Durham Destroyer – The Rookie – March 2021 Ride Report

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Last Updated on January 29, 2022 by Cory Kawa

My last big ride of 2020 was the Durham Destroyer – I’m Not Worthy, a punishing, yet fulfilling, 160km day that introduced me to the fantastic gravel all around Port Perry and Uxbridge. 

The memories of epic views, gut-wrenching climbs, and sandy dirt roads have fueled my sense of adventure all winter long, to the point of minor obsession.

While seeking inspiration on Facebook a few weeks ago, I came across this post on the Ontario Gravel and Adventure Riders Facebook page, showcasing the Durham Destroyer – Triple Crown mug, available to the first male and female finishers of all three Durham Destroyer Routes in 2021, and I thought, why not me.

Photo of Durham Destroyer Triple Crown Mug
Triple Crown Cup to the First Finisher of all Three Durham Destroyer 2021 Routes

First up, The Rookie, advertised as…

“A Metric Century, over 90% dirt including Gravel Roads, Rail Trail and Trail Sections. Be prepared or you might be destroyed!”.

Durham Destroyer The Rookie Komoot map and elevation profile.
The Rookie – Komoot Map and Elevaation Profile

The big question coming into the day, am I ready?  On the positive side, I ran a lot this winter, culminating in finishing the David Goggins 4x4x48 challenge, where I ran four miles, every four hours, for forty-eight hours, in support of youth mental health and The Maddie Project.  On the flip side, since last October I’ve barely touched the bike, having only completed two rides over forty kilometres, both of which occurred these last few weeks.

With forecasted highs of 6 degrees, full clouds, and sustained winds from the south of 30km, if the hills and distance didn’t get me, perhaps the weather would. 

Note all distances are from where I parked at S.A. Cawker Public School in Port Perry.

Durham Destroyer – The Rookie Part 1 – 0-27.5km Start to the Trans Canada Trail

The 2021 edition of the Durham Destroyer “The Rookie” starts on Scugog Line 8 at the crossing of Cawker’s Creek. 

Joining me on the ride today was my good friend and fellow gravel riding buddy, Mike Chajecki of @gravelroadcanada.

Start of the Durham Destroyer The Rookie
Start of the Durham Destroyer 2021 The Rookie Route

Two weeks back, Mike and I were lucky enough to see the beaver who calls this dam home.

Photo of the beaver dam see on the Line 8 bridge, north of Port Perry, Durham Destroyer - The Rookie start.
Beaver Dam at Cawker’s Creek

With this crossing, the Durham Destroyer has officially begun, and with that, the first climb, an easy twenty-meter climb up Line 8 to Hwy 7.

Hill of the fist climb up Scugog Line 8.
Warming the Legs on the First Climb of the Day – Scugog Line 8 (photo credit to @gravelroadcanada)

What I love about the Durham Destroyer is the excellent route selection that incorporates diverse terrain, lots of gravel, killer hills, and epic non-stop views.

A photo of the epic views on the Durham Destroyer The Rookie route.
Epic View All Around on the Durham Destroyer

Just over five kilometres into the day, the real climbing begins with a series of two giant hills, totalling over a hundred meters of gain.

Big climbs on the The Rookie Route, Scugog Line 8 just easy of Hwy 7.
Big Climbs Right Out of the Gates – Scugog Line 8 Just Before Hwy 7

As we turned off Line 8, the early climbing was out of the way, and the fast flats began.

Up next, 8.5km of hard pack gravel along Marsh Hill Road, Scugog Line 6, Concession Road 6, and Foxfire Chase, where we transitioned to Wagg Road and into the Uxbridge Town Trails.

Photo of Cory riding a section of Wagg Rd in Uxbridge, which is actually double track trail, while riding of the early stages of the Durham Destroyer The Rookie route.
Wagg Road (photo credit to @gravelroadcanada)

The town trails served as a welcome change, offering a mixture of fast double track, easy single track, and a fun little bridge crossing.

photo of a bridge crossing on the uxbridge town trails.
Some Quick Single Track in the Uxbridge Town Trails

A short time later, we crossed into Elgin Park for the first Instagram photo moment of the day.

Photo of our gravel bikes against an brownish orange barn in Elgin Park Uxbridge.
An Instagram Worthy Shot in Elgin Park Uxbridge

Taking the shot.

A picture of Cory taking some Instagram worthy shots of the bikes.
Taking the Shot (photo credit to @gravelroadcanada)

Durham Destroyer – The Rookie Part 2 – 27.5 – 57.5km – Trans Canada Trail to Cannington

With what we anticipated to be the worst part of the climbing out of the way, by the time we left Uxbridge, we were feeling fresh, and ready for anything the Durham Destroyer could throw our way.

The first 14km of rail trail took us along the Beaver River Wetlands Rail Trail.  The trail is built on the old Toronto and Nipissing Railway and consists of about 40km of trail connecting Uxbridge to Blackwater, then branching out to Woodville to the North and Lindsay to the East. 

If you’re feeling daring, you can ride on from Lindsay to Haliburton via the Victoria Rail Trail to Kinmount, highly recommend, and the Haliburton Rail Trail, a sandy slog. 

Click here to read about my experiences riding this route in 2019, Haliburton Wolf Sanctuary to Home via the Haliburton and Victoria Rail Trail.

If north to Fenelon Falls, Kinmount, and Haliburton isn’t your thing, from Lindsay you can also take the Omemee Rail Trail another 35km to Peterborough.

@gravelroadcanada riding the Trans Canada Trail out of Uxbridge, a third of the way into the Durham Destroyer - The Rookie gravel grinder route.
Entering the Trans Canada Trail in Uxbridge

A typical view in the Beaver River Wet Lands.

View of the Beaver River Wet Lands while riding the Durham Destroyer - The Rookie.
A Typical View for the First 14km of the Beaver River Rail Trail out of Uxbridge

After a slow start, with way too many stops for pictures, the real riding began, covering the 14km to Blackwater in what felt like mere minutes.

A picture of the map sign where the Trans Canada Trail splits in Blackwater.
North to Woodville or East to Lindsay and Beyond

At the fork in Blackwater the Durham Destroyer began to show its teeth.

Where the trail south of Blackwater was dry, the trail north was not.  Unfortunately, this was a sign of things to come.

Wet Trail North of Black Stock on the Trans Canada Trail
The Trans Canada Trail North to Woodville Had Not Yet Dried

Just three kilometres up the trail, we entered the town of Sunderland, where the trail briefly ends, before re-entering at the back of this businesses parking lot.

Picture of Grain Silos In Sunderland.  The Entrance to the Trans Canada Trail is at the Back of Their Parkling Lot.
Rejoining the Trail in Sunderland

When I planned the day, my mind was thinking, a hundred kilometres, that’s easy, a couple of Larabars will do the trick, I was wrong. 

By the time we reached Cannington, I had blown through three bottles of water, two Larabars and was ready for the junk.

Lunch of Champions, Lays, Snickers, and Red Bull
Fuel of Champions

Durham Destroyer – The Rookie Part 3 – 57.5 – 104.5km – Mainly Gravel Roads back to Port Perry

Finishing I’m Not Worthy last September was one of the hardest things I’ve done. 

Coming into today, I saw an easy hundred kilometres, starting with some big climbs into Uxbridge, followed by a flat and fast rail trail to Cannington, then some gently rolling hills back to Port Perry.

This mindset was further reinforced by a ride Mike and I had ridden two weeks prior when we went twenty-five kilometres straight north from Port Perry.  That day with the wind in our faces we struggled to maintain 18 km/hr heading north, before turning around and flying back at just under 30km/hr. 

Even with the wind, setting another record time was precisely what I had planned for today.

But of course, this is the Durham Destroyer. 

When we turned south from Cannington, the roads were anything but rolling, the trail got worse, the roads were damp, and the wind, oh the wind, was fierce.  

The Durham Destroyer ensured there was no rest for the final forty-eight.

Picture of the muddy Trans Canada Trail in Cannington
Trans Canada Trail Near Cannington

After exiting the Trans Canada Trail, we turned onto Side Road 18 for a series of four decent climbs over the next six kilometres.

Picture of Cory riding down Side Road 18 south of Cannington.
The Rolling Hills of Side Road 18 South of Cannington (photo credit to @gravelroadcanada)

What goes up must come down.

Picture of Mike riding down Side Road 18 south of Cannington.
@gravelroadcanada Cresting the Peak on Side Road 18 South of Cannington

Big country, epic views, llama’s, and cows are just a few of the things we saw along the way.

A picture of two cows watching us suffer on the Durham Destroyer The Rookie.
A Few Curious Onlookers Watching Our Progress

With Side Road 18 out of the way, we were back on the southern section of the Trans Canada Trail that heads east to Lindsay. 

The turn east was a welcome respite from the constant wind from the south, but unfortunately, the trail, as evidenced by the caked-on dirt, was wet, and we struggled to maintain a decent pace.

A picture of rejoining the Trans Canada trail, heading east to Uxbridge, on the Durham Destroyer gravel grinder.
The Trans Canada Trail to Lindsay Was Still Not Dry East of Blackwater

With thirty kilometres to go, we exited the trail for the last time, turning onto gravel roads for the final push to the finish. 

As I mentioned before, my thought process coming into the day was to make it to Cannington, turn south, and hit some gently rolling hills. 

I didn’t expect these.

Picture of the last big climb on the Durham Destroyer - The Rookie, Concession Road 2, north of Port Perry.
The Final Big Climb – Concession Road 2

This climb up Concession Road 2 was the last big one of the day, with many more medium-sized ones to follow. By this point, the effects of little training, wet roads, fierce winds, and big hills were taking their effect. 

After the climb, I was mentally and physically exhausted.

Cory riding up Concession Road 2 north of Port Perry.
Cory Climibing Concession Road 2

With relaxed positioning and a loose grip on the handlebars, Mike appeared to be holding up much better than myself. 

Mike Riding Up Concession Road 2 North of Port Perry
Mike Breezing His Way Up Concession Road 2

A little over one hour, or seventeen kilometres later, we were done.

Photo of caked on mud after 100km's of the Durham Destroyer.
It Was a Messy Day on the Durham Destroyer

With ten rides over one hundred kilometres in 2020, I came into the day with hubris, and once again, left humbled.

With wet roads and harsh winds, Mother Nature didn’t make it easy on us, but at the same time, what fun is a ride without a bit of adversity.

Like last year, I would also like to thank the man behind the Durham Destroyer for putting together The Rookie, another fantastic route in the Durham Destroyer series.

Next up, I am to train hard, then finish I’m Not Worthy in early May, and The Full Monty later that month or early the following.

Thanks for reading,


Final Stats: 104.74km, 18.4 km/hr (moving speed), 810m elevation gain


  1. Good times Cory, I enjoyed the read even though I was there with you trying to fight the wind on our way back.
    A great documentation of a day that got us thinking of the next ride. The bigger one, the longer one, the 160k that without a doubt will lead us to the Full Monty and the glorious mug of success. Ride on!

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