Photos: Ed and Rach, unless otherwise specified or unknown.
In the last article we were just leaving the endlessly flat expanse of the Prairies to hopefully discover amazing things like hills and trees in Ontario. What did we find? Well it’s a long story that I’ll tell in two parts (our experiences in Quebec will be posted tomorrow) but it involves multiple police forces, a S.W.A.T. Team, dogs, two fishing rods and a new engine. Though not in that order.
Note: this article could appear overly negative, and it is not meant to be. Tone of voice can often be lost with text so I advise imagining that I’m telling you this down the pub with a jokey voice and a pint of beer in my hand.
ONTARIO – ‘Yours to Discover’
It was the final week of February when we left Manitoba and entered Ontario from the west. We didn’t mind the flatness of the Prairies, but Rach and I both agreed that it was nice to have a change of scenery. The temperatures were still the same though; minus teens during the day and just clipping -30C at night in the tent.
Entering Ontario did prove to be a double-edged sword though, the scenery was nice and all, but we found that there’s only one option of roads! This means that we were forced off the slow relaxed back roads and onto the Trans Canada Highway for a while. It wasn’t ideal, but we’ve got studded tyres to deal effortlessly with ice and snow, the speed limit is 90 km/h (almost doable on our C90s) and other road users have to pass a driving test, so would have no trouble getting past us. Right?
In a word: No …
Even though we only rode on days when the roads were clear and the visibility was good, we were amazed at the standard of driving we saw. Even at 80 km/h (just 10 km/h below the limit) we would pull over as a soon as possible to let any cars and trucks past, but sometimes they wouldn’t even wait for that and just overtake on blind bends or hills.
My favourite “incident” was when a guy called Richie posted a rant on Rachel’s Facebook Page saying that his girlfriend “Damn near crashed after trying to pass you two”. Now, no matter how many times I publicly offered to pay for driving lessons for his girlfriend (to teach her what a safe overtake is) he never even acknowledged my offer. He was however kind enough to post some photos of us that he took while passing on his cell phone – we’d never normally get this camera angle, so thanks Richie.
As we got to the rural areas, the amount of deadly drivers decreased and the riding returned to being fun. We would still pull over to help vehicles pass us when required and would even occasionally get a friendly honk or wave (now that’s the Canada we’ve grown to love).
Anyway, as we bumbled along at 60-80 km/h it would eventually be time to pull into a local services, park up, and grab a bite to eat – something that always amused the locals.
And of course no article of mine would be complete without a photo of us with the police.
Unfortunately, this police story is different to the previous ones. Normally we got pulled over for a friendly chat or a photo, but not this time. Oh no, Richie (as already mentioned) had actually phoned the police to tell them that “there are motorbikes on the road!”. Oh yeah, it’s worth noting that bicycles are allowed on this section of road due it being the only option, so motorcycles should not be an issue.
The cop said he was obliged to investigate the strange report, and sure enough, there we were. I personally think it’s a sad world that we live in, where people think that because something looks different it must be illegal and should be stopped.
The human race has been perfectly happy for thousands of years doing new and exciting things (Richie’s ancestors moving to Canada would be a good example), but the percentage of people looking for an excuse to be offended seems to be at an all time high nowadays. And cell phones and social media have given them an even bigger voice in the fight against fun. I was raised that as long as I’m having have fun and not hurting anyone, it’s okay, but maybe that’s just old-fashioned.
Anyway, we chatted to the policeman and he was sorry for having to pull us over and waste an hour of our time to go through our paperwork. The funniest part of this busy-body trying to stop something unsafe from occurring (remember light-hearted voice and holding a beer) was that the cop had stopped us for so long it was now getting dark and we were in the middle of nowhere. So we were now forced to ride in the dark to get to our friend’s house that night. So thanks for that, Richie-who-called-the-cops, I hope your next shit is a hedgehog.
Let’s go to a happy place now… How about the sun setting over a frozen lake Superior? Well, maybe it’s not happy, but it sure was beautiful.
We’d been trying to do as many typically Canadian things as we could think of, and the perfect opportunity arose when we were in Wawa and looking for a spot to camp. We spotted a large frozen lake with snowmobile tracks leading on to it and decided that camping on a frozen lake would be a good thing to do. So we gave the little 90s full throttle and with a little push we made it out onto the ice and set up camp. A simply awesome bonus was an unexpected northern lights display that appeared shortly after we’d set up camp. Wow.
So with our Canadian love levels returned to normal, it was time to get up and get the bikes off the lake, which turned out to be much more difficult than we expected. Rachel’s bike just required some pushing and half throttle to get it free from the clutches of the deep snow. My engine however, was not happy.
Logically I don’t believe that mechanical objects can have souls, but I do believe that this engine hated me. I bought it for $250 (brand new) for this trip, but after 20,000 km it decided that it hated me, or itself, or both, I’m not sure which.
During it’s life it has burnt out inlet valves, piston rings, gobbled oil and randomly makes a strange rattle for about 10 minutes every day. It’s latest issue was to stall unless at full operating temperature.
This tested my patience multiple times before I finally threw it on the floor and carried my gear off the lake by hand. I then dragged the bike off the ice, got it fired up and let it warm up for 20 minutes before hitting the road, where it duly revealed its new fault: a large trail of smoke. Brilliant. I had tried my best to keep it full of oil, but eventually it just burnt through it too quickly and the piston decided it wanted to go to a better place.
Now you can probably tell that by this point I’d had enough of this engine. I figured it would likely cost me about $100 to fix it, but I wasn’t sure if this would also stop it from being a pain in the ass. Maybe it was the constant kick-starting at -20C? Maybe it was running an air-cooled engine for long periods at those temperatures? Or maybe it was just made by an unhappy employee last thing on a Friday afternoon? Maybe it was time for a new engine.
A complete new engine can be had for $220 on eBay. It would be more cash from the precious trip budget, but it would be a safer bet than trying to fix an engine that I hated. I was in a bit of a dilemma, I wanted a new engine, but then it’s nice to have the “pub talk” factor of doing the whole trip on just one engine. And then I realised that “pub talk” doesn’t actually matter, and if you’re doing a trip just to be able to brag about it, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
So it was settled, I put a post on Facebook looking for a Canadian supplier that offered quick delivery of complete engines.
Did I find one? No, I found someone much better.
A very, very awesome guy contacted me and said he had a brand new unused engine in a Honda 90 in his garage and he would be more than willing to donate it to the trip. If I wasn’t sure before, I was definitely sure now. Fix my old engine or get a new one for free? It was no-brainer!
Now this awesome benefactor only wanted to be known as “Mike” but I’m going to go against his wishes and use his full name; Mike The Awesome Canadian With The Massive Penis. Sorry Mike, your cover is blown.
So with a new engine fitted and a huge number of thank-yous sent to Mike via Facebook, we were on the road again. Of course it’s been far too long in this article since we got pulled over by the police again, so here’s a 2 for 1 whammy, and they both happened on the same day too!
The miles and scenery rolled by and it wasn’t long before we were once again doing something else on our Canadian bucket list: Ice fishing and dog sledding!
Rach gave me the address of someone who’d contacted her on Facebook and asked us to drop in and say hi. Our lovely guests then took it upon themselves to entertain us as much as possible. First they took us ice-fishing and — once we convinced them we weren’t totally mad — they let us sleep in it overnight too.
Then the next day they took us dog sledding!
Eventually though it was time to carry on. and were very glad when we got out of the narrow rock cuts and eventually exited the Trans Canada Highway, woo hoo! The back roads were so much more relaxed, and made the riding much less stressful. As we wobbled along at our own pace, I was falling in love with my new engine, especially since I now didn’t need to fill it with oil every day! :).
Approaching Toronto was a strange experience, it turned out we’d forgotten what a city was like. We definitely hadn’t missed the constant stopping and traffic jams. Being British, we’re used to lane splitting to help reduce traffic and pollution, so it was a bit soul destroying having to be stationary and inhaling exhaust fumes. Still, we thought we’d make the best of it and do some touristy type things while we were here. And the most obvious thing we could see was the CN tower.
Cities aren’t for us though, so after saying our goodbyes to more newly acquired Facebook friends, it was time to leave Toronto. With the intention of camping near Trenton, we met yet another Facebook acquaintance called Ricky for a coffee. Ricky wouldn’t hear of us putting a tent up, so he bought us a motel room for the night. Thanks Ricky! It’s people like you that far outweigh the hedgehog pooping, Lego stepping dullards!
We called in at Ottawa, to meet yet more Facebook friends (there’s a theme here). It turns out Facebook can actually be used for much more than just looking at kitten videos, photos of drunken night out chaos, and female friends in bikinis. Sadly I don’t have a friend who combines all three, but there’s still time.
Anyway, Facebook is an awesome tool for the road. And with 5,000+ followers, I seem to attract quite the selection of awesome Canadians. As a result, we were taken to a Maple syrup farm, and then to the Aviation Museum.
Eventually it was time to say our goodbyes and head for Quebec. Now if you can remember the opening paragraph of this article, you’ll notice that I’ve covered all of the points so far…..except for the S.W.A.T. Team.
More on that tomorrow …
Check out all the pics that go with this story! Click on the main sized pic to transition to the next or just press play to show in a slideshow.