For five years now, I’ve been riding up to Bancroft at the beginning of May. I go up there to check on the roadside memorial crosses for Rob Harris, the founding editor of Canada Moto Guide, who was killed in a motorcycle crash on May 14, 2016.
The details are well known, but can be read here and here. Rob was riding a Husqarvana 701 dirt bike, heading north on the twisting and whooping gravel of the Old Hastings Road, when he came over a crest and hit an oncoming pickup truck that was obscured in a hollow. He was killed instantly, leaving behind his wife and two young daughters.
I’ve made the ride on a variety of motorcycles, including my own Harley-Davidson cruiser, but it’s always best on some kind of dual-purpose bike. I like to think I’m completing Rob’s ride and that means at least 40 kilometres of questionably-maintained dirt road. This year, I rode the new Harley-Davidson Pan America that proved itself to be one helluva bike on all kinds of terrain – you’ll read Dustin’s review of it here soon.
There were big plans for this year’s ride. Other people who knew Rob have asked to come along, and we’ve talked about establishing the Rob Harris Memorial Ride. It would take place on the Saturday before May 14, and we’d travel on paved back roads from breakfast at Bewdley, on Rice Lake, to lunch at Bancroft – about 200 km each way. To do the ride properly, we’d take the unpaved Old Hastings Road to the site of the crosses, but there’d be an option to stay on the asphalt and ride in from the north, which has only about four km of light gravel.
But – Covid.
We’re still in lockdown here in Ontario, and although it’s next-to-impossible to catch the virus while riding, it is both dangerous and illegal for people to meet and gather outside their households. Besides, it’s not yet possible to go inside any restaurants and eat breakfast or lunch, and in mid-May, riders will probably want a chance to warm up or dry out. Like it or not, there can be no organized ride during a lockdown.
I hope that later this summer, this province will be in enough control against Covid that we can arrange a ride. It’s usually a fight against the weather at this time of year – last year, it snowed on me – so a day in July or August would be ideal. Perhaps it could become a fund-raiser for one of Rob’s favourite charities, like Kids’ Help Line that benefitted from his Mad Bastard Scooter Rally, but in its first year, it should just be a simple opportunity to pay respects.
If it doesn’t happen, though, here’s how to do it on your own, if you’re coming from the Toronto area and you want to go to the site. The route starts at Marmora on Hwy. 7, about 60 km east of Peterborough, where there’s a McDonald’s and a Tim Hortons among other places, then ends at Havelock back on Hwy. 7. The site itself is at Latitude: 44.856239, Longitude: -77.741743, which is close to the driveway for No. 3752 on the Old Hastings Road, south of Coe Hill, Ontario.
This circle loop takes a couple of hours, three if you carry on up to Bancroft itself, and includes some wonderful twisting highway. There’s smooth asphalt and chopped-up tarmac and everything in between. Go on, get on your bike and give it a ride. Rob would be proud.