About mckscooter

I am a man and I have a machine and together, we manufacture wonderful travels.

Algonquin & The Land of Gold Ride

Sadly the bike is seeing less and less use and with every passing day I think about selling it.

I am all gung ho on the idea and I have even relisted it on Kijiji. But then I do something silly. I pack my bags, strap items to it and turn the key. The engine, sputteringly roars to life. White exhaust, after a few moments, starts coming out the pipe, her way of telling me she’s warmed and ready and then I hit the road.

This is when the change in me occurs. Thoughts of parting with her fall away and a clarity and peace comes over me. Even though it sucks on my wallet most of the time, she makes herself worth it I am finally out and about.

This trip, Algonquin & The Land of Gold, came about after looking at the map and feeling the need to highlight major yellow/red roads, namely 11 north of Beaverton, 60 from Huntsville to Whitney via Algonquin Park, 127 heading south and finally 62 all the way into Belleville that stood out on my map like a sore thumb. In particular, the stand alone 60. I felt compelled to slay her.

Day 1: July 26, 2013

I took this day because well, even with no intention of really doing so, once I started riding I knew I made the right call. I had 19 days vacation prior to this trip and with a major work tour coming up (after just ending one a month earlier) and much to be done for it, I simply resigned myself to wasting a lot of these days but I certainly didn’t regret taking a vacation day.

The day was sunny with a few clouds in the sky. I admitedly packed in a hurried fashion so as I started to leave the city I felt sure I overlooked something but I didn’t let it bother me. I covered the basics, shelter and toiletries. Ah food, that was it. I had forgotten my dehyrdated Coleman meals I have been saving for some time. Dammit.

The first part of the journey I was not looking much forward to as it was up Hwy. 11. I am pretty familiar with that road up through Beaverton and Brechin and knew there was nothing special about it. But actually for the most part, between home and Washago I enjoyed most of it. After a brief stop at Claremont Native Plants in Pickering to discuss a backyard swamp project, I took Westney then Lakeridge Rd. all the way up to Lake Simcoe which turned out to be a pleasant ride. I then headed east across 48 to Hwy. 11. Once I got out of Brechin and turned on to 169 towards Washago the scenery got a little nicer but there were some pretty shitty houses around and so that sort of ruined things.

I got to Washago shortly after lunch. Washago is now the current home to the first love of my life, my high school sweetheart Nicole. So as I was eating lunch at the Log Cabin Resto I could not help but think of her and some of the things, nice and not so nice, we did in high school. She really was a terrific girl and I fucked that up…as I do with most women. Anyway, she is apparently fine now, married some cop who is a Inspector so I think. She called me few months back in the winter to discuss her car problem that is the only contact we have now. Only when its auto related and when she thinks I can bail her out of a bad car situation she has gotten herself into.

Lunch was BLT on crappy bread but I had a side veggie soup with homemade bread which was outstanding. Sadly, I could not persuade the waitress to serve my BLT on same.

In the parking lot of the Log Cabin was a local farm fruit stand. Realizing that I had no nourishment for camping later on that day, I decided to by a quart of strawberries which I thought would be a tasty treat. I sampled one, nothing beats Ontario strawberries, I don’t care what anyone says.

As much as I didn’t want to do it I had to take Hwy. 11 as it was unhighlighted so the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful as I passed through Severn Bridge then on to Bracebridge and Huntsville. One thing I did notice was the lack of traffic on the roads. I would have thought that the cottage-bound traffic from Toronto would have caught up to me by then but not at all. I also noticed a distinct lack of bikes as well for such a beautiful day. It often seemed like I was the only one riding that day.

One of the nice things about my route this time around was that I knew I was going to go over the same real estate, namely Hwy. 11 twice. So I could afford the luxury of deviating from this highway if possible and adding some more graffitti to my map. A careful study of the official roadmap revealed a small secondary highway, starting in Novar, 592. On the official roadmap its right beside and therefore almost indistinguishable from Hwy 11 but its there and since it got me to my next most immediate destination, Kearney, I gave it a try. In fact, this highway is an old alignment of Hwy. 11

I love the little grey roads which indicate the the secondary roads on the official roadmap. They usually turn out to be the most fun, rewarding and challenging to navigate. This road was lovely. Not so much on the twisty side of things but I really enjoyed the changes in elevations.

The northern terminus of 592 is in Emsdale which I was going to exit anyway 11 or 592 to take 518 in to Kearney. It was a strange highway to me as it seemed to just end but as I write this entry after the ride has ended, the highway website I study has revealed to me why its sudden ending seemed so strange so check out the link.

 Kearney claims to be the “Biggest Little Town in Ontario.” It was pretty small and from what I could gather it was merely a handy town for people to get in to the western side of Algonquin Park with adequate supplies. Kearney was just not a destination for me and it was more about colouring a road that would stick out on the map if I didn’t do it. So I rode around town for a bit and came to the gates of the park and turned around, next stop, Burk’s Falls & Magnetewan.

With no gas station in Kearney that sold premium fuel, I had to head to Burk’s Falls where I was told I could find some. After retracing the the 518 I turned north again on the remaining portion of the 592 that skirts Hwy. 11.

I refuelled in Burk’s Falls where I had an interesting conversation with the owner and mechanic of the local Shell station. He noted my heavily laden bike and asked where I was headed that sort of thing. He then told me a story of a guy that came through on an older bike that had the gas tank under the seat. He said “if he ever caught on fire he’d have a flaming ass”. I guess it was funny.

Burk’s Falls seems nice but I didn’t really have time to stop and look around. I often don’t on these trips. I find the need to finish the map more important so I don’t really stop to take an hour to explore these little towns. I just don’t have the time and I got a lot of ground to cover. But it seemed like a place worth coming back to. It had a pretty downtown.

I was starting to get in to Magnetewan River country. The river is apparently 175km long from Algonquin all the way to Georgian Bay. I criss crossed it a few times on my ride.

Downtown Magnetewan:
Now growing up my dad used to take me to our little private campround near Dunchurch. The closest, reasonably-sized town to Dunchurch was Magnetewan so that is coincidently where most of the campers there got their supplies. I remember as a kid that these “Downtown Magnetewan” tees were all the rage. I was too young to remember the last time I was “downtown” but sure enough I found myself in the heart of this little town which was really quite pretty. It had the river running right through it with a large lock and a lot of boat traffic and people milling about the riverside parks.

It seems to be thriving on the tourist trade as there were some banks and a expensive looking grocery/supply store too. I made a note to myself that the next time I found myself at the OTF campground to journey back to explore it further.

By now it was getting dusky so I had to make tracks. I stopped at the bait supply place to get some spaghetti and sauce for dinner and then jumped on the 124 to get to OTF as quickly as I could.

The old campground is still there I am pleased to report. Don’t get me wrong, I have been back a few times before this trip but for a stretch there between the mid 90’s to early 2000’s I had not been there. Typically only teachers are allowed to use it as it is a “union” campground but I guess a few years back campers where few and far between so they opened it up for a year for teachers to sign up their kids, teachers or not, to use it for their lifetimes. My dad signed up my brother and I and I am glad he did.

My girlfriend Laura and I have been having meanduring discussions about having children and this would be a great place to take them. My childhood memories there are happy and sad but it is a kids place. There were lots of them there and sites were few. Laura and I were up there for May 24 and we had the whole place to ourselves pretty much.

Anyway I pulled in and parked the bike. A few sites down was a large gathering of people all in a circle around a fire enjoying “happy hour” as I was to learn it was called later. One voice yelled out, “nice bike, when is it going to grow up”. I turned to them and said who said that and this older fella with a biker shirt on said he did. Well I retorted that it was a 1000cc in case he wanted to know but perhaps he didn’t see that because he could not count that high. After a huge round of laughter in the group 4 guys, including the one who said it came over to check out the bike and welcome me.

Turns out the fella was named Paul and he had been coming to OTF for years. I recognized him from my childhood. He had the same voice, personality and laugh but, as he is older, he is much smaller now. He used to be a very imposing man with a big grey beard. So I told him that I recalled him from years ago but he didn’t recognize me. Paul and I were to share a beer or two at his trailer later that evening after I cooked my shitacular dinner of spaghetti with canned sauce.

When cooking dinner I got invited by another site to drop by for a fire but I had a date with Paul first so I went over to talk to him. You would think that a place like OTF would be a source of respite from politics but no such luck. Apparently the campground is full of it with everything from who watches the water, who gets what sites and more importantly, how the washrooms there (which only now are being renovated from when I was a kid) get done. Regardless Paul and I had a few laughs and he told me about his motorsports career and the little bike trips he takes on his machine that he had with him in camp.

After finishing with paul and since it was night time I got invited over to spend some time at the site behind me for their fire and a few card games. It was nice to sit around and meet new people. The father of the family was very interested in all my travels around the province and reccommended some good roads to take.

Day 2, July 27, 2013
In the morning I awoke to a cloudy day but it was warm which makes for great riding weather. After studying the map the night before I decided that there were just not enough roads that I had to do in the immediate area that warranted a additional nights stay at OTF so I decided to pack up the site, do the roads I needed to do and then move on to the feature road this trip which was 60 through Algonquin park.

First up was a little side trip on Hwy. 520 which goes from the 124 outside of Dunchurch and ends at Ardbeg. This proved to be a short road but it was very enjoyable. It was also on this road that I had a close call with a bear cub that ran out on to the road. I just missed him which was lucky has he was a fair size and had I hit him I would have been done for.

When I finally got to Ardbeg there wasn’t much there but I managed to catch a CN train rolling through so for my break I stopped to watch it go by. I like trains especially the smell of freshly tarred rail road ties. Takes me back to exploring empty rail cars at my grandmothers house when I was kid. That smell does something for me.

Rather than re-trace my route to get back to 124 then on to Parry Sound, I turned right and went down a road called the Bunny Trail. This was a great road but my enjoyment of it was hampered by the fact I was stuck behind two SUV’s one of which was hauling a boat so I could not really get up to any fun speeds.

Hwy. 518 was next just south of Parry Sound cutting east/west towards the general area of Huntsville. This road also proved to be a ton of fun but was very slippery in spots having just been rained on but even in the dry parts, the pavement is not of good quality and you could feel the tires giving way a bit in some turns. I really enjoyed this road and would give me something fun to do next time I find myself in this area. I stopped in at Sprucedale and decided to eat lunch at the Sprucedale Hotel. Another biker at camp the night before told me about this place and said it is biker friendly so I decided to have a soup and sandwhich there. The food was terrible and very expensive. It was obvious the food came from the local grocery store. My spaghetti meal the night before was better!

Anyway I did make note of the place because they appeared to have very comfortable rooms at very affordable prices. But in looking at the map, Sprucedale is not really in a strategic location for a number of future trips which is too bad. But, along with another place I discovered later on in this trip, it was good to note.

I decided not to complete the entire length of the 518 and decided instead to turn down Stisted Rd which turned in to Ravenscliffe Rd. that went all the way to Huntsville. Another wonderful road! On the whole this area is pretty impressive for great roads. On the way I passed several interesting churches one was made entirely of stone from 1886 the Christ Church Ilfracombe. I stopped in and took some reallly great pictures. The entire inside was a lovingly cared for wood. It was very cool.

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Finally, a free ride!

After months of waiting, annoyance and frustration (to the point where I actually listed the bike on Kijiji due to lack of use), I finally had some time to go for a nice bike ride. Well I had to make the time myself by taking some vacation time but that is neither here nor there.

Last year I did a somewhat similar ride which I dubbed the Best Damn Biker from Calabogie to Kaladar ride which was inspired by watching the NFB film, The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar starring Kate Reid who starred in another fav movie of mine The Andromeda Strain, Chriss Wiggins and a young Margot Kidder (her first movie role was this film in fact). The movie can be seen here http://www.onf.ca/film/best_damn_fiddler_from_calabogie_to_kaladar/

Where last year the scenery in the film inspired me to visit this region, I needed no such inspiration this year, as I had already fallen in love with the area thanks to last year’s visit. It also helped that I enjoyed my stay at a B&B in Mt. St. Patrick immensely so knowing that I could stay at the same place again and count on great hospitality, I planned a ride back to this region but with some new stops.

Day 1, September 10, 2012

My journey was schedule to start on Monday, Sep 10 but the bike or rather the battery on the bike was acting up again causing the bike to intermittantly cut out and eventually lose power. Very scarily, it did this on the DVP and 401 and could have been a lot worse but I managed to nurse it to within a kilometre of the dealership in Markham (there are none in Toronto or Durham anymore) where I destroyed the battery and it would go no further.

I ended up waiting at Markham Power for about 3 hours which killed the day resulting in no chance to make Mt. St. Patrick in one shot so I rode home to Oakwood to try again the following day. I did get home just in time for supper…how convenient and mother had prepared lamb…how serendipidous.

Day 2, September 11, 2012

Left Oakwood with a mist and chill in the air (I love this time of year, the crispness of the morning makes you feel alive and wakes you up all the while knowing that in the afternoon you will ride and bask in the warm sunshine which is always smile inducing). Last time Peterborough was the jump-off point and it would be again but rather then heading NE via Bancroft and Hwy. 28, I went due E on Hwy. 7 via Warsaw eventually coming back to Kaladar. Having lived all my childhood years travelling up and down Hwy. 7, one gets quite bored of this route but though this area, it is actually not that bad, just busier than I’d like.

I did have some excitment on one stretch just before reaching Kaladar. I was coming around a corner and a guy was waving from his car in a gesture meant to slow opposing traffic down. Thinking he was warning me of a impending radar trap I slowed right down and made the corner and found two miniature horses galloping around the side the of the road and a transport truck already pulled over.

The driver of the truck was attempting to corral the horses back to a nearby animal farm from where they had escaped so I parked the machine and gave him a hand. It was fun chasing the horses around and getting them back to where they needed to go. I a msure I scared them with my helmet and dark visor.

The bugs were really bad this trip. Having had some very hot temps in Ontario which is not that normal this time of year the bugs were out in full force. So every so often I had to stop and clean the visor. I pulled in to a gas station at Hwy 7 & 41 which was my main north/south axis road this time around as it is unhighlighted on the map.

Hwy. 41 turned out to be a mild treat. According to the wiki file on this road it crosses through Mazinaw Country which is described as a rugged forest region. Rugged it was and sadly it did take me past one of the nicer provincial parks in Ontario so I am told…Bon Echo.

Riding this time of year must be done on the quick. The days are a bit shorter by sunlight and cut even shorter by temperature. As I another year older, bit by bit my heartiness at putting up with cold temps seems to drop so you really can’t get going in this part of the provice until 10:30 or so. So with that in the back of my mind, I didn’t stop for a hike where I normally would have it was earlier in the year. But I also find that this time of year, in this type of the country, the pull of the countryside and the the thrill of finding out what is around the next corner keeps in you in the saddle and plugging along.

I did stop in Denbigh just off of Bridge St. in the heart of the Addington Highlands for lunch and a quiet respite beside Denbigh Lake. Times like that made me wish I still smoked because I used to love having one at these moments in trips past.  Anyway it was nice to quietly reflect for an hour, get the blood out of my ass and enjoy being on the road again. I MISSED THIS I was sceaming in my head across the lake!!

Lakes were important this trip. If you google map this area and zoom out just enough, you will see that this area, known as the Land of Lakes in Ontario is dotted with hundreds if not thousands of lakes. Hwy. 41 is at the western edge of this area but even still, provided much beauty to see. Knowing that it was only going to get even more intense on the backside of the trip made it that much better.

The days journey concluded once I left 41 on to 132 then on the Flat Rd. towards Mount St. Patrick. Having arrived at the B&B at around 3:30 with no one home for a few hours (Mich & Dave were out golfing) I took the time to go for a walk.

I love this part of the province and fell in love with the old wooden log houses and barns that dot the landscape the last time I was here. With the Shield peeking through the thin earth you could tell that life here, like it was in the film, was a hard life.

If you were a farmer here, it wasn’t for agriculture to be sure. It really hit home when I visited the local Catholic cemetary where you saw a number of tombstones spanning the decades with a very finite number or surnames from Ireland and Eastern Europe. These people came, didn’t get discouraged and stuck it out. It is certainly the most inspiring areas of Ontario that I have come across from a people point of view and I found myself falling further in love with it this time around.

I did a good 1 hour hike up Holy Well Rd. and passed some spookey empty houses and took some good pics that could easly go on the Ontario Ghost Town site.

Upon getting back to the B&B I settled in to my autobiography of Isaac Brock for an hour when the Scharffs returned. They started preparing dinner to which bless her heart, Mich invited me to join them and we had a good time catching up. It was nice to see them in such good spirits.

Dave gave me some more history of the area and promised next time I was up, to take me on his new ATV up the mountain for some spectaclar views of the countryside and a house that a millionaire had built on the mountain that was apparently the talk of the town. I am looking forward to that next year.
Day 3, September 12, 2012

After a hearty breakfast of bacon and Michelines awesome quiche, I hit the road following Daves suggestion of taking Scotch Bush Rd. up through Balaclava and alter on to Hyndford and Eganville to what I thought would be a local tourist trap that would rob me of my good money and sense but that turned out to be very interesting, the Bonnechere Caves.

I got there for the first tour and for a while looked like I would have the whole place to myself but then a van load of German tourists showed up. They were nice though. Anyway these caves were discovered by some fella after seeing them on an old logging map and he decided to build a tourist business around them and the interesting fossils found in the local area. The tour was an hour, cost $16 and was pretty interesting.

Todays primary goal was to get to Petawawa to the army base/museum there. My friend Tim also had some family from this way so i was looking forward to seeing the town based on his description of it. The museum was not staffed so I walked through the place for free and unaccosted. It was sort of interesting but was not as good as I had hoped. Outside they had a bunch of old vehicle relics but even this was not very engaging. I soon left Petawawa for Pembroke.

Pembroke, if I never stop there again, I shant shed a tear. Would should be a nice little town situated on the Ottawa River turned out to be an experience in trailer trash. Then again, never eat at Tim Horton’s in little towns I guess. I didn’t bother to walk around town at all, I decided to continue the ride.

My original plan was to ride County’s 12 & 50 through Westneath, La Passe and on to Arnprior to get to Ottawa but I called an audible and crossed over to Quebec, the first time the CBF and I had been in this province.

I was glad I did. Even though the 148 divided in to a multi-lane highway from time to time, most of it was two lane road passing through towns with covered bridges, good farmland and the occasion view of the Ottawa. Good hills and curves occasionally too.

After an enjoyable ride in Quebec I crossed over at Gatineau in to Ottawa. I was hoping to get to the War Museum but it was getting late and I still had 40min in front of me to get to my next B&B in Kemptville so I decided to hit the museum the following day.

Day 4, September 13, 2012

 

 

 

The Brick

It’s been a bad year for me and the bike. Its hardly been turned on and looks forlorn everytime I open the garage and pass by it either to take its stablemate the Vespa to work or a menial task like taking the garbage out to the curb.

Work has gotten in the way. I missed April and May by not being here but rather on tour for work which was sad because the weather here during that time was great and there was an early start to the riding season that is not typical here that I could not take advantage of.

Its sad because I have started a new hobby this year which is perfect for this hobby I already enjoy and that is War of 1812 re-enacting. I did manage to ride down to the largest such event this year which was at Stoney Creek…that was great.

I have also signed up for a farm CSA program, both meat and veggie and have been enjoying getting weekly or monthly boxes, depending on the farm, of fresh farm produce. It also tastes great too and makes you feel good that you’re supporting local farms. Remember, farms feed cities.

A Mere Matter of Marching

“The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent.”

Thomas Jefferson, August 4, 1812.

Nothing is ever as easy as it seems.

Like 1812, it has been a hard year, especially on my pocketbook. I started renovating my basement late November early December and only now is it reaching the climax of near completion. These last few months have seen the dream of several years finally come true. A house that I bought off of someone else is now well and truly becoming my own. Its truly gratifying after having already shaped the outside the way I wanted.

With that said, it’s not cheap to do renovations. I am on my own now and I have to be mindful of where the money is going. I may not be pinching pennies (it’s not that bad) but I am pinching dimes. But I saved up for this a long time ago and even with a ton of money going out the door, it has been rewarding to see by someone else’s hand, years of sacrifice taking shape.

So with all this going on my spring and summer mechanized respite sessions will have to have their scope (measured in kilometres) scaled down. It will be all Ontario this year which in itself isn’t so bad. It is a beautiful place to do what I do.

But there is a silver lining in all this. It just so happens that this is 2012, the bicentennial of The War of 1812. As a casual history buff, I have not spent a lot of time learning about this conflict but what better year to do so than this one. And since many of its pivotal battles took place within a days ride of my home, my trips will have a decidedly 1812 theme to them.

Anyone can however, ride to a plaque, read it, survey the land or the place to which it refers and ride on. And more often than not, that is what I do and sadly that is more than most. However this year, I am going to try to live the history I chase on my mechanical steed.

Next Saturday, I am going to check out a drill session of the Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada with the view of joining said unit full-time. I have thought of this before and I admit, I have brought up their site only to close my browser and not bother. But this time, I actually made contact with a person there and promised to drop in.

I may not join even after my visit. Touring with work, ease of getting around (no car) and this year money may get in the way,. But if I can do it and not have to subsist on beans and wieners and keep my mortgage lender at bay, I am going to. Time to piss or get off the pot.

And I am looking forward to having some weekends where there is a purpose for my ride. Sometimes I hop on and am not really motivated to turn the key on. This doesen’t happen often but it does occure so this may help with those few occasions.

Thomas Jefferson once thought that just having his soldiers put their boots on and walking many miles and crossing a frontier would see him acquire an entire nation. He learned in 1812 as I have two hundred years later, that nothing is ever as easy as it seems.

I shall keep myself posted as no one but I reads this.

I actually have two machines

Truth be told I actually have two machines. And up until recenlty both were fast asleep with dreams of sugarplums and future roads dancing in their heads.

With the curious and surprisingly mild and reasonably warm winter we’re having in Toronto right now, I decided to awake the Granturismo to drive to and from work every day.

So for the past few days I have been riding to work which I have really enjoyed having just come back from London, England where one has the opportunity to practically ride all year round.

I am pleased to report that Contessa, as I lovingly call my Vespa, is not as finicky as she was last year and is operating very well in much colder conditions than she really prefers.

As enjoyable as the thought is of riding this time of year and besting my previous record of riding up until Christmas Eve, there are dangers inheirent with being on two wheels in January.

First and foremost is, no one is expecting to encounter motorcycles this time of year so no one sees you. Unlike other countries, Canada is not a scooter or motorcycle nation like England, France or Italy. They remain here, very much a novelty and are certainly not a common conveyence in Toronto as they are in say Paris. People in cars here tend not to notice you even during the summer months so winter is especially dangerous as its not really “bike season”.

With this in mind I come in early and try to leave before it gets dark. I am wearing my bike touring outfit that features a bright orange jacket to enhance my visibility. To see and be seen is the rule right now.

This morning as I write this it was raining and windy so I didn’t ride today but hopefully I can again before the real snow flies.