19 August 2012
Sunday morning found us riding north on Hwy 9 under cool, cloudy skies. We crossed the US – Canada border at Sumas and continued east on the Trans Can (Hwy 1) to the town of Hope BC. The wind was screaming up the Fraser River Vally, but the sun was trying to peak out for the first time in the day. We found a room for the night in a funky old motel. The City Centre Motel was just barely a step up from some of the shady flophouses in good old north Everett. For any of my “cop” buddies reading this, visualize The Waits Motel and then add a smiling Korean desk clerk and you should have a pretty clear picture of the joint.
Hope is the place where the 1982 Rambo film was made and a whole list of “famous” shooting locations was available at the visitors centre. We settled for a BC road map and some photos of me and Mr. Happy (or Monsieur Heureux in French) in the Johnny Rambo life size cutout. Sweet! Or should I say, “Yo!”
We took a little walk down to the banks of the Fraser River and then grabbed some root beer milkshakes for the walk back. Map recon was my evening entertainment.
20 August 2012
We woke to find the wind was down (good) but there was a thick layer of grey clouds blanketing the mountaintops. The previous nights decision whether to take the shorter route up over the 1244 meter Coquihalla Pass, or the longer, but lower route, up the Fraser River to Cache Creek was made for us. Cache Creek here we come.
Our ride up the Fraser River canyon was beautiful. The area was dripping with gold prospecting history. Boston Bar, Hell’s Gate, North Bend and a dozen other locations brought thousands of miners into the country and generated millions of dollars in wealth for the nation. In fact the first discovery of gold in Washington state was made by a group of prospectors headed to the Fraser River. The travelers had stopped to camp for the night along the Cle Elum River when one of the miners scooped a pan of gravel out of an eddy in the stream. Ta Da, he found some gold. Some of those miners pressed on north and some of them stayed in the Kittitas Valley to stake their claims. But I digress…
Did I mention that the temperature reached 97° F on the way up the canyon. Yep, that’s 36.1°C if you’re trying to make the conversion in your head. Yikes! Finally we rolled into the town of Clearwater and found a little motel just off the highway. The Ace Western Motel was clean and comfy. I took advantage of the scorching air temperatures outside to do a little bit of laundry in the sink.
We headed north on Hwy. 5, known as the Yellowhead Highway. The 2960km highway was named for fur trader and explorer, Pierre Bostonais. Apparently he had blond streaks in his hair and the First Nation peoples called him “Tête Jaune” -yellow head.
Bear! We saw our first bear just south of the settlement of Valemount. He/she was just lounging at the edge of a parking area along the road. The bear was more attentive to the two ravens that flew over his head than he was with Suzie and me. After a few distant photos we mounted up and prepared for a “drive-by” photo op. Not dangerously close, just a little closer as we made our turn around. Susan had her camera ready but I don’t think she was 100% committed to the plan because when I reviewed the footage later all it showed was the back of my riding suit.
We had a nice little break in Valemount at the Swiss Bakery. The nice folks at the visitors centre suggested that we check out Rearguard Falls. Just upstream from where the North Thompson River joins the Fraser River, Rearguard Falls is a rip-snorting jumble of water. The falls are the end of the road for migrating Chinook salmon that make the 800 mile (miles not kilometers) swim up from the Pacific Ocean.
We had a little bit of a milestone ourselves. As we cruised along the picturesque Moose Lake our motorbike rolled over 10,000 miles on the odometer. Sweet! Shortly after that we were in Alberta. We paid our Jasper Nation Park entrance fee just as the rain started to fall. Rather than stop and get decked out in her rain suit Susan said we should make a run for it. About 21km later we pulled into Jasper and started scouting around for a room for the night. Once again the girls at the visitor centre helped in narrowing down the choices. Was it expensive? Well, all I can say is “Sorry Travis”, my first born male child will need to serve as an indentured servant for the next seven years.
We avoided most of the tourist shop nonsense but did buy some little bags of tea and had a nice dinner. Then it was back to our hotel to watch the massive thundershowers and a double rainbow. Ok, I wasn’t the first person on the balcony of the hotel to yell, “double rainbow”… A young Korean girl broke the ice… Then I joined in. If you have no idea what that’s all about go to YouTube and watch this video double rainbow.
22 August 2012
Man, we went from 97° to 47° in the span of a day. Everything was wet, really wet, but the rain had stopped. The thick layer of fog on the deck spiked the idea of taking the Jasper Skytram. Instead we plugged in our heated jackets and started down the Icefield Parkway.
There is a reason that this route is right at the top of the list of spectacular motorbike rides on the planet. The views were stunning in every direction. I’m gonna just shut up here for a bit and let the pictures and video tell the story.
We pulled into Lake Louise at the southern end of the Icefield Parkway. Susan had actually looked into prices for overnight accommodations…apparently the word had spread down from Jasper that I’d already given my first born. A room at Lake Louise will cost you no less than the ” donation” of a major organ. We kept our kidneys intact and rode west on the Trans Can (Hwy1) to the little mountain town of Golden BC.
As we negotiated a particularity sketchy section of steep and twisty roadway, I looked over to the shoulder and right there on the side of the road were about 20 big horn sheep. Susan, always the trooper, scrambled with the camera, but we were past them before we could get a picture… And there was no safe way to stop or turn around. Suzie was kind of bummed out that she’d missed them, so I said, “Don’t worry there may be more”. As those words were making their digital way from my helmet mic to her helmet speakers, Bam! A huge full curl ram right next to the road starring up at me as we passed. Score!
Golden was warm and sunny when we arrived. We booked into a Super 8 (more accurately it could be called the average 8). After a little hot tub time we settled in with a bag of gas station snacks and the left over pizza I’d had the night before in Jasper. Living large!
23 August 2012
We were up and out kind of early. Our world was in Mountain Time but we were still living in Pacific Time. Our day started sunny and cool, but no one could miss the dark black clouds hanging over the mountain peaks just ahead of us. We motored west on Hwy. 1 dodging in and out of a few little thundershowers. Immediately my wildlife scanning was put on hold as I was forced to concentrate more intently on my bike handling.
We had two more National Parks ahead to visit. Glacier NP and Mount Revelstroke NP were separated by a mere 16km, and we had researched a couple of short hikes in each park. We stopped into the visitor’s centre at Rogers Pass just as the rain started falling with some enthusiasm. Ok, this is it, I thought… We’d been pretty lucky so far with the rain, was this the place where we had to pay some dues? I decided to switch to full on rain mode – bootie covers out, tank bag in the top case, waterproof gloves… It worked like a charm because about 3 kilometers down the road the rain quit for good. Bam! Take that Mother Nature.
We hiked a very cool boardwalk trail through an old growth hemlock forest in Glacier NP. Then we hit another sweet boardwalk trail through a skunk cabbage marsh in Revelstroke NP. As the day wore on we continued down out of the mountains and the temperatures began to climb up, bit by bit. We crossed the Columbia River at Revelstroke. Man that thing flows half way around the world… Well, not quite.
Once we got to Sicamous, BC we turned south on Hwy. 97A. This was the Okanagan Valley, the same valley that we would follow all the way south to US Hwy 2. It was about here that, as Susan would describe, my horse started to smell the hay in his own barn and wanted to gallop for home. Easy there cowboy, we still had a long way to go.
We made our way all the way down the shoreside road. At times crawling along in traffic, and at times zooming south on perfectly smooth curvy roads like a two-up track day.
We came to rest at cool (funky) little roadside motel called the Lakeside Villa Motel. In negotiating the cost for the room, we learned it was Ironman weekend at Skaha Lake so things were booked up tight. When the manager told Susan, “I’ll give you a discount but you guys have to listen to my motorbike story”. “Ah, sure”, we replied. As if I wouldn’t have listened to his story and still paid full price. Rob outlined his 27,000 km route around North America on his Honda 750 cruiser. If you’ve read my story this far I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that motorbike riders love to share stories of their adventures. When two riders meet at a gas pump, it’s always – where you headed – where you been? Our waiter, in the Jasper BC restaurant where we ate dinner, gave us a very engaging account of how he bought a 350cc British Royal Enfield in India, and then he and his girlfriend embarked on a 7 month journey around India, Pakistan and the Himalayas. It was pretty easy to see the joy in his eyes as he retold his tales of adventure and remembered the good old days.
Wildlife spotted: I saw a black bear in Glacier NP and Susan saw some big horn sheep near Summerland BC.
24 August 2012
The morning greeted us with a mix of sun and clouds. We were only about an hour from the US Border crossing at Osoyoos so we headed south to find some breakfast.
Our border crossing was a snap, but finding some breakfast… That took a little longer. Finally in Oroville WA we found a little cafe/cocktail lounge and pulled in for some chow. Our iPhones soon discovered the fact that we were back in the country and a couple of week old voice mails popped onto my phone.
To: my mom – we’re fine, miss you too.
To: Rachel – Sorry, I can’t babysit we’re one country and two provinces away.
Susan had a chance to link up with her friend Donna who lived a few miles down the road in Riverside. They’d been pals since 6th grade. Donna and her husband Cary have a beautiful house on a hill overlooking the Omak River valley. We blasted up the deserted back roads along the river, and then parked the moto on the shoulder of the dead end road, below their long (really long) dirt, sand, rock driveway. Walking up the road to their house it was obvious that we’d made the right choice. This was no place for a sport-touring bike. In fact, I wondered how we’d driven up the road two years ago on my KLR.
We had a nice visit with Donna and Cary, and then it was back in the saddle. It was starting to get hot, but the breeze off the water kept things tolerable. Hwy. 97 was fast and smooth, we stopped for some lunch in Pateros at a diner on the lake. This is also where we came back to the Columbia River. I was calculating time, distance, fuel, speed, and routing to get back home – tonight…
Susan was scanning her Internet for hotels in Wenatchee. “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is” (Forest Gump). Our hotel in Wenatchee was marvelous!
25 August 2012
The last leg of our trip was a breeze. Clear skies and cool morning air was the order of the day. In the shadows of the Tumwater Canyon the temperature dropped to a brisk 46° and I needed to stop and get my heated vest on. Dude, what was I thinking trying to cross a 4000 foot mountain pass early in the morning without my “snivel gear”. We literally had the road to ourselves. I really expected to have some traffic on a Saturday morning but we pitched the bike from one turn into the next and never came upon another vehicle until we were coming down the west side.
Well that’s about it for this adventure. If you’re interested in the totals:
7 days on the road
Several hundred movie clips
2 countries, 1 state, 2 provinces
………. and TONS of fun