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Story and Photos by Martin Lortz

Ride The Highlands - Picking Favourites

Too much of a good thing; is that even possible? After attempting to jot down all my favourite things about Ontario's Ride The Highlands region, I say yes, yes it is. After a decade of good times, the fact that the Highlands and the Ottawa Valley have me coming back season after season speaks to the quality of the ride, and that quality reflects in a list of favourites more worthy of a book than a blog. But as the saying goes: keep it simple stupid. So, I will get things started with a collection of my three favourite things about the Ride The Highlands experience.

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Favourite Roads

Let's start with the most laborious choice - favourite roads. With a landscape intermixed with lakes and rocks, building a straight road was clearly a challenge for road builders, but a reward for us riders. My mental list of favourite roads resembles a race leader board where the lead changes constantly. That said, I have ridden these three roads more than any other: Centennial Lake Road, Old Barry's Bay Road, and Letterkenny Road. If you need more info and fast, check out the list of Ride The Highland's Top 10 Roads.

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Favourite Eats

Even the best roads can become ordinary on an empty stomach. Luckily, chances to refuel the body are aplenty, from coffee shops to fast food to sunny patios that will have you staying too long. Often lunch is a second thought, depending on where you are around lunchtime, but these three eateries are worthy of planning your day's ride around.

  • Redneck Bistro in Calabogie. The summer patio vibe here is strong, and the food is delicious.
  • Heartwood Restaurant in Combermere. Family classics, a hearty burger, perhaps a buddha bowl, or my personal go-to, the Ruben.
  • Wilno Tavern Restaurant in Wilno. Enjoy Polish fare as well as a traditional Canadian menu. Few things fuel the body better than a plate full of Polish perogies.

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Favourite Stays

As good as a day ride in the Highlands is, more is always better. Whether you prefer a resort, motel, or a cottage for your overnight stay, there is something for everyone. Below are three spots I will happily drop my bags at again. All provide good food, a comfortable bed, and a chance to enjoy a swim in a lake or a relaxing campfire.

  • Sands on Golden Lake - Comfortable rooms, dining on-site featuring Chef Wild and Golden Lake for your recreational pleasure.
  • Sir Sam's Inn - One of Ontario's Finest Hotels Inns & Spas.
  • Bonnie View Inn - A family-owned and operated country inn, the Bonnie View Inn welcomes riders with a 10% discount.

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Favourite Stops

Yes, I know it's all about the ride, but sometimes even the best rides can be made more memorable by making a few choice stops along the way. Stretch your legs, review where you've been and where you're going, and maybe learn something new about the area.

  • Bonnechere Caves - Home to a series of caves carved into the surrounding rock roughly 400-500 million years ago. Head underground and learn about the fossils, bats, and history. Motorcyclists enjoy dedicated parking spots and get $1 off admission!
  • Kaminiskeg Lake Lookout - You don't even have to get off your bike to take in the spectacular view of the surrounding area. There is more to what you are looking at than eye candy - the lake below is the location of the Mayflower tragedy.
  • Crooked Slide Park - a reconstruction of an original log chute used in the early 1900s. It's an excellent spot to stretch your legs before resuming your ride along Old Barry's Bay Road; it's a good one and one of my favourites.

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Favourite Beer

Subsequent to picking a favourite road, this category might be the next most challenging choice to make, and it seems to be forever in the research phase. When it comes to a post-ride refreshment after a day of incredible roads, whatever is cold and available will do. Fortunately, more often than not, the cooler contains an assortment of the area's favourite brewers. Don’t miss the chance to try Square Timber Brewing, Whitewater Brewing, or Calabogie Brewing.

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Yes, too much of a good thing is possible, and Ontario's Ride The Highlands region is proof. Be it the ride, the food, the people or the hospitality, the list of favourites is a long one. I hope my mini-collection above will get you started on the journey towards creating your own list. For me, I’m a decade in and always looking to add more.

Be sure to visit Ride The Highlands website, order a map and pick up a Ride The Highlands patch along the way; most importantly, enjoy the ride.

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