My Great Roads series is designed as an eclectic guide for people who love to drive. This week, we visit Nova Scotia to explore some little-known roads in the beautiful Annapolis Valley.
This is the fifth instalment in a series that will grow in the years to come. We want you to use Great Roads as a guide, but we also invite you to contribute – if you have a favourite road, tell us about it. You can e-mail me ( firstname.lastname@example.org) post it in the Comments section, or, best of all, talk about it on my Facebook fan page (join it by clicking the Like button at www.fb.com/cheneydrive) Who knows? I may drive your road and make it part of the collection.
As the son of a career army officer, I spent a lot of my life on the road. And yet there was always one place I could call home – Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley. That's where I was born. It's where my grandparents lived. And it has some of my favourite roads in the world. I started driving them in my teens, and they've stuck with me ever since. I've driven them in everything from motorcycles to Porsches to a clapped-out 1968 Ford pickup truck with a pair of vise grip pliers clamped on the stub of the snapped-off shift lever. And no matter what I was driving, the roads were great every time.
Some of my personal favourites are the routes that run through the Gaspereau Valley behind Wolfville. You get to them by dropping in off a green ridge, with the valley spread out before you like a William Wordsworth poem. These roads never go straight for long, and there's every kind of curve you can imagine, from long sweepers to kinked switchbacks.
White Rock Road, which runs along the side of a mountain ridge looking over the Gaspereau River, is another favourite. I first learned this road back in the 1970s when I drove it with Ed MacCluskey, my mother's black sheep cousin and a bit of a local legend (not necessarily the good kind). Even though I was born in Wolfville, Ed showed me a world I never imagined – secret fishing spots, freshwater springs, and backwoods bootleggers who sold crates of illegal cider out of rusted tin sheds. Travelling with Ed, I learned just how beautiful my birthplace really is – there's a lot more to it than postcard beauty.
But that's there too – there are wineries, orchards and weathered barns. But if you care to hunt, the Gaspereau Valley area is also home to the world's largest supplier of vintage motorcycle parts – British Cycle Supply is located deep in the woods. Ed also showed me Hall's Harbour and Kingsport, two of the best places to see the world-record-setting Bay of Fundy's 16-metre tides in action. Ed went to those places to fish and drink. I went there to drive the twisting roads and fly hang gliders off the oceanfront cliffs. We both had a great time.
Ed's gone now, buried in the cemetery along Gaspereau Rd. in Wolfville. But the roads he showed me are still there, hardly changed from the days when he first showed them to me more than 30 years ago. And I still love driving them. They're filled with curves, and with memories. That's what makes a great road.
The Drive: The Annapolis Valley
Where: Along Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy coastline
Distance: 25 to 150 kilometres depending on route choices
Road Style: Winding two-lane
What you see: the highest tides in the world, green orchards, fishing harbours, clapboard Nova Scotia towns
Reason to go: It’s beautiful, and there’s almost no traffic
How to get there: Start in Wolfville, the picturesque home of Acadia University. From there, a series of great drives radiate out through the Annapolis Valley. To warm up, take Gaspereau Ave. from Wolfville’s Main St., and follow it as it turns into Greenfield Rd. Take a right on White Rock Road and follow it as slaloms along the ridge. Take a right on Deep Hollow Rd. (which my friends and I always called Snake Road, because of its coiled curves.) A few minutes later you’ll be back on the Evangeline Trail. Now get out your map and head to Kingsport, the Look Off, and Hall’s Harbour. As you’ll see, there are a lot of awesome curves and beautiful scenery. As a bonus, the police presence is usually minimal, but of course you should respect the law.
You can see more photos and video clips from Peter Cheney's drives on his Facebook fan page at www.fb.com/cheneydrive
Twitter: Peter Cheney@cheneydrive
Globe and Mail Road Rush archive: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/car-life/cheney/