Superstitious Situations

Autumn Blaze Muskoka Ramble report

IF FELLOW CLUB MEMBER ALEX DIGENIS and I weren’t superstitious before, we most certainly are now.

It was Friday the 13th in October when the roaring rumble of two modern Porsche flat-sixes broke through the early-morning, pitch-black silence in Niagara.

One of these magnificent engines was tucked behind Alex’s stunning black 2017 911 Targa, the other was mid-ship, just a foot behind me, in my Guards Red 2015 Cayman.

We had no idea the most hair-raising, heart-stopping and adrenaline-pumping driving of the day would occur hours before we even arrived to the start of the Autumn Blaze Muskoka Ramble — an encore presentation of PCA UCR’s popular summer drive — which I was co-hosting alongside James Biggar.

Indeed, we had been driving on the QEW for only 30 minutes when we encountered the first incident.

Traffic, already rush-hour heavy, came to an absolute grinding halt in the fast lane of the Burlington Skyway. An accident had just happened ahead so vehicles did not have the chance to slow gradually, they had to stop instantly. I slammed on the brakes and my Cayman stopped within a couple inches of the car ahead. Alex did the same and his 911 quickly and completely filled my rearview mirror, he was also only a couple inches from my bumper.

Thank goodness for the powerful responsive brakes of Porsche sports cars. A Kia Rio would have been scrap metal.

And then there we sat, totally idle and a bit askew, unable to get out of the left lane because traffic in the other lanes was still blasting past at highway speed. Plus there was little space fore and aft for our cars to easily manoeuver out.

Finally we got around the fender-bender and were once again on our way.

Alex and I exchanged some choice words over our two-way radios, then we figured we were in the clear and should now have uneventful smooth sailing into Muskoka — cruising along the less-congested 407 toll route and then heading north on the 400 as most others are heading into the GTA for their last day of the work week. We were wrong.

The 407 was a breeze but it wasn’t long after we merged onto the 400 when things once again went horribly awry.

If one more thing happens, I’m grabbing the nearest hotel and not driving my Porsche until Friday the 13th is over!

Construction crews were just setting up for the day. The left lane was already shut down but the signage to alert drivers was still being placed. We saw just one sign and, once again, had very little reaction time. We would have had more time had we not been following a large white panel van that blocked our view of what was ahead.

What we did see was, all of a sudden, the white van started to spin out of control, its driver obviously not paying good enough attention and then abruptly over-compensating to avoid slamming into, what we could not see, a large stationary construction vehicle that was blocking the lane with a large flashing arrow on its rear.

The van plowed into the centre concrete median. I had already been preparing to change lanes, turn signal flashing and checking over my shoulder, but had to hasten my actions to avoid the out-of-control projectile. My Cayman swerved around the van’s back bumper with about a foot to spare.

Alex behind in his 911 followed my lead and we both dodged another bullet.

All of this happened within mere seconds and still in the pre-dawn darkness.

Alex’s voice boomed over the two-way radio. “If one more thing happens, I’m grabbing the nearest hotel and not driving my Porsche until Friday the 13th is over!”

“Copy that!” I shouted back. “This is totally nuts!”

Alex came back on, “The car behind me totally spun out too, I think we left a bunch of carnage back there.”

“Sweet Jesus!” I replied.

These incidents could be taken as seriously bad omens of the disasters that could yet unfold after we joined the 18 other Porsches on the Muskoka ramble. After all, it was not yet even 8 a.m., we still had a full day of spirited driving ahead — including, for Alex and I, a three-hour return trip back to Niagara.

Thankfully the Autumn Blaze Muskoka Ramble went off without a hitch.

The autumn colours were indeed set ablaze in a fiery orange, yellow and red all around us. The Muskoka peak was pushed back from late September to mid-October, special thanks to the warm fall…

Our group met up at 9 a.m. just off highway 400 in Port Severn. It was overcast and the clouds would deliver some rain during the day but nothing too major.

Due to the Cranberry Festival, our route was slightly modified to avoid the throngs of people and cars in tiny Bala.

Instead we cruised along the bottom of Lake Joseph, grabbed the delightfully twisty Highway 7 through Port Sandfield, popped into the village of Rosseau for a quick break, then hit Highway 3, nice and twisty, through Huntsville and past Deerhurst Resort, on to Portevino restaurant for a delicious buffet lunch.

The autumn colours were indeed set ablaze in a fiery orange, yellow and red all around us. The Muskoka peak was pushed back from late September to mid-October, special thanks to the warm fall, so this was one good thing about our Friday the 13th date with destiny.

More twists and turns came afterwards as the pack of Porsches wound along the bottom of Mary Lake, the smaller Longs Lake, skirting Three Mile Lake, back around Lake Rosseau, to end the drive at Crossroads restaurant, once again in the village of Rousseau. Many enjoyed a beverage and some chitchat before saying good-bye.

Thankfully, other than the two early-morning near misses, superstition did not play a role and the Autumn Blaze Muskoka Ramble was a big success. Well, unless your name is Oliver Collins, the club member who unfortunately didn’t quite make it to the starting point and instead spent the day searching the Midland-Barrie area for a new tire after one on his red 1995 911 Carrera suffered a puncture.

Special thanks to James Biggar, my co-host for this ramble and also the co-host for the popular July Muskoka ramble, who did a fantastic job safely leading our convoy through the northern woods and around the various waterways.

When we started planning in August, James asked, “Are you sure you want to do this on Friday the 13th?”

Next time I won’t be so sure. </>

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Stefan Walther
Stefan Walther
Vice-President, PCA UCR

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