Pro české čtenáře – delší a počeštěná verze bude v časopise Motoroute, na stáncích od 5.dubna 2017.
Across Canada on 1953 two-stroke
Imagine 150cc two-stroke motorcycle made in Czechoslovakia, with it’s 5.5 horsepower, 3 gears and average speed 50 km/h, mainly used for commuting to work. Back in the day. Now? You can see this kind of bike only in museum, in some guy’s living room or rarely during some vintage motorcycle event. So is there any rational reason to take this kind of bike for trans-continental ride across whole Canada from East to West and maybe beyond? No it is not. But that is the beauty. I was asked several times: “Why you do this?” And my answer was simple as that: “Why not.”
Best way to explore Canada, at least for me, is from the seat of motorcycle. And because I do not have any other bike and we have been through several adventures with the CZ bike already, it was the only right choice for me. So I put the bike which we called “Zuzka” into the box and shipped it from Czech Republic to Toronto. Completely different world to her and definitely the only CZ 150c with Czech license plate in whole Canada.
Plan was easy – get from Centre of the Universe to Québec, then all the way West to Tofino, BC and after that, who knows. Sounds easy and it is short distance to everywhere, according all the Canadians. So let’s ride, Tofino is just behind the corner!
First meters in Ontario
As a true tourist I had to visit Niagara Falls and it was great lesson to get there. For me as a European rider there were few new things on the road – n-way stops, highways with minimum speed limit which was deal-breaker for me and Zuzka and right turn on red. Which is kinda cool and I got use to it very quickly. But back to Niagara Falls – tourists trap but really nice one. And I must say that Horseshoe Falls are much nicer and epic than small and dull American’s. Add Maid of the Mist with all the small people on board, trying to get as close to the falls as possible – it is just astonishing.
Toronto city itself was just pass-through. I wanted to visit CN-Tower but 2-hour line and temperature over 30ºC changed my plans very quickly. It is going to be easy anyway to return here by plane anytime and it is not bike friendly here either. I tried to do filtering and get up front to the lights but few drivers convinced me with a really kind and warm words that those maneuvers are not strictly legal here. Which is kind of sad because it really saves time and safety of bikers. Personally did it in Czech, France and UK.
I know from my previous travels that Zuzka is ice-breaker and conversation starters are much easier with the bike around. I was stopped twice the second day by motorcyclists who recognized the CZ logo at the first sight. And they were not the only ones, I was surprised how many motorcyclists still know the CZ brand and how many of them eventually owned CZ bike in the past. I know some of the 70s enduro bikes were imported here, but it is still surprise for me the whole Canada is familiar with the CZ brand.
Parlez-vous Anglais, Québec?
Arrêt signs were great indication that I am in Québec province already. Luckily for me, people from this province are much friendlier than French guys, especially when you start conversation with english “Hi” instead of french “Bonjour.” Try this in France and bad look will be the better result you can get.
Montréal city with its unique architecture caught me unprepared when I got lost somewhere on Montréal Island, trapped between apartments with different staircases. Luckily I was able to get to Couchsurfing friends Lukas & Stephanie who showed me the beauty of Montréal and living in this kind of french-like apartments. Small flat filled with tons of decorations, chat or drink with neighbours across the back-alley from the balcony, etc. And poutine! Really national food? Well, it is really delicious, but have it as a national food is kind of… odd. We used to call the gravy sauce as a universal brown sauce which you could put on everything.
Neighbour Laura volunteered as a tourist guide, so she rode on her scooter and Lukas and me travelled on Zuzka. Two guys on one bike, Lukas with pink helmet, myself in red-white squared shirt, we were just adorable couple. Laura took us to St. Helen’s Island to see the remaining pieces of Expo 67, around the coast of St. Laurent River and then to old Montréal. You could feel the tint of France in there, but the modern touches were too obvious, so it was not french-like in the end as I would expected. But one advertisement put a smile on my face back – “Are you hungry? We have a meal. Are you thirsty? We have an alcohol. Are you lonely? We have an alcohol.”
On the other hand Downtown was totally different. I could feel the atmosphere of New York even though I never visited it. Clubs, shops, restaurants, rush of the city like from one of the episodes of the show How I Met Your Mother. Recommendation from a friend – Smoked Meat Sandwich at Reuben’s. What – a – delicacy!
Mount Royal. It supposed to be a nice view on the city from there. However we would have had to get there at first place – Lukas noticed wobbling of the rear wheel and unfortunately he was right. As a true gentleman, he took subway to get home and Laura and me drove slowly to the nearest gas station. Result? Valve is rotating in rim hole so the tube is completely destroyed. Get a flat after four days on the road, what a great score. I had a spare one so the change was quick and we ended the busy day on the balcony talking and drinking with other neighbours.
Little one-day move from one big city to another. Zuzka recognized borders of Québec City very easily – traffic was getting heavier, weather warmer and constructions on the road bigger. Which is not a good combination for air-cooled engine in general. With all this struggle I drove around all major sights trying to find hostel even I did not know that. When I finally got to hostel desk, receptionist told me with smile on his face that is not legal to ride motorcycles inside old Québec behind the walls. “There signs everywhere.” “How was I supposed to see them? With all the traffic jam, construction and charming girls?!”
I got to Québec in best date possible – Canada Day. Tourists everywhere, parties, concerts, fireworks, great way to explore old city and all its secrets. If I had to compare french style of this city and Montréal, I would definitely choose Québec as a great example of french architecture and style. But about those concerts and festivals – it was little bit hard for me to understand why you can feel weed everywhere buton the other hand you could not enjoy the music with beer in your hand. Something unimaginable in Europe.
Chute-Montmorency is not that far from the city and I needed some other movement than twisting the throttle. It is great place to watch Québec from distance, cool down a little bit at the base of the falls or just to sit in the lake. Different kind of recreation is far up north from the city – provincial Parc de la Jacques Cartier on which I got recommendation from a friend: “Lend a canoe, grab your camping gear and sleep on the river.” Sounds great, let’s do it!
Long story short, I highly recommend it. Two days on the river with a night spent in the wild with the moon behind the clouds. But still, really romantic place, nevertheless I was there just with squirrels, otters and tons of mosquitos.
Move to the Capital, move to Ottawa! However some of you may have objection why I did not continue more east to Gaspé peninsula. Trust me, I took it into consideration, several people told me it is beautiful part of Québec province already, but I just did not know if I will be able to make it to west before snow will show up. To Gaspé and back it is circuit long more than 1500+km and it is really hard to make any plans on 63-years old bike. And I just cannot ride through all Canada in just one summer :o)
So Ottawa supposed to be capitol of Canada although Toronto guys would say something different? Thanks to the Couchsurfing again, I was warmly welcomed by Eric and Alysia, who are skilled “surfers” and Eric showed me lot more about this community service. Thanks to him I was able to visit the most attractive places in the city including the freaking weird big bronze spider in front of National Gallery.
That Maman made me sick sou I had to get out of the city and breath little bit of fresh air. Best place for that is in Wakefield near it’s covered bridge and then in Mackanzie King Estate. Nice little place he had there. The young guide who told me I can feel the breath of history in those buildings was bit sheepish when I responded to her that I feel the history everyday on my bike from the half of 20th century.
Around Lake Superior
Time to move on and say goodbye to Eric and Alysia. Next stop – Lake Superior. On the way there I had to use spare jerry can with gas for the first time. Because somebody forgot to mention to Ontario guys to put “Next service in x-km” signs on the road. This was the first time and definitely not the last time in Ontario. Funny that all the other provinces had those signs everywhere.
Blind River was my unplanned rain stop and very lucky one. It was evening already with heavy rain and I did not have place to stay yet. But I was stopped by father and son in their’s Pontiac Maverick and I was happy to accept their offer to stay with them. This would not happen without Zuzka of course, old beautiful machine is just magnet for the guys like H.P.Roy and his son Gilbert. Especially if you park in their’s garage next to the gorgeous Chevrolet Impala from 70s!
I was using Hwy 17 from Ottawa and stayed on it until Thunder Bay. So the itinerary was straightforward. Echo Bay with it’s biggest Loonie. My first black bear just few kilometres after the Echo Bay. Wawa Goose and General Store there as well. White River and Winnie-the-Pooh where I almost froze to death due to extended period of time riding in a rain. No wonder White River advertises itself as “The Coldest Spot in Canada”. And if you will have a question why I did not put rain coat on, answer is simple – because I am dumb and I thought the rain will end in just a minute.
Terry Fox. What a guy! And what a great meeting with Rob at Terry Fox Memorial near Thunder Bay. Rob was traveling on his Honda 750 from Kitchener, OT to Kitchener, BC in just two weeks. And now he was riding back and he had just one week to do it. Crazy! If he had little bit more time he would buy me a beer, but unfortunately he really hurried back home to work. At least he gave me 20 bucks to buy a beer and we promised to ourselves to do symbolic Cheers! in the evening. And so I did. With Pilsner Urquell.
Changing Hwy number to 11. According to Rob nicer, twistier and more fun than Hwy 17 from Thunder Bay to Kenora. And he was right, probably. Pleasant ride surrounded by just nature and nothing else for several hours. Although there was one spot where I had to stop. I was passing by small city Nestor Falls when I saw two gorgeous silhouettes and I had to turn back. Beechcraft 18 as hydroplanes, completely covered in chrome and picture with Zuzka was a must.
And it was even better because pilots were sitting on patio next to the planes enjoying their drinks and I was lucky to join them. After few words I had beer in my hand as well, place to stay overnight and if I will be lucky enough, one free seat in one of the planes next day.
And? Yes! With the pilot Brett we flew to pick up some fishermen and drop them in different area. Watching completely flat area from above was completely different than watching it from the road on a bike. What an experience! Could you beat that somehow? Of course you can – Brett handled the stick to me and I could fly the plane by myself all the way back. Thanks Brett, what an honour.
Next part is available in May issue of Canadian Biker Magazine or here from May 30th 2017.