Story and Photos by: Virgil Knapp (note: The Haven Hostel photo is by Holly Watson)
“After you're dead and buried and floating around whatever place we go to, what's going to be your best memory of earth? What one moment for you defines what it's like to be alive on this planet. What's your takeaway? Fake yuppie experiences that you had to spend money on, like white water rafting or elephant rides in Thailand don't count. I want to hear some small moment from your life that proves you're really alive.” ― Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
There’s a theory in biology that once a human body reaches the tender age of 17, it’s already on the decline, with our best years supposedly behind us. With exponential advancements in modern medicine, testosterone boosters, and the simple fact that you possess no life experience at that age, a strong argument could be made that your 40s and 50s are “the new black.” By this point, one is typically more financially stable, established in life, and if you have kids, they’re starting to leave the nest to make their own way in the world. What better time to rekindle that simmering romance by dusting off your leathers, firing up your trusty cruising bike(s), and venturing out onto the open road with your spouse or significant other.
Photo: Circle Tour Sign - Virgil Knapp
I’ve scoured the interwebs (and my own personal library) for three classic regions in Ontario ideally suited to the Generation Xers (those in-betweeners born after the boomers and before the millennials, between 1965-79). All of these routes were selected for their breathtaking scenery, ample amenities, attractions, and length. An ideal tour would take no more than 400 km a day to complete, allowing time for off-bike excursions and some quality bonding over a glass of vino.
Bruce County is a sneaky contender for having the most scenic motorcycle routes in a single region of Ontario. Flanked by some of the most pristine freshwater in the world, you’d be wise to include any of the five official tours on future bucket lists. It’s an ideal location for riders coming from the GTA (especially the western GTA), with the entire trip up to Bruce County meandering through quiet country roads. Each of the five tours are within a modest 100-200 km in length, making them friendly to couples who aren’t looking to spend all day on the throttle. With that extra time be sure to check out the Kincardine Lighthouse and museum—found on along the Lighthouse Tour.
Photo: Two up touring - Virgil Knapp
Built in 1881 on the bank of the Penetangore River, this slice of mariner history is home to numerous artifacts and historical tales from the simpler times of the past.
Other attractions of note:
Take a tour of Hoity Toity Cellars (no, you can’t partake in tastings while riding, but a tour of the facility and how local wine is produced will interest any wine buffs).
If you’re planning to stay overnight, consider lodgings outside of the “cookie cutter” hotels. Taylor Made Bed & Breakfast is located halfway up the Bruce Peninsula and is run by a veteran motorcycle touring couple. The quaint and quiet location is the perfect way to cap off a day on the bike.
Click here for a complete list of the five tours offered in Bruce County.
The Lake Temiskaming Loop Tour is a nice step up from Bruce County with regards to length, clocking in at over 800 km. It can be ridden in as few as one day, or as many as four. I’d recommend the latter option because there really is so much to see and do off the bikes. But before we talk about off the bike, it wouldn’t be fair to gloss over the beauty of the roads in this northern region. You’ll encounter as a backdrop everything from marshes to forests to the often-angry chop of Lake Temiskaming while riding. The road surfaces are smooth and ideal for a big cruising bike with a two-up seat. Some noteworthy attractions include:
Devil’s Rock - A 300-foot sheer vertical cliff jutting up from Lake Temiskaming with a 180-degree panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. It’s a bit of a hike off Highway 11, but so worth it once you get there.
Photo: Devils Rock - Virgil Knapp
Fort Temiscamingue Historical Site - Travel back in time a couple of hundred years to a key location where rival English and French trappers fought it out to control the fur merchant industry.
La Bannik - Located right next to Fort Temiscamingue sits what could only be described as a five-star culinary and lodging experience in the wilderness. The menu rivals any fine dining establishment in Toronto, plus stunning lakefront views. In addition to the dining experience, La Bannik has a full-service campground and private luxury cottages for rent, complete with hot tubs, saunas, and BBQs.
Photo: La Bannik - Virgil Knapp
The Presidents’ Suites Resort - Another unique lodging experience on the Temiskaming Loop Tour sits just feet from the shore of Lake Temiskaming. It’s a regal historical home on the outside with touches of modern comforts on the inside, making the Presidents’ Suites a sure bet to impress your sweetheart. Before departing the next day, be sure to grab a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise off their private dock.
Photo: Presidents Suites - Virgil Knapp
Many stories have been penned on this tour, and it receives a lot of attention in the motorcycle community for good reason. Stretching over 2,000 km, bisecting several U.S. states and a good portion of North Western Ontario, the Ride Lake Superior Motorcycle Tour sets the benchmark for two-wheel couples touring of any generation. The loop can be broken down into sections, with many choosing to do just the Ontario side. Regardless of how much you bite off, the views, quality of roads, and amenities are as good as it gets from beginning to end.
Photo: Agwa Bay - Virgil Knapp
Terry Fox Memorial - Located just off Highway 17 near Thunder Bay, the site marks where Fox’s inspirational run across Canada came to a conclusion. An iconic granite and steel statue is the centrepiece of recently renovated visitor centre with washrooms and good Wi-Fi. It also has a lookout facing south over Lake Superior; off in the distance, the famous Sleeping Giant natural land formation can be seen.
Photo: Terry Fox Memorial Thunder Bay - Virgil Knapp
The Haven Hostel - This trendy new hostel is a uniquely affordable lodging option catering to all sorts of folks passing through T-Bay. Operated by fellow rider Holly Watson (who would surely hold a PhD in hostels if such a degree existed, after a decade of her own extensive travels to faraway lands). Haven offers a secure garage to protect bikes from the elements, wash buckets, kickstands, and Ride Lake Superior - only parking; she even has plans in the works for a secure garage. With packages starting at just $45, this one’s a no-brainer. It’s also conveniently located within walking distance to what has to be the swankiest restaurant in Northern Ontario…
Photo: Secure Motorcycle Garage at The Haven Hostel Thunder Bay Ontario - Holly Watson
Bight Restaurant and Bar - Located in the newly developed Water Garden Pavilion at Prince Arthur’s Landing, Bight sits right on the shores of Lake Superior in the heart of Thunder Bay’s picturesque Marina. There you’ll experience fine dining in a modern décor that rivals any restaurant in Toronto or Montreal. With The Haven Hostel just a 10 minute walk away, you can indulge guilt-free in their a dynamic wine and drink list.
Photo: Bight Restaurant Thunder Bay - Virgil Knapp
Pictographs in Lake Superior Provincial Park - After parking the bikes at a very indiscriminate pull-off from the highway, a short hike through a forest reminiscent of a scene from Harry Potter leads to vertical granite walls with drawings carved into the faces by ancient civilizations. Still standing the test of time thousands of years later, the Agawa Rock Pictographs also offer a majestic view of Superior, with its crystal clear blue water and an uninterrupted views as far as the eye can see—the perfect place to share an intimate moment with your special someone.
Photo: Lake Superior Provincial Park - Virgil Knapp
If you choose to tackle the loop in its entirety, here are a few highly recommended things to see and places to stay on the U.S side.
Photo:Copper Harbor Lookout -Virgil Knapp
So for those of you who still have the fire in them, even this far from the edge of 17, each of these routes has the potential to rival your past adventures. Happy riding!