Three days in Ontario and two in Quebec made for a total of 2,900 kilometres.
At 5:30 in the morning we got up from our tent just outside of Kenora, Ontario, while the birds were chirping to get an early start on the day of riding that lay ahead of us. We packed up camp while listening to the radio. Sadly, the local news reported what I already suspected: the motorcycle crash we passed late yesterday was a fatality. We became deflated, chatting that we still had a long way to go and we really needed to be on guard.
A special assignment
Webster's dictionary defines camaraderie as good fellowship. I don’t know why or when it began but the ritual for motorcyclists riding down the highway is to wave to one another. I suppose we are all acknowledging and sharing the joy and excitement of the open road. Bruce was tasked to keep his eye on other riders and to wave to them. I took joy in watching my mirrors as others passed and Bruce waved.
Paying respects to Terry Fox
The ride east out of Kenora on Highway 17 was so enjoyable. Kenora is included in a land area titled Lake of the Woods and it seemed every other vehicle was towing some sort of boat. We passed many lakes with friendly names, such as Mom Lake, Baby Lake and Rae Lake, as we headed towards Thunder Bay. We stopped east of Thunder Bay at the Terry Fox memorial and I had to pay my respects.
Terry was a young man stricken with cancer and as a result, had a leg amputated. As a fundraiser for cancer, Terry undertook what he called a Marathon of Hope, and he set out to run a marathon a day on an artificial leg in his efforts to cross Canada, beginning in St. John's, Newfoundland. Reportedly, he dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic Ocean and was to run to the Pacific Ocean.
My home province of Prince Edward Island was a part of Terry's run and I met him briefly in 1980. The local media encouraged people to support Terry and run with him into Charlottetown. I did my small part and accompanied him on the Trans-Canada Highway. I will always recall standing on the side of the road and watching Terry running towards me with an unforgettable gait, which was caused by the artificial leg. He was forced to end his run in Thunder Bay due to illness and lost his battle. If you ever pass through Thunder Bay a stop there is a must. The view of the city's harbour and Lake Superior from the lookout is breathtaking.
Seeing lakes, wildlife and unique attractions
We headed north on Highway 11, just outside Nipigon. Within minutes on Highway 11, we passed by Lake Helen and the Red Rock First Nation. Just past Red Rock, I was intrigued by an old church and Indian burial ground, so we stopped to check it out. St. Sylvester's Roman Catholic Church, which was built in 1877, was under restoration and the sight of it was worth the stop.
Traffic was sparse and again the landscape seemed littered with lakes. The terrain was rocky, perhaps even mountainous, and the view of Lake Nipigon to the west lingered on for many kilometres. We meandered along and enjoyed the never-ending scenery and never being forced by other traffic to speed up. We chatted with some of the locals at a gas stop in the First Nation community of Longlac and enjoyed the views of Long Lake as we crossed a causeway of sorts.
As we progressed east, I noted several deer, a wolf standing by the side of the road, a young fox walking on the shoulder with lunch in its mouth, float planes on the lakes, and signage somewhere along our route billing Ontario as The Last Frontier. That night, we tented in a resort in the community of Moonbeam.
Finding Lac Sleepy
In the morning, we made our way to Quebec. The sight of sawmills and lumbering logging trucks, along with the smell of fresh-cut trees as we neared Kapuskasing, Ontario, was noteworthy. We logged 650 kilometres that day, taking us into northern Quebec via Matheson, Ontario, on Highway 101. The mere sight of gold mines near Matheson and Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, was unexpected and exciting.
The ride through northern Quebec’s Highway 117 was unbelievable. There were lakes and more lakes, no traffic and there seemed to be infinite, well-marked primitive camping sites—some being over 100 kilometres off the beaten path on gravel roads. We tented on one such primitive site not far off the highway that was right on Lac Sleepy, which seemed like an appropriate name after our 650-kilometre day of riding.
Feeling the heat
We awoke to the sight of a calm lake, the sounds of chirping birds and the clean smell of nature. We were on the road by 6:30 a.m. This was to be a 700-kilometre day and nature’s beauty continued.
We passed through quaint small communities. One such place that stood out in my mind was Mont-Tremblant, which is a well known ski area. It was ironic that we were baking in the hot sun on the bike while passing several tractor trailers hauling Bombardier's newest snowmobile offerings.
We stayed well north of the Montreal traffic and passed east through St. Jerome and on to Quebec City. Quebec City was gridlock with major road construction delaying us for an hour in 33º C heat. It was unpleasant but we persevered. This was not a tent night; we decided to stay in a motel east of Quebec City. That night, we set up to reach the first of the Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick, the next day.
Rivers and wide open fields
At 6 a.m. we were on the road again for a 775-kilometre day. We went eastbound along Highway 20, passing the St. Lawrence River to our left. At times, the view of the river valley was hazy, then it was eye-catching with the Laurentian Mountains and huge freighters crawling along the waterway. Many fields were full of crops of corn, I believe, and at times, the smell of fresh-laid manure was overpowering.
Like a breath of fresh air
New Brunswick—almost home. The highway signs read in English and we were on the home stretch.
Stay tuned for the beautiful sights and smells of the Atlantic region. I was startled by a whale in Newfoundland while on a rock collecting that well-earned bottle of Atlantic Ocean water.
Wayne Hamm’s cross-Canada journey was supported by Riverside Honda and Ski-Doo in St. Albert, Alberta.