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.
So many fun and goofy adventures. I was so glad to have met Rob. But never lend someone who prints magazines borrow your little pickup to ‘make a delivery’. I was told after that it seems the 10000+ copies of CMG had the suspension on the bump stops. 🙂
That definitely sounds like Rob’s early (and later) adventures.
Great idea for a Memorial ride. But until then, covid be damned, a good route is a good route for a solo ride or a small group. Mark, could you clarify the proposed loop. I haven’t seen a McD’s in Marmora or Havelock but there’s a Tim’s and McD’s beside each other in Madoc. Does the loop possibly start in Madoc and run north from there, counter-clockwise to either Marmora or Havelock?
The embedded map doesn’t show the route properly, I’m afraid – it defaulted to the quickest route. There’s a Tim’s and a McD’s in both Marmora and Havelock But basically, there are some great back roads that link over to Hwy. 62 from Marmora (start on Centre Line Road) and even Havelock, then head north on 62 for maybe 10 clicks to the Old Hastings Road, and turn left to ride it north. It’s a beaten-up road though, so if you’re on a street bike, it’s probably best to ride 62 all the way up to Hwy. 620, which heads west to Ormsby and Coe Hill. Then you can ride south for just a few fairly smooth clicks from Ormsby on the Old Hastings Road. There used to be a great little diner in Coe Hill for breakfast or lunch, which would open on May 24 weekend, but it’ll be closed until after lockdown at least. Then if you’re heading back south to Hwy. 7, you can take the quicker route down on 504 and 46 to Havelock, or go the extra bit of distance over to Apsley on 504 so that you can hook up onto Northey’s Bay Road at Woodview. Northey’s Bay Road is smooth and twisting and well-cambered asphalt and absolutely wonderful, well worth the detour, though it’s not a fast road thanks to cottage driveways.
Actually, just to confirm since I rode Hwy. 7 yesterday, there is only a McD’s in Madoc, not at Havelock or Marmora. But there is a Tim’s in all three towns.
Definitely some very enjoyable roads in the area. Thanks for the clarification and looking forward to riding Old Hastings…..on an appropriate bike!
Thanks for doing this Mark and remembering Rob in this way. I never met him – but I followed his adventures closely on this website. I would be willing to ride my WR250R down from Thunder Bay to participate in a ride later on this summer. And would also be honoured to contribute to a fund raising event at any time.
I remember him from CMG pub nights, and became a bigger fan because of the man he was in person.
Thank you Mark for keeping his memory alive, I’ll be making a stop there sometime in the future.
Warm thoughts and best wishes to his family, friends and his memory.
I have tons of respect for these posts. I remember Rob Harris and David Rusk passing not too long after, such tragedies. Sending love and prayers to the families. They were both wonderful and incredible writers that inspired me from a young age.
Hard to believe it’s been 5 years already.