Nestled on the shores of Lake Manitouwabing in picturesque Muskoka, renowned Camp Manitou attracts children from around the world.
On September 11 to 14, it will draw young-at-heart motorcycle adventurers from far and near when Horizons Unlimited (HU) hosts their third annual Ontario meeting here.
The brainchild of Canadian veteran round-the-world travelers Grant and Susan Johnson, HU was founded in 1997 as a place for like-minded riders to meet, gather resources, and find support. From fledgling beginnings, HU now hosts a content rich website with a robust forum, with thousands of sound bytes of advice and tales from around the world. There are now 22 HU meetings in 10 countries, every continent except Antarctica, and the list is growing. Rather than thinking you’re crazy for wanting to ride your bike to South America, this network of global travelers will encourage you, share advice and show you how to do it.
Although it’s designed around adventure travel, you needn’t worry if you’re not experienced, or even interested in riding to exotic destinations. The tips and resources you’ll absorb here are invaluable in planning your trip to the next province, country, or around the world.
Best of all is the energy and exuberance of the people who gather here. But beware. It’s contagious. Literally. As recently as last September when I presented at the 2nd annual gathering, I had absolutely no desire to travel outside the borders of North America, even going on record as saying so. This summer I find myself preparing to depart for at least a year on a trip to South America, for starters.
The backdrop is one of Ontario’s best riding areas. Not only is it a chance to experience this southern introduction to the Canadian Shield, it’s an opportunity to showcase Ontario’s beauty to enthusiasts from around the world.
With all the activities typical of a HU event, the difficulty is choosing where to spend your time. An organized ride offers an opportunity to sample exhilarating back roads. Presentations and hands-on demonstrations by road veterans offer sound advice on the nuances of travel, tips on how to avoid common pitfalls, and answer questions you wouldn’t have thought to ask. Poking around the campsites gives you a chance to evaluate camping and touring accessories.
These riders are drawn together by a common zest for life and love of adventure—however you want to define it. Aside from that, they’re diverse in age, riding experience, life experience and the type of motorcycle they ride.
Last year, Emily Roberts shared stories from her mostly solo trip from Ontario to Alaska and back. As an 18-year-old on her mom’s Suzuki Gladius, she covered 23,000 km in three months, mostly solo. Her harrowing experience of hitting and killing a deer while keeping her bike upright, proved why off-road skills are so important, even for road travel. Susan Johnson loves to share how HU began in 1997 on a whim and a 1986 BMW R80 GS. She and Grant have now travelled to more than 50 countries, and it’s only whet their appetite.
While this year’s roster is still being finalized, this sampling shows what you can expect. Learn how to:
Set up your motorcycle for extended off road riding, including tips on tire pressure, bar and peg adjustment, ABS and traction control, with world class trainer Clinton Smout.
Handle traction problems on loose surfaces, also with Clinton.
Pick up a fallen motorcycle, always an entertaining and insightful demonstration from Clinton, with a chance to practice it yourself.
Pack the minimum and spend the least for as long as you want with Andrew Pain, who crosses continents on his 1981 SR-250T, Yamaha Exciter.
Make your dreams come true, through the inspiration of Dakar finisher Patrick Trahan.
Keep proper body alignment, build balance between strength and flexibility, improve endurance and recover faster through yoga, with instructor Diana Londono.
Enter the workforce after an extended adventure, with Greg Powell, a nomadic CFO.
Fix a flat anywhere, anytime, demonstrated by Grant Johnson
Map your route, with Darren Baptiste who rode from Toronto to Trinidad and is now preparing for a ride to Rio.
Typically, you’ll also get tips on photography, writing about your trip so others will understand and read it, and bike ergonomics.
While many attendees choose to camp in open areas and enjoy an unobstructed view of the stars, Camp Manitou offers rustic plumbed and heated cabins, tucked into the trees. With its wooden floors and ceilings, ranch-style tables and expansive view, the mess hall is a favorite watering hole and gathering place. The fare is plentiful and delicious. Stories told around evening campfires are entertaining, outrageous and inspiring.
Celebrate the final weekend of summer with a fantastic ride to Muskoka and experience HU’s Ontario Event. It may be the end of the season, but seeds germinate and take root over the winter. You never know where next season’s riding adventures will take you.