Blue Sky, Blue Water, and Blue Mountains
Editors Note: On this trip Ron takes in the Elvis festival in Collingwood while exploring the roads of Ride Grey-Bruce. Earlier this season celebrity bloggers The Planet D also rode in this region; be sure to check out their story if you want to get another perspective on riding in this region.
Have you ever been to Artemesia Corners? You probably have but didn't know it—it's present name is Flesherton. William K. Flesher arrived here in the mid 1800's and among other things became a Captain of the local militia, a prominent local businessman, owned two mills on the Boyne River, and was a Conservative MP. When the railway came through it bypassed Flesherton, sounding the death knell for this Ontario town. But never underestimate the salt-of-the-earth Ontarians; Flesherton has survived as a small town and is the southern gateway to Grey County's Beaver Valley (and probably one of the most stunning views on this ride).
Just around the corner from Munshaw House, built in 1864, Tina and I stop at Flesherton's Flying Spatula Restaurant. All the hype about The Flying Spatula is correct. The portions are large, the price is right, and my half-pound burger, covered with a fried egg surrounded with fries, is more than I can handle. I can't imagine trying their 2-pound hamburger with fries challenge! What a hedonistic, stomach-stretching experience that would be.
My wife, my burger and I mount up and Grey Road 4 takes us 4 kms east to Beaver Valley Road, Grey Road 13. Arriving in Eugenia, the beautiful bright blonde pine logs of a Scott Hay hand-crafted log home, under construction, appear on my right. Carefully hand-fitted together, they will soon make their way to a foundation and become a dream home for some lucky person.
The village of Eugenia was named after Princess Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III, the first president of the Second French Republic and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. We turn left onto Pelliser Street and slowly idle down a slope, completely surrounded by a bower of greenery on the pathway to Eugenia Falls. Starting from an innocuous beginning in a field near Clearview in Simcoe County, and added to by the Boyne River that flows through Flesherton, the Beaver River fills beautiful Eugenia Lake, and then streams over a limestone escarpment cascading 30 metres downward into the Cuckoo Valley. Here in Eugenia, five water-powered mills were once driven by the Beaver River, but as time moved on, most of its water was diverted to Ontario's second hydroelectric plant.
The beautiful sweeping curves slice through the Beaver Valley's verdant hues and entertain us as we slow down, gawking left and right through the hamlets of Kimberley and Heathcote, on our way to The Blue Mountain Inn, our home for the next 3 nights. Spread along the shores of the deep, blue, crystal-clear waters of Georgian Bay and high above on the Niagara Escarpment, two great days of riding will help us discover Grey County, one of Ontario's most beautiful regions.
A hearty breakfast at The Pottery Restaurant gets us on our way as we embark on a glorious cloudless morning, along Grey Road 19 to a traffic circle where we peel off onto Scenic Caves Road and straight up the escarpment. Near the summit we curve left and right, passing a 40 foot long suspension bridge, Ontario's longest suspension footbridge, and right beside the entrance to the Scenic Caves. A touch of claustrophobia keeps me away from that venue and as we lean into another great curve, Grey County's astounding panorama unfolds before us. Three hundred metres below, Georgian Bay spreads before our eyes, and a 10,000-square kilometre view keeps us gape-faced.
After several moments spent in awe of the view we meander upward past homes and chalets of the rich and famous. The road becomes Grey County 15 then Grey County 19 as we roll along the escarpment's plateau to the hamlet of Ravenna. Grey Road 2 slopes north as we pass by the friendly waves of flagmen doing some road resurfacing, and on to Victoria Corners and the Georgian Hills Vineyards. We are just in time as the owners follow us up the long driveway to the visitor centre. Surrounded by fields of golden wheat wafting in the morning breeze and green vines row on row, presents ample evidence of the care and attention nature's caretakers have given to its bounty.
Our guide takes us on a walk through the vineyard and tells of the different types of grapes grown here and how this unique climate impacts the vineyards. The moderate bay side temperatures are perfect, whereas just a mile over the hill and the grapes will not survive the winters. In the vintner's barn, modern equipment has replaced the bare foot stamping as seen on the old I love Lucy reruns. Everything here is climate controlled to produce the very best wine possible and all the equipment is immaculate. After a brief respite on the patio, our tires crunch down the gravel driveway to CR 2 once again.
Two side roads past Victoria Corners we turn left onto CR 40, a straight run through rural farm Ontario, with two lanes of pavement separated by a yellow centre line—grey hydro poles on our left bringing lights and power to all the farms, and thousands of acres of grazing land for the cattle. Suddenly, as my wandering eyes move back to the road, they lock with the distraught big brown eyes of a cute little tan-coloured calf staring at me from the centre line of the road. I squeeze hard on my front brake lever, power down onto the rear brake pedal, and coming almost to a complete stop with only a few feet to spare, the innocent little fellow trots off the road and then gallops up the farmer's driveway from whence he came. I do a quick check to make sure I have not soiled myself, and we carry on. Firmly ensconced in "old-school thinking" I have now been enlightened and am a firm believer in anti-lock braking.
At Grey Road 12 we turn right through Blantyre, across Highway 26 and up the steep escarpment again to Irish Mountain Lookout. Here, on every Canada Day and Victoria Day, the locals gather to watch the distant fireworks emanating from Meaford, Thornbury and Collingwood. Although the fireworks cannot be heard, the view from this vantage point high above Georgian Bay seems endless.
Winding back down the escarpment, and over a couple of hills, we park the bike in front of Ted's Range Road Diner, our lunch destination. Ted's is a Quonset hut and inside the walls are finished off in a chipboard motif that creates a poor-boy ambience that is warm and inviting. Chalkboard menus capture our attention and are scattered about; they not only provide and broad selection of food, but are also entertaining in their own rite.
Open faced hot sandwiches include fillings of beef, buffalo, elk, wild boar, water buffalo, venison, and escargot. For the more adventurous, kangaroo, crocodile, alligator, emu, wild quail and even rattlesnake are all menu items. No matter, the food is fantastic, reasonably priced and the helpings are large. And all this can be quaffed down with a pint of 10W40. Not from a motorcycle crankcase--this 10W40, a delicious dark ale, is brewed just a few miles down the road at the Neustadt Springs Brewery. Completing the picture, the handle on the beer keg is actually a 10W30 plastic oil can.
With our appetites well sated and the day flying by, we take Highway 26 over to Grey Road 11 and, bordered by maple saplings and evergreens, we ride through Annan. In the distance we can see the blue of Owen Sound, not the town but the bay. Past Paynter's Bay, the occasional sailboat is being driven hard on the stiff July breeze. Through the town, signs guide us to Inglis Falls, one of three falls that surround the town. Here is where the Sydenham River meets the edge of the Niagara Escarpment and the water crashes over the limestone outcrops 18 metres into a deep gorge carved over the centuries from the water wearing on the rock. In 1843, an enterprising young man named Peter Inglis, who had just emigrated from Scotland, purchased the mill and the surrounding land. His business ventures proved successful and thus the name Inglis Falls.
It is late in the day and we are hungry again, so we take Grey Road 18 from Inglis Falls back to Hwy. 26, the fast way back to the Blue Mountain Inn. But that's not the end. Cleaned up and ready to go, we backtrack across Hwy. 26 to Thornbury and The Dam Pub. In an old house at 53 Bruce St, The Food Channel and the show "You Gotta Eat Here" vaulted this place into gastric stardom, and rightly so. The Thornbury's Original Braised Lamb Shank was phenomenal as were the Curried Vegetables and Rice that my wife had. The grand finale was another house speciality, Bread Pudding and Chocolate Pâté. What a gastro-tittilating end to an incredible day.
The next day arrives with the threat of rain and thunderstorms, so we decide not to wander too far from shelter. The Beaver Valley comes to mind with its sweeping curves and gentle rises and falls and with its perfect pavement this will make a great, easy ride without any technical demands. We stop for a minute or two and peruse the Farmer's Pantry, a particularly nice fruit-and-vegetable stand. Behind it are rows and rows of apple trees, the fruit of which will be squeezed and the resulting juice will become cider, another agricultural industry that is burgeoning in Grey County. On one side of the escarpment are vineyards and on the other are orchards, one for wine and the other for cider, equally opposite.
At Kimberley we wander deeper into the Beaver Valley along Grey Road 30. Past the private Beaver Valley Ski Club, beautiful seasonal chalets and year-round homes, we cross the valley to the other side of the escarpment. Winding upward past clear streams emanating from the cliffs, we turn right onto Bowles Bluff Road. This is second-gear riding as we crane left and right along the road lined with beautiful homes clinging to the edge of the cliffs. Hidden by the deciduous foliage we occasionally get a glimpse of the Beaver Valley far below, then backtracking, we get another opportunity to see it all again.
The roadside is alive with brilliant colurs, a veritable encyclopedia of wildflowers. Queen Anne's Lace, Yellow Hawkweed, Chickory, Yellow Bitterweed, Red Clover, Tiger Lilies and brilliant Phlox. We stop at The General Store in Kimberley and sitting in a comfortable chair over a cup of coffee we gaze at the limestone cliff, Kimberley's backdrop. Bicycles tires hum with increasing volume as bicycles zoom downhill toward us, some passing by and others stopping for a refreshment. Too soon, we mount up and ride north again.
Grey County 13 takes us right into Thornbury on Bruce St. where we stop at The Cheese Gallery for lunch. Casey, the owner, meets and presents us with a menu filled with local cheeses, wines and assorted sandwiches. The cheese-tasting platter with the spicy chutney accenting the taste buds is my choice while Tina has a grilled sandwich. The motto here, "Keep Calm Carry On", is fitting and echoes the laid-back atmosphere of Casey's pride and joy.
Riding along the shores of Georgian Bay is sedate and timely with pleasant memories of the day rolling through my head to the hum of the tires beneath me. Exceptional people, delicious personalized food and each person rightfully proud of their chosen craft, these are the people of Grey County, these are people of the earth—these are the people of Ontario. Back at our room, as I contemplate our day, and the past two days of riding in Grey County, I conclude again that this, our home and our heritage, is the best country in the world. We are a fortunate people.
For Trip Planning in Grey-Bruce, including maps and lists of motorcycle friendly accommodations, check out http://www.ridegreybruce.com/.
To get an idea of how cool the Flying Spatula Restaurant really is, check out the video below:
For information on booking a stay at the Blue Mountain Inn, visit http://www.bluemountain.ca/
If you're looking for a truly engaging tour of an Ontario vineyard, check out Georgian Hills Vineyards at http://www.georgianhillsvineyards.ca/
Adventurous when it comes to food? Well Ted's Range Road Diner is right up your alley and is a great place to stop on the road http://www.meaford.com/rrdiner.htm
When it comes to tradition pub grub, no one does it better than The Dam Pub: http://www.thedampub.ca/
And finally, if you like some gourmet delectables, check out The Cheese Gallery next time you're Riding Grey-Bruce: http://thecheesegallery.ca/