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Old 11-17-2010, 06:03 AM   #1
ScramblerTom OP
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Joined: Jan 2010
Location: in transit...
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Kingston to Algonquin and back on a BV250

With fall closing in fast here in Eastern Ontario, my wife and I have been eager to squeeze in a few more day trips when the weather cooperates. Luckily after a cold October, November has proven to be mostly dry and punctuated by warm sunny days between frosty mornings and damp chilly evenings. Not camping weather – but certainly worth getting on the road with the BV250 for some new roads for the day.

The Ride

(being so friggin cold, we never took the camera out unless we had stripped down in a cafe - therefore the video link below has the riding action)

We thoughtfully planned this trip so that every hour or so we could stop at a town large enough that it might have a cafe open on a fall Sunday. A wise choice.

The Route:
Home (near Napanee) to Tweed 58kms
Tweed to Bancroft 92kms
Bancroft to Haliburton 60kms
Haliburton to Algonquin Park 80kms
Through park to Whitney 70kms
Whitney to Madoc 140km
Madoc to Home 80kms
Total: 585kms


In total, Google Maps says it was going to be 585kms with 9 hours of riding. Considering that most roads were posted at 80 and expected road speeds are 100, I figured the trip would actually be around 6 hours riding. This was exciting as the longest single trip I had done so far was to Muskoka to visit my brother on a chilly autumn day last year, which totaled 5.5 hours. We were officially breaking some personal records. Cool.
The first stretch through our home turf of county road 41 through the village of Marlbank and Stoco into Tweed was ominously chilly. We had expected the sun to be warming out backs by the time we hit Tweed but despite the glare and the clear sky, we arrived in tweed numb and worried. Judy pulled off her helmet and looked like a piece of candy – pink and red and slick with dribbling snot. “I can’t feel my face.” She was not complaining just observing – I was proud.
We skipped across the road, leaving the scoot in the sun and into the By The Way cafe. Run by husband and wife team of Glenn and Lisa - recently transported from Toronto – we sat down to scalding organic hot chocolate and fresh scones slathered in butter. Good road food. Risking burning ourselves in exchange for some borrowed heat, we chugged done the chocolate and enjoyed the place’s ambiance – all creaking wood, wilting house plants and sedate jazz. Pulling plastic, Lisa grimaced, they only take cash. Found some antique money accumulated in our pockets and paid up.


“Is it possible to get frost bite above zero?” That’s what I was asking myself. And we’d only been on the road ten minutes. It was supposed to be sunny and 10 degrees today. Perfect for a fall ride on the scooter. That’s what Tom said. Now, bombing down the highway at 100 km an hour, instead of enjoying the whiz of the fields and trees passing by like I normally do on the stretch of highway heading north out of town, I was seriously wondering whether my ears would freeze and fall off. Or my nose. With the wind chill, it felt like 20 below. Then I remembered I’d left the house with wet hair. The wind was whistling through it and I was seriously unsure how to manage the intense burning pain I felt above my neck for another 10 hours. We’d stop at the nice little café in Tweed a half hour away. I’d be fine till then.
A half hour later, the pain turned to numbness, which wasn’t so bad. I imagined us sitting in the café’s warmth, smiling at each other over steaming lattes. Then in my imagination, I tried to smile but my face was frozen and I drooled into my cup. Very attractive.


The café was lovelier than I imagined: diminutive tables with table lamps casting warm glows. Classy magazines that I didn’t have time to read but liked to know they were there in case the urge struck. Warm, homemade scones and hot mocha. And Tom to look at across from me. Nearly as good as a summer day trip. This is why I love going new places. We walked into the little hardware store next door and found a balaclava for me to wear under the helmet. That should do the trick. This was to be the longest ride I’d ever been on with Tom, but I was happy about it, even if it was in November. I love sitting on the bike, inside the scenery as opposed to just looking at it, with my thoughts to myself and the giant sky. To feel our motion so keenly, to know we’re going places. And to squeeze Tom whenever the mood strikes. We’d done plenty of day trips, but not ten hours worth, nor 600 kilometers.

Stepping into Home Hardware next door Judy found a balaclava to survive the winter storm that was going on inside her helmet. Fired up the BV and turned it north. Time: 10:15.


The only major highway riding was number 7. Which, as a single lane major thoroughfare, can be a real drag to ride when busy, too many trucks and double yellow lines to safely pass and lots of cops watching when you do. But today it was an abandoned strip of tarmac – gray and frosted in the shadows, steaming in the sun. We turned north unto 62 and then the trip felt like it had properly begun. North of the town of Eldorado (“home of Canada’s oldest gas station” - it was closed) you are far enough from the big centers along the 401 highway that people up here are not commuters – they live and work here, and what a desolate place “here” is. The question Judy and I always ask is “what the heck do these people do?” The homemade billboards advertising Chad’s Chimney Care and Bill’s Bait Shop are peeling and do not instill much confidence in the robustness of the region’s economy – I would gamble many of the businesses advertised no long exist.
We are in the middle of Deer hunting season – so 4-wheelers out number cars on the roads and in front of the homes that flash by on the side of 62. Guys in Blaze Orange hang around idling pick-ups at forest access points, smoking and listening to their two-ways for news of moving deer.
By Bancroft the sun is up proper and stopping the bike on main street I can feel the warmth through the thighs of my Oscar pants. However it is getting close to noon and we have hardly begun to trip. Judy pulls off her helmet and announces that besides her head everything is cold. We walk aimlessly around town, stomping and moving fast to get the blood moving. We stop in at the army surplus store to buy some mitts for Judy but they don’t have any. Like soldiers never get cold hands. The weird guy behind the counter is surfing the net on a screen that we can’t see and tells us to try Stedman’s next door without looking up. I find that a little creepy.
We find ourselves in a bakery/cafe and get some tea and a cookie. The cafe is blisteringly hot and we sit and sweat in our thermal undies, riding clothes and wind breakers. Judy puts on some more layers.


Our next stop was Bancroft, which is kind of pretty. It has a slight cottage country feel, with plenty of white haired people to signal it is nice enough to retire to, and cafes and gift shops, rather than pawn shops and strip joints. It has also got great rocks, particularly a stunning granite cliff just outside of town. I was frozen again, the only part of me warm being the part under the balaclava. So we stopped and walked around to send the blood back into my feet. And went into another little department store for liners to go inside my skidoo mitts, and another pair of socks. You know you’re in Canada when you can walk into a small town and find a pair of –30 below socks. And Tom had laughed at me this morning when I put on my down winter coat beneath the motorcycle jacket. Hah!
The café we found in Bancroft was very warm, the tea and homemade cookies delightful, and I had the pleasure of watching Tom discover that there are off-road car rallies less than 2 hours from his front door. The sparkle in his eye practically burst into flame when he found an ad for a car rally school within driving distance in New Hampshire. Guess I know what to get him for his birthday.


It is after 12 when we get back on the road. The landscape breaks from scrubby flat rocky plains populated by struggling cedars and unemployed people to rolling hills of pink granite. The road cutting through towering hills and bridging frozen lakes. I stop to turn on the Hero cam attached to the front fairing. We are warm, there are few cars and I realize I have not seen another bike all day.
With the indicator telling me we are just under half a tank Judy shouts in my ear that we should stop for gas and not bypass Haliburton as planned. Compared to Bancroft which is a town that survives on its own, where people who live there are either rednecks and born there or hippies and came by an antiquated VW van, Haliburton is tainted by being that much closer to Toronto. It is cottage country – so while Bancroft has everything you need, Haliburton has everything you don’t need – stores that can supply you with your aromatherapy needs and a wide selection of throw pillows. In the winter it shuts down for the most part and become a depressing place to be like Coney Island in February.

We stretched our legs at a Haliburton gas station, then realized we’d not actually covered all that much ground for the amount of time we’d been on the road. It was time to get serious; it was not getting any warmer. On the way to Dorset, the granite sparkled in the sunshine and the fox that crossed the road ahead of us paused and looked back at the odd trespasser in his little stretch of Earth. I was close enough to see his cheek whiskers puff up. Through rock offcuts with swirls of black and pink, azure lakes, and golden brown shrubs we headed to Algonquin Park. The landscape seemed to get darker and darker.

I filled the BV’s tank, drained mine, and got the heck out of Dodge. The problem with rich people is they tend to buy stuff – like beautiful countryside. The land around Haliburton is some of the prettiest and rugged this side of the rockies yet much of it is behind decorative fences and blemished by massive holiday homes and tennis courts. Millions of years ago the Earth did some pretty extreme exercises in contortionism in the area that would become Muskoka and we drove for an hour and hardly ever saw a spot flat enough to park an 18-wheeler that had not been created by man. Now, Toronto money is sculpting the wilderness to allow for golf courses and lodges and more cottages.
We entered the park an hour later – passing signs announcing the lack of fuel and I regretted not filling up again as we pushed up the hills through Dorset. The BV gets 250kms to the tank with just me, traveling under 100km/h on flat roads. I could only assume that with Judy and the hills we would be lucky to make 170 kilometers before the reserve light winked on. And currently we were not far above half going into the park and anyone who knows these scooters knows that most of the gas is above the F line. We passed one station and Judy urged me just to keep going so I did. Then just before entering the park and old plastic gas sign was swinging from a rusty pole. The needle had been falling steadily and now well below half. I pulled in and saw that the pumps were the antiquated ones with those little plastic balls that whirl around to show you the gas is flowing. No pay at the pump here. Then I notice a “Beware of Dog” sign stapled to the cedar rail fence surrounding the office and felt that was an odd thing to see at a gas station. As Judy was swinging her leg over a very large and assertive looking Alsatian came bounding around the back of the building. Twisting the throttle and spewing some gravel we sped away hoping the pumps on the other side of the park were more promising than this one.

The scooter only holds 10 L, so Tom stopped again for gas even though we had half a tank and I wondered why we weren’t pressing on. He obeyed me, then stopped at the next station five minutes on and cursed that it was closed. His cursing made me nervous so when we passed the sign that said NO GAS FOR 65 MILES, I started poking him till he pulled over. “Did you see that sign? Do we have enough?”
“Yes, I saw the sign. That is why I wanted to get gas the first time. It doesn’t hold very much,” he responded.
“Well why did you listen to me? How am I supposed to know?” How odd. Still, by my calculations we had enough to get the distance on the sign.
“As long as the station was open,” added Tom. He can be so reassuring. I gritted my teeth and tried to not watch the needle lean toward empty.

More to come.
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Old 11-17-2010, 04:23 PM   #2
Circle Blue
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Looking forward

To the "more to come."
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Old 11-18-2010, 06:58 AM   #3
ScramblerTom OP
Gnarly Adventurer
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Joined: Jan 2010
Location: in transit...
Oddometer: 274
Part 2 - a video

See video below as it got WAY TOO cold to pull out the camera and take pics. It really got too cold to do anything but keep moving.

I am surprised how boring Algonquin Park is from the road. There was little more of interest than heaps of rocks, leafless trees, and frozen-over beaver ponds. With 7600 square kilometers and only one highway leading through it, you don’t get much of an impression of the park from the back of a scooter. I am used to American parks such as Yosemite and Yellowstone with their road book maps to the best of the best. Since Americans demand easy access to their wilderness any picture perfect scenic site will invariably have a car park within spitting distance, so you can drive up – watch Old Faithful squirt and drive out of there without ever burning a calorie by uselessly walking anywhere. Here they make you work damn hard for it. As such virtually no one sees it. It is unspoiled, untamed, and uncharted wilderness that will leave you breathless – or so I’ve been told. I’ve never seen any of it. But the road was nice, until it got icy.
The air was getting noticeably colder, and when we turned unto highway 60 we noticed snow in the shadows, up in the park there was snow everywhere. The road had been plowed and now the snow on the side of the roads was slowly oozing across the surface and was freezing when shaded by trees. I hit one long patch and felt the bike start to slither side to side as the ageing tires failed to get purchase. Then we hit sun and dry pavement and everything was fine besides my nerves, which had just snapped like a hair over a flame. I really don’t mind crashing bikes – so long as they are dirt bikes, in the mud, riding in first of second gear. But I had some precious cargo with me (the wife) and bombing along at 110km/h between cable posts I knew an off would kill one of us. I slowed down. For the next 50 kms I cruised over numerous icy patches hundreds of feet long trying to track a straight line despite the winding road, often driving into the oncoming lane to avoid leaning into an icy curve. With passengers, the BV is just so top heavy I could not trust a spill this far from civilization.

We hit ice. I had said this morning that I wasn’t sure heading north where there was ice on the roads was a good idea. “It’s ten degrees outside,” Tom had replied. I trust him. I should try harder to remember the time he took me camping and got my Honda Accord stuck out on a lake in a snowstorm, without wallets or a phone. I’d practically frozen to death. And here we were. Every couple of minutes the road passed through the shadow of a looming cliff, and the asphalt was covered in a thin layer of icy snow. There always seemed to be a curve right at that spot, so that it didn’t take much to imagine the trajectory of my body as it flew at high speed off the seat head first into the rock face. We were out in the middle of nowhere. If we ran out of gas it would not be fun. Few cars, the occasional sign for a payphone. I imagined what the OPP would say to us when they found us on the side of the road. Then we passed out of the park, with a little gas station waiting for us as well as a restaurant. Four restaurants actually, but only one was open. Needing something hot I broke my diet for the third time that day and had a hamburger. I was ravenous. Must have burned a gazillion calories keeping warm. And doing tummy tucks and ass wiggles while driving.

Obviously we made it through without incident, but we were both running on frayed nerves when we pulled off at Whitney outside the western border of the park. It was after 3 and the sun was heading for the treetops. We were hungry, not miserably cold yet but certainly interested in a warm meal to see us home. We topped up with gas and ended up at Shirley’s pizza and wings for some food. There were 4 restaurants in town, and the other 3 were closed. We did not see another car while in town, the only traffic was a lonely looking kid on a beaten up BMX bike.
We got some cheeseburgers and chocolate milks, had our choice of seating and spent the better part of an hour making jokes about the lack of clientele and the plastic lawn chairs we had to sit on. It was the sort of place I instinctively parked the bike right out front so I could sit and keep an eye on it. A couple of ruffians walked over and looked the bike over, laughing and pointing and generally making me nervous until they came in and started straightening up the vacant seats that would not see a tourist’s backside for another 7 months. Oh, I see, they own this place. They smiled, nodded, and walked through a door beside the restrooms marked “Private” Ah, they live here as well.
We drove off feeling toasty warm and with high spirits. It was after 4 and the sun was now behind the hilltops as we made our way west along 60 to 127 that would take us south. The toasty feeling left me after a few minutes and by the time we turned south 5 minutes later I felt the ache creep into my arms and ankles as my blood abandoned my limbs. I had full thermal underwear, pants and shirts, fleece top, armoured riding gear, and a yellow rain coat on. I should have been impervious to cold but I was shivering uncontrollably after 20 minutes.

Much better. Though the next stretch would prove to be the coldest. We were racing against the disappearing sun – which would take with it the last bit of warmth left of the day. As it hung at the horizon it felt like it was taking the last warmth of the whole year with it. We settled in and rode fast and in silence. It was not pleasure; it was endurance. My ass started to ache relentlessly. I wondered if all the tightening I was doing to shift the pain, or at least take my mind off of it, could count as exercise. Do long distance riders have well developed gluts?
We stopped at one last café, an hour and a half from home. Tim Horton’s. The tea was hot, and that is all that mattered. The rest of the ride would be in the dark, which I wasn’t crazy about. For one, I couldn’t see if the road was icy, so I figured Tom couldn’t either. For another, the kooks that seem to detest riding behind two-wheels seemed to express their annoyance by riding especially close, and then making ridiculous passes into oncoming traffic. Riding in the dark makes me nervous (let’s be honest, everything makes me nervous). I confess though, after a while, the night riding was wonderful. The cold air had a stillness it doesn’t have during the day, nor during the summer. The sky was an impossible shade of blue. The lights were mesmerizing. It was magical. Sure, Tom and I were both chilled to the bone, but we’d be home soon, so warming up was a certainty.

Being that cold is the pits. You can’t think of anything else. Your eyes keep flipping from the odometer to the clock, calculating the minutes left. And when that happens time crawls by imperceptibly slow. You want to stop to warm up but that will only lengthen the misery. All the thrills of a new road and new surrounding are replaced with the need to get the heck out of there, keep moving, faster faster, until you are hunched down, chin down, elbows in and bombing along with nothing before you but a warm bath.
We got back to Madoc and stopped for tea. It was 6:30 and we had been riding in the dark for over an hour and Judy told me rather stoically that she was no longer having fun. That in itself was funny – at least to me. I recorded us looking bundled up and cold then left my Hero cam on the counter after paying up and grabbing the drinks. I panicked 20 minutes later when we were leaving. The manager had it in his pocket. He looked guilty when I asked if he has seen it, Jerk.
The trip home was better, south of Madoc we are on our turf. It was still an hour’s ride but the roads were familiar and I kept saying to myself, “ almost there, almost there”

We made it. After 11 hours clocked. Tom headed straight for a hot bath, wondering out loud why I didn’t do the same, seeing as I was clearly suffering from a lowered core temp. “I don’t like getting wet twice in one day,” was my response.
“How very British of you,” came the reply from the stairs. Some hot food, extra sweaters and a hot water bottle did the trick for me. It was an excellent first all-day adventure, and Tom’s buddies seem genuinely impressed that I didn’t mind going out in the cold, though I could have done without the icy road. I do have a question though: do I still count as adventurous if my favourite part was the cafés?

We drove through a closed up and street-lit Tweed, By The Way cafe shut up until tomorrow’s customers came for their daily. We stopped for another fuel refill, Judy reminded me to grab a bag of milk as Jacob had none for his cereal – the trip was over – we were now running errands.
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Old 11-18-2010, 07:50 AM   #4
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Ottawa, Canada
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Nice ride! Thanks for the report.
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Old 11-18-2010, 08:15 AM   #5
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Joined: Jul 2010
Location: Southern Ontario CAN
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Tom & Judy
Great Report. Glad to see you enjoying the cool Ontario fall. I think the lack of tourist traffic makes the roads a lot more enjoyable. WTG.
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Old 11-18-2010, 12:53 PM   #6
Joined: Nov 2010
Oddometer: 54

Fun, I love watching any bike adventure but your production quality falls short of Long Way Around!! : )
Very enjoyable to watch. Like I said, Judy is a tough nut....I absolutely loved Judys line, "the pain went away when the numbness set in, which wasn't so bad".....great should marry that lady!
Love the panning in the empty restaurant. Keep it up....helps get us through the winter.
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