I went back and forth on whether I wanted to truck to Toronto or make the most out of Serenity’s last miles in North America. In the end, I wasn’t so hungover I couldn’t load a scoot onto a truck bed with Fred, and trucking meant I could eke out a few more hours in his company, a luxury in dwindling supply. Anyway, I didn’t want to pay the US-to-Canada bridge toll twice, and unless you have a sick enjoyment for congestion Toronto isn’t much of an exciting riding destination.
We made good time to our Airbnb in Etobicoke, and gratefully loaded our smelly, messy, post-rally selves into a hot shower. Afterward, we had just enough energy to pick up some large bags of ketchup and all dressed potato chips (priorities!), though not quite enough to unload the bike before meeting with some friends before they left the city. Such is life.
I found Gene and Neda’s travels on ADV, and they fanned the flames when I was planning for my own uprooting years ago. Four years back, I met them when I was passing through Toronto with Davide on the way to Bandcamp 2015. This time, Gene and Neda were on their way west. I thought I would miss their exodus from the city, but due to a U-Haul mistake they were delayed and we just barely managed to cross paths.
Nexus 1, unlocked!
When we caught up, they’d been around the world and were leaving Toronto for good, as evidenced by the loaded truck and trailer. I suspect we were all a bit worn out, but it was still wonderful to catch up with them at another Tim Horton’s and to introduce Fred. They sounded quite done with Toronto, the traffic, prices, everything about it…hmm, it reminded me of my feelings towards Boston.
We chatted about bikes and future plans, which was only interrupted by Neda asking, “Are those anal beads on the front of your bike?”
Ah right, what happens at Who Dat stays at the scooter rally and I should remember to remove those before taking it to cargo.
On that note, Fred and I were off to unload my bike and continue to our next engagement. We had just over 48 hours in the Greater Toronto Area, and I wanted to bid farewell to a handful of old friends.
On the way to Ed’s shop, Fred and I were 2-up on my bike and we spotted another GTS headed in the same direction, with a rider who looked a bit like he could be my uncle. “Is that someone you know?” Fred asked me.
“Pfft, I don’t know every GTS rider in Canada. Besides, Wally has an ET4.”
You can guess who it turned out to be, with his fixed up GTS, headed to Ed’s shop as well.
Nexus 2, unlocked!
We had a happy reunion, but our collective hunger was driving us so we saddled up to catch up over Gautama Indian buffet. It was some of the best tandoori chicken I’ve had in a long time, and I apologize if food went flying while I was chatting to catch up while stuffing more tandoori in my face. We wandered around Little India to digest, breathing in spiced air spilling from shop doorways and peering into sari window displays, and I couldn’t help wondering if neighborhoods like this could continue to thrive without the separation afforded to diasporas by sprawl. Toronto reminded me of Los Angeles for its massive overland spread, traffic, and strong regional food culture, and although I kind of hate the sprawl ugh the eating is so good.
Although I enjoyed the company of friends immensely, I was anticipating the moment Fred and I could retreat to the privacy of our Airbnb. Finally, after many days of socializing with several different friend circles, we settled into bed for the pleasure of each other’s company.
We watched the Stranger Things season 3 finale (it was a bit disappointing, no?).
I purposefully made no plans for Monday, letting the hours unfold as they would. We went to the local YMCA (okay, that was my idea, but I wanted to test if they would let me in with a Cambridge membership and they did!). We hit up Town Moto, the hipster motorcycle lifestyle shop I though Fred might like. When I grew anxious over the ridiculousness of flying my bike to Europe we hid in an opportune dive bar, Sweaty Betty’s, for air conditioning and a mental break. David Masse, the prolific 2-wheeled blogger who moved to Toronto a few years back, met Wally and us for a pho dinner.
Nexus 3, unlocked, although we still had brunch at Ed’s planned for the next morning. Still, it’s time for a level-up, right?
Fittingly, Fred and I finished the evening at Tilt, one of the trendy arcade bars that we rode past earlier. The deliberate unstructured time was delicious.
One more sleep until launch.
The countdown was getting intense now, with only hours left until my flight. The Type-A in my personality called 48 hours in advance to inquire about how early to drop off my bike, and was informed in a clipped accent, “You’re on the 10pm Barcelona flight? You don’t have to leave it the day before. Drop it off by 3 or something, so we have time to get it on the same plane.”
Obviously, I set the alarm for 8am to drop my Vespa off at GTA Dnata cargo.
It crossed my mind that my bike had never flown before. They’re shipped over from Italy.
Remember how a couple of posts back I boasted about a lack of anxiety? It caught up to me as the cargo employees took the handlebars of my bike. With Serenity out of my hands, I was extra glad to be occupied with non-stop socializing planned for the rest of the day.
Although we met up with David briefly the night before, this was the true Third Nexus: Brunch at Ed’s.
Four years ago, I had the pleasure of indulging in Ed’s gut-busting crepe brunch at his shop. Now, it was time for Fred and David’s induction.
Conversation traveled near and far, and we passed several hours stuffing our faces, chatting, and taking Ed’s freshly restored Twingle out for test rides.
The Puch 250 SGS or “Twingle” is an odd beast indeed, with a two-stroke, split-single 250cc engine. It smelled like some dinosaurs might still coat the inside but rode cheerfully and solidly, if pokily, and transported me back in time—I felt like I could have been a young Don Draper from the first season of Mad Men. It’s a lovely size for someone like me. Thanks for the demo ride, Ed!
At one point, I mentioned to David that although I was able to travel a bit lighter this time because I decided to forego camping equipment, I think I went a bit mad with the freedom and overpacked.
“Six shirts?!” David laughed. Clearly, he did not share my concern that six shirts, in addition to what I was wearing, seemed excessive.
Not one to avoid the big questions, he then asked me, “If you could have a home anywhere, where would it be?”
I shrugged. It was a question that followed me since I packed up and left. Over time and distance, I began to suspect its persistence was more a reflection of others’ need for structure than my own search, but I surprised myself with a breezy response, “Maybe San Francisco.”
I felt like I disappointed him even as the words left my mouth, like I should have wanted something faraway, challenging, exotic. A houseboat on the Adriatic, or a converted shipping container in the desert somewhere. Not overpriced, inflated, tech-bro-central San Francisco.
The thing is, although I could happily see myself wiling away years in the city, it’s a convenient trick of the heart. A part of me was glad to be entirely priced out of San Francisco because as long as I wasn’t willing to make the sacrifices to exist there, I would be free to roam.
At the moment, Toronto was my home. Soon it would be Barcelona, then Lisbon, and all the places in between. No traditional answer would sit right when the question was flawed. I was already home.
With just a few hours left to kill, Fred and I took off to check out the vintage scooter and moto shop Ed had pointed out (I’m sorry, I forget the name!). We wandered towards Shore Leave because it shared its name with another tiki bar in Boston, but upon discovering it was closed on Tuesdays we peeked into Ethel’s vintage store and chatted with the owner.
A quick dinner with Ed at Adamson Barbecue, and it was time to run to DQ to meet some scooterists. David wanted to shoot a brief segment of video before we all went separate ways.
We raced to the airport in the truck, and I said a tearful goodbye to Fred and fled for airport security. The past few days in Boston, at the rally in New York, spending time with friends and poking around Toronto were some of my happiest in a long time.
Onboard, a troupe of college-aged kids next to me practiced Spanish and laughed with the carefree anticipation of a semester abroad. My travels felt so calculated in contrast to theirs.
In my private tumble of emotions, I texted Fred to tell him I love him and switched the phone to airplane mode for takeoff.
Toronto disappeared beneath me and my bike, presumably on the same aircraft.