Dreams Can Come True

Known as one of the twistiest riding regions in Ontario, this past summer Julie and Ollie followed their dreams and spent 7 days exploring every nook and cranny of Ontario's Highlands

For seven picture-perfect autumn days Julie Rossall and Ollie Tuchel were out riding Ontario’s Highlands, having the time of their life! Both in their 50’s and their second year of riding, the Georgetown couple picked up a Ride the Highlands motorcycle map at the Toronto Motorcycle Show last winter and had been planning for months. 

JR and Ollie 1

Julie was familiar with the area, having spent childhood summers there but the area was new to Ollie. They were both confident and competent in their riding and it seemed like a neat place to go for their first motorcycle vacation (other than a weekend ride in Grey County) and exercise their bikes—Julie’s Honda CB500X and Ollie’s Triumph Tiger 800 XC

They spent hours poring over the map, highlighting the Top 10 Roads in pink, the other recommended roads highlighted in yellow. From here they could plan their trip. Their goal was “to ride much of the ‘highly recommended for motorcycling’ roads in the Haliburton/Bancroft/Ottawa Valley area, do some visiting, and explore new and nostalgic places.” Algonquin Park, Bonnechere Caves, and a visit with far-away friends also made the ‘must do’ list. 

JR Map Before

Not wanting to pack up and move every night, they chose to incorporate some of the loops with the recommended roads. “The map shows six different loops of different lengths, but they overlap,” explains Julie. “So we made loops that worked for us, incorporating the Top 10 roads with other recommended roads.”

JR Algonquin 1

Thus Haliburton became home base for the loop through Algonquin Park. Later in the week, Calabogie was the launching point for the loop through Quebec. 

JR Haliburton Sign 1

It didn’t matter which road they chose, they enjoyed them all. “The road surfaces are super smooth,” says Julie. “There are no boring, straight roads. The curves are plentiful, but gentle and relaxing and the elevation through the rolling hills is constantly changing. The signage is fabulous with every little road marked, and directional signs pointing to towns you’ve never heard of before.”

JR Winding Road

They visited a camp north of Minden where Julie had spent childhood summers, as had her brother, mother, and uncle. Sadly it’s fallen into disrepair although one of the three dinosaurs marking the property still stands guard at the entrance. Lakefront cottages have replaced the outhouses and cabins where childhood memories were made. 

JR Dinosaur 1

The town of Wilberforce was another of Julie’s teenage haunts, although it was winter weekends she spent here, downhill and cross-country skiing with her family and their friends. 

It was neat to stop and read the historical markers and learn more about the people who lived here and the significance of the area, like the site of a abandoned RCAF Tower near Foymount, critical for World War II. Or Wilno, the oldest Polish settlement in Canada, with its huge St. Mary Catholic Church and the Wilno Tavern

JR Wilno Church 1
JR Wilno Tavern 1

A highlight in a week of highlights was the Carp Fair. Although they were there the day before the event opened, a friend was able to get them access to the grounds. Billed as the Best Little Fair in Canada, it’s over 100 years old and well attended, rife with old fashioned country hospitality. Farmers take pride in showing prize livestock, there’s a huge display of antique tractors and farm implements, a petting zoo, and crafts galore. 

JR Carp Fair Antique Tractor 1
JR Carp Fair Sign 1

With the late arrival of fall weather this year, the leaves were mostly green at the beginning of their trip but by week’s end, vivid colours were appearing. Julie looked for moose at every swampy area they passed but came away with no sightings. 

JR Highlands 1

One of the disappointments was that with high season over, some of the small eateries were closed during the week. Timing also limited their choice of accommodations. They preferred B&B’s and places where they could park their bikes and walk to dinner, but with shorter days, it would have meant walking along country roads at night so they tended to stay in town. 

JR Alices Village Cafe 1

They loved the quaint Egan Inn on the Bonnechere River for its homey comfort, and its location two doors away from a recommended restaurant. 

Both Julie and Ollie are avid road and mountain bike cyclists so this trip was a departure from the exercise they were accustomed to. It was nice to be able to walk up and down the river after being on the bikes all day. 

JR with Ollie Ferry across Ottawa River with map 1

The whole trip was refreshing and deeply relaxing. The nights were cool, dark, and completely quiet—perfect sleeping weather. 

But it was the people who Julie and Ollie enjoyed most. “There’s nothing slick about that area of Ontario,” says Julie. “It’s not high end like Muskoka or even the Kawarthas, just small town friendly. We could stop and ask anyone for directions or recommendations for where to have dinner.” Restaurants with nondescript exteriors had fabulous interiors and served delicious home-cooked fare.

JR with Ollie Restaurant in Eganville 1

 “People live differently with a lot less than we do,” she says. “There are no pretenses, only genuine warmth and hospitality.” 

Did they reach their goal? Absolutely. The ‘after ‘ map highlights the roads they travelled in blue, superimposed over the pink and yellow plans. They got almost all the Top 10 Roads. 

JR Map After 1

Arriving home exhilarated, Julie and Ollie had traveled 2,233 km in seven days. “It’s one of our best vacations in recent memory,” exclaims Julie. “The Ride the Highlands map, recommendations and resources were excellent tools for planning a wonderful trip.” 

JR Ollie and Renfrew County 1

About Liz Jansen

Liz is a healer, writer, speaker, and adventurer. She's the author of Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment and Life Lessons from Motorcycles. When she's not practicing her arts or riding, she's teaching others to ride at Humber College.

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