Another year and another Ride for Sight. Once again the GTAMotorcycle.com team stepped up to the plate and surpassed our goal of $35,000 by an additional $4,000. Our most successful team member was Megan who personally raised over $10,000. Megan became a huge influence for our team last year when she rode to Trenton with “Aminal” (one of our more colourful members). This year she was eager to ride again in her prized spot seated behind our furry friend.
I rode up to Collingwood Friday afternoon with the most wonderful weather, arriving sometime mid-afternoon. After stopping in at registration, I made my across town to the campground in search of my team. Of course they were not as easy to find as I had hoped. Around in circles I went until I finally came across some of my fellow teammates who provided the detailed directions that I needed to find our campsite.
Once I pulled in, I was greeted with a cold beer from my buddy Lynn and eventually I set up my tent. Unlike many of my fellow campers, I was able to shelter from the deluge that later came upon us while animals lined up two-by-two looking for some guy named Noah and his Ark.
Friday evening I was asked to help out with setting up the beer tent for the concert and as it turned out I was the first one to arrive. While killing time, I helped out the owner of the local Pizza Pizza in setting up his booth while I waited for my team to arrive. Eventually they did and we proceeded to setup the beer tent as much we could until our team captain and remaining crew arrived.
In time, the setup was complete (after hauling tables and chairs from to and fro) and the party was ready to begin. As for me, I wasn’t really in the mood to hang around at the concert all night so I made my way back to the campsite. Eventually, some of my teammates returned to the campsite and we relaxed with a reasonably quiet evening around the campfire.
The next day I arose to find my team far more tired than I was. I missed out on the morning coffee and watched my team slowly rise from their tents. Before long I realized that I needed to get my butt in gear and head out so that I could make the start of the parade, which was set to start from the International Centre back in Toronto at 10am, which was nearly a 2hr ride away. The rest of the team would have to make their own way down and with that, I headed off on my own. In hindsight, I made the right choice. I was the only one to make it in time for the parade departure.
I arrived at the International Centre with only 10min to spare, with only enough time to knock back half a coffee. Grrr…I really needed that but before I knew it someone announced, “Riders…start your engines!” What? Already? Damnit! Ok…quickly I saddled up with those GTAM members who were there (none of which were the ones from the Collingwood campsite) and we quickly strapped on our helmets and departed for the parade. Poor Megan was left wondering where Aminal was and although she missed riding with him, she was far dryer for it.
It was a bit of a shame to see that only about 200 riders joined the Parade to Collingwood compared to last years 3000. Several factors played their part in that and the rain was only one of them. Yes it rained and it started in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I was woken by the torrential down pour on my tent. Not that I really cared though, I knew I would be dry. Some of my teammates didn’t fair so well and got rather wet. Although, some poor sods in another part of the camp woke to shin deep water in their tents having chosen the lowest point possible to setup their campsite.
Rumour has it that they simply hopped on their bikes in the morning and rode off, leaving everything behind. I hope that they at least returned on Sunday to collect it all since camping gear isn’t cheap.
Back to the Parade…I met up with about 10 more of the GTAM crew at the International Centre and with only moments to spare, we fired up our bikes and began the ride back up to Collingwood. I must admit that I was rather disappointed with the straight run right up Airport road to Collingwood. At least last year, we took a nice wondering route to Trenton and there were no stops. This year wasn’t nearly as nice and we had to stop three times so that our police escort could catch up and get ahead of us to continue blocking intersections. Although, why they wasted resources to block adjoining gravel side roads with minimal chance of traffic is beyond me.
Anyway, eventually we made it back to Collingwood and all 200 of us were ushered into a muddy gravel parking lot near the registration building. Having already registered the day before, I headed off on my own to a local Canadian Tire to buy some tools (my chain was in serious need of adjusting) and from there I picked up lunch.
Eventually I returned to the campsite to find that the entrance was blocked off. Security was preventing people from passing through the deeper swamped out areas of the campsite where the previously mentioned tents were still flooded. It was obvious that many riders had trouble passing through there earlier from the deep ruts and gouges that could be seen scaring the ground. Many riders had crashed in the mud.
After arriving back at the campsite it was time to start drinking. I missed escorting the Pedal Power cyclists arriving in town and headed to check out the bike games. I really arrived late and only caught the last bit of the Slow Ride challenge to watch a friend and fellow GTAM member Steve fail miserably. Note to self…avoid Steve in parking lots.
After chilling at the campsite for a few more hours (with rain coming and going all afternoon), I figured it was time to check out the concert. As it turns out, there were shuttles ushering people back and forth. Of course not everyone knew this so I can only imagine how many people rode there and back and how many drinks they had consumed before the trip back to their tents. Since the GTAM crew was once again tending bar, I figured they could use some support and since I wasn’t planning on working the bar, the least I could do was bring a couple dozen coffee’s for those who were.
Coffee’s were delivered to the GTAM crew and beers were consumed by everyone else and all in all, everyone had a grand ole time. After a couple of hours wondering around the concert and a phone call from my lady, I decided it was time to head back to the camp. Once there I found a fire burning circled by a few friends and I was happy to finish off the night with some quiet company.
My weekend was wrapped up with some good friends Sunday morning over breakfast and a long lonely ride home in time to pick up my son for Father’s Day.
All in all it was a decent weekend but there was much room for improvement. Collingwood was not a great choice as the venue for Ride for Sight. Camping in one area (a site not suitable for camping), bike games and vendors in another, demo rides 5min away and the concert was a 40min hike away. The shuttles came in handy but most people didn’t know about them and for those who were entitled to the “High Miler” dinner were left wandering around searching aimlessly because the directions on the map were wrong by two blocks. Thankfully the locals knew the location better than the organizers did.
All in all…our objective was accomplished and we raised a lot of money for blindness research but many of us were left with a sense of disappointment. Despite the good times that were had, it was a far cry from last year in Trenton and only a small fraction of the overall riders attended. In hindsight though, that was a good thing. There simply would not of been the space to accommodate 3000 campers in that small space.
I look forward to next year but I hope for a better venue. I would like to see us back at Trenton again. If it returns to Collingwood, I may find other plans for the weekend once my fundraising is done.