Canada, Vancouver Island and British Columbia
TWelcome to something new on CanyonChasers.net. The Short-Attention-Span version of our Alaska Road trip! With more photo's and less words, this is the quicker and easier to digest version of our most epic and popular motorcycle adventure.The phone rang. Slowly I realized that I probably needed to answer it. I rolled over and looked at the generic, hotel-room alarm clock; it was two o'clock in the morning. I picked up the receiver and croaked out a groggy “yeah.” The voice on the other end sounded frantic, “Sir, are you the owner of the motorcycles outside?” I was suddenly more awake as I answered her question. “Sir,” she continued, “there's been an accident. Someone has crashed into your bikes and the police are outside investigating.”
- Chapter 1. Oh, Canananada
- Chapter 2. Oregon Zebra and a pig wearing a yellow hat
- Chapter 3. I left my Wallet in El Segundo and I left my towel in Port Angeles
- Chapter 4. You are from Salt Lake City ? I am from Salt Lake City!
- Chapter 5. You'll want to take the Nanaimo Ferry, but that'd be stupid
- Chapter 6. I caught a Canadian Ferry
- Chapter 7. My bike got laid in Libby
- Chapter 8. Flat Tired-Triple
Chasing the Setting Sun
As we were preparing to leave for 10-days through the Pacific Northwest and Canada, I would never have imagined waking up to a nightmare phone call like that. This was the largest CanyonChasers week-long trip in history. Five bikes and seven attendees had all scheduled vacation time from work, bought new tires, packed their bags and met up to leave Salt Lake for a week of adventure the second Kris got off work.
Eric and Dawn were always on the list to go because we had delayed taking the trip in June, as we originally planned, to accommodate Eric's return to College to finish two remaining courses that stood between him and his Bachelors degree. We settled on August 5th through the 15th in enough time to allow Mikey and Crystal to get the time off. Mikey had spent the better part of two-weeks converting his Triumph Daytona from full-on sport-bike to two-up tour bike. He was a site to behold as he pulled in with two overstuffed saddlebags flopping against the tail section and a hard-back suitcase retrofitted to a home-made rack pulling double duty as both luggage and as a back-rest for Crystal.
Eleven days and drastic temperature changes will require quite a bit of gear. While my neighbors were moving out a few weeks prior, I spotted a hard sided suitcase I deemed to be a perfect tail box. with a little time and effort, some welding wire and a grinder, it became a pretty good box. But with the extra weight that the box allowed my rack to carry, my test ride ended up causing problems which had to be redesigned at the 11th hour. I was not happy. Yet another thing to redo at the last minute.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
I was invited to go along to Canada with the CanyonChasers only 48 hours before the outset of this epic trip, and I didn't have any time to contemplate new forks, hard luggage, electrical thingys or whatnot. So without the lead time, I had no time to go back and forth on what I wanted and go through my normal procrastination period before making a last second order with overnight shipping and a hurried installation. I was just going to have to make do with what I had...sort of... As luck would have it, based on Dave's review and recommendation, I had ordered a set of Continental Road Attack tires from Wright's, and they were installed the day before the invite came down. So I would be able to start the trip with a fresh set of tires. I decided that a new chain was in order, and an oil change needed as well, so there was a bit of 11th hour maintenance, but otherwise, the bike had to go as it was...dirt and all!
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
We rallied up at Kris' work-place and waited as Eric and Dawn were for the first time in recorded history the last to arrive. Amazingly, Mikey and Crystal had beat them to the meeting point. To save vacation time, we would be leaving Salt Lake at 3pm-ish on Friday and head towards Boise for the first evening, thereby plugging across the flattest and most mundane element of the vacation the day before the vacation would officially start. However, because it was a Friday afternoon, rush-hour traffic was already clogging all the routes and the radio warned of a sizable accident on I-15 directly between us and Idaho. Figuring that it would be a couple hours either way, we made the decision to forgo I-15 and take a local canyon, East Canyon [Map], a much longer and much twistier "short-cut" that would get us away from the interstate system and still take us north. After our favorite canyon road on the Wasatch-Front we stopped in Morgan to fill the tanks, grab a light dinner and press on. From here we would see nothing other than freeway for more than 450 miles.
We raced down I-84 through Ogden Canyon (the last corners we would see for a while), hopped onto I-15 north, then north-west onto I-84. The sun was already in our eyes and the August heat grew more pronounced as we left the Wasatch-Mountains behind us in favor of the flat, rich-soil blessed, Snake River Plain. The area used to be brimming with volcanic activity and all that volcanic ash created a soil like few other places on the earth. The rich soil is responsible for the Famous Idaho potatoes that have been known to grow as big as footballs, and in a few cases, actually grow around rocks in the ground. Nothing is quite like cutting into your potato to find an entombed stone.
After 100 mind-numbing miles we stopped briefly in Snowville, Utah [Map], just a few miles shy of the Idaho border for gas and some cold water before continuing. We stopped again in Eden, Idaho, another 100 miles behind us. We got more cold water and started the tradition of plastering stupid stickers on Mikey's suitcase. The first one advertised the "Garden of Eden" truck-stop. With already 250 miles of riding behind us, we pressed on into the waning sunlight, squinting to see the road ahead and pausing in the shadows of larger vehicles to rest our strained eyes.
When Dave joined us on top of East Canyon, we headed over, and out to I-15. What followed was some of the most miserable hours of my life on a motorcycle. In the extreme heat of an august day in Utah, we droned up I-80 for hours. and hours. In a completely straight line. And into the dark. And the whole time at break neck speeds on a naked bike. At one point shortly after dark, even my ipod remote couldn't take the droning anymore, and abandoned bike onto the concrete below the handlebars. I didn't even get to witness the suicidal act, I looked down to change tracks to find an empty remote holder. This would be the start to much bigger troubles with my iPod... but i'd put up a pretty good fight for the next couple days before being beaten by everyone's favorite music appliance. Ironically, I have always been a big fan of music on the bike, and most everyone else didn't really enjoy it. For this trip, everybody else had an mp3 player but me.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
We rode the remaining 160 miles without stopping or slowing. With the sun finally below the horizon, we got a rest from the blinding glare but were soon forced to peer through sunglasses into the darkening evening. But at least the day's heat was finally starting to abate, draping us in cool air for the first time since we'd left East Canyon. It was darkest as we passed Mountain Home and began riding north towards Boise. The lights of the states capital were hidden by the terrain and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere until we crested a hill and were greeted by the lights of civilization. We rode straight through Boise and finally stopped at a freeway off-ramp hotel near Caldwell, Idaho. [Map]
The only place open to eat was a JB's-style family restaurant. After six hours of riding in the heat we were shocked into lucidity by the restaurant's blaring air-conditioning. We piled in around one table at the back of the restaurant and grew punchy teasing the waitress about their choice of serving instant potatoes in Idaho and joked that the French-fries must come out of cast-iron molds. It was really funny at the time and would produce a giggle whenever it was mentioned for the rest of the trip. French-Fry molds – haha.
We unloaded the bikes and all piled into one hotel room, with one bed (the only thing available). After some creative furniture relocation, thanks to Mike's college experiences, we were able to find enough floor-space for everyone. We drew lots for the bed, and Kris and I won and greedily slipped between the sheets while the rest of the group struggled with air-mattresses and sleeping bags. We tried to donate a blanket to the cause but nobody seemed interested in cuddling with a cheap hotel bedspread.
We Can't Stop - We Have Reservations
We got up the next morning and took advantage of the complementary continental breakfast. Seven of us ate our fill for the price of one two-person room. We then got on the bikes and headed across the street to top off the tanks. Mikey had decided that his one-person air-mattress wasn't big enough for two people and after asking about the nearest department store raced off. Eric and Dawn took after him. Then Mike, thinking we'd left too, took off, unaware of where everyone was going while Kris and I checked the air pressure in the new tires. Good thing too, the Speed Triple's rear tire was about five pounds low.
When I woke up, everybody had pretty much finished getting ready. We all packed up and loaded the bikes. My key had been sitting in my bike all night. yeah, I'm brilliant. Once we finished packing we grabbed a bit of breakfast in the hotel and I made a break for WalMart. I needed a bigger mattress if I was to survive, and an ipod remote. When we got there I realized we were in rural Idaho. Needless to say their ipod accessory department was a touch small. I did find a charger for the ipod and a great mattress.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
I really didn't know where the department store was, but Kris said she'd overheard the instructions, so I followed her through a series of confusing intersections, passed a tattoo parlor where we saw Mike parked; we honked and waved and guessed that he saw us. We rode a few more blocks to discover Eric waiting in the parking lot. Kris and Dawn abandoned Eric and I and opted to do some shopping while we wondered where Mike and his VFR had gone. He eventually found us just as the girls came wandering out with a cart full of stuff. Mikey and Crystal showed up and started looking for a place to pack their second air-mattress. Finally, we were ready to leave again, so I jumped in front and followed my GPS back to the freeway for a whole mile then took the next exit onto Highway 26 [Map], leaving the freeway system behind us for what would be the rest of the trip.
Strait-edge inspired roads wandered through open farmland, under lightly overcast skies and cool morning air. We passed through the town of Notus then veered onto Highway 20/95 in the town of Parma, Idaho. We then made a left turn towards the town of Nyssa where we left Idaho behind and ventured into Oregon. Highway 20 past Nyssa took us directly north until we turned left again onto Highway 26, again, and rode towards Vale, Idaho. If it's hard to keep track of all these farm roads through reading, imagine trying to navigate them.
We all got together and headed west. It was mostly undesirable roads in the morning, but at least they turned occasionally. Still not the "epic adventure" I was promised. And it was still hot. Kris told me I was gonna freeze my ass off this whole trip. I bought an electric vest for hell's sake!
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
In Vale, road construction obscured the turn we needed to take, so I led the group on a historic tour of the tiny town founded after it had been used as a stop for travelers along the Oregon Trail who enjoyed the hot springs in the area. We did a U-turn and backtracked to the east side of town where we were able to find the turn we'd missed.
In the distance we could see hills and eventually mountains looming. As we neared them Highway 26 took an abrupt turn and started climbing over a steep hill blessing us with a series of about five sweeping corners; the first in almost 500 miles of riding. The road grew straight as it turned to the west and began rising and falling over smaller hills and through empty draws.
The morning overcast clouds seemed to have disappeared and we were riding under crystal clear sunlight along more of the same straight, bland roads. Highway 26 made a sharp turn to the north then started sweeping around corners as we neared the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. We entered the town of Unity and spied a gas station. The area was looking increasingly remote and fear of running out of gas prompted the stop at the red gravel lot gas station.
At our gas stop in Unity, OR we spent some time with a timid Border Collie who manned the counter at the small store before starting the next leg...the next leg was only about 35 feet as we saw something not so common to this part of the world...a Zebra! In a front yard next to the gas station, a small Zebra was mulling about, so we had to stop for a bit to snap a couple pics and I gave the critter a pat on the nose...not everyday that you get to visit with a Zebra...in Oregon.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Unity got its name after a dispute between settlers over where the town should officially establish itself and the post-office. Everyone disagreed over several locations until its current location was decided upon. Everyone was so happy over the decision they named the town Unity.
We continued on Highway 26 out of Unity [Map] and the road finally snuggled down into the terrain, arching up the mountain in an endless series of sweeping corners. The road worked its way through the tree's then followed the ridgeline as it crested its northern progress and began moving south towards Prairie City. Our speeds varied as we accelerated through the corners and slowed to set up for the next one. After 500 miles of maddeningly straight roads these gentle sweepers were a brilliant transition into the very beginning of awesome riding we would face over the next ten days.
We didn't bother to slow as we raced through the towns of Prairie City, John Day and Mt Vernon. In Prairie City the road straightened out, falling off into a mostly straight road that seemed to follow a river/ravine and droves of agricultural activities. Past Mt. Vernon [Map], however, the road grew significantly better! The road transitioned, almost immediately, when it made an unexpected turn into a very narrow slot canyon. Notched tightly between two rock walls and sharing what space it could with a meandering river the road dipped and swooned through a complicated series of challenging corners. Leaning hard to the right and left through banked corners allowed us to revile in the joys of chasing down canyons.
The road had recently been restored to a prime riding surface by slurry sealing the road; a process by which pea gravel is mixed together with tar and spread over the road. Slurry seal is infinitely better than the cheaper chip seal, where tar is sprayed onto the road-surface and pea gravel spread on top, until traffic can press the pebbles into the road. Chip seal is slippery for motorcyclists until everything beds in, but slurry-seal results in a perfect road condition almost immediately.
As we neared the town of Mitchell, the road opened up into a fast, straight route again but within a few more miles started to climb and became a wide sweeping ribbon as it dropped towards Prineville.
We moved on and found a few nice curves as we made our way towards the mountains that frame the east side of the WillametteValley. While Hwy 26 through Oregon may not be spectacular, it winds through a couple of National Forests and offers some pretty nice scenery. Just east of Prineville, there are some nice hills with sweeping curves, and a spot roughly 165 miles from the previous gas stop where we discovered the absolute range of Kris' Z1000. Eric and Dawn cruised down the road a few miles to fetch some fuel for the Zed and returned to get Kris to the next gas station while the rest of us gassed up and rested a bit.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Kris and I stood by the side of the road in the oppressive heat with Ochoco Lake almost visible to the south of us. Cars whizzed past on the two lane road without so much as slowing while we tried to find shade among the cured, yellow grasses adorning our forced parking space. I wasn't sure how far Eric and Dawn would have to go to find gas, but I suspected we had to be close.
Five minutes hadn't passed when I saw a single round headlight coming back. Sure enough, it was Eric and Dawn with Dawn diligently holding a two-gallon gas can. We dumped the fuel into the Z1000 and hoped that the FI system would be able to prime, which it did without a problem and the bike fired immediately to life. We were less than two-miles from the Shell station where we met up with the rest of the group.
Oregon has a stupid law that prevents people from putting gas in their own cars. The law reads to the effect of dispensing hazardous materials without training, so every gas station has an attendant at the ready to pump your gas for you. Probably great for auto-drivers on rainy days, but for us it was a hassle. Eons ago, gas stations would have to change fuel nozzles depending on fuel type and a few accidents occurred where the nozzles were not changed correctly. This law was the result. However, it's never been rescinded but recently it was amended to allow motorcyclists to pump their own gas under close supervision of a trained fuel dispensing specialist.
So we'd pull up to the pump, and the fuel dispensing specialist would take our card and swipe it for us, when the card cleared they would ask which grade we preferred, press the button then hand us the appropriate nozzle. When we were finished, we'd hand the nozzle back to them and they'd place it back in the cradle. I'd continually try to joke that we were from out of state and therefore trained to operate fuel-pumps, but they never laughed.
In the gas-station they didn't have any stickers for Mikey's suitcase, so I bought a pink pig in a yellow hat and covertly hung it off the back of Mikey's bike before checking out the map. Highway 370 [Map] out of Prineville looked good and was chosen but proved to be very clogged doldrums, and we got to enjoy the view of the rear bumpers of the slow moving traffic before us while stealing glances of enormous snow capped peaks to the northwest.
We dropped down to Redmond on Highway 97 then turned onto Highway 126, McKenzie Highway [Map] into the town of Sisters where we'd planned to stop for lunch. We'd already ridden over 300 miles and it was three in the afternoon. On top of that, my left eye was causing me some trouble. It was sore and was giving me quite the headache. I feared it was my polarized sunglasses in combination with my face-shield creating rainbow colors on everything. Added to that, it felt like we'd been looking directly into the sun for 700 miles. I just wanted to close my eyes. We wandered up the street to a Pizza joint where we ordered up lots of water, Pepsi for Mikey, and proceeded to devour two large pies.
Kris and I did a quick walk through looking for a sunglass shop, but with no luck. The rest of the gang looked for stupid stickers for Mikey's suitcase, but they too came up with nothing. Overall, despite the lack of sunglasses and stickers, Sisters is a very cute town nestled on the foothills.
Leaving Sisters in our mirrors we started west again on Highway 20, despite Highway 242 [Map] looking much more appealing. Too bad it went the wrong way, we'll have to come back! The first hour of riding Highway 20 [Map] was more droning but evolved into a rampant series of downhill, decreasing radius and sweeping corners scattered between long stretches of straight road carved down the middle of 70-100 foot tall trees. It didn't matter what time of day it was, the trees were so tall the road would only be in the sunlight during the day's apex.
Peering into the trees revealed lush stands of ferns and moss swaddeling gray rocks. Enormous triangular pyramids of rock dappled the background. Not quite big enough to be called mountains but too big to be called anything else, they towered over trees, their outcroppings forming unusual shapes, including one that I swore looked just like a thumbs up. The road began to drop fast, spiraling down in elevation, making the corners an amazing indulgence as they corkscrewed around trees and down ravines.
As we neared Foster Lake, the road opened up. Lake traffic overflowing with lumber trucks and locals racing along with boat and jet-ski's in tow monopolized the roads. We entered the town of Sweet Home and stopped for gas and Gatorade. Two motorcyclists on well-used and muddy dirt bikes pulled in and Eric struck up conversation.
Our original plan was to continue on Highway 20 through Corvalis and eventually to Newport on the coast. From there we would ride down the coast to a reserved Forest Service campground south of Waldport, but the local riders on their dirtbikes advised against Highway 20. "It has recently been widened and straightened", they informed us. "It's not half the road it used to be. Instead take a right at Philomath and ride Highway 34 [Map] instead. It's much better!" Always listen to the locals. Besides, it would deposit us on the coast much closer to the reserved campsite. With over 400 miles behind us and an additional 100 to go, we were sold on the detour.
Finishing up in sisters, we rode on for a bit and then stopped for gas. We all topped off, and headed thru one of the few towns where our riding thru didn't double or triple the population. As we rode, i got on the throttle to pass a minivan. About halfway around him on the left, my bike ran out of talent. It sputtered and wheezed, and lurched. Bugger! I pulled into an abandoned driveway to see what the deal is. As everyone circled around to come back, I surveyed the situation. The situation was that my bike was dripping gas all over itself. Double bugger. Now at this point I was fairly well into trying to deduce the problem and determine a solution. I was holding everyone up, and i was determined to get back on the road and continue onwards. Somehow, everyone took my (admittedly rare) concentration as being upset, angry or frustrated. For some reason, the CanyonChaser seem convinced that I will snap at any moment. Wonder why that is?
My model of triumph was known for faulty fuel line connectors made of plastic. To rectify that situation, i replaced them with aftermarket stainless steel fittings a few months back. And now they seemed to be leaking. In an instant i had the bags off the bike, all of the plastics and the tank. Only then did we learn the true problem was not the fitting but the hose that connected it. It had a small hole in it that was leaking gas when the fuel injection system was pressurized. Luckily, out of all the desolate places we'd been on the entire trip, i managed to break down across the street from a Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, they did not have fuel line, so Eric rolled down to an auto parts store to find some. He returned with ample line, and we put the fittings back into the tank and buttoned up the fuel system. I asked Dave for his leatherman about 20 times. When we tested it, the bike started right up. No leaks. Perfect.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
Not only did Mikey manage to destroy a rotten set of fuel lines, but when putting the bike back together a few of his techno-do-dads combined with metal buckles on this tank-bag fastening system resulted in sparks flying, smoke and melting wires. Flinging offending items off the bike averted a potential fire and reminded us all to slow down our repair procedures. It was this sparking and potential for flame that had us all laughing about the potential fire and "The Great CanyonChasers fire of 05." The sun was dropping lower in the sky and I was worried about having enough daylight to make the remaining 85 miles to the coast (not to mention the 15 or so miles past Waldport to the campground). But we stopped at the next gas station and replenished the fuel that Mikey spewed onto the Oregon road system and soldiered forward with renewed urgency.
By the time we reached Philomath the sun was down to slivers of light punching shafts through the foliage. I stopped briefly to switch to yellow lenses knowing that we would not make the remaining 55 miles before darkness blanketed our world. But, on the other hand, if we rode briskly we should be able to make it most the way in the twilight.
Within ten miles all the urban traffic was gone and we were left with ourselves and the sharply cooler coastal air. The ocean was not far off now. The road turned utterly magical. Starkly similar to Highway 35, 17 Skyline Boulevard [Map] series of roads in the Bay Area, between San Jose and San Francisco, it tunneled through dense trees and evening mist as it climbed through banking arches up a steep hillside with never more than 50 meters or straight road at one time. The road was in brilliant condition. Fresh, black asphalt meandered its way to the west without so much as a ripple. Racing through trees and then dropping out into small, narrow valleys, past small homestead's then diving back into the trees, Highway 34 [Map] proved to be one of the best roads of the entire trip!
I am convinced that the road to Waldport was a figment of my imagination, or perhaps the result of being happy i did not catch fire. There was simply no way that the road was so perfect. It was one of those roads that made you happy to be a motorcyclist. It was dusk when we really entered the fun part of this road, and without the sun in my eyes or much traffic, we rode through great, twisty sections for miles and miles. When I did occasionally catch another vehicle, it took me quite some time to pass them. it seems that on the west coast people know how to drive. I was chasing down Toyoda Tercel's, breaking into the corner and accelerating out, as if they had driven this road twice a day for their entire life... and they probably had. Towards the end of this wonderful road, it did actually get cold. First just cold enough to warrant closing the vents. Then actually cold enough to stop and add layers. On this road i managed to take back every bad thing i had thought about the trip. We were going to have fun. It was going to be cold. It is going to be epic.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
After soaking and scrubbing the dense bug carnage from our faceshields, digging out the electric gear and interrogating the gas station attendant to find any eateries that were still open, we found ourselves at the only open establishment in town; a locals bar. We snuck around a large table along the wall and ordered up clam-chowder and fish ‘n chips to go around, hoping it would stave off the chill we'd received during the last few miles of Highway 34 (Except for Mike who stopped half-way to add more layers). Once we'd eaten our fill we returned to the bikes to ride our way south in the total darkness and find our campground near Cape Perpetua.
We found a wayward traveler in our campsites and not wanting to send him out into the cold, Eric struck up a deal that allowed him to stick around.
Being the group's early riser, I had some time to kill before the others were ready to head out towards breakfast and Washington State . From the campground, there is a trail that heads up hill, just over a mile, to a lookout that provides a stunning view of Cape Perpetua . The Pacific Ocean crashing over the rock outcroppings was my first glimpse of the ocean on this trip. While ocean views are technically "old hat" to me, every time I approach the sea after a time away, I'm blown away...especially when that first glimpse is at the end of a steep hike when the waves that I've been hearing for 20 minutes start to peek through the trees on a cold and foggy Northwest morning. I sat and watched for a bit, then headed back down. Dawn and Eric were up as well, and out for a walk on the other side of the campground...we struck our camp as the others were beginning to stir.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
1,500 Miles in Two and a Half Days - Can we Slow Down Now?
We awoke Sunday morning to find that Mike was already packed, his bike loaded and just returned from a morning hike. Kris and I had dressed and began breaking our camp, while Mikey and Crystal had yet to stir. This is one of the difficulties of traveling in a larger group. Typically, Eric and Dawn wake up 30 minutes or so before Kris and I. But Mike rises with the sun, Eric and Dawn awake next, then Kris and I while Mikey and Crystal could sleep to 11am every day. This results in a two hour window for us to get moving in the morning with Mike moving later than he wants and Mikey and Crystal moving far sooner than they would prefer.
Kris and I, Mikey and Crystal are seat-of-the-pants travelers preferring to let the winds blow us where they may as we follow a general route. Mike, Eric and Dawn are much more detailed, preferring to plan and detail the trip, making reservations to ensure lodging. Because of heavy summer, coastal traffic Eric had reserved the campground for two evenings in a row – calling and finding that they were the only coastal accommodations for months and miles around. Today, the next nights reservations were at a KOA in Port Angeles Washington, another 500 miles away from where we now stood. After completing 500 miles the day before, 500 miles may seem trivial on interstate roads, but on back-roads 500 miles means ten or more hours in the saddle.
While each method of travel certainly has its benefits and problems, finding the balance between each style can cause frustration or great success. Reservations caused two very long days of riding that pushed us harder than we should have pushed, while lack of planning resulted in one very long night of searching for a place to sleep. Pressing on long into the early morning hours frayed nerves and caused the only real tension of the trip. Additionally, Eric's fast thinking in Kalispell, Montana saved the day by ensuring that we'd get a warm place to sleep in a heavy tourist area when he made a last-minute reservation 8-hours before we planned to arrive.
After everyone had finally packed and Mikey discarded his extra air-mattress on the picnic table, we fired up the bikes and let them idle up to temperature in the cool, coastal air. Mist and haze were dissipating and small, billowy clouds raced in from the Pacific. Leaving the campground behind we ventured onto Highway 101 and began our northern ride. Traffic had already accumulated preventing spirited riding, but the morning sunlight and the coastal environment kept us all ogling the surroundings as we wandered the 20-some miles between Waldport and Newport, Oregon.
Eric had visited the area a few time in the past and had a good idea about eateries, so as we crossed the arching bridge over Yaquina Bay, Eric made a right turn dropping us down onto Bay Boulevard. Off the main drag, Bay Boulevard is bordered by small shops and apartments on one side and Yaquina Bay and boat harbor on the other. A small coffee/breakfast nook looked inviting. We climbed off the bikes and took a few photos of us with the harbor as backdrop. One research vessel moored nearest us was immediately nicknamed the "Steve Zissou Boat" after the movie The Life Aquatic.
With breakfast warming our bellies, we returned to the bikes and began our trek northward. We still wanted to hit as many of the side routes as possible during the days ride as this would likely be our only real coastal riding on the trip.
Riding north we were greeted with more heavy traffic. All through the last two years of riding we'd seen fewer RV's and Winnebago's proportionate to the increase of fuel costs; the more expensive the gas, the emptier the roads. Not true today. Endless lines of traffic before us and oncoming in the other lane trapped us into our place and we were forced to drone along at a very sedentary pace. At Nestucca Bay, we left the majority of traffic to lumber along Highway 101 while we made a left turn onto Brooten Road, passed Whalen Island State Park then onto Cape Lookout Road [Map].
When we finally got on the road, we headed up the coast of Oregon wherever possible. The only problem was every camper on the road had he same idea. We spent quite a bit of time in traffic, not making very good time, and wasting such great coastal roads. It was awesome scenery though, and doing 10mph we all had a great chance to check it out. Strangely, my bike seemed to be making more power than usual, but how could that be? I'm two-up with luggage! Turns out sea-level is a pretty big difference when you're used to riding at 5 to 8 thousand feet.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
For the first several miles the absence of four-wheeled vehicles allowed us to actually accelerate through corners. Super tight arching turns dipped up and down small, but dramatic, elevation changes. This made the road a roller-coaster delight until we neared Cape Kiwanda State Park where the traffic reappeared and we were once again forced to notch back down to a slow pace. After turning onto Cape Lookout Road, traffic lightened for some of the best corners of the day. They climbed through thick vegetation, offering inspiring glimpses of the ocean through brief openings in the trees.
Once passed Netarts Bay, we turned inland to rally back to Highway 101 at Tillamook. We were surprised to find a densely vegetated pass with sporadic clumps of icy, misty air, spiraling up and over a ridgeline. The road featured several sloughs and cold-patches, but the cornering was more than made up for it. A cluster of clouds had accumulated at the ridgeline and as we crested the eastern side of the small mountain we were treated to a misty descent into Tillamook. Cars were still around, but were scattered about and the steep downhill grade kept speeds decent enough that we were still allowed to enjoy most of the corners.
In Tillamook we stopped for gas and treats, but mostly we complained about the heavy traffic. We had not anticipated so much congestion and assumed that a lot of it was local Sunday drivers heading to the coast or heading back towards the larger inland cities. In any case, we were making very poor time and were already guaranteed another very long day of riding.
We continued north only to get caught in more heavy traffic through Bay City towards Canon Beach, where the famous rock outcropping as seen in the movie Goonies, can be spied from the highway. Sadly, the road was primarily straight and heavily traveled as we road our way towards Astoria. Also, the farther north we rode, the thicker the clouds and mist became and the colder we became.
We stopped in Astoria underneath the famous Astoria-Megler Bridge and wandered into a small seafood restaurant. We all tanked up on Coffee and discussed the route so far and made decisions for how to best cross Washington as well. It was already nearing 3pm.
We were able to make a few nice side road detours and eventually made our way up to Astoria, on the Columbia River and state line between Oregon and Washington. Coming into town, my first reaction was "this place reminds me of The Goonies!" For good reason...that great movie about a group of kids trying to save their seaside town was, in large part, filmed in Astoria . We found a great little place for lunch that had awesome crab cakes. Refilled, we headed out across the bridge to the north side of the Columbia and into Washington.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Besides just being the setting for The Goonies, Benji the Hunted, Short Circuit, Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and Free Willy, Astoria has a significant historic past. First, Lewis and Clark stayed in the area in 1805, making Astoria the oldest U.S. Settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. But the town didn't earn its current name until 1811 when members of John Jacob Astor's Pacific Fur Company established Fort Astor. Astoria also received the first Post Office west of the Rockies in 1847 and the first U.S. Customs office in 1849. Astoria also receives more than 75-inches of rain per year, but today we were blessed with mostly clear skies and dry roads.
Two weeks after returning from our epic Canadian adventure a small Salt Lake festival featured Goonies on the Silver Screen.
Many of us hadn't seen the film in more than ten years, but since we had just returned from Astoria, we all went to see the movie. The seven of us made up the vast majority of ticket holders so we loudly commentated the entire film and pointed out familiar terrain features.
Dave, CanyonChaser since 1994
Crossing the Astoria Bridge was exciting. Before it was built critics called it the "bridge to nowhere" but when completed it was the final link in the Mexico-to-Canada highway system. At over four-miles long the bridge was dedicated in only 1966. It connects Astoria with Point Ellice, Washington by crossing the mouth of the Columbia River. At 1,232 feet long, it is the longest continuous truss in the world! But it's not just the bridge that is unique; the Astoria onramp curves a full 360-degrees while climbing more than 200 feet above the waters surface.
Arching up the circular onramp in the sun, we were charged. What is it about bridges that so inspire and excite more so than any other man-made creation? Riding over the highest point of the bridge we came into a strong cross-wind. It is rumored that winds over this bridge can reach speeds of 150mph! Once to the other side or the bridge and on Washington soil, my joyfulness prompted me to “hoik” a wheelie. In unusual form I actually accomplished one! Gently lifting the front tire what felt like 10-feet in the air (and was actually described to me by Mike as closer to 3-feet), then setting it back down gently. This was a huge contrast to my normal method of plunking the front of the bike harshly back onto the tarmac. Today, I felt like a hero.
Shortly after we got across the bridge, I watched Dave pull his first coastal wheelie. He looked like a stud, fully luggaged up, sport touring and throwing up a wheelie like it was nothing. He would later tell me it was completely accidental. I almost believe him, too.
As we wound through small coastal roads, I also managed to do my first wheelie on the triple. Two-up, with luggage! Making a left hand turn I rolled on the throttle and accelerated towards my friends in front of me, when all of a sudden all I saw was the sky. It was maybe a two foot wheelie, but it felt like a stand up, damn near tip over wheelie! Crystal 's grip suddenly became a lot tighter, and I rolled of the throttle in a less than subtle way and bounced the front end back to the ground. It was the weirdest thing, I was overjoyed and petrified all at once. And I totally understand that wheelies are more addicting than crack. And just as dangerous and expensive.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
We continued our northern progress by staying next to the coast on Highway 101 [Map] where the cool coastal air and the actual sea-level elevation (my GPS read as low as 10ft below sea-level). The bikes were running frighteningly strong. Despite my first wheelie, I was now trying to keep the front end from coming up too much. During a left turn, Mikey came to the same discovery as he hoiked the front of his Daytona skyward, much to the trepidation and joy of Crystal on the back.
Within a few miles of riding inland the road turned to pure perfection. Gyrating along the edge of Willapa Bay [Map], the road traced the shoreline through all its edges and elevation. Making it even better, the road was in fantastic shape. Smooth, black asphalt allowed us to glide over its surface while it's banked and snaking corners, without straights, forced the bikes to pitch and yaw smoothly as we kept the bikes between the limits of the double-yellow line and edge of the road. It was heavenly but lasted not near long enough. A left-turn put us onto the mostly-straight Highway 101.
We stopped again for fuel in South Bend, Washington and chose our gas station based on a chalk-clapboard sign that read “Welcome Norton, Triumph, Kawasaki , BSA, Ducati, Harley, Honda and Yamaha Riders”. Of course others had written in many missing brands. But Mikey and I were delighted that the missing brands written in by hand were not the British marques, but Suzuki. Buell was still absent.
We originally planned to continue skirting the coast on Highway 105, but with the waning daylight we instead chose to continue on Highway 101 [Map], a much more direct route to Cosmopolis and Aberdeen. Besides, 101 looked to have more corners in it anyway. I took up the lead and Kris and I, after a few aggressive passes, were ahead of the rest of the group. Highway 101 offered two lanes crawling over a steep ridge allowing us to skirt around the few cars remaining in our path. Once in Aberdeen, however, it got very confusing as the road system did not make much sense. We needed to head towards Hoquiam, which was the only way for us to continue north on 101. After Hoquiam, the road grew drearily straight. As we neared the Quinalt Indian Reservation a stark reminder of what the world once was came into view. Cresting a hill, a sudden and immediate line of 70-100 foot tall trees stood with an arrow straight boundary as far as we could see to the left and the right. The road entered perpendicular to the treed boundary, and we were instantly cloaked in cold shadows.
With the straight roads and tremendous ability to see miles ahead, combined with our increasing rate of forward progress due to the lack of traffic impeding our velocity, I thought it wise to stop and hook-up my radar detector.
Within ten miles the trees were all but logged to oblivion. We were coming up behind a car that pulled off the road unexpectedly, then pulled in behind the last of us. I thought it strange behavior and became wary. As we were cresting the hill the sun in my eyes made it all but impossible to see when suddenly I had a full-signal lock on the radar detector. Before I reached the crest of the hill I'd managed to get the speeds down below the posted limit, just as an Indian Reservation cop came into view on the side of the road with his radar gun pointing out the window at us. Because we were below the ridge-line he was unable to get any kind of lock on us. Were it not for my trusty Escort Passport radar detector I would have likely flew right into his trap none the wiser because of the sun that was in our eyes.
Heart still pounding over the near miss at being pulled over by a Reservation Cop; I stopped at the first gas station we came to. Discussion was rapid and frantic as we talked the event over, then joked about how Sovereign Nations, like Indian Reservations, can be the worst place in the world to get ticketed.
The sun was starting to get perilously close to the horizon, so we pressed on. Within a few miles, we had left the Quinalt Indian Reservation behind us and ventured into the Olympic National Park where the trees were back and we were once again riding between spears of light shooting across our path. This sliver of federal land features glacier capped mountains, wild coastline and magnificent stands of old-growth forests, including temperate rain forests. About 95% of the park is designated wilderness. A feature more common on National Forests, not National Parks, but the wilderness designation keeps the park even more untouched. The magnificence of the 15 miles of National Park was a stark contrast to the denuded Indian Reservation we had just passed through. It was an unashamed expression of one of the United States wisest decisions in our history; public land contrasting one of our worst; the treatmend of American Indians.
Leaving the Park behind us, the road grew more fun and rewarding as the corners became more common. By the time we reached the town of Forks , the sun was below the horizon and we were left to deal with waning twilight and the imminent encroachment of darkness. I wished we didn't have a reservation as I would have been delighted to stop in the town of Forks for the evening. But we pressed on to discover the rode that I would describe as the best we would ride during the entire trip.
Just past Lake Pleasant, I led the gang left onto Highway 113 [Map] and traveled towards the northern most point of Washington. The road began as a series of gentle, sloping corners that crawled up in elevation through small timber cuts. I imagine this road is the result of logging in the 1930's. But as soon as the road veered us right onto Highway 112 [ Map ], Piedmont Road, the magic began!
Piedmont is the north western region of Italy surrounded by the Alps. The Piedmont region was also home to the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. We thought the reference the road made to a mountainous region of Italy was most appropriate.
The farther we rode, the flatter the light became, but the technical aspect of the road, the smoothness of the asphalt, the scenery, the smells, the foliage and the emptiness of this road grew exponentially. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. The road threw more corners at me than any road I can think of – tighter even than the most technical elements of Sonora Pass , Highway 108, in California . The road felt as thought it was laid directly over the ground without any surface preparation or cutting. Even the medium sized trees were cause for the road to circle around their trunks. Large trees became banked crescents. Steep declines would pitch hard to left, then the right as it neared the bottom, where the road would turn sharply the other direction and begin an abrupt ascent up another hill where it would, again, plummet us down, around several more large trees, then through the meanderings of a draw before side-stepping up a slope. I was in heaven.
As the light waned and the headlights became more of a requirement, I'd felt as though we'd climbed several hundred feet in elevation when the salty scent of the ocean filled my nostrils. Looking to the left I was shocked to see waves crashing against the shoreline, a mere 5 meters away. A bank of low clouds obscured lights twinkling on the Canadian hillsides to our north and the occasional vessel chugged either out to sea or back to port.
Soon dense vegetation and darkness obscured our view of the water, but the road continued with its intensity until we moved inland again. Two cars were quickly passed as the road began to open the kinks and our speeds climbed. A heavy layer of bugs were plastered on my face shield and I began cracking it open for an unclouded view of the road, but then I would slam it back closed again as I would pass through another swarm. I wished we had more light, and vowed to return to ride this section of road again when conditions were more favorable.
Oregon Highway 112 turned out to be another absolutely epic piece of road. For almost 50 miles, the highway offers smooth and clean pavement with barely a straight line to be found. The tight curves will challenge the most skilled riders and the scenery is spectacular. The bugs were quite heavy, and nearly half way through the road my face shield was covered in enough insect sacrifices that I had trouble seeing. But with the visor up and vision clear again, I kept on following Dave and Kris as daylight diminished. As 112 made its way back to rejoin 101 near Port Angeles, we were all stunned and in awe of what might be the best piece of motorcycle road around...considering the phenomenal playground roads in Utah, that's saying something! Hwy 112, the road in itself warrants a return trip to this part of the country!
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
But now it was getting cold and I was beginning to worry about the rest of the group. Kris was right behind me, as always, and Mike was behind her, but the roads sinuous form prevented seeing very far behind or even in front of me. Near as I could tell, Eric and Dawn and Mikey and Crystal were too far behind to see.
We rode up the coast of Washington until we hit the most northwest corner of the continental US, and then turned right onto Highway 112. We ducked onto a little road barely on the map instead of the main road we had originally planned to take. This road turned out to be absolute nirvana. This road is where I hope to go when I die. It made every other road I've ever ridden feel like I-15. It was perfect switchback banked turns through the dense trees. If it weren't for the sunset for the first half of it, it would have been absolute perfection... but that merely gives me an excuse to get back there sometime and ride it in the daytime. Again, as the sun set it got very cold, and Crystal and I stopped for more layers before catching up with the others. We bought some wine and beer and headed in to town to find food. Nothing was open, so we had a McDinner. I was just happy I got to eat something that didn't come out of my tank bag.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
Soon it was completely dark, but we had arrived at the intersection putting us back onto Highway 101. I waited until Kris and Mike were behind me, then turned left heading towards Port Angeles . I soon stopped at the first gas-station we came to, and made sure our bikes were visible from the highway as I proceeded to top off the tanks. Kris and I walked into the gas station and purchased some hot-chocolate and a bottle of wine as we waited for Mikey and Crystal and Eric and Dawn to arrive. Eric and Dawn soon appeared, but it was almost 20 minutes before Mikey and Crystal pulled in. Just like the night before, they'd stopped to put on more warm clothing.
It was bitter cold and Kris was shivering despite her electric vest and her heated grips running on high. We were hungry so we moved on into town to look for food. Nothing was open. We found ourselves wandering the desolate Port Angeles streets looking for anything but fast food. However, fast food was all that was available so we resigned to a meal at the McDonalds.
After the finest cuisine McDonalds is capable of, we ventured forth to find our reserved KOA. We were all utterly exhausted. Over 1500 miles in less than two and half days of riding – and most of that was at slower speeds over technical roads and/or dealing with heavy traffic. We all set up our tents and collapsed until morning.
Because the last three days we had so aggressively consumed miles, we were all knackered. We decided to forego the direct ferry between Port Angles and Victoria, opting instead for several longer ferries. Abstaining breakfast for just a bit, we raced off to cover the 45 miles between us and Port Townsend to catch the first ferry.
Riding east for the first time in three days, we wound our way through the handsome north Washington landscape. Still no rain clouds in site, morning mist wafted between the hillsides and the waterfront beneath a flawless blue sky. We passed through Sequim and eventually made the turnoff to Port Townsend on Highway 20 [Map]. Riding north with the Monday morning commuters towards the ferry made us wistful to live in such a picturesque environment.
As we dropped into Port Townsend the fog grew dense and we found ourselves waiting in a long line to get onto the ferry. Dawn climbed off the bike and wandered off to find out more. Soon she came back and instructed us to move up to the guard shack where we'd pay our boarding fee's and prepare to ride onto the first of many ferries. We were instructed to wait until unloading traffic cleared. When traffic stopped, I fired up the triple and moved around to get in line. Apparently, not all the traffic had disembarked and I had left the rest of the group to endure a severe tongue lashing from the gatekeeper. I have never seen Dawn so angry, at anyone, as she was with me at having earned her an intense scolding. The fact that it was, at least, unintentional soothed her a bit. But I continued to try to redeem myself for the rest of the trip.
Boarding the ferry was thrilling. Due to the mileage we'd managed to cover over two days, we all felt an intense contrast to home, making the world feel even more alien. We left the bikes on the lower deck and proceeded to work our way to the highest level of the ferry. A “musician” of sorts was camped in the main cabin with his harp and a stack of CD's and tried to round up everyone in site for a free concert during the passage to Whidbey Island . “It'll be just fa-bulous!” he'd explain with a classic lisp. It was creepy. But his wares worked. During a retelling from the girls who'd opted to sit in the warmth of the cabin, his rendition of “The Song of the Orcas” sold several of his CD's to passengers.
The boat ride was slightly chilly, since we moved pretty fast, but it was beautiful. There was a gentleman on the boat in the indoor sitting area playing his harp, making the most profound statements. "This song is called Going Home, which I wrote on the last day of my European tour before going home" and "This is the Song of the Orcas, because it sounds like whales." There were even people buying his CD's. I was ashamed of the human race, so I went outside, took some pictures and generally enjoyed the idea of not having to be sitting on a bike with a helmet on. It had been a long, hard three days and we needed a break.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
Outside the intense fog limited vision to less than 50 meters. The ferry's foghorn would regularly sound, and every time that it did Kris would jump out of her skin. Getting tired of the fright, she left for the cabin. A few moments later when the fog horn sounded again, I turned around to see Kris down to her knees due to start she got at the sound of the fog horn.
As we reached the port at Whidbey Island, the fog was already breaking up. Eric led us off the boat and stopped less than a mile away at the first restaurant we saw. Lining the bikes up in front, taking up a good portion of their limited parking area, we walked into the restaurant to find ourselves, very assuredly, in a locals-only joint. Piecing looks from all the patrons followed our progress across the dining area until we were all seated.
All of us ordered up coffee and egg's benedict and we learned that Crystal is very picky about her eggs benedict. One look at the hollandaise sauce and she asked to have it sent back. The single waitress, already obviously unhappy with our presence gave out a very audible sigh and stomped away after Crystal requested a bowl of oatmeal. Crystal was not feeling very well that morning, but her refusal to eat, what we all considered to be most fantastic eggs bennie has become a regular and constant point of teasing even to this day!
Foolishly, Eric asked the irritated waitress for advice on how best to cross the island to get to the next ferry. Her directions, that she promised were a shortcut, got us lost almost immediately, wandering through neighborhoods until Mike put us back onto the main route and we were able to start heading north.
On Highway 20, we meandered our way up the island with no urgency. The next ferry didn't leave for several hours so we enjoyed the sedate pace through the cutest little coastal towns we've ever seen. Contrast to the bitter waitress, everybody waved and drove with excessive consideration. Circling towards Dugualla Bay , Mount Olympus towering almost 8,000 feet above sea level came into view in the distance. The white mountain was hard to pick out against the hazy sky, but made for an amazing site.
We left Whidbey Island behind us as we crossed Deception Pass over Deception Pass Bridge and Canoe Pass Bridge onto Fidalgo Island. Deception pass is named such because it was orginally thought the bridge would link to the mainland. It wasn't until after construction began did they realize they had merely linked two islands to each other.
We then proceeded along Highway 20 [Map] to Anacortes where we'd catch the ferry to Sidney, Canada . The ferry would not depart for over an hour, so we paid the fee's and moved to the front of the line to wait. Off the bikes, we took the time to do some more maintenance to Mikey's bike after the near fatal fire and fuel line fiasco. Eric and Dawn took some time to dry underwear and I'd realized I'd left my towel hanging on the fence in Port Angeles . Mikey said he'd left his wallet in El Segundo. A local Canadian who'd just ridden a good portion of the United States on black 1800 Gold Wing pulled in with us and we chatted about great local roads and, of course, motorcycles. This helped pass the time until the ferry finally arrived. Next stop, Canada!
Being the first to roll onto the glassy smooth, metal decking of the ferry, listening the engines reverberate through the torso of the huge boat, we lined the bikes up safely under a huge steel girder and made our way to the upper decks. Ice cream was purchased and we were, for the first time in three days, able to just sit down and relax. We now had nothing to do for the three hours.
We let the wind blow through our hair as we leaned on the deck rails and watched the local sail boats tack their way through the maze of small islands. The sky was azure and clear, and the air was cool and refreshing. Mike, in a past life, was quite the sailor and began by telling us stories about racing sail boats in his youth. The ferry made its first stop at Orcas Island and we stood mesmerized by a seagull who'd built his nest on the top of a massive piling. The bird looked at us while we looked back down at it until we debarked and made our way back around towards Friday Harbor [Map].
As we neared Friday Harbor, sitting on the top of the ferry grew tiresome, so we wandered down to the lowest most forward deck and watched people load and unload at Friday Harbor . As the ferry began its final push towards Canada we were standing so low and so near the front of the boat, we actually felt like we were moving fast and Titanic reenactments began. Other motorcyclists passengers offered to take a photo and we got the only group shot of the trip.
As we neared the Canada border, we all broke out our GPS units and marked the occasion with a way point, then checked to see who made the waypoint closest to the actual border. Sidney was coming into view in the distance and we got ready to unload. We double-checked that we had all of our paperwork, passport, registration, insurance, etc. ready for the official border crossing and prepped the bikes to leave.
There has been continued discussion of replacing the aging ferry service on the south coast of British Columbia with a bridge across the Strait of Georgia , connecting the province's Lower Mainland / Vancouver area to Vancouver Island .
Support for the construction of the bridge includes arguments that a reliable link to Vancouver Island from mainland Canada will increase tourism and growth on Vancouver Island which will further the stagnant state of the local communities. The opposition argues that construction of a bridge will result in further urbanization of the island and that the area's environment will be negatively affected by construction and the increase in tourism. Other potential problems are the width and depth of the Strait and the soft consistency of the strait floor, as well as high seismic activity in the Vancouver Island region. After just making the journey ourselves, we could understand the time lost by people who have to travel back and forth on a regular basis, but the ferry gives Vancouver Island a much more remote feel and can't imagine ever wanting to see a bridge connect the two areas. Ferrys are just fine by us.
Because they allow motorcycles on first, we are also allowed off first, so as soon as the walking and bicycling passengers were on dry land, we were allowed to fire the motors to life and head onto Canadian soil. Moving through Customs proved to be easy thanks to our passports; one look at the official documents, a few questions about what we were doing there and how long we were planning to say, told that my passport would expire in seven days and we were off.
I'd been advised by a friend who makes trips into Canada regularly, that passports make the border crossings infinitely easier. Since I hadn't even thought about mine since I got out of the Army six years ago, I discovered that my passport would expire the day after we'd expected to return to the United States . Not having the time required to renew the travel document, I decided to just run with it and hope that we didn't get delayed in Canada.
While we were waiting for the rest of the group to be officially checked, my dad happened to call on my cell phone, that had been turned off until we were on the ferry. The ring scared me to death and I nearly knocked the Triumph on its side as a result. I answered the phone and dad just wanted to see how the trip was going. It was fun to talk to him but I was forced to hang up when a Canadian official started scowling at me. I hung up and got ready to leave the controlled border area.
Eric took the lead and rode north out of Sidney on Highway 17, as per some local's recommendation. We then made a left turn onto 17A and proceeded to ride south through the town of Brentwood Bay, along small, traffic free secondary roads that wound their way through a rural setting. We were trying to adjust to Kilometers per hour and were taking in the differences. A bleep of siren and flash of red and blue lights from an unmarked patrol car startled Mikey and I so badly we almost ran off the road. Neither of us were speeding and were baffled as to why and what we were warned of or for.
We found lodging at a crappy comfort inn, where the manager was a bit of an idiot on the number and types of rooms needed, but we got checked in. Kris had the brilliant idea to split the rooms. We put the snoring, early morning risers all in 1 room, and Kris/Dave, crystal and I took the other. Boy it was nice. We got cleaned up and headed out to dinner. On the way we saw many boat excursions promising whale watching, but it was far from prime season. The girls seemed really excited about it, and it was decided that since we were so far ahead of schedule that we should take the following day off, relax, sight see, and go see whales in the early evening. Gasp; relax on vacation? Weird.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
The seafood in the coastal town was amazing, and the exchange rate is still favorable to the American Dollar. We ordered a lot of wine, a lot of fresh seafood and ate way more than we should have. But it was a very friendly restaurant with a very friendly waitress who kept comp-ing us menu items. We were one of the last customers to stagger, literally, out of the restaurant and wander the few blocks back to our hotel, totally satisfied after a very leisurely day that allowed us to recharge our batteries.
Captain, There be Whales Here!
Eric had made reservations to go whale watching, but they couldn't get us in any sooner than 5pm . So we had all day to kill. After breakfast and a trip to the Laundromat, we wandered the downtown area of Victoria while Mike bought some new jeans and I found some new sunglasses. Then we split up. Eric and Mike wanted to see some more of the island while the girls, Mikey and I were content to stay off the bikes for another day.
I flaked a bit and dropped off my riding pants with my laundry forgetting that we were going to ride up the west side of the island and back that afternoon. So, while the others were strolling the Victoria shops, I bolted to the mall to find a pair of jeans to wear that day. After a couple of fruitless stops, I was able to find a pair of "Indian Motorcycle" jeans. Oversized and baggy, "like the kids wear," I dubbed them "Mikey" pants and tried to get used to wearing jeans that hung below my heels and were baggy enough to fit in twice. Actually they ended up being pretty comfy, and I wore them the rest of the trip!
The ride up the coast ended up being just Eric and I, as the others opted out to go shopping and hang around town. We made our way up towards Port Renfrew along a road that twisted and turned, rose and fell, around the inlets and ravines of the west coast of Vancouver Island . The pavement was a bit sketchy, but Eric insisted that it was much much better than the last time he was here, 8 years prior on his Honeymoon with Dawn. If you say so! The road has some neat roller coaster like undulations and single lane wooden bridge crossings, and overall was very nice.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
While wandering the streets of Victoria , Mikey and I came across a stunning Indian Scout parked on the sidewalk on a quiet side street. What we initially observed to be another enthusiast turned out to be a meter-maid writing the owner of the Indian motorcycle a parking ticket for being parking on the sidewalk. The three of us started to draw a small crowd, all of us begging, on behalf of the Indian motorcycle owner, that a parking ticket not be issued. The meter maid would not have it and $50 fine was stuffed into a nook on the handlebars.
Voicing our disgust a conversation was struck up between Mikey and I and a local. Spying the tank-bag that I'd slung over my shoulder he asked “ Where you guys headed? ” I explained that we were from Salt Lake and that we were planning on heading over towards Calgary before dropping down into Idaho . “ Do you have a map? ” he asked. I spun the tank bag around and showed him the British Columbia map behind the clear plastic window on the top of my bag. “ Ahh! Of course!” he stated before giving us the best locals advice ever dolled out.
Pointing out towns on the map he started. "You're going to want to ride north to Nanaimo then take the Horseshoe-Bay ferry to Vancouver …" Which is exactly what we'd planned, but our friendly advisor continued, "… but that would be stupid, instead you want to continue north to the town of Comox."
As it drew near 4pm, we were tasked with claiming everyone's clean laundry and trying to find a way to get it all back to the bikes, then on the bikes and to then find where on earth the whale watching venue was while Eric and Mike were returning from their day ride. None of us thought to ask Eric even the name of the company. Eric thought it was on the west side of the harbor, where it had been eight years ago, but all that's there now is a park. Every other whale watching venue we'd stop at said they didn't have any trips that had left or were leaving for a few hours. We were lost and as mickey's little hand neared six; an hour late, I had given up hope. Kris had talked for years about wanting to go see whales and I felt as thought I'd completely let her down. We would not be able to wait another full day to catch another trip. Kris was handling it better than I was.
As we came back into Victoria , time was getting tight for the 5 pm whale watching trip. Traffic was pretty heavy and we managed to hit every single red light on our way in. Eric asked me to call Dave and let him know that we'd meet them at the whale watching dock, but the group that stayed in town didn't know exactly where that was and it had apparently moved across the harbor in the 8 years since his last visit. With much running around, we finally made it to the docks a bit late, but they waited for us and all was well...even if tempers were a bit heightened and nerves a bit on edge.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Fortunately, the whale watching company didn't want to turn away seven paid tickets and waited for us. When we finally found the shop, the myriad of customers who'd been waiting for us for over an hour scowled at us while we checked our tank-bags and helmets behind the counter and donned our red float suits. They had to go to the back to find a suit big enough for Mike and one small enough for Dawn.
Finally we got in the whale watching, and at this point it had been so hyped and pressured that I was expecting whales to do back flips thru flaming hoops. Anything less would simply not be acceptable. What I got, was far more entertaining, and it didn't even involve whales at all.
Now, I've been on plenty of boats. I had to get on and off a couple just to get to this Canadian island. But, the captain was kind of funny. There was even a protocol of what to do if we turn around and he's no longer on the boat. His spiel took up most of the time for the no wake zone. Once we were out of the no wake zone, however, the little zodiac boat sprung to life. In almost an instant we were clipping along at a quite reasonable pace. Note the use of the word reasonable, it's a relative term.
Kris didn't seem to think this speed was at ALL reasonable. She was convinced we were going to flip over. It was very scary. There was much screaming, white knuckling and shallow, panicked breathing. There was also quite a bit grinding of teeth. Now i had overheard Kris say that she breaks teeth easily, and not wanting her to get hurt (or ruin tomorrow's riding) i suggested she stop clenching her jaw as to not break a tooth with the jarring of the boat. Her mouth immediately opened full tilt. Still whimpering and screaming, still white knuckled. Oh my dear god, it was the second funniest thing I'd ever seen.
After a few minutes of this, she totally adjusted. For a brief, fleeting moment she was even having fun with the boat moving. "This must be what Jake feels like" she said, putting her tongue out of the side of her mouth while the wind rushed by our heads. That right there, funniest thing I'd ever seen. Oh and we did eventually see whales, and learn some little details of the "pods" they live in.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
The Orca, also known as the Killer Whale, is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. It is the second-most widely distributed mammal on Earth (after humans) and is found in all the world's oceans. It is also a versatile predator, eating fish, turtles, birds, seals, sharks and even other juvenile and small cetaceans. This puts the Orca at the pinnacle of the marine food chain.
The name "killer whale" reflects the animal's reputation that goes as far back as the Roman author “Pliny the Elder's” description of the species. Today it is recognized that the Orca is neither a whale nor a danger to humans. No attack on a human by an Orca in the wild has ever been recorded. There have, however, been isolated reports of captive Orcas attacking their handlers at marine theme parks. The Orca does, however, attack whales, particularly Grey Whales.
After a couple hours of mulling about with the whales, we kicked up the speed and headed back into the harbor, and directly into a beautiful Pacific sunset. Back at the docks, we freed ourselves of the float suits and walked over to The Keg restaurant for some dinner before heading out of town.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Mike chose a chain restaurant, a steak house that he was familiar with, and we sat behind huge plate-glass windows as the evening sunlight turned the sky bright oranges eventually fading to dark purples before going dark. The food was exquisite and we laughed over how wound up we'd been over nearly missing the whale watching trip. Kris was still ecstatic over the experience and kept looking at the pictures in here digital camera until the battery died.
We had no place to sleep in town tonight, so after dinner, we returned to the bikes parked neatly in the motorcycle parking on the harbor. We donned all our warm gear and set out toward Nanaimo. Riding north out of Sydney , we found ourselves on Canada 's Highway 1 riding along the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Leaving the city lights behind us, we were swaddled in darkness. Brand new, black asphalt added to the encompassing dark as we rode north, looking out to the east to see the twinkling lights of Vancouver city on the far side of the Straight of Georgia.
Intermittent road construction caused us to stop occasionally in the cold and wait as night waned. Forty Kilometers south of Nanaimo we'd had enough and found a quiet hotel in Chemainus and went to check in. It had been decided that each couple would spring for their own room for the first bit of privacy in more than five days. While Eric and Kris were checking in, I noticed that the hotel manager was clearly Indian, complete with traditional bright red turban. I noted to Mike how neat it was to come to Canada where there was so much more cultural diversity. No sooner had the words left my mouth but I heard the hotel manager explain excitedly “ You are from Salt Lake City?! I too am from Salt Lake City!!!” Apparently, he used to work at the very popular Salt Lake restaurant, the Bombay House, known for its authentic Indian food.
In November of 2005, several months after the completion of our journey, the entire CanyonChasers crew got together at the Bombay House Restaurant in Salt Lake for dinner. We happened to mention to the waiter that we had met a former employee while traveling in Canada . The waiter asked where we had met him. When we told him that we'd met the former employee in Chemainus working at a hotel. The waiter became very excited. “That's my brother!” he exclaimed. Then he ran around telling all the other waiters that we'd met his brother while we were in Canada and were soon introduced to more family members and a God-brother before receiving the finest service imaginable.
Dave, CanyonChaser since 1994
The name "Chemainus" comes from the native shaman and prophet "Tsa-meeun-is" (Broken Chest). Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community.
Because the Comox ferry had a sparse schedule, I insisted that we really should try to get up early and get an early start with the hopes of making the earlier ferry. I really made the point to Mikey and Crystal since they had been the last to wake up for the entire trip. Kris and I then closed our hotel room door and retreated to the first privacy we'd known since leaving Salt Lake . Seclusion must have relaxed us because I did not stir until late in the morning. I'd insisted that we should be moving my 8am at the latest, and here it was, near 9am and I had just wakened. I worried about Mikey and Crystal but assumed that he too had overslept. I could not have been more wrong.
The Golden Coast and Nanaimo Bars
I opened the hotel room door on the sixth morning of our trip and spied Mikey's bike fully packed and loaded, Mike's VFR was also fully packed. Eric and Dawn's bike was not. Mike was used to waking up before everyone but Mikey was very clearly not happy with me in the least. When he and Crystal returned from breakfast he made his disapproval of me very clear.
It was a cool, cloudy morning. The humid air was giving the cured grasses a tinge of green and everything felt damp. Because we'd arrived so late, I really had no idea where we were, but now in the light I could see Kuper Island, belonging to the Penelakut First Nations Tribe, off to the left, [Map] looking back towards the bedroom community of Chemainus. We were still about 50km south of Nanaimo and another 100km south of Comox where the ferry was. About 2 hours away. There was no way we were going to be able to make the next ferry, but we may as well try.
The Mikes were already ready to go, so as soon as Eric loaded up the 919 and Kris and I loaded up our bikes, we raced of to the north on Canada Highway 1 [Map] towards Comox. Highway 1 was a relatively bland stretch that routed most of the traffic just inland from most of the communities that overlook the Straight of Georgia and so it was not much more interesting than the average interstate. Only the occasional stoplight as we passed through Nanaimo gave us anything worth noting. In Nanaimo we had to make a left turn onto Highway 19 that would continue to take us north. The highlight of that first hour of riding was passing a lady Honda Hawk GT going the opposite direction.
As we neared Parksville, the chance of us making the ferry were long gone, so I dove off onto the smaller coastal route. Highway 19A, through town with the hopes of finding a cute coffee shop. Surely there would be a coffee shop in such a picturesque place. The road certainly improved as it became a meandering two-lane road that skirted the shoreline as it worked its way north. The road doubled as many of the smaller community's main-street, but the communities were so small that stores were rare, the coffee shops were nonexistent. But at least the riding was much better.
After passing through the town of Bowser , the road abruptly tuned inland and reconnected with Inland Island Highway/Highway 19. The intersection featured the biggest fuel depot we'd spied for a while, and still craving coffee I led the gang into the station to fill up with gas, and hopefully get a breakfast snack. After eating way to much sugar, Mikey mentioned that hisbike was bogging and chuffing quite a bit. We all guessed that his problem was likely due to the lower altitude and the possibility of some low grade gasoline. So he ran in and Mikey and I split a bottle of fuel injection cleaner.
Leaving the gas station behind us, we only stayed on the Inland Island Highway for a few kilometers before I turned the group right back onto Highway 19A that would keep us close to the water for the last few kilometers to Comox. (Comox is Chinook jargon for Dog, oddly). As we passed through the town of Royston and neared the larger town of Courtenay I spied a Wal-Mart to the left. Dawn had mentioned how she'd really like to purchase a new camera for the remainder of the trip because her current instamatic was getting increasingly flaky. Besides, the next ferry wasn't for four hours and hanging out at the Wal-Mart seemed as good a way as any to kill some time.
Dawn mentioned she'd like to stop for a digital camera, and I'd love an opportunity to have yet another stop for electronics. We headed north thru Comox, where the real trouble started. Dave was leading, and though the sign clearly said "Comox, straight ahead" he got into a left turn lane. Figuring he had misread it, or simply missed it altogether, i pulled up next to him. I yelled that Comox was straight ahead, not left. He yelled back that he knew where he was going. Ok, good enough. As we finish this exchange, Eric is screaming at me. I turn around and give him the "everything's cool" ok symbol, and he keeps yelling. "TURN YOUR BIKE OFF!!" I flick my kill switch. "WHAT?!" I scream at him, knowing that he thinks we're making a wrong turn, and ready to correct him. Instead all I get from Eric is "LOOK DOWN!"
Underneath me is a puddle. Funny, it's not raining. Do I smell gas? My tank was spraying gas all over my hot engine and exhaust, and pooling underneath the bike.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
I moved into the left turn lane and waited for traffic to clear when I heard frantic horn honking from Eric behind me. I thought he was warning me that the left turn was not the way to the Comox ferry, which I knew, so I pretty much ignored the honking and made my left turn and wandered up to the Wal-Mart only to discover that nobody was behind me.
By the time I found my way back to the group, a gasoline puddle was already forming underneath the red Frankentriple. Mikey and Crystal were off the bike and already taking things apart. Clearly the fuel lines had failed again. Only this time a friendly local fellow on a Virago stopped to offer his services. With the tank already removed and out of the way, it was clear that the fuel lines we had replaced in Oregon had completely failed. Our friend the Virago rider offered to lead Eric to a parts store for more fuel lines. But Eric also wanted to rebuild the entire fuel line system with brass couplings. He was off and gone for quite some time.
Eric eventually returns with massive amounts of fuel line and clamps. I try to put the fuel line into the fittings, and it's way too big to seal. He took it upon himself to buy one size bigger to fit the fuel fittings on the tank size, but the fuel rail size will no longer fit. Shit. Guess we'll need to go back. As i stare at the line to try to find a size, i see something else of interest: "Not for use in fuel injected systems" written over and over again along the length of the hose. Lightbulbs everywhere go off as we realize it must have been carburetor fuel line we affixed to the Triumph three days ago, hence the failure. We send eric back out to find fuel injected line.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
Meanwhile, Kris and I ventured over to Wal-Mart to pick up some repair supplies, while Mike disappeared on his VFR to find food. Kris and I returned in time to watch Mike, carrying Pizza boxes, perform a one-handed u-turn and park neatly without sloshing the piping hot cheese and pepperoni. We were all dismayed.
Eric soon returned to partake in the Pizza and inform us of the Virago rider's lack of local knowledge. He had apparently led Eric all over hell's half acre only to find a parts store two blocks away from our current location.
Eric also learned that there is a huge difference between carburetor fuel line and fuel injection fuel line. The fuel lines we'd installed in Oregon were carbureted line and simply disintegrated from the high-pressure fuel injection system. Lesson learned.
But now after spending a couple hours rebuilding Mikey's fuel line system - or rather overbuilding Mikey's fuel line system to prevent any more occurrences of his fuel woes, the time was drawing perilously near to the next ferry crossing. Since the ferry only crosses every four to six hours, we really didn't want to miss this one. So hastily, we returned to the bikes and finished the mornings ride just in time to catch the 1pm ferry ride. An hour-long ferry ride took us past an island gravel pit and across to the mainland of Canada , landing on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia in the paper mill town of Powell River . Being on motorcycles has its advantages in Canada , the only vehicle that was allowed to board before us, despite our late arrival, was a local ambulance. Who could argue with that? Upon departure, I made a bad assumption and started following the ambulance, thinking it would be the best way out of town. I was wrong. There is only one way out of Powell River and going north is the only way to get it wrong. Now instead of being in front of all the traffic, I'd managed to make sure that we'd be behind every single car on the only rode leading out of town.
Leaving Powell River behind us, we had a mere 10 miles of riding bliss. Highway 101 moving south was a well-paved undulating series of hills and draws with and handful of sweeping corners thrown in before coming ending at the edge of a very short pier. The next ferry, Earls Cove, Saltery Bay Ferry, would arrive in 20 minutes.
The daylight was starting to wane and intense rays of sunshine coming from the west were baking us in the parking lot while we waited, until a panel truck pulled into the lane on our right, blocking the sun and the radiant heat. Mikey was so happy for the relief that he bought the truck driver a cola of his choice.
Dave and I hit up the cafe on the boat for a snack. In the cooler i saw a strange looking ice cream bar, granola bar thing that i couldn't wrap my brain around. "hey Dave, what the heck is this?" I ask him, knowing his worldly knowledge far exceeds mine. "Beats me" he says. Crap. What good is he, why did we even bring him?! "it's a 'Naimo bar" comes a tiny voice behind me. "a whah?" I stammer. The 7 year old boy behind me got supremely self concious and literally hid behind his mother's skirt. "No, really. what is this thing?" I ask again, trying to get some info from him. "A Nanaimo bar" he says, shyly. OOOOOOOHHH. A Nanaimo bar.
His mother explained it's a local treat, named after the city we just rode thru, Nanaimo . Local color? psh, gotta try one of those. I pick up a 'naimo bar (hey, gotta talk the talk to blend in, right?) and a coke, and check out. I headed upstairs and hung out on the decks with everyone, absorbing the beautiful view, but mostly enjoying my 'naimo bar. If there were any room and any way to get a case of those things home, I would have done it. They were exceedingly good. Note to self: find recipe.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
We learned that it's a type of chocolate cake with a crumb-based layer, topped by light custard which is covered in soft chocolate. According to local legend, about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies", but "Nanaimo Bars". The entry won a prize, thereby publishing the town as much as her cooking. The official Nanaimo Bar recipe was available as a handout as well as on quality tea towel and apron souvenirs.
In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts, in conjunction with Harbor Park Mall, initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, almost 100 different variations of the famous confectionery were submitted.The Nanaimo bar is so tasty, that many websites identify the dessert item as “Legendary Nanaimo Bars”.
Legendary Nanaimo Bars
The Original, Authentic Recipe
- ½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 5 tbsp. cocoa
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
- ½ c. finely chopped almonds
- 1 cup coconut
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
- 2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
- 2 cups icing sugar
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
- 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Returning to the upper deck, the group dissipated. Kris and I found ourselves on the upper rear deck of the ferry completely isolated. The setting sun was astonishing, casting soft shadows off the enormous peaks that jutted up from the waterline, with no coastal access. The quiet, and privacy of the moment, added to the pure magical air and atmosphere of floating along between these amazing geologic features turned the experience into a memory I'll not soon forget.
As the ferry rounded a mountain, steering to starboard (right), Kris and I wandered down to the lower front deck to find the rest of the gang resting on outdoor boxes containing life jackets. Seeing the next harbor come into view we soon worked our way back down to the bikes, geared up and waited for the gate to drop.
The doors opened and Earls Cove came into view, as well as the opening section of continuing Highway 101. Commissioned in 1967, highway 101 has nothing to do with Highway 101 in the U.S. but the next section to Sechelt, dubbed the Sunshine Coast Highway , proved to be one the best sections of road we'd find on this trip. With the soft evening sunlight peppering us with light, we set out south on the wide smooth section of 101. Never going straight for more than a few feet the road flowed around sweeping bends that all seemed to apex at either the top of a small hill or the bottom of a small draw.
The roller coaster tarmac was surrounded by dense pines that only offered flickering views of the Straight of Georgia to our right. The road was in better condition than many of the race-tracks I've been on and, its predictable, sweeping nature encouraged a brisk pace without any unexpected frights to dilute the fun. Because we were off the ferry first, there was absolutely no traffic for about 30 miles until we neared the small town of Sechelt, where courteous Canadian drivers slowed our progress, but only slightly.
With the ferry ride over, we mounted up yet again and rode to the next ferry. This short jaunt was just about the best short ride I've ever done. It seems as if this route was divinely designed. You take a boat thru the boring parts, debark on your bike, and ride thru some of the most awesome small town, twisty roads. These wonderful roads let you out at another ferry to transport you thru the boring pieces, where you get to rest, take in the scenery and hang out with your friends. Brilliance!
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
With Sechelt in our mirrors the road opened up and became more urbanized with Laundromats and pizza parlors scattered along the shoulders. Small communities of modest homes painted in bright colors watched our progress towards the third and final ferry of the day. [Map]
Once we arrived in the town of Gibsons, we followed the brown signs to the Horseshoe Bay–Langdale Ferry. As the sun settled down behind the horizon, leaving us in a misty twilight, we rode down a long, straight stretch of highway that ended decisively in the ferry parking lot. The next ferry was about an hour away. It appeared to us that the ferry was timed so that one could drive from Powell to Vancouver without having to wait very long. But at our elevated pace, we managed to wait up to an hour or more for each ferry, which was fine with us, because it gave us time to hang out.
As the Horseshoe Bay ferry pulled in, we were astonished by its size! It was five stories tall, four of which could house vehicles! Once again we were at the front of the line and were first to ride onto the lowest level of the ferry, over slick, polished metal deck plates. Be careful with your brakes – traction was at a minimum. Climbing off our bikes we heard the sound of a desmo-twin rumbling behind us. We turned around and watched a Ducati 916 lane split from the back of the ferry all the way up to our position. It was impressive because the rider rarely had more than an inch to spare between the bike, the ferry wall and the parked vehicles.
It was now dark and the guys worked our way to the top off the ferry and found a small deck immediately in front of the bridge while the ladies perused the voluminous gift shop, away from the chilly coastal evening air. It was tragic that it was dark because we could not see the scenery surrounding us other than the twinkling of lights looking down on us from nearby mountains. As it grew later a bit of gale blew up over the water – we can say gale because we were sailing, but it was more of a stiff breeze. The gale was extremely cold and we all huddled over to the lee side of the ferry so that we could keep from getting too cold. Because of the darkness we didn't realize how close we were to docking. By the time we realized we only had a few moments to scurry down five decks to the bikes and get ready to roll.
We scampered down the stairs and rushed to the bikes just as the front doors were opening. Without time to properly gear up, I threw my helmet on without strapping it in place – Mikey left his helmet dangling from the saddlebag – and I left my jacket open. We were advised to get something to eat at a seafood restaurant just off to the left so I didn't anticipate going very far.
I was in the number one position and was able to get the motor started just in time to launch off the boat and onto solid land. The road wound tightly through the parking area before it started climbing steeply. There were no roads to pull off to the side and before I knew it we were on an interstate/freeway type road. All of a sudden I noticed a sharp exit to my right, but I was going too fast to react to make it. As was Kris, although the rest of the gang had time to make the corner.
Thinking that Kris and I would be able to just go up and turn around, or take the next exit I didn't worry. But the complex road didn't offer any exits for almost five miles. It was dark and I was having a hard time seeing, plus with my jacket open I was getting extremely cold. At the first exit, I rounded back to try to find the group, but worried about not being able to find my way, but insisted on stopping briefly to fasten my helmet, zip my jacket and put on my gloves. Rolling again I tried to find my way back towards the dock, assuming that we'd be able to backtrack all the way, turn around and retrace our steps to the missed exit, but as we neared the ferry, we would have had to go through payment gates that were already locked up for the night, so we had to continue for one more exit. Fortunately the next exit was only a few hundred meters away and soon Kris and I were wandering through extremely dark, winding neighborhoods trying to find our way down to the dock. With a little bit of luck we happened to find our way back, 30 minutes after the rest of the group had already sat down to eat.
A local mentioned to us that there was a restaurant just outside the boat dock that would be perfect for dinner. We all decided that should be the plan. We got on the bikes and headed over there. I followed Sax and we got there in about 45 seconds. We parked on the left side of the street just in time to realize that we were pointed the wrong way down a one way street, and that the restaurant was closed. Sigh but where were Dave and Kris? They had been caught in a left-only lane and forced onto the highway towards Squamish. It took them about 20 minutes to find their way back. They did NOT enjoy their detour.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
The restaurant was closed, but the bar next door was still open and served grilled cheese sandwiches and clam chowder and not much else. The rest of the gang had already ordered and the bar maid was bringing out their food when we walked in. We ordered up and were telling of our misadventures when Mikey held up his brand new scorpion helmet to reveal enormous scratches across the face-shield. When he rode off, leaving his helmet dangling from the saddlebag, a sharp turn had dragged the new helmet across the asphalt damaging his face shield. Without a spare shield, Mikey would get to look at the world through deep, opaque scuffs for the rest of the trip. Little did I know, but the last 30-minutes were dreadful foreshadowing to what lay ahead.
Thinking that there would be either a hotel or a campground any moment we rode for what felt like hours over Canadian Highway 99, the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway that I was looking forward to. It is an amazingly winding road that rose in elevation more than 1200 feet. However we saw none of it because of the darkness.
The highway has a checkered history; as a single-lane undivided highway with no outside barrier and built on a steep cliff overlooking Howe Sound. Many motorists have lost their lives on it due to inclement weather, poor visibility, or drunk driving (local media at one point started calling it the "Drive-to-Die Highway"). As part of the 2010 Winter Olympics bid, the provincial government authorized refitting the highway to accommodate Olympic traffic loads, unfortunately widening it and placing concrete dividers. From what I learned, construction will continue and result in a divided four-lane thoroughfare through to Whistler by 2010. It is likely we'll never have the opportunity to experience the technical delight of the Sea-to-Sky highway again. But that was the last thing in my mind as the night stretched into the early morning hours with still no sight of a place to sleep.
Dropping down in elevation, I saw a pullout with a huge lit billboard that featured an aerial view of Howe Sound and the community of Squamish that was now just a smattering of twinkling lights in the distance. Looking at the faded photograph, I became very sad to be missing the stunning scenery passing behind the veil of darkness during our dreary search for lodging.
We got separated and finally back together and found a campground with a free spot. At about 1 am we started to set camp. I, for one, was pretty cranky and aggravated with the evening...I quietly pitched my tent and collapsed to sleep.
As cranky and exhausted as everyone was the night before, it was pretty astounding to see that all were in a great mood in the morning. It's hard to stay agitated when the scenery is so great though. Seeing as how it was dark when we got in, we (at least I) couldn't see the huge rock cliff that loomed over the campground. It was pretty spectacular. As we rose, we struck camp and loaded up the bikes for the next leg up towards Whistler and into the interior of BC. Eric, Dawn and I headed out first to gas up and wait for the others who refilled their tanks the night before. Dawn asked the lady at the gas station for a breakfast recommendation and she wasted no time directing us to Big D's Deli in downtown Squamish. As the group came together we headed there and sat down to a fantastic breakfast. Upon hearing how we found the place, the waitress commented that Judy (I think was her name...) ate there twice a day usually!
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Chef Big D's Deli: 38040 Cleveland Ave. Squamish, BC. (604) 892-0224.
The Food at Big D's was indeed some of the best we've ever had, and the extremely friendly waitress was more than happy to chat about local happenings and take extra care with our food and recommend her favorites or the daily specialties. “ The Blueberry Pancakes are exceptional today ” she'd say, then go on to describe how she had altered the recipe a bit, adding a smidgen more of this and an extra pinch of that, and then how she really likes the results. The conversation then turned to the upcoming Olympic Winter Games and the locals expressed the same fears and apprehensions locals from Utah had previous to the 2002 Games. Awaiting our foods arrival I tried to encourage the locals that the impact to Utah was negligible other than our interstate system is now a lot better and we now have light rail.
The food was stunning and all of us ate much more than we should of and were saddened when our bellies wouldn't allow us to eat any more. In the warm morning sun outside Big D's Deli as huge, billowing clouds meandered across the sky as we wandered in and out of local shops while finalizing bike preparations for the days riding. We were all extremely groggy from the previous night's adventures so we were all a little slow getting moving. Even after we were all rolling north-west, towards Whistler (the home of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games). Olympic signs were already adorning the side of the road, and construction was everywhere until we left Whistler in our rear-view mirrors; suddenly the roads degraded a bit and orange cones and flagging disappeared.
Eastward We Now Go
We stopped again in Lillooet, at what would likely be the last gas station for more than a hundred miles. We topped the tank while half of us decided we needed some energy drinks to keep us awake on the bikes. Eric, having tanked up on coffee was rearing to go and blasted off ahead of us. Mike soon followed on his VFR. While the rest of us lay on the patio picnic table savoring the taurine enhanced beverages. Incidentally, did you know that taurine is an acidic chemical substance found in bile, urine, as well as juices and fluids of muscle, lungs and nerve tissue of many animals, which acts as an emulsifier for ingested lipids and assists in their absorption?, and in case you didn't know, because I sure didn't, Lipids store energy and transmit signals, which is why taurine enhanced drinks give you energy and increase brain and nerve functions.
As we were finishing our bile, urine and nerve tissue enhanced drinks, Eric returned. Apparently he had headed out in the wrong direction and didn't realize his error until the road turned to gravel. So, minus only Mike, who had left on the correct route, we were united for our disembarkment from Lillooet.
We continued on Canadian Highway 99 north towards Cache Creek, the next and only town for roughly 87 kilometers (just over 50 miles). [Map] Immediately the road followed the meanderings of the nearby creek and smoothly wound alongside rural wooden fencing and skirted around clumps of riparian dependant trees, already falling leaves, either from the heat or the onset of autumn. The road began snaking to the north, the south and then began a daring climb as it again aimed us to the north. With the ocean now behind us elevation began rise robbing our bikes of the sea-level horsepower we'd become accustomed to.
The farther Lillooet was behind us, the worse condition the road became, festered into a ragged collection of cold-patches combined with older cold-patches. I was thankful for the more upright seating position and the dirt-bike wide handlebars that gave me more leverage over the front of the bike and relieved the jarring pressures my wrists would have been subjected to if the bike was fitted with clipon's.
The aside from the bumpy road, the scenery was regal. Towering mountains crowded with trees and various other forms of vegetation filled the world around us while the road twisted through the terrain looking for the best way through the mountain pass. Kris and I upped the pace and left the 919 and the Frankentriple (both bikes two-up) behind while we started enjoying the best the road had to offer.
As we passed through, the traffic thinned out and we were on our way up Route 99 to our next gas stop at Lillooet. At the small gas station there, we split up a bit, with Eric and Dawn heading out first, as Eric was "in the groove" and didn't want to stop. I followed out soon after while the rest of the group rested on the porch. As I was stopped on the road waiting for some movie set traffic to open back up, Eric and Dawn pulled up behind me. They had taken a wrong turn out of the gas station and had to catch up. Once the road opened we cruised on and made our way past the slow moving traffic. The road could use a repaving, but the scenery was fantastic...high lakes and rugged mountains of the Canadian Rockies.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
The Continental Road Attacks purely shined; confidently gripping the road, absorbing the harshness from most of the bumps we lacked no confidence as we charged along the unfamiliar roads. Nearing the climax of the road's elevation climb, alpine lakes peppered the scenery. The remoteness was broken by a huge movie crew parked off the side of the road, filming who-knows-what. I was enjoying myself far too much to stop and ask. And within a few miles we, once again, felt we were a lifetime away from the rigors of daily life in Utah . Out of nowhere, a dense clump of traffic paraded along the road before us, impeding our forward progress. Having seen nary a vehicle for more than 30 miles, I simply moved into the oncoming lane and twisted the throttle to the stops. Once passed the caravan of slow-moving vehicles (likely associated with the recent movie set), Kris and I dropped our pace back down to an appropriate rate.
The road began to descend and I noticed an extremely tight right-left chicane down the hill. Traveling fast, Kris and I were required to shed speed fast in order to navigate the first tight corner that passed over a very narrow, single-lane, wooden bridge. Not expecting the dramatic change in riding surface I feared my banked over tires would let go over the treated redwood bridge decking, but once again the new Conti's exceeded my expectation and clung tenaciously, never even slipping an inch.
A few miles further, we all collected at a turnout to gather our thoughts, revel in the scenery and change out of our cold-temperature, coastal riding gear so that we'd be more comfortable in the much hotter inland temperatures we were now experiencing.
Once in Cache Creek, we stopped for gas and lunch at a restaurant that seemed to be out of everything we wished to order, so we made do with what few items existed on the menu and in reality. Leaving the disappointing restaurant, the street sign said it was only another 87kms until Kamloops. [Map] So we set out to tackle the next 50 some miles and stop in the largest town between here and Vancouver , Kamloops , complete with Wal-Marts, McDonalds and other culture sucking amenities. With no mountain pass to force turns, the road became an extremely fast, endless series of sweeping corners tunneling through an endless sea of cured grasses and distant, turtle-shell shaped hills. The road was superbly wide and without any hampering traffic flow. As such, our speeds grew until they matched the road and made the next fifty miles of riding and exciting back road dash, slowing only to allow a helicopter sling load a dead tree over our heads.
The difference in terrain was striking compared to the lush, coastal areas bordering Squamish and Whistler. Now we were riding through Canada 's only true desert ecosystem where green vegetation was sparse and cured to golden browns, very similar to eastern Montana . As we neared Kamloops , we were forced to onramp onto the Trans Canadian Highway (fancy for interstate). Drudging our way, along with all the other vehicles on the road, we suffered the afternoon heat as we dropped into Kamloops . " Kamloops " is the 58 th largest city in Canada and the name is the anglicized version of the Indian-Shuswap word "Tk'emlups" meaning 'where the rivers meet' because the city is located at the confluence of two branches of the Thompson River.
Kris and I were familiar with Kamloops because we'd stopped here in 2000 and found a local Honda Motorcycle Dealer to order a set of “Firestorm” stickers to replace the bland, American “Superhawk” decals her bike came with. I managed to find my way back to the same shop, using only my fragmented memory of the place, and bought a set of new gloves for Mikey as his Alpinestars were threadbare in the fingers. With the day growing close to an end, we snapped a few punchy photos on showroom-floor bikes then disembarked to continue our south-eastward progress, leaving the waning sun at our backs.
We had to endure another 20 miles of freeway riding before we could dive south onto Canadian Highway 97 that would meander its way into larger mountains towards the community of Vernon where I'd figured we'd want to spend the night. Because Kris and I had now followed these roads a five years previous, everything looked more familiar and I felt like the expert of the area, fearlessly leading with my patchy memory.
Highway 97 was pleasant if not exciting. It did, at least, feature continual sweeping corners with small farming or agricultural homes dotting the scenery to either side. Unlike similar areas in the United States were the homes would look tattered and dumpy, the local Canadians must take more pride in their domiciles. The homes were immaculately groomed and very tidy. Even derelict tractors and cars were organized, and at least had the doors closed (unlike in the U.S. where the longer the car is derelict, the more likely the doors will be hanging open like the tongues on tired dogs laying in the grass).
Twilight was now upon us, and rather than ride into town, I opted to make an early right turn onto Westside Road that would, astonishingly, take us along the west side of the 111 km long Okanagan Lake and hopefully to a campground. So many hotel rooms had left our budget a bit depleted. The campground we stopped in was managed by a family that emigrated from Switzerland in the 1960's. He was extremely friendly, if somewhat difficult to understand through his Swiss-Canadian accent, and offered us the most favorable campsites immediately on the lakeshore.
Lake Okanagan is said by some to be home to the lake monster Ogopogo. British zoologist Dr. Karl Shuker has suggested the Ogopogo is a kind of primitive serpentine whale similar to a Basilosaur. Local sightings have suggested that the Lake Okanagan beast is of the 'many hump' variety rather than the 'long neck' type. However, physical evidence for the beast is limited to unclear photographs and films. Locals told me, in delightful Canadian prose, eh, that the sightings were most likely “otters and logs dontcha-know”
After setting up camp in the dusty campground, we opted to avoid a restaurant and instead did a quick dash to a local supermarket for wine, beer, cheese, fruit, bread and wine. It was a fine idea, especially the wine. We happily munched our dinner, listening to the lapping waves of Lake Okanagan , hoping to spy an elusive Ogopogo while getting tingly on Canadian chardonnay and cheeses.
Back into the U.S. of A.
The next morning I was awakened by the sound of Mike's V4 and Eric's 919 coming to life and rolling out of the campground. Apparently, Mike and Eric and Dawn had grown tired of Mikey and Cystral and Kris and my late rising and had started the day with us still snoozing under the early morning sunlight.
Feeling a bit of urgency, I crawled out of the tent and made a quick run to the showers before all the other campers used up all the hot water. However, walking along the dusty paths, back to our campsite, I was already feeling gritty. Eric and Dawn had left a note on the picnic table, informing us that they would be at the nearby Starbucks Coffee, nearby last night's grocery store. We ended up finding the early morning crowd sitting on the deck of the local Starbucks finishing their lattes and pastries and looking like they were ready to hit the road, but happy that we had finally arrived to join them.
It was a perfect morning. A slight breeze moved fresh, cool air around and the low hung sunlight kept everything comfortably warm. Billowy clouds wafted near the mountains to the east. Because Vernon is a small town, everything was quiet and the Starbucks traffic consisted mostly of contractors in worn blue-jeans and earthly looking folks wearing expensive sunglasses and wool socks.
By the time Kris and I, Mikey and Crystal had finished our breakfast we were all feeling ready to start riding. In 2000, Kris and I were motivated by getting home before we ran out of vacation time. We had drawn the most direct line between where we were and where we wanted to be and that took us through Vernon , but also across some of the best roads and nicest little towns we'd ever seen. Today we hoped to follow that same path, only at a little more sedate pace, although we were still more than 1,000 miles from home (if we took the most direct route) and we were on day eight of a planned 10-day vacation, leaving us with two days to cover the remaining mileage.
Leaving Vernon to the whims of Lake Monster Ogopogo, we rode east on Highway 6 towards the small town of Lumby. Almost immediately, any signs of urban-life disappear and Highway 6 turns into as rural of a country road as one could image. Totally desolate, other vehicles become, literally, non-existent during the 134 kilometers to the Needles-Fauquier ferry [Map]. The road is mostly uneventful. Too far west for the mountains to be too dramatic, the terrain is an array of pudgy hills adorned with various amounts of vegetation. The road surface, like much of Canada , becomes increasingly chunky the farther away one is from a large metropolitan area. But the lack of traffic and the constant sweeping corners kept us entertained until we reached the cable driven Needles-Fauquier ferry, and our first crossing of the Arrow lakes.
After the multi-stories tall ferries we'd become accustomed to, the open air, flat decking of the Needles-Fauquier ferry was a welcome change. It was smaller, more intimate and used a thick black cable attached between both shores, and passed through a large electric motor on the deck, to move back and forth. We had to wait about 20 minutes for it to labor its way across the lake from Fauquier to Needles before we could ride aboard.
Staying in our gear, the ferry crossing was over as soon as it began and we were deposited on the other side before any of the other cars, giving us traffic-free bliss for the next 60 kilometers. Not that there was much traffic anyway. Riding along the eastern edge of the Arrow Lakes towards Nakusp, the views were humbling. An endless sea of pine trees bordering both sides of the road, towering 100 feet into the sky. The road was mostly straight and I kept finding myself increasing forward velocity respectively, only to discover that Kris and I developed a sizable lead.
As it neared 11am , we rolled into the small community of Nakusp, the northern most point of our adventure. We rode from one end of town to the other looking for fuel first, then food second. The only gas station still open in town had a hand-written sign taped to the fuel pump declaing “Premium Fuel Only”. The only other gas station in town featured a sign that scrawled in simple block magic marker letters “NO GAS”. Premium was fine with us and we asked the guy behind the counter about the gas shortage. He, very matter of factly told us that they'd just sold all the weeks gasoline, dontcha know.
We rarely have problems finding gas stations, but we'd never run into problems with gas stations having already sold their weekly supply. But now we were ready to move onto other things so we backtracked to a road-side burger stand, built into an A-Frame. Half of us waited in line for food, while the girls ran over to a local drug store with hopes of purchasing stronger Canadian pain-killers. They didn't find any 1000Mg Motrin, but they did come back with packages of “hangover” medication that promised no hangover if taken before consuming alcohol.
When the food finally arrived, we took turns occupying a picnic table in front of the burger joint while we ate our mediocre bacon burgers, fries and grilled cheese sandwiches. But the day was pleasantly cool; particularly in contrast to the triple digit heat they were experiencing back home. Low altitude clouds drifted overhead, blocking sunlight. We'd feel the chill when they moved overhead, then warm up and got hot when the sun broke through and the radiant heat raised the temperature by what felt like 10-degrees or more.
To the southwest of us, the clouds looked a lot darker than we would have liked, so we rummaged through our luggage to make sure our rain gear was near the top, in the event rain decided to attack. We donned the gear, left Nakusp behind us and rode off, with south being the remaining direction for the trip.
Riding south on by staying on highway 6, the temperatures continued to drop until it started to get cold. Kris, Mike and I had moved out in front of the two-up bikes, Mikey and Eric, and soon we could no longer see them behind us. The complexity and challenge of the road increased as corners became more frequent. The road surface was in typical Canadian form, smooth, black tarmac sweeping through corners with the occasional cold-patch. Overall, we really enjoy Canadian roads because, unlike most American roads that bulldoze their way through everything, then when a few accidents occur, the first reaction is to widen and straighten, making so many American roads bland by comparison. The Canadians seem to have more of a European mindset, the roads snake their way through the terrain, connecting its travelers with the world by forcing us to negotiate its features.
Once into the town of New Denver we made a confusing left turn onto Highway 31A that would take us through the Selkirk Mountains. [Map] When we'd come through here in the past, Kris fell in love with New Denver. The town was used as a Japanese-Canadian internment camp immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. Even though the Japanese were not held behind wire fencing, they lived in small shacks, often without any heat and little money for food, but many of the Japanese-Canadians still live in New Denver.
As soon as we passed through New Denver on Highway 31A, the road climbed steeply and began twisting its way up in elevation. The road surface was wet, and the trees swayed violently in the wing, but rain was not falling on us yet. As the road took us further from the last town, the road was once again dry, allowing us to enjoy the technical twists and turns of 31A. We were skirting the rain, and we'd hoped that as long as we kept our pace brisk, we'd be able to stay in front of the weather. Just like, highway 99, after several miles of riding a tight turn would reveal a narrow wooden bridge. The fear of being leaned hard when riding over wood exacerbated the road narrowing down to 8-feet wide mid in a 30mph corner. Despite the fear, it was great fun and forced a high level of attention.
As we raced south, the weather caught up with us and it was time to stop and put on rain-gear or most assuredly get wet. Finding a fairly decent sized pull-out, Kris, Mike and I pulled over and started contorting ourselves into clumsy raingear and heaven-sent heated vests. No sooner had we climbed into the water-repellant gear, but the rain really started to come down. We plugged in and Kris feared being electrocuted because of the water. Wondering how Mikey, Crystal, Eric and Dawn were doing, hoping everything was okay, we returned to the road in order to catch the final ferry of the trip, that we knew to only run a few times a day.
Within a few miles, we made a south turn onto highway 3A, a road that I remembered vividly from 2000 when Kris and I rode these roads. Wandering along the banks of the Arrow Lakes and skirting onto the steep hillsides of the mountainous terrain, the road was as beautiful as it was fun. The rain was deepening the greens and gold's of the late-summer vegetation and filled the air with intensely fresh scents.
Rounding a corner, we saw a very unusual sight. A flagger adorned in orange vest and orange hat stood on a desolate stretch of road holding a stop sign. Not only had we just suffered the first inclement weather, we were now about to suffer the only construction delay since embarking on our journey. However, the unexpected stop allowed me to take a few photos, and gave Eric, Dawn, Mikey and Crystal time to catch up, reuniting the group just before the flagger spun the sign from stop to the more favorable “slow”.
We arrived at the Kootenay Bay-Balfour Ferry and were immediately saddened to see a brand new, large sign with huge bold, black letters; “no priority boarding for motorcycles.” Unable to ride to the front of the line, we were parked in with the masses. After a week of positive treatment, we felt as though we were back in the U.S. again, and were reminded that we were less than 100 miles from the border. The rain, however, had stopped and we were allowed to remove the raingear that I so despise, and stuff it back into our luggage.
Eric, Dawn, Mikey and Crystal soon pulled in behind us and we were reunited in time to be ferried to the east side of the Arrow Lakes , and south to Boners Ferry and the United States . The sadness that the largest portion of the vacation would soon be behind us fell over us as we boarded the ferry. Mikey looked as though he was feeling a bit ill. When the ferry chugged out into the open water, we were hit with a sizeable wind and the waves grew to five foot swells. Cars rocked on their suspension and waves crested the lip of the ferry. The wind blew a fine mist of sea water across everything. We watched as the bikes rocked nervously on their side stands. We all leaned heavily on them to ensure they stayed upright. The ferry ride was long enough that people were getting out of their cars and since we were in the middle of the ferry due to the non-priority boarding, we were dodging and blocking car doors from hitting us.
Once we arrived on the far side, we watched as all the vehicles in front of us lumbered slowly off the ferry while we sat trapped behind them. The worst part was thinking that we'd soon be passing these vehicles within a few miles. Once off the ferry we rode south along the immaculate surface of Highway 3A [Map] towards the border.
We'd stowed a few bottles of Canadian wine and some Canadian beer into our luggage and we now thought forward to the crossing, hoping that we wouldn't get nicked crossing an international border with a controlled substance. Typically, the problem is the other direction. Taxes on alcohol and tobacco are so steep in Canada , that there has been an ongoing problem with bootlegging from the U.S. to Canada . When I was in the Army, I came to this area to report a story where the military was working with Canadian officials to build more robust fences and gates to prevent the movement of the contraband. Now, we'd be taking expensive Canadian goods into the U.S. I couldn't imagine a problem, but you never know – particularly since the events of September 11 have made everyone a bit more paranoid.
But for now, we still had about fifty miles of amazing Canadian roads. Although no rain was falling on us, the roads were wet and glistened in the afternoon light. Tree branches and pine needles littered the roadway from the recent winds and in the distance; over the U.S. border we could see pristine clear skies.
Realizing that we may not have the option to buy fuel for quite a while, we stopped at a gas station just outside of the town of Creston and only a few miles from the U.S./Canada border. Topping the tanks we ran in to see if we would be able to purchase any more Canadian contraband to smuggle into the United States . Having become moderately addicted to Coffee-Crisp candy bars, I purchased almost a case worth of vanilla-latte, mocha and coffee flavored bars and quickly buried them in the bottom on my saddlebag. Apparently, there is an online website dedicated to trying to convince Nestle to market the Canadian, coffee flavored candy bar in the United States. For more information visit www.coffeecrisp.org
We made a few weird turns to get onto Highway 21 that would take us out of Canada. I arrived at the Canadian border first and waved a quick goodbye to Canada and rode onto American soil. Flashing my passport at the emigration official I was asked a few quick questions, thanked for having my passport, informed that my passport would expire tomorrow and sent about my way with a smile. I pulled forward and shut off the bike to wait for the rest of the group to go through the same experience.
Once back in the U.S. of A, the sun was shining the roads that were a few miles ago twisty delights, were now arrow straight meanderings and it was sad to no longer see the signs in kilometers as we were abruptly back in a land we were all too familiar with. After making a wrong turn and adding a few more U-turns to the trips tally, we make a left turn onto Highway 2. The day was waning but now that we were in Idaho , we felt an urgency to make the miles between us and home in the two remaining days.
Within a few miles we were in Montana , big sky country, and were saddened that despite the mountainous terrain, the road continued to be a drearily straight. Welcome to America … At least the Montana speeding policies gave us more confidence with an increased amount of forward velocity.
Wanting to make as many miles before the day got dark, we pressed our fuel range to make it just a little bit farther. Soon the sunlight was shadowed behind the enormous pine trees and we were cloaked in shade. Without the sunlight it grew increasingly cold and I reached up to switch on my heated grips, thrilled that I'd finally made that addition. Rolling through the Troy , Montana I'd decided it was time to stop. It was getting cold, the light was getting flat and the chance for deer crossing became more likely. Unfortunately, I didn't see any hotels in town (and it was way to cold to camp) so I checked that everyone was still in the mirrors and I rolled on the throttle and left Troy behind me and headed for Libby. [Map]
Libby is a town famous for the number of people who have died from asbestos-related diseases due to contamination from local mining. The Environmental Protection Agency has called Libby the worse case of community-wide exposure to a toxic substance in U.S. History.
It was only 22 miles between Troy and Libby, so I just put my head down and pushed out the last bit of riding for the day. I wished I would have looked in my mirror a few more times because by the time we arrived in Libby, Kris, Mike and I were all that remained. We stopped in the parking lot of the Venture Motor Inn and waited for the two-up bikes. We waited, and we waited. It grew colder and dark started to set in and we started to get worried. Kris opted to go get us checked into two rooms so that we'd have lodging for the night and Mike and I raced back in the direction we'd just come. On the outskirts of town I saw the distinctive headlights of Mikey's triple. He was rolling along at an extremely slow speed, but it didn't appear to be any damage to the bike; he'd not hit a deer as I'd feared. I moved to the shoulder as he rode past, I U-turned to follow him and noticed that his rear tire looked odd.
Northern Idaho is beautiful, and it was a great way to welcome me home. At Bonner's Ferry, we headed east on Hwy 2 and into Northern Montana. With Dave, Kris and I in front, and Mike, Crystal, Eric and Dawn following, we passed through the town of Troy. No vacancies available there, so we cruised on to Libby. Dave, Kris and I pulled into a hotel in Libby and faced the road to wait for the others. So we waited...and waited....and waited. Finally, I took off back towards Troy to see what the story was with the delay while Dave and Kris arranged a couple rooms for us. A few miles out of Libby I saw Mike and Crystal coming the other way, but no Eric and Dawn behind them. I pulled a U-turn and tried to catch up. Pulling in front of Mike to lead him to the hotel, he signaled me to pull into a gas station where I learned that he had blown a rear tire and was riding on a leaky plug.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Somewhere just past Troy, he'd hit something that ripped a hole in the sidewall of the Continental. Eric had stopped and they'd fixed a plug into the tire that was barely holding air. They immediately pulled into a gas station to re-assess the damage and I buggered all their efforts by fingering the plug coming out of the side of the tire. As soon as I touched the plug, all the air remaining in the tire rushed out leaving Mikey's Road Attack as flat as day-old beer.
Libby has no motorcycle shop, and clearly a plug wasn't going to work, but it was now dark, cold and we were all tired and hungry. Thankfully, Kris had taken care of the rooms, so we moved the bikes over to the hotel and parked under a streetlight. We lugged our luggage to the second and third floor hotel rooms and gathered up to cross the street to a family style restaurant on the other side.
The food was extremely bland and barely hot, but it did its job. We were exhausted and the fatigue showed heavily on our faces as we discussed options to solve the flat tire issue.
Flat tires on motorcycles take more time to solve than most anything else. Unless we are on the coast, we rarely travel where motorcycle shops tend to stock sport-bike tires, not to mention shops that will stock a sport bike tire other than Dunlop D207 track-day tires. You really shouldn't try to fix a sport bike tire and ride on it for any length of time, which means you need to find a replacement. Shops on the road are known for charging 30% over retail to customers who are on the road. So we typically end up paying through the nose for a tire we would never buy otherwise.
But we'd have to deal with that tomorrow. For now, we retreated to the hotel room, and after a few stiff drinks passed around, we all passed out from alcohol encouraged exhaustion.
The phone rang. Slowly I realized that I probably needed to answer it. I rolled over and looked at the generic, hotel-room alarm clock; it was two o'clock in the morning. I picked up the receiver and croaked out a groggy “yeah.” The voice on the other end sounded frantic, “Sir, are you the owner of the motorcycles outside?” I was suddenly more awake as I answered her question. “Sir,” she continued, “there's been an accident. Someone has crashed into your bikes and the police are outside investigating.”
I turned on the light to reveal a very unhappy looking Mikey and Crystal and Kris pulled the covers over her head. I snapped out a quick summary and watched as they too were suddenly awake and started pulling on pants and boots. I quickly dialed the other hotel room and Mike answered. I explained and hung up, then began looking for clothes to put on. The only thing going through my mind was how much damage?
We raced out of the hotel room and rounded a corner to get a really brief glimpse of the bikes. All five of them were laying flat on their sides and from the angle I was at combined with the eerie shadows being cast by the flashing emergency vehicle lights and streetlamps, I could see pieces of plastic bodywork glinting.
Who would do this? Have they caught the guy? How fast was he going to knock over all the bikes? I was thinking as fast as my feet were moving. Mike, Eric and Dawn were already on the scene, and we learned that no damage had occurred, but that we were the victims of a stupid-small-town prank. Apparently someone (or a group of someone) thought it would be funny to lay all the bikes over on their side – not knock them over, but gently lay them over. They had even been thoughtful enough to prop Kris' new Z1000 up on a bottle to prevent unnecessary damage.
The officer on the scene didn't seem like he wanted to do much. As soon as we learned that the bike were purposely laid on their sides, he got in his car and drove away. No options to press charges or file a complaint or anything. We were just left standing there. We did, however, roll the bikes over to the front entrance of the hotel so they would be clearly visible to the front desk clerk, hopefully thwarting any future attempts at vandalism. Mike asked the hotel manager if "bike turndown service" was listed as an amenity.
We returned to the rooms, still in a state of shock, and wide awake after the events of the past hour. When we returned to the bikes the next morning we noticed that every one of our bikes had suffered a bent rear brake pedal and a scuffed handlebar. Those of us with bar-end mirrors received a little extra souvenir, but Kris' Z1000 suffered the most damage with a scratched engine case and a minor dent in the tank where the handlebars must have impacted during the foray with the rednecks. Overall the damage could have been a lot worse and Mikey's rear tire immediately drew our attention away from the sabotage.
They Have U-Hauls for This Very Reason
After spending some time with the yellow pages we found a suitable tire in Kalispell, 90 miles away, and we were able to arrange a one-way rental in a U-Haul to transport Mikey, Crystal and the Franken-triple. The only remaining question was how to get the triple into the U-Haul. On the west end of town there was whatever was left of some sort of loading facility. All that really remained was some concrete, almost invisible to the world behind all the grass that was growing between the cracks. The derelict loading dock was almost exactly the right height and dimensions for a U-Haul truck. Mikey rode the flat-tired triple over while Eric drove the U-Haul and backed it into the loading dock and within a few moments we had the bike in the back of the truck. We strapped it down with some recently acquired tie-down straps and hoped to hell that the bike wouldn't tip over during transport as the U-haul didn't really have the facilities for optimum motorcycle transport.
While Mikey and Crystal began the drive into Kalispell, the rest of us sat down to a quick breakfast at the hotel and swore to never return to the insipid town of Libby . Mike proclaimed to the group “my bike got laid in Libby” and we all tried not to spew our coffee across the table, got up and left Libby behind us. The rode between Libby and Kalispell was boring and uneventful. The stress of the last several hours had us all chomping at the bit to go really fast and put as much distance between us Libby.
After passing McGregor lake, and wondering if Ewan came this way during his Long Way Round adventure, we arrived in Kalispell not long after Mikey had unloaded his bike at Leland Honda and was getting the tire swapped. Contrast to the average shop that charges extra and makes us wait, Leland Honda was the polar opposite, they discounted the tire, pushed him in to the front of the service line and had the tire changed within an hour. The most shocking part was that they discounted the price of the tire. Because of how well Leland Honda treated us, we'd list them as a trustworthy shop for any traveler on the road in the Kalispell, Montana area.
While waiting for services to be rendered, Eric, quick on his feet, anticipated that the northern gate of Yellowstone National Park on a Saturday night would likely get booked out relatively quickly. The extremely helpful staff at Leland Honda gave us access to the internet and allowed us to look up the phone numbers of several hotels in the vicinity of where we'd hoped to stay the evening. Eric was right, only a few rooms were still available in any of the affordable hotels, and was able to snatch them up, guaranteeing us lodging for the evening.
The ride was fortunately uneventful, and with the exception of a couple curves, the roads were quite uninspiring. But, Montana is a beautiful state, and we got to see an awful lot of it. We arrived in Livingston before dark, got settled in and had a nice Italian dinner and a few drinks in the bar. Fortunately, the gal behind the parts counter at Leland helped us look up some hotel information, and we were able to make a reservation. By the time we got there, all rooms in town were booked, and we would have been out of luck.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
With a brand new, un-balanced, Pilot Road tire on Mikey's bike (the Leland didn't have the equipment necessary to balance the single-sided-swing arm Triumph wheel), we were ready to hit the road. Now, while many have talked endlessly about the beauty of riding trough Montana , we've yet to see it. Western Montana is mountainous, while eastern Montana is quite flat, and even diligently staying in the western portion of the state, the roads are straight, flat and extremely boring. Its not wonder the speed limits have been set high in Montana . The riding is only remotely better than Nevada , and only so because the temperatures tend to be cooler and the scenery is better (endless grassy fields as opposed to endless scrub fields).
Stopping only for gas, the entire day blurred together a series of gas stations. We raced down road Highway 93, turned onto Highway 35, riding along the backside of Swan Lake (east of Flathead Lake), [Map] we made our first stop near the Double Arrow Golf Resort, where we wasted a lot of time monkeying around with the bikes. I'd thought Kris' had burned out a headlight bulb and Kris was complaining that it was almost impossible to see when it got dark. It turned out that the plugs were actually just transposed. So only one bulb would be on when she was on hi-beam, switching the plugs made it so only one bulb was on in the low-beam setting and the focus of the lenses and bulbs were correct, vastly improving Kris visibility at night.
We continued down Highway 93, and then turned onto Montana Highway 200, then south onto Highway 141, and another turn onto Highway 12, where we got to partake in about six corners before making our next stop in the town of Helena . My chain was getting increasingly loose and was starting to show a dramatic increase in wear. I adjusted my chain, and since the tools were out, we adjusted Mikey's chain and snugged the kick-stand bolt on Kris' Z1000 (which, for some reason, tends to come loose on a regular basis.)
After witnessing some of the most atrocious riding style ever exhibited by a sport bike rider, we left Helena behind, we rode east. Down highway 12/287, until we linked up with Freeway 90, we endured the final miles between us and our hotel for the evening in Livingston , Montana.
We checked into the hotel and unloaded the bikes, happy to have the last days riding behind us. But we were now faced with a decision. We had planned to be back Sunday evening, tomorrow evening. Which would require another day of hard riding to make it back in time, but many of us felt like we could afford to day one more day of vacation, enjoy Yellowstone National Park, spend Sunday night in Jackson Hole, then ride home Monday. We considered breaking the group in half but everyone agreed that we could all afford, and quite honestly, felt like we deserved one extra day – and so it was decided. We grabbed an overpriced dinner in the hotel restaurant and moved directly to the bar where we proceeded to drink a few too many whiskey sours to end the day with.
Sunday would be spent in Yellowstone and we awoke, packed the bikes and crossed the street to a log-cabin themed restaurant for pancakes. Near the end of the trip we had all fallen into the same rhythm and were even starting to get hungry and tired at the same time – even craving the same foods. We were becoming a well oiled machine – sorta…
Breakfast took forever, but we were happy for the break and took up the time taking turns in the tacky gift shop while we all made last minute changes to the days wardrobe. It was unseasonably cold outside and we kept running to the bathroom to add or remove layers of clothing in anticipation for the conditions we thought we'd encounter through the day.
We left Livingston behind us and started on the second to the last day of riding by riding south on Highway 89. The end was drawing near and none of us wanted to see that happen. We'd traveled an incredible distance and we were already having a hard time remembering the exact sequence of events as we thought back of the last 10 days. We entered Yellowstone through the north gate and rode straight to Mammoth where we stopped again at a gift shop. We perused and returned to the bikes. I was surprised by the light traffic, but since we were in Yellowstone , I'd wisely re-installed my radar detector. I'd only had it up and running two times previous to today, the first evenings ride through Boise , then again in the Indian Reservation in Washington. Using the detector in Washington had saved us from a potential extremely expensive citation and now it was about to do the same again.
There was virtually no traffic as we entered deeper into the Park, and I was watching my GPS closely to monitor my speed. I'd set the speed to be no greater than 45mph, 15mph faster than the posted limit. Fast enough to make the roads fun, but slow enough as to not draw too much attention. Suddenly my radar detector buzzed to life, chirping its warnings into the speaker wired into my helmet. I immediately slowed down to 35mph, 5mph faster than the posted limit, just as a park-cop came around the corner. He veered into a pullout on the far side of the road and turned on his deck lights without stopping. I'd slowed another 10mph, to 5mph below the posted limit, and raised my hand, palm towards to officer, as if to wave an apology.
Either my quick reaction or my wave was enough to deter the officer who turned off his lights, and continued about his way. I, of course, resumed my 15mph over the posted limit speed and carried on enjoying the light traffic.
We had originally planned to circle over towards the eastern end of the park and cross to the south over Washburn Mountain Pass on the Chittenden Road , a little used route that most visitors don't seem to visit. However, the park is under perpetual construction and this week Washburn Pass was closed. So we left to go with the flow of everyone else and ride south towards Canyon Village where we stopped for lunch, lattes and ice cream. We perused the bookstores and bought a few novelties, including a t'tonka buffalo for Jake the wonder dog, who'd been left home alone. We strapped the t'tonka on top of the luggage on the back of the bike so that it'd likely pick up many of the scents we would encounter over the remaining two days.
We stopped for lunch at the Canyon Lodge then parked the bikes to take a look around at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone . Afterwards, I headed out ahead of the group and cruised south where I was stopped in the road by a crossing Buffalo, stopped to check out the bubbling mud pots and just enjoy the scenery at a leisurely pace. Outside of the south entrance of Yellowstone and as the road continues into Grand Teton , I stopped for gas and to let the group catch up, which they did a few minutes later.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
We took a few quick side trips to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, snapped a bunch of photos and took in a few of the sites before we started feeling urgent to move on before we were to run out of daylight.
We also chose to cross Hayden Valley where most of the animals tend to congregate, and were fortunate enough to watch as an enormous buffalo waded across the Yellowstone River. It was almost as much fun to watch the tourists react. Buffalo 's kill more Yellowstone tourists than any other park resident. It seems the large, slow moving buffalo makes many people think of them as they would a Jersey cow. However, most Jersey cows don't have to content with many predators where the Buffalo do. The American Buffalo is also the largest terrestrial mammal in North America and can live up to 40 years old.
Bison are now raised for meat and hides. Over 250,000 of the 350,000 remaining bison are being raised for human consumption. Bison meat is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef which has led to the development of beefalo, a fertile cross-breed of bison and domestic cattle. Creepy…
After riding past the scenic vistas of Yellowstone Lake and out the southern gate of the park, the sun started drooping towards the horizon. We rode south towards the Grand TetonMountains and stopped at Flagg Ranch for some energy drinks and to soak in some sun before we stopped again at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center to take in the views of glacial Jenny Lake.
A good portion of the vacation was now behind us. We rode through Jackson Hole almost embarrassed that we were from such a nearby location. It was so more fun to see the reaction of people when we answered their queries to our origin when we were 1500 miles from home, as opposed to now when we were merely 250 miles from home.
Just south of Teton Village , beyond the town of Jackson Hole , along Moose-Wilson Road is the only KOA in the area. It is also the KOA with about the worst staffing we've ever experienced. I suppose they can be that way because a lot of visitors, like us, are too cheap to stay in any old hotel and so find ourselves at the much more affordable KOA. We hate this KOA, they are rude and can really suck the joy out of a vacation. Their only redeeming value is right next door is a wonderful restaurant.
We checked in, set up tent and downed a few beers before we walked south to the dining facility. This would likely be our last meal together on the road. In the morning, Eric and Dawn and Mike would leave at the crack of morning and head for home. Mikey, Crystal, Kris and I would take the scenic route home, stretching the trip out for one more day. We reminisced and drank way too much wine (except for the Mikes, who don't much seem to care for wine – weird, we know) and w ate more than we probably should have before stumbling back to our tents for the evening.
Day 10 was actually the last day of the whole group riding together. Since we were a day late getting back, Eric, Dawn and I headed out early to take the fast route back to SLC, while the rest of the group took the scenic route over Tin Cup, down to Bear Lake and all the curvy roads back into the Salt Lake Valley. You'll have to ask them about that! Eric, Dawn and I took the boring and straight, but fast, route home and arrived in Salt Lake about 1:30 pm.
Even with the breakdowns, busted tire, tip over prank, and frustrations common to any group that's traveling together for 11 days, the trip was awesome. We saw some beautiful places, road some of the finest pavement around, saw Killer Whales up close, had a lot of laughs, avoided tickets and injury (from crashes and each other :) ) and were only a day late getting home. We traveled almost 3500 miles, the VFR was a champ and as fun to ride as always, Kris seemed to love her new Z1000 (my old Z1000) and I was happy to see her riding it as well as she does, Mikey's bike gave us some fits (but that's all part of the adventure), everyone rode well, everyone's spirits stayed high, and I hated getting home. After 11 days on a bike, that pretty much becomes your life. When I woke up today and didn't have to stow a tent, pack saddlebags and spend the day looking out at new great places through a helmet visor, I didn't know what to do....I guess I just go sit at my desk and get caught up on emails and fall back into the routine that I have to tolerate in between trips.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005
Before we climbed out of our tents, the red VFR and black 919 had already departed. We were now down to a mere three bikes; Mikey and Crystal on the Franken-triple, Kris on her Z1000 and me on the green Speed-Triple. We packed up crap for the last time, and with out much concern because it only had to travel one more day, then rode back to Jackson Hole for Kris and my favorite breakfast spot that specializes in sourdough everything, including sour-dough pancakes; Jedediah's House of Sourdough. Mikey was not impressed and was unable to finish his short stack.
After Mikey endured his way through breakfast we set out to make the last days worth of riding. We've made this trip hundreds of times so I would lead the group home from memory. If you take the direct route, the route most people take, it's a miserable day of riding. All straight roads with mediocre scenery but our route is phenomenal, and I felt bad that Mike, Eric and Dawn would miss it. Work sucks for that.
We rode south out of Jackson Hole on Highway 191/189/26 to Hoback Junction where the road changes name to the equally inspired Highway 191/89/26 to the small town of Alpine, Wyoming. This road has been under construction since before Kris and began dating. Years past, about 1996-ish, some monkey threw his cigarette out the window, which caused the August grasses to catch ablaze and denude the steep slopes of vegetation. Come the next spring, with all the heavy rainfall and snowmelt, half of the mountain slid down into the river, taking most of the road with it. That was ten years ago, and this was the first time I remembered ever actually riding the canyon.
In the past, it was much more technical and “quaint” than its three and four-lane current self, but with the amount of traffic the road takes up to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone , this is one of the few roads I'm okay that they changed. Once to the far side, we rode south on Highway 89 then turned west onto Highway 239, which turns into Highway 34, and one of our favorite Canyons, Tin Cup Canyon. [Map]
Tin Cup ends in Soda Springs and we made another turn, heading West, but only for a few miles, where we turned south on Highway 34. Within just a few miles, we stopped for fuel in Grace Idaho then continued south. Highway 34 is arrow straight as it punches its way towards Preston , Idaho (the setting of the film Napoleon Dynamite). This is one of my dads all time favorite roads, but I think very little of this road. A few miles south of Grace the road starts to lazily wind its way through the terrain, but the corners are so gentle and so spread out that it takes a great deal of forward velocity to make the ride fun.
Just before we arrive in Preston , Idaho , we made a quick turn to the east to jump onto Highway 36, that basically back-tracks north and then east towards Bear Lake . This is certainly not the most direct route, but it is the best way to ride Highway 36, Mink Creek Canyon , a favorite of ours from when we attended College in Logan , Utah , an hours drive south of us. [Map]
On the far side of Highway 36, we rode south, as we were once again on Highway 89. We passed through the town of Paris Idaho , home of Bell Helmets, then the town of Bloomington and then the town of St. Charles . Highway 89 is painfully straight and empty. Except each of these small towns have a sub 40mph speed limit and a local patrol officer ready to nab anybody lulled into speeding through town.
Bear Lake is often noted for its deep blue color, and for this reason is sometimes nicknamed the "Caribbean of the Rockies." The area is a popular summer tourist destination and holds some of the best beaches in the intermountain west. The lake has many marinas, beaches, and is noted for its raspberries.
We crossed back into Utah , and then stopped at La Beau's burger joint in Garden City. I used to make television commercials for this joint when I was in college. They have fantastic burgers; their La Beau Special is still one of my all-time favorite grease-bombs. Plus, one cannot travel through Bear Lake without stopping for a Raspberry shake. To do so would be criminal.
Sitting in the afternoon sun while bikini clad sun-worshipers ordered french-fries all around us, spouting the local colloquialisms of “oh my heck”, we suddenly felt like we were home; the vacation over. We would ride home on roads that we ride frequently on weekend rides. With only an afternoon of riding left, we no longer had the unexpected in front of us. From here on, everything was familiar.
We left Garden City behind and rode south on Highway 30, and six very technical corners separating the lush Bear Lake valley from the emptiness of Wyoming high-desert. We turned south onto Highway 16 and watched the empty landscape whiz past as we raced towards the town of Woodruff where we would turn west to catch Highway 39, Monte Cristo Canyon, that would take us to the familiar rider hangout of Huntsville. [Map]
Monte Cristo Canyon is a wonderful road, and today was no exception. Because it was Monday afternoon we had very little traffic to contend with as we rode up to almost 10,000 feet of elevation, to come out on the other side with the Wasatch-Front just beyond view. We rode south out of Huntsville , and up and over Trappers Loop Road , built to facilitate traffic for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. We then hopped onto Highway 84 and rode east towards the town of Morgan . We had gone full-circle. Eleven days ago, we were riding the opposite direction, heading out on an adventure. We exited the Freeway in Morgan then took East Canyon back to Interstate 80 [Map].
Riding into the western sun, we waved goodbye to Mikey and Crystal as we took our respective exits that would take us home. The adventure had ended, only to be re-experienced through the ramblings of this document. Hopefully, besides the bulging photo cards, worn tires and bug smattered headlights, we had each taken at least two things home on this trip;
It has long since been our tradition to bring home a stuffed toy for our beloved dog, Jake. We try to leave the toy outside the luggage so it picks up all the scents from everywhere we've been. Over the many years Jake was with us before he went off to the giant-dog-park in the sky (fifteen) these toys were always his favorites.
Looking Back at another CanyonChasers Adventure
Stay positive and any Sport Touring trip will be fun, no matter how many things don't go your way.
Treat fuel lines with the respect they deserve. There is a huge difference between carburetor fuel line and fuel injection fuel line. The fuel lines we'd installed in Oregon were carbureted line and simply disintegrated from the high-pressure fuel injection system.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2003
Getting invited at the last minute means that you don't have to sit around for weeks waiting like a kid for Christmas.
Don't expect to get any miles in before breakfast and don't expect to pitch a tent in the sunlight.
When the natural color of the road is the same as the natural color of the sand, you will not see the sand before you're in it.
Mike, CanyonChaser since 2005