But take a second look at the location of the drag-race, on the Elk Lake loop of the Lake Temiskaming motorcycle tour, and it suddenly becomes clear that this event, like so many in Northern Ontario, is another great reason to ride out. The Temiskaming Loop, and it’s little sister, the Elk Lake Loop, make up one of my favorite rides in the province, maybe the whole world. The loop treats riders to the boreal forest, dotted with lakes and rivers on the Ontario side, and spectacular vistas of rolling farmland on the Quebec side framed by Lake Temiskaming.
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And, while the ride up and back was absolutely stellar, this was no ordinary drag race. On this particular weekend, in the fine farmers fields of the Little Clay Belt deep in the wilds on Northeastern Ontario, amongst the burnouts, speed trials, high-octane fumes and smell of Mars bars deep frying, Nitro Mike would be attempting the world record for the longest wheel stand, judged by no other than the Guinness Book of World Records.
While the record attempt was slated for Saturday, I arrived in my second home in the north – The Holiday Inn Express and Suites in New Liskeard. I’ve been writing about motorcycle touring in Northern Ontario for the better part of four years, and I can say without a doubt, this is one of my favorite hotels in the province. I had the good fortune to catch up with the hotel’s owner and operator Sean Mackey, and he revealed how each piece in the hotel was virtually hand-picked to make it unlike any other in the chain. And it shows. The ample space in each room was a real delight when carting in my riding gear.
Sean is also an avid rider, cruising in to the hotel on his highly modified Honda Shadow, and sharing some of his favorite rides in the area with me. We both agreed that Highway 65 and 65 from New Liskeard to Elk Lake and Matachewan were some of the best in the area. Where one highway delivers great scenery, the other is a wonder of tight technical turns, bobs and weaves, all rising and falling just as fast as you please.
After a quick unpack, I headed over to the Earlton airport to check out the test and tune, and what a treat that was. I arrived shortly after 7pm to see a long lineup of every type of vehicle driven by every type of speed freak waiting for their turn at the Christmas tree. Top of mind was the late 70’s purple Dodge Charger and the pair of 50’s Chevy and GMC trucks, both with massive amounts of torque hidden under perfect paint jobs.
As dusk peaked, the fiery orange, reds and purples blew out the sky behind the would-be racers. All this, enhanced by the dozens of racers lining up and the glare of the high intensity lamps around the sides of the drag strip (which is a fully functioning airport on any other day of the week) made for one of the prettiest nights I’ve spent in the North. That, and the massive king bed in my suite back at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, made it doubly special.
The next morning I was greeted with a drag racer’s worst nightmare – rain. Making my way out to the track in a light downpour, I met up with Nitro Mike to see how things were looking for a run at the world record. The adjudicator from Guinness was also there, but with that kind of rain, conditions didn’t look good. Mike and I got to talking and he shared with me some of the details about his car, the paint job, and the unique hood that all of his fans sign at the dozens of towns he visits, trucking back and forth across the continent, entertaining crowds with his exhibition wheel stands. But this weekend was supposed to be different. I could feel his frustration with the weather.
I toured around the grounds for the better part of the afternoon, indulging in a deep fried Mars bar while I chatted up a crew of snowmobile drag racers who were chomping at the bit to get out on the track. I also had a chance to chat up the organizer of the event, and even the Mayor of Earlton who made sure I knew how welcome motorcyclists were in his neck of the woods. After spending most of the day in pretty great company at the track, even though there wasn’t any racing, I headed back to the comfort of the hot tub at the hotel to warm my bones.
Sunday morning the sun came out for just long enough for Nitro Mike to make an attempt. Dozens of volunteers ran out to the track, standing a few meters apart, and the adjudicator from Guinness was rushed down to the end of the track. After a few minutes of warming up the tires, Mike gunned the 440 Magnum engine in his custom PT Cruiser and the front end lifted up for a whopping 763.4 meters (2504 feet), before coming down at the far end of the track. This was more than five times longer than the previous record of 450 feet.
Guinness presented Mike with his certificate moments before the rain started up again and everyone took shelter back in their trailers. I headed back to the hotel and gave it another few hours before completing the second half of my tour of Lake Temiskaming. And as if to prove how friendly the region is to motorcyclists, the rain dried up mere moments after leaving the hotel.