by Lori Thompson
PROVIDENCE BAY—Gates opened at 4 pm Friday but the bikes started rolling in a day early. There were more campers Thursday night than there were the first year, when only seven riders stayed at the Providence Bay fairgrounds. Now in its 4th year, the Ride Manitoulin motorcycle rally has become a favourite weekend for its friendly volunteers, easy camaraderie, and great rides. Riders came in from Owen Sound, Orillia, Blackstock, Hamilton, Burkes Falls, Sudbury, and even as far away as Vancouver Island, to meet, mingle and share rides and stories with locals and other enthusiasts.
Organizer Brian Mitchell was very pleased with the attendance. He couldn’t confirm the numbers but judging from the pile of registration forms, he was confident there was another increase this year. A number of riders from previous years were back and there were many new ones. “It’s slow, but we’re growing,” said Mr. Mitchell.
With no streetlights, winding roads and gentle hills through spectacular scenery, and stops like Ten Mile Point and Bridal Veil Falls, Manitoulin’s roads and trails are a motorcyclist’s dream. Ride Manitoulin offered several options to satisfy all tastes. Steve Fox-Radulovich led a group on an adventure ride. “It’s not too rugged,” he explained. “Just a little off the beaten path where most people don’t usually get a chance to travel.”
At the same time, Lydia Burlein led a group of 20 riders on a guided scenic tour around the Island, east to the Holy Cross Mission ruins in Wikwemikong, then back out to Highway 6 and up to Ten Mile Point before passing through Sheguiandah and across Townline Rd to Bidwell. Riders had the option of returning to Providence Bay at M’Chigeeng or continuing on to Kagawong and Gore Bay with a stop at Bridal Veil Falls. “People were quite surprised to see the waterfall,” said Ms. Burlein. Back at the rally, the falls were described as “a little piece of heaven.”
Other riders grabbed a map of the Island and charted their own course.
The rally included activities like the Poker Run and Biker Games. There were 10 stops on this year’s poker run, evenly divided between east and west Manitoulin. Riders needed to make five stops and were allowed to choose five cards when they returned with their stamped passport. They were given the option of trading one card for an additional $5. Half the pot went to the winning hand and the other half went directly to the Manitoulin Health Centre’s “Sweet Slumbers” hospital bed campaign. Each year the organizers choose a local organization or project to support with the proceeds of the rally, and this year it is MHC’s bed campaign.
The Royal City Riders from Guelph helped to organize this year’s biker games where participants demonstrated their riding skills in challenges such as the barrel race, slow and steady competition, a water balloon toss, and a “bite the wiener” game. There was as much laughter in the arena as in the stands. Challenge winners received medals and money.
Twenty-three bikes entered the Show and Shine competition compared to last year’s eight entries. “Last year the Show and Shine was held on Sunday morning,” said Ms. Burlein. “Only campers had their bikes in.” This year’s competition was scheduled for Saturday evening. Even so, some riders had to withdraw as they were heading home, leaving no bikes in the touring category. First and second prizes were awarded in custom, chopper, cruisers, sport, rat, and antique/vintage. Trophies were custom made by River Mist Designs of Kagawong. Prizes for second place were donated by The Rock Harley Davidson shop in Sudbury. Greg Erixon, new owner of The Rock, and Al Kasza of Riders Mag acted as judges. Jim Hatton of Capreol won the People’s Choice award with a 2014 Indian Chief Vintage, and “Big Bill” Gallagher of Wingham won Best of Show with a 2005 Harley Davidson Deluxe.
Once again, Becky Smith organized a pancake breakfast for Saturday morning. The funds raised from the breakfast are donated to the Providence Bay Curling Club. Ms. Smith insisted on sharing the credit for the breakfast with cooks Bonnie McFarlane and Matt Young and other volunteers. She served over 200 diners in 2013 and expected that number to be higher this year.
Live entertainment was provided by Jo Po and Blackwater, a classic rock band from Sudbury, on Friday and Green River Revival, a CCR tribute band had visitors rocking on Saturday night. Even though the event was well organized, there were a few glitches. Some vendors pulled out at the last minute and people who were looking forward to shopping and eating on-site were disappointed. However, that seemed to be the biggest complaint.
Hamilton resident Phillip Johnson, who won first place with his 1998 Harley Davidson Fat Phil in the Show and Shine chopper category, enjoyed himself. “I’ve had some good food and met good people. I’m definitely coming back next year,” he said, “and this time we’ll be camping. It’s a bargain.”
James from Hamilton agreed. “It’s a good event,” he said, describing Manitoulin’s roadways as beautiful and flowing.
As darkness settled in and the band began to play, Mr. Mitchell was dancing at the registration booth, taking care of some last minute details. “I want to thank our sponsors and all the motorcyclists for coming up,” he said. “And The Rock for helping us greatly this year. Our committee and volunteers have done an exceptional job. It’s been a pleasure working with all of them. Everybody did an absolutely fantastic job and I hope we’ll all be working together again next year.”
It was a super weekend.