It was the best of times; it was the worst of times –
another classic CMG tour
|Editor ‘arris re-enacts the moment when Ed’s tour came to an end.|
Words: Ed White Photos: Richard Seck
How do you measure your passion for motorcycling? Perhaps one gauge might be: if you’re able to look back fondly on a tour that ended with a close encounter with a guide-rail and you on a gurney in a hospital ER!
This was the end result of the 2003 CMG tour from Toronto, Ontario to Mont Tremblant, Quebec, but then this wasn’t a normal little six-day tour. Surprisingly, I look back on all that happened quite fondly.
The plan was typically complex; Richard Seck and I were to ride out from Toronto on the long-termer BMW 1200GT and a Kawasaki ZZR600 tester, taking in the roads of the two DYR features “Port Perry to Renfrew” and “Renfrew to Mount Tremblant”. Renfrew (90 kms. west of Ottawa) was to be the mid-way stopping point, where we’d take a day to explore the local roads, and also to meet up with Costa Mouzouris, from Cycle Canada, who was eager to put some miles on his Victory long-termer.
|This is what it should all have been about – luxury at the Hilton Lac Leamy.|
But this wasn’t all. The final element was to see Editor ‘arris join us at the end of the Renfrew day, arriving aboard a Yamaha YZF600R tester. Then all were to head up to Mont Tremblant for a couple of days, where we’d take in the first ever Canadian Superbike Races slated for ‘Le Circuit’. The tour would come to a luxurious end with a stopover at Hull’s new Casino Lac Leamy and finally back to T.O. via another series of spectacular roads.
Ah, life was going to be good! Well, that was the plan.
HEAD OUT ON THE HIGHWAY
Things started out surreal right from the start. Waiting at a red in Toronto’s downtown, one of the local crazies serenaded us from the curb with his rather slurred version of Born to be Wild. “Geyt yer motarh runninnn …” he garbled, as he stumbled by. Indeed Willie, we were looking for adventure, but it would have to wait for another couple of hours until we cleared the madness and traffic of T.O. and its environs.
|Ed checks out the slow decay of the Balaclava ghost town.|
Not until we were a good 150 kms out of the GTA did things begin to get truly pleasurable. The tourist town of Buckhorn proved to be a good lunch stop, where we lazed on the veranda of the Cody Inn overlooking the series of locks that make up the popular Severn Waterway.
The ride got even better when we hit the eastern Ontario hills, just east of tiny town of Apsley. The roads proved more and more entertaining as we roared down the twists of Boulter Rd. and on to the peg scraping turns of route 517 before turning in for some relief from the sweltering summer heat in the village of Combermere. The temperature registered 32 degrees in the shade outside the little general store that offered relief in the form of overflowing cones of ice cream. Once cooled, we ventured on through the villages of Brudenell, Foymont, and Eganville, stopping briefly for an exploration of Balaclava – the area’s most preserved “ghost town”.
|Putting fear into all Victory owners.|
The day was drawing to a close and Renfrew was just around the corner. And sure enough, as we pulled up to the Renfrew Inn, there was Costa’s shiny Victory parked at the lobby entrance.
Tales of peg-scrapping twisty roads abound over dinner – well from Mr. Seck and myself. Costa seemed somewhat silent on the subject, being less than thrilled with the performance of his charge at speed. Seemed the Victory suffered from an inordinate amount of shake and wobble when pressed. Oh dear, someone was going to have a tough day tomorrow.
WHO PULLED THE PLUG?
|Even the best roads in Ontario need fixing every now and then.|
Thursday morning was bathed in summer sunshine as we started out south towards the Calabogie region for what would be a 500km day of some of the best roads in Ontario.
We took our first respite at the hamlet of Plevna, courtesy of a country store – complete with lawn chairs – in the shade beside a cool farm pond. Costa didn’t seem to share our enthusiasm for the ride thus far – in fact it looked as if there was a big dark cloud hovering over him as his Victory rolled to an angry stop.
After Mr. Seck and I had a hearty laugh at Costa’s expense, Mr. Seck took pity on him and offered to swap bikes for the next leg – how bad could it be? After a mere half an hour Mr. Seck pulls over, hands the keys to Costa and says, “It’s all yours man”. That was the end of the benevolence; Costa would have to endure it all by himself for the rest of the trip.
|“Shockingly hot weather wouldn’t you say Edwina?”
“Yes, positively stifling Costina”. Costa and Ed ham it up at the WPW tea rooms.
We were tired and very thirsty as we pulled in for a late lunch at Foymont’s treasure – the Whip-Poor-Will tea room. Perched atop the highest inhabited spot in Ontario, located in the local industrial estate, it’s a completely surreal affair. Complete with fountains, a huge collection of tea-cups and a garden-floral décor (including plastic and wall-painted plants and even a picket fence!). Add three sweaty biker-types and you complete the surreal scene.
After an afternoon of blissful roads we returned to Renfrew, but something was different – all the traffic lights were out of commission. As our minds were focused on getting to a long cold beer, we didn’t give it much thought. As we pulled into Coco Jarry’s, which by now had become our favourite pub, a very excited 12 year old was bursting at the seams to be the first to tell us of the big blackout.
Tales of North American power outages, international plots and uncertainty as to the resumption of power, all flowed with enthusiasm. So, on August 14th, while large parts of North America – including Toronto’s millions – were undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we were sitting at a sidewalk bar on main street Renfrew, consuming beer and discovering that nothing much really changes in this town, whether the power is on or off.
|Ed’s offer to see some puppies doesn’t go down well with the kids.|
The town kids certainly didn’t need to be hooked into the power grid to continue enjoying their last leaps of this stifling summer day off the bridge spanning the Madawaska River.
Although we were missing out on what would be the focus of water cooler banter for the rest of the summer in the COTU, we couldn’t have cared less. As long as one local gas station was pumping by generator and the beer was kept relatively cold, we were more than content.
Of course it wasn’t all fun ‘n games – Rob’s arrival would be delayed several days due to lack of gas in Toronto, and of more concern, Costa would still be stuck riding the Victory for yet another day.
|Costa’s not happy with his ride – pondering life’s choices on the Quyon ferry.|
We awoke the next morning, still without power, but without any worries. We had full tanks of gas, and besides, we were going into Quebec and it still had power. So without further delay we rode down to the Ottawa River and crossed into Quebec via the Quyon ferry, destination Gatineau Park. Here, Costa decided that he had suffered enough at the hands of the Victory and made a beeline for Montreal.
The roads through the Gatineau and on up through Old Chelsea and Wakefield were pleasant enough, but the encroachment of civilization and traffic, along with the thermometer edging over 30, was beginning to all add up to frustration. So it came with some relief when Mr. Seck braked hard to make a turn directed by a little ‘Resto’ sign at the side of the road.
To this day I cannot explain how Mr. Seck divined that a crappy little sign at Val-du-Lac, pointing down a dusty trail into the woods, could possibly lead to the beguiling Restaurant La Grenouillere. It was like a dream – seated in the cool of a gazebo overlooking a lake next to a workshop in which European styled canoes were being crafted by hand, and dining on the most delicious of lunches prepared by a French chef – all topped off with crème brule and tiramisu for dessert.
|La Grenouillere – an oasis!|
I can still taste it! It took all of our willpower just to start back on the road.
We were immediately rewarded as we turned on to Chemin du Riv.du Lievre, which provided a post-lunch awakening with its series of left/right twisties as it followed the shaded side of the river.
After this 22 km stretch we joined the more highway-like roads of the 309/311/117 through N.D. du Laus and L’Annonciation, on our way to Mont Tremblant village and the centrally located Country Inn and Suites hotel.
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES
The weekend was spent watching the races at Le Circuit. The newly renovated track was lightning quick with several very challenging points, which dropped more than a few riders. The only drawback to the circuit for racing fans on a budget is that, in contrast to Mosport, there is no camping allowed. Apparently it was a compromise agreed to by the track’s new owners and the surrounding resident and commercial organizations when the track was rehabbed. At any rate there are a lot of accommodations in the area that cater to every pocket book.
|‘Arris, Ed, Moe and Mr. Perrin.|
At the track we spread out and went our own way. Mr. Seck focused on his photos, Rob (who had finally escaped from Toronto) schmoozed, and I spent my time watching the races and catching up with friends and colleagues.
The only fly in the ointment was caused by Mother Nature herself, as the finals in the pro-class took place under heavy rain conditions. As soon as the rain let up our little band of stalwart fans (which now included Richard, and his wife Moe, Perrin – the author of this DYR) quickly voted to hit the road and read about the final results later.
So we set out for Hull, not arriving at the luxurious Hilton Lac Lemay until well after dark and far too late to try our luck at the accompanying casino. After a quick drink at the bar we said adieus to Mr. and Mrs. Perrin and another day was history.
A ROUGH END TO A PERFECT TOUR
|Calabogie roads are superb, but unforgiving.|
Monday morning we started our ride back across the Ottawa River, and headed west via rural Ontario secondary highways, into the town of Almonte for some breakfast. Here the plan was hatched to journey back via the roads around the area west of Calabogie. I reminded Mr. Seck that I had not had a chance to test the Yamaha and we should stop mid-way so that I could swap the big Beemer for the nimbler 600.
The morning was yet another beautiful summer classic as we met up at the designated swapping spot. Mr. Seck reminded me that the “Yam’s a little head light” as we prepared to head off again, agreeing to meet up about 1/2 hour up the road at a café. The gravel flies from the side of the 508 as Mr. Seck and Editor ‘arris left the shoulder and rode off ahead, leaving me alone with the Yam and my thoughts.
|Chaos in Calabogie.|
The 508 is a delightful series of lefts and rights, dips and rises as it snakes it way around the serpentine Madawaska River system. After the weight and slow steering of the GT, the YZF600 felt feathery-light but slightly twitchy. After a few turns I started getting comfortable with my new ride.
It was shortly after when I hit a longish straight with a right-hander at end – signed the same as all the previous ones. Although recently chip and tarred, the road surface was still okay and so I kept the same entry speed as the last corner. The entrance looked the same, but this corner was not like the others before it, and it began to tighten up mid-way through. Whoa, I tried to scrub off some speed, but she tightened up too fast and I found myself rapidly running out of road and heading for the barrier.
Then came the dirt shoulder …
|“The pants must die ..” Editor ‘arris lays down a CMG curse.|
Footnote – by Editor ‘arris
Reader’s will be pleased to hear that not only is Ed almost fully recovered and back out riding this season, but the ‘special’ pants that he used to wear (as seen in the East Coast Touring article) had to be cut off at the hospital.
Yes, they did not survive and so can no longer pollute the pages of CMG.
P.S The main splash page is done by a professional crasher on a closed parking lot – please do not attempt to re-enact unless suitably qualified/stupid.