Easy Rider

Well, this video is actually terrifying. A couple motorcyclists are riding along a country road when they come across a pickup truck. Cue video:

Reminds me of that scene from Easy Rider:


How my first motorcycle died; or, how to walk your motorcycle across 5 lanes of highway traffic …

The other day I was driving down the 401 between Pickering and Scarborough and I started to tell the friend I was with the story of how my first motorcycle died. He thought it was a crazy story, and I guess it is, so I thought I’d share with you the ‘crazy’ story of how my first motorcycle died …

My girlfriend worked in Oshawa and I lived in Toronto. She had stayed over on the Saturday night but needed to get to work for 6 in the morning. And so that was how we found ourselves at 5 o’clock on a clear Sunday morning hopping on my 83 Kawasaki 440 LTD I had nicknamed ‘Six Shooter’ on account of its 6 gears. It was just over an hour ride to get her to work. 

Riding in to Oshawa there were no problems at all – except for her falling asleep on the back of the bike a couple times (honestly, she fell asleep not once, but twice)! After dropping her off and saying our farewells, I turned around and headed back in to the city. The riding was nice as there was little traffic and the weather was warm and clear.

As I started to cross the Rouge Valley on the 401, I started to notice a problem. The engine seemed to chug and lose power – a similar feeling as when the gas is running low. So I switched it over to ‘reserve’ but the engine continued to cut out. I was riding in the express lanes in the far left lane, so while coasting without power I did my best to get to the right side shoulder. I couldn’t quite make it but I ended up on the left shoulder of the lanes to switch to the collector lanes.

I inspected the bike as best I could but couldn’t figure out what was wrong – there was gas in the tank, the spark plugs were good, the electrical seemed fine. But in gear I couldn’t push it – my heart sank. I called my dad who rides and lived nearby, and he said he’d ride down and we’d try to figure something out. So there I was, stuck on a median between the express lanes and collectors lanes on one of the busiest highways in Canada. Luckily I had a ‘smoke’ in my jacket, so I layed down on the grass and relaxed while I waited for my help to arrive.

When he finally arrived (close to two hours later) he had accidentally come in the collectors lanes and was separated from me – but instead of exiting, backtracking, and returning in the express lanes, he decided to pull over on the shoulder of the collectors and run across the three lanes of traffic to reach me!

We quickly decided there wasn’t anything we could do and that we should get it off the highway and bring it to a shop. However, instead of calling a pickup truck, we decided to push the bike across the highway and up the closest exit. So, in the middle of the day on a Sunday, there I was with my dad pushing my first motorcycle across five lanes of the 401 highway and two lanes of an exit ramp, then up to the closest exit.

At the time I was concerned about my motorcycle more than myself, so crossing the highway didn’t seem like such a big deal. Afterwards, in recounting the story to family and friends, I received wide-eyed stares and accusations of lacking sanity. To me it was the first of many crazy motorcycle stories to come …

Poor Six Shooter though – not sure how it happened, but the engine was running near dry of oil! At this time I had all my oil changed at the shops so I’m not sure whether they drained it and forgot to fill it or if there was some sort of slow leak I was unaware of – I guess the cold at 5 am kept the piston from seizing until I dropped my girlfriend off at work! I still pause for a moment of silence when I drive past that spot on the 401 …

Day 53: The Long Haul to Toronto

Driving through Chicago

October 19th; Miles 7070-8030

Today is when the reality of my trip soon being over really started to set in. I moved through the rest of the midwest and then entered the east. Well actually technically Toronto, Ontario is counted more central Canada, but after today I would just be heading south back to New York. I had also spent 4 years in Toronto for my undergraduate degree and so this area was actually familiar to me, in contrast with most everything else I’d done so far.

Despite this however, it was not an easy day by any means! I was on the road for a total of 17 hours, went through 5 states, 4 major cities, one time zone change, two countries, and went through my second iron butt of the trip!

It was not originally intended to be so long of a day, still tough, but only about 800 miles rather than the nearly 1000 that it turned into.

I actually got a good start this morning. My host, Debbie, woke me up at around 6:30 to leave by 7 since she had work to get to that morning. Then I was on the road, making my way entirely on interstate, I-94 –> I-90 towards Milwaukee, WI where I could hopefully pick up the ferry to cross Lake Michigan over into Michigan state.

I say “hopefully” because, unfortunately, when I arrived at 1:15, I had missed the last ferry by 45 minutes… and the next one wouldn’t be in until 5am the next morning. So I stood in the ferry hub after being told the bad news, took a deep breath, and decided to bite the bullet and start making my way the long way, south, around the lake. This meant driving through Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana, and then finally back up to Michigan. This also meant going through Chicago traffic which was just pure congestion, not moving at all. It took me over 3 hours to go 150 miles, not good when I had an extra 200 miles to do.

When it started to get dark, and I could feel myself starting to fade a bit, I began toying with the idea of pulling over and just getting in early in the morning. But I had had an energy drink and a coffee at around 4 or 5 and figured once that wore off I’d pull over somewhere. I was in Ontario, at around 9:30 and with about 200 miles left when this happened. So I pulled off the highway when I saw there was a hotel, too expensive (over $100 with tax), so I went on, pulled over again, same thing. When I saw there were campsites, I pulled off only to see a sign telling me it was 14km off the highway. Not good when I had already experienced seasonal closings of campgrounds. So it wasn’t too long before I resigned myself to going the whole way, and by 1:00 I finally saw the Toronto skyline.

Unfortunately, my night wasn’t over yet! I was going to be staying with an ex-girlfriend of mine who I hadn’t seen in over 5 months since leaving Toronto after school for China. I got in at 1:30, unpacked the bike and carried my stuff over to her door. She had roommates so I didn’t want to ring or knock on the door. I couldn’t use my phone since I was in a foreign country now but luckily there was a 24 hour coffee shop across the street with wifi. So I left my bags at her door and went across the street to call. No answer. I called again. Still no answer. I did this maybe ten times, texting as well. Then I went across the street and knocked. Again, no answer.

This went on until about 3 o’clock in the morning. So with my eyes stinging from the exhaustion of driving and only having eaten a couple of the left over donuts at the Tim Hortons since my mid-afternoon McDonald’s snack, I found a hostel that was about a half mile away. So I left a message for my ex saying what I was doing, picked up my two bags and helmet and set off (in her defense, I wasn’t totally sure if I was going to make it in that day and I also wanted my arrival to be a bit of a surprise so I wasn’t too specific on when I was going to get in, explaining why everyone was asleep and unprepared).

I got to the hostel and asked if they had any space available. Of course with the way the night was going, they only had a private room that cost $70 before tax. After turning down only slightly more expensive hotels, I decided that was ridiculous and asked if there was anything else in the area. Turns out the guy was trying to rip me off because all of a sudden he realized that he was looking at the wrong day (because it was after midnight, right…?) and that there actually was an empty dorm bed for $23. I said I’d take it and moved in, trying as much as I could (though unsuccessfully) to be quiet as I took off all my riding gear and collapsed in bed.

At 4:30 in the morning though, my phone vibrated, waking me up. My ex had woken up and gotten my messages and wanted to know where I was. I told her the address and said she should come get me in the morning. Next thing I know, 10 minutes later, the porter for the hostel opens the door, sees me, and tells me my friend was there! So, feeling so tired that I feel drunk, I put my clothes back on, pick up all my stuff and head back with Courtney.

This was a very action filled first day back in Toronto for what would turn out to be a very intense 3 day visit.

Quest for the Tail of the Dragon

Quest for the tail of the dragon

by Bruce Lessard

My passion to ride the tail of the dragon  became reality aug 5 leaving  toronto with an easy destination of dearborn michigan. Crossed the border and witnessed the hard times of detroit with street upon street of abandoned buildings . As soon as you cross the line at dearborn you are welcomed by starbucks and gas stations without cashiers in cages. Thus my first night turns out to be Extended Stay America totally adequate with all you need and the temptation to cook with all the facilities but trust me go with the order in pizza. I left behind a pound of cheese and a bottle of mustard as well as microwave pizza chips etc.

Day two i land in cinncinati make no mistake I75 is nothin but a quick way across a lot of flat land. One of the busiest trucking routes in North America its all about the quicker you get to your destination the better. Check out rubberonroad.com for more on that one. I maintained a 70mph average easily picking up to 80 to pass a transport or two. As i booked my first three nights in advance the second stop was Cinncinati Ohio staying at the millenium downtown.

Just my luck a bridal convention in town and hotel full of potential brides. i took a ride sans helmet as is legal in Ohio.I paid 8 bucks for parking overnight in a local lot as recommended by the concierge. Actually night security told me just drive out exit gate dont bother paying but in the morning a bike that loud commands attention which is what i got so decided to keep it on the up and up and paid up.

Day three found the geography gradually much more interesting as i rode deeper into kentucky.

Tiring and motivated by the thought of a hot shower and sleep i was feeling good.My destination in Robbinsville NC seemed close as  i took turn off for I129 as dusk was settling in after 6 miles or so on pretty much isolated  road i came across a gas station store . Jesse sitting outside informed me that Robbinsville NC was 47 miles thru the smokeys and id have to ride the tail to get there. I was at the wrong end of the dragon damn. You gotta do what u gotta do i found myself heading out in to the night with nothing but my destination in mind 50 so miles later after what seemed an impossible task i  arrived in Robbinsville.

Riding the tail at night like that is a magical experience. Lucky no bears were wandering the road that night. The number of bikes parked right out front of hotel assured me i was in familiar territory and the microtel in Robbinsville is more than you can ask for with free breakfast and friendly staff. They even supply towels just for wiping down the bike in the morning.

Across the street in the bank parking lot was a market where local farmers and artisans brought their talents and harvest to sell early saturday morning. The dragon truly earns its name my best ride ever.

Graham county is a dry county and thus the night life reflects that but after an amazing two days there i rode the dragon on my way out. By the way the restaurant at dealsgap is where you want to eat. Good food. Sunday i headed for Nashville because so close i had to see it. Sunday i was not sure whether to head home or check out Nashville which was 200 mi or so away and would change my route back to Toronto. Nashville here we come ….

My phone dead and not connecting with friends or family for days i pulled off in Knoxville at a Holiday Inn Express and asked if i could pay to use internet. The guy at the desk told me to help myself so i got out my emails, booked a room in Nashville via hotwire and planned my trip home. Nashville is definitely the place to go for music. Most bars on the strip had entertainment even though it was Sunday night and even my hotel (Hotel Indigo) which i highly recommend had songwriters night.  I never thought id complain about the heat but it was incredibly hot with the sun beating down and temps averaging about 100 degrees day and night. The temptation to ride without helmet was now what seemed absolutely necessary. Next day Nashville to Indianapolis another 300 mi or so also without helmet. Obviously the helmet is a life saver but i must admit it was a very liberating experience.

I had planned to stay in Windsor on my way home but the thought of waking up in my own bed was too tempting. I questioned my reason as i maintained approx 80 mi an hour down a stretch of the 401 that seemed to go on forever. I finally made it home and when i looked at clock i couldnt believe it was 2:30 in the morning. I had left Indy at appr noon so twelve and a half hours later.

I have to say Vera made it all possible. The 2006 1200 Harley Sportster XL (formerly Bucks ride) took me there and back under some pretty grueling conditions without a hitch. Altogether over 2300 miles from wednesday to wednesday. An amazing trip and just a taste of whats to come im definitely still a rookie but there is no better way to learn than to pack up and hit the road. The rest will take care of itself.

Toronto to New Orleans and Back – Route Planned!

After many changes and much Google Maps finnicking (is that a word?) we’ve locked in the planned route to New Orleans from Toronto.

On August 25th Brent and Pam will leave Toronto on ‘Nora’ (Brent’s Kawasaki Vulcan Classic) to meet Buck (recently returned from China for a short visit and monster trip through the U.S.A. before returning to China indefinitely) in New York City.

After tearing up the town for a couple days, the group will leave NYC en route to Roanoke, Virginia via Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway in George Washington National Forest for a total of 847 km’s (526 miles).

Day 2 takes us through Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains and Chattahoochee National Forest with potential stops at ‘Mountain City’ in Cherokee National Forest and ‘Hot Springs’ in the Great Smoky Mountains, with our final destination in Calhoun, Georgia, for a total of 742 kms (461 miles).

The third day of the trip has us arriving in New Orleans after crossing through Birmingham, Alabama, and De Soto National Forest and across Interstate 10 bridge in to New Orleans! A 842 km day (523 miles). We’ll be staying on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans for three days.

After a three day stay in New Orleans we’re heading up the Mississippi River in to Memphis, Tennessee, where the group will spend one last night together before parting ways – Buck to continue his trip around the U.S.A. and Brent and Pam back to Toronto, Canada, to prepare for their trip to the West Coast of Canada.

The entire time we will be posting on Twitter, Facebook and posting videos to our YouTube page. If you haven’t already, follow us on twitter, join the Facebook page, and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Twyn Rivers Drive

An awesome, if short, ride through the Rouge Valley in Pickering. Very steep hills, lots of twists, a single lane bridge, and plenty of spots to stop and hike through this Provincial Park.

Manitoulin Island to Toronto via Chi-Cheemaun Ferry

There is so much I want to write about but the weather is too nice – any free time I have I find myself on the bike.

This past long weekend we took a trip up to Espanola. I’ve written about this trip before so I won’t repeat myself, but we took a different route home – and what an awesome ride it was! We left Honora Bay on Manitoulin Island at 9 am on Monday and headed to South Baymouth where the Chi-Cheemaun ferry departs for Tobermory. The ride to South Baymouth was amazing – we took Bidwell Road which winds through some amazing farmland. Lots of turns and no traffic at all – this was by far the best road we drove all weekend.

Here we caught the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry to Tobermory. I recommend reserving your spot in advance, especially on holiday weekends – we were very lucky to be the last two motorcycles let on for this trip, otherwise we would have had to wait 3 hours for the next trip. Leaving the ferry is an interesting experience – all the motorcycles are ‘first on and first off’ the ferry. As you sit waiting for the ferry doors to open the tension builds, and all the motorcycles are sitting waiting like chariots to enter an arena. As the doors start to lower you can see crowds waiting to see all the bikes pull out of the ferry – I really can’t describe how cool the whole experience is!

After the ferry it was a relatively quick ride down Highway 6 – which had some amazing scenery – through Owen Sound and then split off on Highway 10 down to the 407 and across to Oshawa – our final destination. All in all it was a fantastic trip, and we agreed that, regardless of the cost of the ferry ($18 per motorcycle, $15 per person), we would certainly take this route again instead of the long and boring Highway 400 and 69 up to Sudbury and Highway 17 across to Espanola.

We took a timelapse video of our trip from Espanola to the Swing Bridge on to Manitoulin Island and down to Honora Bay. You can see it, along with all our other videos, here.