Summer 2022, Part 3: Southwestern Ontario

After bouncing from Paris to Boston to Halifax over the course of a couple of days, and then travelling through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and New England, I returned to Ontario to spend some time there for the first time since the summer of 2020.

I had just arrived in Port Dover, Ontario. I would spend the next two weeks in the area, visiting family and friends, with perhaps a visit or two to my hometown of “Fake London”.

Discovering Port Dover

I had driven through this small town nestled on the north shore of Lake Erie on a previous occasion, on a lovely day spent travelling along the shore of the lake in the summer of 2016, but otherwise, I knew nothing about Port Dover. When talking with friends in southwestern Ontario, I learned that the city’s claim to local fame was as the home of a large recurring motorcycle rally held every Friday the 13th.

On my first day in Port Dover, I took a walk around. Here are a few spots I enjoyed visiting:

As you can see, the spots that left their impressions on me were mostly green. The rest of Port Dover also left an impression, but there was nothing particularly noteworthy:


  • There is a restaurant, 211 Main, that has some very tasty vegan options, allowing my parents and me to eat a nice meal together every once in a while. Most of Port Dover’s sit-down restaurants offer little or nothing for vegans, so this became a regular haunt.
  • There is a library branch. This might seem trivial, but in a small town, this can be a sanity saver.
  • Most everyday amenities are accessible within a sub-30-minute walk. The small “downtown” with most restaurants and shops was a 15-minute walk from where I was staying, which actually makes the town much more walk-able than some other areas of Canada where I’ve been (such as some of the new subdivisions in West Lethbridge, Alberta, where nothing is accessible by foot), not that that walk was terribly safe (due to the poor pedestrian infrastructure).


  • Pathetic and dangerous pedestrian infrastructure connecting to the newer eastern parts of the community: the walk from where I was staying (which is within the community’s limits, on the northwest side of Highway 6 on the east side of town) to the small downtown area (on the same highway) requires walking directly alongside the highway on a sidewalk that randomly ends with no warning, requiring pedestrians to retrace their steps, cross the highway at an unprotected crosswalk, walk the rest of the trip into town on the opposite side of the highway, and then wait for a slow traffic light to cross the street again to have access to most of the town. I have no expectation of small Ontario towns to make an effort to make themselves truly pedestrian-friendly from a long-term design perspective, but making members of your community cross a highway with no real protection because you are not willing to pave a short strip alongside the highway for a sidewalk is just pathetic. The funny part is that on the side of the highway where the sidewalk abruptly ends, the sidewalk (or something similar to a sidewalk) continues not more than a couple hundred metres down the road, but because there is no subsequent pedestrian crossing, pedestrians can’t safely cross back to that side of the road until they’ve finished the entire walk into the town.
  • Mad right-wingers who are incapable of expressing themselves: I am a relatively left-wing person in political terms, but am quite capable of accepting other people’s political viewpoints with which I may disagree. However, Port Dover seems to include a lot of people who are incapable of expressing their political stances in any way other than using the most popular political catchphrase in Canada, “Fuck Trudeau”. I never went long without seeing a Jeep, pick-up, or SUV with a “Fuck Trudeau” bumper sticker or banner on it, and noticed at least one house with a giant “Fuck Trudeau” banner hanging in their living room window. Fun variations included replacing the first letter “u” with a maple leaf (does that make it less profane?), or even better, replacing half of the aforementioned maple leaf with a machine gun (what, are you going to shoot and then fuck Trudeau?). Folks, use your words. Instead of purchasing immature bumper stickers, perhaps you could try to promote political change by expressing your grievances. Right now, your weird “Fuck Trudeau” obsession makes you sound like a member of an angry, immature flock of adolescents, lacking any other method of self-expression.
  • Many services require driving to other towns: This just comes with the small-town territory: the size of the town doesn’t permit having all services, so the closest Canadian Tire, motorcycle dealerships, supermarkets, electronics shops, movie theatres, and similar non-daily destinations require driving to neighbouring areas, though such a drive would rarely exceed 30 minutes (each way).

That’s about all I’ll say about Port Dover. Despite my issues with the town, which are similar to those of many small Canadian towns, my memories of it are fond, and punctuated by very friendly people – though I never tried mentioning Trudeau to any of them.

For my first few days in Port Dover, I would work for a few hours in the mornings, go for a run along the Lynn Valley Trail, perform some basic maintenance on my motorcycle, or work on upgrading the house’s Wi-Fi. After a few days, though, the time had come to head to Hamilton.

Revisiting Hamilton

Although I’ve never lived in Hamilton myself, my parents had previously spent a few years there, so the city was not entirely unknown to me. Heading from Port Dover to Hamilton was a drastic change. I had never had a terribly great opinion of Hamilton following my previous visits to see my parents, but over the course of this summer, my view of Hamilton (or, at least, Hamilton’s downtown area) really improved:

  • Everything that one might need is accessible by foot, with real sidewalks! Grocery stores, shopping malls, hardware stores, and shops selling even relatively niche items can all be visited easily by foot, or on public transit for those who don’t like long walks.
  • The amount of vegan food available was more than satisfactory. There were several vegetarian and vegan restaurants within a short walking distance, and most other places had options for herbivores. Finding something to eat while walking around the city was never a daunting process, and I looked forward to trying out the various options.
  • There was no shortage of things to do: cinemas, little artisan shops, bars catering to various tastes (from jazz and metal music to board games), and should the need arise, a train service connecting Hamilton directly with downtown Toronto.
  • Despite the urban environment, there are lots of running trails. Every day, I had the choice of running to and along the shore of Lake Ontario, or running through trails on the Niagara Escarpment, known locally as the “Mountain,” that separates the lower (downtown) and upper parts of Hamilton.

Once again, some “green” shots:

Although some time spent running and some more time working each day gave me some structure, I didn’t travel to Canada just to work and run! Being in Ontario, apart from allowing me to spend time with my parents, also allowed me to see friends that I had not seen in a long time. One of my dearest friends, whom I have known since ninth grade, had settled in Hamilton and started a family, and I really cherished the time I was able to spend at his place, sharing some lovely afternoons and evenings of talking, walking, cooking, and whatever!

Revisiting “Fake London”

London, Ontario, being the city where I spent my entire childhood and adolescence, is the scene for many important moments in my life. It provided my parents with what was needed to provide a fulfilling childhood for my brother and me, and was a safe enough that my brother and I could roam about our neighbourhood (and beyond) for without serious concerns about safety. However, since moving away over a decade ago, it isn’t a place I’ve thought of as “home,” nor is it a place I get much enjoyment from visiting (though the friends in the city make it very much worthwhile).

London is classified by Statistics Canada as a large urban area, and is one of the fifteen most populous cities in Canada. For several decades, the city has been sprawling outwards, with most developments taking the form of large subdivisions of single-family homes and being subject to zoning laws that make a car a practical necessity for having access to everyday goods. Public infrastructure projects typically take the form of adding additional lanes to streets instead of investing in better public transit or safe cycling infrastructure. When I lived in London, the aforementioned public transit system consisted essentially of relatively infrequent buses with limited hours and no bus lanes to speed things up: not ideal for a teenager not wanting to beg his parents for a ride to any possible destination. I hope that the transport situation in London is improving, for whose who do not with to take car everywhere, but when visiting, I don’t get the impression that much is changing.

The wheels on the bike do not go round and round…

I had planned to spend around three weeks in Ontario, visiting family and friends and performing maintenance on my motorcycle (which needed a new set of tires before heading to the west). This maintenance work was mostly finished by late June, at which point I wanted to take care of one last task: I removed the motorcycle’s wheels and took them, along with unused tires that I had ordered in 2020, to the closest motorcycle shop to have the unused tires installed. This took a few days (although the shop refused to give even an approximate estimate of when the work would be done, despite a tire change being a quick job), and I was thrilled to pick up the wheels with their new tires after receiving the call indicating that the work was done, as this would allow me to start my journey right away. I planned on travelling for some time around Alberta and British Columbia before visiting my good friend Max in Lethbridge, Alberta, in mid-July, where he would be performing music at the South Country Fair festival in mid-July.

Upon arriving at the shop, however, I noticed that the front tire seemed to be mounted the wrong way, and upon further inspection, I found that the “front tire” was actually a rear-wheel tire that had been installed on the front wheel, although it was the right size. It seems that when I had ordered the tires over the telephone from a motorcycle shop in Alberta two years prior, they had mistakenly ordered two rear tires of different sizes instead of a rear and a front tire, and because I never saw the tires until 2022, and they were the correct size, I had no reason to suspect that one of the tires was the wrong kind.

Riding on an incorrect tire could have serious safety and performance implications, so there was no doubt in my mind that the tire would need to be replaced. However, the motorcycle shop claimed that they wouldn’t be able to receive the correct tire for several weeks. This would have entirely ruined the plan for the summer: I would miss my friend’s concert at the South Country Fair, and miss the time spent in Western Canada. I questioned the viability of heading to Western Canada, knowing that I’d have to return to Ontario by late August for a wedding. After having a bit of a nervous breakdown in the parking lot outside the motorcycle shop (I was mentally very, very ready to leave Ontario), I looked for alternatives: where else could I get a tire quickly? I found a Canadian online retailer that could have the tire sent to me in a couple of days, so I re-entered the motorcycle shop, saying that I could get the tire myself in a short delay and that I’d bring it to them. However, their tune changed rapidly, saying “We’ll get you the tire soon, don’t worry”. In my mind, I was sceptical: how had they magically been able to change their delay from a few weeks to a delay short enough to compete with my two-day delay from an online retailer? Against my better judgement, wanting to support the local dealer and figuring that they had under-promised and over-delivered on my previous service request, I agreed to let them order the tire themselves.

Then, I waited, and waited. Days passed with no update. I was feeling trapped in Port Dover, with no way to get around (my motorcycle was wheel-less), and every day where I had no update was another day where my plans had to be further limited and altered. I started speculating that I should just try to take a westbound train instead of trying to travel on my motorcycle, assuming that the motorcycle shop had just made a false promise and would actually take weeks to receive the much-needed tire.

Bike Trip West: a New Hope

I was close to cancelling the trip out west entirely when I finally received a call saying that the tire had been received and was ready to be picked up. On July 13, after almost two weeks of disappointing delays and changed plans, I was finally able to begin the 3100-kilometre ride to Alberta the next morning – hopefully in time to attend the South Country Fair in Lethbridge, which would start just three days later.

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