A Whirlwind Tour - The Planet D Go From Rookies to Road Kings in One Season
by Virgil Knapp
I first encountered Dave and Deb of ‘The Planet D’ at the Ontario Tourism Press Conference during the winter motorcycle show in February 2014. They were being introduced to the media, announcing a groundbreaking partnership between the travel and adventure blogging duo and Ontario Tourism. The goal was for two ordinary people with no background in motorcycle riding, to become accomplished touring vets in just one season. Everything would culminate in mid-summer with a 2100km ride around Lake Superior. At the time I remember thinking there was no way they could pull this off in such a short time. Not only was I skeptical of the experiments success, but also had serious concerns for their general safety. Regardless of the outcome I’d be witnessing the whole thing first hand as the official photographer tasked to document the process.
The first leg of the experiment kicked off in Woodstock, ON (close to Dave and Deb’s home base) on a chilly day in March. They were scheduled to write their “M” license at the ministry test center. ‘The Planet D’ passed with flying colors and were now officially M1 certified. The M1 would allow them to ride on the roads with the exception of 400 series highways and anything after sunset. Having taken that test my self, I knew it was mostly common sense questions and the true test would be in early April when Dave and Deb would take a weekend rider training course with Motorsoul Riding Schools (one of the premier rider training facilities in the province). This is when they would get a true sense of what riding a motorcycle is actually like. Motorsoul packed a lot of information and training exercises into the weekend course. Dave was a natural and looked very comfortable on two wheels. Deb struggled a bit more with shifting gears and some of the more advanced braking drills, but by the end of the weekend they both passed and were now officially M2 licensed and ready to hit the road. See the video below:
Only 1 short month later it was time for their first ride and what better place to start then the rolling country side of Grey-Bruce counties. Honda Canada (who was sponsoring the tour with new bikes) had 2 units prepped and ready to go. A decision was made to have Ginny Allen from Motorsoul along for the first ride; Just to keep an eye on things and make sure Dave and Deb were acclimating to life on the open road. We spent a few days touring around including stops at the home of the worlds most famous weather prognosticating groundhog, Wiarton Willie. Throughout the first trip I was impressed with Dave and Deb’s progress and they looked comfortable on two wheels. I thought to my self “this whole experiment might actually work!” See the video below for this section of the story.
Just as Planet D was getting accustomed to riding on the pavement, they were thrown a curveball in the form of a 2 day off-road adventure with Allan Lakes of Trail Tours Dirtbike and ATV School located just an hour north east of Toronto in the lush green forests of Peterborough Kawarthas (specifically the Ganaraska Forest). Obviously riding on dirt and asphalt require two completely different skill sets, however off-road riding has many cross over techniques that are beneficial, in teaching proper bike control. Dave and Deb’s training was broken down into a day of training on a controlled course with more drills and some obstacles such as wheelies over logs and doing rear brake slides. The second day was spent on guided rides through the Ganaraska Forest. At one point Deb lost the front end and went over the bars but because of some softer dirt and good fortune, had no injuries. Much like on the Motorsoul training course, Dave looked like a total natural and had no problem adapting to the dirt. See the video below for their dirty adventure:
With their newly acquired dirt skills fresh in their minds, The Planet D had just one ride left before the grand finale around Lake superior. The Peterborough and Kawarthas region was chosen once again for it’s quiet country roads and breathtaking scenery. There was a 50/50 mix of riding and sightseeing that included stops at the Peterborough Lift Locks and the Whetung Objibwa Gallery. It was National Aboriginal Day here in Canada, so it seemed like a fitting place to check out. Dave and Deb really seemed to be confident and comfortable as they rode along one of Ontario’s great motorcycle routes, Hwy 507. Aside from Deb’s spill when we were riding in the dirt, I was pumped they were still incident free on the street. See the video below for the ride through this twisty section of Ontario:
It didn’t take long before mid-July rolled around and we were staring down the finale of this whole adventure; Ride Lake Superior! With excitement came questions running through my head. Would Planet D have what it takes to tackle the 2100km route that spans three U.S states and a good chunk of Algoma Country and Northwestern Ontario? Would the weather co-operate? Would they keep the perfect streak up of no crashes? Would they quit half way through claiming to be “In over their heads”!? All these questions would soon be answered as we headed out from Sault Ste Marie, ON. Our planned route would take us through the U.S side first heading in a northwesterly direction, eventually crossing back into Canada for the second half of the tour. Things would culminate back where we started in the Sault., complete with a press conference held at the Bush Plane Heritage Museum. It seems fitting that this whole thing started with a press conference and would end with one as well. See below for part one (USA Leg) and part two (Canadian Leg) of their ride around Lake Superior:
In all their previous chapters of this saga, Dave and Deb were never without some form of support. Be it, instructors or other experienced riders who tagged along for safety / comfort, there was always someone else around if things went sideways. This time it was just the two of them with my self and another camera guy. We drove behind them most of the time acting as a ‘chase vehicle’. We mutually decided this was the best way to provide some protection and a buffer zone from traffic.
We had a fairly tight schedule to keep throughout the trip, as well as a long list of sights to see. This made staying on schedule essential and if that wasn’t enough to worry about, try being a rookie rider with a camera crew filming you non-stop. Everyone wants to look good on camera and that can be a huge distraction when trying to focus on riding. With all this being taking into consideration, I was immensely impressed with Planet D’s ability to deal with it all through the trip. Sure they have done their fair share of interviews and TV talk shows (and the core of their business is taking on new travel adventures for their blog), but this trip was unique in the way that the activity took place on public roads and they had very few hours logged on a motorcycle for such a trip.
It gives me great pleasure and relief to say that they completed the entire trip without incident. We even stayed on schedule and ended up back the Sault, just in time for the 930am press conference. As Dave and Deb both took to the podium you could hear it in their voices, they were truly proud of what they had just accomplished. Not only that, but it appeared they had a genuine enthusiasm for motorcycle touring now. Not only was this a personal accomplishment for The Planet D, but for Ontario Tourism. After all, They took a gamble investing a big part of their annual motorsports budget into this one project.
What I took away from this experience more then anything else was the fact that it is possible to have no background in motorcycle riding and with the proper training, practice and a little luck, tackle a behemoth ride like Ride Lake Superior. Hats off to Dave and Deb for helping us make this experiment a success!
For more information on riding in Ontario, visit:
To plan your own trip, visit: http://www.gotourontario.ca/
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