Saturday, January 07, 2012

Toronto Motorcycle Show and VROC Dinner

We were up at 7:00 AM sharp, aiming for an 8:00 AM departure for Toronto. We grabbed a McDonald's breakfast as we were leaving Woodstock. I know Mickey D's is supposed to be bad for us but when we are on the move and need something quick, we know what we will be getting. The shameful secret is that I also like the food.  There was absolutely no snow on the ground and, as we crossed Highway 6, we saw more geese flying north. Winter ain't like it used to be.

Approaching Toronto, we stopped at a brand new Fairmont Inn & Suites at the corner of Hurontario and Courtney Park in Mississauga. This is so new that even Google Maps didn't have it. A VROC friend from Detroit, Steve aka Jester, was staying there and would be attending the show and dinner with us. Steve was the very first non-local VROC member we ever met. Back in 1999, we stayed at his house and then rode together to SEVROC in Georgia. He's had been a regular at the Toronto gathering but has been absent for a couple of years.

Steve was ready when we got to the hotel and it sure was good to see him. He is retired now and rides the new BMW K1600, a bike I am not very familiar with. This weekend, he drove his car. It was a short hop around the airport to the International Centre, where I expected to face a traffic jam looking for parking spots. Oddly, just before the doors were scheduled to open, there was little traffic and a lot of free spaces.

Inside, we bought our tickets and joined the long line at the inner doors. At 10:00 AM sharp, the doors opened and we were swept inside, part of a river of humanity. It was obvious from the wider aisles and gaps in the booths that there less exhibitors than usual this year. This show is more retail oriented and the manufacturers haven't supported it since the December show started downtown a few years back. Strangely, Kawasaki had a full fledged corporate presence and it was good to see them.

After a preliminary walkabout, I left the others to continue sightseeing while I adjourned to the Vancouver Room to represent the Freedom Riders at the Ontario Road Riders Association meeting. It lasted about an hour and a half while we discussed some issues pertinent to street riding clubs.

After the meeting, I found the rest of our crew just outside at the food court. Sandy was nibbling on pizza and drinking a $3.50 bottle of water. That must have been some really special water. Then I followed them as they continued their tour. I had absolutely nothing on my shopping list so there was no pressure as we wandered, but I did note a few things.

Bushtec Trailers had a display here for the first time. There is no Canadian Distributor so this was a factory team from Jacksboro, Tennessee. I bought a Bushtec hitch for the Wing back in 2005 and stopped by the factory to have it installed.  I was extremely impressed by the facilities. Imagine my surprise to find that the Preston family sold the business a few years back and Andrew and John were no longer involved in any capacity. Apparently Lewis and Electrical Connection are still working with them, though. The booth was being manned by the General Manager and the Production Manager. I wondered if Sherm knew this, since he knew the Prestons for many years when he was on the show circuit. I also wonder if the legendary Bushtec quality and service will survive the transition.

Bushtec trailer display and the new general manager

We saw another odd trailer in the Sarasota booth. It was a fully enclosed fiberglass unit called the Siesta and was unlike anything else I have seen designed for a motorcycle. They claim a surprisingly low weight but I'd want to check it on a scale. Also, I had to correct the salesman when he overstated the weight of the Leisure-Lite trailer in a comparison. I have seen the scale ticket on mine. Anyway, this was base priced at $2,440. Of course, windows are extra and the options are many and varied. Still, no setup required each night and you can always climb in on the side of the road if it is raining.

Sarasota Siesta trailer

We checked out the Kawasaki offerings but, since Sandy and I have already ridden the Voyager and Vaquero, we watched the kids paw the bikes. Heather was quite taken with the 900's.

Heather fits the 900 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic quite nicely

We also stopped to chat with old friend Cray Scarlett, who is the sales honcho at Open Road BMW in Newmarket. We go back a lot of years and Crayzy was in his glory meeting people and selling bikes. He had a 1600 just like Steve's on display so I got a primer on all the features of this revolutionary bike. If you need a Beemer, give Cray a call.

Heather, Steve, Sandy and Cray in the Open Road BMW booth

We left the show about 3:05, stopping outside to admire the bikes which had been ridden to the show. The weather couldn't have been nicer for January. I wish we could have ridden, too. There was even a 1974 Kawasaki Mach III, a 500cc 2-stroke three cylinder screamer. I used to swap my R5 for one periodically back in 1971 and can attest to the fact that it was one of the fastest things on two wheels when it was introduced. This one was in very nice shape but seemed a lot smaller than I remember it.

This doesn't look like January in Toronto

1974 Kawasaki H1 Mach III 500cc

Tom picked the restaurant well. A brand new St. Louis Ribs & Grill, it was just a short hop from the International Center and, despite football games today, not crowded. We had a small turnout but more people than last year. In addition to the five of us, Mike and Adele from Ottawa attended. They have been Ontario rally friends for the last 30 years and are Vulcan owners as well. A little late but a sight for sore eyes all the same, The Mighty Stonewall wandered in accompanied Mary and their daughter. I am still kicking my butt for not getting a picture of Stonewall's impressive handlebar mustache.

Tom, Sandy, Adele, Mike, Heather and Steve at St. Louis Ribs

The food was good and the company was great. I think the earlier time and the more laid back venue was a great success. I look forward to doing it again next year and many thanks to Tom for organizing it.

After we left, we dropped Steve off at his hotel. It sure was good to see him and I think we may have
convinced him to attend the Wandering Rally in Virginia next September. On the way back to Woodstock, we stopped at WalMart in Cambridge so Tom could pick up a new Sony Playstation 3. I was dead beat by the time we got in and hit the sack soon after.

Today's Route (159 van miles)

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