While in Garfield I ordered myself an Airhawk seat pad, some Frog Toggs, and a Camelbak. Unfortunately they sent me a men's size medium Toggs, which meant I could get the pants halfway up my calves and my head halfway through the collar of the jacket. The Airhawk and Camelback fit the bill just right, though.
Leaving from here was monumental because it was the last time i'd see my family for quite some time. They were planning a trip to Vegas in July, and I planned to meet them there. I'd be a different man by then, little did I know. Until then, it was me and the road.
My original plan was to cruise straight to Toronto from Garfield, but as I said, our generous friend Mary insisted on getting me a hotel room in Victor in order to shorten the travel time. At this point I'd only ridden two full days in my entire motorcycling travelling career, so that was probably a blessing in disguise.
I stopped for gas off NY-17 near Monroe, NY. Won't ever forget that stop. I remember noticing a lot of men with beards coming in and out of the store. Then I realized I was surrounded by Hasidic Jews. I assumed it was a largely Jewish town, but after researching just now, I see that it was called Hatzloch Gas and according to google maps it's a great spot to stop for kosher cuisine in the area.
I didn't expect what I came across that day in regard to scenery. It got beautiful fast. Thinking back it was probably some of the most beautiful riding I've seen on the east coast. The Castskills provided roads with long swooping curves. Not tight stuff, but curve after curve for miles. The riding along the Appalachains is beautiful in a different way, but this seemed so different because the mountains were shorter, almost like huge hills, and the road meandered between them. Often times alongside a stream. I remember setting up my camera to record a little bit of the ride because it impacted me so much. Can't help but laugh when you see a bug splat on the lens only a few seconds in. This was my Canon 7d with 10-22 mounted - the lens has a 77mm diameter filter size so it was quite the target, apparently.
Here's me at a rest stop in the Catskills.
Once I got to Binghamton things got a lot less interesting. The miles seemed to click by more slowly. I remember recognizing the city of Syracuse when I passed by it. I eventually made it to my hotel outside if Rochester in Victor, NY.
I could feel the ladies at the desk's surprise as they saw me approach. I was a bit apprehensive about how I would get a room someone else had reserved, but everything was in order and I had no trouble. I covered the bike up and took in only my essentials which I'd now packed in my tank bag. I ordered some food off a menu in my room from a nearby eatery and they delivered to my room. Hadn't ever done that before. I remember feeling a little strange being in a hotel room all by myself for the first time. My first taste of the solitude I'd find frequently throughout the trip that I would find to be both haunting and exhilarating at different times to come.
In retrospect, it probably would have been more interesting to hop on the bike and find somewhere interesting in town to eat, maybe meet some people, but for some reason I just didn't have the desire.
I awoke the next morning and ate some free breakfast at the hotel before heading to Toronto. I got a reasonably early start this day, probably because I was so bored alone in my room that I got plenty of sleep earlier than usual.
I had originally planned to see Niagara Falls on my way through, but I decided to skip it and get to Toronto earlier and see my contacts there. I knew I'd eventually be back again some day. I snapped a photo as I crossed the river and that was good enough, I guess.
Yes, I promise I learned to wear my full face helmet after this jaunt. For some reason I thought the half helmet would helmet me beat the summer heat.
Crossing into Canada was painless. I'd brought my passport but I'm not sure if they looked at it. They asked me how long I'd be staying and what is be doing and that was about it. Friendly and pleasant interaction.
I remember feeling strange when I realized the speed limit was now in Kilometers per hour. I saw a lot of Tim Hortons, which I would later find out were a Canadian staple.
I did have a near death experience coming into Toronto that I remember vividly. I was cruising along in traffic when a tractor trailer decided to merge to the left, into the lane I was in. He was coming over on top of me, as I was running about even with the trailer tires at the moment, and he just kept coming and coming. Thankfully there was a paved shoulder and I managed to get over to it. I accelerated around him and escaped unscathed. It probably doesn't sound like too big of a deal to you reading my account of it, but it was one of those reality check moments where I realized how close to death I could be within a split second. Definitely reminded me to stay aware and pretend I was invisible to everyone else when out on the road. Catastrophe avoided.
I was headed to Toronto to connect with my childhood youth pastor, Tim, and his family. My senior year of high school, in 2007, Tim and his family moved to Toronto so that he could work for Baptist Canada. It rocked us pretty hard whn they left because they were such a big part of our lives and had just always been there. It definitely had left a void that was difficult to fill.
I made it to their house without issue and Tim and his wife were there to greet me. They welcomed me in and then Tim and I left in the jeep to go pick up his son from school. On the way he caught me up on how things were with the family and gave me the Canada introduction.
He showed me the church he now attends, which was quite beautiful.
We went by a local eatery called Tom's Dairy Freeze for an introduction to a Canadian specialty called poutine. Fries with cheese and gravy. Quite strange, but delicious.
Later that night we went to CN Tower and saw a beautiful view of the city from the top. I had two knives on me, just out of habit, and I remember being extremely apprehensive when I realized there were police in riot gear around. Thankfully it wasn't a problem. Got plenty of cool pictures around sunset from the top of the tower. We spent a lot of time talking about my experiences since high school, living in Nicaragua, getting engaged, etc. I think he was proud to see the man I'd turned out to be.
I spent the next day with Tim, touring around town. I really liked how diverse the area was. He showed me an apartment complex that housed a ton of different nationalities of immigrants. I want to say almost a hundred, maybe more. Probably the most diverse apartment building anywhere. He introduced to the people he worked with and I told them about some of my experiences in Nicaragua. Overall a pretty chill day.
I had planned to leave the next morning and head for Lima, Ohio. I had a presentation there in two days to Rudolph Foods, one of the leading manufacturers of pork rinds in the US. The CEO had a daughter who was friends with my sister. He and his wife were divorced. Their son and daughter lived with their mother (in our town) during the school year and spent the summer with him in Lima. When I got home from Nicaragua I was asked to mentor and tutor their son, who was having a really hard time in school and beginning to have behavior problems. They paid me really well to pick him up from school every day, keep him out of trouble, and do guy stuff with him like shoot skeet and ride dirt bikes. Dream job.
Anyway, he had invited me to come speak about our non-profit (New Song) to their staff, and I wanted o get there the day before so I could get settled and prepare. I woke up the next morning in Toronto to a driving rain. I had no experience riding in the rain, and didn't have any rain gear because the Frogg Toggs they sent me were too small. Just levi's and my joe rocket jacket.
I set off with the hope of it clearing up soon. It wasn't too bad at first. On the side roads it was little more than annoying. Sure, I was soaked, but it wasn't too challenging to ride in. Then I got to the interstate.