populi” speed is in the 110 to 120 km/h range.

With my oil leak, I wasn’t eager to push the Rally much above 100 km/h, so on occasion I dove for the paved shoulder/bicycle path and waved speeders by.  Much to their obvious joy, as indicated by hand-waving and light flashing.  Hey, it’s better than an 18-wheeler rig or macho lifted F150 threatening to run you over from behind.  Another lesson when riding small(er) displacement motorcycles.

Seriously, if the provincial government wants to reduce their deficits, place police cruisers and radar guns every couple of kilometers between Sudbury and the Soo.  They’d make some quick cash.

As it had been an early start and busy, somewhat worrisome day, I felt the need for a break so pulled off at Serpent River picnic area/park.  I stretched out in the shade on a picnic table and just enjoyed the breeze, the fresh air, the trees and tried to ignore the traffic streaking by on the highway.

Karma must have been listening – because a miracle!

I checked the bike after my rest and lo, the crankcase cover and other parts below and aft of the oil filter cap were DRY.  No oil leaked!  Still plenty of oil in the engine!  Woohoo!  The tour was saved!

 Adapt. Overcome.  Keep movin’ on!

Day 2 route b

Day 2 route b

New route: north on Hwy 108 to Elliot Lake, then continue north (Hwy 108 becomes Rte 639) until the junction at Rte 546.  Follow 546 back southwards to Iron Bridge, then back along Hwy 17 eastward to Blind River.  And I could make it to Blind River in time for supper as planned!

I noticed a road sign that declared the local NAPA Auto parts outlet was also a Honda dealer, so I pulled in to inquire about a new gasket, just on the off-chance.  No luck (eh, it was a long shot) but the NAPA in Blind River was supposed to have some.  Awesome!  I’m headed there anyway…

I was so excited about the oil situation and to be back on plan again, I forgot I needed to stop for gas in Elliot Lake and had to turn around… oopsie.  The locals must have thought I was crazy, whizzing back and forth on the main drag.  I don’t think they were far off…

I had ridden this route the previous fall, clockwise, on my Ninja 650 and while the road was excellent for twistiness, at times it was a bit rough for the sporty suspension.  This route was one of the reasons to revisit it with the Rally.  It’s a good thing this road isn’t better paved as it would be covered with sport bikes.  As it was, there were a few cruisers on the route, but basically as empty as you could want.

No matter, it’s serious motorcycle nirvana (to me anyway).  And the Rally handled it with aplomb.  Just as great a ride as the last time but the Rally’s suspension was more appropriate.  The road twists, rises, dips – sometimes all at once, which can be challenging – you have to stay on your toes.  The route follows a river through valleys of cliff faces and tons of forest – so picturesque.  I was having too much fun to stop for photos – sorry.

I arrived at my friends’ house in time for supper as scheduled.  Beer on the deck overlooking the lake, reconnecting with my friends, was a great way to end the day’s ride.

Day 2 route

Day 2 route

Next: The adventure continues:  The baptism of gravel!  I’m heading back to complete the route that was cut short last fall.  Out in the boondies, no cell phone – just me, the Rally and a spare tank of gas (just in case).

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