Canada 2015: Wild Canada West, a small review...

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Canada 2015: Wild Canada West, a small review...

Postby falco » Fri Nov 27, 2015 7:44 pm

Since I've gained good assistance here on our little adventure 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.

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.

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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"!

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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.

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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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Re: Canada 2015: Wild Canada West, a small review...

Postby Rick F. » Sun Nov 29, 2015 4:12 pm

Frank,

Yikes, what an ordeal! I hope the GS journey more than made up for the air travel problems.

Rick F.
"Time flies, whether you're having fun or not..."

2013 BMW 335i convertible (a.k.a. a 2-door, 4-seat, 300-hp motorcycle with training wheels and a roll cage)
2006 BMW Z4 3.0i roadster (sold)
2005 BMW R1200GS (retired)
2003 BMW F650CS (sold)
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Re: Canada 2015: Wild Canada West, a small review...

Postby falco » Fri Dec 04, 2015 4:33 pm


Thanks Rick!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Re: Canada 2015: Wild Canada West, a small review...

Postby falco » Tue Dec 08, 2015 9:23 am

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 like 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!
falco
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Re: Canada 2015: Wild Canada West, a small review...

Postby falco » Tue Dec 08, 2015 9:24 am

Only just realised my images are getting cropped, I guess by the forum software - sorry, about that!
falco
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