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 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!
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!