I eventually wound my way up the single track road to where it ends. As I sat there with the engine off a dozen wild turkeys crossed the path a couple of hundred yards ahead of me up the closed trail; I dropped the kick stand and grabbed the camera.These things were enormous! They picked their way through the forest looking very prehistoric. After ten minutes of turkey watching I walked back to the Tiger and packed up the camera. Before I got on the road again I needed let that coffee go, so I stepped off the trail into the woods. Have you ever had that feeling that you’re being watched?
Standing there rather exposed, I felt that prickle and looked around to see the massive lead turkey not five feet away watching me intently – I almost jumped out of my skin. He looked at me. I looked at him. I finished up and he just stood there watching me climb out of the ditch. He then turned around majestically and walked back up the path were his crew where waiting for him before leading them away up the hill. My advice is do not mess with that turkey.
After my close encounter of the turkey kind I headed north, following the escarpment’s winding roads. Spring runoff was a theme of this trip with all of the streams and rivers swollen with melted snow. Up in Hockley Valley I fought the urge to keep riding the roller coaster and stopped to grab some images of the exposed red clay.When I got back on the road it was behind a pile of traffic backed up behind a pensioner on their daily Tim Horton’s run. Rather than fight the demographics I took at right hand turn up Hurontario Street. I was expecting apartment buildings and strip malls, but Hockley Valley don’t play like that.
I rounded a corner to find a Dufferin road works van on the side of the road. He waved me through as he was just removing the road closed sign from the winter. The road coming out of the river crossing is very steep and untended. Getting up it in the winter would be a challenge for anything on wheels. He told me I was the first one on the road this year, which felt a lot more special than the parade I’d left behind.I’d originally intended to bomb up Highway 10 for a stop and then ride back down through Mono Centre where I still wish we’d bought a house; this back route up Hurontario was better in every way. The Tiger is such a capable road bike that I keep thinking about going with purely road biased tires next time around, but unexpected turnoffs like this are why you keep a multipurpose tire on the thing; the Metzelers handled the soft gravel and mud with ease, even on the unpassable hill. Lightness is the goal off road, but these big adventure bikes are surprisingly capable if you’re conscious of their size and don’t try and ride them like a mountain bike.
My vague plan was to work my way up the escarpment, perhaps all the way to the southern shore of Georgian Bay, but my photo/warm-up stops and the general misery of the weather made me aware of the fact that I’d reached the apex of my journey in Terra Nova. As I was looking over Google Maps the day before I’d worked out twenty one of the least boring kilometres you could ride in Southern Ontario, so the new plan after lunch was to do the loop both ways and then head back home.
You seldom spend much time on the crown of your tire. Riding a motorcycle feels like flying most of the time, but bending one into a corner has a multiplying effect on that goodness. When you aren’t leaning into corners you’re enjoying some whoopdeedoo elevation changes and the scenery is about as good as it gets, even on a winter-like early spring day. You’d do a lot worse than making the ride up to Terra Nova for this bit of pavement.
After a couple of loops all the warmth from lunch was long blown away and I was dreading coming back out of the sheltered valley I’d been enjoying. A last ride down River Road to Horning’s Mills (another place I wish we’d bought a house) had me ignoring the swollen streams because I didn’t want to stop the roller coaster ride. What did finally bring me to a stop was the overflowing waterfall out of the pond in Horning’s Mills.
After this last stop I made my way through the quiet village and up onto the Shelburne Highlands where fields of wind turbines do their business. Up on the heights forty kilometre an hour gusts were knocking me around in addition to the plunging temperature. The partially sunny high of ten had turned into a cloudy and windy high of three. The windmills were spinning fiercely as I passed through them, and that’s when the flurries started. A few flakes of snow suddenly turned into reduced viability as snow snakes eddied across the pavement. I clung to the heated grips but the blasting northern winds hitting me in the side meant double the wind chill. I couldn’t go much further like this.
I ducked behind the windshield when I could, grimly soldering on as the sky darkened and the wind gusts increased to over sixty kilometres per hour. I usually make the sixty-six kilometre push back home from Horning’s Mills to Elora in about an hour, but not this time. Riding into Grand Valley I knew there was a coffee shop on the main street and for the second time that day I staggered into a warm shop with a running nose and a wild look in my eye, this time with snow on me.
Half an hour later, and while snow swirled around the trusty Tiger outside, I’d restored feeling to my fingers and caffeinated myself for the final leg of what had turned into a much shorter and more difficult ride than I’d planned. As I walked outside an old guy coming in looked me up and down and said, “nice day to be out on a bike…”
“All I can say is that The Weather Network lied to me!” I replied. He laughed.
South of Grand Valley I was following the Grand River and being off the Shelburne Highlands meant a break from the chronic winds and snow. Heading south also meant the wind was at my back instead of trying to dismount me. I finally got my frozen carcas home and stood in front of the fire forever, trying to get heat back in me.
After feeling returned I discovered my wedding ring had fallen off my senseless fingers at some point when I pulled my gloves off. We’re nineteen years married this summer and I’ve never lost the ring before. I couldn’t find it in the obvious places so emailed my various stops hoping it had showed up. It took a second search the next morning when my brain had warmed up to find the ring in the bottom of my bag where it had obviously fallen out of my gloves at some point; good save there.
As painful as it was, I still feel like this trip cleared away the cobwebs and let me look upon the world in a way that any car trip wouldn’t. I didn’t just go for a drive, I did something genuine and difficult and have a tale of trophy wives, dinosaurs and snow snakes to tell from it.
If it was easy everyone would do it.
Some other pictures from the trip:
|Hockley Valley Road.|
|At The Terra Nova Public House ready for another lap.|
|Great on the road, but that’s the only place you’ll ever use one.|
|Winter runoff in Hockley River.|
|Horning’s Mills Run Off.|
|If you like the twisties, the loop out of Terra Nova is a keeper.|