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Upsizing the Grand Algoma—Part 2: Wawa and Beyond

Upsizing the Grand Algoma—Part 2: Wawa and Beyond

Sweeping curves on the Grand Algoma motorcycle route. All Photos: Martin Lortz

Part Two of Two

Putting five days of freedom to good use checking out the Deer Trail and Algoma North Tours on our massive tour of Algoma Country motorcycle routes.



In part one of this story, we touched on the Deer Trail and the Grand Algoma. The ride must go on, as must our quest to see it all in Algoma within our five-day time allowance.

Tour of Algoma Motorcycle Routes - Day Three

Day three welcomes us with blue sky and sunshine. With Wawa as home for two nights, today is more about exploring than destination. Within the boundaries of Algoma, there are four distinct preplanned tours for your motorcycle touring enjoyment. This morning we head north along the Algoma North Tour bound for Hearst, Ontario. With a one-way distance of 328 km, the out-and-back mileage is a bit much for our plan, so we decide to make a morning of it and set the Three Bears Statue in Hornepayne as the objective. 

Apparently, every August the popular HOG Rally makes its way along the Algoma North Tour route—it doesn’t take us long to learn the reason why. Highway 631, with its excellent surface and big sweepers, is a touring bike gem. With the fun riding, there is a touch of disappointment when we reach our morning destination in Hornepayne, but the good news is that we get to retrace our steps on the way back.

After lunch in White River, we make our way back towards Wawa, and then beyond to take in this afternoon’s destination and the most spectacular turn anywhere in Ontario. Traveling from the north, you first see the towering cliffs in the distance, followed by glimpses of shimmering Lake Superior. As the road dips and falls away into a left-hand curve, the full spectacle of Old Woman Bay comes into view. A long, sandy beach peppered with driftwood and framed by rolling forests, towering cliffs, and the expanse of Lake Superior, a view that wows me every time. 

Back at the hotel, a few bikes dot the parking lot with their owners milling around. There’s a comforting comradeship amongst motorcycle riders; you can always count on a wave when passing or a friendly chat at the coffee shop, or in our case a hotel parking lot in a Northern Ontario town. Just strangers passing on the road where names don’t matter as much as the experience.

Like the young man who four days ago departed the west coast abroad his Harley Sportster and is heading east from here to meet up with his girlfriend, or the fellow with a new-to-him Suzuki V-Strom, bound for the Alberta oil sands for work with a big-picture adventure plan that will eventually take him to South America. Then there’s the old-timer in a shiny embroidered jacket that seems more bowling team than biker, until you learn that his life odometer is pushing 80 years of age and his custom Honda Goldwing trike has so far accompanied him for 300,000 km.

With day three fading out, we grab a bite to eat, say hi to the moose at the general store, and catch the sunset with the famous Wawa Goose; a good day. 

Day Four

Homebound—well, only in the sense that we are heading south. We retrace our steps to Old Woman Bay, this time in the warm rays of the morning sun, which make the scenery even more spectacular. We pull in and stay a bit, absorbing the grandeur. From here the road turns inland, but is no less enjoyable. Big sweepers lined with rock, trees, and sparkling lakes: the kind of riding that makes you appreciate the joy of motorcycle touring.

We stop at Katherine Cove and Agawa Bay to view the Group of Seven display. The rugged and spectacular landscape of Lake Superior filled many a canvas of the famous Canadian painters; now, thanks to the Group of Seven trail, you can enjoy the exact vistas that inspired them.

Eventually the road finds its way to the coast, and the lake views accompany us most of the way to Sault Ste. Marie. We stop at Agawa Crafts for ice cream and poke around the craft market. At around 200 km but with so many stopping opportunities, the ride seems longer than the odometer would indicate. We drop our bags at the Catalina Motel in Sault Ste. Marie in time for lunch. 

This is my first stay at the Catalina Motel, and I must say I’m an instant fan. There is the obvious location, location, location—just off the highway with everything you need or want to see within minutes by foot or bike—and of course there are the comfortable newly renovated rooms. But it’s the experience that leaves a lasting impression. It starts with friendly hosts that offer bike washing equipment if needed, and on to the wall-to-wall windows on our ground floor room with the bikes parked right in front ready for the next leg of the adventure. The whole package has a part-of-the-tour feel to it, rather than just a concrete structure to grab your bags and disappear into.

With plenty of day still left on the clock, we do a loop of the city and decide to tick off a part of another Algoma moto tour from our see-it-all-list. The Island North Tour will add another 160 km to our day and takes in the picturesque St. Joseph Island. The day ends with a nightcap of a local craft brew on the front step of our favourite motel in the company of our bikes—pretty perfect I’d say.

Day Five

Homebound, this time for real. We are looking at 700 km, so a good day in the saddle. We opt for an early start, grab breakfast at Bobbers in Bruce Mines, a coffee near Espanola, late lunch in Parry Sound, and are home in time to beat the traffic. 

The plan was to see it all; well, we did complete The Deer Trail and the Grand Algoma but left pieces of Algoma North and Island North Tour on the table. So what’s one to do? I guess next time we will have to beg, borrow, and save—more time of all things.

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