I probably enjoy getting off the beaten path more than most people, but the problem is that I often have too many things on the go at any given time, so if I am driving to an event that is a few hours away, I tend to take the shortest route these days. It’s not that I don’t like exploring, there are just people to see and talk to and stuff to do.
While I used to make every effort to just to get away from the main road, lately I have made a habit of putting the hammer down and getting where I’ve got to go.
While preparing to head to north to the Rally of the Tall Pines, I had a Facebook conversation with my colleague Emily Atkins, who made some comment about getting lost on the way to Pines. How in hell can you get lost on the way to Bancroft I asked. If you saw the route that I will likely take, you would understand.
“The Back-Roadier the better”
That got me thinking. It got me peeking at Google Maps. Bancroft is just a tick over two hours from my home office, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to head off the main road a bit.
Leaving Whitby, it totally makes sense to take the main roads until at least Peterborough and then continue from Highway 7 up #28. Once the road reaches the cottage town of Apsley however, there seemed to be a couple of possible options.
I decided that I would head east at Apsley, along route 620 and then go north on a faint grey squiggle noted as Lower Faraday Road.
620 is the kind of road that most people imagine as being perfect for a Sunday drive, a lovely scenic road with wide, sweeping turns and gentle elevation change. A quick left in Coe Hill onto Rose Island Road takes you to an easy to miss right onto Lower Faraday. What comes next is nothing short of incredible.
To compare Lower Faraday to legendary roads like the Tail of the Dragon would be unfair to both roads. The infamous US 129 is roughly 17 km and boasts 318 turns. The pavement is perfectly maintained and is perfect for motorcycles and sports cars. As you can see above, Lower Faraday winds for about 14.5 km and is equally suited for high performance driving, although of a different kind. The road combines fast, open curves with many tight, blind corners and drastic elevation changes. Unlike the Dragon, which has two clearly marked lanes, Lower Farady is about a car and a half wide in spots. There is an old rally co-driver’s saying, “flat over crest” which often means nothing to the average driver. There are so many blind crests on Lower Faraday that it would be foolhardy not to lift out of the throttle. While the road is paved, it is an old tarmacadam surface that has been ravaged by years of harsh Ontario Winters, making it unsuitable for sport bikes and low slung modern sports cars. It is however, absolutely perfect for a Subaru.
To look at the 2016 Forester, visions of dropping the kids off at practice might be more likely than thoughts of carving up back roads, so some might be surprised at how well the crossover does the latter. With the seat heater on, the ample cargo area jammed full of securely stowed camera gear and my favourite driving playlist streaming from my phone through the audio system, I set out to vigorously experience the territory. Our tester was fitted with a six speed manual transmission, allowing the driver to make the most of the boxer four’s broad power band. A good thing too, as the road changes constantly from low speed second gear corners to quick fourth gear straights. The combination of a compliant suspension, chunky Winter tires and all wheel drive made exploring the Forester’s performance a treat. Even with loose bits of tarmac at the apex of turns, the Forester never lost its composure. A couple of off camber crests unweighted the crossover enough to allow for a soft and controllable drift. The Forester, on a road like this is better than any roller coaster!
That evening, while swapping stories in the Bancroft Brew Pub, long time Targa Newfoundland competitor Jud Buchanan told me about another road that begins where Lower Faraday ends. The South Road, Buchanan said, leads to a conservation area amusingly named “The Gut”. Sounded like a perfect side trip for a fat guy, so after taking on Lower Faraday again, I turned down The South Road.
What Jud hadn’t mentioned was that The South Road wasn’t paved. Nor was it gravel however, instead being a single lane soft dirt road, much like many rally stages except that the surface is unbelievably smooth. Lower Faraday seems almost like a freeway when compared to this snake-like gem, which is primarily a second gear road. The Subaru gobbled up everything the road could through at it, happily wagging its tail on hard acceleration out of turns, just like the rally car big boys.
The Forester is proof that a utility vehicle does not have to be boring.
Our roads are full of vehicles that are little more than appliances, driven by people who live their vanilla lives not knowing or caring that there is any sort of enjoyment to be had while driving a car. People who would never think to venture outside of their own little community and explore what the small towns and back roads have to offer. Those people are happy in their beige Accords and Camrys, listening to politically correct soft rock music on their way to Whole Foods with the rest of the sheep.
A glance around Bancroft during the Rally of the Tall Pines makes it clear that Subaru owners are passionate about getting out and doing, rather than just sitting on the couch. Obviously many are in town to support the Subaru competitors, but looking at the spectator parking areas, you see cars with roof racks wearing all types of attachments. Bike racks, ski boxes, kayak and canoe mounts. These are vehicles that people use to get out and live life, not just to toodle around the neighbourhood.
The Subaru Forester offers fantastic utility, but its appeal lies in its ability to seemingly shrink around the driver and reveal its sporty side when asked. There are few vehicles on the road which would be as comfortable attacking rally-worthy roads as the current Forester. This little bit of exploration already has me looking for new roads in the area and I have my eye on Rose Island Road. I think another detour is going to happen soon!