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Explore By Motorcycle Far Away to Nearby Temiskaming

Musee La Gare • Credit: Vicki Gray

The mornings’ ride from North Bay was a damp one- yet invigorating! The sky ahead was clearing so I turned the Harley-Davidson into Temagami’s olden train station to rid myself of my rain suit. A small town built upon Temiskaming’s district; an area extending as far north as James Bay. The ground under my feet covered a heritage I found quite difficult to comprehend. Here 9,000 years ago is where Canada’s first Nation’s people thrived. It was hard to believe that within a few hours I’d metamorphosed my bustling “concrete jungle” surroundings in “Taronto” to that of a northern outdoor explorer submerged in this beauty and silence.

TemagamiStation-May-2013-VGRAYTemagami Train Station

A few hours riding northward; there’s just no tiring of the scenery. An endless distance bordered with towering red pines born in these very stretches of wild forests. Trees jutting out on edged rock outcrops along the water- a motorbiker’s perfect prescription. I continued along Trans Canada highway eleven toward Timmins and Cochrane –towns by their very mention to city folk exemplify- “north”. I sensed the Harley’s satisfaction as the fresh Temiskaming air passed over its cooling fins. No smog or street cars; no road rage, just us and our freedom.

Up the road I spotted a billboard with the illustration of a ‘biker’. I chuckled to myself at its depiction but felt I was certainly in the right place. I knew I was nearing New Liskeard, famous among motorcyclists for its yearly New Liskeard Biker Reunion. Thousands of riders descend on the area from near and far for its three day occurrence. Reputed as a fun family weekend celebrating the sport of riding motorcycles, it also hosts a fund raiser for the cancer care unit at Temiskaming Hospital.

Rested and raring to go from a relaxing overnight stay at New Liskeard Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites; I headed out and intersected highway 65 eastbound. Logging trucks from forestry companies are a frequent sight. Stacked high with logs, they scatter small bark pieces through the air creating a sort of pine scented potpourri as you ride past- delightful!

Fort-shores-May-2013-VGRAYShores of Temiskaming

Further along, the road’s tone changes; a bold “Bonjour!” is expressed on a sign welcoming my crossover to Quebec- just a little over twenty kilometres from New Liskeard. I was now rounding the northern most tip of Lake Témiscaming. I throttled the Harley through the silent, quaint village of Notre-Dame-du-Nord where highway 65 east intersects 101 south. The highway continued across a narrow section of the mighty ‘deep water’, Lake Temiskaming’s meaning, in Algonquin.

ottawaRiver-May-2013-VGRAYOverlooking the Ottawa River

The landscape from Ontario to Quebec rolled on ahead in a combination of flat terrain, escarpments and lowlands. Riding through the changing elevations of road; Lake Témiscaming to the right of me would emerge then disappear behind the woods.

LaBannik-May-2013-VGRAYEuro-Style Café - La Bannik

Further on to the northwest corner of the Ottawa River where it turns from west to southeast lies the majestic Chemin du Vieux Fort (Fort Témiscamingue). Here among its vast grounds trading post scenes have been recreated as they were in the 17th century. Tall white tee-pees, a canoe craftsman’s shop and trader’s office - allowed one’s imagination a step back in time. Only the traditional “pea-soup” was missing! And with that thought I headed down the Fort’s road to La Bannik restaurant to enjoy lunch in its Euro-styled café perched over Lake Temiscamingue. Afterward I continued my ride southward. In under an hour still on 101 and still in Quebec, I arrived in the town of Témiscaming. Riding through its main street I stopped in to visit Musee de la Gare (train museum) –whose mission “was to go toward the familiar and become acquainted with the unknown; to reunite and to host”- how perfectly stated! What a fine collection of historic remnants alongside its seasonal and ever changing exhibitions.

FortScene-May-2013-VGRAYChemin du Vieux Fort

Hosts Joanne and Darcy Watson were awaiting my evening arrival at their Cedar Gables Lodge, Bonfield. I’d crossed the Ottawa River and returned to Ontario by way of 63 south. Rather than ride on through to North Bay and then East again on 17 to Bonfield, I took highway 533 referred to as the “Mattawa shortcut”. A challenged road surface indeed but well worth the trip! This roadway narrowed, twisted then widened and tapered again repeatedly for 52 kilometres! The deep woods hugged the roads’ edge as its canopies concealed me from rain clouds overhead. The adjoining access roads I imagined led to camp /logging sites but their access forbidden with private property warning signs. The reddish coloured sandy soil was characteristic of the area’s clay belt. It taunted the dirt bike enthusiast in me. Yes, I’d take short cut 533 again – but never to save time.

MattawaShortcut-May-2013-VGRAYThe Mattawa shortcut

After an appetizing home made meal and conversations usually occurring between old friends; I climbed into the high, four poster bed feeling entirely satisfied. As the cricket orchestra outside moved me closer to sleep, I reminisced over the past few days and reluctantly- over the ride home when morning dawned. Back to urban life and its daily ruckus. Well, at least I’d discovered that far-away is easily had on nearby Temiskaming’s shores.

CEDARGABLES-May-2013-VGRAYA relaxing end at Cedar Gables


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