Cornwall to Old Quebec City

It was raining slightly as we left Cornwall around 10 am. We knew we had to keep ahead of the storm so we set off at a good pace to make it to our hotel in Old Quebec City dry and in the early afternoon.

It wasn’t long before we crossed the border in to Quebec. You know right away because of the change in quality of the road – suddenly the dull, straight lanes of the 401 become the dull, straight, bumpy lanes of Route 20. That, and the signs are now only in french.

One of the highlights (for me) of this ride was the Louis H Lafontaine Tunnel in Montreal. I was not ready fTHX 1138or that at all – suddenly I felt like I was in “THX 1138“. It was a nice change. Traffic, however, was horrendous.

There was not much else noteworthy until we arrived in Quebec City. The route given us from Google Maps had us come in on Route 73 and Route 175 into the city, where traffic slowed us right down. However, as I learned when we left, there is a much nicer route along the Saint Lawrence River that avoids most all of the traffic as well …

Pulling in to Old Quebec City is an amazing sight. You enter under the old walls and feel like you’ve been transported to the 18th century. The narrow cobblestoned streets aren’t very bike friendly, but it is a trip everyone in Canada should take at least once in their lifetime. We stayed in the “Hotel du Vieux Quebec”, only a few blocks from the Chateau Frontenac. While it was a nice hotel and ideally situated, the price was such that I wished I’d spent one or two nights in the Chateau and the others in a cheapie a little further away.

Regardless, we parked the bike and walked everywhere for those four days, and we had an amazing time.

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Toronto to Cornwall

This past long weekend I decided to take my girlfriend to Old Quebec City for the weekend. We packed up the bike on Thursday morning and by 11 am we were on the road.

Thinking the 800 kms to Quebec City a bit too much for one day we decided to stop in Cornwall where I have family. Initially I thought I’d take the 401 east to Belleville then switch to Hwy 2, which is a much more scenic route. When we did get on Hwy 2 the road was long, straight, and slower. So after a little ways we decided, in the interest of hastiness, to get back on the 4o1.

Big mistake. The moment we hit Kingston, construction brought the 401 to one lane and a stand still. Someone on a Kawi Ninja came slowly cruising up between all the traffic and then tucked in behind me. He lasted about 5 minutes before impatience got the better of him and he continued along the dotted line. While it was a tempting move I don’t agree with breaking the rules of the road to skip traffic – I think it is this kind of behaviour that gives bikers a bad rep in the eyes of other drivers.

So my patience held and we waited out the traffic – but it was not soon after my patience would be tested again.

Not half an hour later I was astonished to see it again: Construction ahead, 401 reduced to one lane. Unbelievable, I thought. A long weekend and they have one of the largest and busiest highways in the world reduced to one lane twice in a 100 km stretch. Now my arm really began to feel the burn from constantly using the clutch.quebec-4

At the next service centre you could sense the anger amongst those drivers stopped for their Tim Hortons coffee. One lady even turned to us and said, “Wasn’t that ridiculous? And now they have that stupid law that you can’t smoke with kids in the car! Unbelievable!”

Beyond that the trip was quick and relatively painless. The 401 is great for getting east or west quick, but not much else. The scenery is mediocre and the roads not stimulating from a drivers perspective. We were happy to get to Cornwall and enjoy several bottles of wine and beer with family.

Espanola to Bobcaygeon

After a long night of drinking, hot tubbing and freezing cold pool dips, I was up and on the road to Bobcaygeon by 11 am. I filled up Red Molly at a gas station right at Hwy 17 and then headed east to Sudbury, where I met Hwy 69 south. Along this stretch you can go for some time without seeing a gas station, so of course after passing one my low-fuel light comes on. Thinking I should be able to last to the next station, I press on.

After 15 minutes without seeing any sign of civilization I start to think, “I’m going to run out of gas on the side of this highway, in the middle of nowhere. What would I do? Hitch? Walk? How late is this going to make me to Bobcaygeon?”

Suddenly, at Hwy 529 in Magnetawan (about 60km north of Parry Sound), there is a little gas station with no noticeable signage. Of course I drove right passed it and had to turn around, but I was very thankful to whomever decided to open a gas station at that spot. And it only cost 95cents/liter.

I stopped again in Parry Sound for a coffee and to fill up the gas again. The traffic was very light and I was making good time. I continued until I hit Hwy 12 going south-east, where the road started to get busy. First off, this is a poorly marked highway, and when you first join it off the 69 you come to an unmarked crossroad. Without signage indicating a change in direction for the highway I continued straight – and on to a small dead end street. Had to turn around (for the second time thus far) and backtrack.

As you get closer to Orillia, the highway is one lane and packed with cars. The cars leading the pack are slower than the speed limit, and there is no room to pass. This continues until you hit the 11 south just past Orillia.  Again, attention must be paid here. The 11 and 12 merge heading south, but the 12 breaks off south-east again very quickly. The signage again is not noticeable, and for the third time this trip I pass my exit and am forced to turn around.

After what feels like eternity I hit Durham Road 15/8. This will take you east, through Fenelon Falls and right in to Bobcaygeon. This ride was a pleasure. Two lane, 80km/h speed limit, winding road cutting through farm land. Sharp and sweeping turns everywhere and no traffic. I wish I had the helmet camera on for that one. I’ve outlined the route (minus the turn arounds) on the google map below and HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking Durham Road 15/8 if you are in the area.

I arrived in Bobcaygeon just on time for dinner and shortly before the sun set. Total trip time was around 6.5 hours, and the bulk of it was thoroughly enjoyable.

Toronto to Espanola

What a fantastic weekend this Thanksgiving was for riding. My dad and I decided to ride up to Espanola to visit family on the Saturday. The original planned route was north on Hwy 400, continuing on Hwy 69, then west on Hwy17 from Sudbury in to Espanola.
Ofcourse the 400 was like a parking lot, so we got off at Major Mackenzie (just after Canada’s Wonderland) and took Jane Street north to Hwy 9 where we rejoined the 400. This is an amazing route for a two lane 80km/h Hwy through the country. I cannot adequately describe how impressive the colors are this time of year.
Coming in to Sudbury on the last stretch of Hwy 69 was stunning. Although the sun had started to set and the temperature with it, the lighting ameliorated the autumn colors. The road offers some high speed turns and rolling hills.
We rolled into Espanola after 7 1/2 hours on the road, a trip I would highly recommend. You can view the route on the google map below and the photos posted below will give you an idea of the scenery.
The next day I had to ride to Bobcaygeon on my own for another Thanksgiving feast, which I’ll write about shortly…

myself, uncle john, my dad

myself, uncle john, my dad

keymarina, about 50km south of Sudbury

keymarina, about 50km south of Sudbury

myself at keymarina

myself at keymarina

Thornhill, ON ride (right outside Toronto)

The weather this past Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in Toronto was beautiful, clear sunny skies and temperatures in the low to mid 20’s (low 70’s Farenheit). So I took the opportunity to go for a nice little ride outside of the city. I had a friend from the thornhill area who wanted to ride on the Harley, so I picked him up and he was able to show me some nice country roads in the area. I liked it so much that I took my girlfriend for a ride there the next day. I’m a fan of taking the Don Valley Parkway up there, the traffic wasn’t too bad (I got pretty lucky for some parts though) and it’s actually quite pretty this time of year with all the leaves changing color. Once you’re out in the Elgin Mill road area, there are lots of little roads that could probably be explored as well, so look at this loop more as a guideline. Have fun exploring and enjoy the last weeks of riding weather!

Unfortunately, the google maps aren’t working quite so well with wordpress at the moment, so here’s the link to the map for now.

Buffalo to Toronto

It was a great game at the Ralph Wilson Stadium, with the Bills beating the Oakland Raiders by one point – scoring a field goal with three seconds left on the clock. The highlight had to have been when my brother shouted out “Let’s go, Toronto Bills!” Some people laughed, a lot of people gave angry looks, and some warned us to “Take it easy”.

The traffic leaving the stadium is the stuff of nightmares, as is the line up at the border. An electronic sign indicated that the Fort Eerie Peace bridge had the shortest wait at 20-30 minutes. I shut the motor off several times and pushed the bike to reduce wear/emissions/waste gas while waiting.

I wasn’t far over the border when it hit me. “Our roads are in terrible condition,” I thought to myself. A lot of it had been ripped up to be repaved, but it seemed to stretch on and on, from immediately after the Peace bridge in to St. Catherines, and again on the 427 as well as the 401. Not only is it uncomfortable to drive on, it is dangerous at those speeds. Several times the front end of my Honda Magna started to shake in the grooves, like a mock speed wobble. I had to keep a close eye on the roads to anticipate the grooved pavement as for the most part they are poorly marked.

In the least, these areas should be better indicated, and motorists should be aware of the danger this grooved pavement presents to motorcycles and drive appropriately.

Instead of heading home I decided to go to my girlfriends place in Oshawa. So non-stop from the Peace Bridge to Oshawa, on about $10 worth of gas, I drove for four hours. Not sure of my average speed as my speedometer was still inoperable but I was keeping pace with traffic. And just as I pulled into her driveway, the low fuel light turned on. Gotta love it.

Toronto to Buffalo

My father and brother are NFL fans. Every year, on the weekend of my dads birthday, we take him to Buffalo to catch a Bills game. This year I decided to ride the motorcycle down.

I was doing some work in the Halton Hills area with the Bruce Trail hiking club so my day started very early – I was on the road at 6 am. I was heading north on the DVP when I realized my speedometer wasn’t working. Odd, I thought, as it was working fine the previous day.

It was nice riding without much traffic to the 401, west to Trafalgar and north to 10th line, all the while measuring my speed by that of other cars around me. There was a fog lingering just above the farmers fields that made me regret leaving my DSLR.
I worked till 3 then began the trip to buffalo, taking Winston Churchill Blvd south to the 403 where I was supposed to meet with my dad and brother. They were delayed several hours and suggested I continue on and we’d meet near the border, so I decided to take the Niagara wine region tour. For those of you who have done this trip before you know how beautiful the area and the ride is on a gorgeous day. I’ll post a map of my route when I’m home.

After the wine tour, and still with time to kill, I headed to Niagara Falls. Despite the pedestrian and car traffic this is a sweet ride. There are many groups you can hook up with for short rides and the scenery doesn’t disappoint. Even the plethora of tourist based attractions have a peverse appeal.

Finally at 7:30, I got a call that my family had arrived at the Queenston-Lewiston bridge into the USA. I followed my dad and bro through the border customs, where the guard said they warned him I was transporting a ‘green, leafy substance’. Thankfully he was kidding (yes, some of them do have a sense of humor), then he started talking about motorcycles, suggesting I check out the Suzuki Boulevard.

Finally pulled into the Lord Amherst hotel (highly recommended and affordable) around 9 pm. Picked up a pizza and wings at ‘La Nova’ and cracked some beers, settling in for a relaxing night before the game!