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Sorry, non-Ducati content as we hired bikes but, I thought the least I could do was post up my thoughts of how two Brits avoided injury in Canada!

A long time coming this but, its taken quite a while to get over too.

This, in reality, is just the introduction. I'll post up a day-by-day account but even now, thats still a work-in-progress...

Its actually quite hard for me to re-read this but, I hope its 'interesting' to some, if nothing else.

Frank.
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Intro: Wild Canada West: BC2015

Inordinate planning length, disappointments and the odd stupendous sight seem to be trademarks of my longer bike adventures of the past few years.
After a minor let down of not being able to get booked up for the Isle of Man TT for 2015, I was told of a newspaper article for a tour company offering bike adventures in Canada of all places. Partner-in-crime, Norrie, set me up nicely and would not let the matter lay until I had read the print so, I downloaded a copy and literally gasped at the photos presented. A quick look at the tour company’s website had me hooked and the rest was simply down to logistics and of course, cost.

This didn’t go down very well initially, since it was winter 2014 and we were not too long back from Italy and World Ducati Week however, a long term interest-free credit card helped ease the negotiations!
Sometimes, shift work does have some advantages, in my case, regular holiday blocks which lined up well with the recommended best touring window for west coast Canada of August. Sadly, Norrie couldn’t get the same days off but I had some extra holidays available to use so, with two weeks in mind I hastily booked the BMW GS1200’s we had decided upon, after some studying of the hire companies array of machines. Both of us having the same bike seemed sensible to trouble-shoot and yes, gentle reader, we did ask if Ducati’s could be made available! Maybe, next time…

It did look as though our plans had stalled when no flights could be found, Air Canada and B.A. flights were either booked for the days we needed or prohibitively expensive. When exactly the brain storm hit of looking on Canadian website for flights, I’m not sure but, it worked. The WestJet Company were due to start flying out of Glasgow to various destinations in May 2015 and it could not have been better timed for us. Flights were duly booked and those and the deposits for the tour paid together, no turning back now, we were off to the ‘big country’.

Sadly, gentle reader that is the end of the good news as far as WestJet were concerned. A month later, I received an email stating our two flight journey had altered to three with the unwelcome addition of Glasgow to Halifax (Nova Scotia) onto the original, Toronto / Vancouver. Nothing could be done, no compensation would be offered and as a good will gesture we were offered preselected seat so that we were guaranteed to sit together. The next disappointment to be unearthed was no hot meals of any type on any of the flights! I worked out we were in the air for 14 hours with only cold food offered apparently, the ‘infrastructure’ would not be in place to allow hot food service before we flew, I detest those types of ‘buzz-phrase’.

Thank goodness the fun of deciding on route variations and learning about the geography of the land was such a welcome distraction. The tour company (cyclebc) have a range of accommodations available over much of Canada it appears, they used to offer guided vacations in the past but this seems to be by request now however, the great knowledge gained by actually riding the roads was evident in the meticulous day notes they produce. All this planning and rekindling my cycling interest in pursuit of a little much needed fitness, worked very much against any motorbike riding time at all, during the first half of 2015. The decision to try a lighter weight set of riding trousers at least got my Ducati out of the garage to blow the cobwebs away and help with the purchase of some Dianese Amsterdam (how appropriate a name from previous tours) textile trousers from Infinity cycles.


Our eventual Full Route - 'J' is the start and finish point.

All my other riding kit I was very happy with but, I did want to take some on-board video of our rides and my eyes were made much more square investigating options on the 'net until, the decision to buy a JVC action cam was made, along with the fun of making that work!
I never thought I’d be glad of leaving my own bike behind. However, I found it time consuming enough trying to plan packing priorities for the limited space we had on the hire bikes, without worrying about bike servicing and the like. Factor into this the late addition of a set of Bluetooth bike-to-bike intercoms and it was astonishing how fast the days were counting down to departure. A trip to a local BMW agency was sweet and sour in that we were at least convinced at making a good bike choice but dismayed at how small one factory pannier was, being quite compromised on space due to the huge single silencer fitted. Norrie to the rescue though, he had not one but two Bags-Connections removable tankbags and in a turn of good fortune the hire company in Vancouver dealt with the same supplier and could source appropriate fittings for the bikes; result.

Fancy some late changes dear reader? A possible mistake first in not realising how diverse a city Vancouver is, as we both agreed on sacrificing a free-day on our first proper day, for a riding day to get us acclimatised to the bikes and riding in Canada. Later in the journey we decided to add a dip down over the border into the USA and instead of a final ‘lazy-day’ in Vancouver, I talked Norrie into a ferry ride to Vancouver Island for a ride down to the State capital: Victoria. All accepted by CycleBC without any qualms or fuss at all.
One week to go, I finally started my holiday block and was buzzing with excitement. For weeks previously, If I wasn’t searching for information on Canada then I was either studying the route, especially on Google street view for the start and end of each day, or watching videos of Canada on the ‘net. There is a fine line I think between preparing oneself for a trip well and tainting the surprise, I’d hoped I got the balance right, reading up on things like plastic bank notes that can stick together when new, right turns on a red light being fine but the signs or lights to prevent the same can be located anywhere and really important stuff like the best local beers and bourbons!

On a very serious note, the massive and uncontrollable forest fires in the northern California areas were causing problems many miles north and into Canada. Firefighters lives had already been taken along with hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, the knock-on effect being road closures from the smog and even a highway we might need, closed down the very day before we left our own, green and pleasant lands.
One day to go came around too quickly, with a long list of 'to do' items for both home and away, only completed on the Friday morning. I had to sacrifice my preferred route of the A68 North as a visit to friends on the outskirts of Newcastle was needed, a poor choice of day as the roadworks that seem to have been built with the A1, in and around the Metro centre caused even more delays than normal. With only a single coffee stop, I pushed on up the motorway but, late, as expected I guess, getting to Glasgow but, spot on time for an excellent meal to be served as soon as I walked in! Over a few beers the evening also passed far too quickly, no time to enjoy the moment. Documents checked, cameras sorted, helmet intercomms installed, with an unnecessary and annoying bluetooth pairing issue delaying plans, by the time I'd completed our online check-in, we were able to enjoy a whole four hours sleep before getting back up again for the airport run!

Poor Norrie had to endure a deluge of personal and work issues that became so critical, at a week before departure, there was a doubt if he would be able to go to Canada at all. Thankfully, all overcome a penalty still remained that he was missing a few items that we were running around to airport to try and get. Luggage tags, luggage locks, batteries and even suntan lotion were all things wanted to settle a flustered traveller before we flew. All were obtained but Norrie's purchase of an oversized bottle of sun-cream did worry me and later, it was to prove, well founded...

Final check-in annoyed me somewhat. Instructions I thought were clear: One piece of hold luggage, 25Kg maximum weight. I'd had to drag an old large suitcase from our loft and rebuild a broken lining to pack all my clothing in a single bag. I was a few grams over and got a 'tut-tut' from the desk clerk, while Norrie used two slightly smaller bags and nothing was said with no extra payment to make, bizarre. Just time to grab a coffee and snack and for us to indulge in some foolishness before flight of buying Scotland caps and flags for us and the bikes to wear!
With the misery of UK security checks out of the way we got to the gate just as the first call was announced. Seats as planned, we were both carrying our helmets as hand luggage which thankfully, didn’t prove a problem at all as they went in the overhead lockers with ease. Clear Saturday morning take-off skies allowed Norrie to point out some landmarks before we headed off, over the water. We were sat with an informative lady called Linda, who happily talked almost non-stop after introducing herself as a minor internet music star. She kept us entertained and did offer some interesting motoring advice, "Don’t trust any Chinese drivers in Canada"!



Speaking of similar, I do wish I hadn't bothered with the cold Chinese chicken wrap I'd ordered. I knew something was wrong from the instant tingling in my lips which felt like cold sores and would trouble me for days to come. Sleep came easily as the initial excitement of travel wore off and the next I knew we were preparing to land in Halifax. A very welcoming place it was too. Water features, wide quiet walkways and welcoming staff made it feel like a holiday arrival now, for these two aliens, anyway. Customs clearance was effortless but it was curious, picking up our hold luggage and carrying them all of fifty feet to another conveyor belt for them to disappear, however, it was deeply worrying for Norrie sadly, as his brand new Ducati tote bag came through with the sides so badly scuffed it was hard to make out the Ducati text.

A drink and a decent WARM bite to eat were obvious next priorities as this was the longest stopover of the journey to Vancouver. A leisurely look around the airport shops led to our first taste of Canadian ice cream, the small kiosk having a Tardis like array of flavours available. Just as we arrived at the security gate we heard the first call for our flight and hurried through with our hand luggage, a familiar routine already for us, Norrie had to take his belt and metal heeled boots off, I had to take out and open my notebook for electronic inspection. Sadly, the guards took issue with our helmet intercomms. Going to different scanners to save time might have been a mistake but, my while my explanation was accepted quickly, Norrie was still being questioned, while I was caught up in another issue. Last minute at home, I'd dropped a multi-tool into my hand luggage in case of bike problems, completely forgetting that the tool also contained a very sharp blade and scissors - Glasgow were happy with this but not Halifax security. I either left it behind or tried to get it into my hold luggage, (that was long gone) so it is on permanent holiday in Nova Scotia now, the guards finally being happy we really were riding bikes after seeing our deposit paperwork.

I wish that was the worst of our problems but it didn’t even come close. We heard no announcements in the security area and became alarmed at the lack of any passengers, anywhere on the walkways to our gate. We decided to start running down the aisles but at the gate we were greeted by the unbelievable sight of our plane, backing away gracefully from the stand!
Too shocked to be angry, I think I felt all my energy drain away at that point knowing we were essentially only a third into our journey. "Don’t worry" said the clerk in what seemed to me a feeble parody of the hitchhiker’s guide book cover. "The plane is full but we can get you on the next flight in 30 minutes", this seemed beyond my comprehension, apparently, late as we were, but without any final calls, known to be on a connecting flight meant our seats could be sold to make WestJet a little more money. Best of all, OUR luggage was on the flight that had just departed for Toronto.

In compensation we were given ‘plus’ seats which are a little wider with more leg room and apparently, complementary food and drink but, only when the attendants bring the trolleys around. Needless to say, a whisky was almost a medicinal requirement at that point. Being our shortest flight at a mere 2 hours 30 minutes, I can hardly remember it now, but, I made sure not to have any of the cold foods offered, sticking with snacks and drinks only.

Despite a quote I’d heard of “its always a happy day when ours tickets show YYZ”, the latter being the airport code for Toronto, the location didn’t always have a good reputation with customers and certainly left a bitter taste in our mouths, partly our fault but most, definitely not. After disembarking, we knew we had cleared the port-of-entry already and thought we would have to collect our luggage as this was supposed to be our first change of aircraft. After finding the correct carousel we waited a stressed 40 mins for most of the luggage to be collected from the flight we were ‘supposed’ to be on. The WestJet rep couldn’t understand it but a helpful baggage assistant, worked it out instantly after checking our itinerary. Our baggage was automatically taken to the next flight, no intervention needed! So we tried to return to boarding area we came from but security would not allow that, so we had to move ‘on’ to the entrance lobby. The WestJet desk, at the other end of the building had this happen many times before (surprise, surprise) and allowed us though their gate without any delay. To say we were both somewhat stressed by this time is something of an understatement, we didn’t even want any food or drink, I simply wanted to be on our last flight and away. Sadly, because we had effectively been through the check-in procedure we had to go through security clearance again. Any guesses at the security breech this time dear reader?

Norries sun-cream would be the correct answer.


Even though, it was in a Boots-the–Chemist hermetically sealed bag, stamped from Glasgow, that wasn’t good enough for Toronto. An end of shift guard, chastised Norrie for having an oversized lotion and said it would have to be removed from its bag and scanned. Now, I have no idea what the scanning was meant to do, I only saw the bar code being read and the item didn’t exist on the guard’s system. Next step was analysis of the contents, which it turned out couldn’t be attempted as the necessary machine was broken! Sadly, Norrie was beyond his threshold at this point and called for the supervisor, who simply laughed and walked away, when Norrie said a few choice words (to the guard, who promptly disappeared) and then came to tell me of the problems. I said to simply leave the lotion with them but Norrie was then ushered over to a group of guards, it appears the lotion was confiscated anyway AND Norrie was required to go and check in AGAIN, followed by another security scanning at a different desk, unbelievable!!

I was sure our entire holiday was under some horrific curse by this time. After 20 minutes waiting, I went to get a bottle of water for the pain killers I needed to take, it took another 20 minutes for Norrie to finally appear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so angry before so I thought I’d better buy us some beer to try and calm down. 13 hours we had been on the go already and we were frazzled, for the want of a better term. The flight was then late taking off, we were back to standard seats and I’m afraid we both needed a stiff drink during our final 5 hour trip to Vancouver.



Even now, nearly three months after the event, upon typing this, I can still connect with my own frustration with the final insult of one of Norrie’s cases disappearing! My large case appeared quickly on the carousel, followed by Norrie’s standard case but NOT, his Ducati bag. It was 9.30pm local time now and we had been awake for 20 hours on only 4 hours of sleep. All the help desks were either closed or deserted, as travellers drifted away into the night, we were, eventually, the only two left standing.

I walked to the other end of the collection terminal, looking for help and the local staff said to try the damaged luggage area which was… right next to where Norrie was still waiting for me. I’m afraid gentle reader that I lose the timeline around this point, I was told to wait in various areas and was eventually taken to an oversized baggage area where (surprise, surprise) there was Norrie’s, much smaller than a standard suitcase, Ducati bag – but (surprise, surprise), it was smashed to pieces, broken handle, base and dented top, it had been badly misused and of course, no one was available to record a complaint.

I wonder what it is about the human condition to think that a terrible situation could only improve? Norrie was actually in remarkably good spirits, nothing was missing and we were in one, very much tested piece.

Vancouver city was impressive, the little we saw of it through the windows of our silent Toyota Prius on our way ‘uptown’. It was 11pm by the time we arrived at the hotel, I was surprised how quiet the roads were with few cars or people visible. Check in was easy and we were allowed into the breakfast area to grab a coffee and some snacks after being told the only bars were closed already or too far to walk. It didn’t really matter, back in the room, I remember unpacking a few dress clothes and hopping in the shower to try and wash a nightmare start away to a dream vacation, well, it was certainly going to be unforgettable.

 

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Great story already, subscribed!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Cheers Scott, I wasnt sure if it would be 'up-many-peoples-streets', I'm only up to day 5, even now!

Still - Enjoy.


(Day 1) Sunday, Sunday – old school cool

It really did feel like I’d been though some sort of bad dream, until I laid in bed and motivated myself with the small matter of going to get some gleaming motorbikes to ride. Breakfast was interesting with a variety of visitors present and learning unfamiliar routines like trying making a giant waffle that I didn’t get chance to – yet. Back upstairs to get some bike gear for riding the BMW’s back again, we only paused to take some area photo’s from the top floor gym that had a full set of windows, in place of a wall. Five blocks turned out to be a little further than I thought to walk to the cycle hire base but, surprisingly busy and still full of lessons to be learned, flashing red lights suspended over crossroads and contactless buttons for crossing the road being just two of them. CycleBC operate their Vancouver branch out of a large basement unit that is filled to capacity with pedal and motor bikes. Mike, the store manager greeted us and was already working on the red and blue GS1200’s that we had requested, great they looked too, in my head I’d already named them ‘loonie and toonie’ after the popular names for the Canadian one & two dollar coins.



Mike was already working on the bikes fitting the tankbag mounting rings for us, sadly, they didn’t quite work but Mike didn’t want to give up on them so, we completed the paperwork and the briefing for essential information before wandering back to the main street to ‘Cartems Donuterie’ for some great homemade donuts and coffee to keep us fuelled. The server for the day asked us to take a seat and even brought a roadmap over to us as he took such interest in our route and pointing out places of interest, being a keen cyclist himself. They even gave us some locally grown tea to take with us for the journey.

Back at the hire shop there was double trouble, not only would the tank bags not work on either bike, the prospect of having only a single Satnav between was made worse when no unit had been returned as planned and no spare Satnav was available until tomorrow!

The seat height on my bike was a little higher than I was used to but it was wonderfully easy to handle, just as well as my concentration was fully occupied with traffic laws, the first major left turn being at lights was a particular worry but, common sense prevailed. We wanted to go back to the hotel to find parking arrangements and grab a few drinks and snack bars from a nearby outlet, while deciding on a revised route for the afternoon. I had two locations in mind for our test ride, Cypress Mountain and Capilano Lake, both being to the north, on the other side of Vancouver bay.



Top to bottom:
TL - Birds eye Vancouver
TR - hotel eye Vancouver
ML - Vancouvers Finest
MR - Loonie and Toonie
BL - Cypress Mountain Outlook
BR - Best sign of the day

The intercoms were a god send as I could tell Norrie which direction I was thinking of heading in and for us to point out any issues to each other. Our route would take us through the very centre of the city, through the delightful looking Stanley Park and over Lions gate bridge. The temperature was in the high 20’s already and the locals were gridlocking the area to get to the park, being warned against ‘lane-splitting’ (filtering as we know it, which is illegal in British Columbia), we were good boys, in the main and sat with the traffic. The beachfront housing on the north shore was almost as lovely as it looked expensive, we know because I took an early wrong turn after the bridge and ran us along Marine Drive, west but we really didn’t care as it was such a pleasant ride, slow going but good roads and a scenic view of the bay and various marinas.

Thirsty work this enjoying one’s self so I stopped us overlooking a popular spot called the Whyte-Islet, some photo’s and a check of a free map from the hotel showed us we were going to have to abandon one destination due to the time taken. Cypress Mountain was nearby and offered excellent views so we headed there next and after a brief highway blast, sharing it with many cyclists, we let the bikes cool at the view point over the bay. In the UK I would have expected a burger or ice cream van at the least but, not here, refreshingly clean and unspoiled, visitors were left to simply enjoy the view and nature.

Chatting with some cyclists who had been riding all day long so far, informed us the view was too obscured by trees further up the road so we spent even more time, chilling out even though the temperature had me taking off a layer of clothing. The return ride was much easier, as we dropped straight on highway 99 to take us right back into the city. Norrie was very impressed with the mirrored and giant skyscrapers in the commerce sector and within a few kilometres (don’t worry, dear reader all other distance references will be non-Canadian) we had passed, more marinas, stadia and science areas, a city well worth a visit.

I was pleasantly pleased at not taking any detours on our return to the hotel, the bikes safely stored in the underground parking, food, once again became a priority after only snacking for so long. The desk clerk recommended, Martini’s restaurant, 5 blocks west, a slightly run down area but plenty of people were out, taking the air. The restaurant had customers sitting outside, sipping on drinks as the light faded away, that seemed like a great idea and inside we were offered ‘tasters’ of the locally brewed ales, the ‘analogue 78 kolsch’ was such a favourite, I can’t honestly remember how many we had! Memories of the American styled bar are fading now, we felt we deserved pasta dishes of some type but I don’t recollect which but it (and the service) were so good I left a sizable tip, especially as our server informed us on traffic law and that the red suspended flashing light over a road indicated to vehicles that it was pedestrian controlled. The return walk took us a little longer but did include our first visit to a ‘Tim Hortons’ coffee shop we had been advised to check out. ‘Timmies’ appears to be the Canadian preferred stop, over Starbucks but, I wasn’t convinced, I did however, nearly wet myself when Norrie asked for all the coffee options, he face was a gem, watching it fall further and further as the myriad choices continued.

A final apology is necessary gentle reader, as I have no idea what time we finally staggered into the hotel, sometime around midnight is my best guess, we had only ridden 50 miles that day but, overcome more obstacles and ridden safely for the first time in Canada through a major city, without incident and loved it! Even over the cranky air-con unit, a contented sleep came easily, my drowsy images of the day crowned with riding by the sea and the blue water, converging with sky in the distance.
Time to put the past behind and make some great memories…

 

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Monday (D2) – Hope, Hell’s Gate and Kamloops…

Awoken by early morning traffic we were keen to have breakfast and get sorted. Riding kit and likely needed items for the road went into my topbox, while the fun was trying to get everything else into the two panniers, which were awkward as mouldings reduced the interior spaces. I left all my travel clothes behind and quite a bit more, including walking shoes that simply would not go in the bike boxes. Spending a last night in the same hotel meant they were happy for us to leave our baggage with them, quite a result. On yet another journey down to the garage I collected the SatNav that arrived at reception for us, all charged, mapped & ready to roll, apparently. Norrie checked us out while I sorted my helmet-cam out for first use abroad, more later.

Time for a first irritation of the day sadly, the SatNav (Garmin Nuvi), I was surprised to note lacked a proper holder and power supply. A cigarette lighter type adapter with a USB fitting and a cable to the back of the unit was all that was supplied. I turned the unit on to allow the maps to knowing it would not be able to get a satellite lock. Double check of luggage locked on and a quick look over and around and it was time to fire up! So my previous poor relationship with Garmin didn’t start well in Canada, hitting the starter button, obviously distrubed the SatNav so badly, that the screen went blank and it re-booted all over again. Let’s wait another two minutes then, for the maps to load in the baking space of a heat exchanged underground car-park. The sunshine was brilliant bright outside & we were able to wait without causing a jam while I selected the route for today and set off while waiting for gps lock.

We were both glad to be finally on our way, even if it was into the late morning busy traffic. Caught out in lanes with traffic waiting to turn left a couple of times was all we needed to start reading the flow correctly the mile or so we needed on Main Street to the easy right that would lead us East and away from Vancouver. Terminal Avenue was to be anything but easy however, a truck pulling out on me nearly making it ‘terminal’ in a real sense, 25 mph speed limits, narrow 4-laned residential roads and traffic lights every block made for slow and often gridlocked progress. The first mile took 20 minutes or so, Norrie was impressed by the car sales district we negotiated however, shining supercars clambering for window space. The neat and tidy residential areas felt like many we have ridden through but the variety and diversity of vehicles around us constantly, kept us interested and on our toes. I heard Norrie laugh in my headset as I pointed out a road name we crossed under; ‘Renfrew Street’, ‘Nanaimo’ was another I registered, knowing we would ride to its namesake towards the end of our adventure. It was another 30 minutes before we finally left the geometric order behind and joined our black top companion for the next 270 miles, the Trans-Canada highway or simply, Highway 1.

A beautiful Ford Mustang, blasted up the on-ramp as we gave way, so we simply had to follow in kind and very well the GS’s responded too. Well, all the way up to the plated limit of 50 whole mph for a major highway. The Mustang disappeared into the distance, while I heeded stern warnings of severe speeding penalties. That didn’t last long! Everything was overtaking us so I upped to 60 mph which seemed, prudent.
The 3 lane highway soon open up into 4, with narrower lanes than the UK but with much better constructed concrete barriers protecting opposing traffic all the time. We were still getting some vehicles cutting in front of us occasionally, some a little too close for my liking. Just then the left hand lane changed into a type with a minimum vehicle occupancy requirement, thankfully, bikes were exempt and so I zipped into the lane enjoyed a few smug mph more in a totally empty lane. Nice idea, Canada. I was a little peeved when the lane ended after 10 miles or so but the reason became apparent as we had our first meeting of many, with the mighty Fraser River, crossing the interestingly suspended Port Mann Bridge, in the process.



The photo is a still I captured from my helmet-cam video. Why such a miniature marvel of technology is marred with such an overly-sensitive microphone I will never know, turning the sound off for every playback soon became just as annoying. Southwards we ran for a little while now, to only a mile away from the state line with the USA, then, North-East, past the curiously named town of Chilliwack. Time for some more Satnav insanity? Happy to oblige, I knew there was scenic spot nearby and we were due a rest stop so, I didn’t mind when the unit indicated for us to take an exit ramp. Sure enough, at the top of the ramp, it wanted us to go straight on and join the highway we had just left! I’m afraid a few choice northern phrases were directed at it. Bridal Veils Falls was the scenic spot advertised but, we headed off for a rest stop a few miles later as the coffee was obviously having an effect. A subway outlet seemed to fit the bill nicely for a snack, cold drinks being needed as the temps were as unexpectedly high as the sun was blinding. Thank goodness for vented jackets and interior helmet visors. Visitors were again interested in the loaded bikes out front and Norrie ended up taking a photo of a driving instructor’s car with a giant peaked hat on the roof to attract business.



A small apology gentle reader for this day’s title but, it is accurate, ‘Hope’ was indeed the next town we skirted past. Huge mountains had been constant companions in whichever direction we looked but, unbeknown to us, so too had the Fraser river, we crossed it for the 2nd time that day on the oddly, very normal, Fraser Bridge. I expected something a little grander as the explorer the river is name for, Simon Fraser, first landed at this very town in the year 1808 and made the first documented expedition of the entire 854 miles long river complex. Riding due North now and sheltered from winds amongst the canyons the temperature seemed to have gone North too. The Hope River RV Park looked an interesting place to stop and instantly confirmed the ambient temperature at 32 degrees.



Our first gas station visit couldnt of been more laid back, dire threats that motorcyclists must pay first, didnt materialise but that could of been down to our smooth foreign accents, of course. Bikes fuelled and left in the shade of the porch we had to have a look inside this classical outpost. Sockeye fillets were stored in an icetray next to the entryway and inside was everything for any type of traveller, auto spares, wildness aids, a deli and best of all, home made Hard ice-cream. We chatted with staff and customers alike before wandering outside to check the bikes and take in the atmosphere a little, while I was map checking, Norrie burst into activity at the sound of a train that I'd not noticed. He could see the massive train coming, the track being on the other side of the road from us, always the motor-head he snapped away in his element and he came back beaming with child-like joy, despite having to scoff his ice-cream to take photos.



Back on the bikes and only a few miles up the highway we passed Spuzzum creek and noted, between the dense but attractive trees lining the road that there was now a railway line on either side of the river. This was real gold-mining area now as the entire Fraser canyon had a gold-rush in the late 1850's, lasting less than 5 years however, especially as a reported 30,000 men descended upon the capital seeking fortune. Across the river again at Alexandra bridge we got a good view of the fast moving river, heavy with sediment and the shored eroded with its passage, which ties in nicely with the next 'attraction' we stopped at, involving the Fraser river; Hell's Gate.

The explorer Simon Fraser named this place in his journal as "a place where no human should venture, for surely these are the gates of Hell". The stunning narrowing of the river at this point must surely have made it look that way, the high water velocity even proved a problem to the prolific salmon that were crucial to the local trade, the fish being easy to catch when resting from the efforts of trying to get upstream. Its now the site of a tourist attraction and Airtram (cable-car), with no available facilities at all road-side, I'm glad we overcame that to enjoy a look into the history of the area. The Airtram drops dramatically over the stomach churning river to a museum/shop/cafe installation on the opposite shore. Story boards, video's and various artefacts detail historical events, the travels of all six types of Pacific Salmon, the building of nearby railways and intertwined disaster of landslide and loss of life.



Due to higher water velocities, controversial water fishways were constructed in the late 1940's that were ultimately successful in allowing the fish to return to their spawning grounds, the importance of this being evident, even in those times, of the cost: 1.5 million dollars! After some refreshments, we took a walk over a gleaming new footbridge for an even closer view of this water work of mother nature, what a foul mood she must of been in that day.



One final Fraser river footnote, since we were about to get moving again. The highest recorded river flow occurred in 1894 (with colossal flooding) and some clever boffins managed to calculate the maximum at a staggering 17,000 cubic metres every SECOND!


The temperature was starting to feel a little oppressive, so I dug out my Camelbak to try and keep hydrated, the cold water inside helping to cool my own back, too. No one or two 'humps' jokes please, dear readers. Back on the billiard table smooth roads, there was a repeat problem again. The posted speed limit; 60 mph in this case and while we upped the speed, I was very conscious that cars and even the odd, unladen lorry, were trying to get past us at times. Totally unfounded of course, as we didnt see sign of any enforcement for the rest of the day. As much as I have enjoyed riding in Europe in the past, these roads were easily equal to the best of it. Good signage, almost always two lanes minimum going uphill for long or slow vehicles, excellent visibility while the views however, were very special. Mountain tops everywhere, the majority of the day with either trees or rockface nearby for company, twisting roads along river banks - hard to beat, when combined together.
50 miles of fun later at Lytton, we bade a temporary goodbye to the Fraser and hello to the Thompson River, which we crossed over 20 miles later at Spencers Bridge, oddly thats not the name of the bridge. Travelling East and now North there was a distinct change in the scenery, rock was more prominent, vegetation a little more sparse but trees seemed just as verdant as ever, good roots I imagine. We decided against a planned food stop as it was late afternoon already and we still had 80 miles to ride and the overnight hotel to find yet. Traffic was becoming as few as the trees now only another 15 miles up Highway 1, the mountains became less majestic, while in the foreground, brushland gave this area a distinct American feel, to me at least. A splash and dash stop was the plan next, but the smell of oven baked cakes soon put paid to that idea at the Esso station that loomed out of nowhere, like a mirage. It did seem a little odd to me that our first scheduled day on the road was our longest, I can only put it down to acclimating taking its toll as even Norrie was feeling weary. Easy fueling at a fraction of UK prices was now a routine event and next we passed a motor complex I'd pencilled in if we had time to look. It was actually a drag racing strip in the middle of nowhere, I had visions of us blasting down the quarter mile for the hell of it but they must have been used to that game, all gates were locked and no-one could be seen. At Cache Creek, I very nearly missed the slip-off right, though we were staying on Hwy1, the sign stated 'South' even though I knew we were going East, with the green number '1' sign almost an apology hung on the edge of the road. While the road speeds increased from the town limit up to the plated 60 mph, we caught up to what I believe is the faster logging truck in the world! Once he sussed out we were no threat his speed eased up to between 80 and 90 mph (not kmh, I must add), it was easy for us to match his pace especially as he telegraphed the bends in the road to us and obviously knew every one, very well.

Big open plains were now presented to us but I chose to sit in behind 'Mad-Max', even going uphill he was passing all other vehicles, so that was good enough for us. Thankfully the river came back into view again and then it expanded into Kamloops lake, with lush greenery adorning its banks. Since that last stop there had been a problem with our intercomms, great below 50 mph or so, Norrie could hear me fine but something must have happened to his microphone as at higher speeds it was simply static in my ear and I ended up turning my unit off. More disappointment next in that the two exits that were our preferred options, were both closed due to maintenance. The Satnav took this badly and hadnt even recalculated by the next exit so, before we were in another town, I took the very next exit which came to our first four-way stop at a main junction. Now this, I'd not read about but, the concept once explained is easy, first one to the junction is first one to go and everyone else stops, and it works, really well, until some foreigners, that didn’t learn, come and muck it up, of course. The clockwork Satnav had caught up by this time and after seeing much of the town, directed us safely to the Ramada Kamloops, where we were instructed to park our bikes next to the lobby, so the desk clerk could watch them for us, superb.
Check in was swift but we had to carry our panniers to the 2nd floor room which was thankfully, nearby. There was very nearly a battle for the first shower but that Norrie bloke had lost none of his "travel light - travel fast" mystic properties! While jack flash showered, I unpacked and got ready evening clothes to change into. The night was starting to draw in already so sadly for us, being tired we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant without looking it over first, all empty tables rang alarm bells, the starters were quite good but the mains were not enjoyable it had to be said. Apparently, service had been taken over by a concern that was well respected in mobile catering but didnt impress us. Much better was the top floor bar with a viewing deck overlooking, let’s all say it together now; the Thompson River. It actually was a very nice end to the day, drinks and even Irish coffee's on the terrace as the light faded away, a good view of the town and away towards the outline of the mountains in the distance.

Almost before we knew it, we were the last ones supping and the hostess was clearing away tables. As we made our way to pay our tab for the evening we struck up a conversation with a guy at the bar who informed us he was a train driver for the huge passenger trains. Norrie was enthralled and could hardly ask enough questions of him. I couldn’t resist asking if he saw many Grizzly bears to which he thankfully stated, “Very few, they are quite clever and avoid the loud trains”. Most detested apparently were Elk as they wander onto the lines and refuse to move even with a gigantic train heading towards them. Norrie, split his sides laughing at the nickname given to them, and he unfairly used on your gentle editor; Swamp Donkey!
 

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Tuesday (D3) – Positive Mental Attitude

No surprise that after the last few days and a decent journey yesterday when we slept in a little the following morning. There were quite a few guests for breakfast but it was a disappointing meal, so we filled up on fruit juice and coffee instead. On passing reception to check on the bike a message handed to me from the tour organisers, added to the concerns of the day. The fires at the state line were worse and additional highways were now closed but our coordinator would keep a close eye on the situation. With apologies, he then announced a mistake in the booking program meant that the two day stop over I was really looking forward to at Mount Robson Park was now only one and our next hotel would be a Best Western Plus, at a nearby town called Valemount. A cryptic ending stated that he would make it up to us, along the way, made this event sound even less attractive but, outside the day was glorious and the bikes, sat untouched & almost as raring to go as we were.



Having all the hotels pre-paid was a pleasant experience, since we’d not ran up any room bills and I was using free wifi to make face-time video calls back to the UK, check-out was a breeze. We did pause to take some photos from the bar-terrace as the only real elevated view we had was at night. Forgetting the note and looking over the roads and scenery before us instilled me with an expectant feeling, the day was ours for the taking. Soon on the road again, I always took extra care for the first few miles, too easy to be blasé with unfamiliar roads and code.



On the outskirts of Kamloops we finally left Hwy1 behind and turned North, the Thompson river was divided in North and South names and we joined the Southern Yellowhead Highway (Hwy5), under clear blue skies, how good it felt to be on open roads, once more.

It had been quite some years since I rode a BMW, Ive owned three but only ever 2-valve engines. My yard-stick was my trusty ST4s and while the GS was more refined, it didn’t feel as precise nor, anyway near as involving a ride as the Ducati. However, the GS did, especially in my case, carry a stunning amount of kit, panniers and topbox were all full to capacity and it hardly felt any different to our first footloose day in Vancouver. Mine was the higher rated spec of the bikes, remote suspension adjust, cruise control and refined Mode selectable electronics were mentioned. Tyre pressure indication was fun, so much so, that I never even checked the pressures, manually during the whole trip. Of most value was the cruise control, that allowed me to safely use the Satnav and my helmet-cam and next, the heated grips.

I must confess gentle reader to falling into my holiday bad habit of riding without gloves, oh the shame, mainly to easily execute the previous needs. The windscreen being easily adjustable was a nice touch but happened to be set just right for me from the start. The split seats are both height adjustable by means of a clever plate that they rest on, I needed mine set to its lowest position, which was also set from the start. My worn hip was playing me up quite badly at times so that the whole ride was a concern to me. Everything felt much better in the heatwave we were experiencing but very soon it became obvious to me that I was having problems pushing the bike upright off its sidestand. To nurse things along, I worked out by standing on the pegs and leaning away from the sidestand, a gentle tug on the bars would ‘usually’ bring the bike upright but it did draw some odd looks from bystanders at times. Poor Norrie was unhappy with his bike, the front end shimmied when braking hard but the tyre pressure was fine, later we were advised to visit a dealer but Norrie didn’t want to lose time and had learned to “suck it up” by then.



These highways all appeared to have been built with the rivers in mind, at the town of Barriere we crossed its river and then the North Thompson within a mile of each other, one bridge a very old metal style, the other a longer concrete creation allowing a good view around and of the likewise, almost ever present railway lines. We hardly noticed the tiny hamlet of Blackpool, so little of it visible from the road, now I’m not sure why that made me feel hungry but it was after midday that that time and instantly the Wells Grey Inn appeared by the side of the road. The ‘Diner’ sign was all it took for me to signal a stop and my hungry buddy was in full agreement. We headed inside and were greeted with a full-on American booth-style diner, just what I’d hoped for. The pink uniformed waitress, already carrying a pyrex of coffee, showed us to a booth and started filling our cups without needing to ask, she knew her clientele down to a fine art.

I was hungry enough to tackle an all-day breakfast but, it must be said, Canadian bacon so far, had not been up to scratch (sorry). So, thinking a smaller meal would be better on the bike, we decided to have an egg with toast offering instead, I knew what would happen next and insisted the lady took Norrie’s order first. I was already grinning when she asked how Norrie would his eggs, “Well, what have you got?” was his reply and lady bless, her must have listed every variation possible, sunny side up, over-easy, etcetera. I was laughing then but still smiling even writing this now at the look of bewilderment of Norrie’s face – Ace!



What a great simple meal it was too, lightly fried toast, ‘grits’ (tasty fried small potatoes) and small garnish of grapes really complimented the dish. I did get my own back on behalf of Norrie and stunning the waitress in the process by asking for scrambled eggs and for it to be placed ON the toast, she’d never heard of such a thing and laughed as she went to tell chef. Getting moving again was quite tough, the heat had soared outside enough that we were glad of parking the bikes in shade. It was also at the Wells Grey that Norrie spied a replica/caricature of a Grizzly bear, on the sidewalk and decided he must have a photo taken with it, putting his Scotland cap on the bears head became his signature, and regular photo for the rest of the holiday.



We were only halfway along our 200 mile route for the day and at that point were meant to visit a nearby river falls but locals told us the heat had dried it up so much that it wasn’t worth visiting! The highway continued to serpentine over and around the North Thompson River as though they were constructed together. Finally turning North again, the trees beside the road became more numerous and green and in the distance the first peak we had seen that was covered in snow; Mount Monashee, I was informed later, a local back at Hell’s gate operating the Airtram had told us that he had never seen the peaks so barren, either global warming or the forest fires taking the blame. A stretch of legs seemed appropriate so some blacktop and whitetop photo’s entered the collection. Maybe it was seeing the high topped mountain or the late change of itinerary making the journey seem more spontaneous but to me, todays ride started to feel really special, perhaps it was just getting more used to riding and feeling more connected to the bike or perhaps, it really was just a little bit epic.



I don’t think that was on Norrie’s mind when, a few miles up the road, he pulled alongside me pointing to his gas tank, I thought I was pushing things a little and when I looked at my display, it also started to flash into petrol reserve. I saw our hotel but drove on, knowing that a gas station was just up the road, I dislike having to hunt for petrol at the start of a ride, anyway and thought we might grab a coffee. Late afternoon now and the hotel a few miles back down the highway had me thinking a snack might be better so, while paying for the gas I asked for options. The local Swiss Bakery was highly rated but had just closed so The Gathering Tree, a few blocks away was next on their list. What a treasure Valemount was, clean streets, picket fenced houses and a community where people seemed happy to stop, take time and actually talk to each other. The coffee-shop was very new-age but obviously popular, the gift shop selling artwork and jewellery while all the food, including the great cakes were homemade. The sign above the serving desk offered “Enjoy the Journey”, good advice. With the sun starting to kiss the tops of the nearby mountains we thought it best to go and check-in to the hotel, the outside impressed me, with vertical wood beams along its length and the bike parking under cover and right next to the lobby door, great start. That soon faltered but, not their fault, no payment had been made for the room so a credit card swipe was needed until that could be sorted out. We were offered a porters trolley to take all our luggage at once and save our weiry backs, which I thought was a great idea. The room was excellent with a wood theme continuing throughout. After showering and changing we wandered back downstairs into the atrium, a huge open space comprising a central open fire, snack tables with motorcycle logo’s etched in and finally a drinks bar made completely from rough cut wood and stone.



It was a great place to hang out and since there were also free supplies of hot drinks, water and fruit juice, we did just that. I’m not sure why I had misjudged the hotel, from its name, it was well appointed throughout, to the rear of the property a small garden to walk in leading to a steam room and at the far end a swimming pool that was a hive of activity as it was fitted with water slides. It was then we found out the children in Canada also had a long summer break, similar to the UK. Going back to our room, I noticed a reading and quiet area above the atrium that was also equipped with computers for guest use and took a chance to browse some local websites.



Valemount lies at the intersection of three major mountain ranges; Rocky, Monashee and Cariboo. Temperate in the summer for trail walks, hiking and mountain biking while winters bring out ski’s and snowmobiles, so all year around activities. Norrie took great interest that the massive passenger train ‘The Canadian’ stops at Valemount station at least twice a week. The name for the town was coined during railway construction: ‘The Vale amidst the Mountains’, very fitting. Our next stop was to be only 20 miles away, in the shadow of Mount Robson, the tallest in the Rockies, it had been visible for most of the afternoon but was now a monolithic force that dominated the skyline, I wondered if we would be able to ride our bikes up any (very) gentle dirt tracks and by chance asked our waitress in the hotel restaurant later, if she knew of anywhere. An avid hiker herself, she warned that all the tracks would be too steep and rocky for anything but specialist machines, then, an interesting “but, you can hire quad bikes, here in town”. That, spiked my curiosity, no end, more so, when the mention of one the highest but most accessible local ascents, Canoe Mountain, was possible even by mountain bike. A few more drinks in the atrium and I was sold on the idea but Norrie I felt, was going to take a little persuasion, even once a few obstacles were overcome. Back in the room, I had my notebook out instantly and was checking options on the internet even while backing up my video’s. Norrie had been watching TV but the poor guy was fast sleep when I next checked however, that was near midnight. I didn't dare look at any images of the Mountain itself as that was one surprise I couldn't spoil but I had the exhilarating feeling that we were on the edge of doing something astounding and I would not let the chance pass by!
 

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Wed (D4) – ‘Test for Echo’
(How could I miss out a full Rush tribute, when in Canada!)

It was Norrie’s laughing that woke me the next morning, apparently I’d ‘trashed’ my bed once again! Couldn’t be helped, every hotel we stayed in so far had immaculately prepared beds but, with sheets tucked in drum-tight especially at the base. Now, I never had liked direct pressure onto my toes and this seems to have only become worse with advancing years so, even though I now pulled the sheets out before getting onto bed, I was obviously giving them a good kicking about during the night, apologies all around then. An excellent breakfast and unlimited coffee were just the start to the day I’d hoped for then, straight back to the room to phone around for quad bikes to hire. The first two hire stores I tried had nothing available at all then, a call to the Valemount information centre gained another two contacts to phone, the first, fully booked but the last, had two bikes left.

Was everything on this holiday going to be bitter sweet? The sting in the tail was that the last store, Alpine Country Rentals only had two bikes left for customers bringing their own trailers or station wagons, they certainly didn’t expect two bike riders today and the quad bikes were not road legal however, they would try and locate a spare trailer and phone us back. It didn’t seem promising, the cost was reasonable considering the need for insurance but, would be higher due to having to take us and the bikes to and from, a drop off point. Bags all packed and still no phone call, our ride really needed to be today as we were moving on again tomorrow morning. Then, the phone call I’d hoped for, Alpine had located a trailer and the bikes were ours, if we wanted them. Norrie still seemed a little reluctant, we were a long way from home but, I soon pointed out that I thought the risk was less than riding motorbikes on the open road! I think curiosity actually won the day and like me, Norrie might not be able to forgive himself on missing this type of opportunity. Changing, check-out and charging away never went quite so quickly as this time.


The rental store is only 2 miles away from the hotel, passing the gas station and The Gathering Tree once again, almost made me feel like I knew my surroundings. We had to cross the train line, I won’t say ‘crossing’ because it’s simply as ‘the movies’ depict, no barriers, simply a bell and flashing red light when a train approaches. In a wonderful turn of fate, I could hear a train whistle in the distance so with no traffic around, drew up before the line and let Norrie have an early treat. I managed to turn my helmet-cam on just as the train drew level, the driver returned my wave as he flashed by, commercial stock seeming to be the entire train load. Norrie was grinning like a Cheshire cat, I took it as a good sign as we made a left turn onto Main Street or, as its also named and I much prefer; ‘Whiskey Fill Road’.

This seemed to be an older part of town, with many of the service businesses tucked away here but, certainly none the worse for it. A tiny library and then a white wooden painted church cross bore all the signs of a caring community with construction work in progress too. Next, we smelt the Swiss Bakery even before we saw it! Fresh bread being baked, then, the rental store, with our quads already waiting outside for us and huge beasts they looked too! Inside we were greeted by Tara who made sure we knew what we had booked and then set us away with some paperwork to complete. Monies paid she then took us on a tour and inspection of the bikes, both Can-Am 4-wheel drive machines, the black one, a 400cc size was to be mine, while Norrie got a red 500cc machine fitted with power steering. Instructions on using the winch to extricate ourselves was a slight concern, while I was surprised how little storage capacity the bike had for the expanses of bodywork at the rear, it was important to me as we were advised to zip down to the bakery for some food to take with us, while the bikes were being loaded.

The bakery had the look of an Alpine cottage from the frontage, complete with Swiss flags proudly at either side. Even the coffee was good inside, which was just as well as the queue to be served made me worry about getting back in time. Two rounds of sandwiches, made with local produce and better still, freshly made bread were just what we needed. Back at the rental store, the bikes had both been loaded by helper Brad who was ready and waiting for us. We locked up our BMW’s and jumped into Brad’s battered station wagon who promptly drove us back down Whiskey Fill Road in a cloud of dust. The road soon emerged onto Highway 5 and there in front of us was the massive expanse of the mountain, growing larger with every mile.



Brad was an interesting young guy, so laid back and easy to talk with. He had left Valemount, only to return a few years later for the attraction of year-around activities. The access road to the mountain tracks came up soon and Brad turned off into a clearing to enable unloading of the bikes. He reversed the bikes out at full speed as though he’d done it all his life. I asked if the trail to the summit was sign posted at all and got the classic reply of “nope, take the first left fork and head for the sky!” Wearing our helmets seemed a decent idea for both eye protection and keeping warm, we suited up and stored our food and drink on the bikes before taking a few final photo’s, we were both grinning at each other in anticipation. It had been 20 years since I spent an afternoon on a Honda ‘big red’, which only surprised me for how long ago it was. The Can-Am was a far more sophisticated machine, using a Rotax engine design that is used in many off and on road motor bikes, easily switchable 2 and 4 wheel drive, although we were advised to stay in 4 wheel drive.

Norrie waved for me to go first and I was keen to get moving as the heat was oppressive in the absence of any breeze. The gentle lower trails were a good introduction to riding the bikes for us but, soon enough we left the lower tree line and the path became narrower and more rock strewn. It had been that dry for so long that a dust cloud was been blown up behind me causing Norrie to have to drop away behind to avoid being choked. Excited progress needed to be tempered against the inexperience of this type of riding, so that I found myself slowing down a few times, when I felt caution over rough ground was needed. I hoped that years of mountain bike riding had given me a decent eye for finding a smooth line but some of the violent jolts on rocks that were much bigger than I anticipated, disproved that at times.



Occasionally, I would stop and check that Norrie was still visible as there were no mirrors fitted to either bike, a dust cloud with a red dot denoting his progress. The left fork was already passed and the track narrowed, in places to only a little wider than the quads, there was already quite an incline but, this didn’t ease at all despite switchbacks, always climbing. For fifteen or so minutes, the trees on either side of us were so dense that there was no real view to be seen, other than a view of the hillside and some vegetation on our right. Then a little while later, as the trail began to stretch out to a visible length, the trees thinned out on our left and suddenly, there in the distance was Valemount and our first view of some of the peaks. An even better view appeared and I couldn’t resist but have a quick safety check behind before stopping for a breather. I turned off the engine and engaged the parking brake quickly to soak up some atmosphere (and be able to hear Norrie’s approach).



Apart from the ticking of a cooling engine, all that could be heard were some distant birds and the breeze shooting the trees. I stood on top of the bike to snap some photo’s, just in time for Norrie to appear and zap up to park behind my bike in no time. Perhaps, it was the frantic pace that our adventure had been at so far but the contrast to that moment was noticeable to both of us. I only found out later we were less than half way to the summit at that point, the theatre of mountains all around, still tall above.


(Valemount in the Distance, colossal Mt Robson, above and the left of my head)

Media calls dealt with and no idea how much further to go, we pressed on. Still warm at that altitude, sheltered by the trees once again, all that was to end suddenly as we emerged onto an open area, know to the locals as ‘the golf course’. Much more rutted, with deep tracks and larger rocks, our progress was slowed with the concern of causing damage to the quads. Cutting back across the plains, exposed us to some cold winds, took us the very edge of a precipitous drop but showed the beauty of the western mountains that so far, had been hidden.
The area now took on a barren, almost volcanic feel, added to, I imagine by not having seen another living soul on our assent. We traversed the slopes a little faster now, our faith in the ability of the machines, rising almost as quickly as the temperature felt to be dropping. Then, finally, with some odd looking vertical artefacts, in the distance was the pinnacle of our ride…



Re-watching the video I took of this final section of the climb, I can still remember reaching a plateau where the telecommunications tower is sited and then a small but steep rise in the distance, I still laugh at my uncharacteristic thought of “I ‘aint stopping now!” and accelerated up the ramp onto the final summit. Blow me, there at a solitary wooden cross, next to the edge of infinity was…

Another pair of quad bikes!

I found it funny but very fitting that a lovely mature couple had made the same adventure as us to enjoy this marvel of nature. After saying hello and making contact the gentleman came up with the insightful comment that “every single person should see a sight like this in their lifetime”. We couldn’t agree more, to see something so much bigger and more inspiring than ourselves, is humbling.
Parked safely and engines silenced we could truly appreciate the calmness and stunning views of a panorama of multiple mountain ranges.
I’ve never imagined such a vista could exist in my imagination, never mind our own world. The addition of some ballistic looking weather monitoring equipment, along with the telecomms was a distraction but, a necessary one and as soon as that thought was formed I couldn’t help but wonder how much effort that construction had taken.
I did find it amusing that I had a full service strength mobile signal as I decided to try a ‘photo-sphere’ bubble photo on my iPhone, to post up on Google maps later, nature and technology in harmony – I hope.



We could not but help taking hundreds of photos between us, it did not matter how far one looked in the distance, there was always more peaks and spectacular views to be seen.
The stark wooden cross that faced away from the nearest edge and distant Kinbasket lake marks the point where a young snowmobile rider lost his life from parking his machine on an ice pack that gave way. A small pile of stones was nestled at the cross base and it seemed only respectful for each of us to add a small rock.


(Tribute)


(Kinbasket Lake)

By way of explanation for today’s title, the Canadian band ‘Rush’, released an album called Test for Echo, which featured on its cover a structure of stones, in the rough form of a human being. We had seen one already at Hell’s Gate and here on a sparse area away from the cross, was another small figure and thankfully, the travelling couple reminded me that these figures originally were part of the indigenous Inuit people’s culture and indicated a landmark or significant location and called ‘Inukshuk’, I found it touching that someone had taken the time for construction, perhaps, for those who had passed by or even more poignantly, had given their lives to the mountain.

The helpful couple wandered off in exploration while hunger got the better of us and we dug our wonderful sandwiches out from the trunks of our machines and devoured them. Norrie explored a nearby basin while I shot some video on my cameras. Some snow in the basin and a cutting wind running through it, proved how high we were, I thought the possible lack of oxygen might have been the issue to make us move first but it was the inevitable cold temperature, even in spite of our own motorcycle clothing, that made the decision to descend.
The quads started flawlessly and with a farewell wave to our fellow explorers we reluctantly started on the decent. Whilst it was no problem keeping a good speed, the quad slowing easily when needed on the throttle, my issue was tired legs from trying to hold a stable body position. We reached the edge of the forest again and overhead I could see eagles circling above us, so took the chance to stop and risk some long range photo’s that I didn’t think would work, Norrie, did the same but stood on the back of his quad for a better view. Just as the birds flew out of view a group of two quads and a two-seater ‘dune buggy’ type quad came towards us. The buggy looked great fun and kept up easily with the single riders, I must say though, the lady passenger was looking a bit ‘shook-up’. Into the forest again and it was difficult to recognise the same sections of track that we must have ridden already. I stopped at one point to let Norrie in front, keen to get some video of him ripping down the trail, sadly, all I got was a dust blanket in front of me, no matter how slowly the speed; bad idea. Just as well that I decided to hang back to avoid the worst of dust, rounding a corner a group of two wheeled trail bike riders were hammering up to towards us. I thought it best to stop on the side and give them room to pass but, I was stunned at the lead rider, he had a small girl, no older than 5 years, sat on the TANK of the bike, holding on to the handlebars! I hoped his bike skills were good, for both their sakes.


We were back at or start point too quickly, an hour before our appointed time for pick-up as it turns out. Having downed our last drinks and chatted to other quad riders we had no choice but to enjoy the forest view, especially as bizarrely enough, we couldn’t get a mobile signal at all. At least we were warm once again, some riders offered to call our hire company as soon as they got signal and thankfully, within 20 minutes Brad arrived, which was just as well as poor Norrie received a nasty bite from some winged critter, requiring medication eventually!
Bikes loaded, we were taken back to the hire store for them to be checked over before we could get on our way. Tara gave me little scolding for some damage to a section of plastic on my quad that I honestly did not know the cause, really! That was quite nicely balanced by not using any fuel according to the bike gauge at all. Thanks made to everyone, we high-tailed it down the road in the hope of another great coffee at the Swiss Bakery but, they were just closing and as luck wouldn’t have it, so was the Gathering Tree. Back to the gas station then. Our bikes were still fully fuelled, so just as I went to pay for our coffee’s, the lovely Swiss lady owner of the bakery, was paying for her own gas and insisted on paying for our coffee’s as well. A small but heart-warming gesture that for me, portrayed Valemount perfectly.
Sad to leave but still hyped from the best unplanned adventure I could have hoped for, the 20 mile ride to our overnight stop seemed all too easy. Off a small side road, we literally turned under the shadow of Mount Robson to such an idyllic location, complete with wood cottages. The shale driveway and parking area certainly worried me but didn’t trouble the BMW at all, one of the hosts, Claudia, was waiting to greet us on the porch as we climbed the stairs to it. The main lodge we were staying in was immaculate and turned out to the hosts home as well, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that shoes were to be left in the hall. The evening meal was to be served soon, so the race was on to unpack the bikes, get kit up to the top floor to our room called the ‘Grizzly Den 2’ and manage a shower too. Two single beds and small tables were all the tiny attic room could take and our 4 panniers were literally spilled out all over the floor. We both caught our heads on the low overhead roof timbers but what a great shower it was. Clothing changed, I wanted to get downstairs so Norrie could shower, our other host, Curtis, greeted me warmly and we met our first stumbling block, I’d forgot (and was advised by our itinerary) that alcohol isn’t normal available at the lodge, thankfully, Curtis was happy for us to buy some of his personal stock of Canadian lager, which suited us just dandy!

It was to be a communal evening meal and at the large table an English couple and Canadian family were already discussing their adventures, talk came easily and many questions fielded about our bike tour and Canoe Mountain in particular. A delightful elderly couple from Florida introduced themselves, just as Norrie arrived in time to be amazed that they were travelling on the Canadian passenger train we heard so much about already. The gentleman had owned his own business and knew not only the astronaut Neil Armstrong but President Ford, what interesting input he made. I can hardly remember the food, I’m a little ashamed to say, it was hot, home cooked and very welcome, with nothing left on my plate, the conversations were of such interest, brief friends, united by interests of travel and nature. All too soon, people needed to take to their beds either due to active days past or those to come, we took a stroll outside onto the pristine lawns that led down to the nearby waterway, at the water’s edge a plinth had been constructed as a viewing platform that now housed a nest of wicker chairs under a veiled tent so visitors can admire the view and tranquillity. Back at the lodge an outdoor telescope had been provided that allowed good views of ‘the’ Mountain, its 13,000ft peak shrouded in mist, as often happened.
It’s probably a good thing that the other guests had retired and that no alcohol was easily available. We chatted on the day’s events for an easy hour and pondered the next day before tiredness caught up with us too. Our room might only have had small single beds for the first time on this vacation but, they were so comfortable with quality bedding, with only the few sounds of nature outside, I drifted off into a deep sleep, sadly, it was only to be for a few hours….
 

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...with only the few sounds of nature outside, I drifted off into a deep sleep, sadly, it was only to be for a few hours….
How come? What happened? Let me guess....the train came by! :grin2:

I live on Vancouver Island (20 minutes from Nanaimo) and it's very interesting to read a 'foreigners' take on our country. So far it sounds like you've been doing very well everywhere you've went and this is great to hear! Canada is an incredible country and just Vancouver Island alone is unreal with some of the best riding a person can find anywhere. We also have awesome mountains and views and the ocean and beaches and....:)

Touching briefly on the WestJet affairs, this is unfortunate. They are typically the best airline and have been almost since their inception. My guess would be that because it was a new route they may have been experiencing some 'teething' pains. I'm sorry that this happened to you both - it's not typical.

On the airport security front, pretty much all of North America is like this now due to 9-11 and the events since. For the most part you cannot take fluids with you at all and it's wise to not bother bringing them (could be explosives/poisons etc). The name of the game is to streamline the security checks as much as possible for fastest/easiest processing.

These days, flying in North America, it's easiest to fly direct and just buy all the usual sundries at your destination. On a recent trip to the US a lot of my gear was impounded and they have huge bags full of confiscated items. They even took some tools. It's the unfortunate by-product of Islamic terrorists impacting the average Joe or visitor :( It's not personal, it's just the way it is. If it can even remotely be used as a weapon, it's not getting on the plane - and for good reason.

But, let's not dwell on that, I want to hear more about your trip! (It's like getting an inside view to someone else's thoughts about my home - and that's pretty neat! I've been here all my life so it's 'normal' to me). From the sounds of it, you've found out that it can be very hot here and that the scenery is remarkable and you've met a lot of great people :)
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks Arjay,

I am gratified you like the adventure so far, I hope you hang in there as I'd really like your thoughts on the last few days, please!

Thats going to be some time off, what you see is all I've written so far and thats taken me six weeks.

I forget so much and almost have to re-construct the ride and want to add in memories and then have to backtrack as I remember stuff.

Still. I couldnt of done a journal or such on the road, would of spoiled my buddys ride I think.

Didnt realise I had 14 images in the last text, all links, of course but took me ages to decide which ones to remove!

I was hoping to complete this all by Xmas - LoL - who am I kidding.



Kind Regards - Frank

PS - I have gotten over all the airport security issues, we all know the need, just a bit hard to absorb when travelling.
 

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It's awesome!

As a matter of fact, I'm learning much more about these places (like the Fraser river etc) because of your visit! For you, this is/was all new so it was very interesting to you and you wanted to know all about it. Living here all my life, well, I drove by it quite a few times :smile2: - and probably swam in it a few times too :smile2:

Truth be told, there are many rivers here and I spent a large portion of my summers in my younger years tubing & rafting down them and sailing on lakes. So for me, it's less of a big deal...until I start reading your take on these treasures. In fact, it actually restores these things to me as the treasures they really are.

On top of that, many in other countries erroneously believe we live in igloos or only speak french etc. So there is immense educational value in your posts, both for Canadians and also for foreigners. It restores the freshness of these gems and it really makes me feel much better about the people in my country/province when I hear about how well you were treated in so many places (so far). These really are the things that make Canada great, or any other country that is hospitable to it's visitors.

BC in it's own right is very large and there are a LOT of things to see here from deserts to mountains to glaciers to the Pacific ocean, I mean, a guy could spend a pretty decent holiday here on a bike seeing some truly unreal things even if a person just focused on BC. The road to Lillooet (Duffey Lake road) is just the wildest ride on a bike. You go through mountains (huge ones with sheer rock faces) and trees and it's a road you can carve corners on like you would not believe. When you eventually come down into the actual town of Lillooet you descend down and then at one point you overlook the town nestled at the base of a cliff surrounded by green (!!) lakes/river. It's a priceless view. It also holds a number of records for hottest temperature (44.4c) and even hit 36c in April :surprise: In fact, it's apparently one of the oldest continually inhabited places on the entire continent, something like several thousand years! The Fraser also runs through it :laugh:

Unfortunately, I don't have any good pictures of the ride but I found this one on the net that shows the color of the water quite well. It really is quite the place and after Lillooet you get in the desert areas and there's still a ton left of BC. In fact, haven't even scratched the surface :smile2:

But, I'm looking forward to hearing about the journey to the Island - assuming you did make it over and got on the ferry etc. The Island is widely regarded as the 'Bahamas' of Canada and I've attached a picture of the beach in Parksville, my home town.
 

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Not to belabour the point but I was talking with my parents about the size of BC and they were saying they were pretty sure you can fit California, Washington state and Oregon into BC :surprise:

I looked into this a bit more on the Internet and found a hilarious site with these pictures...

(http://www.bcrobyn.com/2012/12/how-big-is-british-columbia/)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Very good - I like that! I did look up surface areas, even before leaving for Canada:

Whole of the U.K. land Area: 243,610 km²

B.C. = 925,186 km2

and some more context within this; population;

UK - 65,000,000

BC - 4,400,000

(the UK being 55 TIMES more densely populated than B.C.) :nerd:
 

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It's hard for me to fathom so many people in such a small area :smile2: Over here, and especially where I live, it's really easy to go to a place where you know there is no-one around you for many miles. In fact, that's normal. Any trip in the bush will get you there fast :smile2:

Rush hour, for me, is when I have 20 cars around me and I'm not in the pole position at a light :grin2:
 

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My wife grew up in canada, New Brunswick, on the other side. IMO Maine is almost like Canada. I imagine most of the population stays to the south border because of the cold.

If I wanted to get lost and didn't mind the cold that's where I'd go.
 

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Thursday (D5) – ‘Natural Science’


Keeping hydrated on a longer ride day, I find is essential. We were surprised to find the average temperature profile for British Columbia in the high 20’s °C for August, so much for my year around perceptions of cool and snow. This preamble is just to help prove that a single bottle of alcohol wasn’t the main cause of my needing to make a ‘call of nature’, in the ‘wee’ hours of the morning (sorry). I didn’t find much humour however, after jumping up in the pitch black and promptly cracking my skull on the low overhead roof beam edge! Stopping the bleeding was now more of a priority than toilet duty but it was only superficial and probably knocked some sense into me. Wide awake now, I decided to grab my notebook to catch up on some contact with friends and family. What a backdrop to do it with though, sat at the dinner table looking out towards Mt. Robson, the rest of the lodge in silence, just a magical time-out that I could keep for myself. Our longest ride so far today, the planning notes told me, 260 miles to Jasper, finishing in Banff for two nights, at last, a stop-over. Our hosts needed the table to prepare for breakfast, so I decamped to a settee and remember wrapping a warm blanket around myself, left out for just that purpose. A reward of steaming hot coffee was supplied and I took a moment to feel truly blessed for being, right here – right now. Soon the table was full with our lodge companions and I was able to entertain them with some of our ride videos, the quad bikes section provoking the most interest and questions. Breakfast was of excellent quality but, with my being up so long, not quite enough quantity! It would have been interesting to see some of the many walks from the lodge but we only had time for a brief walk down again, to the river in appreciation of the location. Pristine lawns, babbling creek and a rolling forest and ourselves, all had to pay homage to overwhelming Mount Robson.



Getting packed was becoming easier now, more from repetition than design. There was a chill in the air as we set off, so I took the precaution of wearing my lightweight waterproof jacket and with the heated grips, soon felt comfortable on the move.
Apologies, dear reader, as I forgot to mention the two additions I made to our bikes after collecting them, both bikes got fitted with an ‘angel-bell’ that my fiancée insisted upon. These are to warn away, bad spirits and who am I to argue, mine had guided me across Europe and back without incident so if it helps in the slightest, so far away from home, then, I’m happy to add a few grams of luck. Second, to help my on-board comfort, I brought my AirHawk seat pad with me, the fraction of extra seat height vastly overcome by the lack of any saddle soreness. It might of took some explaining at an airport baggage check but, you’d have to try one to know how good they can be.

The day before, past Valemount, we left Highway 5 and rode all of 5 miles to the turning we now emerged onto, once again. Hwy 16, better known as the Yellowhead and oddly, I did see a sign for the area known as ‘Tête Jaune Cache’ which inspired the highway name and many other things apparently, after a notable fur trapper from the 1800’s, was gifted the nickname because of his blonde hair. The Fraser River was, yet again our flowing partner while intermediate hills and trees soon hid the river but even Mt. Robson itself. The river soon expanded into ‘Moose Lake’ not that we could see much of it, the traffic was all exceeding the posted speed limits and we were quite happy to do the same, given that the last law enforcement we saw in two days was at Valemount.
Once again we appeared to be surrounded by mountains as we passed through numerous valleys.



Trying to shoot video on the move was always fun, the battery has a maximum life of 4 hours and while I had a spare battery, I’d had one flatten within a few hours so was trying to turn it off when not needed. It took three seconds of pressing the power button to turn it on, then I’d wait a second before hitting the record button next to it. It could be done with thin summer gloves but my biggest problem was that I’d forget what state the unit was in! I could do with a dummy switch to help me out, there is a phone app to use but that would of entailed too much complexity and using Wi-Fi therefore, expending even more battery. Our first state crossing into Alberta came up soon enough, proudly signed as ‘Wild Rose Country’ and then a line of traffic waiting to pay for access into Jasper National Park, which we also needed to pay, no reduction for motorcycles here, payment is only on a per person basis. Cars in front of us changed lanes in front as a giant motorhome towing a car took some time to process, we caught up to a couple on a similar BMW to ours, they gave us a friendly wave, as we also swapped lanes to get going after paying our fee.



It was only another 10 miles to the town of Jasper, we fuelled the bikes up on the way in at one of the few stations we found had a pay at pump facility. There seemed to be motorbikes all over especially sidecars, which I saw once moving again, were actually being used on novel sight-seeing tours. We rode the length of main street and I could almost feel Norrie bursting with excitement as this was also the location of a major train station, the sidings running nearly the full length of the town. I parked us up inside its car park, as I saw a plume of diesel smoke announcing a possible departure, Norrie was just as keen as I knew he would be, camera at the ready instantly, for some big-loco action. The twin-engine behemoth took some moving and impressed us and the other spectators that had appeared. Coffee was, of course, always on our agenda and after a brief walk of Connaught Drive decided that ‘the Other Paw Bakery’ café would suit us just fine. The queue out of the door, good testament of our decision, the coffee was good but my first taste of a bar I’d seen a few times, was even better; a homemade ‘Nanaimo’ bar. I’ll let the gentle reader look it up, at your leisure – it’s worth the trouble of trying to make some, too.



Jasper is listed as the commercial centre of the National park but, I took a liking to it instantly. Busy with tourists walking around but with a nice atmosphere too, the regular ringing of train bells adding to the feel of an active town. Every outlet was packed into an area with an average population of 5000 or so, gift shops competed with restaurants on the main roads, while in parallel, drug stores, clothing, sports, grocery, bike hire and every other needed supply was available. Norrie treated himself to some nice designer glasses, while I decided to make do with some strong painkillers as my head was still throbbing from its lodge denting.
We saw a beautiful looking streamlined Victory cycle, with matching metallic red trailer that looked ideal for mile munching these roads, with that in mind, we started back to our own bikes, Norrie zipped off to get some static loco photos and once ready, I noticed what I thought was a small castle onto a nearby peak. Turned out to be the Jasper Skytram that sits atop Whistlers Mountain, I perhaps greedily, wished we had just a little more time…







Change of Highway now to 93 and its ominous name, ‘Icefields Parkway’ and no sooner had we got going than Norrie was pointing to a Bear Warning sign, at the side of the road. My travelling buddy was now desperate to see even a small bear, while your cautious editor wasn’t keen to see anything moving near the roadside, the signs advice of “All bears are dangerous, if seen, stay inside your vehicle”, didn’t inspire any confidence either and I started taking up a more middle-of-road, riding position when no traffic was around or, ‘making progress’.

I cussed to myself at missing a turn onto some possible easy, back road action on 93A but knew both routes led to our next view point of Athabasca Falls. Although many of the huge mountains around us appeared motionless, the foreground seemed to change constantly and I had the notion we were riding though a forest of Christmas trees at one point! Soon enough our off-turn appeared, always with scenic signs to assist, as nice as it was to cover distance, I always appreciated turning onto minor roads as the pre-cursor to a discovery of some type. The car park was as busy as the scenic walk next to the river, the falls themselves were a small walk away but once again, visitors told us that they were much diminished so, with time pressing on, we decided to do the same and chalked up the occasion to a nice leg-stretch.

 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
ONLY 9 IMAGES - Grrrrrrrrr!

Back on the 93 the roadside vista was changing once again, the vegetation becoming sparser, oddly this is also intended as a general meaning for the word ‘Athabasca’ itself, from the language of the Cree Tribe who inhabited the area. The hillsides suddenly gave way to open wetlands that ran right up to the very roadside, birds could be seen feeding and the temperature dropped a few degrees with the breeze running over the land and onto the highway. A scenic viewpoint sign appeared so we pulled into the rest area and read up on the huge ice laden mountain facing us; Stutfield Peak. I was amazed at the history interplay between the original inhabitants and English background, the simple example here being that this mountain is part of the Winston Churchill Range, in the Canadian Rockies. A telescope was available for the interested to use and I waited to use it while Norrie got some good photo practise in. I’m not sure if the vehicles were few on the highway or it was the qualities of the area but I really enjoyed the calm of the surroundings. Mentioning vehicles, a huge Merc explorer pulled up that I was sure I’d noted back at the falls, Norrie confirmed that we had indeed seen ‘Mustang Sally’, adventurers from Germany who from the sticker collection appear to have worked their way up from Florida!





Projected arrival time: 7pm, dammit, when enjoying oneself is the only reason for NOT having a SatNav. No sooner did we get going, cresting an incline than there was a Skywalk announced by the road side, there is a much larger version of this, that I was disappointed to miss, at Vancouver. A glass walkway is usually suspended by massive horseshoe shaped metalwork, in such a way as to give the visitor the experience they are walking in thin-air over a view point, in this case a ravine far below, sadly, I knew we would need some decent food and fuel before much longer, so we pressed on.

But only for 5 miles, some views are too good to pass and the Columbia Icefield area and well sited Discovery centre, opposite, was ideally placed for us to be able to stop safely and take photos of the active glacier and the array of mountains the most prominent of which, all topped 10,000 feet high. Tour buses were mere dots to the naked eye and as tempting as the centre looked we didn’t even dismount the bikes, both of us being hungry now after only a snack, back at Jasper.






That tiny dot. middle bottom is a full size TOUR BUS!

30 miles to the next fuel stop didn’t sound too bad but I didn’t figure how popular the area was or the convoy of tour buses that we happened upon just as road became narrow and twisting (or ‘good’ as we motorcyclists prefer). The low down grunt of the GS’s was used well but double solid lines are never placed on a road without reason so, some caution was necessary, so sooner had we dispensed with the caravan than we came across a full 300-degree loop in the highway, so that I could easily look back to see Norrie, ‘styling-it-up’! I heard it referred to later as ‘The Big Bend’ as there is also a Big Bend Peak, I couldn’t figure out the need for it apart from as homage to the peak. More flatlands were appearing now as altitude altered too, it looked as though flooding might be an issue in a few places, white topped snow peaks were becoming more numerous as well.
All we had done, ever since leaving Jasper on Hwy 93, was ride though valleys that in essence did not even scratch the surface of Rockies, never mind the other joining ranges. A 5 mile almost straight stretch of road finally gave in to the base of Mt. Wilson and curved us nicely, past a thankfully raised road barrier for use in winter to the Saskatchewan River Crossing. Well I thought that where we were, the sign now simply said ‘The Crossing Resort’, it had fuel and food and the first was deal with, even if we did have to queue individually. It was already 6pm by the time we sat down to a simple but tasty meal of soup and in my case, chilli and rice. I remember taking advantage of a free top-up of coffee, just as the light outside started failing, yes gentle reader, rain had finally caught up with us.



I don’t mind riding in the wet as long as I’m kitted up for it properly. I ran out to my bike and retrieved my one-piece suit and Gortex gloves, my full-on rain. My Daytona bike boots are the only ones I had anyway and had been proved in torrential rain so, I was more than happy with those. I didn’t bother looking up an arrival time now, safe progress was called for instead of time-keeping. 85 miles to go was the only figure I was interested in as we set off into declining conditions, the bikes hand-guards did a great job of deflecting wind and rain but, the temperature was plummeting and the heated grips were very well received.

Some 15 minutes or so down the road, flashing yellow lights, either side of the highway slowed us down for us to be alerted to – roadworks??? Yes indeed, the entire highway width had just been renewed with shiny but lovely and smooth, black tarmac. Even better, it was so new that no middle or edge lines had been painted and the rainwater could actually be seen forming pools on the road surface. Despite my initial concerns at seeing this, it didn’t trouble the bikes one little bit and after assessing the conditions we ended up riding only a little less than we had been previously. Total darkness came very quickly now, the bike headlights coming into their own, we were easily able to pass other road vehicles by keeping a wary position on the road. I was more nervous about wildlife running out in front of us during darkness, well done BMW for designing excellent main-beams. Thick forests on either side of the road didn’t help my imagination but thanks to design again, hands and feet were toasty warm to keep our alertness, decently high.

Just as well, near the end of our time with Hwy 93 we, once again, saw flashing lights in the distance. This time was even odder, with only rescue vehicles in attendance, we could see a stretcher being pulled up the embankment, the occupant, thankfully alive was waving a hand near one of the search lights. Waved on, we soon turned East onto a past favourite, Hwy 1, for the near final run into Banff. Nearly, as we have not had any Satnav insanity today! Next exit we were again, taken off, to cross a road and ride straight down the other side, back onto Hwy 1. Then, instead of taking us to the exit after Banff, giving us an easy ride to the hotel and it being on the correct side of the road for us. We were taken off early, in the teeming rain I might add, over railway tracks, through housing areas and then downtown Banff before a final insult of passing our hotel, on the opposite roadside with every nearby chance of a U-turn being denied by road signs.

I knew the garage was underneath the hotel and wonderfully warm it was too, once I’d zipped inside to get a parking pass. 9pm now and nearly 10 hours travelling time and once we had checked-in and took turns unpacking and showering, we both realised how hungry we were. It was still raining heavily so there was no way we would have ventured far away from the hotel however, the bar looked very inviting and essentially, was still serving food. I can only vaguely remember a warm meal with Nacho’s but, the local beers were mighty fine and our entertaining barman even introduced me a naughty new spirit; Royal Crown. Excellent nightcap. The last minutes of the day saw us staggering around outside trying to take night-time photos, at least the rain had stopped but, that cold shock made me feel so tired and I can honestly say dear reader, I don’t remember anything until the next morning.


 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Friday - Day 6: Boardwalk Banff

Whilst I did set an alarm, it was the rain hammering against the windows that woke me first, that along with the need to wash the taste of last night out of my mouth. I am a little ashamed to say gentle reader that when the alarm did go off, I cancelled it and in such a comfortable bed, went straight back to sleep again! Obviously, we then woke up later than ever with only 30 minutes left before the end of the breakfast service. The waitress confirmed my fears that the rain and heavy fog were set in for the day and that any plans for elevated sight-seeing would be pointless.



After a quick check to see all was fine with our somewhat dirty bikes we returned to our room, donned lightweight waterproofs and struck out to see something of Banff. In a nice co-incidence, it seems Banff was named in 1884 by George Stephen, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, recalling his birthplace after the town in Aberdeen-shire, Scotland. Being the town with the second highest elevation in Alberta would no doubt make this a very popular destination for skiers and outdoor lovers alike, except when it was raining cats and dogs, of course. A little way down Banff Avenue in some forward planning we ducked into a hotel we were thinking of eating at that evening, over a coffee we decided against the menu and quickly decided to go rain dancing again. Norrie looked every bit the debonair traveller in his Dianese clothing, while I appeared more like 'bag-man' in my roll-up two-piece nylon, in fairness, everyone was wrapped up against the elements so that even a 'stranger-from-a-strange-land' didn’t feel out of place. After crossing Wolf street, the hotels were left behind us and replaced with every type of shop, bar and restaurant that could be squeezed in side-by-side.


With thanks to Wikipedia!

In our never ending coffee quest, I dragged a reluctant Norrie into Starbucks for the first time ever and, despite his reservations he enjoyed the coffee, even if every single seat was taken. Back outside, interesting heritage and artistic works vied for our attention among the normal tourist items, we did buy some trinkets but of course, ever wary of carrying capacity on the bikes.

Mid-afternoon now, the sun was trying its hardest to burn off the haze on the mountains but, it was a losing battle. We wandered into the 'Clock tower village Mall', more as a way of avoiding another downpour than anything else and while Norrie checked out a potential purchase in a jewellers, I waited outside and ended up chatting to a lady with an immaculately groomed and very friendly dog, also taking shelter. She explained her husband was 'somewhere' in the building as they had just left the bar up above on the first floor, that she recommended. Norrie had returned by this time and it was all the recommendation we needed, so the Banff Avenue Brewing Company was our next visit. For mere drinking novices, like ourselves, the novelty of the brewery was in offering 6 (or even 12 for the seasoned drinkers), small sample glasses of any combination of available brews. Along with a snack, to slow the drinking process, I must say I enjoyed all the brews except the very darkest. What a pleasant way to pass the time.



A fellow Brit, on hearing my accent came over and introduced himself, oddly enough, he was also touring on a motorcycle and making his way to Revelstoke which in circular coincidence was our next destination too! We snapped some photos from the veranda just as some of the fog was clearing so we could see some of the 7 peaks visible just from the normal forward view, Mount Cory at 2800m being the highest. Sustained for a little while longer we set off again, the rain eased to just intermittent and we could see the effect of it in the swollen Bow river as we crossed on the concrete road bridge dating back to 1923.
Norrie also managed a quite atmospheric Mountain photo, the peak visible for a few minutes as the fog cleared, temporarily.



Following the river Bow now, I had half an idea to try and get to The Fairmont complex and its castle like hotel but the rain came once again and in fading light we decided seeing it from a distance was enough and turned back, walking through woodland this time and crossing the very newest pedestrian bridge, impressively spanning the 80m of river with wooden cladding on its sides and a wood deck to walk on.





Soon enough we were back on Banff avenue and into the corridor of hotels but now we saw the pleasing sight of a hotel with an Italian restaurant in its facilities, the 'Banff Ptarmigan Inn' was inviting in itself and even if we only had a simple specialty meal of meatballs, it was very good and no desert was needed.

Our hotel was only a 15 minute walk up the avenue and even in precautionary waterproofs, it was still pleasant to enjoy the pure fresh air. Back in the room a complementary bottle of wine was waiting from David at Cycle BC. A kind gesture, I thought but we had consumed a fair amount of octane already so Norrie stored it safely in one of his panniers. Tea was much more appropriate, back on Day 1 I'd been given some local tea to try and since we were as close to 'home' on the bikes, right now, as would be as good a time as any - thank you, Cartems Donuterie, it was refreshing. Unlike the weather forecast for tomorrow: more rain, I let Norrie study the weather channels on TV while I looked up route options again on my notebook, there wasn’t many but, I didn’t want to try and avoid the main highway we rode on the way in, for a two lane road that took us closer to a mountain range; fingers crossed.

I was itching (sorry dear reader, not literally, I might add) to try the hotel pool but couldn’t lure Norrie along, so wondering if there might be enough room and forgetting it was Friday night, I wandering into a huge area, with only two people present. The pool was easily 25m long and kept at a moderate temperature to allow swimming. The extra prize was a big jet pool in the corner, I was going to say, Jacuzzi but it was oblong and could easily accommodate 30 or so people. After 10 length or so in the main pool I turned the jets on and sat in the corner pool, it was blissful. Sitting down, jets in the very lower level massaged my calves, while through the upper windows I could still see the dark outline of nearby mountains, illuminated, I can only imagine by distant lights. Extra, more powerful jets were placed on the rear of the seating level and my back was very glad of those, before I knew it the 15 minute timer had clicked off, so after a quick drink I had a last swim in the big pool. I had the whole facility to myself now so a last dip in the smaller pool seemed a good way to end. I didn’t realise my muscles were so sore, I tried laying down on the sitting area to direct the jets onto my upper legs and glutes, on leaving the water I freely admit to feeling a little drained so sat in a tabled rest area, next to the pool and sipped the rest of my water until it was shower time.

Norrie was channel surfing the dozens of information channels on the TV, when I returned, there was so much to do that we had missed out upon but at least we had a feel for the good character of the area. Sleep came so easily once again but, isn’t that the way it should be, on holiday?



 

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Great posts Iconic! :smile2:

Banff is an area I want to do some riding around in the near future. I've been through there a few times as a child but never as a mature tourist.

Crown Royal is really something :grin2: It's probably the best Canadian whisky around. So smooth and a real delight. It's a common present over here (or even a tip) for good work or from business associates. It's interesting to hear you speak of Nanaimo bars - I'd long since forgotten that they only exist over here :smile2: It kind of sucks that you ran into rain but that too is part of the Canadian experience :wink2:

I've got to hand it to you though, from a destination perspective you seem to be hitting all the high notes so far. I really can't think of any places (of real note) that you've missed.

All the best to you and yours this Christmas!

BTW, there is a lot of English history over here so it's no coincidence that you're running into British influence. As I'm sure you noticed, the Queen is on our money (and in our hearts) as she's been here many times over the years from one side of the country to the other. In fact, she loves it (for real). If I remember correctly I think her first state visit as Queen (along with Prince Phillip) was Canada. He's a really interesting fellow too and extremely sharp (read funny). His wit is something of a legend over here. So they have tended to be regular visitors and pretty much everyone, from one corner of the country to the other, has seen/greeted them in person. They've literally been everywhere and it's always a blast when they came as we really put on the polish for them at every stop.

In fact, the town to my right (Qualicum Beach) has a lot of history dating back to the UK as most of the original settlers there were of English/Scots decent. That heritage is very apparent in the town and I recall once spending a night in a house there, when the owner was away, and as it turned out, this was the house that the Queen stayed at when in the area. It was owned by a cousin (?) of HRH and when the Queen arrives she vacates the house but not before it's painted, in it's entirety, to the proper colors.

I myself also did 3 years in a boarding school over here (as a child) that was founded and staffed by people from England back in the very early 1900's. (the staff, of course, were not original...although, now that I think of it...some were pretty close) In fact, I was there at the time when the Queen's representatives came through as they were looking for a school (at that time) for Harry and William :surprise: and it was on the short list. Back then no-one really knew who they were (compared to today) and everyone was wondering what their relationship to the Queen was. This was, as I recall, considerably before they were of proper school age so I guess they were planning ahead!

I'm very impressed with your trip. So far I'd have to say you absolutely nailed it! Keep the posts coming as I'm really thinking I need a local holiday and your route would be pretty easy for me to do! :smile2: It's just one ferry ride and a few kilometers away - and a heck of a lot less money!

PS>I never thought your rude awakening would have been from a bump on the noggin' - I was certain it was going to be and up close and personal blast from a train's horn :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Thank you so much, Arjay.

Christmas Eve and I've been at work, on a 12-hour day shift so nearly have all the text written for the next installment!

I'm enjoying your insights and finding out more about B.C. and the history, just as much as the ride: honestly.

Interesting knowledge about Queen Elizabeth - oddly just the other day at work we found a plaque commemorating the boarding of the royal couple on board the QE2 to a state visit to Sweden from the jetty named after the ship in 1956!

I hope this link works as I work on the Jetty upriver from here:

QUEEN AND DUKE SAIL TO SWEDEN Before embarking on royal yacht at Tees Port Her Majesty and Duke make quick tour of North East.

A wonderful Christmas to you all 0:)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Saturday D7 – Revelstoke (Workin’ them Angels)

Another alarm call and another trashed bed, I couldn’t ignore either, so I dressed and even made the bed presentable since we were leaving soon. I hardly dared to look out of the window but, the sun was shining, the roads were dry and the sky was the deepest blue I’d seen in a long time. Breakfast was a quiet affair with few guests, being familiar with the hotel’s routine eased the path for us but I mused over how staying for two nights didn’t seem to be long at all when arriving late on the first evening. Still, today was a relatively easy 180 miles and mainly highway, we were soon packed and in the oven otherwise known as the garage, trying to get mobile as quickly as possible and keep what little hydration we had.

I was surprised how quiet the roads were that we had only walked yesterday but not as surprised at how sore I was on the bike, probably from the hydro-pounding, last night! Unavoidably, we soon turned back onto Highway 1 but, I had a cunning plan. Only a few miles on, 1A parallels the Trans-Canada Highway but, is a mile closer to the foot of the various peaks, including Mount Ishbel and the many jagged features of Castle Mountain. The exit came up for 1A and I could see the traffic slowing down ahead but not leaving the Highway. Sure enough, the exit had just been closed, the police and traffic department still in attendance finishing putting cones out. I must admit, dear reader, to some disappointed ‘arm-flapping’ at this point and a slight increase to our previous speed. To make matters slightly worse, nearly 10 miles further, I tried to get us onto 1A again with the same result: closed. There were mist clouds around the base of the mountains, so the road might have been cooler and possibly damp but, I was just trying to console myself, it was a road specifically designated as a scenic route now, I just hoped it wasn’t the start of a reversal of fortunes.

Not all was lost, the next exit is where the side show would have brought us to in any event; the hamlet of Lake Louise, with the actual lake a mile further west. At we found out where a lot of Saturday morning traffic had headed to, Lake Louise! As soon as we left the highway it was nose-to-tail traffic crawling along looking for limited parking spaces. After half a mile, vehicles were being left by the side of the road, the occupants choosing to walk on the verge. With a solid centre line, I decided to be a good traveller and stay in line with the traffic but turning into the eventual parking lot showed how futile this endeavour was as every single space was taken. I gestured to Norrie that we should go elsewhere and he agreed. Thankfully, back at the Mount Robson lodge, someone else had mentioned a smaller lake only a few miles south that was just as pretty as Louise. The traffic has cleared a little on the return road as so many had parked up, allowing us to press on and then, turn onto the single-destination lane to Moraine Lake. A little too busy for bend-swinging fun, the tall tree-lined smooth tarmac only gave a glimpse of the treasures to come, while I was a bit more attentive of distracted drivers and possible wildlife.



The car park at the end of the road didn’t appear to have any bike bays at all so paid my penalty of having us leave the bikes at the entranceway, with a kind warden saying he did not mind, one bit; respect to you, sir. We could already see a shockingly blue lake but, the coffee had worked its magic, as usual, and a rest stop was needed first. Coffee and cookies seemed a decent replacement and we sat under table shades, with birds tweeting (no doubt for crumbs) as we took what felt like a well-deserved rest.



Little did we know that the views at Moraine Lake are the most photographed in ALL Canada. Part of the ‘Valley of the Ten Peaks’, every single one of them topping out in excess of 10,000 feet high, with one, Deltaform Mountain, 1234 feet higher still! Jaw-droppingly, picture perfect the scene was even used on the back of the Canadian twenty dollar bill for ten years. Standing beside the lake was just idyllic, large rocks to sit on by the ice blue water, framed by tall trees; dizziness inducing mountains with children climbing a smaller hillock near the waterline where, signature felled tree trunks waited in disorder to be liberated.



Canoe's were even available for hire, another activity I would have really liked to of tried but, wearing bike gear didn't seem the best choice and only one single brave soul had the spirit to attempt it so, that had to be consigned into the missed opportunity section.



Ever onward but first, back along the forest road, we came in on and then a quick refuel at a Husky station in Lake Louise. I tried pointing my helmet cam rearwards on this run and managed to capture some nice shots with Norrie gracing the scenery. Only next did we manage to pass the terminus of the Icefield Parkway and finally ride on a section of highway brand new to us. Only 5 miles later, we were welcomed back into British Columbia and the Yoho National Park, 10 miles more and we turned off, as our ride notes mentioned a worthwhile diversion to a waterfall. I liked the Yoho Valley road as soon as we turned onto it, typical wooden decked road bridges and quality tarmac again leading into proper bend swinging fun this time. The valley meanders between the Wapta and Ogden mountains and what a gem it is, I really didn't want this section of ride to end as it was the elixir I'd hoped of experiencing the superb scenery and great biking roads.



The end of the road was well worth stopping for though; Takakkawa Falls, even though depleted by the dry weather, at an impressive 302 meters high and ranked 45th tallest was still worth closer inspection and a full car park of visitors seemed to agree. Picnic tables were full of families enjoying the area and the nearby bed of the Kicking Horse river could easily be walked and observed.
'Takakkawa' it seems, is roughly translated to the phrase 'It is magnificent' which, even after all we had seen so far, was certainly the case.

 

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Discussion Starter #20
Norrie produced some trail bars from his topbox, that we had bought back on day one so it was timely to devour them now after missing lunch by a good margin. It was only 8 miles back to Highway 1 and a return to flatlands valley riding on fast roads. Signposts for the town of Field appeared but with plenty of fuel onboard still we opted for pressing onwards, which happened to be Southwards before swinging back West, once again.




Welcome to Takakkawa

Mid-afternoon now and I was starting to get a little hungry just as our route planner mentioned an option for a good food stop in the town of Golden, slipping off 'left' when driving on the right felt very odd to me and sadly, is a harbinger of the next event and an explanation of the title for today's posting.

A road closure forced the SatNat into a recalculation and we seemed to spend 20 minutes riding around side roads. Eventually, I had enough and at an empty crossroads, instructed the Nav to find the nearest fuel station instead. Soon enough, we found ourselves at three parallel sets of roads, still not being too sure of 4-way stops, I edged through the first two and saw a fuel stop on the right-hand side, the SatNav was insistent I continue on and then left. There were only 10 feet of land between the two roads and a single stop line before the last road, IF there was a 'No-left-turn' sign then I didn't see it but managed to assess that nothing was coming from either direction.

Today's title once again, gentle reader, refers to a Rush song about pushing one's luck a little too hard and making ones 'Angels, work overtime'! Something felt instantly WRONG, our lanes of the road were much too narrow compared to the other two lanes on the opposite side of the solid raised center barrier, that alone made my adrenaline surge. I had indeed just made a left turn, into the oncoming traffic on Highway 1.

I could see an end to the barrier up the road and a set of cross-roads. My heart was racing as I gunned the bike to the end of the barrier and into a hatched marked road area to check that Norrie was following me. I hit my hazard light switch and Norrie tucked in behind me. I think my luck was also 'Golden' at that point as only a single car came towards us and didn't even slow, allowing us to turn left again and into fuel station haven.

Total knowledge of one's own stupidity is a terrible thing and I felt dreadfully shaken that I had put both our lives in peril. Norrie was nonplussed in that nothing bad had actually happened, but I had trouble getting my bike fuelled up and was very glad of a Tim Horton's cafe nearby for a coffee fix.

I’m afraid dear reader, that the remaining 90 miles to our destination are simply blank in my memories, I had been affected by ‘the Golden event’ obviously, as not only did we pass over the Columbia River and passed the very opposite end of Kinbasket Lake to that at Canoe Mountain, (the waterway running for 110 miles in between) but we even skirted around Iconoclast Mountain, the name of which would of normally, impressed me greatly. Our ride notes mention being wary of the wildlife and winding nature of Rogers Pass, of which neither made an impression.
I later tried to look up the Inuit phrase for ‘bad luck’ and if my slender research was correct, there is no interpretation for the word, ‘luck’. The closest I found was a word for ‘bad thing’, which I think is the malevolent expletive, maiksuk! That suited my dark mood, just fine.
Thankfully, by the outskirts of our destination, I’d pulled around and actually recall feeling a little nervous of making any sort of similar mistake, so much so, that I took a wrong exit on an offset road junction. It was fine this time, as I’d studied Google maps images enough to navigate to the hotel rear without even needing to refer to the SatNav.

The Regent hotel certainly lived up to its name, our room was excellent, with two double sized beds and an office type area at the far end that Norrie allowed me to take-over with my notebook and various charging stations, it suited us, just fine. A bar meal was also equally fine and a few tall drinks disappeared all too easily as did the negatives of the ride.



Light fading already, we could hear music playing outside somewhere and decided a stretch of the legs would be welcome. Sure enough, two blocks down, on the delightfully cobbled portion of MacKenzie Avenue was a bandstand full of musicians and with the road closed off, at least a hundred chairs had been arranged and mostly filled, for the towns-people to enjoy an open festival. It was a great atmosphere and the only surprise to me was that no-one was dancing in the isles!



After some more grizzly statue photo hilarity for Norrie, we did a 180 turn to explore the rest of the avenue with the sun setting behind, what I believe, appropriately enough, is Mount English. Some interesting fish metal sculptures signalled the end of our wandering and we returned to the Conversations Coffee House, that we spied earlier but, surprisingly, not for a beverage but for homemade ice-cream. An indication of just how pleasant an evening it was. We admired the spirit of Revelstoke, instantly.
 
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