Sunday, June 23, 2013

Smiths Falls Ontario to Sudbury Ontario

When we woke up and headed down for breakfast, we found that Leo had already headed home. He decided that he wanted a faster pace than the group was maintaining. This hotel had a hot breakfast and, even though the scrambled eggs were dried out and the link sausages were gone, it beat the more usual continental fare.

We were rolling again at 9:00 AM. Rob's TomTom attempted to take us out of town on a route that didn't exist. To be honest, once we got off the main street the Garmin also thought the dead end parking lot was a through street. Eventually, we made it to the road to Perth and got out of town.

Leaving Smiths Falls

In Perth, it was my turn to get screwed up on directions. We were looking for Highway 511, a direct winding route to the crossroads known as Calabogie. As we approached Perth, my Zumo cut out and I had to scramble to reboot it. I re-entered Calabogie as our destination and we were almost out of town before I picked up on the fact that it was routing us via the longer, faster and less winding Highway 15. We all pulled into a parking lot while I forced the GPS to take our preferred road. Once it knew what we wanted, the directions got us to the road right away.

Highway 511 started out as a bit of a snooze. It had mostly straight sections through farmland. There was even a crossroads with an Amish store. Strange to see Amish up here when Mennonite is the prevailing flavour in Ontario. The snooze factor disappeared after we passed a sign that said it was 30 Kms to Calabogie. We started up into the Shield and the road became a solid series of curves, many marked at 60 KPH or less. As far as Ontario roads go, this stretch was pretty good.

We made a coffee stop at Munford's in Calabogie. The coffee was self serve, not all that good and pretty expensive while the place had a boondocks ambiance despite being so far south. Eastern Ontario is a whole other world.

Munford's - Calabogie Ontario

From Calabogie, we headed east towards Highway 17. There had been talk of going west towards 41 but, while it looked interesting, it would have added quite a few miles to the day's ride. The road we took had a lot of potential, which was blunted due to a couple of slow moving four-wheelers that we couldn't pass due to there being no straight stretches. That changed in Burnstown when we took a county road directly to Renfrew, a stretch that was as straight as an arrow.

As we entered Renfrew, we had to make a sharp right at a traffic light. I hit an  irregular patch of asphalt followed by a manhole cover that caused the rear wheel to slide a bit, but I recovered without mishap. It was another one of those deals where you don't really know if you have the reflexes until you need them.

We stopped at a No Frills gas bar for fuel and to say goodbye to Jack and Cathay. They would be heading back to Parry Sound along Highway 60 while we would be taking Highway 17 to Sudbury. Our plan was to split the 400 kms to Sudbury into two equal parts, stopping half way in Mattawa.

Although Highway 17 is two lane, it is wider and faster than the country roads we have been on lately. You can make good time but it is amazing how much less enjoyable it is. I did, however, take the time to once again marvel at the symmetry and bond between riders travelling in a group. Each rider is master of their own machine but also is aware of the other riders and how the individuals fit together. Many people say they don't like group riding but I enjoy it when the other riders know what they are doing.

I slowed to the speed limit entering Chalk River. This community which extends through several small towns is policed by one municipal service and is regarded as one of Ontario's most notorious speed traps. Just before Deep River, we saw Barney Fife with someone pulled over on the shoulder.

Rob thought we needed a pit stop in Deep River and pulled in at the Tim's. The quick stop ended up taking 45 minutes and Sandy got to try the new Tangerine Orange Smoothie With Yogurt. It tasted just like a Creamsicle. I put more coffee in the Butler mug.

Tim Horton's - Deep River Ontario

Speed bump before solid concrete wall?

The next leg took us to our planned stop in Mattawa. Although they have a new Tim's, we pulled in at the Subway for lunch. Sandy and I like to share a ham and Swiss cheese meal deal with two cookies instead of chips. Everyone also fueled up, the last stop of the trip. The sky was blue, the day was hot and Terry said he hoped it wouldn't rain. We thanked him for jinxing us.

Subway - Mattawa Ontario

Past North Bay, we made what was supposed  to be our final stop at a place called How Convenient so that Patsy could get some (relatively) cheap cigarettes. By now, ominous clouds were forming ahead of us (thanks again, Terry) so Sandy and I threw all our electronic gear, wallets and other water susceptible items in the trunk.

As we reached Sturgeon Falls, a mere 55 miles from home, the raindrops started falling. Rob pulled the group into another No Frills to don rain suits but Sandy and I had decided to run without them since we were almost home. We wished the rest well and continued on. There was a stretch of perhaps fifteen miles where it was precipitating pretty heavily and, with limited visibility, my main goal was to stay out of the rain filled tire ruts. Then it eased a bit and I leaned on the throttle some more. Before Sudbury, the rain stopped altogether.

We pulled into the driveway at 5:00 PM. Sandy had been using her beaded seat cover and found to kept her butt almost dry by channeling the water beneath her. In fact, despite the deluge, she wasn't too wet because we never stopped and the fairing protects the riders pretty well when moving. I wasn't nearly as dry. As luck would have it, I checked the radar and saw that if we had stopped for coffee for an hour in Sturgeon, we would have missed the rain altogether. Oh well.

It was a good three days with the club. Next year, we are planning a full week (nine days counting the second weekend) for a trip to North Carolina to visit the Tail Of The Dragon and other roads. I will be the guide. Can't hardly wait.

Today's Route (314 motorcycle miles):

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Belleville Ontario to Smiths Falls Ontario

Day two of the ride started slowly but then we didn't have far to go. Sandy and I woke up about 7:00 AM and had the bike packed by 7:30. Then we enjoyed a leisurely continental breakfast and hung out as the others got prepared. Some chose to put on rain pants due to the overcast skies and somewhat confused weather forecast.

Packing up

Dan helps Cathay get her rain gear on

We headed out at 9:00 AM, turning south on Highway 62. After crossing the bridge over a narrow spot on the Bay of Quinte, we found ourselves in Prince Edward County which is essentially a large island in Lake Ontario. Once across the bridge, we turned right and followed the south shore of the Bay to the Loyalist Parkway.

Riding second to Rob again

Bay of Quinte

Before we could turn on the Loyalist Parkway, Terry requested a stop. It seems that as he was leaving the hotel room, he put the room key in his pocket and left his credit card on the table. Oops. I found the hotel phone number on the GPS and he called. They found the card and, rather than him go back, they agreed to mail it to him.

Calling for the credit card

Credit cards accounted for, we rode south and then east on the Loyalist Parkway following the shore of Prince Edward County. The name commemorates those who chose to leave the 13 Colonies during the American Revolution and stay loyal to the British Crown. This pretty rural area is dotted with wineries and it appears that everyone was having a yard sale. The route took us to the scenic town of Picton where, after miles of road with little traffic, all the tourists had decided to gather. The place was packed. The Tim Horton's had about six full parking spaces and twenty cars in the drive-through so we backtracked to McDonald's for a bathroom/coffee break. It was downright hot as we putted through town at low speed.

The overflowing Tim's in Picton

Leaving Picton in close formation

The way back to the mainland involved the Glenora Ferry. We had no idea how busy it would be or whether it would cost us anything to use. We left Picton and continued to the ferry dock where there were only a few vehicles already in line. It turns out the ferry is part of the Loyalist Parkway and it's half-hourly sailings are free and gratis, much like the one we took last year near Williamsburg, Virginia. The sign said they would be adding a second ferry in July.

Waiting for the Glenora Ferry

And here it comes

Before long, the ferry docked and we were able to load. They lined us up in the right lane and, after we parked, we all took off the warm riding gear and walked up to the bow. Some of the car people were jammed in so tight that they couldn't get out of their vehicles. The crossing only took a few minutes so we were back to the bikes and getting ready to ride before long.

Lined up on the ferry

This is NOT a party barge

Me, sweating

Everyone on the bow

Once docked, the man in charge of getting the vehicles off the ferry let us leave first. This meant we weren't following a slow line of cars and one rental motorhome as we continued along the Parkway towards Kingston. I was at the back again since Dan and I had blocked traffic to allow everyone to get out of the McDonald's lot in Picton. Deciding Rob might need my guidance, I found a stretch with nothing coming and passed the whole line in one shot to move back into the second position.

Kingston is the home of several of our most notorious prisons. The infamous Kingston Penitentiary and Millhaven are both maximum security institutions while Joyceville is only medium security.

Joyceville Institution

When we got to Kingston around noon, Rob decided that the group was probably getting hungry. We had a hasty conference at a traffic light and decided the Kelsey's Restaurant the GPS found was a good place to go. We had to go around a large block but found it right where Mr. Zumo said it was. They even set up a long table for us. I had a half turkey club sandwich (with guacamole), cream of cheese and broccoli soup and  a Caesar salad while Sandy just had the soup and salad.

My lunch

Sandy's lighter lunch

Well fed, we moved on through Kingston headed for Fort Henry, a historic site that I have somehow missed visiting before this. Getting through downtown Kingston was a challenge because of street construction and detours. We followed the Garmin instructions while, this time, the TomTom would have done better and led us around the mess.

Sale at Giant Tiger

Coming out the other side of Kingston, we made it to Fort Henry, which is adjacent to Royal Military College, the military academy of the Canadian Forces. The Fort sits on a hilltop commanding the entrance to Kingston Harbour where it protects us from attack by those nefarious Americans.

Passing by Royal Military College

The Fort Henry battlements

At the ticket window, we found that group rates started at 15 people. We only had 14 but if we paid for the extra one, we still would each save the cost of the GST. I paid for everyone and then collected the money later from each person. Our armbands in place, we proceeded around the fort to the only gate.

Rob with a stuffed goat mascot

The real David XI, mascot of the Fort Henry Guard

We got in just in time to see the afternoon demonstration of close order drill and firing of the original 1861 Snider-Enfield breech loading rifles. The Fort Henry Guard is composed of students, mostly local, who are trained in the history and military protocol of 1867. The RMC students don't take part because they are deployed with the Forces during the summer to further their current military training, but the FHG are very knowledgeable and take their jobs quite seriously.

Waiting for the drill squad to enter the fort

The close order drill is very close

Demonstration of coordinated fire

I don't think their were pretty lady soldiers in 1867

The artillery

Following the demonstrations on the parade square, everyone split up to explore the nooks and crannies of the fort. About the time the guided tour was called, it started to rain. Some didn't care and stayed for the tour while others of us (Sandy and I included) went back to the gift shop/entrance building where it was dry.

Rob in the brig

Rob out of the brig

Waiting for the tour

We kept hoping the rain would stop but it didn't. I got heavier and then eased off several times but, typical of any warm front rain, it never ceased. We hung out under the awning in front of the entrance and talked with guests who were arriving for two weddings, one in this building and the other under a large tent right on the parade square.

The Kingston trolley stops at the fort

 Patsy killing time

Eventually, all the ones who took the tour came back and we suited up in rain gear. Rob asked me to lead because he was having some difficulty seeing with his goggles on. I set a careful pace as we rode out of town heading for Smiths Falls. There had been a long scenic route planned but we decided that we would take the shortcut.

As we got a ways north, the rain eased up and then stopped, but the roads were still wet. We were doing about 10 KPH over the speed limit when some you bozo passed us on a solid line going into a curve and then gave us the finger. When will they ever learn? Rob asked for a quick stop at which his wife Chantal discovered she had left her jacket and cell phone at the fort when she was putting on her rain suit. More phone calls and then we continued on.

In Smiths Falls, we stopped for fuel and someone told Terry he had lost his trailer licence plate a few miles back. He went back to look for it while the rest of us proceeded to the hotel, a Comfort Inn on the banks of the Rideau Canal. A triathlon had just started and we could see the runners from our fourth floor balconies. Terry showed up soon after with his errant plate in hand.

Rob "admiring" Roger's sense of style

Locks on the Rideau Canal

After settling in, we walked a couple of blocks to Gerbo's Restaurant on the main street. I had a veal Parmesan while Sandy had chicken Parmesan. We sat with Jack and Cathay and rehashed the trip along with tales of other travels. The food and company were excellent. Then we walked uptown a bit before returning to the hotel. The others gathered for a while but my infected ear was bothering me so I put some drops in it and laid down for a while. Soon I fell asleep and that's all she wrote for the day.

Today's Route (144 motorcycle miles):

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sudbury Ontario to Belleville Ontario

For the last few years, the Freedom Riders have gone on an annual three day expedition called the President's Ride. The route and destination are up to, you guessed it, President Rob. This year, the club would ride down to Lake Ontario and tour the southeastern part of the province. Sandy and I have never been able to make it before but there was a hole in our calendar this year just crying to be filled. The new sod was laid in the front yard and I needed to get out of town.

Packing was a bit challenging. While we used to be experts in the field of stowing gear on a motorcycle, we haven't been on an overnight bike trip since 2010 and were somewhat rusty. But we managed to get it figured out by the time Leo showed up at 7:00 AM, fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. I should mention that I spent some time yesterday cleaning the bike, something that I am not known for. Using Kawasaki's new Pre-wash and some White Diamond metal polish, I even got the front wheel looking almost respectable. Maybe this is the new me. Who knows for sure?

Anyway, we set out on a cleaner than usual bike at 7:00 AM to make our 8:00 AM departure point at Tim's in the south end. The skies were grey and the temperature was in the low 50's. It spit a bit on us on the by-pass but that was it. We were there early enough for me to fuel, have a breakfast sandwich and fill my coffee cup before the posted time. By 8:00, everyone was there but our leader and his good wife. This was strange because they are usually early. They rolled in about ten minutes late, victims of the construction zone at a busy intersection in the north end of the city. Right after that, our eight bikes and ten people were on our way south on Highway 69.

Heading south on Highway 69

There was a brief stop at the French River Trading Post, where we were inundated by swarms of blackflies,, before we pushed on the the Tim Horton's at Horseshoe Lake Road south of Parry Sound. We arrived there one half hour ahead of schedule and linked up with our second element of four more people on three more bikes. Sandy's Gerbing vest had quit working again, probably due to a bad plug on the harness to the bike. Luckily, it was getting to be much warmer and we decided to set it aside and look at it tonight when we stopped.

Blackfly bait at the French River

The whole group at the Horseshoe Lake Road Tim's

Dan talking to Jack while Terry catches up with Cathay

We left Highway 69 at this point and followed Highway 141 east. This road, which passes through Rosseau, is one of my favourites with many 60 KPH curves. The fact that much of it was recently resurfaced didn't hurt. The only drawback was a scrap metal truck we encountered after Rosseau and weren't able to get past before we got to Bent River. This meant that we negotiated the usually fun 40 KPH curves by the lake looking at the back end of a very slow moving hauler.

Entering Rosseau

Highway 141

Following the scrap truck into Bent River

Instead of our usual turn towards Huntsville, we kept going straight on Muskoka Road 4 to Bracebridge where we connected with Highway 118. The town was busy but we eventually made it through and out the other side. Highway 118, like 141, is one of the jewels of this area with sweeping curves going up and down the hills and past picturesque lakes.


Near lunch time, Rob decided to stop at a restaurant called That Place In Carnarvon. The sign out front said the place opened at 4:00 PM but they were ready for us for lunch. I had the special, a bacon cheeseburger quiche that was almost three inches thick. I know they say real men don't eat quiche but I say that real men eat whatever they want. In any case, I recommend it.

That Place In Carnarvon

Enjoying our meals at That Place

After lunch, we continued on 118 to Bancroft where we stopped at a big Shell station for fuel. we had been going east, we kept catching up to a line of clouds but every time we stopped, the line would get ahead of us and we would be in the sunshine again. Many were riding in tee shirts for this stretch.

This may be one of the worst kept secrets of the Freedom Riders, but President Rob's path finding skills are legendary. If there is a path to be found, he won't. To assist him, we moved up from our position at the rear to second spot as we headed down Highway 62 to Belleville, our destination for today,

Our view from the second spot

The group behind us

As we approached Belleville, my cell phone rang. Using the Bluetooth connection through the GPS, I answered. It was our friend Rainman from Georgia, now transplanted to Toronto for a couple of years. He was astounded to find out we were talking to him while we rode along at 60 MPH. We talked a bit about some suspension modifications he wanted to do to his Wing and then we were in the city so I  had to hang up so we could look for our hotel.

Rob's TomTom GPS said the Comfort Inn was one direction while the Garmin wanted us to turn the other way. The Garmin was right and we found it without further difficulty. After checking in, we parked in front of our rooms and got unpacked. The wiring harness for Sandy's vest looks like it will have to be replaced, along with the heat controller I probably blew when I shorted out a plug.

A short walk from the hotel, we found the Buffet Garden Restaurant. The food was good but I am not big on buffets any  more and, despite trying to keep my portions reasonable, ended up walking back to the hotel feeling stuffed and bloated.

Sandy and Leo at the Buffet Garden

After supper, we moved our chairs out of the rooms and sat in the parking lot swapping stories. The girls took a walk and explored an adult store but didn't bring back anything interesting. There were a few small scooters staying here and we found out this was the weekend of the Mad Bastard Scooter Rally. Ninety-nine crazy people on small (max 500 cc but most much smaller) scooters would take to the roads tomorrow at 4:00 AM and try to cover a 670 Km main route plus side trips for bonuses. It was like a demented mini-Ironbutt. After talking to several reps from Yamaha for a while, we wished them well.

Sandy and I were among the first to turn in. It was a great way to spend the first official day of summer but we don't normally do all day rides any more and were feeling a bit tuckered out. We would need to do some training if we were to go back on the long haul circuit again.

Today's Route (323 motorcycle miles):