Mud and Maple Syrup: The Road to Bandcamp II. June 15 – 21, 2015.

Prepare yourself for mud you only discover months later in places you didn’t think were ever exposed, and shenanigans on small motorized vehicles. We’re going Toronto, ON to Toronto, OH, with a crazy Milano and a Buffalo kid, and the answer is yes you drank that many muddy tiki drinks.

Just clipping the corner of Ohio.
This stretch stands out for gratuitous use of the throttle assist.

The ride to the AirBnb in Detroit was unremarkable, save that Davide and I proceeded with our usual goofing around and I discovered I could operate the scooter without hands (overcome front end wobble by going at least 60mph, apply throttle lock, lean farther to the left than you think…it’s a self-driving scooter!).

We dodged between two storm systems and checked into our overnight destination just as drops started to fall. Did I mention the room was dirt cheap because it was unfurnished? Welcome to the magic of indoor camping, Davide. In further acts of magic, we ordered Thai delivery because it was still raining and we could spirit forth food without getting on the bikes. This is the life.

Cool wall art on the warehouse outside Anthology Coffee.
Detroit has that former glory kind of vibe going. Huge empty buildings in ornate bygone styles, falling into disrepair. It was fun poking around empty streets, riding up to any old building that looked creepy.
American entropy.
Specimen at the very cool Heidelberg Project. It transforms a couple city blocks, entropy to art.
Found object gold.
Davide making friends with the crucified baby.
Conveniently placed crutches for such a machine.
Davide: Time to go yet?
Davide is excited to visit Canada for the first time! But the Detroit Windsor Tunnel said no to motorcycles.
So we’re stuck in traffic on the Ambassador Bridge. Notice my temp gauge reads 36 C (~97 F). Davide overheated and had to cool off and rehydrate at our first Canadian stop: McDonald’s.
Then it rained. More hydration than I needed.

We arrived at the home of Wally, a scooterist who had reached out a while back, much later than intended; the Stanley Cup was on, but since there were no Canadian teams playing he was able to step away to let us in. Immediately after we hauled our damp, smelly, gear-laden selves into his cozy apartment, he handed us each a bowl of fried rice with lapcheong he had fixed. I still can’t fully express the depth of my gratitude, except by shoveling all the food in my face. The rest of the evening was a comfy blur of Radlers (Wally’s preferred beverage) and looking at Wally’s photos from the Cross Egypt Challenge last year (scooter world coincidences!).

For someone I just met, Wally already gets me.

The other reason I took Davide into Canada as an alternative to a straight shot to Pittsburgh was that I heard that Gene and Neda of RideDOT.com would be in Toronto giving a presentation about their journey. I couldn’t actually make it for the presentation, but Gene suggested a KTM demo day and a nearby Tim Hortons instead where we could also meet another ADVer, Brent.

KTM demo day at GP Bikes.
Gene flashes a peace sign.

I feared that there wouldn’t be a machine I’d be able to touch the ground on, but I actually really enjoyed the Duke 390. It’s great to be back on a motorcycle, especially one that I flat foot, weighs less than my Vespa, yet has twice the horsepower! They said no wheelies, but you know I haven’t used a clutch in a while…

At Tim Horton’s after (because, Canada), we finally got to hang out and chat. In planning for my own trip, I found Gene and Neda’s blog (RideDOT.com) about their worldwide journeys, and have been following them…for years now. It sounds less creepy on the internet, really. It was surreal at first to meet them in person after reading about them and seeing their photos, but soon the afternoon slipped away to talking travel and exchanging stories. It was great chatting with them, and Brent too, who’s also passing through on a solo long distance trip.

Timmy’s forever. Thanks for the pic, Davide!
Long live Tim Hortons parking lot. Thanks to Brent for sending the photo!
Vespa demo ride.

In many ways, it was affirming to hear some of the behind-the-scenes thoughts and challenges they faced and how they evolved, since they’re a couple that has gone longer and farther than myself. From little things, like needing a portable hobby (needlepoint for Neda, knitting, for me), to more emotional things, like breaking the notion that it’s all cocktails on the beach…and then reliving darker times to share on a blog. Then there’s also the privilege and curse of travel fatigue. I don’t feel so alone, for someone who primarily travels solo.

Good or bad, I feel it’s my emotional capacity that runs out long before physical endurance, and there isn’t as much a point of traveling for me if I’m not open to taking in the people and places I visit. It was a fun and encouraging meeting. Exploring beyond the North American continent seems daunting, but maybe more so because it’s actually within reach.

It was a reflective ride along the 401 back into the city to meet Wally, and Toronto Scooterist Edward.

Hitting the town with Wally!
Meet Ed.
Guu Izakaya is winning at food and decibel level – it’s a deafening tribute to izakaya style.
Initiation to DIY grapefruit shochu.
I do love nighttime city rides.
Hee hee the CN Tower is poking out of Wally’s head. View from Cherry Beach.
Ontario College of Art & Design. Kickass.
Private entrance to Ed’s shop.

Ed reached out to me through the blog, and offered to make Davide and I brunch in his shop. This barely describes what is actually his ‘shop’ and a mere common ‘brunch’. I was confused as we pulled up to the correct address, a storage facility, but the front desk casually directed us to where Ed rents the boiler room in the back.

Helmet forest.
Crepe fillings along a table Ed made himself.
Ed fills the storage facility with the sweet smell of fresh crepes.
Ham, cheese, blueberries, and yogurt with a dash of maple syrup…ready for a nap after this feast.
Ed has rented this awesome place for about 10 years?!
Ed’s domain.
The extra-long lathe setup is related to his work…
Ed was known for making perfectly balanced custom bo staffs. Davide and I tested a few on each other outside.

Ed’s shop is the kind of place you try to concoct when tasked with making concept art for some modern Renaissance salvage yard urban fantasy wood/metal/magic studio. There’s supplies, hand-crafted items, and repurposed finds on every surface. It is literally tucked away in the boiler room of an operational storage facility. And it’s a loft, with a suspended bike, and he’s all set up with a hot plate, cooler, running water, and a ladder to the upper level. A lot of it is rescued from dumpsters. It’s a fantastic jigsaw puzzle of a place, every shelf brimming.

Time for a ride. He handmade those leather gauntlets to match his bike too.
Hitting up the hip moto spots.
(Snicker)
I never thought spark plugs could be so cute!

Back at Wally’s, he surprised Davide and I with an idea: Scooter food tour of Toronto.

First stop: Holy Chuck for Davide’s first taste of poutine. I think he’s considering converting.
Objects in camera are as large as they appear.
Yummy Korean Food Restaurant has a questionable name but the glass noodles remove all doubt.
Wally looks so proud.
The street. It is trendy.
Waiting for next snack.
Wally promised the fried chicken at Luther’s Chicken was worth the wait.
Delivered! So tasty I’ll spare you the close up. Is it wrong I didn’t expect to find fried chicken like this so far north?
Little Italy stop. They are still eating but I have tapped out.

I really can’t say thank you enough to Wally. I’m coming to realize that any place a person visits can be vastly different, depending on who shows it to you. From our brief stay, I would say Wally’s Toronto is a fantastic, diverse feast, a playground devoted to food and the good preparation of it, and he guided us through it like lost and hungry two-wheeled ducklings. But even with the delicious eats out and about, he already won me over with the first post-ride meal in his kitchen – it reminded me of something I might make at home, but better because it’s been such a while (also because I didn’t make it!). Foodies unite, thank you so much, Wally!

Wally even brought breakfast before we roll out! The feeding is so good around this guy…
Bagel House breakfast of champions.
Thank you so much, Wally!

A whirlwind stay for a few days, the packed social calendar isn’t done yet…

Davide knew there would be some trouble with re-entering the U.S. with his student visa, and he was predictably delayed at the border. I waited in the lot just past the Rainbow Bridge for him, and for a third member of our party to show up; I’d kept in touch with Jack, the guy I met in Austin. He was back in his hometown of Buffalo for a while, broken foot healed and reunited with his bike. It wasn’t long before a DRZ400SM pulled up, with a familiar happy rider.

After an hour or so (I’m not sure, I was busy catching up with Jack), the crusty Beemer came through the gate. Davide pulled up to Jack and I, flipped up his visor, and in his clipped Italian accent said, “Well that took forever, but I think they missed the gallon of maple syrup I smuggled in a balloon up my butt. So, where to, guys?”

“Jack, meet Davide. Davide, Jack.”

Bit of sightseeing before fleeing the premises. Hi, Jack!
Party of three, I’m so excited!
Jack tried to give a tour of his home city, but Buffalo was lost in the mist.
Filling up (our stomachs) before go time at Anchor Bar, the ‘birthplace of the buffalo wing‘.
Buffalo wings are possibly my favorite American food, and they’re vinegary and crispy here.

The bridge out of Buffalo was lost in fog so heavy that our bikes seemed to be floating motionlessly in white. It was eerily like Silent Hill. Wait, are we already dead?

If so, the company was alright. Even pitching our tents in the drizzle didn’t bother me. Maybe because they also have to get up early to to ride, ha ha…

Houston, we have a problem.
Do you happen to know a motorcycle shop nearby?
Our hero, Paul Slagle, shows up on a Trail 90!
Of the three bikes, I wouldn’t have expected the BMW to give us trouble.
Jack and I headed to a nearby Sheetz for sustenance while the bike is being worked on.
Fuel hose is worn, but that’s not it.
Squirting fuel into the throttle body. They found an electrical problem in the fuel pump, but managed to fix it rather than order a new part. Yay!
Thanks, Paul! We’re on our way.

Again, the company helps in events like a breakdown. I didn’t mind some downtime to hang out with Jack, and the skies cleared up just in time for us to be back on the road. We followed the Allegheny River part of the way, and when I saw a fun, twisty road ahead on the map I’d wave the guys ahead. Jack would pass me doing a wheelie, with Davide shortly behind. I’d find one or both of them waiting for me up ahead, and take the lead again. Then there was the train dancing…

Davide dances as we wait for a train to pass.
Jack joined him, obviously.

In spite of the setback we made it to Bandcamp by 9pm, at least an hour improvement on last year!

Prime camping with graffiti in one of the few buildings.
I don’t know what’s happening here, and it’s only the first night.
Oh, the mud. I got stuck trying to find a spot to camp.
Epic eggs, just like last year.
Davide was woken by a 2-stroke alarm making that rut you see here. Fancy garage tent got a bit muddy. He seems chipper enough though.
The stage is set.
El Coucho, the scooter with a couch sidecar, is revived!
I showed Jack how the shifter works, and he’s off on Scotty’s bike.
You may remember this bike from Dogwood 2014; the one I drove into the pricker bushes.
Mud shmud.
Yes, that’s a couch sidecar chasing someone being pulled on a pool toy by a tiny bike through a muddy field.
Trouble in tent city. Several cars decided to pitch camp wherever they got stuck.
El Coucho at rest.
While waiting in line for tiki drinks, a guy walked down the line, handed us a pre-made cocktail, and thanked us for waiting. Compliments of Porco Lounge and Tiki Room.
Frying pork rinds camp style.
You never know what you may find at Bandcamp.
Whoops.
Looks like it could be an extended stay at Bandcamp.
Saturday’s reveal: sidecar build got even creepier and more amazing.
Did I mention each year is themed, and this year was Amish? Also, hi Myke!
I think it rains every year, and I spend a portion of Saturday napping in a tent recovering from the absurdity.
Just embrace the mud.
This is called the Potato Game.
It turned into mud wrestling.
Stupid human tricks are fun!
What even.
Everything is a hot damn mess.
Possibly my favorite photo from the event.

To this day, I cannot explain the appeal of a bunch of scooterists camping around a muddy field. It’s held in a valley that traps rain and moisture that turns the ‘track’ into mud. The septic system isn’t designed to handle such a crowd and gets overwhelmed, and this is especially problematic given the tendency to turn into a human cocktail. I won’t even begin to explain the absurdity of games and prizes. Maybe it’s just what happens without cell service nowadays. Every year demands human sacrifice, usually carted away in an ambulance. Sleep is fitful at best, especially this year as the only place to pitch my tent was on an incline. And yet, it will be the party that the other big scooter rally right around this time of year, Amerivespa, could never be (or want to be, I suspect).

Can you imagine, regular, respectable marching bands practice here the rest of the year. Bus is still stuck. There were a couple other minor auto incidents trying to escape the mud.
Jack and I are packed and rolling out.

Sunday morning, the field begins its transformation back to ‘normal’ but the rest of us will bear the scars. Once the school bus gets unstuck, it’ll be like it never happened. You just have to be there for that special time of year when Bandcamp is Bandcamp.

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