Opinion: Friends, and the winter ahead

Sitting in line on the way to Twillingate. Long, all-day rides with friends in Newfoundland were a highlight of my summer. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

At that start of the 2021 riding season, nobody really knew what to expect, since the next lockdown was always potentially just around the corner. But, now that the year’s ended, I must say: It was a good year to be on two wheels. I made it back to Newfoundland to re-visit some out-of-the-way riding destinations that I hadn’t seen in a decade. I saw some corners of New Brunswick I’d never visited before, even some back roads close-to-home that I’d never been down yet.

It was a much different sort of riding year, though. Everywhere you went, you had to wear a mask when you got off the bike. It’s hard to meet new friends that way.

Good thing I have lots of great friends already, then, and ultimately, my favourite memories of this year will not be the places I visited, but the people I visited them with, and the richer experiences I had as a result.

Headed into the belly of the beast … er, the ferry. This trip to Newfoundland took a bit of planning to make it work for everyone, but the shared fun made it worthwhile. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Before I started working with CMG, I mostly rode with my cousin Glen. We’d spent our late teens and early 20s on PEI riding and wrenching together. For both of us, our bikes were often our only personal transportation.

As we grew up and started families, things changed. We bought cars or trucks, so we relied less on our bikes for practical purposes, and more for fun—and we had less time for fun, because we had families. I started working with Editor ‘Arris, and he became my moto-touring partner. I was putting on more miles than ever, but I’d go for whole summers and only get out a handful of times with my local riding buddies. A couple of spins around New Brunswick’s tasty Route 845, maybe a couple of evening runs into the city along the back road, and that was it. I was too busy at my job of riding motorcycles to actually go riding with my friends.

That changed in 2020. With nowhere else to go, I was riding locally again, with Glen, along with Matt, Evan and Scott. These were all shorter rides, but as that season ended, we started planning: If 2021 came with fewer travel restrictions, where would we go? We all decided on Newfoundland, with a weekend in northern New Brunswick as a shakedown run. We couldn’t depend on public policy to allow travel, but we could depend on each other to make the trips happen, if the rules permitted.

Having a younger guy (Evan) along kept our ride through northern NB interesting. He couldn’t make it to Newfoundland (he was busy getting married that summer), but hopefully he can come along next time. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Matt scoots his V-Strom through the outskirts of Mount Carleton Provincial Park. At the other, older end of our riding group, he was still always good to go all summer long. Well, except for when he fell asleep during a roadside break in Gros Morne National Park. Thankfully, no rangers ticketed him for his roadsize snooze without paying the park fee. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Both those trips were successes; the trip up north saw a mix of good and bad weather, and good and bad roads. The real high point was when our group managed to dodge a ticket, when a kindly RCMP corporal took pity on us.

The trip to Newfoundland was a real eye-opener for the guys, as none of them had done a long ride like this before, and none of them had ever ridden The Rock (hopefully, I can share some of that story with you in CMG this winter).

But ultimately, the best part of all this moto fun was, we did it together. We all had to make changes to our plans to accommodate each other; we all like different food, even different roads. But we stuck together, and months later, any thoughts of the minor frustrations of the trips are faded away. All that remains is the memories of the great fun it was, sharing glorious adventures with friends.

Glen cruises through Newfoundland’s Tablelands. I fell in love with this scenery when I rode through on my own, but being able to share it with friends made my second visit all the more enjoyable. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
Glen, Scott and Matt (L-R) get ready for our day’s ride, after camping in a field in rural Newfoundland. When you’re traveling with friends, the camping is better; you can split up chores like cooking and firewood, and at end of day, you can swap stories about sketchy road conditions, or the wind gust that almost blew you off your bike, or the cranky waitress who refused to take an order for eggs. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Will Canadian riders be able to gather this coming winter, to plan next year’s adventures? As I write this, we just saw news that the Toronto Supershow is postponed again, with the original January dates canceled. The Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Quebec City motorcycle shows are canceled. We certainly haven’t seen any rumblings about the Montreal and Toronto mid-winter MMIC shows, but who knows what government regulations will allow by February? (Now those shows are all canceled—Ed.).

Whether or not those shows run, it’s going to be hard for us to spend time with our moto friends this winter, to work on bikes together or plan next season’s trips. Lockdown rules tight borders and other isolating factors will reduce our ability to spend time with other people. But, if you can do so (it may not be possible for many), I urge you to do spend time with your riding buddies. It’ll help you stay mentally healthy and happy. Who knows? That trip you plan might be filled with unforgettable fun, or it may help solidify a lifelong friendship. Or, like my trips last season, it may be both.

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