Ride to Toronto

Ride to Toronto I left upstate New York for Toronto at 8.30am were the conditions were as good as I could ask for in mid September. The sky was clear blue and the temperature a cool 11 degrees celsius (52F). Actually the air vents in my leathers pants circulated a refreshing breeze, which helped to shake the sleepiness off. The drive time to Toronto was six hours but I always add another hour for fuel stops and a pit stop for lunch, toilet etc.

Again I took the secondary roads which brought me through some pleasant countryside and small towns including Nesceanna, Waddington, Clinton City, Madrid and Lisbon. I don’t know if the Spanish got here first but naturally you couldn’t see the Portuguese being too far behind their neighbour (or vice versa). Clinton City unlike its namesake looked a fairly tired and faded place where the only thing of note was a large imposing prison; or as they’re referred to in the US – a Correctional Facility. A term I find somewhat misused as with over one million people in prison, animalist gang rivalry, high re-offending rates and a lock’em up mentality there doesn’t seem to be too much correcting going on.

Anyway, as the morning progressed to afternoon the temperature didn’t follow suit and it remained cool. I don’t have a screen on the bike as I think it takes away from the look and particularly on my style of bike. The drawback is I have to contend with headwind. The resistance encountered doesn’t bother me but when it’s a piercing cold wind it’s a different story. Although I wasn’t too cold, I could foresee a different climate in the near future where I might have to re-evaluate the screen idea were function might win over form. It would be a shame to get a screen for three months and have to take it off when I hit warmer clims in Central America in late January. Maybe extra layers are the way to go. I’ll see.

On schedule I passed the Canadian border just over the half way mark where a 1.2km bridge that spanned a wide river that immediately followed the checkpoint. Not remarkable by itself but the bridge was floored with steel grids with two inch by two inch square holes which provided a full view of the river below. This is the first time I’ve seen such a surface. It was unnerving to drive upon, as I slid slightly left and right. I was glad of the 348kg of bike (ex driver) to ground me and fat chopper tyres which increased the contact area. The experience wasn’t made any easier when the wanker behind me didn’t back off when I put on my warning lights. Hope I don’t have to do that too often. Not long past the bridge the clouds took on a foreboding look, which I knew would end in rain. The only question to consider was if it was a shower or a storm.

I decided to pull in for an early refuel and to have some lunch too. This way I could also double check the weather forecast. While dining on a Tim Hortons soup and sandwich combo special the heavens opened, rain storm commenced and before I hit the oatmeal cookie the thunder started. Luckily there was a line of inns within sight and I booked into a Ramada Inn for US65 including tax and breakfast. Good call as I didn’t fancy finishing the remaining journey wet and there was no prize for arriving on time in Toronto. In the end it was a good decision as the heavy rain, which started at 1.00pm didn’t stop until 8.00pm. The next morning as I began to come out of a hazy sleep I listened as I usually do for the tell tail signs of rain: the patter on the windows, drops hitting the roof or the spray from passing cars. Nothing. Instead clear blue skies panned the horizon and it was somewhat warm despite the moisture in the air. I eat breakfast quickly and hit the road asap.

On the final stage I had three random encounters, which typify the friendliness of the Americans and Canadians. Before I left the car park Pam came over to talk about my motorbike, as she’d never seen the model before. She had a HD and kindly took the photos in this section (dry photos). Later on as I passed Lake Ontario I decided to stop in Coubourg just to have a coffee in a nice small town along the way. I spotted a café ahead and parked outside, reversing between two cars with the back wheel against the pavement. Parking outside meant I didn’t have to take off any baggage. As I dismounted I could tell the friendly eye catching hello would result in a conversation. So I had a coffee on the terrace with a middle aged lady who recognised my Netherlands licence plate. She had hosted a Dutch teenager for a semester a year earlier as part of the Lions Program. She told me a little about the town, her son who lived off Vancouver Island and about her holiday in Greece that year where she visited a former exchange student. The last encounter on this short journey was at the Soneco patrol station where through muffled hearing (I wear ear plugs on long trips) I could make out the Dutch language in the background. On recognising my licence plate a retiree and his wife pulled up along side my bike and began talking in Dutch, to which I could only engage for two minutes. Turns out his family moved over when he was 12 years of age. He was actually going back to Amsterdam two weeks later to visit two old Aunts. These chance conversations were a welcome interlude for a lone traveller but also proved something I realised a couple of weeks ago; that I’ve found it easier to meet people in the US and Canada versus Europe and other places I’ve travelled. The difference now being that many more people here have initiated the conversation. Not that I’ve ever found it difficult to meet people.

I travelled a lot both personally and for my job. Quiet often alone. For work I could be away for anything from two nights to four weeks. So this Shy Irish Boy forced himself to go out otherwise I’d end up staying in the hotel with room service and pay per view (no comment). Here I have two great icebreakers: my Irish accent and my motorbike. The Celtic lilt goes down a treat over here. Intrigued by my accent the amount of “OMG – are you Irish, you’re not from here, you sound funny” etc which ends up in my hearing a holiday story or of the family connection to the Emerald Isle has been astonishing, which I’m actually interested to hear. Likewise, countless people have struck up a conversation about my bike, invariably as it looks great or simply because of the unfamiliar licence plate has been equally surprising. I’m not saying that my European brothers and sisters are not inherently as friendly but the language barrier doesn’t exist here. In addition the ancestral link is deeper here to Ireland than for example Spain or Italy.

Once these topics become exhausted the next to follow on is the trip itself, which leads onto another whole dialogue usually starting with “WOW”. Followed closely by tips and suggestions and offers to go for coffee, beer etc. But more than that, the people I’ve meet so far have been genuinely warm in their introduction, generous with their time and reminisced when recalling their own trips to provide recommendations for the betterment of my adventure. So I’ve been lucky, that despite travelling alone numerous people have instigated conversation with me and I haven’t felt like “Billy no mates” so far. This, coupled with the Irish charm, chisel features, lightening wit and that fact that I’m a close relative of Patrick Dempsey (not – sorry Patrick) has been of great assistance over the past six weeks!

Al Dempsey
Shy Irish Boy

23 September 2010

Montreal and Toronto blogs will be posted in the next few days. Having too much fun…….