The world is full of famous motorcycling roads that will test your skills and provide great scenery along the way. In Italy, they have the Stelvio Pass, in the United States, they have the Deals Gap in North Carolina. Here in Nova Scotia, we are blessed with the Cabot Trail, which is constantly ranked as one of North America’s best biking roads. There are even more hidden gems, all within a day’s ride, that can provide similar thrills without the necessity of shipping you and your bike halfway around the globe to enjoy.
These scenic, but technically challenging roads, are actually disappearing from our maps as years of improvements to other highways have slowly led to their demise. Upkeep and maintenance dollars are being spent elsewhere and in a few years, some of the roads listed below may simply vanish as Mother Nature reclaims her territory. Aggressive twinning mandates in other provinces have also caused some good single-lane highways to be absorbed in the process. An example of this is Quebec Highway 185 that runs between Edmundston, N.B. and Riviere-Du-Loup, Que. It used to be a lovely winding road with great small towns like Cabano and Deglies to drive through. Their small motels advertising certain entertainment for the lonely traveller was always good for a laugh as you drove by.
The views and curves around the Temiscouata area in Quebec look like something out of the Lake District of Italy. Now, it is mostly gone. Highway 185 is now Quebec 85 and is twinned to avoid these quaint Quebec towns. Only a small section around Saint-Antonin still retains the old surface and single lanes. If you want to experience a unique side of Quebec, there is still time. Highway 289 in the Kamouraska District of this province that showcases the heritage and great culture of people who can trace their lineage back to the 17th century. This road starts as an extension of NB-120 that you pick up in Edmundston, N.B.
Once you have made the connection to Highway 289, you feel as though you are riding through the gently-rising farm hills in France’s Provence region. The style of old homes seem to be just once removed from the original sod shelters that dotted the area in the early 1700s. Riding on this curving asphalt route, you will still see grand-mère rocking in her chair and giving a friendly wave to motorcyclists zooming along. The main town that is central to Highway 289 is Pohénégamook, where I’m told that if you can pronounce the name correctly, you are given an honorary citizenship.
That fate might hit the next road on our list, Highway 108 in New Brunswick. This can be reached by cutting off the twinned main road at Moncton for the quieter Route 126 to Rogersville and then over to Renous-Quarryville and eventually, Plaster Rock. For a long time, it was the go-to route for zipping through the central part of the province and avoiding most major cities. Now, it is a shadow of its former self with even the halfway rest stop and fuel break business long abandoned and left to its own demise. On the positive side, it is still a great twisty ride with lots of breathtaking views in the higher elevations as you crest the geographic backbone of this province. It is getting a little patchy in spots so watch your speeds on the straights, as tempting as they are.
Just over the border in Maine is a little gem of a road that has a long storied history. Highway 9, or the “Airline Route” to the veteran traveller, has been called an extended “Isle of Man” on the American eastern seaboard. New highways are moving traffic faster through Houlton and onto US-95 for a longer, but quicker, option. This is leaving Highway 9 to the riders that want to experience old Maine and not just blast across the state at posted speed limits. Highway 9 slows things down with great long corners and scenery that shows the glorious decay of old motels and fading signs beckoning tourists to rent lake-side cabins that have long since disappeared into the forest. Enter this road at Baring by the ubiquitous Big Stop and show up at Bangor two hours later feeling like you just time warped back to the ’60s.
Take a quick ride under the railway overpass there and check out the tiny town of Estcourt Station in Maine. The road has a few rough patches but all in all it is in good condition. Get ready for a rude awakening, though, as the terminus of this gentle trip spits you out onto Route 20 to Montreal where the posted speed limits seem to be a mere suggestion.
There are more of these touring roads within a day or two from our area. Even on the South Shore we have our own little Tail of the Dragon. Highway 332 from Dayspring to Riverport gives you over 65 twists and turns in a brief 16-kilometre run as it snakes its way along the eastern shoreline of the LaHave River. Give that one a try and maybe I’ll see you there. Remember, don’t forget to wave!
Tom Vaughan has been riding all manner of motorcycles for over 50 years. He currently resides in a semi-retired state on the shores of the river in East LaHave.