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Travelling off the beaten path leads to amazing discoveries
Get the Flash Player to see this player.When was the last time you looked up and saw the stars? I mean really saw the stars. Enjoying a frosty beverage on my balcony at The Waterfront Inn on Lake Temiskaming with a couple friends, we were amazed at how much more vibrant and plentiful they can be without the obstruction of air and light pollution. This is just one of the many things that made the motorcycle ride up to the City of Temiskaming Shores a worthwhile adventure.
Located roughly two hours past North Bay, the community is composed of the three former municipalities of Haileybury, New Liskeard and Dymond who amalgamated back in 2004. Each offering their own unique benefits and charm, New Liskeard is a quaint little town that attracts thousands of riders every long weekend in July for the annual Biker’s Reunion. Consider it the Port Dover of the North.
Frustrated by the sheer amount of people and traffic obstructing my last few outings in the city, I decided to head North after hearing from several former attendees that the area had a great deal to offer. Turns out, they didn’t steer me wrong. The Lake Temiskaming Loop, as it is known, offers a self-guided motorcycle tour that is home to three cultures, two provinces and one lake.
LakeTemiskaming is a large freshwater lake on the provincial border between Ontario and Quebec, which forms part of the Ottawa River. Located within the Gateway to Ontario’s Wilderness Region, the lake features 30 different species of fish making it a haven for outdoorsmen.
For those who are less than adventurous with their palette, the region offers the same chain restaurants you would find in large cities, but we decided to experience establishments that are unique to the area like Rooster’s, Gilli’s and Zante’s Bar & Grill for our meals and were happy we did. Being Saturday night, we even tipped a couple pints at the King George Tavern.
Venturing off the main highway a number of times in search of the squiggly lines on the map, I discovered some incredible roads with tarmac as smooth as ice and not a tail light to be seen anywhere. Sparsely inhabited by cottagers, native peoples and year-round inhabitants, on several occasions I rode uninterrupted for over an hour without even coming into contact with another soul. Road quality on these main thoroughfares was fabulous but I figured I’d head even further off the beaten path since I hadn’t had a chance to put the suspension of my Kawasaki Versys through its paces yet. Traversing rarely visited roads, I was not only impressed with the way the bike handled itself across unstable terrain but I also managed to find some amazing scenery that is fit for framing.
Not only free of gridlock and pretension, Northern Ontario also manages to avoid big city prices. The cost of food, accommodations, fuel and beverages for an entire weekend cost me less than I would have spent on a night out in Toronto had I stayed in the city on Saturday night.
Offering a veritable playground for bikers, Northern Ontario boasts smooth, wide open highways that wind their way through pristine forests, along sandy beaches and rocky shores of rivers and lakes for as long as you have to invest. Without a word of a lie, the scent of the fresh air that wafted through my helmet was literally intoxicating at times for a city slicker like me.
“With all of those bags, you must not be from around here,” said the attendant as I approached the counter after filling up the bike. “No, I am from Toronto,” I replied. To which she responded, “Welcome to the Temiskaming Region then, we are happy to have you here,” with a beaming smile. When was the last time you received that kind of a greeting from a gas station attendant in the city? I’m willing to bet never.
Returning home after logging over 900 miles in just three days through rain, fog and blistering heat, one would think that the last thing I would want to do would be to get back in the saddle but the Versys was incredibly accommodating to the derriere. In fact, I even went riding again that night! The only thing that would make the Versys a more suitable mount to tackle such excursions would be to offer heated hand grips like its close competitor, the BMW F650GS. Power was more than adequate, even while passing at freeway speeds, and the handling was surprisingly impressive on the wide variety of surfaces I encountered.
It is difficult to fathom just how vast this province is until you spend an entire day riding and monitor your progress on a map, only to realize that you haven’t even scratched the surface.
Travelling this far away from the city may involve investing more of your time to get there, but once you arrive it pays you back in dividends with great riding and small town hospitality. It may be a little out of the way for most of us, but heading off the beaten path is where you find the true gems. Just getting there can be half the fun!
For more information on riding in Ontario, check out GoRideOntario.com/motorcycle