#315 Advantage Day Tripper

When the craziness and congestion of the Pan Am games drive her out of town, she realizes she’s headed in the right direction.

“It’s the journey not the destination.” We all know that one. But sometimes we need incentive. And that’s the destination!
It started on the Spearhead Boat Cruise, an annual event that lets those of us who don’t own a boat enjoy a view of Toronto from the lake, and view the island while dancing in the sun with friends. It was there I met John.
Our introduction included the fact that he has a garden centre. When I asked if he had the species fern leaf peony his eyes lit up—as did mine when he said he had two different types! A half hour later he assured me he is generally shy. Then his date whisked him away, but not before we exchanged information. My next bike run had a destination. Suddenly, it was, “Miles ahead, gasoline to burn.”
Uxbridge is a lovely place in the country, a good hour from Toronto. But a good hour doesn’t include Pan Am Games traffic insanity caused by a list of newly converted HOV lanes. Locals have been disrupted by changes at downtown intersections that no longer allow turns. Commuters suffer worse. Dominating the news are tales of overwhelming congestion. I have yet to see one ad for the actual games, or know anyone who has attended them. They say to stagger work hours, work from home, car pool or take public transit. But when you have to, commuting has been a nightmare (except for motorcycles).
For now, the new HOV lanes that swallowed a third of the Gardiner Expressway, the DVP and more, allow motorcycles. Other vehicles that are not Pan Am specific must have three people in them, or be emergency vehicles to qualify. So, instead of idling on the Don Valley parking lot, my friend and I enjoyed regular highway speed and the exhaust blowing back, rather than swirling around our faces. I felt sorry for the others we passed, riding in our clear lane. I tried not to look at their faces.
We exited Toronto in record time, continued up the 404 until the Uxbridge exit. Like magic, we were riding the rolling hills of the Oak Ridges Moraine—a hilly zone that crowns Toronto, extending from Caledon (think Forks of the Credit) to Rice Lake (near Peterborough). Elevation peaks near Uxbridge. The entire Moraine is a beautiful area to ride. Long straight roads cross the land, with few curves to enjoy, but the roller coaster ride coming up the hills is well worth the gas, and once over the peak, the views are spectacular. I felt the stress of city life blow off of me as I sailed over those roads.
With the help of a map we found our destination on Concession Road Seven. A discrete sign indicated the entrance. A long, hard packed dirt driveway and a hidden paradise at the end—John’s Garden Centre is the nicest I have ever seen. What a gem! It does not exist in and around a great big parking lot. The opposite is true. A small paved area might hold a dozen cars. Others line the driveway and walk in. Our motorcycles fit in nicely on the asphalt. And we weren’t the only ones to ride in.
John didn’t warn me his garden centre makes the news, often in the Globe & Mail. It’s incredible. Set in the middle of a pine forest, customers wander in the shade, looking at plants that are on the ground where they would be. Four hundred varieties of hostas?! Sun plants are located in what was the paddock, so you put sunglasses on for those. Of special note for Toronto folks with big trees and tall houses, the shade selection is as large as the sun. That never happens!
I was deeply impressed by the variety of plants for sale, and left with both saddlebags full. My friend stuffed a small Shaina Japanese maple in hers. I’ve never ridden with a tree on a bike! Guess I’ve never lived.
Next on the agenda was a ride for ice cream. We learned the locally famous Kawartha Dairy has an ice cream store in Uxbridge where the scoops are country sized. Ask me how I know. I can see a future ride just for ice cream.
We explored the town, then found our way to the patio out front of an old country house restaurant called the Hobby Horse Arms. The 1860s house is the oldest in the area.
John Statham of the garden centre both recommended it and met us there. Turned out to be another great destination for a ride. Established in ’83, they serve gourmet food on the patio or in the basement, which surprised me. The restaurant is in the basement?? I went down to peak. It’s beautiful, and was full of diners.
Rich wood panels cover much of the old brick foundation walls. The other bricks are exposed. And there’s a fireplace. It’s an authentic pub that boasts a 165 single malt Scotch selection that might best be sampled when walking home. We enjoyed a lovely gourmet meal on the patio, enjoying a view of the gardens while the sun slowly set behind trees. I met the owners, who live upstairs. If I return in autumn I’ll be in the most amazing basement pub I’ve ever seen!
The ride home was easy and pleasant. Daylight lingered, and country houses clicked by. Other people’s homes fascinate me, and I wonder what it would be like to live there. And I never tire of the greenery that disappears all too soon. We took Kingston Road home. Slower speeds are more relaxing, and there were things to see more interesting than 14 lanes of highway.
The nice thing about a one-day trip is no gear to pack or unpack, and little effort in planning. The toothbrush can stay home. I like having a journey and a destination—kind of like having my cake and eating it too.
With ice cream please!