Day 54 Video – Hello Taylor Made Bed and Breakfast

We’re visiting with the most motorcycle friendly B&B in Ontario this summer – the Taylor Made B&B.

Day 47 – Moonbeams

We breakfasted with Greenstone’s Mayor, Ron Beaulieu, at the Longlac Pizzaria this morning, and learned a lot about the region and the challenges it faces. With the changes in local industry over the last few decades, with mining tapering off in the late 70s and now with forestry in decline, many Northern towns are going through periods of change and adaptation as they try new ways to sustain their vibrant communities — vibrant communities that also have a lot to offer those travelling through.

Greenstone, with its many trails and canoe routes, rich and colourful history, and unique attractions — such as the Fire Management Headquarters and world-class ice and rock climbing sites — is itself an out-of-the-box wilderness destination. Ron, like many residents of the area, utilizes and appreciates the gifts of his region, recently snowmobiling from Longlac to Mont Tremblant in Quebec entirely on trail systems, and is working to develop promotion of the snowmobile trail system around Greenstone.

After breakfast, we meditatively covered the peaceful 200km of nothing but forest, bush, and waterways along highway 11 between Longlac and Hearst. 100km after Hearst, we poked around Kapuskasing’s fascinating train museum, then stopped in little Moonbeam for a picnic lunch and a visit with the UFO. The name Moonbeam is attributed to early pioneers who allegedly witnessed flashing lights falling from the sky, which they called ‘moonbeams’. It’s thought that these lights could have been aurora borealis, the northern lights, as they often appear with the moonlight.

We arrived in Timmins at the magic hour of just before dinnertime, and settled in to our lovely cozy chalet at Cedar Meadows Resort & Spa. The chalets are fully self-contained housekeeping homes, with a spacious loft bedroom, wraparound covered porch right on the river, a full kitchen, laundry room, and comfortable living/dining area. If you’re in Timmins on an extended stay for business, this is where you want to be. It was a luxury to have a full indoor kitchen to work with, and we indulged in our craving for healthy food with a big kale salad and red pepper paella.

Tomorrow — To Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world!

Photo by Alexandra Sawicki

Day 54 Video – Goodbye Manitoulin!

We’ve left the isle of Manitou after five days of riding, smash-up derbies and lots of good swimmin’.

Afternoon refreshment


A tall cool glass of homemade sun tea at Rachel’s Bakery & Cafe in Lion’s Head. Hearty sandwiches on homemade bread and lots of delicious baked goods — and free wireless — not to mention awesome 50s decor make this place a perfect office for the afternoon.

Day 46 – The Tetris of Greenstone

After a cozy diner breakfast with Lee at Chummy’s Restaurant in Beardmore in the pouring rain, we packed away the soaking wet trailer and headed up the road to explore the rest of Greenstone.

A recent amalgamation, the Greenstone municipality chops like a Tetris piece for a hundred kilometres or so along highway 11, and consists of the wards of Beardmore, Geraldton, Nakina, and Longlac, as well as the smaller townships and surrounding areas.

We stopped first at the Geraldton Interpretive Centre, and pored over the scale model of Geraldton to get a better perspective of the geography of the area. The Centre itself is built on the site of an old gold mine — one of the ten gold mines in the area — and the Macleod-Cockshutt Headframe #2 is preserved for curiosity and photographs just across the road. The landscaped reclamation of the 200-acre tailing pond is also open for tours.

A scale model of the Bombardier CL-415 water bomber hovers over the entrance hall, and interesting and well-curated displays showcase Geraldton’s history, from the First Nations communities, who greeted the first European visitors, to the early pioneers and the development of the mining industry. Greenstone is famous for its Chromium deposits – the potential new Ring of Fire mine is 300km north of Geraldton.

The town itself is located amidst several smaller waterways about 30km west of Long Lake. The lake, prior to its damming, was a major waterway for paddlers traveling from Lake Superior to James Bay. Much of the fur trade used this route – the Hudson’s Bay Company even opened an outpost in Longlac to prevent their competitor North West from purchasing traders’ goods before they reached the closest HBC outpost at Moose Factory. (The companies united in 1821 to prevent bloody skirmishes between rival employees.)

Just east of Geraldton, Highway 11 passes over a causeway with Lake Kenogamisis stretching out into the distance on both sides, fishing lodges and camps tucked away in the tiny bays. And heading into Longlac, the road curves around the top of Long Lake and the jutting promontory where the old Infant Jesus mission church stands watching over the town.

Looking out over the water, the relative speed of our journey by highway and railway really makes one realize the immense scale and ambition of the old canoe route. We had just driven the several hundred kilometers from Lake Superior, and we traveled the 600km or more of the route to James Bay back in June. All of a sudden thinking outside the pavement, and learning about the importance of Lake Kenogami as a travelway, as well as the history of the Rainy River demonstrated at Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, gives one a sense of the vast network of waterways that span this province – indeed the whole eastern half of the continent – and the pivotal role they played in the development of this country.

And this afternoon we really got to see just how vast this part of the country is. We visited the Greenstone Fire Management Headquarters just north of Geraldton, which is responsible for managing forest fires in one seventh of the total area of Ontario. It’s a full service operation: two water bombers – one is in the shop recovering from damage sustained from a recent lightning strike! – and several air attack planes, which scout the fires and report conditions to the bombers. There’s a repair and maintenance area, a warehouse, two monitoring stations, and an operations room. When we visited, the staff were managing 40 forest fires! We even got to hang out in cockpit of the landed Bombardier CL-415 water bomber with its pilot Steve.

On our way back to Geraldton we dropped in to the Recon Air barns just on the other side of the runway. Roy Leuenberger and his crew specialize in the rebuilding and resale of De Havilland DHC-2 Beavers and DHC-3 Otters. The ultimate northern Ontario bushplane, the DHCs were taken off the assembly line in the 1967, and there are only about 400 left – only 466 Otters were ever made; there were 1200 or so Beavers. Some planes, like the Otter operated by White River Air, are found languishing overseas – fusillage lined with chicken wire and housing a coop of hens; wings sliding local laughing children into a nearby water hole – and brought back to Geraldton to be restored for use in the bush.

Heavy rain and general exhaustion aborted our planned mission to Nakina and dinner in the old CNR Station restaurant, and after a little reconnaissance around Geraldton and a dinner of fried chicken and potato “wedgies” – a local tradition – we continued on to Longlac and the comforts of a roadside motel.

Tomorrow – Our hustle down the highway back to Timmins! And lunch with the aliens in Moonbeam…

Photo by Alexandra Sawicki 


Day 45 – Clifftop blueberries

After a ridiculously late sleep-in that we blamed entirely on the one-hour time change from Ignace to Thunder Bay, we woke up just in time to catch the free breakfast at the Day’s Inn (Waffle machine! And this time I didn’t mess it up). After a slow-paced pack-up, we headed off on our mission to outfit Mike with a more weather-appropriate riding jacket and new riding boots. On the way, as he shifted down at a stop-light, I could see daylight through the hole in the flapping sole of his left boot. A quick visit to the Harley-Davidson shop found a nice light-weight armoured jacket, and the Thunder Bay mall took care of the rest — as well as a fast and furious food-court lunch.

We were on the road north by 1:30pm, heading up highway 11 to Greenstone to meet local tourism maven Lee MacOdrum and hike the 1.2 billion year old Pijitawabik Palisades. The stunning precambrian cliffs form a deep valley — almost 500 feet high — with highway 11 and various small lakes tucked into the curves in the basin, about 30km south of Beardmore. The trail, built by Geraldton Community Forest and the Municipality of Greenstone, is a little challenging, starting with a fairly steep couple of kilometres, although they are tempered with wooden staircases in two sections. But once the hardscrabble is over and you’re up on the plateau, all that heavy breathing is worth it. Wild blueberries grow rampant along the trail, and the views of the winding valley and hazy cliffs in the distance are spectacular. There are four open lookout areas along the clifftop, where you can sit on the flat rock and enjoy the views. I spent most of my time nose deep in blueberries.

The trail continues another 3 or 4 km through lush bracken to a small cascade of icy cold runoff that plummets down the cliff-face to a pool below. There is a turnoff that loops around to a small lake, but as we started fairly late in the day, we didn’t have time to check it out. Lee mentioned that the trail is a great full-day excursion, tackling the cliffs in the early morning before the sun is at full power, spending mid-day picking blueberries in the shade, and then whiling away the afternoon swimming in the lake before heading back down as the day cools off.

As we headed on up the highway, the cliffs were bathed in the orange and purple glow of the setting sun, as they have been for over a billion years. Mind-blowing.

We arrived at the Poplar Lodge Park campground on Lake Nipigon just as dusk was falling. Alexe and I went for a twilight swim in the glassy dove-grey cove, small rocky treed islets stretching out as far as we could see into the darkness. After more physical exertion in one day than all the other 44 put together, we had a low-key dinner of tailgate Habitant Pea Soup and saltines with peanut butter and plain old passed out.

Tomorrow — Fighting forest fires in Geraldton!

Photo by Alexandra Sawicki
Rucksacks courtesy of Lee Kennard, Mayor of Ignace. “You Otter be in Ignace!”

Day 44 – Tailwinds and thunderstorms

Leaving Northwestern Ontario behind after nearly a week exploring the ‘wild side’ of the province, we headed down highway 11 out of Ignace this morning toward Thunder Bay and our afternoon Sail Superior adventure.

Captain Greg Heroux has been running charters and boat tours around Lake Superior since 2000, and has been sailing himself since age ten. We met him on board Frodo, a one-mast Finnish-built ocean-going sloop, at Thunder Bay’s Marina Park, and headed out into the harbour basin. Captain Brett Clibbery joined us aboard Sail Superior’s habour touring vessel Journeyer, a 38-ft downeaster ketch, and we raced for the harbour light.

It was a gorgeous day for a lazy spinnaker drift across the harbour, and Greg pulled the chute on his newest sail and brightened up the between-showers harbour with bold bursts of turquoise, yellow and fuschia. He entertained with stories of his Atlantic crossings in Frodo, and the eight-month voyage from Thunder Bay to Portugal and beyond with his family.

As beautiful as Lake Superior is when you’re watching it from the peaks and valleys of highway 17, it’s really a special thing to become acquainted with it out and on the water. Islands stretch out in the distance, and Sleeping Giant guards Thunder Bay with its peaceful head.

It’s a changeable lake — Thunder Bay’s not called Thunder Bay for nothin’ — and weather can go from gorgeous sunshine to ferocious skies in an hour or two. We were glad we were in such capable hands as the storm started back up again in the evening — Greg explained that the mast and the halyards formed a protecting pyramid around the cockpit, so even if the boat was hit we’d be safe. (And since Alexe has already been struck by lightning, the chances of it happening again were quite slim). The lights of Thunder Bay twinkled as we cruised back into the harbour surrounded by thundering skies and flashes of lightning over the town — a big glorious summer storm to break the heatwave.

Greg makes it easy for those traveling to Thunder Bay — and locals as well — to experience the beauty of the Superior, with a variety of sailing adventures for any itinerary and budget. He offers “big lake” adventures to Sleeping Giant and beyond, with Nature Retreat Packages that take in the best coastal towns and coves in the area. He’ll also customize private group excursions to the Welcome, Thompson, Pie, or Caribou Islands, just for the day or for overnight adventures including gourmet dinners onboard.

He runs four Thunder Bay Harbour Sailing tours everyday, where guests get a close-up look at the lakers and salties and the massive grain elevators for a different perspective of Thunder Bay. He’s also recently branched out with sailing instruction, and offers sailing lessons as well as cruise and learn holidays, from beginner basics to coastal navigation. For those with sailing experience, he also provides bareback charter rentals for do-it-yourself vacations to Isle Royale, Thompson Island, Slate Islands, and along Superior’s North Shore.

This was our second trip with Captain Greg and Sail Superior, and there’s not a single doubt that next time we’re in Thunder Bay we’ll be out on the water with him again. It was definitely one of the highlights of the Road Trip, both last year and this year!

Tomorrow — North, north, north again to Greenstone and up up up to the 1.2 billion year old Pijitawabik Palisades!

Photo of Captain Gregory Heroux by Alexandra Sawicki

Day 52 Video – Smashup Derby

We went to the 2012 Summerfest in Manitowaning, and although the sausages weren’t that great we saw cars smash each other repeatedly, which we liked.

Day 52 Video – Lake Huron

Ride Manitoulin is over, but the fun never ends! Check out this thing we did!

We were mentioned in Motocycle Mojo this month!

This is an excerpt from Glenn Roberts’ article in the latest Motorcycle Mojo – our favourite motorcycle mag!

“I have managed to fit in one significant ride this summer so far. We were riding a 2012 BMW K1600GT when we tagged along with a motley group of four creative types who are experiencing Northern Ontario by bike, truck, train, boat and camper trailer (they had two bikes, but one died while we were with them). They call their travels the Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Trip and are producing a daily blog of their adventures and posting lots of entertaining photos and video.

All of the roads that we travelled, and many more, can be found at the extensive motorcycle travel website There are some amazing sights to see in Northern Ontario, and because you’ll find very little traffic and many small towns full of friendly people, it’ll be a relaxing ride from start to finish.

We had a great time with Mike, Jessie, Bogdan and Alex. Check out the antics of the Road Trip crew at And if you’re watching the videos, be sure to watch past the credits, as the crew tends to sneak in some additional comical sketches.”