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Two days spare and where do you go for a decent ride when you live in Toronto? I've not done much riding in Northern Ontario and while two days really doesn't do it justice, it'll be the end of the month before I get out again and I doubt it will be warm enough then.
So, two days it is. A quick look at the map and it looks like Manitoulin Island is a reasonable distance. For bonus points, I've also never been there and I like finding new places. The plan was to make around 600km each day making it a good test of the Tiger 1200 now that I've had it a while.
The route up out of Toronto was as tedious as ever - highway 400 is never fun and by the time I hit Barrie it was further made dreary by the heavy rains that started. The luggage on the Tiger is awesome and I'd planned ahead brininging not only my heated kit to wear under the gore tex, but also my rain suit. I donned both at a Home Depot and while I don't think i needed the waterproofs, their bright yellow hue helped with the absolute lack of visbility the driving rain lead to.
if Ontario has a motorcycling problem, it's that there's a dearth of roads to go anywhere. In practice, there are two roads to get up here - Highway 400 (or 69 as it used to be called) or Highway 11. However, I like a third choice and so I cut across country where I could, zigzagging between the two.Â
While I won't share my absolute route here, this is what I can recommend if you are in the area:
My route was basically from point A acrosss to Parry Sound and then North on the 400. As I said, I won't share the full thing as I had a few too many dead ends on dirt roads for most peoples tastes. For the most part, it was highway and to be honest, the driving rain never really let up so it was a case of putting on the miles while I could, as quickly as possible. While i'd planned to do an extra loop up around Espanola, by the time I got up there, I honestly couldn't be botheredÂ and so I headed down to my accomodation at Rockville Inn.
The following day, the weather wasn't as bad, but it also wasn't great - Six degrees in the morning and a daytime high of 12 never bodes for great ridiing, but at least there was no rain forecast.
Manitoulin is the largest island in freshwater in the world. It's home to a number of first nations and the native presence is never far away.
It's also a very quiet place. Towns are small - Gore Bay, which I believe is the largest has a population of about 900, for example. It's quite scenic however.
Roads in Manitoulin are best described as rural. Many have a light gravel covering and some of the side roads really are just dirt tracks, but it's well worth a ride around. That's not to say you need an adventure bike to enjoy it. I did see a good few Harley's and the odd sport tourer out. Stick to the main roads and you will be OK.
I figured I might see more wildlife, but just about all i saw was a giant flock of Canada Geese in a field. As I passed, they took wing, though I didn't manage to catch them all.
The day passed quickly, or at least the morning did whilst doing the above route. I can only wish for better weather and maybe I'll come back in high summer next time, though there might be bugs. I ended up staying a second night at my cottage, making about 1300km over two days after a late evening dash back down HWY 11. Not a great distance, but not too bad.
I get the feeling there is a bit more to explore in the area - The central region (around Mindemoya) has one or two promising looking roads, but it's more of a scenic run than a technical challenge. In fact the best part (for me) is highway six onto and off the island and is definitely the most scenic
I left somewhat let down by Manitoulin. I had been lead to believe it was a very scenic place but I didn't find it that beautiful. I'm sure the poor weather played no small part in that intepretation and I liked it enough to feel that I should return next year as part of a longer tour. For example, next time, I'd probably explore some of the other roads around Espanola and even go as far as the Sault and North Bay. I'd probably also take the ferry from South Baymouth and return via the Bruce penninsula, but that's for another day.
Next trip is probably down to Vermont.