Tobermory, Ontario. I kick my side stand down, the bike leans gently to the left as I attempt to dismount without embarrassing myself. Not an easy task with the top box on the rear rack and six hours of saddle time-induced stiffness in my legs. I’m early—the ferry to Manitoulin Island is still forty-five minutes away and the cold morning mist has been replaced with a beaming sun that’s been set to roast. The shade of the nearby trees looks so inviting. As so often happens, I am approached by a fellow traveler interested in my bike, actually more interested in the make of it and a chance to revisit his own Triumph ownership memoirs. Our conversation turns to our travel plans, as we retreat to the shade of the trees. My plan, a simple few days poking around northern Ontario; his a bit more elaborate. He shipped his MG from New Zealand to Montreal and now is four days into a cross country trip to Vancouver where he will ship his car back home.
Ahhh, my hand instinctively swings towards the back of my neck, I can feel the firm body of my attacker between my fingers. The burning pain radiating from my neck sends a chill down my back. You see, I have a severe allergy to wasps, bees, hornets, anything with a stinger can potentially kill me so this is not good and to make matters worse, I already paid for my ferry ticket. I walk back to the bike get the EpiPen and make my way to the pavilion. Seconds, which feel like minutes, tick away. Sweat beads on my forehead and the swelling around the bite expands with each touch of my finger tips. It would be too much to say that my life is flashing in front of my eyes but the events of today are. So far I have dealt with equipment issues, nasty weather, getting lost and now a potentially life threatening situation! I can do without the life and death part but I must say, it has been an awesome day. So the question arises, what does it take to turn a ride into an adventure?
My day began like most. I rolled out of my driveway in Toronto under the fading darkness of the night. My GPS glowing bright in front of me, today’s route prepared and tucked away safely in it’s electronic brain. The destination, Tobermory and the one thirty ferry to Manitoulin Island. My twist on a typical ride through the Bruce is, instead of taking the direct paved route, I will ride as much gravel and unmaintained roads as I can.
I cruise north on familiar roads accompanied by a grey sky and a light mist. My planned route doesn’t start until I reach the back roads north of Orangeville.
My fingers dance on the touch screen—where to go, enter, routes, enter, Day 1, enter, go. Oh no, something is wrong! I can see the route but it’s not working. A wave of panic rushes through my brain. What now? Do I go back to the highway and take the safe way? In my favour, time is on my side. I have lots of it. I turn my GPS into a compass and crank the handlebars until the arrow points west. From where I’m standing, west is a rock-strewn uphill with a big yellow sign: unmaintained road. I replay my options again. I’m alone, I can’t miss the ferry, should I play it safe? F*#% it, I pop the bike into gear and west it is!
Where am I? I don’t know but what I do know is that I’m making my way northwest and if I run into a very big lake I have gone too far. Each intersection requires a decision, my decision based on my observations. Shedding the security blanket of my electronic nanny has proven to be exhilarating. The wind picks up and the mist thickens, soaking me as if it is pouring rain, the visibility shrinks to just a few metres.
I make my way to Sauble Beach, it’s beach town bliss hidden by the mist and gloom, but the coffee at The Two Chicks Café tastes as good as ever. From here it’s north along pavement and gravel, a ride punctuated by glimpses of Lake Huron and hidden bay detours.
Then across the Bruce Peninsula and the Cabot Head Lighthouse, at least that’s the plan. The road goes from paved to gravel then quickly shrinks from there. I am sure I’m lost but the ride is fun so I continue for a couple more kilometres before turning around. The lighthouse will have to wait, time to focus on getting to Tobermory. I fire up the GPS, punch in the destination and hit go. Once back at HYW 6 the GPS suggests I turn right but the road directly across looks so much more interesting. My decision? Straight we go. Back along the shores of Lake Huron the road twists and turns as the GPS adapts. I pop back out onto HYW 6 just south of Tobermory with time to spare. Now back to the present.
Its been thirty minutes since the sting and I think I’m in the clear. The allergy injections I have been pumping into my body have done their job. The sound of the ferry horn vibrates through the air announcing it’s time to go.
So what turns a ride into an adventure? It might be as simple as turning off the GPS, pulling up to an intersection looking around and picking a direction that looks best. If you’re lucky you might get lost.