Due to financial constraints and various responsibilities I’d almost talked myself out of going to visit an old friend (we’ve known each other since he was 13) at his 50th birthday party last weekend, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Seeing the old faces and catching up was brilliant, but so was the chance to be out in the wind for days on my bike. Sometimes it takes stepping away from your place in the world to gain the perspective you need to better understand it.
I left on a Friday morning as the sun beat down and temperatures started to rise. I’d intended to take the Kawasaki but it picked up a flat last week and replacement tire isn’t in yet so I turned to the trusty nearly 20 year old/84k Triumph Tiger to take me away. Following standard GTA avoidance protocols I headed east instead of south to the crowded and manic highways of Toronto, which Google Maps always prompts me towards (getting there five minutes sooner is much more important than your mental health!). Other than a traffic light in Centre Wellington not seeing me waiting (they’re quick to road-tax me but slow to recognize motorcycles as a vehicle – I ended up putting the kickstand down and running over to the pedestrian button to change the light), it was clear sailing out of my increasingly crowded and poorly infrastructured home county.
Riding into the rising sun I made good time until I hit Newmarket, which was all poorly timed traffic lights and frantic citiots rushing to get one car ahead. I was going to stop for a coffee but nothing presented itself in the strip-mall cookie-cutter desert of GTA expansion and rather than grate on about wearing masks all the time I preferred to just avoid the masses, so I pressed on out the other side and back into the country, except the country is now plastered with gravel trucks grumbling in and out of construction sites to build more housing for the ever expanding Greater Toronto Area.
I’d been on the road about two hours when I rounded the end of Lake Scugog on the Port Perry causeway and pressed on towards Peterborough. At a four way intersection someone in a trophy truck (top of the line full-sized pickup with bling wheels and chrome that will never do a day of work in its life) ran the red light making a right hand turn in front of me. I edged over in my lane ready to do something more drastic but he stopped. The lead rider in a gaggle of Harleys coming the other way started making angry monkey gestures because he felt that I was encroaching on his lane (which he was cutting the corner on). It’s one of those things about riding in the insanity of Southern Ontario: everyone is very keen to tell you what you should be doing rather than making better decisions themselves.
I pushed on, hoping to get beyond the gravitational suck of Toronto driving culture. Construction on the highway into Peterborough slowed things up again as people in massive SUVs rushed up the soon to be closed left hand lane to get a few cars ahead (and cause miles of backup), but if you’re not driving a massive SUV and butting in line you’re not doing it right.
Finally on Highway 7, I continued east toward Ottawa aiming for the Iron Rooster about halfway along the day one map. Traffic thinned out and everyone settled into a less manic rush as the (sh)city fell behind. After a stop in Marmora for gas I didn’t really need but a stretch I did, I rolled on to the Iron Rooster for lunch. I haven’t seen any Ontario Provincial Police presence in my community for weeks, but on Hwy 7 there were multi-car speed traps set up every 300 feet or so. By the time I stopped for lunch I’d seen over 20 police vehicles. By the time I got to Osgoode (south of Ottawa) the number was over 50. It’s nice to know that the OPP is focused on bonus tax collection and making sure the insurance industry is getting its pound of flesh rather than looking after the communities it claims to police.
The Iron Rooster is a cool spot right off the highway with a big parking lot and indoor/outdoor seating that helps ease any covid anxieties (they roll up multiple doors to make the inside outside). The entire place is motorcycle themed and specializes in rotisserie chicken in various sandwiches. That focus makes for good food and I enjoyed “The Rossi” which was a “Rotisserie chicken tossed in pesto mayo with tomato, avocado and havarti cheese” on a toasted brioche bun, locally cut fries too, nice!
|Moto-inspired philosophy on the wall…|
|A wee museum with some interesting old bikes in it and the walls covered in posters including everything from The Great Escape to On Any Sunday and Easy Rider – it was a great stop!|
|A 1918 BSA!|
A distance was starting to form in my mind from where I’ve been feeling stuck in the village we moved into that is rapidly being converted into an urban subdivision. As I rode away from the Rooster with a full stomach and some perspective, the old bones of the earth started to appear in the form of the Canadian Shield, poking up between pines and lakes (if you could see past all the police parked on the side of the road).
Traffic was light and I made the occasional pass, but between the police blitz and volume of traffic, Highway 7 isn’t the picturesque alternative to the 401 that it once was. I wasn’t in a rush to get to Osgoode but I found the smartphone’s manic attention getting behaviour exhausting and when I did occasionally see a place I might stop it I found myself pushing on to keep to with the schedule Google had decided for me. I finally turned it off and found I could enjoy the scenery and the ride more without all that noise.
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