Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cambridge Ontario to Newmarket Ontario and Back

Operation Suzuki

The BIG DAY is here for Heather and Tom. Today they travel to Newmarket, Ontario (about 2 hours away) to pick up the two new Suzuki C50 Boulevard SE motorcycles they bought at the Toronto Bike Show back in January. They have been arranging insurance, registration and other details all week. Paul, the salesman at Suzuki of Newmarket, hasn't been the most confidence inspiring individual but the price couldn't be beat.

The one catch with todays expedition is that neither Heather nor Tom have a great deal of riding experience. Heather got her licence in the fall of 2006 and did a small amount of riding with us on her 250 Rebel last year. Tom passed the course last year but has done virtually no riding since then. The C50's weigh over 600 pounds, light by today's standards but very close to the weight of my 1976 GL1000, a bike that we considered monstrous back in the day. It would have been nice to have the Wing so I could run interference for them, but we'll just have to make due with what we have.

Sandy and I took Tom's car over to their place in Waterloo, arriving about 15 minutes after the appointed 7:00 AM rendezvous time. Apropos of nothing, on the way over I caught a rock version of the famous Irish song Whiskey in the Jar. I told Sandy that it sounded like Metallica and so it turned out to be. Enough to make an Irish traditionalist (Hi, Mom) nuts. Later, I find out it won a Grammy in 1998. I guess I lead a sheltered life.

We headed out of Waterloo by 7:30. We went up to Highway 9, stopping in Orangeville at Timmie's, and then a cross to Newmarket arriving at the dealership about 9:15. Suzuki of Newmarket is a Superstore with motorcycles and cars in the same building. Paul the salesman got the paperwork and escorted the kids to the sales manager where they settled up the cash, registration and other details. Then Paul took them outside where Heather's blue and silver SE sat next to a plain Jane C50 in Tom's chosen colours of grey and silver.

After convincing Paul the Flake that they really had ordered and PAID FOR two SE's, we start to work on how to get this sorted out. The SE package comes in a kit with windshield, saddlebags and a backrest and is a bolt-on deal. Unfortunately, they don't seem to have any at the moment and don't expect any in until Tuesday. As we are going over Heather's bike checking out all the details, and I have sent both bikes back to have the tire pressures corrected, I start in on Paul about something to make up for the inconvenience. A token. Maybe a shock wrench that, surprisingly, doesn't come in the tool kit. Paul says he asked the service manager and they said no. Paul is blaming the whole screw-up on Service and won't accompany me back there. The service manager doesn't even know what a shock wrench is, but his assistant Marco describes it to him and says they don't stock them. On the bigger plus side, he does tell me that they found an SE kit and will get it installed straight away. Give them an hour and a half. OK.

I take Heather's bike and ride it just up the street to a largely empty Leon's (big box furniture store for you non-Canucks) parking lot. Heather gets her helmet and jacket on and fires it up. First she rolls ahead a little, checking the clutch action. After a few of these, and figuring out where the floorboards and foot controls are, she heads out and does some laps of the lot in 1st gear. Then she tries 2nd and rides some more. Eventually she stops and Tom takes a turn. The bike stays upright and they appear to be having little difficulty. Meanwhile, I speak to Stonewall down in the city. His bike work is done and he and a friend are heading up to see us.

About noon, we wander back to the shop. Tom's bike still isn't out, but some SCRC riders come in and we chat. Then Stonewall and Bitman show up. Then Tom's bike appears. We check it over and then head back over to Leon's. Stonewall, Bitman, Sandy and I chat while both Suzuki's do laps of ever increasing complexity. In the meantime, Bitman has a Garmin Nuvi GPS like Tom's with a motorcycle RAM mount. Turns out the mount is available quite reasonably. He said his is great but the MP3 player only does one song at a time. I showed him the Play All button. We both gained valuable knowledge.

Finally, it was time to challenge the open road. Stonewall and Bitman had to go the other way, towards Markham, so we said our goodbyes. I drove the car with Sandy and plotted a course north to Bradford. The roads were busy and the two were not the best at first at getting rolling with authority. But they did get going. I stopped once to suggest that they move a little quicker but, actually, they were doing quite well. On a hill in Bradford, with one lane closed, Heather learned that if you try to go too slowly on an uneven surface with your feet up, you will fall over. Nothing hurt except her pride and I had her back up in a minute.

From Bradford, we took Highway 88 (or whatever it's known as now) to Bond Head. Once we crossed the 400, traffic died down. We cut a little north and continued west on CR1. It's dead straight until Hockley and now the bikes were keeping up. After Hockley, to 70 KPH road sweeps back and forth for a very enjoyable ride. Tom said later that he really enjoyed it. They looked good. We went around Orangeville and on towards Fergus were Tom, making the turn from Highway 9 to CR 3, went in too fast and swept wide. My horror was replaced by admiration as he stuck with it, riding right to the edge of the sand and bringing it around the corner. Many newbies would have given up and dropped it.

As we approached Fergus, Tom pulled over on the shoulder. I had checked Heather's bike for gas and it was full, so I assumed (ASS_U_ME) that Tom's would be full too. Nope. And when the gauge starts flashing, it's pretty much too late. Heather and I waited with the bikes while Tom and Sandy took the car and got a gallon of gas to go.

I took Tom's bike and rode it a few miles to Inverhaugh. I was quite impressed. It is very stable in a straight line and very nimble in turns. Low speed maneuvering is very confident. But I soon gave it back to Tom because it was only right that he complete his first trip in the saddle.

We headed on into Waterloo where Tom and Heather passed us on the way to his parents' house. Sandy noted that Tom's turn signals flashed twice as fast as Heather's did. I said that usually meant a bulb out. Sure enough, when we checked neither front signal light was working. When they had the front apart installing the SE kit, they never reconnected the wires. So I pulled the headlight, found the two unconnected wires I was looking for (plus two more I have no idea what for) and plugged them all in. Eureka. And chock one more up for Suzuki of Newmarket.

Tom's Mom barbecued some steaks and pork. It was some of the best meat I have had in long time. Then we put the bikes in her garage and the kids brought us back to Kim and Mike's in Cambridge. They were out at friends and we went to bed before they got home.

I had a lot of good pictures today, but when I got home I found that the rotten Sony chip in my Canon A70 camera (what were they thinking?) had finally failed just the way they described in the camera forums. After almost five years, it is toast. The next photos you see should be with a new Panasonic Lumix like the one Sherm uses.

Late Breaking Update

I managed to get a photo of the bikes that Tom took. Heather is standing by hers on the right. Tom isn't in the photo because he was taking the picture.

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