Your coldest ride. Tell us about it.
OK, I live in Florida now, but I have memories of Ontario's winters, and those memories endure. Here is one of them.
January 4 1964 was a cold day. The high temperature in Toronto was forecast to be 4º Fahrenheit. I wanted to visit a lady in St. Catharines, some 88 miles around the lake. I donned my unsuitable winter garb, mounted my trusty 1963 Honda C77 Dream with its 305 cc engine, and set out for the Garden City.
Highway 401, the two-lanes-each-way superhighway across the north edge of Toronto, was "centre-bare", meaning that drivers had reduced the extent of the snow covering such that two tire-tracks of pavement showed between the snow that covered the rest of the tarmac.
I hunched down to reduce the damage the wind was doing, leaned to the right to counter the effect of the north wind, and made my way to Highway 27, then followed that four-lane freeway to the 24-year-old Queen Elizabeth Highway, the mighty turnpike that circled the west end of Lake Ontario, linking Fort Erie and Toronto.
The cold was almost unbearable, but visions of blonde curls and crimson lips lent a tinge of warmth and enabled me to endure the combination of crosswinds and the wind of my speedy passage as I passed the small towns Mississauga, Oakville, and Appleby, and approached the smoky metropolis Hamilton, ironmonger to the nation, harbinger of pollution and harbour of unions ... sorry, Carl Sandburg.
The temperature fell even lower, perhaps to zero Fahrenheit, as I rode up the slope of the new Burlington Skyway. Then, descending the other side, I sped up and felt increased chill from the blast of the 80-MPH gale in my face. Going due south, I was momentarily freed from the sidethrust of the freezing north wind, but beyond the first traffic circle I headed east toward my goal, and felt the north wind blowing me to the right. As I leaned more and more to the left to counter the wind, I saw that the bare areas of pavement were narrowing. When finally they ended, I was riding on snow that would not support the angle I had to maintain against the wind from my left.
Having no choice now, I eased off the south side of the highway and paused on the shoulder. An Ontario Provincial Police officer graciously stopped when he saw me there, and offered to let me warm up in his cruiser. I was tempted, but I knew how hard it would be to exit the car, so I declined his offer, and slowly rode along the snowy shoulder of the highway to a place where I could turn around and head back to Toronto, my quest never fulfilled.
My crawl along the shoulder was a bit of relief, because the wind of my passage was diminished. The winter gale remained though, and when I headed west toward the skyway its intensity was horrible. But worse was to come: the northward trip over the Skyway, into the teeth of that storm, was an unending shower of sleet, at a closing speed exceeding 100 MPH. It was like shaving with a Skilsaw.
Somehow I endured the crossing, after which the shearing crosswind was comparatively mild, as I headed east to Toronto.
An uncompleted quest, to the object of one's affection, is a chilly voyage at the best of times. Tired, beaten by winds and horrible cold, I struggled on, and eventually reached home about four hours after leaving. The bike was equipped with a sidestand, but I was determined to put it on the centerstand to prevent the wind from blowing it over. It took about ten minutes, but I finally left the bike safe on the centerstand.
My thoughtful parent had built a fire in the fireplace, so warmth was quickly restored, and my shakes and shivers subsided in a few minutes.
And how much did the trip matter to anyone? As it turned out, I never saw the lady again.
What remains is a profound respect for the ferocity of winter in Canada, and humble admiration for the man who conquered winter by riding from Vancouver British Columbia to St. John's Newfoundland in January 2007.
Well done, Paul Mondor. I hope you have the company you want on all your rides. Look it up, folks, because he did it.