Book Review: Motorcycle Journeys Through Atlantic Canada

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If you want to ride the Maritimes or Quebec, Whitehorse Press has got a book you should check out. Photo: Zac Kurylyk
If you want to ride the Maritimes or Quebec, Whitehorse Press has got a book you should check out. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

Let’s face it: When you talk about hot riding destinations, Atlantic Canada isn’t an area that comes up in conversation that often. Sure, everybody knows about the Cabot Trail, but the rest of the Maritimes is almost universally ignored.

Even the locals in Atlantic Canada should find this book useful.
Even the locals in Atlantic Canada should find this book useful.

That could change, though, thanks to this book from Whitehorse Press. Titled Motorcycle Journeys through Atlantic Canada, it covers the best roads in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and coastal Quebec.

I was very interested in this touring book, because unlike most of the entries in Whitehorse’s Motorcycle Journeys series, the routes in this book were close-by. Some of them run mere minutes from my front door, and others are routes I frequently choose when touring between provinces.

That familiarity with the areas covered in the book lets me take a little closer look at what authors Rannie Gillis and Ken Aiken have to say.

First of all, there’s no question they’ve done their homework. The book includes most of the area’s most interesting riding roads. Nova Scotia’s route through Advocate/Parrsboro/Economy, New Brunswick’s Hillsborough/Cape Enrage/St. Martins route and P.E.I.’s Cap Egmont/Miminegash/North Cape route are all examples of great motorcycle destinations you’d never hear about otherwise, except from locals.

In fact, the closer I looked at this book, the more I recognized my favourite riding spots – P.E.I.’s Route 225 (likely the most fun you’ll have on a straight road in the Maritimes), the desolate Rt. 360 to Bay d’Espoir in Newfoundland, the tasty tarmac around Quebec’s Saguenay River all make appearances. That provided some powerful motivation to try out the routes in the book I didn’t already know.

One of the authors - Rannie Gillis - hails from Cape Breton, so that area is very well covered in the book.
One of the authors – Rannie Gillis – hails from Cape Breton, so that area is very well covered in the book.

A few of the area’s great roads don’t get much play in the book, but possibly for good reasons. The twisties on New Brunswick’s Kingston Peninsula secondary highways are omitted, maybe because they’re a mess of potholes. Route 13, the twistiest road on P.E.I., also doesn’t get much recognition, possibly because it’s so short. In Quebec, they take riders up Rt. 175 through Grand-Jardins National Park, instead of the amazing La Mauricie National Park, via 155 (admittedly, that’s a long way from the St. Lawrence River).

Overall, though, the authors seem to know what they’re talking about. Not only do they have the best roads outlined, they also do a great job of listing local attractions to check out, whether it’s the world’s biggest axe (in Nackawick, New Brunswick), Peter Easton’s pirate base (Carbonear, Newfoundland) or the little-known Greenwich National Park (St. Peters, P.E.I.)

The book does an especially good job of describing the must-see stops in Cape Breton (where author Gillis hails from), and its information about Quebec will benefit  Anglophone tourers, who might not otherwise know much about the areas they are passing through.

The book also has a couple of valuable sections with useful information about the Trans-Labrador Highway. The Trans-Lab is changing every year, but the basics (watch for trucks, make sure you have plenty of gas) remain the same. There are also plenty of useful tips for riding in Newfoundland, an area that barely gets any consideration for motorcycle tourers.

Anglophone riders should find the book's details about Quebec's coastal areas useful.
Anglophone riders should find the book’s details about Quebec’s coastal areas useful.

The authors take all of the roads  and attractions they write about and tie them together in loops, to make it easy for riders to organize day trips, or longer expeditions. A reader could easily organize a tour by stringing several of these trips together, customizing it to whatever length of time he or she has.

There are plenty of colour photos and maps, and they list the distances between recommended stops. If there’s a gravel section in the road, they’ll let you know.

In a couple places, I noted very minor spelling mistakes or slip-ups on the tourist factoids, but overall, this is a book I would rely on 100 per cent for planning a trip. It’s a worthy investment if you plan on riding through Atlantic Canada as a tourist, or even if you live in the area.

Motorcycle Journeys Through Atlantic Canada is 414 pages long, and has a $29.95 price tag at Whitehorse Gear (it’s also available on Amazon).

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