Wednesday, July 2, 2008

On the road to Gananoque...

What a marvellous Canada Day! The weather was absolutely beautiful, from beginning to end. We left Orleans a little late for us, around 0900hrs. There was very little traffic on the road and the air was still cool, although you could certainly feel the sun on your cheeks if you were facing it. Perfect weather for riding!

We headed out the back roads, Innes to Mer Bleu, to Renaud, to Anderson Road. From there to the Ramsayville Road, up Mitch Owens all the way to Manotick, then on to the River Road. Our first stop was going to be Merrickville-Wolford. Merrickville, for those not familiar with it, is a charming little village located about 45 minutes from Ottawa. It's a very arts-and-craftsy kind of place, where all the properties are of an older vintage and have well manicured lawns. They have a variety of small shops, boutiques and restaurants.

We made a brief stop at Mrs. McGarrigle's Fine Food Shop, to pick up some spices and enjoyed an outdoor coffee along Main Street. We observed several military vehicles of various time periods, many with artillery pieces in tow, rumbling up the street as they readied themselves for their annual Canada Day parade. We decided to leave before this took place and headed out South on Main Street, which became Rte. 15 South. This road would take us all the way to Highway 2, which would follow the seaway along into Kingston.

As we travelled southwards, we passed through some very charming, quintessentially 'small-town' communities. The towns of Augusta and Algonquin, show this rural aspect of Canada at it's very best. These are the type of towns and villages that you could absolutely see yourself living in. As with Merrickville, everything is in it's place, trimmed, green, lush... Life is slower here. They have a completely different timetable than city-dwellers do. Such small communities offer a truly bucolic setting. And always... there are the smells.

Probably one of the most heady experiences with regards to motorcycling, is the staggering array of aromas that one experiences, as you ride through various areas. They range from the subtle to the pungent and are a wonder for the senses to experience. Couple this with the feel of the wind against your body, ranging from warm to cool, moist to dry... And then there is the unbroken, 360 degree view around you... Riding offers a truly "all-senses" type of experience.

Arriving at Highway 2 by the water's edge, we veer right and trundle off towards Brockville. Brockville is a pretty little town, with many impressive older homes. Once you get over the presence of the large chemical plants on the outskirts, which have been a staple of Brockville's success, you'll find that life here could be a very pleasurable affair. They were celebrating their 'Harbourfest' days as we came through, so we stopped for a 15 minute "bum break" and a stretch.

Heading out again, we were anticipating the beginning of our favorite part of this trip, the 1000 Island Parkway, also known as Hwy 2S, which joins Brockville and Gananoque. This has to be one of the most pleasant roads I've ever ridden. It meanders along the St.Lawrence River, offering up magnificent views of the islands themselves, gorgeous waterfront properties and a variety of flora and fauna as well. It winds past absolutely wonderful enclaves such as Mallorytown, Rockport, Lansdowne and Ivy Lea. Many times my spouse and I wondered out loud: "And how much money would one have to make, in order to live here!?!?".

As we cruised along at a sedate 85kmh, we took in the natural beauty around us and the goings-on out on the water as well. Many boats of all sizes and descriptions were plying the waters, from Jet Skis to large, full-to-the-gunnels tour boats. There are several provincial parks along the Parkway and many of these were well attended by fellow Canadians out enjoying this special day. Every so often, we would be teased by the smell of steaks barbecuing out in the great outdoors. My lady would lean forward and say: "Aaaawwwww....did you smell THAT???" That cinnamon bun I had ingested along with my coffee in Merrickville, was now but a faded, distant memory.

As we reached the end of the Parkway, I sailed by our first exit to Gananoque, which led to us having to do a brief stint along the 401 to catch the next one. I absolutely abhor riding on the freeway. It's no fun at all... I'd rather poke sharp sticks in my eye. We stopped at a local gas station at the entrance of town. Just time for a restroom stop, a stretch and mebbe some cold, Lipton green tea. We were now a scant 28km from Kingston and it might have been 1300hrs. We were making good time and the ride so far had been immensely enjoyable.

Gananoque, the "Gateway to the 1000 Islands", as it rightfully advertises itself, is another of those pretty little towns along the water. It has quite the history and some beautiful older Victorian-style homes. Again, most residences and properties show a pride of ownership. We took our time passing through, acknowledging the locals as they participated in their festivities. It's another great little town... The ride from there to Kingston is a relatively short one, through farmlands with the occasional glimpse of water.

We finally arrived in Kingston and I stopped in on the base, just on the off-chance the Canex might be open. No such luck... We proceded into town and down to the bridge, which led us to the waterfront. The main street along the water's edge had been closed to vehicular traffic. There were street vendors set up for just about as far as you could see and the crowds were everywhere. We deaked down to the water and found a spot just big enough for 'Baby'. As we dismounted, I winked at my spouse and said: "Closest thing to having a helicopter...", referring to the ease with which one can find a parking spot just about anywhere, when you blow into town on a bike.

We made our way to the Lone Star restaurant on King Street, where they make just about the very best chicken fajitas I've tasted anywhere. It had been steadily heating up, so the AC felt good as we stepped inside. Our host asked if this was our first time there. We replied that we were there because it wasn't our first time, then went on to sing the praises of their fajitas. Our server ('Stella') was a new gal but did a fine job of taking care of us. I decided that maybe I'd buy a t-shirt, to commemorate not the meal as such, but as a little memento of our road trip this day, as everything had been perfect up 'til then. So two great meals and one red t-shirt later and we were back amongst the throngs, milling about by the water. A cool breeze was blowing onshore and we found a picnic table in the shade, to sit and observe the festivities from.

It was a thoroughly idyllic afternoon. Well fed, watered and rested, we began musing with the idea of slowly making our way back a little after 1500hrs. This is another 'upside' of any riding trip. If you enjoyed the road and the scenery getting somewhere... you'll get to enjoy it all again in reverse, as you make your way back. We also had the added advantage of having the sun at our backs. The ride back was every bit as enjoyable as the ride there. We stopped for a break and gas in Gananoque and for a Timmie's in Brockville. This time, we opted not to link up with Route 15. Instead we carried on along Hwy 2 until we hit Morrisburg, where we stopped at Timmie's as well. My better half grabbed a handful of paper napkins, which I then soaked and used to clean the bugs off our windshield. A quick swipe from a microfibre cloth that I keep on board at all times and Baby was looking good again. From Morrisburg, we took Route 31 North, which is basically Bank Street. We left Rte 31 at John Quinn Road, not too far outside Vernon.

John Quinn Road ends as it joins Mitch Owens, where we turned right and headed for the Ramsayville Road. We stopped once more for gas, three blocks from home, in order to be ready for work today. It was 1915 when we arrived home. The kids were out, as they had received an invite for a Bar-B-Q, so we had the house to ourselves to relax and rehash our favorite moments of the ride. I finished cleaning off the front end of the bike, put my jammies on and crashed into the recliner in our living room. That's pretty much the last I remember until my lady woke me to go upstairs to bed. A great day, with wonderful scenery and good company. What better way to spend the day?

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