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Searching for Ride For Dad

On the hunt for the Ride for Dad PWC event, Dallas Shannon and pals find there's more than enough to keep a rider busy in Ontario's Highlands.

• Credit: Dallas Shannon

Back in July, I went on a motorcycle road trip with two of my riding buddies (Coop and Gary), who live near Perth, Ontario. They were excited to show me their “hidden stash” of motorcycle roads that twist and turn through the local cottage country. I have been putting this ride off for some time, mostly because I’m recovering from a leg injury, but I figured a casual ride with responsible adults should be ok. And, as luck would have it, Coop happened to have a new Kawasaki 650 Versys for me to ride for the day. How could I say no?

map pic

It was a beautiful morning as I left for Perth. The weather forecast was predicting a cool morning, which I was looking forward to considering all of the recent humid weather here in Ontario. The plan was to do a zig-zag tour of the Rideau Canal system, heading south of Perth while staying north of Kingston. Coop and Gary assured me that this is a little known area with a fantastic selection of motorcycle roads, generally seeing little traffic and boasting very good pavement conditions. I mentioned that there was a personal watercraft fundraiser for the "Ride for Dad" charity happening that day, and we all thought it might add another element of fun if we could try to intercept the riders as they went through the many locks of the canal. Suddenly, we had a goal.

coop and gary

Out on the Road 

Once my gear was sorted out and I acclimatized myself to the Versys and its controls, we warmed up the bikes and headed out. Coop had equipped my helmet with a Bluetooth communications system so he and I could chat during the trip. This added another dimension to the ride because suddenly I had a personal tour guide providing full commentary throughout the trip. Gary took the lead on his Ninja, and Coop rode sweep on his Honda Pacific Coast. Riding a new motorcycle, the middle position was the safest place until I became more familiar with the controls. As we traveled, Coop would give me updates of where we were and what lay ahead. It was helpful to receive up-to-the-minute reports on pending road conditions. Both Coop and Gary knew every inch of these roads, as they had ridden them often throughout their 40-year motorcycling careers.

winding lake road

Less than 10 minutes from Perth, we slowed down and took a left turn into what looked like a promising road. The road immediately narrowed and we began to dodge and weave, descending on a road that seemed purpose built for motorcycles. Before we hit the real twisties, Coop warned me that because of the high volume of tourists pulling travel trailers, there could often be sand and gravel on the apex of the corners. This was due to the trailer wheels spilling onto shoulder of the road which would drag gravel onto the pavement. This is something where the average motorist would not have a second thought, but for bikers it presents imminent danger. We rode through what seemed like a never-ending series of 20, 30 and 40 km/h turns with a varying array of elevation changes. We would come up a hill, and get a few seconds of a great vista, then dive down a long hill with a series of tight turns into the valley. We would then wind our way up the other side and do it all over again. Bikers live for roads like this.

Locks, Locks and… Maple Bacon?

Narrow Locks, the first of the Rideau locks that we came to, was aptly named for the thin spit of land we needed to cross when passing through the area. The Newboro locks were next and I kept an eye out for a group of watercraft, which would undoubtedly be the “Ride for Dad” fundraiser. Chaffey’s Lock was next, and I was surprised how quickly we could traverse from one lock to the next. To this point, the entire trip was comprised of twisted, traffic-free back roads. We came upon a few minivans pulling hard-top trailers, but made short work of them the moment the road straightened.

hillside coffee companymaple bacon donut

We travelled through Seeley’s Bay, across the Burnt Hill Bridge and then into a place called Sydenham for our first break of the day – the Hillside Coffee Company. Coop and Gary told me I was in for a real treat: gourmet coffee and a maple bacon doughnut! I’d never tried one before, but it seemed an appropriate Canadian breakfast so I ordered one for each of us with a coffee to go. We sat outside in the back of the coffee shop on a picnic table and indulged. I can say for certain that this is one coffee shop I will frequent again. Any Canadian should know that maple and bacon were meant to be together!

End of the Line?

After breakfast we worked our way north through the Frontenac Provincial Park and then headed west through Desert Lake. We stopped for some scenic snapshots at the Desert Lake campground and chatted with some American tourists who were having a family reunion. It turned out that the roots of their family was from the local area and they have not been back to this area for over 50 years. As noon grew closer and the temperatures started to rise, we picked our way northeast towards the scenic town of Westport. Westport is the most substantial town in the area with a whopping 700 residents. It’s a popular water destination, as it sits on the western side of the upper Rideau Lake and contains a good deal of specialty shops, especially considering its size.

boat in locks

Throughout the morning, I was consciously scanning the canal system for signs of the "Ride for Dad" charity event, but I didn't see a single PWC. I knew that it was becoming less likely that I would see the charity ride because after this stop Gary was leaving us and Coop and I were going to head back to Perth. I thanked Gary for leading us on such an impressive ride. We geared up, fired up our bikes and followed Gary for about 10 minutes until he peeled off to the right and headed towards his home in Seeley’s Bay. With a big wave and the honk of our horns we continued north towards Perth. As we approached the final crossing of the Narrow Locks, the bridge gates started flashing, the horn sounded and they began to lower. Instead of slowing up and waiting in the automobile traffic we decided to pull over and watch the boats go through the canal.

Mission Accomplished!

Ride for Dad perth 1

As I started up the steps to the locks I looked down and to my surprise there were a sea of PWC’s! It was the “Ride for Dad”! Our last stop, the last possible chance to run into this charity ride, and here they were. I fumbled with my camera and squeezed off a few shots as the PWC’s headed west into Upper Rideau Lake. I was happy to have come across such an unlikely sight and satisfied that another one of our ride goals was fulfilled.

Ride for Dad perth 2

After the ride, while enjoying some frosty beverages, Coop told me that we didn't even scratch the surface of the great roads and destinations in this area. To get a comprehensive experience, he said, would take at least a week or more. But my guided tour of this area, although short, was an eye-opening experience. Here was a veritable motorcycle heaven within minutes of leaving Perth and only an hour from my house. Once again, I am reminded that we don’t have to drive to another province or cross into the USA to enjoy an amazing touring experience. It’s right here in our own backyard.


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