Team CMG are determined to finish the 3rd bi-annual Paris 2 Dacre dual sport rally. Part one of two of how the whole event unfolded.
I’m soooo tired. The kinda tired where you want to let the bike fall over, just so that you can lie on the ground and cry.
My arse is so sore that I fear that I will have to spend the next week in a special sling, arse up and cooled by fan until the pain is diminished. My limbs feel like they’re four times their weight but I have only a quarter of the usual energy, and my brain is addled from being set at high alert for the last 15 hour
Has it really been 15 hours since I got on this KTM 690 Enduro? Well it’s 7:00 pm and we left Paris at 4:00 am, so yes, it has to be. I think. As I said, I have addled brain and it’s all I can do right now to keep my eyes on the road ahead and arse in the saddle. The trouble is, the road ahead is paved when it should be all gnarly dirt trail with rocks, big muddy puddles and sharp hill climbs.
I know what you’re thinking, isn’t a nice paved road better under these circumstances? But it’s a paved road because we failed (yet again!) to finish the biannual Paris to Dacre dual-sport rally – an 800 km slog through southern Ontario’s winding back country.
It’s a weird science doing endurance rallies, the later it gets the tougher you need the task ahead to be, otherwise your mind is allowed to wander and when it’s pooched and your body is singed with pain, it lets you know it. No, I’d prefer to keep the beating going till I can finally make it all stop, then I can conclusively curl up and be done with it all.
The goal for the 2008 P2D was to finish the thing. Okay, that’s been the goal for the last three rallies, but having retired early due to mechanical failure the first time, then making it as far as Bail 2 in 2006, we thought that a finish would be possible for 2008 – or at least the third and final bail point.
After all, the two original members of the team (Jim Vernon and myself) were about ready to retire from this mayhem once and for all but felt that we couldn’t do so without at least finishing the full route first. What this lofty goal would require was a good team of experienced riders and a selection of motorcycles that could realistically handle the variations of challenges ahead.
The 08 Team CMG P2D saw the addition of two new members; JP Schroeder (a member of various other Team CMGs in years past) and Costa Mouzouris, editor of Cycle Canada and also a previous Team CMG member.
The motorcycle line up was originally meant to be all KTMs, but somehow ended up with two KTMs (a 530 for JP and a 690 Enduro for myself), a KLR650C (Jim’s own bike) and a BMW 650GS (the new twin cylinder version which Costa brought along instead of his more-than-capable-and-would-actually-be-perfect-for-the-job KTM 690, for some obscure reason).
Okay, so not the best of starts, but Jim and myself had a cunning plan. We’d ride the old 2006 route backwards over three days and arrive at the start of the 08 ready for anything and knowing exactly what to expect to boot. And as an added bonus, the truck would be waiting at the end for us to load up and zip back to Montreal, soaking up our victorious day and pondering what to do with our new-found retirement time.
Well, we thought it was a cunning plan.
The first two days went swimmingly with a good run through the trails between Dacre and Orillia, followed with a day of R&R at the Orr Lake Golf Course (conveniently owned by a good friend of mine).
All that was left to do was a quick blast down some easy gravel roads on day three, zip through tech, head off to our hotel in nearby Brantford for a shower, change of clothes and a quick nap, back to the start for the riders meeting and then back to the hotel for a good night’s kip and be all ready and ship-shape for the 4:00 am start.
I liked it, Jim liked it and the world was a lovely place.
Now, the trouble with riding old routes is that they haven’t been checked out by anyone first. Not a big issue you might think, considering they’re just gravel roads, but after a fine old time sliding around on a series of such things, we enter what looks like an innocent enough short section of wet trail only to discover that it’s blocked by a tree half way down.
There’s no option other than to detour though a very soggy field to the side. Soon enough, tires are filled with mud and we spend the next hour sliding sideways and pulling bikes out of deep ruts before we finally join the harder packed gravel roads again.
We arrive at the start location of Bruce Noble’s farm in Harley (about half an hour south of Paris) an hour late and somewhat less relaxed than planned.
Then Jim’s KLR fails tech …
His rear wheel bearings are shot and so off he goes to find new ones at a local farm supply place. I now find myself a bit headless chicken-like and wander around trying to work out just who has to sign what forms, oh and how do I get the GPS loaded? Uh and where is the fookin’ GPS? Etc, etc.
It’s all going a bit shit in a hand-basket, but before long JP, Costa and our support vehicle driver Samantha all show up and we get focused and to the task at hand.
Two hours after leaving, Jim returns at last with the wheel bearings and we get the KLR fixed and through tech. It’s now 6:00 pm, we’re sweaty, grubby and exhausted and with the compulsory riders’ meeting only an hour and a half away, the afternoon nap, shower and change of clothes is sadly charred toast.
As per usual at these kinds of events, it’s not until 8:30 that the riders’ meeting finally begins and at a depressingly late 9:30 we pull out of Bruce Noble’s farm and head to our hotel.
We’re in bed by 10:00 and up 5 hours later, sore and tired. I take a look outside and see the one thing that I’d hoped I wouldn’t – a thick blanket of fog!
LATE FOR THE PARTY
Oh how very CMG it was to be coming down the driveway of Bruce Noble’s farm as four bikes tore up it towards us!
Yes, a slow ride in the patchy fog meant that it was just gone 4:00 am as we turned into the starting point just as the first riders had been flagged to go. I felt like a right plonker – left side flasher on to show the approaching riders that I’ll keep to side – late to the big event.
There was no time to grab any breakfast, go over any plans with the team or do a last check on the bike. Team CMG were the 11th team to leave and as soon as we’d lined up at our starting grid we were signaled to the front and flagged off into the misty gloom.
Feck, it wasn’t meant to be like this.
I’ve elected to lead, but the moisture in the air means that I can’t use my glasses and every time I glance down to see my GPS the slightly thicker line of the route melds into the lines of the roads making it hard to see at a glance.
I predictably miss a turn and the group behind us is now in front of us and with only 15 minutes into the event, I can already feel the CMG shroud of defeat start to descend upon us. There is an upside however, as I realize that I no longer have to navigate, just keep a visual lock on the four bouncing red lights though the fog ahead and try not to follow them into a ditch.
By the time we hit Paris, we’re a mass of barking bikes riding in a large convoy. The fog is as thick as ever and when we exit Paris, we also hit the gravel, and dust and grit combine with the fog and dark to make the whole event a surreal and somewhat hypnotic charge through the countryside.
It’s not until around 5:30 that the day dawns, but the fog is stubborn and keeps things difficult. By now the convoy is thinning out and we have our first heart stopping moment as I watch Jim ahead slide through a stop sign and then frantically back peddle with his feet as a huge rig hammers past inches in front of him.
It’s a stark reminder that although it may feel it, the area isn’t in the middle of nowhere and the next junction could be a rather busy highway.
Soon after that, we come to our first true section of off-road trails – only accessible by a narrow track, which drops down an embankment, through a water filled ditch and up a 3 foot muddy slope the other side.
Some-one’s already dumped it on the muddy slope and blocks most of the exit, causing a bottleneck as more riders catch up. There’s impatience to get through and a humungous BMW 1150 jumps into the water but stops dead and is now also stuck.
A Honda tries to cut a new route through the grass only to find the ditch deeper and ends up planting its front wheel, leaving the rear suspended in the air and spinning freely.
It’s like an African scene of a wildebeest herd crossing the Nile, only without the crocs to clear the ensuing blockages. We decide to be sensible about it and get a psychological boost to boot by diverting around the mayhem by paved road.
AND THEN THERE WERE THREE
At 8:15 the fog is well and truly dispersed and we roll into our second gas stop at Creemore. The odo tells us we’ve done 250 km, but this is the easy stuff. I look over Team CMG as they line up the bikes for filling but some thing’s not right, Costa’s missing. The last section was a long and very slippery downhill that wasn’t a problem for the KTM, but may have been for the BMW.
I turn back but quickly find him. Costa and the GS are looking a tad muddy …
“I dropped it twice and put a ding in the pipe. It’s a road bike and in this stuff the front suspension just bottoms out right away”.
Despite a rather dandy looking homemade bash-plate, the GS was looking a little bedraggled and Costa ponders aloud that bailing at lunch (after which the trails get even rougher) might not be a bad idea.
Despite Costa’s valiant efforts to get the 650 GS through, I don’t argue.
Luckily for Costa the rest of the morning consists of mainly paved side-road as the course tries to find the best way around the top of Lake Simcoe, interspersing the dull pavement with spatterings of gravel and the occasional trail.
There’s also the occasional mud hole and the limitations of the GS’s reduced ground clearance and wide motor make themselves all too apparent as Costa wedges it in a rut that takes 10 minutes and a chunk of manpower to escape from.
With 30 kms to go to our lunch at Kinmount, we stop at Norland, which is marked as a compulsory gas stop due to the unreliability of the gas station at Kinmount and the fact that after Kinmount it’s into the deep, dark woods with 160 km before the next refueling opportunity.
For a moment it looks like Team CMG is going to do the morning section complete until I ask the P2D organizer Kevin Burnett just what the last section of morning looks like.
He’s enthusiastic and lights up like a kid at Christmas “ Really sweet hydro line”.
“Define ‘sweet’” I ask him suspiciously.
“Sweeping trail, very rocky with some challenging climbs”.
“Err, is that 650GS sweet?”, I shoot back, but I already know the answer.
With that Costa takes the pavement to lunch while the rest of discover what Kevin’s definition of sweet is (which is actually very sweet … on a KTM anyway).
In part 2 we’ll wrap up the Team CMG diaries and include some of the experiences of the other teams and how the event went as a whole.
- Calabogie Peaks Resort for providing the very plush bed prior to partaking in all this chaos.
- KTM Canada for the long loan of the KTM 690 and 530 so that we could get a training session in on the Algnquin 2 day prior to the P2D.
- Roxspeed FX bar risers for making the 690 perfect for the lanky ‘arris.
- Jockos Beach Resort for providing the warm and comfy bed at the end of all this chaos.
- Orr Lake Golf Course for the R&R on the way (sorry for leaving all those divits across the course).
- Bruce Noble for the use of his workshop to fix the KLR bearings and his farm to provide the starting location.
- And finally, Rally Connex (especially Kevin and Linda) and the crew of volunteers for putting on such a well organized and stellar event in the first place. Without this kind of dedication we’d all be a lot worse off.