First Person – John Rietveld, Ottawa

PAR John Rietveld Posted on

My life with motorcycles started in 1969. Like many young guys I couldn’t wait till my 16th birthday to get my driver’s license. But Dad told me not to rush as I could never drive his car, and to wait until I could afford my own car and insurance. A year later, with Mom’s secret approval, and with savings from my part-time job bagging groceries at the local Dominion Store, I bought my first bike. A red Honda 90.

Dad was surprised when I rode up the drive, licence in hand and proof of insurance too. Before he could utter a word I reminded him of his comments the year before. As an immigrant from the Netherlands where motorbikes and scooters were very common, all he could say was “congratulations.”

I rode that trusty bike for two years to school, to my part-time job, and around town. Often guys my age would poke fun at my bike but I just chuckled as they waited for the school bus. In following years I graduated to a purple Yamaha 200 and a green Kawasaki 400. A mortgage and kids put a stop to my riding for many years until, as a retirement gift to myself, I bought a Honda Shadow 750. I really enjoy my bike. I stay clear of major highways and discovered many great well-paved roads throughout the Ottawa Valley. I guess once motorcycling is in your blood it never leaves you.

In summer, I live at our family cottage on Mississippi Lake in Ontario and from there I’ve found some great rides. My favourite is Hwy 511 starting at Hwy 7 just west of Perth and up to Calabogie. Some summers my brother comes up from Niagara on his Harley and we ride together.

The first half of the ride takes you through the village of Lanark, with a few great chip stands. After several crossings of the meandering Clyde River, and through the towns of Clydesville and Hopetown, the road becomes very winding and twisty through the Lanark Highlands. Great hills with sharp curves; signs warning you to slow to 40 km/h are not to be ignored.

We’ve seen bear off to the side of the road and a few deer crossing ahead of us, plus turtles and assorted road-kill along the way. So you need to stay alert.

Before Calabogie there are two interesting stops. First is an open pit marble quarry just off Hwy 511 at Tatlock. From the look-out and on a sunny day, the bright white marble calls for sunglasses. This low grade marble is used to make PVC pipe, paint, and drywall.

The next worthwhile stop is at the Calabogie Motorsports Park just 10 km before town. This is a world-class track, the longest in Canada. I’ve been there a few times and just by chance was able to watch motorcyclists using the track for a Pro6 Cycle track-day event. While not for racing, the track allows speed enthusiasts to run their personal best on 20 curves through spectacular scenery and a 2,000 ft straightaway. On other visits I’ve watched the North American Porsche club and the Ducati Owners club run the track. Admission is a donation to CHEO, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, in Ottawa.

The town of Calabogie sits on a man-made lake and offers several great restaurants. I like to visit the Calabogie Brewing Company and pick up a few cans for after-trip enjoyment.

Be sure to tank up in Perth as on a few trips I attempted to buy gas in Calabogie only to find both local stations had “out of gas” signs affixed to the pumps. Luckily I still had enough to get back to Hopetown.

Sometimes I reverse the trip back to Perth or take Hwy 508 along the Matachewan River to Hwy 11 and then to Arnprior, then onto Hwy 7 west through Carleton Place and back to the cottage near Innesville. While only 50 km each way the entire trip with stops takes about three to four hours.

Of course there are many more routes to take in this area but 511 is on the top of my list.

First Person is dedicated to readers of Cycle Canada. Tell us about a motorcycle trip, tale or experience that you won’t soon forget.

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