A couple weeks ago, I went on a little vacation. With my role here at The Wolf 101.5 and our sister station 100.5 Fresh Radio, it’s my job to cover any vacation time the full-time staff take over the summer – which usually makes for a very busy summer for myself and Matty Buller. Once we get into September, however, it usually calms down and leaves me with far more potential downtime. Because of that, my plan was to hop on my motorcycle and go on tour.
On Monday, September 11, I loaded up my bike and hit the road. Since the start of the summer, I had been planning on visiting Manitoulin Island to ride a loop of the island and discover all the wilderness and interesting places it has to offer. Oh, and I was planning on visiting my grandma, who lives on the island. That was actually the best part of the trip. I mean, I could have camped around without a problem, but it was nice to have a bed to sleep in at the end of the day and 3 meals prepared by grandma every day. That, and a night spent at my aunt’s house in Sudbury meant I really only had to “rough” it for one night, in Tobermory before I took the ferry across to the island. However, that meant I’d have to bring camping gear like a tent, sleeping bag and pad, and something to cook with. My butane/propane stove is pretty small, so that’ wasn’t a big deal, but the rest of the stuff (plus a week’s worth of clothing) meant my little bike was loaded up pretty good. I’m still learning how to be economical in that sense…
Ready to hit the road. I eventually moved my sleeping pad from hanging off the side of the saddlebag – it held on well enough but I still wasn’t comfortable with the thought of ~400 km like that.
I’d already camped on my bike a couple times, but this would be the first multi-night trip I’d taken. I couldn’t have asked for better weather, either. After a “bummer of a summer,” I was gifted with a week of nothing but sun and temperatures in the mid-to-high 20’s.
My first day of riding brought me to Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. I spent the night camped out at Happy Hearts Tent & Trailer Park – the same place I stayed at when I had been in the area 4 years ago. Also the same place I had quite likely the worst hangover of my life to date (I still rate hangovers on a sliding scale of 1 to Tobermory. I’m interested to see if I ever endure a hangover in Hanover – that could be interesting).
My modest camp setup.
The next morning, I tore down my camp, packed everything up, and headed into town to get some breakfast before I went down and parked along the dock, waiting for the MS Chi-Cheemaun to take me across where Lake Huron and Georgian Bay meet.
Motorcycle parking at the loading dock for the MS Chi-Cheemaun.
Motorcycle really is the best way to go on a ferry like this. Not only is it half the price of a car, but bikes get loaded and unloaded before anyone else. First on the boat, first off the boat, what’s not to love? As you can see, there are a quartet of Harleys parked in front of my bike. Those belong to a group of guys who happen to be from Haliburton. I chatted with most of the other bikers, including the guy standing beside his bike in that photo. He must be a serious motovlogger, because he immediately got out a GoPro on a stick and a drone and started filming around the harbour. He also told us about having been in China a couple weeks ago. What a life that must be.
Now this isn’t just a blog written for the sake of saying “look what I did!” No, it’s moreso to express my gratitude to a couple of strangers I met along the way who really helped me out. The first of those individuals was an older gentleman I met while waiting for the ferry. I was sitting near my bike reading when he and his brother got out of their car and came over the chat. Bob is his name, and his brother is John. From the stories they told me, the two of them had done a ton of riding together in their younger days, and from what I gather, Bob actually used to ride an old Honda CB400 very similar to my CB450 Nighthawk. We must’ve chatted for at least half an hour, and while we did, he looked over various parts of my bike, simultaneously making sure I had it set up properly and taking a trip down memory lane. I told him about the experiences I’d had on the bike so far, and the things I’d modified or repaired – including the clutch cable I had snapped a few weeks prior.
I told him about how I’d ordered a new one, and also pulled one off a bike at Cycle Salvage to get me through until the new one came in. He mentioned lubricating the cables – a must-do part of motorcycle maintenance. I’d lubed up the scrapyard cable before I put it on, and he mentioned that you can buy cable lubricators – small devices that make it far easier to keep the control cables (clutch and throttle cables, specifically) working smoothly.
“I can send you one, if you want to give me your address,” Bob said. “You really don’t have to do that,” I said. “Ah, I’ve got 6 or 7 of them sitting around at home anyway. Don’t worry about it.”
So I gave him my address, continued chatting with the two of them for a bit, and then we went our separate ways. I saw Bob & John again later that afternoon after we’d gotten off the boat. I’d stopped at a lakeside picnic area to get my bearings, and as I rode back in the direction I came from, they had stopped at the same picnic area. I waved at them as I set off to find my grandma’s house. There’s more to the story, but I’ll finish that a little later.
I had a great time touring Manitoulin Island, but I was too busy riding to take many pictures. Here are a couple of favourites, though, both taken in Providence Bay on the south side of the island.
After a couple days, I set off to head back onto the mainland of Ontario the overland way – up Highway 6 through Little Current to where it meets with Highway 17 (the Trans-Canada) in Espanola. From there, I travelled a few kilometres west, and then probably about 35-40 km north into the bush in search of a waterfall I’d seen years ago when visiting my grandma and grandpa at their camp nearby. I got directions for a friendly local who suggested I might be a bit crazy for trying to do it on a bike, given the road conditions. Unafraid, I tackled the logging road to find that, well… Yes, it was not a good road. Had to take it slow and steady for fear of the loose gravel taking me out. Gotta love when you can’t trust the surface of the road you’re riding on… However I found it, walked around for a couple minutes, then turned around and started the trek out.
I stopped in Webbwood, where the backcountry road I took meets with Highway 17, to lube my chain. I had temporarily take all my gear off the bike to do this, and I don’t know if the rough road I’d been on was to blame or not, but I broke one of my Rok Straps (the straps I had bought a week prior to keep my gear on the back of my bike). I fashioned a makeshift one out of a bungee cord and decided to head back to Espanola to try and find something good to replace it since I still had about 75 km to go til I got to Sudbury.
After narrowly avoiding a crash with another biker who decided to stop in the middle of the road for no reason in front of me, I called up Trail Side Sports in Espanola to see if they carried Rok Straps. They didn’t, but they said if I came by before they closed (in about 30 minutes) they could probably hook me up with something. So I went there, and before I could even go inside, a couple of staff members were out there helping me use the ratchet straps they gave me to secure my gear. Before I could even ask how much I owed him, he said “Ah, they use these for shipping our ATVs to us, so they’re essentially disposable.”
Gotta love it. Not only did they help me out at a couple minutes notice (it probably helped that I mentioned I was on a cross-country trip (kinda) and needed to get to Sudbury that night), but they didn’t even want any money for helping me. That right there is the sign of a good business, so I recommend them to anyone who might find themselves in the Espanola area.
That night, I stayed at my Aunt Dawn’s place for the night and caught up with some of my cousins. The next day, my cousin’s husband and I went to Royal Distributing in Sudbury, where they replaced my broken Rok Strap on warranty (I had bought it at the Royal Distributing store in Whitby), then set off for the long (but rather uneventful) ride home.
It was an amazing experience, something that I will cherish for as long as I remember it. I’ve been back to reality for a couple weeks now, but yesterday I received a parcel in the mail that brought me right back to the Tobermory docks.
I hadn’t thought much about my new friend Bob since I left the dock where we met. I mean, I definitely took some of the knowledge he imparted on me in terms of bike maintenance and did some of the things he recommended, but I never really expected to hear from him.
Well, that’s where I went wrong. Yesterday, when I opened my mailbox, I saw this sitting in there:
Turns out Bob hadn’t forgotten about me. Inside was a small Ziploc bag containing the cable lubricator he’d promised me as well as a short note.
You know, he really didn’t need to do that – but he did. I’m so thankful for the kindness of strangers. I like that he thinks that simply texting the word “received” to the number he gave me is all I would do to show my gratitude. Truth be told, I’d love to send him a little something back as a way of saying thanks – I’m just not sure what would be good to send. If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments!