My winters are usually spent poring over maps, online resources and GPS software trying to design interesting motorcycle adventures that sometimes begin before the snow has left the ground. Trip planning is serious business, but not this year. What with the Coronavirus restrictions and border closures it’s hard to know if we’ll be able to travel in 2021 or how far we’ll be able to go. On top of that, with all the business closures, what will be open when we get where we’re going?
Obviously, it’s time to plan another summer of riding close to home. The challenge lies in finding new or exciting destinations. I was stumped for a while until an email arrived from my buddy Don and I realized that a new trip planning resource was about to enter my world. Television. And who hasn’t spent countless hours in front of the television in the last year?
F is for Funny. Don sent me a file for my GPS software and told me he’d entered all the destinations from a show he had been enjoying for a few years on CBC with his wife. With Don’s endorsement, I loaded the CBC GEM app on my phone and Mary and I binge-watched the Still Standing series on the TV via Google Chromecast. Since 2015, actor/comedian Jonny Harris has been criss-crossing the country visiting small towns that have hit hard times. Harris spends about a week in each town and then finishes up with a comedy show which is actually intertwined into the episode between scenes of him meeting the locals and hitting the highlights. Harris showcases what has gone wrong as well as what has gone right and the people involved who ensure that their town is Still Standing. It is very good TV and very educational about parts of Canada that most of us unknowingly pass right by. Over the six seasons of the show Harris has visited 75 towns and all but two of them (Rankin Inlet, NU & Churchill, MB) are road accessible. Don had 72 entries in the GPS file (he has no interest in the slog to Inuvik) and said he was thinking about re-watching each episode before riding to the towns.
Brilliant! And Harris would appreciate this as he is a rider too. He rode with Barb Sjoquist who was the Mayor of Edgerton, Alberta when he visited for Season 3, Episode 5, and he talked about his love of riding in a couple other episodes as well. As you can see in the screenshot, the towns are still standing from coast to coast to coast (I added the three northern ones for completeness) so it should be possible to find something close to home and, if you watch the show, you’ll have options on places to visit and things to do when you get there.
F is for Food. Over the past few years my wife and I have enjoyed watching a couple of shows on The Food Network hosted by comedian John Catucci. The first one is You Gotta Eat Here! (YGEH!) in which Catucci travels across Canada (with some excursions south of the 49th) to visit favorite restaurants and hidden gems and sample their food. Each episode has two or three destinations and he often gets his hands into the mix when making the dishes. Mary and I were pleased to see that we have already visited a number of the locations featured in the show which ran for five seasons from 2012-2017 and still plays in re-runs. Not all of the episodes are available online and, since it would take a while to catch the re-runs, it is nice to know there are other options to learn about the featured food destinations.
In collaboration with Michael Vlessides, Catucci has written three books based on the show and I found them at my local library. After the first season in 2012 came You Gotta Eat Here! which includes over 100 recipes from establishments featured in the show. In 2014, You Gotta Eat Here Too! arrived featuring “more of Canada’s favorite restaurants and hidden gems”. Finally, in 2017, You Gotta Go Here! showed up with “397 hidden gems and hometown favourites in Canada and beyond”. Of course, given the length of time since the show/books came on the scene, and with the challenges many small operations have faced due to the pandemic, it would be prudent to verify the business is still operating before setting off to visit. In 2019 Catucci began hosting the Big Food Bucket List, also on the Food Network, but he spends a lot of time outside of Canada so, while there are some local places to look for, there aren’t as many as on YGEH!
So there you have it. Funny and Food – two F-words that make any trip better. And finally…..
F is for Free. And I’m certain that many of you are also interested in the third F-word in the subtitle – Free. As in Free Motorcycle. This one has nothing to do with TV trip planning but does involve trips close to home for most Canadians. The nice part about these trips is that someone else has already done the planning. You may recall my write-up about the Cannonball Rides (cannonballrides.ca) in the March/April 2020 issue of Inside Motorcycles in which I documented riding a variety of 250, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 mile Cannonball Rides across the country. I detailed how change has been a constant part of the Cannonballs since David Purdy started promoting them in 2015 and to expect further changes in the future. Well, 2021 is shaping up to be the perfect year to get out and enjoy some local rides.
In addition to Joe Rocket continuing to provide a lot of prizes, Purdy is also chasing down what he plans to be a lot of other giveaway items and, one lucky person who participates in the 2021 Cannonball Rides will win a Free Motorcycle. Yes, that’s right. Get out and ride and enjoy local Canadian roads and you could bag yourself a new ride. The rides are many and varied and get you out close to home. Perfect for another season of pandemic riding. Keep an eye on cannonballrides.ca for all the details as riding season gets closer.
As we continue on this journey through the ‘new normal’ we need to keep in mind that trip planning is going to be different as well and that keeping an open mind for new planning resources will help as all have an enjoyable summer on the road.