Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Hockley, Crowsfoot Smokehaus and Glen Morris with Stonewall

After our ride to Dunnville in July, The Mighty Stonewall (Gord) and I decided we needed to take another ride together. He was unable to join us at the Crow's Nest Pub last week because he was rendering tomatoes for Mrs. Stonewall. Apparently this is an Italian tradition and not punishment for losing two pairs of glasses in a week.

I told Gord to meet me at 11:00 AM the Hockley General Store. This lies at the end of the curvy road through the Hockley Valley, one of the better motorcycle rides this side of Muskoka. To this end, I had checked the oil, adjusted the tire pressures and was ready to roll just before 9:30 AM.

It was not as oppressively hot as it had been recently. It was in the low 20's and my mesh jacket was comfortable, the first time that I had worn it in quite some time. I started up Bridge Street, got stuck in a line of traffic following a street sweeper, made a U-turn and went out on Bloomingdale Road. Lots of options in Waterloo Region.

In Elora, I checked out the Water Street East/South River Road option to avoid downtown Elora. Then I stopped at the Mobil station for fuel before leaving town heading through Belwood. I continued on along the west side of the Grand River until I reached Highway 9. This provided a straight shot into Orangeville.

As I was going around Orangeville on Veteran's Way/Dufferin County 16, I caught up to a pickup truck towing a trailer with graphics of a septic system service company. This guy was slow (paid by the hour?) and there are no passing opportunity on that stretch. When we got to cross Highway 10 and start into Hockley Valley, he was heading the same way. I couldn't see following him through those first perfect curves so I passed him in a short straight in a 50 KPH zone. As soon as I was by, I slowed down. Then I found I was looking at an OPP SUV backed into a driveway and the OPP officer in the SUV was looking back at me. Doing the first thing that came to mind, I nodded and waved. And he didn't follow me. Score one for the good guys.

I arrived at the Hockley General Store at exactly 11:00 AM. Gord wasn't there yet but there were a lot of middle aged and older bicyclists from the Toronto Bicycling Network. Gord arrived soon after and we had a coffee before setting out on our ride. Before we left, he tried to check the wiring to see why his GPS kept cutting out but no solution was readily apparent.

The Hockley General Store

Interesting horse mural

The Mighty Stonewall arrives

Pre-ride coffees - thanks, Gord

Checking GPS wires

The ride back through Hockley Valley past the Rosebud Motel set was mellow, which was good because we met an unmarked cruiser as well as what was likely the same OPP SUV that had let me by earlier. I do love that road but discretion is the better part of keeping your driving record clean.

Highway 9 was boring but the turn south through Belwood to Elora was fun. After bypassing downtown Elora on South River Road, I took Gord down Middlebrook Road, skirting the back side of the Elora Gorge Conservation Area before proceeding to the Kissing Bridge.

Gord was familiar with the area from taking bus tours through there and stopped at the Mennonite run Last Acre Variety Store for some granola. He swears it is the best he has ever had. He also picked up a bag of oatmeal. I spent the time talking to an older lady from Brampton who was there with her son. Then we went over the bridge and headed on to Conestogo.

Mennonite oatmeal and "the world's best" granola

The Kissing Bridge - West Montrose Ontario

The last stretch to Conestogo was on Northfield Road, passing the spot where I was leading a group of VROCers in 2001 (including Gord) when we were cut off by a line of Mennonite buggies that made a sudden left turn across traffic without looking. It was a close call.

The Crowsfoot Smokehaus was not busy and we opted to sit outside due to the pleasant temperatures. Gord had a cider and was surprised when I ordered a black coffee to drink. He thought coffee was just a breakfast mealtime beverage. We both ordered the Smokehaus club sandwich with brisket, bacon and turkey. There was an optional fried egg that Gord thought afterwards that perhaps he should have tried. I had a wedge salad and Gord had mixed baby greens.

The Crowsfoot Smokehaus - Conestogo Ontario

Stonewall ready to chow down

My Smokehaus club (brisket, turkey and bacon) and wedge salad

Before we left, I checked with Gord to make sure he had his glasses. Then we proceeded to the condo via Northfield and University Avenue (past Blackberry and RIM headquarters). I gave him the tour and he got a chance to say hello to Sandy before we moved on.

The rest of the ride was a bit convoluted. It involved some of my favourite roads including Riverbend Drive, Shantz Station Road from St. Charles Street West to Highway 7, Speedsville Rd from Kossuth Road to Maple Grove, Waterloo Road 42 from Blair to Galt and Waterloo Road 75 from Galt to Glen Morris Road. Coming out of Galt, we were following a lady in a black Hyundai when she threw a lit cigarette out her window. Then she proceeded to travel more than 10 KPH under the limit, slowing for some of the nicest curves this side of the universities. There was no passing zone but we didn't let that stop us. This time, no police.

We rode across the Grand River again at Glen Morris and then headed back into Cambridge. After riding up Franklin Boulevard, Gord commented that someone had a thing for roundabouts. There are many but the traffic moves a lot quicker. If you survive. For the final thrill, I took him over Avenue Road past some high priced real estate to Townline Road and up to the Tim Horton's where Justin Bieber probably gets his coffee when he is in town. We went inside while watching a Nomad go through the drive-thru.

Gord will be heading out to British Columbia in a few weeks, where he will be renting a motorcycle to explore the southern part of the province. I look forward to hearing the reports. After finishing the coffee, we rode up to the 401 where he went east and I went west. My route home was quick via 401,8, 7 and 85.

It is hard to believe that it is September already. Where has the summer gone. I hope to get a few more rides in before it is over for another year. I am sure going to miss Eureka Springs.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Old Timers Lunch At The Crow's Nest Pub In Newmarket

Forty years ago, there were a number of active motorcycle clubs in and around Ontario that came together to form the Ontario Road Riders Association (ORRA). Then, based on the example set by the York Wings, they began hosting weekend camping rallies. The members supported one another's events for the next twenty plus years, with little villages of the same tents setting up in different times and places throughout the summer. It was a time of rich fellowship where we enjoyed riding, eating, drinking and sitting around bonfires. Clubs and rallies came and went but the major clubs and gatherings in the 80's were:

York Wings - Toronto
Road Bike Olympics

Nickel Riders - Sudbury
Rainbow Rally

Waterloo County Touring Club - Kitchener/Waterloo

Peterborough Tour Riders - Peterborough
The Price is Right Rally

Ottawa Valley Touring Club - Ottawa
Rally in the Valley

Peacemakers - Rochester NY
Lost Weekend

The five Canadian clubs were at the forefront of ORRA. I was the President of the Nickel Riders at the time and, last summer, I reached out to two of the other presidents from that era that I had not seen in decades. Ralph of the York Wings and Ray of the Peterborough Tour Riders lived fairly close to each other so I arranged for us to have lunch at about the midpoint in Bracebridge. Leo Laframboise accompanied me on the ride to the meet. It was great seeing old friends again and catching up.

This year, Ralph and I decided to do lunch again. On the advice of The Mighty Stonewall, we selected the Crow's Nest Pub in Newmarket. This was roughly half way between us but north of crazy Toronto (or so I thought). Another former York Wing who we have stayed in touch with, Eric, lives just off Highway 9. Since I would be going right by his door, I called him and asked if he wanted to come along. He said sure but I decided we would surprise Ralph.

Sandy had thought about coming but then the weather man said there was a good probability of thunderstorms in the afternoon so she decided to stay home. By this morning, the meteorologists had cancelled the rain predictions but she had already made up her mind. The meeting time was 1:00 PM and I left a little early. Good thing because I found Dufferin 3 on the way to Orangeville had been reduced to gravel. The flagman at one stretch told me they would be starting to spread asphalt next week. I am not a big fan of gravel roads but I stayed loose and rode through it.

I took a detour up through the Hockley Valley because the road has a lot of sweeping curves and is fun to ride. Then I took the Mono Adjala Townline, a dead straight 60 KPH road I had never been on before, straight back south to Highway 9. From there, it was a short hop to Eric's house.

About ten years ago, Eric and Sherri sold their large house in Inverhaugh and bought a small place in a retirement community called Tecumseth Pines. Eric showed me some renovations that they had done since they moved in and I was suitably impressed. It looked like the after shots on one of those reno shows. I have to mention that Eric and Sherri with their GoldWing are some of the few people I know who are still regularly engaging in a long haul riding lifestyle.

Eric and I headed out across Highway 9 with him in the lead. It was a straight run with one right turn just before we got to the pub. Traffic got more dense after we crossed Highway 400 and I was starting to doubt the wisdom of picking Newmarket, but we arrived without incident. Ralph pulled up a few minutes late due to missing a turn.

It is good to reconnect with old friends. Eric and Ralph had not seen each other in about three decades and it was like old home week. Plus they both teach college courses now, Eric in accounting and Ralph in law enforcement, so they got to compare teaching note as well. The pub was nice and not crowded, so we were able to take our time and reminisce. After we finished and went outside, we spent more time swapping stories in the parking lot until we had to go. Everyone agreed that we would have to do this again.

Crow's Nest Pub - Newmarket Ontario

Eric and Ralph - Two Old York Wingers

Eric and I headed out together with me following again. Once we got over the 400, traffic got better but, on a two lane road with little chance to pass, you are limited to your slowest common denominator. When Eric peeled off at his turn, we waved and I kept going. I followed Highway 9 right to Orangeville where I fueled up. Then I tried an alternate route to try and avoid the gravel on CR 3. I did miss most of it.

I got home just after 6:00 PM. It was a good riding day, hot but rewarding, and I stayed dry. I need to reach out to a few more folks and do some reconnecting.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Niagara Escarpment and Dunnville

Although we have not been able to travel again this summer, I have been out from time to time exploring the roads around our new home. We are not total strangers to the area, having attended the Cyclefest Rally here for 29 of its thirty years between 1980 and 2010. The countryside is pretty but the limited stretches of curvy roads are joined by many more miles of dead straight routes. Still, I have been searching out the interesting sections and stringing them together for some fun outings.

The Mighty Stonewall (Gordon) has been a VROC friend for over twenty years. He lives in Woodbridge on the north side of Toronto and we have been talking about getting together to ride for some time now. He offered to show me some of his favourite roads to the south of us, an area I was not that familiar with. We agreed to meet a a Tim Horton's in Milton at 10:00 AM.

I was up early this morning, something I don't do very often these days. I decided to leave a little early and avoid the 401 superslab on the way to the rendezvous. The secondary roads were fairly peaceful and I got to the Timmie's in Milton a little early. While waiting, I talked to a gentleman from Texas who had gotten his motorhome into Canada and was visiting relatives in Toronto.

Waterloo to Milton - 44 miles

Waiting for Gord in Milton

Gord pulled in on his white GL-1800 right right on time. I followed him down backroads past farms and intersections. The scenery was great and then we started climbing up and down the Niagara Escarpment as the turns got tighter. There were even a couple of hairpins marked at 10 KPH. It was a hoot. Eventually, above the town of Dundas, we stopped at the Sydenham Lookout where a few other riders were already admiring the view.

Milton to Sydenham Lookout - 27 miles

Sydenham Lookout - Hamilton on the horizon

Leaving the lookout, we descended and negotiated the busy streets of Dundas and Ancaster before finding the open road. Eventually, we connected with Haldimand County Road 54 at Onondaga and followed it along the Grand River through Caledonia to Cayuga, where we jogged onto Haldimand County Road 17. Signs billed this whole route as the Grand River Scenic Byway.

The whole time we rode along the river, we were traveling through the Haldimand Tract. This is an area of land encompassing six miles either side of the entire length of the Grand River that was granted to the Mohawks in 1784 in return for their support during the American Revolution. This land has been and still is the subject of a dispute between the Mohawks of the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve and the government of Canada. In the meantime, the road made for a pleasant and relaxing ride.

Eventually, we arrived at the Country Chip Wagon in Dunnville, which lies near where the Grand River empties into Lake Erie. It is about half way between Niagara Falls and the sometime motorcycle mecca of Port Dover, where riders gather every Friday the 13th. Food at the chip wagon hit the spot.

Country Chip Wagon - Dunnville Ontario

Lots of choices on the menu

Gord checking his messages while we wait for our food

When we finished eating, we started back up 17 and 54. Not to far along, i saw something fall from Gord's bike and end up on the road. I stopped and walked back for it but a car clipped it before I could get there. It was a hard case for eyeglasses that was empty when I picked it up. I caught up to Gord, who was waiting on the shoulder a short ways up, and we continued until we stopped on the Six Nations Reserve for fuel. I gave Gord the case and he was surprised that he had apparently left it on his seat and, further, that there was not a pair of glasses in it. This was the second pair he had lost in a short period of time and Mrs. Stonewall was not going to be happy.

Continuing on, I left Gord who stopped at a smoke shop for some discount Backwoods cigars before turning towards Toronto. I continued northwest through Brantford and back to Cambridge and Waterloo. I took a bit of a side jaunt through Glen Morris so I could ride Waterloo Regional Road 75 back to Galt. This is one of my favourite stretches of road and I ride it any time I am nearby.

I got back to the condo in time for supper. I had covered 199 miles, seen some new roads and really enjoyed having someone to ride with. Next time, I will lead.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Happy Birthday, Sandy

The travel blog has been pretty quiet so far this year. That is obviously because there has been no travel. With the US border closed to non-essential traffic and the pandemic numbers there not looking so good, we have been tied pretty close to our new home in Waterloo.

On the plus side, we are really enjoying this leased condo. It is roomy and the building is nice and well managed. The exercise room and pool were just reopened yesterday as Ontario moved to what they call Level 3.

Level 3 allowed unlimited indoor dining and, since today was Sandy's birthday, the family gathered last evening at the Crowsfoot Smokehaus in Conestogo (just north of the City of Waterloo) to celebrate the occasion. This establishment used to be the Black Forest Inn where Heather and Tom tied the knot in the fall of 2009.

We had not seen an indoor table set for ten people in a very long time. Sandy and I split a three meat plate with brisket, pulled pork and chicken plus a couple of sides. This was followed by sharing Black Forest cake for dessert, a family tradition started by Sandy's father Harry.

The first full family meal in a long time

It was a great evening celebrating in person together. After we were done, we all took a drive to West Montrose and crossed the Kissing Bridge, a covered bridge that appeared in the most recent film versions of Stephen King's It and It 2. Then we all headed for our respective homes.

Scene from movie It

After that, Sandy's actual birthday was anti-climactic. We stayed in while she received many congratulations and birthday greetings from friends through her Facebook account.

More often than not since we retired, we have celebrated her birthday on the road somewhere, Usually with friends in places like Lake Topaz, Nevada; Solvang, California; Shelter Cove, California or Richmond, Kentucky. Hopefully, we can get back to out travels while we are still able.

Until then, Happy Birthday to my favourite wife. If I had to be locked down with anyone, you were the best choice possible. I love you to the moon and back

Monday, May 03, 2021

Another Memory From Fifty Years Ago

Here is another brief walk down memory lane. I am recording these things so that once my memory has slipped, I can read and remember.

Fifty years ago, May 3 1971, I rode my new Yamaha 350 from my meager apartment in Gatchell to the Inco General Office in Copper Cliff. I proudly walked into the office carrying my helmet like a badge that told the world that I was a little bit different, a man to be reckoned with. I was a biker.

The men in the Pay Office (women were not allowed to work there until 1974) made the appropriate noises but the boss, Bob McInnis, looked at me like I had two heads. It was a pretty conservative place back then.

Mondays and Tuesdays, the Copper Cliff Police Force (company owned) drove us out to TD banks, mines and surface plants to hand out pay cheques. We had over 18,000 hourly rated employees back then and I personally handed cheques to about 4,000 of them a week. I spent Monday morning at the main TD bank branch on Durham Street paying men who worked at the mills, smelter and refineries (Tuesday was mines day). Back in the office, I was scheduled to spend the afternoon at the Iron Ore Recovery Plant, sitting in the Time Office with Timekeeper Hank Harrison and handing out cheques to the workers as they came off shift. Normally, I would be driven over there by Copper Cliff  Police Corporal Lloyd Walford, a jovial, portly man who I could not imagine doing actual police work. This day, I asked Lloyd to take the cheque box and meet me at the plant gate.

I fired up the R5 and, in a cloud of blue two-stroke smoke, pulled out of the parking lot. Now that I had been riding two whole days, I figured I knew what I was doing. I took Power Street and followed it onto company property past the Copper Refinery gate. I crested a mild hill and saw a large patch of gravel at the end of the road to the new Nickel Refinery, which was under construction. Alarmed, I applied the brakes. Or rather, I applied the front brake because I knew that is where most of the braking power came from. Most of the time. Unfortunately, this was long before ABS and the front wheel locked in the gravel, losing the gyroscopic effect that kept the bike upright. Down we went, the bike and I, at about 40 MPH. I slid, it slid, eventually stopping in a crowd of dust.

I will give the old Yammies credit, they were tough. Thankful for my old, used leather motorcycle jacket and gloves, I got up, dusted myself off and picked up the bike. The handlebars were crooked but everything else looked good so I fired it up and rode the last quarter mile to the IORP gate. Lloyd, using his keen police powers of observation, noted that something had happened. I told him I was fine and he suggested I look again. Blood was running out from under my right sleeve and dripping on the ground. Something had punctured my leather jacket and then my skin as the sleeve slid up. I had a gash in my forearm ending just below the elbow.

Hank took the cheque box to the Time Office while I was sent to the adjacent First Aid Room. The attendant cleaned the wound as well as he could (gravel kept coming out of it for a couple of weeks afterwards), applied antiseptic and bandaged it. Then I went back out to do my job. Soon after, I began to feel cold, clammy and faint. Before I fell off the stool, Hank got me back to First Aid where they decided I was in shock and needed to lie down on a cot. Hank handed out cheques until I felt better.

When it was time to leave, I took the meager tools and loosened the bolts on the front end. Then I grabbed the bars, pulled them into the right place and tightened the bolts again before riding home. And that was that.

Until the next day when I walked into the Pay Office and Bob, the Paymaster, said "Here comes Skid". In addition to being Inco's first Workman's Compensation motorcycle accident, I had earned a new nickname. It probably would not have stuck if the incident on May 17th had not happened. More on that later, but fifty years have gone by and Skid still how many people know me.

Fifty years. Wow. Where has the time gone?

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Fifty Years

 Today is a very important anniversary in my life.

Fifty years ago, May 1st 1971, I was 18 years old and had been working in the Inco Pay Office in Copper Cliff, Ontario (a suburb of Sudbury Ontario, then Nickel Capital of the World) since the previous December. Before I moved away from Sault Ste. Marie, I bought a 1970 Yamaha R5 350 cc two stroke motorcycle. As I recall, I paid $912 of borrowed money for it. Because I got it in October, I did not get a chance to ride it before I left town.

The weather forecast for Saturday (May 1st) looked good so I took a Greyhound bus the 180 miles to the Soo on Friday evening. The next morning, after putting the fully charged battery into the bike, I kicked it over. It started right away with that distinctive ringey-dingey-dingey sound that Yamaha two stroke engines of the era were famous for. The R5 350 was a redesigned machine, having been downsized and up-powered from the 1969 350 version To top it off, it was painted a stylish fuchsia and white. Complementing that, I had a metal flake fuchsia helmet, fuchsia shirt and fuchsia socks. Yes, I looked like a neon rider.

1970 Yamaha R5 (not mine but looked just the same)

You have to understand that I had only ridden a motorcycle once before. The previous year, I was the one sitting on an 80cc Suzuki project bike when it finally started so I rode it around my girlfriend's yard until I tangled with a weeping willow tree and ripped off a cable. Despite that shaky start, I was not deterred from the great adventure before me. Once the bike warmed up, I gamely fastened my helmet, clicked the bike into gear and rode to the nearest gas station. After topping up the tank, I turned east on Highway 17 and rode the 180 miles back to Sudbury. And that, friends, was my first motorcycle ride on the road.

Since then, I have had a few incidents (as my nickname might suggest). Two were in the first two weeks of riding and just two more occurred over the next more than 500,000 miles. Riding has been a constant in my life for the last fifty years. It has been about more than just the motorcycles, though. It has been travels far and wide shared with my wife and partner, Sandy, plus all the great people we have met along the way. As I reflect on our history today, I eagerly look forward to what the next fifty years will bring.

Ride safe,
Jim 'Skid' Robinson
Waterloo, Ontario
May 1. 2021