The Throttle West 2023 event, put on by Adventure Pacific Moto Tours and Events was a good excuse to go for another little road trip. I don’t often do road trips with others, but back in February, my friend Marlowe asked if I was going to the event and we decided to make a little adventure out of it. Marlowe was one of my original riding instructors! Mother Nature decided that Marlowe should start out with a deluge of rain on her way to Sechelt, from whence we would depart the next morning. I met her in Gibsons and after a quick visit to the Blackfish Pub for her Cafe to Cafe tour collection, we headed to our house and had a late supper talked way too much about life and nonsense before heading to bed to rest up for our adventure.
Thursday morning dawned cool, but dry and we made tracks for the scenic ferry ride over to Horseshoe Bay. We met Lorraine on the boat, who was also headed for Throttle West via the southern route. The bikes were off-loaded immediately, and Marlowe and I scooted off at the first exit to pick up the Sea to Sky Highway. This curvy road commands one’s attention and deserves much more respect from riders and drivers than it typically gets. Being a weekday, we had a lovely ride to Whistler, not encountering anyone crazier than ourselves. We pulled into Whistler for a break to stretch our legs, rehydrate and make a dent in the tub of cherries and blueberries I brought with me to use up. Whistler is as beautiful in the summer as it is in the winter and always bustling with people.
Jumping back on the bikes, we travelled on to Pemberton where we stopped briefly for gas before heading for the legendary Duffy Lake road that all riders in BC swoon over. It is still Hwy 99, but it is a scenic, twisty, technical road between Pemberton and Lillooet that is highly satisfying on a bike. Marlowe was wary, having not enjoyed the experience as a new rider many years ago. It is with proprietary pride that I can say I was with her when she found it an amazing ride as a very experienced rider and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Duffy Lake road eventually spits you out at Lillooet where we stopped for a break and some lunch. We still had a considerable distance to go, so we didn’t dawdle over lunch and headed south on Hwy 12 to Lytton. The town of Lytton was burned to the ground 2 years ago from wildfire and if it wasn’t sobering to see it burning on TV then, it was damn tragic to see “Main Street” with nothing ( and I mean nothing) but gated, empty lots waiting and hoping for rebuild, with the occasional lonesome tree standing unscathed amidst the devastation.
The brief stretch of Hwy 1 to the Hwy 8 turnoff was busy with traffic and a bit frustrating. The day was feeling long by now and in the last 8 kms, I made the decision not to take advantage of a passing lane to get by a very slow little truck. I regretted it as it seemed like a very long 8 kms before we turned off for the Spences Bridge road (Hwy 8). It was getting pretty hot, so we pulled over and crossed the street to the shade of an old building and had some more cherries and blueberries and chugged some water. The building was picturesque and a photo needed to be taken. Marlowe obliged and I think that was the first time I used my line on her to “smile like you’re having fun, not like you’re having your picture taken.” It worked - she laughed and she looks awesome! 😊
Hwy 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt is another example of Mother Nature’s ability to humble us mere human beings. The road was almost completely washed away by floods and it has taken all of two years to make it passable again. I was on that road a few years ago and this time was struck by how dramatically the landscape has changed. There were lots of gravel stretches to keep us at a respectful speed and it wasn’t until we were about 30 kms short of Merritt that it smoothed out and we could sail along in relative ease to our hotel for the night. A late dinner of Chinese food and off to bed for an early start on Friday.
Hitting the road by 8:00 a.m. on Friday, we expected to arrive in Nakusp in lots of time for the event’s dinner and evening activities. You would think this would be gobs of time….. With only a brief stop for coffee and a snack in Kelowna, we were back on the bikes and up the back road to Lake Country to avoid the staggering gauntlet of lights through Kelowna on Hwy 97. A brief stop for gas in Lake Country and on to Cherryville where we would take a break for lunch at the Cherryville Roadhouse. I’ve been there before so I knew the food was decent. Neither of us being starved after our coffee stop, we decided to share the mandarin chicken salad. And a good thing we did – it was huge! Restored with real food, we hopped back on our bikes and sailed along the remaining miles of the absolutely spectacular Hwy 6 to the Needles ferry. It was with a bit of trepidation that we parked our bikes on the steeply sloped road to wait for the ferry, but we managed to park them solidly and drag our hot butts off for the wait. We had a great conversation with Tim while waiting. He had appeared behind us not far out of Cherryville and though we were navigating the highly technical road admirably, I expected him to fly by us on the straight stretches. He didn’t though, choosing to sit back at a respectful distance and let us do our thing. He rides the road regularly and is very familiar with it.
The traffic fairies continued to be kind as we disembarked on the east side of Arrow Lake, and we had a lovely, scenic, and smooth ride at a perfect pace for the last 45 minutes into Nakusp. Alas, when we arrived at 4:00 p.m. our room had missed the cleaning list! We ended up unloading our stuff into the pub while we waited for it to be prepared and missed the shuttle over to Rider’s Retreat where the event would kick off with dinner at 6. Eventually hauling everything up to our room, we had time for a quick shower and texted Rebecca at Rider’s Retreat to see about getting there so we didn’t have to get back on the bikes. We soon got the return message “Bald guy, black truck. Leaving now. 5 minutes.” The highly recognizable, admittedly bald Will, in a black truck, did arrive in about 5 minutes, tolerantly putting up with delivering us to the event and making bad jokes. Thanks Will!
More on the event itself later, but before I sign off on this blog, I want to explain the title “A Sense-ational Ride”. Taking the northern route from Horseshoe Bay to Lillooet is an amazing and welcome assault on the senses. It is not only visually stunning with its vistas of island-spotted ocean, soaring mountains, rushing creeks and deep gorges. As a rider, you also experience the change in the quality of the air, from the crisp, fresh essence of the mountains to the dryer, warmer air as you drop out of them. The smells change – a very green smell in the mountains, giving way to the smell of clover and wildflowers of the lower elevations as the air gets dryer and warmer. The temperatures shift - cooler in the mountains, riding through warm spots as the elevation drops, then cooling again as you climb the next, then smacked with a wall of heat as you descend from Lillooet into the arid Thompson-Nicola region. All of these things are experienced as a rider, a cyclist, a hiker – anything that takes you out of your “cage” and into the environment around you. It is so worth the time and energy.
Until later, my friends, thanks for joining me once again.
Whenever I say I am on a road trip to Manitoba, people say “Why do you want to ride the prairies?! It’s so boring!” Even prairie folk say that. Well, if you think the prairies are boring, you’re not trying hard enough.
Maybe I’m jaded because I grew up there, but I challenge you to look with the eyes to see and embrace with an open heart, and you will find the prairies have much to offer.
Saskatchewan’s motto is “Land of Living Skies”, which can be said of all the prairie provinces. The endless sky with all its moods is what strikes one immediately. It can be dramatic with dark, ominous clouds driven at tremendous speed by a relentless prairie wind. It can mesmerize with a sunset that blazes out in a glory of colour like no other place in Canada. It can be a blue that goes on forever, with a sun that drives you to the beach in the summer or sparkles so brightly off the snow in the winter you have to shield your eyes. It can hang a huge, orange harvest moon on the horizon in the fall.
Manitoba is “The Land of 100,000 Lakes”, a legacy of Lake Agassiz which covered most of the province after the glaciers of the Ice Age receded. Get up to Manitoba’s north – the beauty around Flin Flon is Manitoba’s best kept secret. Then travel down to the Spirit Sands and experience its desert. Manitoba’s deceptively delicate-looking crocus is the first flower to stubbornly push through the ground and bloom after the harsh, cold winter.
Alberta’s landscape goes from flat, dry prairie, to the alien-looking badlands, to the soaring rocky mountains. Red Rock Coulee in the south of the province makes you feel like you dropped into an episode of Star Trek and if you continue along that road for awhile, you may even end up in Vulcan where there’s a spaceship statue. Don’t miss out on the Tyrell museum in Drumheller or the Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump interpretive centre.
“The prairies are boring”. Say those who have never been tearing across it on a motorcycle, chased by a thunderstorm with lighting crackling across the sky. Knowing you are the highest point on the landscape and hoping to reach shelter before the storm reaches you. There is nothing like a prairie thunderstorm when one is holed up somewhere safe to watch it. Sheet lighting can light up the darkest sky and throw the shadows of structures and trees into sharp relief. Crackling branches of lightning appear out of nowhere, streaking towards the ground in an awe-inspiring lightshow that puts fireworks to shame. Thunder booms so loudly it can shake the house and make you jump, even if you heard it rolling louder and louder towards the boom. It’s bloody fascinating!
“The prairies are boring”. Say those who have never seen a canola or flax crop in full bloom, or a field of seemingly never-ending sunflowers tracking the sun. The air is fragrant with crops in bloom, wildflowers lining the ditches, the hot dusty air of the late afternoon and the fresh, dewy air of the morning.
I challenge you next to see beyond the visual. That field of huge round bales in tidy rows as far as you can see mean long days of toil by farmers cutting, baling and collecting. The cattle grazing in the pasture represent a commitment of time to ROI that no one but a farmer would accept. That thunderstorm that chased you under cover could destroy it all in a few short minutes, bringing hail with it or a vicious prairie wind to flatten the crop or evolve into a tornado. These events are not occasional things – they are an annual occurrence, and it is not a matter of “if” - it’s a matter of “when” and “where”. Roll the dice.
“The prairies are boring”. I dare you to seek out all the town statues. They are amazing and often hilarious. Some are in the pictures below. You can find a pretty good list of them here: http://www.bigthings.ca/. Make an adventure of it.
Save the best for last. Talk to the people. Step into the “office” (the local coffee shop) with a smile and engage the table of regulars having their daily visit. If you’re stuck on the side of the road, wave someone down – odds are they’ll stop. When you’re outrunning that thunderstorm, look for the clump of trees with a driveway – there’s a farmhouse there that will shelter you and feed you while they do it. Marvel at the ingenuity of the farmers who learned to fix things because buying new equipment wasn’t an option – hard enough just to eke out a living. Stop into the police station that your high school buddy and his wife bought because she wanted something “unique to live in”. Get the tour and hear how hard it is to reno through concrete and rebar! But they’ll figure it out. 'Cause that's what prairie folk do.
When all is said and done, the prairies are not boring. Different, but not boring. So sally forth, my friends, and embrace the prairie experience!
Robert Frost wrote “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in”. I add to that “Even when you’ve been wearing the same clothes for 4 days….” Fortunately, the weather had been cool on the road and I was not as ripe as I may otherwise have been.
The goal to ride the entirety of Hwy 16 ended at Mile 1837 (2959 kms) on Thursday, July 14th. Night Fury and I have travelled 3472 kms since leaving home on this adventure.
As it happens, the end of my Hwy 16 journey is very close to where I have family, who seemed happy to see me in spite of the fact that I had been riding in the same clothes for 4 days (yes, I changed undies). Leaving Yorkton in good time and having less road to cover, I took a more leisurely approach to the day. Cruising along the highway, I spotted a guy fishing in a dugout in a yellow canoe. This seemed photo-worthy, so I took one. A little further up the road was the community of Churchbridge, whose highway sign boasted murals, so I took a loop through there too. Next was to take a photo as Night Fury and I arrived at the Manitoba border and of course, we had to stop again to take a photo of the town statue of the bull at Russell. A prairie tailwind obligingly pushed us along and I was soon arriving at Dad’s place in Arden.
I recruited Dad to follow me to the end of Hwy 16, which is some 70 kms past his place. A rather anticlimactic locale with simply a sign indicating the junction of Hwy 16 and the Trans Canada Hwy 1. But the moment must be documented, so we pulled over and had the picture before continuing to Portage for lunch. In the hour or so we spent having lunch, the skies darkened and the winds picked up, so I jumped back onto Fury and we headed back up the road to Arden, the increasing winds buffeting us from the side and demanding a little more effort.
Brother-in-law Brad was off galivanting with work, but Connie was home. Their dog, Simone seemed so happy to see me I thought she was going to wiggle waggle her butt right off. It was time for a welcome break, settling in for a good chin wag with Connie and cuddles from Simone (frankly, I'm impressed I still have a chin, we talked so much). Mom’s place in McCreary was the destination for the night, so after a couple of hours of visiting, I suited up for the last hour of travel for the day. Again the skies darkened to the north and the winds picked up, so I pinned the throttle and Fury and I made tracks for McCreary, hoping to arrive before any significant rain. We did, and Fury was safely parked and unloaded before any adverse weather took place. Mom had iced tea and snacks ready and Don helped unload Fury.
It is good to be settled for a couple of nights and in the way that Moms can’t help being Moms, I woke to find all my laundry washed, dried and folded neatly in a basket. My morning began with a visit with Harvey and Rosie, who bought the police station in my hometown. Harvey was a high school classmate and they are renovating the police station to live in. I was jealous as I’d had my own visions for that building when I saw it for sale. I guess that ship has sailed and the best I can do now is to come and stay behind bars sometime without having to break any laws.
The day ended with a spectacular sunset, prompting Don and I to jump in the car and toodle the back roads for photos. Hard to beat a prairie sunset!
Thanks for following along on this wee journey, friends. I’ll try to come up with something interesting to do on that way home! 😊
In the time zone? Or in the riding zone…? Yes. And Yes. The time zones were having fun with me yesterday. Stay tuned for that story, but I will begin where I last left off.
Taking a leaf from Florian’s book, I have been quite destination-oriented since leaving Prince Rupert. A few work commitments along the way and the need to arrive at my end destination in time for a high-school gathering on Saturday, I’ve been making tracks in order to leave a buffer for unexpected weather, etc. as I travel. As it happens, it has been PERFECT riding weather and Night Fury and I are enjoying ourselves thoroughly.
Burns Lake was the first stop after Prince Rupert, but fires throughout northern BC were making views hazy and there wasn’t a lot of point in stopping to take many photos. Upon arrival in Burns Lake, there were significant fires within a couple of hundred kms and some evacuation alerts in neighbouring communities. So as tired as I felt, Night Fury was unloaded and then taken for a full tank of fuel on the off-chance we would be asked to evacuate overnight. On the way back from the fuel station, some riders headed for the Dempster had arrived in Burns Lake and I passed the info on to them and we had a quick visit before I called it a night, lounged in a hot bath for a while and went to bed early.
The next day, I had intended to stop at Valemount (no accommodations in Tete-Jaune Cache), then loop back up to Hwy 16 to continue to Edmonton the next day. The smoke cleared some time out of Prince George though, and I got a hot last-minute deal on a hotel in Jasper, so I kept rolling. Pretty smooth sailing, if quite cool with overcast skies. We hit 25 kms or so of gravel due to roadwork after Prince George. Somewhere between Valemount and Jasper, the skies darkened, lighting flashed and there was about 15 minutes of pelting rain. I thought “Here we go! This last hour is going to suck”. But it was just a little tantrum – enough to wash the bugs from my visor and keep Fury and I on our toes. Arriving in Jasper about 6 local time, I unloaded Fury and left her visiting with her friends in the parking lot while I went in search of the first "real" food I'd had all day.
Having made Jasper, the planned destination of Edmonton the next day was a bit too soon to stop. So I stopped in for a quick visit with my niece. Her wee laddie was home too so I got a fix of baby smiles and lunch. The other wee laddie was in daycare, so unfortunately I missed him, but must catch up with him next time as he is motorcycle bonkers. Great-auntie Alyson must encourage such corruption, along with other shenanigans – it’s my responsibility and I take it seriously! As it was, I just left a couple of little books I had brought for them and a CD of kids' songs that I'm certain will be irritating little ear worms that will drive their mother mad in short order. Mission accomplished!
Knowing I could put a few more miles behind me, I contacted my friend and colleague, Camela, in Lloydminster who had been foolish enough to offer me a bed if I landed there for an overnight. Land I did! Settling my stuff in my room, I looked at my phone. 6:15 p.m.!! That took way longer than I thought and I had told them I would arrive around 5-5:30! Then I went to the kitchen. The clock on the stove said 5:15…… Lloydminster sits on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The location of their home means if you are in the bedroom, it is an hour later than if you are in the kitchen! Even though at this time of the year, SK and AB are on the same time.
Camela and Len fed me a fabulous dinner and then Camela and I set about exhausting our 20,000 (and far more) words for the day. Len, finding this activity less than scintillating, retired to watch all-star baseball and go to bed early. Apparently he had to work today or some such nonsense. While Camela and I have known each other for a couple of years as work colleagues, we have seldom had a chance to visit and I have discovered another truly kindred spirit in her. We went to bed later than planned and I set my alarm for 8:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. to ensure I got a good rest. But the time zone got me again! Alarm went off at 8:00 a.m. I felt nice and rested, got up showered and went to the kitchen. 7:15 a.m.! Camela and I got a good start on today’s 20,000 words and it was 8:30 before I actually got on my way. Time well spent, in my opinion!
Had a training session to deliver and fortunately, my trainee was patient with me (thanks Colette). When I entered Saskatchewan, my brain had retained the Lloydminster experience and I forgot that SK doesn’t lose another hour in the summer and did not reach a location where I could deliver my session until an hour after it was due to happen. The Tim Horton’s in Saskatoon provided the table, coffee and snack and I was once again struck by how lucky I am to be able to take my work on the road with me. I so enjoyed the ride through Saskatchewan - the bright. clear day, the vivid, fragrant crops of blooming canola, the scenic, pastoral landscapes of prairie grass, crops, animals and farm houses. I may be biased, as a prairie chicken myself, but beauty is where you choose to see it.
I had hoped to connect with family in SK on my way through, but they were away, so Fury and I topped up with fuel and kept on rolling. Another several hundred kms behind us and I arrived at my destination for the night with sore muscles and a rumbly tummy. Grabbed food from the KFC next door to the hotel I landed at and went back to my room, wondering if I should soak in a hot bath or eat first. In the end, I ate my supper while soaking in the hot bath! Oh, the luxury!
I am within 400 kms of reaching The West Rides Again’s goal of riding the length of Hwy 16. Tomorrow’s the day to reach the goal part of this trip!
Haida Gwaii – Once you’ve reached the edge of your world, ours begins. So says the tourism guide and it is a perfect description of Haida Gwaii as a destination. It’s an effort to get there, but the island is welcoming and peaceful and beautiful. It may sound ridiculous to go all the way to Haida Gwaii just to start at Mile Zero of Hwy 16, but it was so worth it! Read on for the very special experience we had in Gaw Tlagée (Old Masset). Settle in for a long story because we compressed a lot into the day!
Florian had never been there, so he joined me on the trip in and out of Haida Gwaii, boarding the 10:30 a.m. ferry from Prince Rupert for the 7-hour crossing. I was very surprised to see the big trucks and trailers and RVs backing onto the ferry! Some seriously impressive skill there. It explained a lot about why they wanted us all there 90 minutes before sailing and the motorcycles were the last to load. I was also surprised to see that Florian and I were the only motorcycles on board. It was a smooth crossing and we disembarked on time at Hlgaagilda (Skidegate).
Our accommodation was at the Gwaii Naay guest house in Masset but we were advised to grab a bite on the way from the ferry to Masset, as restaurants closed early. The road to Masset is beautiful, with good pavement and sweeping curves. We were warned of, and saw, many deer along the roadside and kept our pace leisurely. We struck out at the first two places for food and ended up in Masset after all, where the Red Rooster was still open and served us a great dinner of fresh, hot Chinese food before finding the guest house.
Elsie runs the Gwaii Naay guest house and it is a nice little building with various configurations of bedrooms and a shared bathroom, lounge and kitchen. We unloaded our bikes and had a bit of a rest, trying not to fall asleep before going in search of the sunset. Strolling to the end of a decommissioned pier at the end of the main street, our perseverance was rewarded with a stunning ball of fire sinking slowly into the ocean as the evening settled. There were eagles and other birds calling and a boat returning from a late-evening ride. The sunset attracted many to the pier and we met a number of locals who had come down to watch. The evening cooled swiftly and we returned to the guesthouse to turn in for the night.
We woke to fairly consistent rain the next morning, but knowing it would ease in a couple of hours, we took our time making a breakfast sandwich and having a leisurely coffee. Elsie is a wealth of local knowledge and joined us for coffee and shared stories of the Haida people and the Haida poles we would see throughout the island. She said there really isn’t any such thing as a “totem” pole. A totem is an animal associated with a specific individual from their personal spiritual quest. What have been dubbed “totem poles” are actually very different types of poles. Lineage poles represent the members of a family. Thus, by entering a village, you can find your own people by the lineage poles they have erected. There are also story poles for documenting oral history and events. Memorial poles for loved ones that are gone from this physical realm. Mortuary poles mark the burial spot of one who has passed. Ceremonial poles maybe erected to commemorate special events and potlaches. Elsie explained the importance of Respect in Haida law and how poles can be used to acknowledge a debt that must be corrected by an individual or their family. Once resolved, the pole is destroyed and the debt is no longer spoken of – the memory of it thrown to the past. It reminded me of how important it is to let go of things in order to move on with a healthy life.
The Gwaii Naay house has many pictures of the Haida Gwaii landscape, animals, and birds. Elsie said her favourite bird was the Pacific Wren. I knew what she was talking about as I have seen them in Shishalh. They are a tiny little bird with a complex song. Elsie said that each generation of these birds adds a note to the song. A long song from this bird means their line has done well, while a shorter one indicates their line has been broken.
The rain finally eased and though the morning was still cool, we were more than ready to explore. We started by riding up to Gaw Tlagée (Old Masset). I remembered the art and gift store there and wanted to stop in. While there, I had a heartfelt conversation with Mary and Judy. Mary had lost her husband recently. I shared with her that Florian and I had experienced great loss as well and even in the 5 years that has gone by since I lost my sister Tracey, it still felt very fresh. We spoke of how there is so much illness everywhere and how sometimes it seems we have lost touch with what is important. I found what I was looking for in the shop – a Raven pendant to add to my treasure bag of talismans. Judy accompanied us outside and explained the lineage pole outside the building. She then directed us to a memorial pole for Ben Davidson – a family’s son who had been taken much too young by a heart attack. Judy went over to this pole with us and sang a traditional prayer for us for healing and to send us on our way with peace and safe travels. Though my tears flowed freely as she sang, we took our leave with a big hug and I felt lighter in spirit as we continued on our way. I am so grateful to have met these lovely people. Hawa’a, Judy, Mary, and Elsie.
Feeling rejuvenated, we took photos of the gorgeous murals around Masset and then set out for Taaw Tldáaw (Tow Hill) at the northern tip of Haida Gwaii. A low, heavy fog banished any notion of making the hike to the top where we would see no view. We did stop at Agate Beach to stretch our legs and take a picture of what we could see of the Taaw Tldáaw cliff. We rode the dirt road to its end and parked the bikes close to where you can drive onto the beach and see Née Kún (Rose Spit). You truly do feel like you are at the edge of the world.
On the way back from Née Kún, we stopped again in Masset to have a coffee and a snack before carrying on south. At the coffee house we met Debbie and her husband from Kelowna and had a great chat about travelling and adventures. From there, we determined to simply make our way south until it was time to catch the ferry back to Prince Rupert, remembering the all-important photo at Mile Zero!
We stopped at the Crystal Cabin in Tll.aal (Tlell) where there is a stone circle which celebrates the geological history of Haida Gwaii. From there, we visited Balance Rock, while marvelling that it is still there, doing what it does!
Carrying on down the road, we were too late in the day to take in the Haida Heritage Centre, but we had some of the best fish and chips at the food truck that was still open at the Centre! Supper being taken care of, we continued on to Daajing giids (Queen Charlotte) to kill the last couple of hours remaining. We rode to the end of the pavement we could find, then came back to find a spot to park the bikes and soak in the waterfront. Here we found a massive sculpture of a humpback whale. On the little boardwalk on the way back to our bikes, we met Leslie and Dean. Leslie said it was them who had waved from their porch and they had thought about inviting us over for ice cream and tea! We wished they had, but all the same had a great visit with them on the boardwalk and bade farewell in great spirits.
Despite his claim of being a “destination-oriented” rider, Florian admirably put up with me rabbiting all over the island. At last we boarded the 10:00 p.m. ferry. I had booked a cabin, knowing that if I wanted to ride upon my return to Prince Rupert, I was going to need something resembling a bed so I would be rested. I had booked a “premier” cabin, as all that was left available. I’ve been on ferries with cabins before and took this to mean there might be a bit more space between the fold-down bunks and maybe a private toilet and sink. Well, blow me down! I opened the door to a room overlooking the bow of the ship that was bigger than most hotel rooms I stay in. With a private bathroom and shower! The sailing was smooth and I got more than a few winks, waking shortly before the 5:30 a.m. announcement to prepare for docking. What a treat!
Arriving a bit early in Prince Rupert, Florian set me up to wash Night Fury and I did a load of laundry and re-packed what I had left at his place before we left. Florian made a great ommelette with toast and I was back on the road by 8:45 a.m. The ride from Prince Rupert was cool, but lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. The last couple of hours of the day were hazy with smoke from surrounding fires, but I’m hoping to ride through that early in the day tomorrow.
Thanks for joining me on this adventure. 😊
See what I did there….? Maybe not. Here’s the gig. The ferry route from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert is called “the inside passage”. And this is its story. I know – sometimes I scare myself with my brilliance and wit!
Yesterday began absurdly early – rising at 4:45 a.m. to be showered, loaded and off to the Bear Cove ferry terminal for 6:00 a.m. If you are not there 90 minutes before sailing, your reservation is not honoured and I was not taking any chances. Arrived with a bit of time to spare and the ferry staff kindly walked down the line of the vehicles to tell me that I could short cut the line by taking the right lane down to the end to join the other motorcycles instead of having to wait. They loaded the bikes first and gave us a bit of time to get parked and get our babies tied down securely before sending the other vehicles on.
The Northern Expedition is a big boat and there is the option to book a cabin for the 17-hour journey. You know you’re on a big boat when there are multiple huge canisters with 100-person life rafts in them that you hope you won’t need.
As it was a daytime journey, I chose not to book a cabin. I did book a “chair” in the Aurora Lounge and was glad I did. It cost extra but had a reclining chair in a quiet area. Because I reserved early, I got a front row seat to enjoy the view as we travelled. At first, it looked like it might be a long, dreary voyage with the vast expanse of sea overhung with dark, low-slung clouds and fog. Once we disembarked, I pulled out my inflatable travel pillow, reclined my chair and closed my eyes. While my rest was punctuated with fog horn warnings and passenger service announcements, I still managed to catch a few winks. My lounge mates included a couple of other riders on their way back to Alberta from a loop ‘round the US, Denise and Gary from Vancouver Island who were heading out to spend a month on Haida Gwaii, and a group of folks on a tour to Haida Gwaii with Mile Zero Tours. I have no personal experience with this tour company, but they shared the agenda with me and it looked amazing! Everyone shared their experiences and their stories and kindly let me bore them with mine.
About 3 hours into our journey, the fog began to lift and within another hour, the skies had cleared and we sailed on in the beautiful sunshine and surroundings of the coastal passage. It was time to get out on the deck and stretch my legs and enjoy the fresh air. A lengthy stop in Bella Bella gave us plenty of time to soak up some sun without the wind. Once under way, again I struck up a conversation with Mike – another rider who has been on the road for awhile now, heading for Tuktoyaktuk and then on to adventure the world with his bike. You may find him on Facebook as KRTW Rhyder if you are interested in what he is up to – much more exciting than what I’m up to! Mike and I had a great conversation about travelling, riding, and most importantly, life and people. As I have said so many, many times – take the politics and religion out of conversations and people are just people. For the most part, if you let people be kind, they will be kind. If you let people be helpful, they will be helpful. If you let people be generous, they will be generous. The rest is just noise. So much of life and relationships is what we choose to see, so choose to see the beauty and the joy. Safe travels and amazing adventures to you, Mike!
Our trip up the inside passage showed us the best of nature – mountains, oceans, remote communities, and marine life. We saw three different types of whales – orca, humpback and grey whales. Porpoises or dolphins (I’m not sure which) herded fish in leaping, splashing pods. Seagulls sailed along the water on their boats of logs and eagles soared above us. We saw lighthouses and the sites of old canneries and villages. Remote villages appeared out of nowhere and fishing boats plied the waters.
Eventually, the sun dropped and threw out a spectacular sunset as we headed into the last couple of hours of the sailing. Having come a considerable distance north, there was still a teeny bit of light in the sky at 11:00 p.m. and I was reminded of the 22-hours of daylight I experience in Dawson City on June 12 five years ago.
Docking in Prince Rupert shortly after midnight, we scurried down to untie our bikes and get ready to disembark. Half an hour later, I rolled into Chez Peloquin to find that in spite of having to work the next day, Flo had the garage door open and ready to receive Night Fury and a comfy bed ready to receive me! Good friends are gold!
Flo has his bike ready to go and is joining me on the quick trip into Haida Gwaii so I can start at Mile Zero of Hwy 16. We will have a full day there to explore. Two more ferries to go!
It’s long been on my list to ride the Yellowhead Hwy (Hwy 16) from where it begins in Masset, BC in Haida Gwaii to its end where it meets Hwy 1 in Manitoba. It has also been on my list to do the inside passage ferry from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert. Enter the moment these two goals collide!
I have dubbed this trip “The West Rides Again” and am on my way. I left Sechelt yesterday, taking 2 of the 5 ferries this trip will require to Port Hardy. I crossed from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay and then from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo. Met some folks from the UK on the ferry to Nanaimo and Ruth and I had the best of talks. I look forward to being in contact with her about future adventures. As always, riders swap stories and in doing so, the time flies.
The ride from Nanaimo to Port Hardy is about 4.5 hours. Making only a couple of brief stops at Oyster Bay and Campbell River, we made tracks for Port Hardy. Once past Campbell River, the traffic was light and the road was beautiful. Gentle curves led me through lush forest, soaring mountains and glimpses of ocean. The vegetation would be the curse of any bush-wacking geologist, but it sure makes for a pretty ride. Fireweed blooms in profusion, along with daisies, foxglove and some other little orange flower I didn’t know. Birds chitter and chatter in abundance, leaving one with a feeling of brightness and lightness. The region's industry is based on logging, mining, fishing and tourism.
Not being in the good shape I was when I travelled Canada five years ago, I was grateful to check in to the Pioneer Inn and finish off the day with a hot bath and some stretching to ensure I could get out of bed. The restaurant was a few minutes from closing by the time I got settled, so it was a protein bar and bottle of water for supper. Not being terribly food-obsessed, this suited me fine and it was off to bed early.
Work consumed a few hours today, but there was still plenty of time to do a bit of exploring in the area and Fury and I headed out to Telegraph Cove for a peek around. Not surprisingly, Telegraph Cove was the northern terminus of a telegraph line. It is a tiny little community but has a large resort and RV campground catering to tourism. It’s a lovely spot on the Johnstone Strait where orcas come to spend their summer and an ecological reserve not far away.
On the way back from Telegraph Cove, I stopped at the Kwakiutl Bear Pole, carved and erected in 1966, and which stands along Hwy 19 to Port Hardy. Then a cruise through Port MacNeill, which appears to have quite a lot going on. Tourism is evident as an important industry and I got to see a helicopter taking off – most likely on one of the tours advertised. A toodle down a side road led me to an arena where clearly some axe-throwing happens. A cruise through town revealed several shops and a large marina.
Stopped back at the Inn to do some more work before taking another little spin around. The Coal Harbour Road was a lovely little stretch with lots of fun curves. And elderberries galore! The roadsides were thick with elderberry trees all loaded with berries. Alas, I am not on my way home, so it didn’t make sense to pick them. 😊
Taking a tour into Port Hardy, I stopped to pick up a couple of items I forgot and rode around the town. There’s a nice waterfront, shops, grocery, pharmacy and restaurants. Everything you need is here.
There is “resort this” and “resort that” all along Hwy 19 north of Campbell River, taking full advantage of the destination as a fishing mecca. Port Hardy is the larger center in this northern part of the island, being the ferry connection to Prince Rupert. So tomorrow I head out ridiculously early (gosh, I hope there’s air) to catch the ferry north. Which means another early night. I look forward to meeting new people and reconnecting with old acquaintances on this new adventure!
I have been neglectful in journaling my adventures, but in my defence, there haven't been many lately. A cool and late spring and a bunch of running around meant there hasn’t been much riding going on outside of up and down the Sunshine Coast and you’ve already seen that!
There were some travels, though, if not by motorbike. The most notable was my work trip into Harley Bay. Hartley Bay is a remote community in northern BC only accessible by boat or float plane. All supplies are brought in on the bi-weekly ferry and if you forgot something....too bad. My mind was boggled by the guy who backed an ATV with a utility trailer on it down the steep ramp to the ferry dock. That guy is my hero.
I flew into Prince Rupert on a Wednesday and on Thursday, took the beautiful 4-hour ferry ride to Hartley Bay where I was informed I would be “stuck” until Monday when the boat would leave again. Woe is me! Stuck in this beautiful land of the Gitga’at! The remainder of Thursday and Friday was spent working at the school. Then the weekend to explore the community and trails surrounding it. Hang onto your sandwich - the ravens are the size of chickens! The community was friendly and open and I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions. My hosts fed me well and the nights were so quiet, I couldn’t help but sleep soundly. The cat accepted me without question and purred loudly on my bed whenever I left my door open.
The Gitga’at Nation has a lot going on! Collaborations with industry, conservation and education projects work to ensure the ongoing health of the community and preservation of culture. I participated in their community collaboration evening to learn about these projects and the goals of the community. It was informative and engaging. Their website and newsletters can tell you better than I and these can be found at: https://www.gitgaatnation.ca/
The Hartley Bay community showed their spirit and humanitarian nature when the Queen of the North sank off the coast of Hartley Bay in March of 2006. Without hesitation, the residents boarded their boats in the middle of the night to rescue survivors of the sinking vessel. Despite the tiny community, survivors were fed and housed until they could be transported out. The devastation on the marine life and its impact on the community due to the ferry's fuel leaked into the ocean is still felt today.
Hartley Bay’s “road” is a network of wooden boardwalks that connect the community. These are wide enough to accommodate the only forms of transportation - golf carts, side-by-sides, ATVs and your feet! You can tell where the gathering is by the number of golf carts out front. I stayed at the Hill’s place, which is a guesthouse with several rooms. This is one of a couple of guesthouses that accommodate people coming in and out of the community for research, work, and leisure. Tourism includes fishing, hiking and boat tours. The guesthouse is a great place to meet all kinds of people from all walks of life and I met so many interesting folk.
The homes in Hartley Bay are on raised platforms and connected by the network of boardwalks all over the community. Residents get in and out of the community by the aforementioned ferry or by personal boat.
I learned about local plants and their uses and some of the traditional practices of the Gitga’at. One of these is the spring excursion for an entire month to a neighbouring island where seaweed and cockles are gathered, and halibut is harvested. The school students go in groups to participate in these activities. It sounded amazing and peaceful and I internally lamented that I would miss it.
My weekend was spent walking the community and the trails, sitting by the water contemplating life or nothing at all, and letting nature bring its internal peace. I am looking forward to going back in September!
Deciding that 5 years was quite enough without a proper holiday, we abandoned our own Sunshine Coast for Florida’s Sun Coast. Took the quick float plane from Sechelt to Vancouver on Friday last to catch our flights to Florida on Saturday. All went reasonably smoothly and we knew we had arrived in Tampa when we saw the gigantic pink flamingo in the airport!
Our enthusiasm waned significantly during the 4 hours in line to get our reserved rental car. Not much good to say about Budget and much empathy for those still in the long queue behind us. Having been up since 3:45 Pacific time that day, our senses were not what they should have been in trying to find our friends’ condo that night at midnight. Ended up booking a seedy hotel for the first night and getting our bearings the next day. But Day 2 on has been fabulous!
It was a conscious decision not to cram-pack the days so that we need a holiday from our holiday upon returning home, but we are still managing to see and do what we want and get plenty of R & R in between. I took up “plate-catching” as I noticed license plates from all over the US and some from Canada. So far, I’ve listed 38 states we’ve seen while we are here and 4 provinces!
I’m splitting this story into different pages below rather than having a monster blog, so use the links below to see the different days/events and their pictures, if you are so inclined! 😊
Don’t miss the highlight of the entire trip so far (and likely right until the end) – seeing a rocket launch! Follow the Kennedy Space Centre link for more.
And FYI, early December seems a perfect time to be in Florida – no hurricanes, still warm and sunny, and no crowds of tourists.
It’s been awhile since I’ve written a little story so here’s one. 😊 Mid-August had some perfect riding weather, so I snuck off to Vancouver Island a couple of weekends in August – once by myself and once with my buddy Blair, who came out from Kelowna.
Took Rogue over to do a run to Tahsis. I’ve been out to Gold River a couple of times with Fury, but the road from Gold River to Tahsis was reportedly gravel, so I thought it was an opportunity to get Rogue out for an inaugural road trip.
The road from Campbell River to Gold River has more curves than a Barbie doll, so it is fun to ride no matter what you’re on. Got away early enough to have the road almost completely to myself. Until an RCMP vehicle pulled out behind me as I passed. Wasn't going overly fast - that road doesn't allow it anyway, but he followed me for a long time and when I pulled in at the rest stop about halfway, he pulled in behind me. Couldn't think what I was doing wrong and wondered if he'd noticed something about Rogue. He had! As I took off my helmet, he approached and said "That was some smokin' riding! Had to follow you and watch you handle those curves like a boss." I let my breath out and thanked him with an ear-to-ear grin!
The road from Gold River to Tahsis is a curvy gravel road through the mountains interspersed with stretches of pavement. It is the only road in, so while Rogue and I travelled mostly in companionable isolation, the traffic we did meet was often using up a good deal of the road. Taking it easy meant we had maneuvering room rather than startling at oncoming traffic on our side of the road or being too close to the soft shoulder and pitching off the side of a ridge.
So we had fun and also the mental capacity to philosophize that riding logging roads is an analogy for life. It’s always a little unstable. Trying to exert too much control or not exerting any at all can both get you into trouble. Just have to accept it, relax, and roll with it. It was with these thoughts in mind that we rounded a curve to see my favourite moment of the trip - a big rock painted with “Love Hope Optimism” in bright orange and white paint. Made me smile and I had to turn around and take a photo. It was in that frame of mind that we soon rode into Tahsis to chat up anyone who would talk or listen.
Tahsis itself is a small community, friendly and inviting, where everyone waves whether they know you or not. I did too, of course, originating from such a community myself. Visited the museum where the lads at the desk were helpful in providing information on how to find things. Lunch at a local grill was mediocre but had a beautiful view and provided the necessary break to head back to Gold River where I would spend the night.
A couple of weekends later, Blair rode from Kelowna to Sechelt and stayed overnight with us. He and I headed out at 6:30 that Friday morning, headed north for the ferry to Powell River and then Comox. We rode to Gold River and I felt the proprietary pride of someone who has introduced their friend to a truly exceptional motorcycle road. He was suitably impressed and keen to return and do it again. We made it back to Comox the same day and stayed over, highly satisfied with ourselves.
We headed out early for Tofino the next day and though we ran into a bit of traffic and construction on the way out there, it was worth the ride. We stopped at a little place for fish and chips that looked a little sketchy in terms of cleanliness, but the fish was good and gave us the energy we needed for the ride back. Traffic was much lighter on the way back and we took the time to stop at Long Beach to take our riding boots off, roll up our pant legs and stroll in the ocean. Blair remembered the “mermaid” shot from our trip to the Olympic Peninsula a few years ago, so the shot had to be repeated on Long Beach. I think this will have to be a tradition any time we find ourselves on a beach while doing a motorcycle trip.
The route back also included a stop at Cathedral Grove, which contains 800 year old trees, ranking among the oldest and tallest trees in Canada. Blair had never been there and the old growth trees are truly impressive and infuse one with a sense of peace. Close to our end destination of Nanaimo for the night, we were grateful to get our riding gear off and find some dinner, rehashing the day's ride.
I had intended to ride the Renfrew Loop or north island the next day, but smoke rolled in from fires in the US, so I caught the ferry back home the next morning with Blair to head home. I was disappointed to not hit my 67,000 kms on that trip, so when I got back to my coast, I made it a goal to log the last 243 kms I needed before heading home. Well…..the road on the Sunshine Coast is short and it took 5 hours to get the last 243 kms. But the job was done!
‘Til next time, my friends, enjoy the pics from a couple of weekend rides!