I decided it was time for an adventure on my bike. I’d already been east all the way to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia the previous month, so this time I decided to head north. After a quick check on Google Maps it seemed the furthest North I could go from Toronto was a place called Moosonee. I knew nothing about it so did a bit of research online. It appeared that there wasn’t much there, and access was only possible by plane, winter road or train. So far as I could tell the tarmac stopped not far north of Cochrane but there was a gravel road as far as Otter Rapids. I’d try to asses how driveable the winter road would be in summer by zooming in on Google Maps’ satellite view, but it was hard to tell. It seemed like the train was capable of loading bikes and I found a thread on old thread on AdvRider where some guys took their bikes on the same Polar Bear Express train, so I was pretty confident I could get myself and my Triumph Bonneville to Moosonee so I packed my bags and prepared the bike. MoosoneeTrip The Bike A 2007 Triumph Bonneville Black. I fitted an Outex Tubeless kit to it and a pair of Shinko 705 (110/150) tyres to it. I knew I’d be riding off road for some of the trip so the 705s seemed like a good option. Also I didn’t want to be changing tubes at the side of the road if I had a puncture so tubeless kit plus a plug kit seemed like the way to go. I had actually tried 3M tape and thread sealer prior to this, but never got a satisfactory result so spent the money on the Tubeless kit. I had an electric pump with me and a small bike pump too just in case. And some engine crash bars because I'm probably going to fall off In terms of luggage, I took enough clothes for a week, all the tools I thought I’d need, my phone plus a spare, Bluetooth headphones so I could listen to audio books on the ride, a Mountain Warehouse 250 sleeping bag (good for temps down to -4 apparently) and a camping hammock. 20180831_092530 I set of straight from work on Friday and headed for Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula. The idea was to go Scuba diving in Tobermory early on Saturday morning, but with it being a holiday weekend Tobermory was impossible to get accommodation in. So I found a cheap Airbnb in Lion’s head and the plan was to meet a girl I met at a party there. We’d spend the night and in the morning go diving together before she headed back south and I continued north. The trip up to Lion’s Head was nice and without incident and I listened to Moby Dick on BBC Radio 4. I stopped just after Owen Sound to take a photo of Georgian Bay. 20180831_180237 Upon arriving at my prebooked Airbnb I found that it was a small functioning farm. My friend met me there and the owners then took us on a tour of the place so we could see them feed their chickens, pigs and horses. 20180831_202802 After the tour we headed into Lion’s Head for a burger and a poutine at the only pub in town before taking a walk down to the water where there was a local astronomy club meet. These guys had some serious telescopes and we got to see Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. The next day was an early start and heading North for Tobermory to dive the Niagara II wreck in Lake Huron. Nice dives, but it’s just a bit cold for my liking. I guess I was spoilt having lived in south east asia for 3 years teaching diving, but for a lake dive the visibility was really good. P9010498 P9010507 20180901_111709 After our dives my friend had to head off south again and I went to buy my ferry tickets to Manitoulin Island. Once I’d got them I had a couple of hours to kill so I hung out at the bar on the docks before loading the bike up. One thing to note here is that they didn’t provide ratchet straps for strapping the bike down, but I’d brought a couple with me which I intended to use on the train. 20180901_172050 Then it was time to grab a beer and enjoy the crossing in a Muskoka chair on deck. But I also had some work to do as I was planning to head for Sudbury but hadn’t got any accommodation sorted there yet. My aim was to use Couch Surfing to find a free place to stay so I sent a load of messages but I didn’t get any responses. So then I sent a request for an Airbnb, the last one with a reasonable price. 20180901_162919 When leaving the ferry I realised I’d lost one of my bike gloves which was a tad annoying, but they were only like $15 on ebay so I wasn’t too upset. While riding across Manitoulin Island I stopped at a petrol station and bought a pair of builders gloves. I’ve come off the bike before without gloves on so I always feel a bit naked without them. The builders glove was a mistake though as it was really uncomfortable and made it hard to make fine throttle adjustments. By this time I’d finished off the Moby Dick from BBC Radio 4, so I put some deep house mixes on to see me to Sudbury and get me in the mood for Saturday night. About 30 minutes outside Sudbury the rain started, it was still light though and as night fell I pulled into a Tim Hortons on the outskirts of town to get some dinner and plan where I was staying that night. There had been no reply to Couch Surfing requests or my Airbnb request. I started checking my Tinder matches as I’d been stocking up on them before the journey by setting my Tinder Plus location to the various destinations I was travelling to. There were a few girls from Sudbury in my match list to I sent out some messages and turned on the charm. Through my chats with various girls I discovered that I was arriving in Sudbury during Rib Fest and as such a lot of the Airbnbs and even hotels would be full. I asked on girl if she could put me up but her response was “Stranger Danger”. Another seemed more included to help but told me she lived out of the city and was staying with a friend downtown that night so couldn’t put me up but would like to meet for a drink later. By this time it was about 9pm and I needed to get my bike put away so I could start drinking. I had a quick look for the cheapest downtown hotel and then headed to the Quality Inn. On arriving they had space for me, albeit at $140 which is about 3 times more than I normally pay for an Airbnb, but needs must. I took the bags off my bike and prepared for an evening of Quality and free tea and coffee making facilities. You can see my big yellow builders glove in this pic. 20180901_213247 I then headed down to check out Ribfest. By this time it was about 10pm and everything was coming to a close. I was disappointed to see it was pretty much all ribs, not a poutine in sight. There had been live music but it was all done so I headed to a bar. 20180901_220148 I found a bar pretty quickly and got a pint. There was another guy sat on his own next to me at the bar so I attempted to engage him in polite conversation: “Alright mate, where’s good to go tonight for a guy who’s online in town for one night” I asked. “You’re asking the wrong guy buddy” came his reply, and with that the conversation was over so I turned back to my phone. I had a message from the girl on Tinder who said she was going out that night telling me she was at a place called The Nightclub and should come meet her. “I’m on my way” I sent and then ordered another pint. She seemed to be one of those girls who only had face pictures, and while she was very pretty, that usually is indicative of a lady with a larger frame. Not that I was in anyway put off by this, it was my intention to get to know the locals of each town I was passing through as intimately as possible and to really understand how life in Northern Ontario worked. After finishing my pint I headed to The Nightclub, ordered a double jack and coke and messaged “I’m here”. The response was almost instantaneous “I’m by the door” so I headed over and spotted her, my suspicions about her size were correct, I’ve been playing this game too long. I downed my jack and coke introduced myself and then ordered another and a rye and ginger for her. The next few hours were very enjoyable. We had some good conversations although my memory of them in somewhat hazy. I was a little but upset to hear that all the music being played seemed to be American music from the genre they define as “pop” which really isn’t to my tastes. I had been hoping to hear a little of Stompin Tom Conners who spent a lot of time in Northern Ontario and even had a song called “Saturday Night in Sudbury”, but apparently, they only play him on hockey nights, although no one knows why. I don’t remember too many other details of the night but we awoke in my hotel room and headed down to the hotel restaurant for the free breakfast which I invited her along too (got to get my money’s worth after all). The restaurant was called Don Cherry’s and seemed to be in a state of some disarray. Not enough staff and I think half of the punters were still pissed from the night before. The food was fine though and then I grabbed my bags and got my Bonneville loaded up. From my discussions the previous evening I’d found out that the best tourist attraction in the area was “The Big Nickel” so that’s where I headed. It’s basically a big 5 cent coin and it represents Sudbury’s contribution to the Canadian economy through nickel production. There’s also a museum there called Dynamic Earth. I went into buy a ticket but the next tour didn’t start for another hour. At this point I was starting to realise that I was horrifically hungover and I don’t think I would have enjoyed the tour, especially not after sitting there for another hour letting my hungover fester. So I grabbed a picture of the nickel, the second of which shows my unhappy hungover face, and headed North for Timmins. 20180902_111214 20180902_113552 The drive up to Timmins was pretty nice and I even found a Canadian Tire at the way out of the city where I bought some mechanic gloves which were much better than the builders glove for riding the bike. When I arrived in Timmins I pulled into a place called Le shack a patate and ordered myself a poutine. I’d sent some couch surfing requests and got no reply and started looking at Airbnbs but they were all outside of the city. My heart sank at the thought of another night in a hotel. 40560270_10156678217771834_3297222066444435456_o I’d been messaging a girl in Timmins on Tinder and told her I was in town. She had a few things to do but said she’s like to meet up later. I was hoping I’d be able to function later as I was still very hungover and exhausted. I asked if I could crash on her couch but she didn’t seem to keen. I found there was a hotel in town for $100 so decided that would be my backup plan but I wasn’t ready to commit to that just yet. I found a park in the middle of town, parked the bike and lay down in the park. The sun was out and it was a beautiful afternoon so I was able to get about an hour of sleep. When I woke up I was bursting for the toilet so I headed to Tim Hortons to use the facilities, have a cup of tea and check my messages. Just as I was finishing my tea I got a message from the girl on Tinder saying she was ready and gave me her address to come over and meet her, so I did just that. When I got there I met her animals and we sat in the garden as the sun was going down and had a nice chat about local politics in Timmins and the country as a whole. Just before the sunset she took me in her car to a spot down by the lake and told me all about a fire that happened many years ago where everyone had to swim across the lake to escape. After that it was time for a drink. I was hoping for a local bar, but she seemed like she was over the pubs in Timmins and took me to Boston Pizza. I had some food and a drink and then she took my back to hers. We sat on the couch for a while and had some great conversation, a few more drinks and she played some music for me. By this time it was about 1:30am and she offered me the couch. I slept really well and woke up feeling refreshed. We sat together for a bit and watch a documentary about He-man and the Masters of the Universe on Netflix before I decided it was time to keep making my way north. I loaded up the bike and headed for Cochrane where I stopped at the Polar Bear Habitat. This is a place for bears to live who can’t survive in the wild. They have 3 currently but I was only lucky enough to see one when I was there. It’s a big place and the bears have a good amount of space to move around and swim so it seems like they are pretty happy. They do some (humane) experiments on them to better understand them. This is pretty important when you consider that there is now 30 days less ice every year than there was in the 80s and all of the wild bears and smaller and thinner than the used to be. Their habitat is slowly being destroyed and some of them are moving further south to find food now. I read online one was recently found in Moosonee, which was a little bit scary seeing as I thought I’d be doing some camping there. 20180903_151439 I then headed to the train station to see about getting a ticket to put my bike on the train. When I arrived I stated my intention which seemed to draw a look of confusion from the lady who worked there. I explained that I wanted to put my bike on the train and take it to Moosonee, and then at some point in the next few days I’d come back but if possible I’d like to take the bike off at Otter Rapids, assuming there is a road there and a way to unload it. She didn’t seem to know if there was a road, or what sort of road there could be and said I had to come back at 8am and speak to the freight guys and if they’d let me load it then she’d sell me a ticket. I agreed to return in the morning and headed to JR’s BBQ to get a burger and a poutine and catch up on a little work I had to do on my laptop, and I also needed somewhere to stay that night. I was very tempted to just ride back to Timmins for the night but I felt it would be a good idea to do some camping and make sure my gear was in good order before heading any further north. I found a place called Flood’s landing which was about 30 minutes outside of town so I headed there. The temperature was really dropping by the time I arrived and I met the guy who runs the place and paid him $25 so I could put my hammock up and use the facilities. 20180904_062729 I got settled in and downloaded a new audio book from Audible to listen to, Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky which was 16 hours long so should keep me going a while. I slept of but I was a bit cold in the night and got up to put another jumper on. In the morning I was glad of the hot shower at the camp site and headed for the train station. I met the freight guys who asked how I was going to attach my bike and I told them I had ratchet straps. He said he was happy to load and so I bought my ticket. I was about $135 for me and the bike all the way to Moosonee. As I didn’t know when I wanted to return I just bought a one way. They got the ramp out so I could load the bike and suggested I ride it up which I wasn’t particularly happy about. I was coming up to the train from ground level so it was a long way. I walked it up while using the engine. There was only space on one side of the ramp for me to stand. I’m glad I did as it got stuck before the top on the metal pin used to secure the ramp. The pin was bent and hadn’t gone all the way down. With me revving the engine and the freight guys pushing we got it on. The pin put a massive scratch down my sump guard/bash plate which meant it was doing it’s job, so really glad I fitted that before leaving. Once on the train I had to strap it up. The guys wanted me to put it in the middle of the box car on the centre stand and have a ratchet strap on either side holding it to the wall. I didn’t like this idea as I wanted it on the side stand with a strap pulling it down. In the end I put it against the wall and used one strap to hold the rear wheel so it couldn’t move forward, and another to hold the middle of the bike, pulling it on the side stand. The eyes to attach the ratchet straps were weird, they were open at the bottom and with the kerfuffle of getting the bike on the train I was running out of time to secure it before the train left. 20180904_085909 The guys hurried me up and I jumped out of the box car and into a carriage just as the train started pulling away. The carriages were pretty retro but very comfortable. Loads of leg room. I got comfy, plugged my phone into charge and started listening to my audio book while watching the country side go by. 20180904_094331 I was trying not to worry about my bike in the box car. I felt that it was pretty likely it was going to fall over. But if it did it had the luggage on it and it had the engine crash bars I fitted so it wouldn’t be destroyed, just a bit scratched up. I visited the dining car and got a cheese toastie and really enjoyed the train journey. When we arrived in Moosonee I was dreading opening the box car. This is what greeted me: 20180904_135004 20180904_135122 It seemed that all the shaking around had caused the ratchet straps to shake out of the (open at the bottom) eyes that I’d strapped to. Yet the bike hadn’t fallen over, it had shifted around a bit but it had stayed on it’s side stand. Now it was time to unload it. I got the ramp out and asked a freight guy to film me riding it off the train. As you can see. It wouldn’t start. So I walked it off, and due to the laddered nature of the part of the ramp I had to walk down I very nearly dropped it, but I managed to keep it upright. Once I had it out in the sun I checked that everything I could see was in the right place and then tried to start it again. Still wouldn’t catch, so I opened the throttle fully for a bit as I’d do with a flooded engine and that got it. Once it was started it was all good and I jumped on and went for a ride around Moosonee. 20180904_152431 20180904_143632 There’s not a whole lot to the town. A grid section of streets with a few shops and lots of houses. One road that leads to the airport and another that leads to the dump then the quarry and some electrical substation. The latter is quite a long road. I got a look at the winter road too which had a big “road closed” sign across it. In the summer it isn’t a road. It’s grass and swap. No chance of riding my Bonneville on it. But on the trip up I’d been looking out of the window carefully at Otter Rapids and I saw pickups there which suggested to me there was a road, so my plan was to get off there on the way back. I went to the only restaurant in town, Sky Ranch, and had a poutine. 40946779_10156683443721834_7285082695221116928_o I’d been messaging a girl on Tinder I found who worked in Moosonee and sent her some messages. She was at work but I was hoping she’d want to meetup and offer me a place to stay. There were some guesthouses but it seemed like they were all over $100 and I’d been told they’d most likely be full if I hadn’t booked. So I decided I’d better try and find a place to camp. I took the road out to the quarry and turned down a side road which took me to what appeared to be 2 nice, but perfectly square lakes. There was a bit of a smell too, then I saw the sign that said “Sewage Reservoir” and decided I wasn’t going to camp there. The next turn I took brought me to the dump where I saw some bears scavenging. I was careful not to get too close but managed to capture a couple of them in this shot: 20180904_180438 Not being from North America bears are a bit of a mystery to me as where I grew up there is nothing that can kill you when you’re camping. The first time I camped in Canada I was awoken by a noise which I assumed was probably a badger. But on thinking that perhaps badgers weren’t common in Canada I went out of the tent to see a bear eating all my food. I chased him away but then 5 of them came back. Needless to say I’m not a bit more careful, so I decided I really didn’t want to camp next to the dump and kept on riding. The next road I took led to a quarry which was full of water. I road around it and found another road on the opposite side which led down to a river. This seemed to be the best place to make my camp. It was about 8pm now and I hadn’t heard from the girl I’d been messaging so I resolved to set up camp and if I heard from her I could always go meet her and dismantle camp the following day. 20180905_100248 When driving around the quarry I’d noticed several old beer cans and a lot of used shotgun cartridges which was a little disconcerting but I tried not to worry about it, I was more worried about being eaten by a bear. After camp was setup I took a seat down by the river and then I heard some engines by the quarry. I was going to go take a look then the gunfire started. There were evidently people, potentially drunk people, discharging weapons about 100 metres from me. I counted 8 shots and I messaged the girl from Tinder to ask about it. I didn’t want to walk out of the bush and I had no idea which direction these guys were shooting in and didn’t want to get a face full of shot so I stayed low down by the river hoping any shot would go over my head. Still nothing from the girl and after about an hour of gunfire I heard the engines leaving the quarry so I went back up to my camp and got in my hammock. Once I was all settled in with my audio book I saw a message from her saying “There’s not a lot to do here so people are pretty trigger happy. If you get too scared I have a spare room”. Well but this stage it was dark and I was in bed so I resolved to seem it through. The shooters had gone home so assuming a bear didn’t eat me I’d be ok for the night. I hadn’t put the tarp over my hammock as I didn’t expect rain, but I got awoken at 1am by the rain so threw the tarp up in the dark and went back to bed. I didn’t wake up until about 9:30am and had a really good night of sleep. I guess the cloud cover kept the heat in as I was nice and warm all night. When I got up and dismantled my camp and went to have a look at what people were shooting at the night before: 20180905_103948 20180905_104003 20180905_104020 20180905_104146 20180905_104158 So they were shooting at a laptop and some pinups. Interesting choice of targets. Now it was time to go and check out my next destination, Moose Factory, which is an Island First Nation’s reserve on the Moose River. About a 20 minute ferry ride from Moosonee. 20180905_110823 I wasn’t sure what they were going to charge me to get the bike on the ferry. Everyone seemed a bit unsure of bikes and there weren’t any other bikes in Moosonee. In the end the Niska ferry charged me $13 for me and the bike each way which seemed really reasonable. Once on Moose Factory I rode around and checked the place out. A bit like Moosonee but with a hospital and something more like a hotel. Also they had a Cree cultural centre so something like a museum that I could enjoy being a tourist at. Moosonee didn’t really have anything for tourists. 20180905_135830 20180905_141254 Then I saw the Hudson Bay Company Staff House: 20180905_142435 20180905_142502 20180905_142626 After that I went the local diner and had a poutine, but they didn’t have real cheese curds so I was a bit disappointed. Then onto Ace Hardware which was really well equipped. I got another ratchet strap so I’d have 3 for strapping the bike in on the way home. Outside of Ace Hardware I met a girl who spotted the bike and waited on me. She was really curious about how I got it there and said her dad wanted to bring his. He was an adventurer and had ridden the James Bay Road before and was thinking of bringing it up on the winter road. I explained how I got it up on the train and that I believe the road went as far as Otter Rapids, and 3 ratchet straps should hold it down in the train. Then I headed to Canada Post to send off the post cards I bought before taking the ferry back to Moosonee. 20180905_152401 Once off the ferry I brimmed my tank with fuel and went to buy my train ticket. Then it was time to try loading the bike again, and this time I hoped to me more successful in securing it. 20180905_163823 20180905_163827 20180905_163845 20180905_163854 20180905_163905 20180905_164352 This time I used 3 straps, rear, middle and front. I also tied each strap the to the mounting eye so it couldn’t be shaken off. I was pretty confident this time the bike wasn’t going anywhere. I sent a photo of my bike all strapped up to the girl I’d been messaging and she sent me back a photo of herself on the train. Turns out she’d decided to head south that day and was on the train too. So we met up and had a few beers in the dining car and I also had a chicken pie. I told her I was planning to get off in Otter Rapids but she didn’t know much about it, although she was a bit concerned about the bear situation and gave me her lighter so I could make a fire at my camp as she said it would help to keep the bears away. We had a few beers and a nice chat and when we were approaching Otter Rapids the conductor came to get me and tell me it was time to get the bike unloaded. When we opened the box car the bike was just as I’d left it and I got read to ride it off the train. This time I’d also turned off the fuel and I think this helped to ensure the engine didn’t flood as it started right up. I got lined up and went to ride down but I got stuck! As soon as the front wheel went onto the ramp the bike got hung up on it’s frame. It seemed that the ground was a bit lower at the side of the track here in Otter Rapids to the incline of the ramp was steeper. I stayed on the bike and the conductor lifted the rear of the bike enough that I was able to get off and ride down safely without any further incident. At Otter Rapids there was a house and a few guys standing around who all look a bit confused and me unloading the Bonneville and the train taking off and leaving me there so I went over to chat to them. Turned out they stayed there and worked on the railway all year around. They confirmed that there was a dirt road that went to Fraserdale and it was in good shape. They said it was about 50kms to Fraserdale then another 70kms to Smooth Rock where I’d find the nearest petrol station. The Bonneville doesn’t have a very big tank and 180kms can be pushing it, but this sounded like a fairly safe distance, even if I did make a few wrong turns. It was about 8pm at this point so I said thanks and headed off onto the road south to find a place to camp. 20180905_194114 20180905_194654 After crossing the Otter Rapids dam and heading south I was on the look out for an exit to the east of the road. I’d spotted on Google Maps a place just out of Otter Rapids called Otter Rapids Ontario Moose Camp on Google Maps. It sounded like a camp site but when I looked on the satellite view it seems like just a clearing in the woods, but that’s all I needed. I found the track leading down to it and went past an old caravan on the way before coming into the clearing. I could see people had made fires here before and it didn’t take me long to locate some firewood and get my hammock set up. 20180905_202314 It got a bit cold in the night, and I was always listening out for bears, but it was an enjoyable camp. In the morning I got on the bike and headed south on the dirt road to Fraserdale which was in really good condition. I was easily managing 60-70km/h. 20180906_081420 P9060565 P9060569 I had been looking for a turn off that would take me down to New Post Falls before meeting up with the road again but I missed it. This concerned me as that meant I was taking the long way around and fuel became slightly more of a concern. When I found the south entry of the track to New Post Falls, it was much more wild than I was hoping for. 20180906_101912 It seemed like someone had covered a bog with wood chips, it was really soft. I managed to make progress along it but it was a real challenge as there were some big branches across the road that were very slippery. I eventually came to a big clearing, also covered with wood chips and some very deep ruts and the bike started getting very stuck. 20180906_100814 As well as my Shinko 705 tyres were doing, I could really have used some knobblies here, and a some more ground clearance. It was worried I’d get the bike stuck here, 50 kms from anywhere, alone and with no phone signal, I wasn’t sure exactly where the New Post Falls were. Given that my fuel was limited and I wasn’t too sure where I was going I decided to head back to the road, but ended up coming off the bike crossing a fallen tree in a deep rut. As soon as the bike went down I saw fuel leaking out of the tank and panicked and managed to get it upright quickly. A minute or so of pushing and rocking and I’d managed to get back onto the track and made it back to the road. Hoping I still had enough fuel to make it to Smooth Rock I carried on south and crossed the Abitibi Canyon dam and back onto the tarmac. 20180906_104647 The road to Smooth Rock was a really nice ride, although no phone signal. Upon arriving I filled up on petrol, had some breakfast and observed some strange toilet graffiti. 20180906_131158 I’d always thought that daytime running lights were mandatory in Canada and enforced at the point of importation of vehicles so I’m not sure what this is about.