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Cool riders prefer the long way round

Unofficial group of riders gather in Algonquin Park to enjoy the fall colours and to remember a fellow rider killed in Nova Scotia earlier this year.

Published October 16, 2012

For the first time since they started riding together, Dr. Cool isn’t with them. But he’s on a lot of their bikes.

Dave “Dr. Cool” Morrison, of Burlington, 47 years old and father of two, died July 5 when his motorcycle hit a deer on the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia. He’s sorely missed by the many adventure riders who were his friends.

“He was the pay-it-forward guy,” says Ron McIntyre. “Every Tuesday night for 15 years was free-beer night at Dave’s. Didn’t matter who you were or what you had that was broken, you’d take it over and get it fixed. He got along with everyone.”

Which is why there’s a “Dr. Cool rides with me” sticker on the gas tank of many of the 70 bikes that have shown up for the fall get-together weekend of a club that really isn’t a club and wouldn’t be possible without the Internet.

“Anyone who talks about making it a club gets told, ‘Hey, shut up,’ ” says McIntyre. The “eeeew” is unspoken but unmistakable. “A club … you’d have to have a president!”

It’s been more than a decade since Chris MacAskill, of Mountain View, Calif., created a web forum (ADVrider.com) to support the “horizon-chasing adventure motorcycling community.”

One local rider calls them guys who love the “long way round” style of riding. “We don’t pose, like some Harley riders, or drive like idiots, like some of the sport-bike crowd. We started a thread (on ADVrider) around six years ago that has drawn hundreds of GTA and surrounding area riders together into a very caring and supportive community with only one link: our riding style.”

So as the trees burst into their fall brilliance around the bikers’ base at Wolf’s Den “log cabin hostel” on Hwy. 60, no one’s sporting club colours or patches.

“Maybe the lack of colours actually our colours,” someone says. “If that makes sense…”

“We owe no particular allegiance to each other,” adds Ed Bowkett, who’s ridden in from Ottawa. “I only see these guys maybe four times a year. But I love this. I tend to ride more with the guys from around Toronto than with the Ottawa crew.”

It’s an all-walks-of-life kind of thing, from blue-collar to company executive. Bowkett is an art conservator, specializing in architectural metal restoration. Ages seem to run from early 30s to early 60s.

“Everyone’s a little bit older, a little calmer,” says McIntyre.

(That includes the guy who, after breakfast, is tempted by an empty highway to pop an exuberant wheelie).

“The focus is on safety,” says Bowkett. “Ron coached me on riding in groups. No rules, just, ‘You might want to…’ ”

There’s no impetus to stay together during the day in Algonquin. “Seventy riders … that just turns into a train,” says Bowkett.

The bikers take off in small groups to do their own thing. Some are bent on hard-core mud-plugging as far off-road as they can get. Others want a mix of paved road and trail riding, with a civilized lunch in the middle.

Bowkett and McIntyre are among a dozen riders who choose the latter. That’s after McIntyre has used his booster cables to fire up Bowkett’s KTM, which doesn’t like damp mornings.

He’ll be late, too, for sushi in Huntsville after a tire problem.

“He’s 13 km away, still at the tire place,” says McIntyre, who seems to have a “track-Ed” app on his iPhone.

Bowkett shows up not long after, announcing, “Only $33.74 … the tire had a nail in it. But it’s holding air, now.”

The day turns showery and it’s a parade of wet and muddy riders who start filtering back into Wolf’s Den.

It’s still free-beer night at the Morrisons. Dave’s wife of 24 years, Margaret, has driven here with three kegs in her PT Cruiser and is cooking up a storm in the lodge kitchen. As the riders kick back and swap stories, the finger-foods just keep on coming.

“This would have been our fifth year,” she says. “I want to keep that tradition going. The ADV family has been awesome … the camaraderie and compassion. There’s a sense of closure for me this weekend. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be coming back!”

Roland Koper of Mississauga, who says he’s “doing the world a bit at a time,” has gone extreme and spent the day with some hard-core dirt-riders. He’s banged up a pannier, which “adds a bit of character to my bike. They never had to wait for me. And I only went down once!”

One of the down-and-dirty enthusiasts, Brent Thomas of Waterloo, has Bridget Greer, another rider, hose down the back of his riding suit.

“You were asking earlier about colours,” someone says. “That’s our colour: mud!”

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