“Well,” I said sarcastically to Larry as the temperature continued to drop, “at least the view is nice!” The two of us were standing in a dark parking lot, making small talk as we both pretended we weren’t shivering. The rest of the group was at our night two hotel, enjoying the banquet dinner. Needless to say, Saturday was not ending the way either of us had planned!
We awoke in the morning in Collingwood Ontario, and dined as a group for breakfast in the Gustav Restaurant. Outside was chilly, bordering on ‘cold’, and so we hosted the drivers meeting in the spacious hotel lobby. With the usual important items for the day covered, an Ontario specific item was mentioned…where on the route guests would find the best Butter Tarts. Our American friends looked confused, but we assured them things would make sense before lunch.
Leaving Collingwood, we followed the lake side past historic shipbuilding yards, and into the tourist town of Wasaga Beach. With summer over, we turned east and headed across the last of the farm fields we would see for the 2018 event. Rolling farmland soon turned to granite, signalling our approach to the Muskoka, and the twisty roads within.
We started with Upper Big Chute road, before taking Muskoka Road 38 into the town of Bala. Upper Big Chute is famous for its marine railway, but known to those who love twisty roads as a wonderful warmup in the Muskokas. Highway 38 into Bala has probably been featured in every motorcycle book, magazine, or ‘Don’t-miss’ ride list for the province. It twist, turns and delivers on every corner. Moments after ending in the Town of Bala, you could find the entire event parked outside of Don’s Bakery.
First opened in 1947, Don’s bakery has been using the same recipe for their butter tarts for seventy-one years. Butter Tarts, if you’re not familiar, are a small pastry tart that is known as a quintessential Canadian treat. Resembling a little pie, the butter tart has a filling of butter, sugar, syrup and egg. Baked until the crust is flakey, and the filling semi solid. The best butter tarts, according to your organizer, contain raisins and no nuts. But you’ll find pecan varieties, plain (no raisins), and many others. “The best butter tart” is a hotly contested Canadian designation, one which would cause civil wars and territory disputes…if us Canadians were inclined to such things. It seems no two people can agree to which bakery the best are made. Ontario, though, is certainly the home of the best examples…While you’ll find butter tarts elsewhere, much like Poutine outside of Quebec, they pale to those found in the home province. A silly, but tasty, tradition on the Hagerty Maple Mille is for the route book to highlight at least one spot during the weekend where “the best” tarts can be found. This year, it was Don’s Bakery, and many a butter tart were purchased!
With our morning cravings subdued for a short bit, we launched into more Muskoka twisties in search of lunch. We headed North, through Port Carling and then into the Town of Rosseau, where it seems most of the group decided to stop in at the Crossroads Restaurant. They were quite busy for a September Saturday afternoon, but we soon discovered that most of the area was without power and folks hadn’t been able to cook a dinner the previous night!
Following Rosseau, the route took us North towards the city of Sudbury. Typically travellers who head to Sudbury are subject to hours on highway 69. While full of wonderful views of rock formations, and phenomenal canoe tripping rivers, our route aimed to avoid highway 69 as much as possible. We explored Nobel (home of the Avro Arrow program), Shebeshekong, Shawanaga, Naiscoot, and other towns long ago used for the fur trade. As we passed the French River, it was off to towns like Noelville, Lavinge and Markstay-Warren. As the route turned south, for the final loop of twisties in Greater Sudbury, Larry’s Wildcat started acting up.
At first, he thought the transmission might be low on oil and slipping. But as the decision was made to high-tail it direct to the hotel was made…the transmission decided that no drive at all would be allowed. Neither forward, or reverse, would do anything. Larry was stuck. Fortunately on each of our Hagerty sponsored events, guests are supported by the Hagerty Roadside Assistance program (regardless of who insures their vehicle). While I started the banquet dinner, our Sweep crew of Aaron and Elliot called Hagerty with Larry.
While Larry’s transmission issue occurred with over an hour of route left, the truth is he was less than twenty minutes from the hotel! Rarely do I have an opportunity to rescue sweep and get them a hot dinner when their stuck, so I drove out relieve them and hang out with Larry. Before long, we were walking into the banquet hall to cheers, and concern, about the condition of Larry’s car. Plates had been saved for both of us, cold beer was waiting, and we enjoyed a late dinner with friends as we debated possible solutions for the transmission.
A mechanical, especially one requiring a tow truck, is never desirable. But to spend a sunny day enjoying great roads, arguing the fine art of pastries, and enjoying great meals with friends surpasses any negative roadside experience. A storage spot for the Buick had been arranged, extra seats for the rest of the weekend were available, and we had stories (and scotch!) to share. What could be better than this?
A special thanks to Elliot Alder & Clayton Seams for the photos that accompany today’s story.