Spirit Traffic is the story of the 10,000-mile motorcycle trip the author C. Jane Taylor took with her husband, John, and son, Emmett, to celebrate Emmett’s college graduation. They were all new riders, and it was their first trip. In May, Jane and John took Spirit Traffic back to the road on their BMW 650 GSs for a 97-day national book tour. Below is her fourth installment of Postcards from the Road, which will be published every Monday.
Related Story: C. Jane Taylor Rides 6,000 Miles on National Book Tour
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June 5, 2022
The 401 is a legendary highway that cuts through the landscape above the Saint Laurence Seaway and Lake Ontario. Its drivers have a reputation for animosity that is anathema to the Canadian zeitgeist. My opinion of this malice was corroborated by four different sources. A Toronto biker from Sarajevo, who has experienced the kind of aggression most of us only read about, said, “The drivers on the 401 are trying to kill you.” A Dutch man who owned a 69-vehicle trucking company said, “It is the most lethal highway in the world.” His wife footnoted his claim with the elevated car insurance rates of those living along its most dangerous corridor. Data from the Ontario Provincial Police supports Mrs. Van Trucking: 67% of auto-related fatalities on the 401 occur in the Durham area (the apex of an equilateral triangle made of Toronto, London, and Durham).
Even before I heard its reputation, I did not want to ride the 401. Too much traffic moving too fast scares the shit out of me. We argued about it. John’s theory is that a highway without intersections where bikes can be t-boned is safer. He found a motorcycle safety website giving contradictory advice and ultimately recommending (as Krishna does to Arjuna in the final paragraph of the Bhagavad Gita) that you “ride your own ride.” In other words, take in all of the information and ride in a way that you are comfortable.
My fear prevailed. We stayed off the 401. Traffic on the city streets of Toronto was stop-and-go, aggressive, and hot (32° C). We were mired in it for hours.
The other end of the Goldilocks spectrum of two-wheeled motor vehicular transport was wind-blown country roads. The wind was strong in Ontario, even stronger at speed.
I struggled in both traffic and wind. More than once I cried in frustration. More than once I doubted my ability to carry on in this journey.
The highlights of the week will shed light on why I persist nevertheless.
Day 16: Pleun, Chantal, and Johan hosted us in comfort, friendship, and terrific food in St-Hyacinthe (east of Montréal). Family and friends gathered round a cozy living room for a reading followed by bilingual (French and English) hilarity. In the morning, Pleun polished our boots in the sun on the balcony as we sipped espressos and ate baguettes.
Day 17: We camped along the Long Sault Turnpike at Mille Roches. Le raton laveur (raccoon) stole the oat milk we hoped to have on our morning granola.
Day 18: Kingston, Ontario was a bust. The bookstore owner who agreed to host me reneged on his agreement. I signed the two books he had on his shelves. He claimed that the two books were a great risk for him and a significant endorsement of me as an author. He underscored my disdain for the skeptical pessimism of independent bookstore owners. It was also hot and there was lots of traffic.
Day 19: I read at the bar at Grapefruit Moon Cafe. It was a hoot. Rosie, Emmett’s first girlfriend, was our host.
Day 20: I read to a happy, appreciative audience at the Crêperie Café in Elora, Ontario. The café owner was lovely and generous. Grace and Kelly (yoga friends who attended John’s annual yoga retreat in Costa Rica) hosted. One woman in the audience is turning 50 this summer. She just got her motorcycle endorsement and bought a bike. She has two teenaged sons. I pretty much wrote my book for her.
Day 21: We camped at The Pinery on Lake Huron. It was the most beautiful camping spot I can remember. In the morning, we drank our coffee sitting on the dunes overlooking the vastness of Lake Huron.
Day 22: I read at the St. Clair County Library in St. Clair, Michigan. There we 30+ in the audience, some of whom had already read the book. The audience was funny and supportive with excellent questions. Afterward, our host Julie, a librarian and fellow Simon’s rocker, took us out to an excellent dinner. She regaled us with a great motorcycle story involving pillion-rider melted shoes and marriage proposals. She put us up in an elegant BnB along the St. Clair River.
Day 23: I will read at the NorthStar Sail Club in Harrison Township, Michigan. My kayaking buddies Jeff and Chuck will host. I am looking forward to it.
Keep the rubber side down.
Spirit Traffic can be purchased on the author’s website CJaneTaylor.com. It is also available on eBook, audio book read by the author.