As a major off-road fanatic, I often get asked if I’ve ever ridden motorcycles on the road. While most of my time is definitely spent slinging sand, dirt and mud in sand dunes, backcountry trails and rocky desert landscape, I have actually ventured onto smooth, paved asphalt a time or two in the past. Originally from Southern California, I spent many years there getting acquainted with two-wheeled, on-road adventures. Always looking for the next adventure or adrenaline high though, I definitely jumped at the opportunity to tag along on a recent adventure to ride in Ontario, Canada, with some fun social media influencers.
Ontario's Highlands is located less than five hours from two major international border crossings, making it a relatively easy place to drive to for those Americans looking to take advantage of cross-border travel and lower exchange rates. Regardless of whether you want to cruise, trailer, or rent your ride, the location and distance isn’t too bad and makes for a nice extended weekend trip with your spouse, riding buddies, or family.
With a group of die-hard riders excited to show me what life in Ontario is all about, I joined in for a whirlwind of a trip to go ride Ontario's Highlands. In just a few days, we packed in as much riding and tomfoolery as we possibly could. With my one-dollar bills traded for loonies and toonies, and a few new Canadian words like “eh” and “kilometre” added to my vocabulary, I was ready to rock the north.
We met as a group in downtown Toronto at Propeller Coffee Co., which I’m told is a great spot for urban riders to meet for coffee and conversation throughout the season. The hustle and bustle of the city was definitely a bit more than I bargained for, with lots of traffic, pedestrians, and obstacles to dodge as we rode through it. The 2017 Honda NC750X I rode for this trip was quick, nimble, and had enough pep to get me through the craziness of the city. It reminded me of why I left Southern California… the busyness is sometimes just too much to handle. With the bright lights, construction and traffic behind us, we rode North East of Toronto. I immediately noticed that the air was more crisp and fresh as the number of buildings dwindled and were replaced with green; so much green!
Our route to Haliburton took us along Highway 67, to Stouffville Road, then Highway 47 to Highway 4, finally hitting Highway 35 where we cruised along for a while. We started to ride by more and more lakes, rocks, and trees lined along the highway. I was amazed at the stark contrast this area had compared to the city just a few hours from where we were riding. We rode on Highway 21 off the 35, and then Kashagawigamog Lake Road to the Bonnie View Inn.
After a long day of riding, it’s safe to say that I was ready to peel myself out of my Speed & Strength gear and put on my swim shorts for a dip in the Lake. With our choice of watersports activities, we decided as a group to jump in a wakeboard boat and go for a ride on a banana raft because… why not? Apparently, we weren’t done riding for the day! Born and raised going to the lake, it wasn’t long before I was the only one left holding on for dear life on that banana raft. I had an absolute blast! With the sun setting, we dried off and sat out on the patio to enjoy some good grub and evening entertainment. The company was great, and the evening was spent chatting about our riding plans for the next day.
Every rider has their own agenda when they go on a riding trip; some want to ride from sunrise to sunset and clock as many miles—no, wait, kilometres—as they possibly can, while others want a nice balance between riding and sightseeing. That’s me—while I love riding, it’s great to get to know more about each area I visit; the food, people, and businesses. Each town has its own characteristics that make it unique, and that’s what I wanted to learn on this trip. I love the United States, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something special about visiting a different country, like Canada, that is full of great places to ride, and wonderfully nice and polite people.
The Highlands is a region in Central Ontario that is well known for its abundance of lakes, greenery, and winding roads. On this trip, we were able to meet some heritage folks who graciously shared with us how roads were built hundreds of years ago to give us the roads we now love to ride two-wheels on. In addition, I learned that it is home to many different artists from across the country. We were fortunate to meet one of those artists, Terry Craig, who owns the Artech Glass Blowing Studios with his wife, Jennifer, just 30km from where we were staying (we rode along the 118 to get there).
After riding down Dyno Road, and then along Loop Road, we stopped for lunch at the Olde Ridge Authentic BBQ where I was treated to brisket, ribs, coleslaw, beans, cornbread and sweet tea. For a minute, I thought I was in Texas. Honestly, this food was to die for and a true testament to down-home southern cooking.
With full bellies we cruised around a bit more, hitting Loon Lake Road and a few others before we decided to stop again for the night. A nice pork chop dinner was just what I needed, and put me in a coma-like state for a nice chill bonfire by the beach. I was a far cry from home, but I was completely ok with that. This small resort became my home for a few days and embraced me with wide open arms. I felt comfortable here, from the bed I slept in to the people I talked to.
One experience that helped me fully enjoy my Canadian experience was my first taste of a butter tart. Holy smokes, how did I survive without these crusty round pieces of food greatness for so long?! Now I know the Canadian secret—go on a long adventure through twisty backroads and your ultimate reward is waiting for you, aka a Butter Tart, from the Little Tart Bakery. My recommendation? Go with an original flavor.
At the end of the trip, my mind was reminiscing on the experience I had just enjoyed. Would I make this trip again from the states? Absolutely! Why? Well, that’s a mouthful of a question. However, the real answer is because of the sheer beauty of this part of the world. Every turn in the road allowed me to enjoy more trees, fresh air, scenery, lake views, awesome riding twisties, and amazing experiences with friends. Ontario’s Highlands is the real deal, and this area should be on everyone’s bucket list, no matter how long it takes you to get there.