Day Trip – Ottawa Valley
Story and photos by Terry Pitts
Rays of sunshine trickled through the morning mist as Cathy and I swabbed the dew off the seats and our bike sputtered to life in all her ear-pounding splendour.
I found myself repeating over and over again, “It doesn’t get any better than this,” a phrase I’d used many times but never with more delight.
I’d been away from biking for several years, and this was to be the summer . . . I thought. I’d looked at several bikes, and they were more than Cathy and I were willing to spend. I’d given up on the idea and then, on a restless night, I tortured myself one last time and clicked on Kijiji to see what I couldn’t have. Hallelujah, there it was. A 2000 V-Star 1100, in great shape and at a price we could afford. In the morning I called, and someone was already going to see it — bummed again. “I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” I rationalized, telling myself that it wasn’t all that important anyway. Yeah, right.
As much as we thrilled to the hot summer, my favourite time of year is the fall. The bugs go away, the summer folk vacate and the countryside breathes a sigh of relief. Mother Nature might even have taken a well-deserved nap if it weren’t for those infernal two-wheeled monsters blatting down the highway.
Although we could have spent many hours in the charming villages we’d be riding through, I’d carefully planned our day trip to highlight the incredible scenery. The bike was cleaned and fueled, the camera batteries charged, the weather scrutinized, the work schedule cleared and the excitement level ratcheted up.
Now, I’m not sure if you know the glories of the Madawaska Valley in eastern Ontario, but all year there is little that can compare with its vistas of rolling hills, winding back roads and pristine lakes. Little, that is, until the frost of mid-September paints the forest with tinges of red, orange and yellow, so that each passing day a more vibrant symphony of colour emerges. Then, nothing else comes close.
We pulled out of the Hudson House, a wonderful B&B where Mecca (the owner) serves an awesome breakfast while you look over the mighty Madawaska River. We idled past the fantastic farmer’s market and through Combermere, the home of the Mayflower. I dialed on the throttle, shifted into fifth, and even on a day that promised sun and temperatures above 25 degrees, there was a nip in the September morning air and our cozy layers of clothing were welcome. With the wind in my face, crimson sumac at the roadside, the drone from our pipes and the pull of acceleration as I turned the throttle a little more, this promised to be a wonderful day.
We climbed out of the mist, and Kamaniskeg Lake emerged to our right, with wisps of fog dancing on the shimmering water. Our first stop was mere minutes into our ride, but we couldn’t miss the panorama of the lake, framed by fall colour on each side and capped with an azure blue sky. After a few photos, we fired up and turned onto Centreview Road to take the twisty back road to Barry’s Bay. There’s something special about leaning hard into a turn with your soul mate joyfully hoisting her thumb.
Barry’s Bay is an old lumber town turned tourist village, with great.