Ontario, Canada: O Canada? Fugghedaboutit!
“What?!” It’s Canada Day weekend, and it seems like everyone and their grandmother is getting out of Toronto and hauling all sorts of pop-up campers, canoes, motorboats, and bored teenagers with them. Back home in Jersey, there would be tailgating, passing in the right lane, and cussing as well as everyone’s blood pressure rising all the way to the Jersey Shore.
Into the Wild Green Yonder
These Canadians are taking this logjam in stride. Not like Gary and me, two Jersey boys on a Honda VFR DCT (with red paint so deep you can see yesterday) and a frisky young NC700x that want to see the world. We’re getting frustrated with the sloth-like progress. After all, we’ve got the Bikers Reunion rally to catch up north in New Liskeard, and it’s halfway to the North Pole.
The traffic loosens up somewhere north of Orillia, and we tack west toward Parry Sound along rolling backroads as we stretch the throttle cables to make up for lost time. The area is lush and thickly wooded, and it has the feel of a big city weekend getaway spot.
We stop at a Starbucks in Parry Sound. A guy named Bobby Orr was born in this town a long time ago; I think he was some kind of Canadian apostle or something. You know what I mean? The caffeine line is quiet and polite. There are no loud cell phone talkers. Hey Gary, we’re not in Moonachie anymore!
We make our way past scenic farms and tranquil byways to West Nipissing, keeping the threatening skies on our six. In West Nipissing, we take part in an Ontario roadside tradition—the chip stand. No, you gavone (see: Tony Soprano), not potato chips; we’re talking the British variety, fish and chips. We get a boatload to go with our fish at Larry’s. I try to be a good Canadian and eat them with vinegar. But that doesn’t last long. Where’s the ketchup at?
The final stretch up to New Liskeard has a bit of everything; twists, straightaways, and lakeside views. There are not a lot of people up here though. Every kilometer north has felt evermore remote, and New Liskeard is a small town hosting a big event beneath a big sky.
We head downtown. It’s the night before the Bikers Reunion, so there’s sure to be some carousing and two-wheeled mayhem. I’ve been to Jerez, Spain, where they do redline popping burnouts in the street the night before the MotoGP, and I’ve been in Sturgis where the ground shakes to the sound of roaring potatoes. Here in Canada, I can hear crickets. It’s quiet, like Sturgis-after-everyone-has-left quiet. Sure the restaurant is hopping pretty well, with friends new and old catching up on things and all, but outside there are families and kids with glow sticks gathered in small groups talking and laughing a bit while waiting for the fireworks show. There’s not one burnout or potato-potato to be heard for miles, and nobody is getting arrested for disturbing the peace. It’s all kicked back and mellow. You know what? It’s kind of nice.