When I was a child, I loved to explore my back yard. It was bordered almost fully by lilac bushes and there was an abundance of great places to hide amongst the intertwined branches and in the shade of their leaves. There were other trees that peppered the expanse of green that was the ‘lawn’; a giant sugar maple, a birch tree, and even an almost-mighty oak. My friends and I would gather fallen acorns and pick wildflowers and follow creepy-crawly bugs as they desperately tried to escape our curious stalkings. We had the world at our disposal, at least until we reached the back fence.
That’s the thing about exploring. Whether limited by rules & regulations or contained by the notion that the unknown should remain so, our explorer’s hearts can often be reined in by that little inner voice warning us that fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Although my definition of back yard has grown exponentially since I was a child, there is still so much to explore. Yes, I aspire to multi-day road trips to places I have heard about, courtesy of tales spun by those who began their biker journeys long before I was even brave enough to speak the words ‘I want to ride’ out loud.
It’s not that I have led a stationary life; I’ve been to France and Australia and the UK and Germany and Switzerland and to different places throughout the United States. Those were grand adventures, a way to bring the places I had first explored in my school books to life and into full colour & wonderous reality.
The Ontario You Know
What’s that old saying? We tend to overlook what’s in our own back yard? I am of the opinion that the truth in those words is just a little bit different: We tend to overlook what lies just beyond our own back yard. That’s what I think, anyway.
We – the collective ‘we’ being those who ride motorcycles – all have different ways of coping with the fact that there is snow on the ground and salt on the roads and that (most of) our bikes are tucked in for the winter. Some of us pull our rides apart just to put them back together again. Some of us park ourselves in front of a computer or sit on the living room floor with road maps spread out all around us, making plans for the warmer weather ahead and dreaming of accumulating kilometres on our bikes’ odometers.
And then there are those whose minds tend to occupy themselves with more practical issues like renewing plate stickers and bracing for insurance rate notifications and hoping that they’ll get at least one more year out of their ride before the search for a new one begins in earnest.
If you took a look around at the first big motorcycle show of 2016 (the North American International Motorcycle Supershow at the International Centre on Airport Road the weekend of January 8-9-10), you would have seen motorcycle enthusiasts of all ages, each one of them in attendance for a very different reason.
The first time I ever went to a motorcycle show, I was like a wide-eyed child, taking pictures of anything that was shiny, covered in chrome, or had a group of people gathered around it. I was in the beginning stages of the process of getting my feet wet, dipping my soon-to-be motorcycle boot-clad toes in the world of studying for my M1, dreaming about my very first motorcycle, and wondering if I would ever feel like I fit in with the people around me who knew so much more about motorcycles than I did.
This visit to a show was different. I was different.
I don’t think I took one picture as I wandered through the exhibition halls. My mind was on the little paragraph that I had read right near the front of the show’s magazine: “Plan your adventures and visit the Ontario Tourism Travel Pavilion at the show! The Ontario Travel Tourism Pavilion will be located in Hall#1 and will feature resorts and hotels/motels from around various regions in Ontario. All in one easy-to-find Ontario branded area, The Ontario Travel Tourism Pavilion will give motorcycle enthusiasts an easy way to explore the many different areas of Ontario’s travel destinations.”
Everything just beyond my own back yard.
Now in my freshman year of my riding career, I find myself longing to stretch my boundaries and go beyond my comfort zone. I have spent the last two riding seasons exploring the back roads and secondary highways in an area that hasn’t really taken me much further than a hundred kilometres or so in any one direction.
There was one time that I did take off on an adventure on my own to check out the Bala Cranberry Festival in 2014 (check out the piece here), but medical issues (a heart attack in June of 2015) cut short my second riding season and derailed a planned road trip to eastern Ontario (among other adventures).
Back on my feet and in the saddle again last year—my final ride in 2015 being a three hour adventure to fill a rather solitary Christmas Day—I found myself drawn to the area of the show that held the most promise for me.
For my explorer’s heart.
For my adventurer’s spirit.
For my 2016 riding season.
I was not disappointed.
The Ontario Beyond
Sometimes, you know a lot more than you think you know.
Other times, you discover that you know a whole lot of little things about one big thing, but the sum of all of those little things don’t really amount to much. Except for questions. Lots of them.
Well, I had questions, and the team at every booth in the Ontario Travel Tourism Pavilion were delighted to answer them.
First of all, let me share a little bit of practical knowledge that you might know, think you know but actually don’t, or haven’t got a clue about at all.
Basically, Ontario is divided into at least 15 distinct areas to explore:
I have taken vacations in or travelled to some of the areas by car (Sault Ste. Marie – Algoma, Muskoka and Parry Sound, Southern Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe to name a few), and there are other areas (like Niagara Canada and Hamilton, Halton and Brant) that have been my playground for my first two seasons of exploring the countryside by motorcycle.
Having grown up on the St. Lawrence River in the tiny hamlet of Long Sault in eastern Ontario, my desire to return to my roots is coupled with the excitement of rediscovering all of the wonderful treasures of the area that I took for granted when I was a kid.
We all know that when it comes to riding, it’s not necessarily about where you are going, and so much more about the ‘getting there’. I had a great time chatting with many people in the Tourism Pavilion about making my way to eastern Ontario from the Hamilton area this summer. I was gifted with a scenic road map published by Tourism Kingston showing the motorcycle routes in the Kingston, Ontario area and another great map of suggested routes to take while riding in Lennox and Addington County.
I’ve also made contact with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission. “Parks of the St. Lawrence" attractions include Upper Canada Village, Fort Henry, Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Crysler Park Marina, Upper Canada Golf Course, Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Long Sault Parkway and 1000 Islands Parkway, a series of 12 riverside day-use area parks and campgrounds, recreational trails and several restaurants and gift stores.
All of these, some more than others, are familiar places from my childhood, and I am anxious to explore and see them through different eyes when Ruby and I take to the road this summer. If you live anywhere along the corridor between Port Hope and Cornwall, Ontario, please feel free to reach out and tell me about some of the area’s best-kept secrets and off-the-beaten-path ‘can’t miss’ destinations or stops along the way.
I have a plan for when I get there (to Long Sault).
I know the places I want to take pictures of and the events I want to attend and the memories I want to revisit.
I am looking for my brothers and sisters of the wind to help me with the rest.
The folks at the Ontario Tourism Travel Pavilion did exactly what I had hoped they would do when I visited the Motorcycle Show; they brightened up a rather dreary January afternoon with delightful expectations of travel and the open road and an Ontario that is all mine to discover… one ‘beyond-my-backyard’ road trip at a time.
Author Pushpa Rana, from Palampur, India, described my upcoming adventures exquisitely when she wrote: “Lone rangers, that's what we are. With every journey there is a new lesson learned; every place traveled and explored makes us in fall in love with the earth; we care less about our whereabouts; we keep the expedition going because we want to go far beyond the civilized, beyond the living, beyond the world of predictability. Feasting the eyes, rejuvenating the senses, every breath we take is a sigh of relief and we make peace. Choosing the roads less traveled, our wandering souls makes our way towards the unknown destination only to discover ourselves.”
I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for the snow to be gone and the 2016 riding season to begin…
KAT (aka KimberleeAnna Taplay) is a member of the ‘What A Ride!’ correspondent team, and is looking forward to sharing the next edition of KIMbits and KATtales with you in February. To reach KAT, send your questions and/or comments to email@example.com.
12-Pack of Canadian
Over the last 2 years, we've seen KAT go from a total newbie to a full-fledged "Motorcycle Mama". Besides spending hours in the saddle going wherever Ruby takes her, she's been talking to you, the Ontario Motorcyclist, to get an idea of who WE are. Each month through 2016, she'll be featuring a different Canadian of note. Each of these 12 riders will answer the same 5 questions which we'll publish here, along with a photo of them with their ride. If you'd like to be featured, just email firstname.lastname@example.org and introduce yourself!
This month's installment features Bill Toffan: