THE SPRING INTO ACTION MUSKOKA DRIVING TOUR on May 14 was a great, and long-awaited, start to the driving season. It marked a return to normalcy and was enjoyed by a range of members from long-term to new. It turned out this was the first-ever PCA UCR event for at least five members, including my co-host John Panikkar.
Planning started early this year, with a search for a suitable lunch venue from which the trip could be planned around. The restaurant we used historically had indicated they were running afternoons only, and a 3 p.m. lunch break would have been too late to plan a tour around. Fortunately, we had several members reply to the request for volunteers in the February issue of Provinz, and my eventual co-host, John Panikkar managed to connect us with a new-to-us venue, the South Muskoka Curling & Golf Club. A venue in place allowed for the route to be planned around it. John and I spent a day two weeks before the event testing out the route and ruling out some roads as too rough or with too much sand and gravel.
This year we started in Thornton at a Tim Hortons, enjoying the morning meet-up with new and old friends. One of the registrants, a long-time member, unfortunately had an accident (he’s okay, the car probably not) and had to cancel two days prior. This allowed one member off the wait list to join at the last minute. He was quite excited to be joining us, on his first driving tour, along with my co-host, and several other members. One of them had joined the day of the Shift Into Spring Open House and managed to register for the tour that night. There was an interesting mix of old and new Porsches, including a new paint-to-order 911 Turbo along with a new Lizard Green and a dark blue GT4 Boxster, a couple of red 718 Boxsters and a Miami Blue Cayman. Also included in the mix were two Macans and a diesel Cayenne. The display and group caught the interest of a local OPP officer who stopped by to admire the cars and chat before we set off.
Walter Murray suggested he could lead a group, so we ended up dividing into three groups of seven to eight cars each, with a new member, and future tour co-host, sweeping for Walter, John Panikkar leading a group, and I took the last group. We had recently purchased two-way radios for the leads and sweeps to keep in touch, and this worked out well. There had been some concern about needing to wait for lights and left turns in the first leg of the tour, but the smaller groups all but eliminated this, making for a much more enjoyable drive for everyone. Typically, we set out about 30 to 60 seconds apart, but found that the groups ran fairly close together, often nose to tail, and meeting up at the stops in short order.
The more southern start point was an attempt to make the drive north more interesting to those coming up from the GTA. We started out taking some back roads routing around Barrie and avoiding the 400 and then took Old Barrie Road up to Orillia, a nice run with lots of sweeping corners and no stops for miles. Just south of Orillia we picked up Highway 11 to our first stop at Starbucks. Here we picked up a couple of members who were joining us from the north. After a brief break to refresh ourselves, we headed back onto Highway 11, up to Coopers Falls Road and then Housey’s Rapids Road. Both these roads definitely qualify as back roads, running through the forest, which thanks to the recent hot spell had burst into leaves over the past two weeks. The weather was cooperating superbly this day with sun, not too many clouds, and temperatures approaching 30 degrees. Top-down weather for those of us enjoying convertibles. We continued along Doe Lake Road, slightly more travelled and then used Gravenhurst Parkway and an assortment of roads to avoid Highway 11 and drive past the airport, before driving through downtown Bracebridge to arrive early for lunch. It seemed the smaller groups had a faster average speed due to fewer stops. I estimated in the first two legs this amounted to 20 minutes less waiting. The manager of the South Muskoka Curling & Golf Club had arranged parking at the far end of the parking lot for us, and came out to greet us, leading us into the dining room where we had a chance to sit and chat while staff finished setting up lunch, which arrived on schedule. Who doesn’t love lunch?!
After a delicious lunch we headed back out on the road, looping around Lake Muskoka with a stop at the boat launch in Rosseau for photos. We followed this up with a run down Peninsula Road, a perennial favourite, and then made our way over to Sawdust City Brewing Company in Gravenhurst for a wrap-up and chance to swap impressions and stories.
This year we ran this tour a couple of weeks later than usual, and the weather could not have been better, with just a few drops of rain as we pulled into Gravenhurst. The last time the tour ran, in 2019, we had to delay it due to snow and flooding in the Muskokas. It was great to be out with friends, both old and new, again, and great to see some of the new members getting involved. </>