Monday 26 June 2023

Empty Algonquin Park

I managed a couple of days out on the bike around my birthday this year. Thanks to being freed from the shackles of the school year, I was able to do it outside of the May long weekend when the roads would be utterly mad with with ravening hordes driving the largest SUVs they could find and hauling every possible motorized toy to their second homes in the near north.

It ended up being just over 800kms over two days. 500kms on day one from home and up through and around Algonquin Park, then 320kms home on day two.  The Map.

The ride down Highway 9 to the 400 north was packed solid with transport trucks, to the point where I missed the turn north on Highway 27 because I was literally surrounded by the bloody things.

Finally on the 400 north (which was moving well on the Thursday morning before the long weekend), I let the Kawasaki fly and we shot up the road, finally clear of the convoy. I had three things going for me when I crested a hill right into the eyes of a waiting OPP cruiser.

#1: I was making time in the middle lane rather than the fast lane and was following another car

#2: The bike is awfully difficult to get a reading from thanks to not a lot of metal to bounce radar off of

#3: You can always count on some citiot blasting up the fast lane in a mega-sized German SUV

The cruiser lit the lights and pulled out only to collect said SUV out of the fast lane. He wasn't going much faster than I was but he can enjoy that ticket.

The 400 was (incredibly) fully functional and I was around Barrie in no time and moving up Highway 11 at pace. I pulled into Webbers because they have a nice new Starbucks where I got a coffee and stretched. In under two hours I'd covered the 172kms that got me clear of the gravity of the Greater Toronto Area and into the near north.

After a warm up (it was 5°C when I left just past 9am), I was back on the Kawasaki and heading north again. Gravenhurst was (incredibly) efficient and I slipped past what is often a backup without delay. By 11:30 I was grabbing a quick lunch and filling up in Huntsville and then it was Highway 60 into Algonquin Provincial Park.

I stopped at the West Gate to have a chat with the wardens and get my pass as I intended to stop at the Visitor Centre. After a nice chat with the young ladies at the desk I got my pass, set up the 360 camera and then got in motion ASAP because it's blackfly season and boy do they come out of the woodwork when you stop!

Into the park there was very little traffic. The only one I had to make space for was the massive German SUV thundering through one of the most beautiful places in the province at well over 120kms/hr (it's an 80 zone). If you play your cards like that, you're not likely to see anything!

Once clear of the traffic by the gate things got really quiet. An occasional car would pass the other way but there was nothing on the road in front of behind me as I went deeper into nature. It was midday so I wasn't likely to see any big animals (and I didn't), but birds were plentiful with birds of prey over the road and many others in the bush.

It was a glorious ride alone through the park - a place that comes as close to a church for me as anything can be. The bike was the perfect vehicle. I was moving fast enough to stay ahead of the blood sucking insects, but slowly enough to smell the lakes and woods and feel the thermoclines as a dipped into and out of valleys.

The visitor's centre is worth a stop if you're travelling through the park. The lookout off the back is a great view (and high enough up to be relatively bug free!). I would have stayed for a coffee and a snack but the restaurant was closed. It was a good opportunity to clean the bugs off my visor though.

By now it had hit the high of 12°C for the day and though it was sunny it was cool, especially when in motion on the bike. If I stopped I got sweaty and then the flies would come, so best to keep things moving. Out the east gate and then the plan was to ride south around the bottom of the park.

The Concours had been fantastic on the highways and had handled everything I asked of it. The only place I think the Tiger could have done a better job was on Peterson Road, which is your typical poorly maintained Ontario backroad with ruts and potholes that'll knock your teeth out. The sporty suspension on the Kawasaki didn't enjoy that bit of road. The Tiger's longer suspenders would have done the trick, but otherwise the Concours was the right bike for this ride, especially on the highways.

I finally pulled into Wilberforce about 444kms into the ride for a stretch and a drink (and to clean the bugs off the visor again). 

After a quick pit stop I was on my way again. The 118 is one of my favourite roads in the province and I twisted and turned my way down it towards Canarvon and Minden where I was spending the night. Only a long delay in Haliburton for road works slowed the ride down. At least I know the fans are working on the C14. They cycled three times while we sat there wondering what the f*** was going on. It turned out a water pipe had burst across the road holding things up.

I pulled into the Red Umbrella Inn just outside of Minden at about 5pm. After getting cleaned up I rode into town for some of the best Thai I've had at Suwan's Thai Cuisine and picked up a couple of local craft brews from Boshkung Brewing Social (Minden really has everything you need) before filling up and heading back to the inn for a quiet night by the lake.

The next morning I was up early and over to the Mill Pond for breakfast. Great eggs and bacon and then it was an empty ride down the 118 to Bracebridge, Port Carling and finally Bala for a coffee before the last stretch through Wahta Mohawk Territory before popping out at the 400 and getting into the rapid flow south.

I dodged and weaved around Creemore, stopping once to change into lighter gear because the temperature had shot up with the humidity and made it home before the thunderstorms started. A nice way to spend a couple of days on the road. I only wish I'd had more time.

Saturday 24 June 2023

Closer Adirondack Ride Plan

 A shortened Southern Ontario to the Allegany/Adirondacks mountains in New York State. It's about 300kms to get there, then looping back to a central base means I can ride light without luggage during the stay there. 

Day 1: Home to Adirondack base, 291kms:

Day 2: Watkins Glen Loop 393kms:

Day 3: Allegany Loop, 666, 395kms: 

Day 4: South Loop, 381kms:

Day 5: Back home: 293kms:

That's 1753kms over five days. The nice thing about the loops is they are just an outline. If I don't feel like a high mileage day on any of them, I can cut corners and shorten the loop.

Fall would be the best time to go - end of September/beginning of October seem to offer the best chance of seeing the trees change colour.