Bright and early on Wednesday July 30th, 4 of my good friends from Town Moto and I suited up and left Toronto behind on a 4000km journey to Winnipeg, Manitoba and back via the North Shore of Lake Superior. The bikes in our crew were 2 Triumph Bonneville’s, a Kawasaki WB650, a Triumph Scrambler and yours truly on a Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 SE courtesy of Corsa Meccanica. We had 8 days to complete the trip and chose to cover ground by taking the shortest route and staying on the Trans-Canada Highway within Ontario and Manitoba. We divided the trip into 3 - 700km days, stopping in Sault Ste. Marie - Algoma Country, Thunder Bay and finally Winnipeg. This is our story.
Day 1: Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie - 700km
At the beginning of every motorcycle trip, a rider experiences emotions of angst for the take-off and anticipation for the discoveries yet to be made. In our case we grabbed a morning coffee together, saddled up and then fought through glorious morning city traffic. Drag…
We were all feeling a bit weary from the headache of urban gridlock, until reaching Muskoka and alas rolling upon the rocky, cliff splitting highway scenery. We released our tensions with a breath of fresh air and continued onwards to Parry Sound. Here, the Trans-Canada highway begins to mellow out, providing twists and turns sparingly until arriving in the city of Sudbury.
We roll out of Sudbury after quickly gassing up and rehydrating. It was now Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie as our last 300km stretch. The ride is slightly more interesting providing a rocky and hillside landscape. We hit delays from a bit of road repair, the construction occasionally slowed us down, but eventually we made it to our first 700km destination. Hello Sault Ste. Marie, day 1 complete. We were supremely satisfied with our road coverage of the day, and even more enthusiastic about the roads we would travel on the following day.
The word on the street was that the road between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay offers one of the most beautiful rides available to us in Northern Ontario. Sadly the morning of day 2 was extremely foggy and rainy so we missed most of it on our way out. Suited up in rain gear we continued north on highway 17 and hoped for the fog and rain to lift. We still managed to find a cool spot in Pancake Bay Provincial Park, rolling our motos right onto the pebbled beach, and overlooking the somewhat eerie foggy lake Superior.
An hour or so later, still engulfed by fog, we rolled into Wawa, Ontario for fuel and a quick lunch. With just under 500km to go until Thunder Bay we threw back on our rain gear and hauled along.
The fog lifted a few hours east of Thunder Bay allowing us to really experience the rolling hills that occasionally bring us high enough for a smashing view of the Islands that dwell in Lake Superior around the city.
Day 3: Thunder Bay to Winnipeg - 700km
Day 3 was a dry one and offered us a nice change of pace. This stretch of highway 17 didn’t have much we specifically wanted to check out but we still managed to stop a few times to snap some photos.
A highlight for me on this stretch are the occasional river or creek clearings right off the side of the road. The road here begins to flatten out as we get closer to Manitoba but it is still scenic and quite enjoyable.
We made a quick stop for lunch in Kenora, Ontario close to the Manitoba border. Kenora is cottage country and the region most Winnipegers visit to get away from the grind on the weekends.
The 200km stretch of road remaining from Kenora to Winnipeg is about as flat as you can imagine. It’s beautiful for about 5 minutes and then you start asking yourself “are we there yet”. This portion of highway is lined with extremely tall trees for quite a while close to the Manitoba border and then becomes flat farm land. We rolled into Winnipeg later in the evening and watched the sunset as we cruised through the prairies into town.
Day 4 & 5: Winnipeg
This was my first time in Winnipeg. My friends had a wedding to go to on the Saturday (Day 4) so I had the day to myself to explore and learn a bit about the city. I stayed the night at a friendly little hostel in a residential community on the west side of the downtown core. I started my morning by looking for a local brunch spot in town. “The Nook” is where I ended up and had a nice greasy spoon meal amongst some of Winnipeg’s stylish hipsters. After brunch I chose to ride around the city just to get a feel for it. I rode out to the industrial end of town to get some photos of my bike in Winnipeg’s train yard and of course with the famous “Nutty Club” candy building.
After riding around for a few hours and not really finding much to do, I came across a market and a skateboard park in the “Forks” tourist area where the Red River and the Assiniboine River meet. I ended up making friends with a great group of guys at the park who I spent the rest of my day with photographing doing skate tricks.
The following morning, I re-connected with my crew from Toronto, and we rode out to a friends cottage for the day in Whiteshell Provincial Park. We spent the day just taking it easy, hanging out with a bunch of friends and getting ready for the journey home in the morning.
Day 6: Winnipeg to Thunder Bay - 700km
Leaving from the cottage rather than downtown Winnipeg put us a few hours ahead of schedule and started off our journey with some fun twisty’s through Whiteshell Provincial Park. Our goal was to ride home on the same route that we came up on and be back in Toronto by 8PM on Wednesday Aug. 6 just in time for my monthly motorcycle community social - #TheMotoSocialToronto.
Having seen most of this landscape when riding up from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg earlier in the trip, we decided to just haul it down to Thunder Bay and make extra time the next day for photos of the epic scenery between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie. We did stop however at Kakabeka Falls just west of Thunder Bay. This is a must see spot if you love waterfalls and like getting close.
Day 7: Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie - 700km
With no rain in the forecast, we were hopeful to catch some of the beautiful landscapes that we missed due to fog on our way out. With perfect wether, we frequented more stops along the way. Let it be said that we could have spent hours upon hours exploring this part of Ontario. With the time that we could spare, we thought to cover the must see spots.
From Thunder Bay, the first 480km stretch of highway 17 back to Wawa, Ontario offers scenic rolling hills, with long sweeping turns and the occasional epic view of Lake Superior. This stretch of road offers tons of beautiful spots to pull off and explore. We didn’t have enough time but to name a few we would have loved to visit “Sleeping Giant Provincial Park” and “Pukaskwa National Park”.
We took a small detour for lunch to Marathon, Ontario. A friendly little town on the north shore of Superior. From Marathon we rolled into Wawa, Ontario for gas (this time with perfectly sunny weather) and then continued our trek south toward Sault Ste. Marie.
The road from Wawa to Sault Ste. Marie is mountainous, lush and probably my favourite stretch of road. A highlight for me here is when we stopped for a stretch and to take some photos at Sand River in Superior Provincial Park. The river has a small waterfall a short hike from the main road and a quiet beach area perfect for taking a little dip and hanging out for an hour or so.
Day 8: Sault Ste. Marie to Toronto - 700km
We were quite tired by the final day. I think making the additional stops the day before to explore added just enough extra work to make us cranky the next day. Day 8 was in my opinion the hardest, most frustrating but the most important day. The romance of being on a motorcycle trip has worn off at this point. We’re almost home and we’re all ready to crawl into our own beds and hibernate for a few days. This is the most important and most dangerous day because of the potential to lose focus and make mistakes. I would say its a great accomplishment to push through the emotions and near physical defeat and make it home safely.
Our friend Stephen from Toronto joined us for the ride home from Sault Ste. Marie. He rode his Triumph Thruxton up the night before to hang out with us and share the ride home. We had some light rain follow us from Sudbury down to the Muskoka region and then it let off as we approached Toronto. We made it home safely and made it on time to #TheMotoSocialToronto.
Completing the ride around the north shore of Lake Superior allowed me to understand why it is named a "bucket list" ride by many. The riding itself is simple and the scenery emotionally rocks you. Any skill level could tackle this ride and be left in awe wondering what else Ontario has to offer. Riding Lake Superior is indeed superior.
The greatest motorcycle trips are the ones shared with great friends. It’s sharing in the epic moments as well as the not so epic moments that create the stories that we can laugh about once it has all come to an end. The greatest motorcycle trips strengthen our connections and as we go through the journey, we create a completely new story that we can add to the others that we’ve already created together.