Reimagining Backyard Back Roads

Story by Curtis Nickel// Photos by Curtis Nickel
May 12 2021

How Covid-19 taught me to rediscover (or discover for the first time) the hundreds of kilometres of twisty blacktop in my own backyard.

Covid-19 put a serious damper on all of our riding plans for the summer of 2020. My planned ride to and through New Mexico in late spring last year was cancelled because of closed borders. British Columbia cancelled early summer camping reservations and withdrew the welcome mat. A planned early autumn European Alps tour had to be postponed for at least another year (or two). Thus, my 2020 riding consisted of trips to work, which involve 76 km round trips on curvy country roads, and short day rides on 20-minute (typically) missions for groceries and hardware pickups that I was able to stretch into trips of several hours. Still, it wasn’t the same. My idea of a great motorcycle trip is one that swallows up too many kilometres of newfound road to be accomplished in a single day. I am pretty sure many motorcyclists had similar experiences during the crazy riding season of 2020.

The autumn weather was getting colder, the days were getting shorter and time was running out for a ride that would define my Covid riding season. Environment Canada predicted three days of sun and cloud but no rain and since I was transitioning into retirement, I had some midweek flexibility. So, at the spur of the moment, I packed the panniers of my V-Strom 650 and headed north, hoping to capture the old exhilaration I remembered experiencing while riding on some of my favourite roads and maybe finding new magic on newly discovered trails.

Turn Up the Heat

It was cold when I rode onto the Perth Road to Westport, Ont., one of the best riding roads near Kingston. My old bones get colder these days, so I invested in a heated jacket liner (something I always thought was only for wusses), and with it and my heated grips turned up to high, I was feeling good despite the 8 C morning chill. The Perth Road is a thrill to ride, particularly early in the morning when the only traffic is headed south toward Kingston. The road winds through Canadian Shield granite rock cuts and hugs picture-perfect Buck and Devil lakes. A quick detour on the Bedford Mills Road loop was necessary so I could check out an iconic mill and historic church, and then I continued on to the bluff overlooking the wide blue expanse of Lower Rideau Lake and the quaint little village of Westport. A quick glance at…

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