The fruit fly on the edge of my glass bathes in the heady vapours of an Irish brew-master’s art as he and I share in the ambiance of the raucous crowd toasting in unison to the day that was.
And what a day indeed.
Scanning the room, my senses hone in on their individual tales of glory. In a far corner booth just out of earshot, three grey haired men exuberantly mime wheelies like hormonally confused teen aged boys air guitaring an AC/DC solo. Throttles crack on invisible handlebars as they wind up for the hundred-yard catwalk. It’s clear their day spent on the optional technical section was better therapy for arthritic knees than a sip from Ponce De Leon’s fountain.
I too know that section. While looking for markers containing treasure hunt clues, it was here that I was humbled by Marc and Cory, two jovial French Canadians riding with me. They muscled and finessed their big heavy BMW’s through terrain that only left me betwixt, bothered and bewildered. At another table, heated discussion commences over the benefits of leather versus textile riding gear. The single fellow supporting dead cow skin looks to be overrun by his Gortex clad com padres. That is until the debate is stunningly swung in his favour when he buys the next round.
My ear is getting better at its job of acting like a unidirectional microphone, shamelessly eavesdropping on specific targets within the din. Everywhere there are conversations of comparison: Chain vs. shaft, regular vs. synthetic, hard vs. soft luggage (and do I really need two pairs of quick-dry underwear for a round the world journey?), these are the topics of evening. In all of this intermingling of riders from every category on the spectrum of two wheels, there is one remarkable thing missing: No matter who I rode with or who I spoke to, at no point during the weekend did I witness a hint of that clique’ish elitism you find when a group of bikers get together. Riders from the raked fork, chrome crowd traded good natured barbs with the battle scarred thumper camp who bought rounds for the mods/rockers on Vespas who snapped selfies with Teutonic RTW pilots who changed tires with bright orange super enduros. There was even a vintage Porsche on the route. This thing was all about class without the distinction. It doesn’t matter what we were on. I thought at first that the event was going to be a love-in for the “adventure bike” crowd until I realized what a great job this venue does to deliciously muddy the waters of that definition. Be it Goldwing or Goldstar, Harley or Husaberg, it all fits the definition of what an adventure bike is simply because of its ability to get you out there whatever that means to you. If it’s got a spark plug, you fit in here.
Lawrence Hacking’s third year putting on this event looks to be the highlight of my summer rally season. I look forward to the honour of once more shaking the hand of this unassuming living legend of Canadian motorsports. Scrolling down his list of credentials includes event names like Baja, Mongolia, Dakar, Gotland along with countless other international events on both two and four wheels.
But this isn’t just a big meet and greet with the man, there’s far more to the OAR to keep everybody occupied and thoroughly entertained for the entire weekend. A partial list of the 2015 guest/presenter list includes:
- Dakar racer Simon Pavey is putting on two days of level 1 and 2 off-road training courses. You might remember him as the fellow who showed Charlie and Ewan the ropes on their Long Way Round series.
- Simon and Lisa Thomas of 2RidetheWorld are embracing the dream we all kick around now and then of living on our motorcycles. They tell the story of what it’s like to be into the twelfth year of their world journey.
- Lyndon Poskitt, global adventurer extraordinaire and author of Races To Places waxes poetically on what it’s like to travel the world on his race bike “Basil”
- Catherine St. Denis and Les Clarke give their venerable KLR’s a break in Central America to fly back and tell us all what it’s like to ride the world looking for a place to retire.
- Jonny Harris of Murdoch Mysteries is coming back to ride with us again and put on his raucous stand up act.
- Chris Northerover of OSETbikes back flips his trials bike as we collectively gasp in disbelief at his blatant disregard for physical law.
Along with this there are riding skills demonstrations, barbecues, vintage iron, accessories booths, organized celebrity group rides and an area where you can see what it’s like to ride a trials bike, (Where does my ass go?).
Should the throbbing in my head subside to a manageable level, perhaps I’ll try today’s 240 km gravel challenge ride. If however the events of last eve insist my cranial drums take up a John Bonham tempo then I think the more sedate road route is in order. Regardless of choice, I know route master Eric Roehl has all the interesting squiggly lines properly mapped out for my GPS. The only thing left to decide is whether or not my mate and I take up with one of the celebrity ride leaders or risk a solo circumnavigation. Decisions, decisions….
Fast forward eight hours. The final race at the Mohawk horse track is logged in the books and the jockeys start trickling into a bar jammed to the rafters with all manner of “bikers” the likes of which don’t compute in their database of stereotypes. Leaning against the bar I adjust my kilt as the heat lightning flashes its static halo behind a young buck attempting to make a fragile human connection with a flaxen haired maiden. I brazenly hone in on their push and pull conversation until it appears the poor lad’s chances are squandered on a miscue. All seems lost until he brushes his hand on hers and breathes a quiet four-word soliloquy. Her eyes widen and the waltz begins anew.
The fruit fly is now floating nipples-up in my glass of stout, it’s short life made noble through death by holy fermentation. I flick it out and raise a toast to the electric night sky.