Canada and the great white.... er.. Green North
OOur Canada adventure was our first trip on our new sport bikes (and the first iteration of the modern "CanyonChasers Motorcycle Sport Touring" as you see it today). We were unsure how these new bikes would handle such a long journey. And the week prior to our departure was spent desperately searching out the gear that we would need for such a long road trip.
Before we started, we had no idea that we would make it as far north as we did. We originally planned on simply going to Glacier National Park. However, our new bikes were much better suited to touring than we initially thought. We were able to click miles off faster and with more comfort than anything short of a full dress tour bike. Of course, we were probably making better time through the canyons than a full dress tourer but we'll save that for later.
To start things off, we trailered the bikes and the dog 100 miles north to my parents house. That way Jake would be taken care of while we were gone and we'd skip 100 miles of interstate droning.
With only one week of vacation time to do all of our exploring, we left on a Friday evening and blasted up to Alpine, Wyoming, for our first stop. Alpine is a small town just an hour or so southwest of Jackson Hole. My brother-in-law has access to a cabin there, so it is a nice night free of having to set up the tent. We arrived around 11pm that evening and had caught up with my parents. We had planned on spending the next day in Jackson Hole.
As usual, excitement got the best of us and we were raring to go early the next morning. We couldn't eat fast enough and, as is unusual for us, we had a gas station breakfast consisting of Hostess Donettes and milk chugs. Traditionally we like to have a nice big breakfast, but we figured on a big lunch in Jackson Hole.
Here we are on the top of teton pass. I'm pointing the way. (Man, those are good lookin' bikes!)
We made it to Jackson Hole without incident and parked next to all the other Harley's in front of the "Million Dollar Cowboy Bar." We didn't fit in next to all the chrome and custom paint, but we figured it would be a safe place to park. We weren't even out of our coats and helmets when some yuppie tried to change our minds. He looked like he had been riding for about a week, on a fully customized softail, (they all look the same). He tried to park in between our two bikes, where there was absolutely no room. I honestly had to stop him and offer to move my bike to make some room for him. He didn't even say thanks, then almost drove his handlebar into the side of my gas tank when he put the bike on its sidestand. "Whoah whoah whoah!" I yelled to stop him. He didn't even notice. Yuppies! What can you say?
We wandered around town, got a nice lunch and were standing by our bikes after eating and watched in horror as a Yuppie on an Electra Glide (they all look the same) Drove hard from out of his parking spot, out from next to Kris' bike and ran full on into his disk lock and came to a complete, instant stop. Several friends of the family were there and caught the Harley before it landed on top of Kris' VTR. Yuppies! We promptly decided to leave and get as far away from the Harley's as we could.
We made it up through Teton National Park and into the south gate of Yellowstone without any more problems from inept Harley riders. But I started to notice that instead of waving at us, some of them would look at me when I waved, then look away and not wave at all. Man, what is it with these guys?
Yellowstone was better than usual! Normally we spend all of our time staring into the back of those gigantic motor-homes with the "rent me" stickers in the back window. I think they are posted there to reassure you that the driver has lots of experience driving their gigantic motor-home and wouldn't possibly allow any of this scenery to distract them from their driving. But we were lucky this time, we made it all the way to Old Faithful Lodge with only a few easily passed cars and nary a park ranger to frown on our insanely high speeds of 45mph.
We spent our second night in West Yellowstone. There is a great campground just two or three miles east of town, but they were full. So, we stayed in a smaller KOA just on the edge of town. We would have complained about the rocky tent site, but this was our first time using our full-size Coleman inflatable mattress, with battery powered pump that will both inflate and deflate the mattress in less than three minutes. We were living the good life now!
Our new Tour Master Cortech saddlebag system, when doubled, (because we each have a set on our bikes) allowed for a tremendous amount of packing capacity. We were definitely traveling in style! We even carried a set of sheets sewn together to placed inside our sleeping bags and could be washed when we washed clothes... Total comfort.
Our system was actually pretty good. We took several days before the trip packing, unpacking and repacking to find the best system. Our saddlebags would carry our clothing, towels, Plexus, chain wax and other stuff. Each of us would share the camping gear with our top bags. I would carry the air mattress and one sleeping bag. While she would carry the other sleeping bag, the tent and the sheets. In our tank bags we would place the camera, CD player, batteries, sunscreen, ear plugs and all the other little things. Then we would place our camp pillow on top of it all, converting the tank bag into a very comfortable pillow to lay on while riding long distances on straight roads. We use Peak-1 tents because they have really short aluminum poles that fit very nicely in small spaces. We love Peak-1 tents!
We had heard that Montana had great riding as long as you stay on the western half of the state. Well, we must have been a bit to far to the east because Hwy 89 for the entire length of the day was terribly straight and horribly flat. Not the kind of riding one looks forward to. Fortunately Montana has a very reasonable speed limit alowing us to go 80+ mph without worrying about a speeding ticket. Also, we didn't see an officer of the law the entire day.
We hit a couple of high mountain passes with a few sweepers in them, but nothing to write home about. In fact, the best lean angles we got were from fighting off the sevier crosswind that was coming strong out of the east. Our speed got incrimentally faster and faster the more boring the roads got. In any case, Day 3 of our trip was rather boring. By the end of the day, my stock MEZ1 Race tire was showing a flat spot on the right side of the tire caused by leaning into the wind all day. One of the most startling cases of uneven wear I've ever seen.
We had planned to make it into Glacier National Park but the wind and boring roads took their toll. We were getting tired. We pulled through some tiny little town where all the stores were already closed. It had a sign that promised free camping. We followed the signs to discover a locked gate. Not very encouraging, but across from that was the nicest building in town. A fancy little bed and breakfast. "Lets stay here!" announced Kris and it only took about 1/3rd of a second for me to agree. So there was nite three. A very comfortable bed and breakfast in a small Montana town whose name I cannot even remember.
We were anxious to get on the road and we made Glacier by early morning. The only casualty of the morning was one of Kris new Teva sandals. I had be fidgeting with the snap ring while loading her bike and as a result there is a brand new left Teva on the side of Hwy 89, south of Glacier. If you have need for a size 6 Teva, you may be able to find one.
Here she is, just entering into Glacier National Park. We were pretty excited. But we didn't even know how good the view was going to get up on top of Logan pass. But it was pretty impressive.
Pictures really does not do the scenery any justice. The greens and the blues were absolutely amazing!
the vista looking straight down from the road was undescribable! You'll just have to go there yourself and take a look see. But it is well worth it.
The views are so remarkable, its impossible to imagine ever getting tired of the scenery.
The mountains are really quite amazing! It looks like something you see in science fiction movies. Places you never knew existed. I'll say it again. It is really worth making the trip yourself to see all of this. The funny part of this trip was that we ran into some old friends that we had bumped into at Stugis the year before. We hadn't seen them since then, and it was real fun to come across them again. As things worked out they were about a half a day ahead of us for the rest of the trip. What are the odds?
The line on the mountain; thats the road.
When we got down the other side we needed a break. It gets pretty tiresome trying to dodge the motor-homes, check out all the amazing scenery and ride the motorcycle. At the bottom of the hill, I noticed a bunch of cars parked and people jumping into some incredibly pristine water.
The water was a fantastic shade of blue (in the pictures it looks kind of green). We found out later that it turns the shade of blue because of silt that is trapped in glaciers. When it melts and it gets all churned up while rushing down the mountain, it releases the silt and turns the water the shade of blue. The colder the water and the closer to the glacier the more blue it is.
One of my all time favorite photos. I am a lucky man!
Look! "Super Natural British Columbia Welcomes You!" Customs was really easy to get past. Just dont tell them you are carrying banana's. Don't ask my why I know this. But it was supposed to be funny.
When we crossed into Canada and it was a bit eerie. The forest fires were at their worst and the smoke filled the air and would turn the sun to a dark shade of red. As soon as we crossed the border the smoke dissapeared. I asked a Canadian about this and they said. "We don't allow American smoke in Canada." When we came back across the border, near the end of our trip, the smoke had come north of the border and the local Canadians were not very happy about it at all. They kept saying that America was ruining the view. I hoped they were kidding but to be safe we covered our license plates with mud. (not really - the mud part I mean).
As soon as we crossed the border into "Super Natural British Columbia" we realized their was something inherantly cool about it. Even though we had only been in Canada for less than a day's worth of riding, there were the constant reminders that we were in foriegn. And we found it to be quite fun. First, we had to translate all the speed limit signs and distance signs from kilometers to miles, gas was marked in liters instead of gallons, and many of the signs were in French as well as English. Kris was having a hard time remembering the conversions. (5 miles = 8 kilometers) until I reminded here that she had a conversion chart in front of her all the time. "Your speedometer has miles per hour and kilometers per hour on it. All you have to do is see where the numbers meet to figure it all out." After that she had a lot of fun doing the conversions.
We rode north into Canada, towards Banff. Riding is very different in Canada. First, unlike Americans, Canadians like motorcycles and motorcyclists. We would be riding along and a car in front of us would start to drive on the side of the road, (Canada had very wide emergency lanes) and give us room to pass. It was very nice to never have to pass a slow moving vehicle. They were always nice enought to let us by. Also, even though we were on a major highway, it was mostly devoid of any traffic and the road was full of nice bends and curves.
On first day in Canada, we met a college kid on a "worn in" CBR600 F2. He was heading the same way we were and he gave us some tips on some roads that were not on the map. Very tiny, unknown roads that were full of twists and bends. They made for some fantastic riding. As the sun set, we pulled into Radium Hot Springs, just outside of the stack of National Parks that surround Banff and Jasper. They are tiled north all the way to up the province.
We had heard that there were no campgrounds in Canada and, consequently, were kind of worried, but we found several as soon as we rolled into town. In the entire campground there were only three other campers. Hmm we thought. Canadians must not like to camp. The campground host was so excited to have motorcycles saying in her campground that she gave us the nicest campsite for $3 dollars American. So Cool! we thought.
As we were setting up our tent we found out why Canadians don't camp. Its called "mosquito's" They were everywhere and they were the size of your average Cessna and sounded just like the propeller driven airplanes when they would buzz your ears looking for a good place to bite. They could also drain enough blood in a single bite to make your knees go weak and your head spin. As soon as the tent was up we rushed into town and bought the most powerful mosquito spray we could find. We found the spray worked really well at keeping the smaller mosquitos away but did nothing for the very large ones.
We got an average nites sleep and were up early, before the mosquito's, and after a very large breakfast we decided to head into Banff. My rear tire was getting really thin, so our first thought was to head into Banff and see if there was a motorcycle shop. We also figured if Banff was too small to feature a shop we would blast into Calagary, home of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, and surely find a tire there.
Once we got into the park, however, we were amazed at the incredible beauty! The Canadian Rockies make the "Grand" Tetons look like some ugly little mountain the Canadians didin't want because it would distract tourists by being very plain and unusually small by comparison.
Here we are just inside Kootenay National Park. This image doesn't show the graduer of the mountains but the panoramic views stayed amazing for the next few days.The Camera was set on the ground for these images, but the moutains start from a flat plain, then shoot straight up into the air. They are the true sky scrapers of the world, build by God - not the hands of man.
We took our time, stopping often on our way into Banff. The vistas were truly amazing. Once we found our way into Banff we were shocked by the atmosphere of this quaint little town. It had the atmosphere of what we would have expected to find in a small town in the Alps. However, this one was much closer to Utah and we were able to ride our own bikes here. After wandering the main strip we found the Visitor Information Center. We stopped and went in and found that Banff had plenty of ski shops but no motorcycle shops. The nearest one was in Calgary. A good 80 miles away. My tire was getting thin enough to cause concern. Enough concern that we were worried that it would not make the journey into Calgary. We asked a local motorcyclist how long it would take to get to Calgary and he frowned. "Ooh, thats a miserable road. So straight you can see Calgary the whole way. It should take you about an hour to an hour and a half to get there depending on how fast you go. But, boy, its a miserably straight road."
The journey to Calgary took us about an hour on Canada's Highway 1. It is the equivalent to Candadian Interstate. We made good time. The funny thing was, the road was remarkably twisty. The Canadians conception of straight roads is pretty skewed. They obviously have never had to cross Kansas. The road to Calgary wasn't bad until you were about 30 miles outside of the city.
We found a motorcycle shop. *whew* We really wanted to find a Honda shop so we could order a set of Canadian stickers for Kris' Superhawk. In Canada and Europe its a Firestorm. A much neater name than Superhawk and it wouldn't be prone to the nickname "SuperChicken." Unfortunaly all we found was a Kawasaki/Yamaha shop. But they were willing to help and willing to do the work immediately so we could be on our way.
Getting the tire replaced took much longer than we anticipated. The Kawasaki shop only had a D207 in stock that would fit my bike. (I was hoping for a Macadam or an MEZ4) The shop on the other side of the alley had a Macadam and I was able to purchase that tire instead. I was afraid that the D207 wouldn't last long enough to get me home. Also, because the sky was spittin' we picked up a set of matching FirstGear riding pants to match our Kilimanjaro jackets. These pants helped keep things fun when Canada got much, much colder.
We blasted our way back into Banff and spent the night in a campground there. We had bumped into a bunch of Bell Telephone technicians from Seattle who told us how lightening had struck a tree right behind them while they were parking their bikes. They also offered their campgound to share with them as things were filling up fast. We graciously accepted, and enjoyed the camaraderie that goes along with motorcycling. The guys left early the next morning before we could pay our share of the campgound. When we bumped into them a day or so later we offered to pay, or at least buy them lunch, but they refused and said it was their pleasure to help. Aren't bikers cool?!
We were so amazed by the beauty of Canada and amiable treadment by the locals that we sort of lost track of time. Everything was awesomely gorgeous! People were giving us maps, warning us about where the local speed cops hung out and told us where to go to see the most wildlife.
If you don't like the look of lots of pine trees, glaciers, glacier lakes and huge, rocky mountains, then don't go to Canada. You can see in this image all of the things I listed. And there was hunderds of miles of it. The roads were great, and drivers were very considerate by allowing us to pass whenever we wanted.
One thing we did notice, however, was that in Canada, when they patch a road, they dump a bunch of tar into the pothole, then they pour gravel on top of it. This makes the road hazard virtually impossible to identify, and extremely slippery. I only noticed it when Kris was riding in front and I kept seeing puffs of what appeared to be smoke coming off of her back tire. I started watching really close and after much confusion, I had to stop and see what was causing this. Note to travelers, beware of this.
About halfway to Jasper we came across a huge crowd of people. There was a very large building seperated by a whole lot of vast open spaces, and this building had a massive parking lot packed with cars. The draw was the giant 6-wheel drive busses that ferry tourists up onto a huge glacier that works its way down a basin in the mountain.
Here we are parked in front of the "Sno-Coaches." They were pretty neat contraptions and its pretty amazing that somebody thought this was an alright idea. It provides the rare opportunity to learn what is going on with glaciers - first hand. It also alows visitors from other nations to see something that normally would be hard to find anyplace else.
We continued riding north. The farther north, the more wildlife we came in contact with. We rode with a pack of mountain goats that paced along side of us as we rode along, we passed a group of caribou, (real live reindeer!) and we even saw a black bear.
We made it into Jasper, and the locals were telling us that in order to see even more wildlife, we just head north. We were having a great time, but while filling up with feul in Jasper I unfolded the map - All the way. I was shocked by what I noticed. It would take us less time to ride to Alaska then it was going to take us to get back to Idaho. Panic set in and we had to make a decision. A decision that greatly affected the outcome of our entire vacation.
Our choices were to head back the way we came. It was beautiful and we would know what to expect, or we could loop around to the west and back into the US. We had taken so much time to get to where we were that we were afraid of not haveing enough time to make it back home in time to go back to work. It is unfortunate that one cannot live this lifestyle of riding around and seeing new place, people and things.
We decided, very hastily, to take the long way home. If we could keep our speeds up and get early starts in the morning, we should be okay. But we were still nervous, so after a long day of exploring Jasper National Park and Banff National Park we continued onward. We went straight west until we got to Tete Jaune Cache. Between here and Jasper we contined to see a lot of wildlife which confirmed, in our minds, how much more wildlife we would have been able to see if we continued north. We turned south at Tete Jaune Cache and headed down towards Valemont, where we ate a quick dinner as the sun started easing closer to the horizon. Funny thing, we had gone so far north that the days had gotten noticeably longer, staying light until much later. This really helped us make good time.
We kept going south until we came to the town of Avola. Here we found a small hotel just off the side of the road. It looked a bit seedy, so we figured we could afford it. Plus, after the currency conversion the hotel came to about 23 dollars. The Vietnamese owners of the hotel were very gracious and offered us to park our bikes underneath our hotel room windows. A very nice touch and very reassuring in a town that lives on the side of a road that carries a lot of people to the very large town of Prince George. I was in such a hurry to get checked in and settle down for the night that I misplaced my sunglasses. I was upset about the loss but figured I would surely find them in the morning.
I woke up early the next morning obsessed with the absence of my new Smith Sunglasses I looked everywhere, then started looking out in the gravel parking lot. I noticed something up underneath a large rock. There they were. Apparently run over by a nearby minvan, but instead of being crushed, I ascertained, they were popped out from underneath the tire and landed where I found them. The lenses were scratched beyond use and the frames survived with only a few minor scratches. Good sunglasses, the removable lenses made the mistake no more costly than the price of a new set of lenses.
We went immediatly south into Kamloops. How can you forget a name like Kamloops. We love these names. They have so much character and flavor. In Kamloops we found a local Honda shop and decided to try one last time to find FireStorm stickers for Kris' bike. The guys at this shop, while they seemed to specialize in 4-wheelers, were more than happy to help us and went out of their way for us. They even gave us some Canadian documentation on Kris' bike. It was really nice to be treated so well by these guys. We ordered the decals (Canadians pronounce it DEK-als. We thought that was pretty fun) and quckly got back onto the road.
We headed out of Kamloops happy that we would soon have FireStorm DEKals and no one would ever call her bike a SuperChicken again. We headed east towards Monte Creek, then south towads Vernon then east again towards Cherryville and on into Needles. By the time we got to Cherryville we were becoming very excited about Canada again. The hospitality, the quality of the roads and the scenery was very impressive.
At Needles we got our first ferry ride. A cable operated ferry and we became very taken aback with the Canadians. We got there just before the ferry was about to leave, but the ferry operators insisted that we move to the front of the ferry. At first we didn't understand why. But they talked to us like we would expect this kind of treatment from them. We just smiled, said thanks and enjoyed riding our motorcycles onto a boat.
Here we are on our ferry between Needles and Fauquier. You can see how cool we think this is by our big grins. When we were the first to unload, we understood why the ferry drivers were so insistent on putting us on front. The ferry only runs every two hours, so when we rode off the ferry we realized we had two hours of clear road in front of us. Very nice. Aren't Canadians cool?!
We had to ride straight north to Nakusp (I wish I knew what these names meant) before we turned east again towards New Denver. Kris had lost a nut that held her mirror on. We stopped at gas station and the attentent spent more time than he needed to finding us a replacement, then loaning us the tools to put it on without having to unpack to get to ours. Nakusp is a great little town! In fact all of these tiny towns that clung to the banks of Okanagan Lake, Upper Arrow Lake and Lower Arrow Lake were towns that dreams were made of. We wondered what the locals did for a livng and asked them how the winters were. They all claimed they did what they could to make ends meet and the winters were extremely mild.
Kris was so taken with Nakusp that she insisted we take a picture so she wouldn't forget how pretty it all was. You can start to see the smoke from the Forest Fires drifting up into Canada. But who were we to complain since it was really American smoke.
While Kris was taken with the beauty of the towns, I was tickled every shade of pink by how great the roads were. They were all twisty and wiggly, mostly predictable and free of traffic, allowing us to simply enjoy everything about the experience. At New Denver we headed east again towards Kaslo, then south to Balfour where the "Big" ferry, as the locals called it, would take us across the Canadian lakes one last time. This time we would be crossing Kootenay Lake. The "Big" ferry would only run every four hours after 7pm, so we were rushing to make it there before they left. We made it and guess what....
Thats right! They put us in the front of the ferry line. I was so impressed that I had to take a picture. Aren't Canadians great?!
Anyway, the ferry ride took about an hour, not to mention the time we waited. By the time we got to the other side it was dark and we did our best to make it to a campground. We stayed the night in the town of Boswell.
The next morning we figured we must have been choosing good roads because there was a constant stream of sportbikes all morning long. And why woulndn't their be. The roads were awesome. Some of the best riding I had ever done, combined with pristine backdrops to it all. We had found a place as close to heaven on earth as we had ever seen.
I won't go into detail about the naked Germans skinny-dipping in the lake, just off the side of the road. But when Kris saw the naked Germans she just couldn't help herself and exclaimed "Gross!" "Danke" was the immediate response.
All good things must come to an end. *sigh* We crossed back into the US. US customs was pretty hard to get through. It was kind of scary. When they asked me how much money we had spent and I told them they freaked out! "You spent how much!!" Then I tried to tell them that a big part of that was a new tire and some warm weather riding gear. But that didn't seem to make much of a difference. I was afraid he wasn't going to let us back into the country. But after talking to Kris he seemed to soften and wished us a good trip. She still won't tell me what she said to him...
We spend the majority of the day crossing Montana. We stayed more to the west half of the state, but after Canada, Montana was just kind of boring. hmmm. Danny was supposed to go on the trip the entire time, but he had tire problems that were harder to solve than ours, and he spent most of the week stuck in Rapid City waiting for one to come in. We finally caught up with him the next day, just as we passed through Helena and started south towards West Yellowstone.
We spent a lot of time catching up and talking about our adventures as we wandered our way back into Idaho and onto home.
Here Kris is strafing across Montana. Montana had a lot of road construcion. When they redo a road they do it in 20-mile stretches by tearing the road down to nothing and starting over again. Translation - lots of gravel roads that should have been paved. Not fun.
We crossed over into Idaho and headed south towards Alpine. However in Tetonia (who named this town?) we had a run in with the law. An unmarked Chevy Z-71 pickup pulled us over.We weren't going very fast so all three of us pulled over. The cop laughed at us then gave us all tickets for doing 75 in a 55. Ouch! We tried to explain that we were not going at all that fast but he just got defensive and went back to his truck to write the tickets He even called for backup because he was afraid that we were going to beat him up! What a looser! He had been sitting just on the county line as the speed limit dropped from 65 to 55. We eventually went back to Idaho and fought the ticket and found out that the officer had his radar gun on the wrong setting. However, we decided that from then on, only the person in the rear would stop. So much for trying to be law abiding citizens. Bad cops have turned it into a game of "us against them" too bad.
For some reason we have a strance affinity for this place. The historic Henry Store, located in Henry Idaho, right next to Henry Lake. We always take lots of pictures here, and this trip was no different. Its just sad a trip is wrapping up, particularly when everything had gone really well.
We didn't have a picture of us riding off into the suset, but we thought this was close enough.
All that remained was less than 100 miles back to my Parents house, Jake the dog and a forced return to daily life.
Final words are - GO TO CANADA! Its a great trip! It was the best riding and some of the best experiences we have ever had on a motorcycle. It's too bad that Danny couldn't make it up for the whole ride. But there is always next time. Maybe the next time we'll try to make it all the way to Alaska.