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Spring Fling in the Ontario Highlands

Enjoying an early season ride to Ontario's Highlands. Photo: Martin Lortz

Ride the Highlands

Enough waiting damn it, let's ride already.



As a motorcyclist, what season would you say is the toughest to deal with? Personally, I would say spring. Winter has a finality about it that you can’t argue with; summer is all good; fall is my favourite as long as it lasts; spring, damn you spring. After a winter of withdrawal, we are just itching for the opportunity to fire up the engines and hit the road, but every time conditions look promising, spring rips at our souls with a cruel game of ride on, ride off.

At some point we need to say “enough,” trust our gear, and get this show rolling.

The time is now; sure there is a chance of rain in the forecast, but we have three days to shake off the winter blues and spring frustrations. The destination: Ontario’s Ride the Highlands.

Getting your moto fix in Ontario is not hard. I can ramble off an endless list of awesome roads that will make you smile, but man, when you unfold that Ride the Highlands map and feast your eyes on all the squiggly lines, the decision is easy.

From Toronto, we’re looking at a late start and a three-hour ride up. We set our sites on Bobcaygeon, the gateway to the Highlands. From there it’s Highway 507 and then 503. We grab a tasty burger at McKeck’s in Haliburton, tick off a couple more must-ride roads, and drop our bags at Sir Sam’s Inn just in time to unfold the map on the century-old bar, pour a local brew, and plan what’s next.

This is our first time at the historic Sir Sam’s Inn in Haliburton. First impression: the road is twisty and amazing right to the door, which makes it a win-win already. The main inn building dates back over 100 years, and boasts a well-deserved century worth of charm. We all have different requirements for our post-ride happiness. If a water spa is your thing, there’s an indoor pool with enough jets to massage away all life’s stresses. Personally, I’ll take the lakeside fire pit, the old-school pub-like bar, the super-comfy beds, and the amazing food in the dining room.

Day two

Typically I like to hop on the bike first thing in the morning and put on a few kilometres on the odometer before stopping for breakfast. But with all the good things we’ve heard about from the resident chef, and the fact that it’s raining outside, we opt to linger over multiple cups of coffee.

I will say, breakfast was fantastic, but eventually we have to zip up the rain gear and face spring head-on. We meander north via Dorset and Highway 35, cross Algonquin Park along Highway 60, make our way to Barry’s Bay, then south to the Madawaska Kanu Centre for a fine cup of coffee. The rain does stop within the first hour, but overall the day is grey and cool. No matter; the roads are clear, empty, and sweet. The way back includes a couple more Highland classics, and the day, which started with a satisfying breakfast, concludes with an equally wonderful steak dinner; kudos to the chef.

Homebound, the long way round

The GPS puts home at 253 km, but there’s no rush and we have a 400-km plan. Today starts like yesterday, with a delicious breakfast. Today’s choice: Triple Sec-Infused French Toast—yeah, as good as it sounds. Luckily, unlike yesterday, there’s no rain in sight.

We make our way east along Highway 118, then drop on to Dyno Road. Always a favourite but not today, lots of construction. But that’s OK, it will be better than ever when done. The Dyno Road disappointment is soon forgotten as we turn on to Lower Faraday Road. Another road on the top 10 Ride the Highlands roads list, chip tar and narrow with a lost-in-the-middle-of-nowhere adventure vibe to it, this one’s a gem. We pop out in the town of Coe Hill ready for lunch, but being mid-week and early season, it’s slim pickings.

Espresso Yourself”:  the sign caught my eye as did the grey tin cover building behind it. Tinhouse Woodworking-Gifts and Coffee: nice people, excellent coffee, the butter tart was pretty good too, and for our browsing pleasure an impressive collection of local artists’ handiwork. Cool place, and just like that another must-return-to spot to add to the list.

All fueled up on espresso, we point south and roll on. Riding on the edge of “I think we’re lost,” we popped out just east of Peterborough, where we set the motos to autopilot (figuratively speaking) and aim for home.

Often the toughest step in an adventure is the first one, and the best are the ones that follow. Sure it rained a bit, sure the sun was a treat, not the norm, and the heated grips on my bike were always set to on—all minor inconveniences. On the plus side, the roads were empty and awesome. We got the best parking spots at all locations, discovered new spots, and met some good people. Sir Sam’s Inn, thank you for the hospitality, love that lakeside fire pit, the food was amazing, and the night’s sleep a big thumbs up.

Interesting how what we often perceive as challenges always become cherished memories. Ride the Highlands, see you next spring.

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