Meet a Real-Life Ontario’s Highlands’ Road Builder – Lee Perkins

/ March 15, 2021

Voir en francais –

Meet Lee Perkins. He is the Director of Public Works and Engineering with the County of Renfrew. His job has enabled him to travel the county’s roads in the capacity of a road builder. Like the road builders of the past, he too has an appreciation for a twisty piece of asphalt.

Man with in helmet and motorcycle

“The roads those hard-working individuals carved out of the forest and rock are to this day a testament to their fortitude and abilities. For motorcycling it is truly a hidden treasure of Ontario,” says Perkins.

Unlike his predecessors, Lee uses a different type of horsepower to get around. He is a life-long motorcyclist, travelling some of the most scenic roads in North America. 

“Ontario’s Highlands has some of the best roads I have travelled.  From the west coast to the east coast, the Rockies and the prairies, the Highlands has something to remind you of all those areas,” says Perkins.  

We had a chance to ask Lee about his experience in building some of the greatest roads in Ontario, as well as his favourite roads to ride.


What kind of motorcycle do you ride?

Lee: A 2015 BMW R1200Gs

Lee's Bike


What kind of work truck do you have?

Lee: Chev ½ tonne (The motorcycle is my preferred mode of transit.)


As you know ‘flow’ makes great roads for riders.  Do you consider ‘the flow factor’ when undertaking a road construction project?

Lee: It is always a consideration; however modern-day requirements do take some of the sharper curves out of roadway design.  Rules and regulations dictate the curve requirements based on the speed.  For the most part, the craftsmen and women that built the roads in the Highlands didn’t have those requirements as we do today.


When riding your motorcycle are you constantly making mental notes on how to make roads better?

Lee: Motorcycling is my release as it is for many enthusiasts. I focus my attention on riding, but I do feel pleasure when I round a prefect corner like the ones on County Road 65 (Centennial Lake Road) and realize I have only begun, and there are more kilometres ahead. 


What is your favourite piece of road building equipment and why?

Lee: I enjoy watching the entire operation from making the raw materials in a gravel quarry to seeing the last roller finish a beautiful new piece of asphalt.  I think if I had to choose, the asphalt paving machine is my favorite. A clean fresh new road gets built right in front of your eyes.  My respect for the operator is also immense; a good operator of the asphalt paving machine can make the difference between seamless and smooth surface to one where you feel that little vibration in the bars.  I give credit to the ladies and gentlemen who do this job in often hot, dry conditions to make everyone’s ride home safer. 


Today you have very sophisticated road building techniques and equipment.  What are your thoughts about the past and how your predecessors were able to build roads with what they had?

Lee: The roads that are here in Ontario’s Highlands were literally carved out of the forest and the Canadian Shield; needless to say, extreme conditions.  The roads they completed to get goods to market are something to behold.  Being able to move earth with horses, steam power and good old fashioned elbow grease is something I ponder every time I ride past a rock fence on county road 512 in Foymont. The effort was immense, the product beautiful. 

Historic images of tree felling


They say there are two seasons in Canada. One – winter and two – road construction.  What do you say to riders who encounter construction zones?

Lee: Be sure to check your route prior to leaving. As always with motorcycling, prepare for the worst and hope for the best; roadwork is inevitable.  When passing through, take your time and be conscious of your surroundings. You may see something you might have missed at speed; a beautiful view, some wildlife, a roadside church (lots of them here).  Also, smile and nod to the road crews, the flags person and the operators. It is appreciated, and know when you return later in the season the road will be smooth because of these people.   If you are delayed take a deep breath, you are still riding a motorcycle and that for me is better than any time in a car.


What makes riding Ontario’s Highlands so special?

Lee: The views, the roads, the cafés, the small rural Ontario downtowns, the farms, the churches, the restaurants, the people and let’s not forget the butter tarts and maple syrup. It all comes together to make for a remarkable motorcycle experience. Fall is incredible here. The best in Canada in my opinion…


What is your favourite road to ride in your area?

Lee: Well, I truly am spoiled. I travel the County of Renfrew on motorcycle as my mode of transportation for my job (I know unbelievable), so I’ve experienced a great many roads. Each road has a special place, not only pavement but for the moderate adventure rider there are kilometers of backcounty roads to explore.  I will admit Red Rock Road and Tramore Road are among my favorites, I leave it to the reader to come explore and find that gem in the Highlands. 

Please note: Both roads mentioned in above paragraph are hard surfaced, with chip seal sections and paved sections.

This year as you ride through road construction make sure you tip your helmet to the hardworking road builders and remember the words of Lee Perkins, “take a deep breath, you are still riding a motorcycle and that is better than any time in a car.”

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