Day 1 - Leaving Ottawa

Ottawa Travel Blog

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Ready to hit the road!
After many delays and much anticipation, I finally left today for my West Coast trip on my trusty steed, a 1998 Suzuki Katana 750. I hope to provide very regular updates on this trip, which should be easier to do than previous trips since I’m traveling with a laptop and wireless networks are more ubiquitous in roadside hotels and motels. With the goal of maintaining the attention of readers who don’t have a particular affinity for motorcycles, I’ll keep the nuts and bolt talk (literally and figuratively) about bikes to a minimum, but such a trip will require the occasional allusion to the mode of conveyance associated with this trip. And I’ll try to avoid such turgid prose in the future. But as Mark Twain once said: “I would have liked to have written you a shorter letter but I didn’t have enough time” so things might get inadvertently wordy sometimes.

So after after turning the stove on and off 10 times before leaving my place (just kidding!) and triple checking everything once again, I finally got on the road at 11:30 a.m. on a party cloudy but warm day. I headed west on Hwy 417 and I was just on the outskirts of Ottawa when I came across my first traffic accident. Shortly before, I was thinking of how I should face my fear of road-produced carnage since my predilection for traveling on our highways and byways is bound to at some point see me be the first to arrive at a highway accident. I’ve seen plenty in the past but I was not the first to arrive (except on two occasions when I’ve seen cars flip over, but in both cases the occupants were all right). I have to become like Homer Simpson when he’s sent to traffic school and as the scene shows the class as they are watching a film or traffic accidents (to a carnival music soundtrack), people are having a hard time keeping down their lunch and when you see Homer he’s digging into a big bucket of popcorn and enjoying the show.

Well, minutes later wouldn’t you know it, I come upon a scene of an accident where Highway 417 turns into Hwy 17 (Trans Canada Highway) near the town of Arnprior and it goes from four lanes to two lanes at that point. For some reason, a car did a couple of barrel rolls and ended up in the ditch. The police and ambulance had not even arrived yet, although people had stopped. I could tell that the car was red even before seeing it since the roof of the car scraped the road before continuing its unnatural trajectory. I managed to read lips and body language of a man who had stopped and he said the occupant(s) were OK. I would have loved to have been a fly on the proverbial wall to see how a car can careen out control and flip on a dry road with good visibility on a divided highway. Well, so far on the trip and barely out of city limits its cars 1, motorcycles zero (the lowest points wins the game!). About an hour later I stopped for a quick break (in Cobden) and had to find some shade since it was fairly hot. Once I got going again, I was looking forward to going further along this road than I had ever been, which wasn’t much further. I passed CFB Petawawa (hey, I’ve heard of that!) and Chalk River (heard of that too - of nuclear reactor fame). I then passed a bunch of tiny places that I never heard of.

The terrain now had a more northern Ontario feel to it. Lots of trees, lakes, and fewer vehicles. I came upon Mattawa, which is apparently known as the “Blue Sky Region”. It was quite overcast at this point so I thought that was a bit of false advertising or a cruel joke, or both. Actually, the temperature started cooling off and then a bit of rain started so I stopped and put on my rain gear. I kept going and it reminded me of the reverse scenario put forward by Marshall MacLuhan once when he said "If the temperature in the bathtub is raised only one degree every 10 minutes, how does the bather know when to start screaming?" Well in my case, the temperature was going down and I was starting to wonder if I was too much in summer mode and didn’t pack enough cold weather clothes. I certainly didn’t have enough for my hands, which were taking the brunt of the weather and the riding. At least I got a kick out of a billboard announcing a roadside cigarette hut on an Indian reserve called “How Convenient” with some eagle feathers next to the word How (get it?). Rob Shotton, the reigning champion of the Globe & Mail’s Morning Smile submissions, now has material for his next groaner. But he may have a bit of s’plainin’ to do ro his chiefs at Indian Affairs -:))

I stopped to gas up and warm up just before Sudbury around 5:30 p.m. and figure out where I’d stop for the day. An overnight stay in Espanola, less than 100 km away, seemed to be a good spot and when I was finally ready to leave. I got on my bike and a combination of the effects of the cold, being a bit inattentive and tired, and looking at somebody whom was having trouble getting their locked keys in the car get their door open at that exact instance, the bike tipped over.  I had sat on the bike and straightened it out but it leaned over too much (see reasons above) and the only thing keeping the 600 pound bike from touching the ground was the back of my lower leg. I tried lifting it up but I couldn’t do if from my present position and I didn’t want to lay the bike down completely since the motorcycle would have been very hard to start again. (See, I managed to spare the techie details as to why, although I was tempted to talk about flooded carburetors, but I didn’t). A guy nearby helped me right the bike and I was happy that the bike started easily and I was not the worse for wear. (Although my ankle is a bit stiff at the moment  - I hope it doesn’t swell up like a football tomorrow morning.)

Shortly after leaving the gas station, the sun started coming out and it warmed up a bit and then the sky became cloudless and the roads were great, so I kept riding until the sun set around 7:30 p.m. Speaking of roads, 90% of the roads were in very good condition, meaning new or almost new asphalt. And the other 10% were still better than 90% of Quebec roads. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of these roads and I hope there is more of the same going forward.

So I stopped in a hotel in a small town on the shores Lake Huron called Blind River. It was close to 100 km past Espanola, which I decided to bypass when the sun and relative warmth reappeared.
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Ready to hit the road!
Ready to hit the road!
photo by: Jeroenadmiraal