Ride the Highlands Locals You Need to Meet – Part 1
We’ve all heard, “The greatest part of the journey is the people you meet along the way.” This rings true for anyone who’s had the opportunity to Ride the Highlands. Yes, Ontario’s Highlands’ topography is a rider’s dream but it’s the people that truly make this place so special.
A location of early settlement, Ontario’s Highlands was once populated by an eclectic mix of ‘salt of the earth’ folks, who settled in this wildly rugged and beautiful area to make a better life for themselves. The area has become a place where locals take pride in what they and their ancestors have worked so hard to create.
For riders, this means that around every bend, hill and corner, you will find fun places to stop, eat and chat with locals. We’ve created a list of six locals you must meet (and won’t forget) during your journey through Ontario’s Highlands.
Chris Hinsperger (AKA Caveman Chris)
Where to find him: Bonnechere Caves
When you arrive, ask for the Caveman. Trust us; they’ll know who you’re referring to. Chris has been a local fixture in Eganville for years. Since he was just a young rock kid, Chris worked at Bonnechere Caves, and now as the owner of this must-see attraction, he’ll change your mind if ever you thought geology was boring. Chris’ gift of gab transfers into his life philosophy of enjoying the experience. He’s a strong believer that if the information in a story is at least ten percent accurate, then it’s still telling the truth. Pull into one of the designated motorcycle parking spots, grab a bag of chips from the chip wagon and sit back and let Chris roll- rock and roll that is.
Where to find her: Spectacle Lake Lodge
Twenty-eight years ago, Sharon and her late husband Maurice stood on the shores of Spectacle Lake on the edge of Algonquin Park and said “This is it.” Looking for a change, they entered the lodging business, and for motorsports enthusiasts, this was huge.
As pioneers of the legendary RAP Snowmobile Tour (Round Algonquin Park), the Mahussiers saw an opportunity to give sledders a very scenic loop and incredible hospitality at the end of a long day’s ride.
For two wheeled travelers, they know exactly what you need when travelling on your trusty steed. They know you want to park right in front of your room, have lots of hooks to hang your gear, chill on a comfortable patio overlooking the lake, and rip into homemade cooking after a long ride. If you can, stop and chat with her. The best place is usually when she’s behind the bar mixing your drink.
Paul and Rosie Payer
Where to find them: Limestone B&B
Paul and Rosie are no strangers to Ride the Highlands. They’re passionate locals who understand that handcrafted quality makes all the difference to your experience. You don’t want to ride roads that are straight, narrow and generic. Nor do you want to stay somewhere that lacks that personality and a cool vibe. Creating an experience by hand is important to them and you’ll see evidence of this when you catch them welcoming groups of riders to their B&B or out back in the shop crafting the highly sought after Ride the Highlands Kickstand Pads.
If you’ve been to the Toronto Motorcycle Show over the past few years, it’s quite likely you’ve already talked to them. Stop in to say hello, discuss motorcycle routes, or better yet spend the night in their stunning historic stone home. Your bikes get the VIP treatment as well, in their garage.
Route: The Highlands Loop
Where to find her: Bonnie View Inn
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone on this planet with as much energy as Andrea. From hiking mountain summits, owning a paintball business, adventure racing, being a snowboard instructor, fly boarding and finding her inner peace on her stand up paddle board, she loves Haliburton, her lodge and even more, her guests.
Starting as a housekeeper and server in 1993, Andrea worked her way up to become the sole owner of the Bonnie View Inn. She understands hospitality and especially the needs of those that roll in on two wheels. Andrea will put a smile on your face the moment you meet her. When you leave, it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend.
Woody (AKA David)
Where to find him: Woody’s Cycles
Bikers like to talk to other bikers, especially if they have as much street cred (or track cred) as Woody. Woody (aka David Percival) and his family run Woody’s Cycles just outside Perth, Ontario. It’s not an ordinary bike shop. It’s not even really a bike shop. It’s more like a Mecca for riders, especially those into dirt, trail riding and vintage restoration. Woody has a big trophy case (his shop), and what he has learned from racing, he proudly passes directly onto you as soon as you walk through the front door. What he has ‘outback’ is perhaps the biggest accomplishment of all. He has a motorcycle graveyard (salvage yard), with literally thousands of bikes methodically organized throughout the pine forest. If you can pin him down, a stroll through the woods with Woody is incredible.
Mountain Man (The Legend)
Where to find him: Calabogie
Deep in the forest on the Calabogie hills lives Mountain Man, a descendant of the first settlers to the region who carved a life out of this incredibly beautiful but rugged terrain. Mountain Man is the only one left from his original family. Never married, he has chosen to live a simple life. People rarely see him, but will hear the roar of his chainsaw high up in the hills. Some have reported seeing Mountain Man standing at the bar in Canthooks Restaurant, at the base of the Calabogie Ski Club. A man of few words, it’s rumoured that he has, on occasion, bought a round of drinks, then immediately slipped out the door and back up into the hills. If you’re there, you might just raise a glass and give a toast to Mountain Man.