Trip of Wasps 2013 – Day 1

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 – Trip of Wasps Day 1

We had done a bit of packing the night before, and this morning was mostly about packing it all onboard the bikes.

While we were loading up the bikes, Izzy got out of the house and was running around, so Louise decided to try her out in the tank bag …
She kind of fits, maybe she’ll come with us on a trip sometime …

There was one thing we had to pick up before leaving. Louise wanted a sturdy camera bag for her new Canon 35mm camera. So instead of heading directly out, we ducked into the Future Shop at Deerfoot Meadows and got a nice camera bag that would fit into the tank bag.

By 1pm we were well out of town and heading south on the familiar pavement of the Cowboy Trail, aka Highway 22.

After stopping in Pincher Creek for a bit of gas and some food, the rest of the way south, through the border at Chief Mountain Crossing, was uneventful. We pulled into Johnson’s Campground just before 6pm, setup camp …


… then went to the Johnson Family Restaurant for dinner.

Back at the tent after dinner, we enjoyed a cup of tea and chatted with a guy who was fulfilling one of his bucket list items by riding his mountain bike coast to coast. His plan was to get up REALLY early in the morning so he could attack the Going-to-the-Sun road over Logan Pass. Apparently there’s a rule that bicycles have to be over the pass and on their way down before 10am or something like that. So he went to bed early, and because we were still recovering from the deck building effort, we went to bed early too.

2013 Big Trip: Trip of Wasps – the Preamble

Every year we try to have one big trip that we go on together, no matter what other trips we might have planned. It’s been that way since 2008 and our Montreal trip. This year was a little more complicated in that our patio deck was falling apart and it desperately needed to be replaced. It was now at the point where it wasn’t even safe for the dogs to go up and down anymore.

Now since I’d far rather go riding than … well pretty much anything … I had been prevaricating. So Louise, rightly so, got mad and said “No Deck? No Trip!” or something like that. We had agreed on Monday 19 Aug 2013 as the departure date. Based on the departure date, I worked out a plan for the deck and figured what bits and pieces would be needed to actually build the thing, then worked out how long I’d need.

With somewhat limited vacation time, I tried to minimize the time off of work for the deck building, but still wound up taking most of August 14, 15, and 16 off to build up the two of three major parts of the deck – the beam and the deck floor. By Friday, afternoon, we pulled down the old deck (which didn’t take much effort). By Saturday night we had the deck fully secured and the steps built. By Sunday night we had the steps up and the railings on. It was done!

But at what cost! There was absolutely no way possible for us to leave on Monday morning. We were just too worn out from working hard on the deck from early in the morning to dark, while also trying to do my job for a few hours on Wed, Thu and Fri mornings, in the 90 deg plus heat – Calgary was suffering a heat wave that week and weekend.

What made it worse, was that on Saturday, we’d made some reservations to go east to Duluth MN. for the Aerostich rally. Checkin for that was on Thursday, which meant that we’d have to leave Monday to get there in time, and even to just get there then, we’d have to haul ass to be able to arrive Thursday sometime before dark. Since we couldn’t leave Monday, that threw the whole Aerostich rally out the window.

Louise came up with a great alternative on Monday morning. We’d head south then west instead, staying no more than 2 days riding from Calgary, making the route up as we went. The only thing we knew for sure then, was that we’d leave Tuesday and head for the Johnstone Campground in St. Mary, on the east side of Glacier National Park in Montana. From there, we’d take it day by day.

By the way – the deck turned out awesome! And many thanks to Alvin, our next door neighbour and close friend for putting in hours helping out. And also many thanks to Robert for helping out and figuring out the magic with the stair railings.

I should have taken more pictures, but seriously, we just wanted to get the damn thing built.

So Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 was departure day!

Run to the Hills 2013 – Day 5

Tuesday, 23 July 2013 – RTTH13 Day 5

We were all heading home today, but we had some sightseeing to do. Well, first we had to get up, do brekkie, and get the bikes all packed up. Most of us were heading south on the Ice Fields Parkway, while Stoney was heading back to Edmonton.

All packed up, the day bright and shiny and warm.

We made sure we all hit the gas station back in Jasper before leaving – no repeat of yesterday!

Our first sight-seeing stop was Mt. Edith Cavell, a first for Louise and I – we’d never been here before. The road up was pretty fun to ride, lots of hairpins and tight curves.

We stopped at a lookout point for a few minutes and took some pictures.

That silver ribbon running across this picture is a tributary of the Athabasca River further down the valley from where we came.

That rock formation in the bottom right corner of the photo above …

… likely isn’t going to survive much longer.

I managed to get a few pictures of Louise today, here’s the first …

With the brief stop over, we continued up the mountain … to tell the truth, I had no idea what was ahead, I was just following Dan and Trent until we turned back!

Around a bend, the roadway, which had been pretty good pavement, suddenly turned into rough dirt/gravel. It seemed like this was the end of the road. Louise was all for turning back there, and indeed, there was some confusion ahead until Dan, in the lead, saw the parking lot around another bend and pressed on, compelling the rest of us to follow.

We found a suitable place to park the herd, taking into account the extreme pitch – this was not a level parking lot. There was some jockeying about to get Louise’s bike at the right angle to be secure, due to the lower ride height and side stand angle.

With the bikes parked, we headed to the trail head to check out the views over the ridge.

Best sight on the mountain!

Now there’s just some lunk blocking the scenery.

Glacier

On the way up the hill, I must have been charging Trent and Dan because Dan asked if I wanted to go first down the hill. So I headed off, racing down the straight parts, and I was having fun right up until the first tight corner, where I scared the hell out of myself!

I’ve become very familiar with and confident on the FJR in the twisties, and while it’s not real sport bike, it’s got powerful brakes that are linked and have ABS. There’s a ton of engine braking available too. The transmission is very smooth shifting. And the tires are fairly grippy sport-touring types.

So I come into the first corner pretty hot and do what I usually do on the FJR – carry plenty of speed until right before the lean point, hit the brakes hard, leave it in gear, until leaning over when I’ll shift down, then lean into the corner and hit the apex, putting in some power as I go. Maybe that’s not actually how out goes, but close enough.

But this day on the VStrom, it didn’t really work anything at all like that. I came up on the curve, hot as usual – hit the brakes and tried to slow down, then shifted down. The bike started to slow down alright, but it’ll do that when the rear wheel is locked up and bouncing. It’s a good thing no one was coming up towards me in the curve, because I needed ALL the pavement to get around that first one.

Needless to say I modified how I entered curves the rest of the way down the mountain. I was still given’ ‘er and wound up waiting for about 5 minutes at the bottom of the road.

Once the gang was all together again, we headed south on 93A towards Athabasca Falls, our second sight-seeing spot.

Hard not to take a great photo around here …

Neither Louise or I had ever been to Athabasca Falls and I highly recommend going there – there’s a LOT of water going through here and while it’s not the highest falls, it’s still pretty spectacular.

Some people …

Here’s Louise, Phil, Trent and Bev, and Kay.

Eventually, we decided we had to get going, so getting geared up again, we all hit the Ice Fields Parkway again, heading south towards gas at Saskatchewan Crossing and holy crap was it expensive gas! It’s the only gas available between Lake Louise and Jasper, so that kind of explains it.

We stopped for lunch at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre. Great lunch, but pretty quiet. We were all by this time a little shattered and with home only a couple of hours away, there was a lot of focus on just getting there. Dan took a picture of the group at the table and we sure looked different than the happy bunch 5 days ago at the Socrates Restaurant in St. Albert! Sadly I don’t have the Lake Louise picture.

Within a couple of hours of braving the traffic on the TransCanada Highway, and in the city, we made it home. It’d been a long day – we rolled in and parked the bikes at 740pm!

Over the five days we racked up over 2700 kms on the bikes and we had a blast! I like Run To The Hills!

Run to the Hills 2013 – Day 4

Monday, 22 July 2013 – RTTH13 Day 4

Everyone got up when they wanted, some early so they could head back to Calgary, others, heading back home to Grande Prairie. Dan’s friend went back to Calgary and Carl had hurt a rib or something, so he, his wife, and Ryan were headed back to GP. That would leave Dan and Kay, Trent and Bev, Phil, and Louise and I carrying on.

After breakfast of powdered oatmeal, we got everything all packed up and got ready to hit the road. That’s when Trent’s FJR was discovered to have a dead battery. On most other bikes, getting a boost is trivial, because the battery is readily accessible under the seat. However, the battery on the FJR is up under the dash on the right side and needs to have panels removed to get access to it. On my FJR, I installed a 12v socket on the dash for charging and for trickle charging (and for boosting should the need ever arise) but Trent hadn’t installed anything like that on his bike.

So we opted for the time-tested and proven method of starting a bike with a dead battery – push starting.

Sadly there were no pictures of us running behind Trent’s 500lb + bike with him on it! Dan and Carl and I were pushing pretty hard to get the FJR up to a speed where it would start. It didn’t start the first time, but it did the second time. First disaster narrowly averted.

Shortly after that we got rolling, back out on the highway …

It’s kind of interesting how group decisions, once made, seemed so right at the time, but later when facing the consequences of those decisions, everyone goes “what were thinking”. We all filled up the tanks before leaving Grande Prairie, but even though many of us stopped at a Grande Cache gas station for munchies, no one filled up their tanks.

This morning, ironically at about the halfway point between Grande Cache back north and Hinton to the south, I got a call from Dan on the intercom saying that his Triumph Explorer 1200 was low on gas, how were Louise and I for gas? Both Louise and I were under half a tank. Trent on his FJR was under half. We were all doing some quick mental mileage math to see if we’d have enough to get to Hinton. Louise and I figured we’d just make it. I knew from riding my own FJR for years, that Trent would probably make on it his FJR if we kept the passing to a minimum. Phil was riding his VStrom 650 and was the least worried. The wild card was Dan – he hadn’t had the Explorer very long and hadn’t really experienced what mileage the bike would get for him.

We made some contingency plans for if Dan’s bike quit – one of us would stay with him, while the rest of the crew carried on to get gas to bring back. We would also dial back the speed and nurse what gas we had left. So we rolled on, just a bit of apprehension in the back of our minds.

As it turned out, we all made it to the Husky gas station in Hinton, Dan literally on fumes. The rest of us probably only had a few ounces left, except for Phil on his far less thirsty DL650. We took over all the pumps …

With the fuelling completed, we ducked across the highway for fast food and after lunch, a couple of us headed to the nearby Canadian Tire to pick up a couple of minor things – Dan and Kay wanted inflatable pillows and I wanted a small tarp for the floor of the porch on the tent. And, there was a sale on picnic shelters! So Trent and Dan bought one each for our campsite at Whistlers Campground just outside of Jasper later today.

Everything squared away, we once more hit the road, this time heading west towards Jasper. Along the way we came across some wildlife …

Bighorn Sheep – they seem mostly unworried about the black SUV close by.

A little later on we rolled into Jasper and immediately sought out the Bears Paw Bakery for snacks and supplies for dinner!

We sat around for a bit, drinking lattes and munching cookies … then mounted up and rode off to the campsite.

Once we got through the campsite check-in we made our way to the overflow area and found Stoney from Edmonton had made it out ahead of us! It didn’t take long to get things all setup.
That’s our light green Redverz Adventure Tent in the background, the two new picnic shelters on the left side. Notice how most of us had donned our “Official Run to the Hills 2013” t-shirts?

Here’s Phil stylishly modelling his t-shirt …

We got the fire started early – the firewood pile wasn’t too far and it was free, trouble was that we had to pick through lots of bark and crap to get to actual wood. Kay loves fires – we’ve noticed this on other trips with her …

At the Bears Paw Bakery, Louise and some others had picked up some spicy sausage rolls, and we now proceeded to cook them over the open fire. Oh man were they good, especially with Rum and Coke.

Trent’s wife Bev, was a little apprehensive about camping out in the wild, mostly because of a concern over bears and whatnot. Since we were on the edge of forest, there’s a good chance that wildlife might wander through on their way somewhere else. Trent had taken great pains to assure Bev that there was nothing to worry about and he had us all fully behind him. So it didn’t go over very well when a park official came by to tell us that a bear had been spotted in the campground area and that we had to be sure to put our food in the bear-proof boxes near the parking lot!

There was other less fearsome wildlife wandering close by and thought it would be fun to stalk a deer with my camera. I took a number of pictures, but few turned out. I turned back when the deer I was stalking turned out to be the consort of a much larger male with big antlers. I figured he might get a little possessive if pressed so I left them both alone.

After dinner and before it got dark, we noticed a stranger roll in and setup a tent a ways from us. Well it might have been his bike we noticed – it was a Yamaha Tenere 660XT, not available ever in North America. So we quickly figured the rider had it shipped in. I stopped to talk to the fellow and invited him to our campsite to hang out with us rather than sitting all alone.

Turns out he’s from Marseilles France, doing a “bucket list” trip riding around Canada and the US. He shipped his bike over in the late spring and plans on spending 3-4 months riding around. His english was pretty good and it was interesting talking to him. He’s made a very cool modification to his bike – he lost a leg and wears a prosthetic on the left. So he’d modified the Tenere by mounting the gearshift on the right side so he could operate both the shifter the rear brake with with his good right leg. Just goes to show that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Not a great picture, but it was dark by this time.

In the mountains, there’s not much dusk, once the sun drops behind the mountain range it gets dark quick. Good thing we had a nice fire!

Tomorrow we’d be heading home …

Run to the Hills 2013 – Day 3

Sunday, 21 July 2013 – RTTH13 Day 3

The hotel room at the Nova hotel did not at all match the building’s exterior – the outside was pretty nondescript, nothing at all fancy. We didn’t take any pictures of the room, probably because Louise would not have let me – with all our stuff scattered all about, it would not have been pretty or flattering. So this picture from the Nova Hotel website will have to do:
We had one of the Junior Suites and it was actually a really nice spacious room – combo kitchen, living room, office; and a separate bedroom/bathroom.

For breakfast we sampled the hotel’s cold breakfast buffet in the lobby. I can recall the coffee, but I cannot remember what I ate. Neither can Louise.

The day started off grey and damp, and for most of the morning it would stay that way.

Trent is fairly fastidious about keeping his bike clean and polished, so much so that he endures a lot of ribbing about his Pledge obsession. So, as the rest of us finished filling our gas tanks, Trent rolled his FJR up to the car wash – saying he needed to wash the bike, it was just too filthy to go on – we were’t too sure whether he was kidding or not!

Fully fuelled, we headed out to the first stop of the day – we were headed out to Tangent Campground just west upriver of Peace River on the Shaftesbury Trail (Highway 684) to pick up Carl, his wife and a friend of Carl’s. All the way the sky was threatening rain and it drizzled part of the way. Along the way we saw a few deer fairly close to the road, so we all kept an eye out for the forest rats jumping up onto the road.

To get to the Tangent campground, we had to cross the river via the Shaftesbury Ferry. The ferry, a barge and tug, had just left so we had a 15 minute or so wait until it came back.

I’m pretty sure Dan is not pointing at me, rather he’s pointing at the ferry or something over my shoulder.

Tried for an artistic shot here, not sure how it worked …

Here’s the ferry coming back across the river towards us …

The drizzle and mist got a little heavier while we waited and while we boarded the ferry. That made a few of us a little nervous as the roadway to the ferry ramp was really just dirt, mud now, and the ramp onto the ferry itself was metal – both surfaces were rather slippery. However we all got onboard with no drama and the ferry pulled away, heading to the other side.

Since the crossing was about 5 minutes long, and it had started to rain, most of us didn’t even take our helmets off.

We rolled through the Tangent campsite looking for Carl and we found him and his crew hiding from the rain in a shelter. By this time it was full-on raining, so we all ducked inside the shelter out of the rain to discuss where to go from here. The consensus was that we’d go to Dunvegan Bridge for a tourist stop, the to Grande Prairie for lunch. We’d originally been thinking that we’d head further west to Dawson Creek, but the more medium to heavy rain was forecast to come through the area over today and next couple of days. The weather forecast seemed better further south, so we scratched Dawson Creek off, and decided to camp at a basic campsite not far from Grande Cache south of Grande Prairie, halfway to Hinton.

So plans made, we headed out of the campground and back to the ferry …

Louise wasn’t the only one with a hi-viz jacket – that’s Oso Blanco ahead of me in the line with the hi-viz jacket, as did Carl’s wife.

Rolling into Grimshaw, we stopped for a bio/snack break at the Grimshaw Information Centre.

Grimshaw makes claim to be “Mile 0” on the MacKenzie Highway heading north.

While milling around waiting for the bathroom to free up, and for guys like me taking pictures, Louise handed out her famous “Mookie cookies” to wide acclaim. Here, she’s closing up the cookie shop …

The nice lady at the Information Centre, once she realized that we weren’t a bunch of biker hooligans, offered to take a picture of the group.

Leaving Grimshaw, we next stopped for a bit at Dunvegan Provincial Park and the Dunvegan Bridge. Here we are all together in the parking lot.

I didn’t take too many pictures here, because we’d just been here the summer before where Louise and I spent most of the day wandering around the area. To see the pictures I took in 2012, check out the blog post from the 2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 4

By this time the weather was greatly improving and while not hot, at least the sun was out, so we all could take off some layers. Next up, lunch in Grande Prairie.

Carl wanted to go to a burger place that was supposed to make Fat Burger, Smashburger and Five Guys Burgers and Fries cry. A place that could only be called “Burger Heaven”. So “Run to the Hills” goes to Burger Heaven.

We managed to find a fairly photogenic part of the parking lot to park the bikes in all in a nice neat row.

The burgers at Burger Heaven were actually pretty good, it must be admitted. We enjoyed the meal, then headed back out to get on the road again. We got back to the bikes just in time to save Louise’s VStrom. The skies had cleared out and it the temperature had managed to get hot, hot enough to melt pavement apparently!

Louise’s bike was the only one that had the kickstand sink into the pavement like that. Since her VStrom has been lowered, we mounted an aftermarket Soupy’s kickstand that was adjustable. All good, except that the foot is really more like a knuckle and on soft stuff we pretty much always have to put a plate down for the kickstand to rest on. We didn’t this time obviously.

We fueled up before leaving Grande Prairie, minus a rider – one of the Edmonton guys, Oso Blanco, decided to stay with his brother in GP, while the rest of us headed south on Highway 40.

Louise and Trent behind me.

We stopped for a bio/snack break at a Rest Stop north of Grande Cache – made a nice pretty line of bikes.

Back on the road …

The group decided to stop at Grande Cache for for vittles, however there was some growling as it seems we just missed closing time for the liquor store (not that that was a show-stopper at all).

But the one thing we didn’t get at Grande Cache was … gas! That decision would come to haunt us tomorrow.

The campsite for tonight was the Pierre Grey’s Lakes Recreation Area, which was pretty, but lacked that signature “must have” amenity that Louise usually requires in a campground – flush toilets. We had to do with pit toilets – yuck. Oh well, Louise steeled her nerves and took one for the team. We setup camp, tents and hammocks, heated up some dinner and tea; then sat around a fire talking …

There was this one little critter who seemed to want to join in. It might have been our company or the conversation, but I really think it was the possibility of exotic food opportunities that kept him flitting around.

One group in our party was not having a good time. Dan’s friend and his significant other were relatively new to long distance riding and camping – they were the folks who had to duck into Canadian Tire on Day 2 for rain gear. But by now, he wasn’t feeling to well and they’d pretty much decided to head straight back to Calgary in the morning.

Louise and I slept pretty well …

Run to the Hills 2013 – Day 2

Saturday, 20 July 2013 – RTTH13 Day 2

The plan for today was to head north to Westlock on Highway 44, and on to Slave Lake, then around the east shore of Lesser Slave Lake, then north to Red Earth Creek for gas, then head west to Peace River, where we would camp for the night.

We had a group breakfast at the Socrates Restaurant next door – it’s actually owned I think by the same folks who own the motel – and the food really good.

A couple more Edmonton based riders joined us for breakfast, however, one of them, Stoney, wouldn’t be joining us until much later in the trip due to work.

Sometimes my best intentions turn out to be a pain in the ass. We’d both forgot to pack our Tilley hats before we left and with the forecast looking like plenty of rain today and over the next couple of days, I didn’t want to be sitting in a campsite in the rain with rainwater running down my back. I didn’t want that for Louise either. So, while the others were getting last minute packing and stuff, I headed out to find a store where I could buy a couple of brimmed hats for Louise and I. I blithely said to her just head on out, and I’ll catch up, no problem.

I thought it would be dead easy to head to Walmart up the road, buy a couple of hats and 20 minutes later catch up to the herd. Well, it was not to be. Walmart had exactly ONE freakin’ hat! So I hunted around the Walmart for far too long before buying the one hat (at least Louise would have a hat) and getting on the bike again. I sat there in the parking lot with my iPhone trying to find a nearby place that might sell a wide brimmed hat. I thought I’d found a place, so I rode back into town looking for a place. I tried a couple of places to no avail. So now I was like 40 minutes or so behind them.

OK, I told myself I’d try one more place, then gas up and head to find the rest of them. I think it was at a SuperStore that I found another hat. Fueled up the bike and rode back to the motel where I stopped to use the “Find Your Friends” app on the iPhone to see where Louise was. Just then Louise called me! It seems that they’d stopped and were waiting for me and waiting and waiting, so Dan asked Louise to call me to see where the heck I was!

I made the mistake of telling her I was back at the motel and of and course, rightly so, she got very grumpy with me. I told her to tell the group to head on out, that I was on my way and should catch up real soon. So they did. And I hit the road in earnest!

They had been waiting at the intersection of Highway 44 and Villeneuve Road, they were headed north to Westlock on 44. I missed the turn on to Villeneuve Road and had to double back, chewing up more time. I was going at a good clip on Villeneuve to Highway 44, not really exceeding the limit because of traffic. Once on 44, there wasn’t much traffic going north so I wicked it up good, setting a very brisk pace trying to catch up. I think I was cruising at 160 kph a for while. Surprisingly the VStrom is quite stable at those speeds, even with the big panniers hanging out in the airflow.

Arriving at Westlock, I found the herd waiting at an Esso gas station. While Louise was still a little grumpy, I know that inside she was happy to see me, especially since I had hats! I’m sure the rest of the guys were a little annoyed and if any of you are reading this – I apologize.

While it was mostly sunny back in St.Albert when I left, by the time I reached Westlock, the skies were overcast and it sure felt like it might rain.

That’s Louise behind me – I’d recognize that jacket and helmet anywhere!

Here’s the cockpit of my VStrom – notice the pretty respectable speed of 110 kph on the speedometer and 103 kph on the GPS …

Neither Louise or I were really concerned about the rain – I was wearing my proven rain-proof Aerostich Roadcrafter suit and Louise was wearing her new Olympia AST2 rain-resistant jacket. However, some of the others did not have rain gear and so they were soaked by the time we stopped at a Tim Hortons in Slave Lake for lunch. Good thing there was a CanadianTire in the same parking so that some folks could go get some rain gear! Louise was warm enough, but I had put on my heated jacket just in case.

By the time we all finished eating donuts and drinking Timmies coffee, the rain had let up to a light drizzle.

Here’s Kay, Dan, Trent, Bev and Phil just emerging from Tim’s …

The next stop was Red Earth Creek further north. We stopped at a pretty rustic gas station, where I had another potential “MLM” (marriage limiting move). I had gone to the bathroom and while washing my hands, my wedding ring slipped off and before I could grab it, it went right down the drain! After a second of panic and an “Ah Sh&t”, I figured that it was probably in the trap still, since I’d shut the water off quickly. As I said, the place was pretty rustic and so the space under the sink was open with ready access to the trap. I found a small empty bucket, put it under the trap and unscrewed the drain and Yay! there was my ring – fell right out into the bucket. I put everything back together, washed my hands and the ring, being super careful this time, and left the bathroom like nothing had happened.

I am now super cautious when washing my hands …

So, back on the road heading towards Peace River … in the steady rain. Once we got to Peace River, we stopped at a Tim Horton’s for a coffee and to warm up before trying to connect with Old Medic (aka Carl) from Grand Prairie. Rumour was that he, his wife and at least one buddy were camping at a campsite outside of town a ways. However, there was a growing consensus among us, that we should just say to hell with it and go to a hotel.

I think the faces here and the way some people are grasping their coffee cups says a lot.

I think I accidentally caused a couple of the guys to have to buy some gear for their wives later – I was asked a couple of times if I was cold and my reply “No, I’m actually quite toasty in my heated jacket.” Trent’s wife Bev, put her hand inside the jacket and felt the warmth and turned back to Trent, saying if he wanted her to ride more with him, he had to get her one of these jackets. Oh well …

Dan made a few calls and found that the Nova Hotel right next door to where we were sitting …

… had enough rooms available at a price we were all willing to pay.

So we moved the bikes over the hotel’s parking lot …
and checked in.

After getting cleaned up and warmed up, and after Dan had connected with Carl, we all agreed to meet at Su Casa Cafe, a Mexican restaurant in Peace River. It was actually Carl’s birthday today and that’s the place he wanted to go to. We called a couple of taxis and we all met up there. Trouble was the place was not very big and it was also a popular place with the locals – especially on a Saturday night – so there was a bit of a wait outside (good thing it had stopped raining by now).

While we were waiting, I took a couple of pictures …

That’s the bridge over the Mighty Peace River

Who’s this pretty girl?

Behind the restaurant is Peace River’s train station and rail yard. I took this panoramic shot with the iPhone

Eventually we managed to snag a couple of tables and had a darn good Mexican dinner.

While we were waiting for Peace River’s only two (it seemed) cabs to come pick us up for the trip back to the hotel, I took a couple of more pics …

Oh – yes, we closed the place down! It was 940pm when I took this picture.

The mural on the retaining wall …

This bit of ground art was made from a manhole cover and lots of old rail spikes pounded into the ground …

The cabs finally came and got us and whisked us back to the hotel, where we all just went our separate ways to bed.

Run to the Hills 2013 – Day 1

Friday, 19 July 2013 – RTTH13 Day 1

The Run to the Hills trip is our local VStrom themed camping trip, held in late July. It’s VStrom themed because most if not all the folks who’ve done the RTTH know each other through the VStrom Riders International web forum. So, the riders on the RTTH come from all over the province – Edmonton, Calgary, Grand Prairie – and occasionally there’s some from farther afield like Saskatchewan and BC.

Most RTTH rallies have us hanging out at one campsite base and the riding encompasses day rides that end back at the campsite. RTTH13 was intended to be a rolling rally, in that every night we’d be camping somewhere new. The plan was to start in Calgary, go through Edmonton where we’d pick up the Edmontonians, them go north to Slave Lake and Red Earth Creek, then west to the Peace River area where we’d connect up with folks from Grand Prairie. From there the plan was to go to Dawson Creek in BC before heading back south to home via Jasper, Ice Field Parkway, Banff and back to Calgary.

That was the plan anyway. Circumstances and weather messed with the overall plan, but Day 1 went pretty much according to plan. Leave Calgary, take Highway 2A as much as possible (staying off the superslab QEII Highway as much as possible) to St. Albert, on the NW edge of Edmonton.

First we met up with most of the Calgary crew at Dan’s place in the far NW. Once we were all together, we took rural roads to Airdrie to meet up with a friend of Dan’s. We’d arranged to meet the SuperStore gas station on the north side of Airdrie.

Once we got everything ready to go, we all headed out to the Dickson Stevenson Road north so we could connect to the Highway 2A not far from Crossfield. The 2A runs parallel to the main highway until Bowden where the current highway alignment is the same as the old 2A. There we had to ride main highway and put up with all the traffic madness and big pickups roaring along at 140+ km/h.

It was nice to get to Red Deer and get the hell off the main highway. We stopped at the Donut Mill on Gasoline Alley for some food. Then all congregated at a nearby gas station to tank up. The weather has been threatening rain for a while and as we finished fueling, an intense downpour swept through. The rain was going sideways!

Although Dan got us a bit off the trail trying to find the start of the 2A north of Red Deer, and we wound up on a gravel road for a while! Louise wasn’t too happy, but it was all good and we found the pavement soon enough.

North of Ponoka, we all stopped for a quick water break and since it had already dumped on us earlier and the with the skies still looking dark ahead, some of the riders chose now to put their rain gear on. Well those who had rain gear did anyway – more on this later!

I don’t know what Louise was looking for here – gum maybe? Lip gloss? Just not sure.

We carried on riding the 2A to Leduc where the 2A merges back onto the main highway into Edmonton. It was on the stretch of ramp to the highway where Trent and his wife Bev (riding 2-up on his FJR) had one of their dry-bags fall off when the straps holding it to the side case let go. It bounced down the highway in front of us and we managed to alert Trent before he got to much further down the road. After collecting it, he got it all strapped down again and we caught up to the rest of the guys a little ways up on the highway.

The plan was to stop at Scott’s place in South Edmonton for a bit. Scott and his best friend Mark usually would have come with us on a trip like this, but they had other plans, but they were waiting for us for a visit before they left themselves. We all pulled up in the alley behind his garage.

I managed a pretty promotional shot of the 08 VStrom showing all the big farkles and the packing.

I really like this picture and this is the one I always use when showing a picture of the bike to folks.

After visiting for a little while it started to get dark so we all mounted up and headed back out to the traffic. From here we managed to take all the minor roads in Edmonton, including the infamous Groat Road, on our way to St. Albert. The hotel we were staying at is the Sleep Inn Motel on St.Albert’s main street.

The Sleep Inn Motel is rather … um … old fashioned – from the staff and the office, to the rooms and furniture and decor. It all just screamed 1970s. But it was relatively comfortable and it seemed the bikes would be safe enough, plus the Socrates Restaurant was in the same parking lot, which would be handy for breakfast tomorrow.

Our room was just there on the left …

Once we were all showered and unpacked, we gathered up all the loose change to buy cokes from the pop machine, ordered some pizza’s and congregated in Dan and Kay’s room for rum&cokes and pizza before we all headed to bed.

A great day, except for dealing with the traffic. Looking forward to tomorrow!

VStrom Tech Night – July 16, 2013

“Big Dan” hosted a Tech Night at his new place in the NW, so we rode on over to partake in the festivities. The major event was to be the replacement of Phil’s stator which had been giving him grief for a while. Dan and Phil enlisted Louise to participate in the wrenching and I think she enjoyed it.

Here are a few pictures from the evening …

Stator goes in the big hole there.

Phil with a stator – the stator is the non-rotating part of the bike’s alternator – the thing that provides power.

While Phil’s bike was on the lift undergoing major surgery the rest of us were out in the sun chatting while I tinkered with the new intercom system wiring on Louise’s VStrom. In the picture below, Trent’s new 2013 FJR1300, (the major new redesign of my bike), is on the left.

Trent offered me a test spin on his new bike, which I eagerly took him up on! I was pretty curious as to what the real-world difference would be between the new design 2013 and my second generation 2009. First off, Trent’s bike doesn’t have the bar risers that mine does, so I couldn’t get a good sense how the ergonomics felt in comparison, but since the chassis and seat are unchanged from 2009, the risers ought to make sitting and reaching the handlebars the same. Second, it seems that the new FJR is quicker – the new engine computer and sport mapping does make a difference. With the engine in relaxed mode, it was noticeably more tame than my 2009. So the stock fixed mapping on the 2009 seems to be set between the sport mode and tame mode on the new FJR. Suspension seemed the same. The improved windscreen still needs to be a bit higher for me. Trent mentioned that he was happy with it since he’s a couple of inched shorter than I am. I didn’t take it far and I came back in a few minutes. The group was laughing because they could hear me accelerating briskly up on the main road.

I talked to Trent about a taller windscreen for the VStrom and he volunteered up the Givi he has on his VStrom for a test on the RTTH since he was taking his FJR.

We did some bench racing – that’s Trent, Richard, Dan and me, Phil’s back can be seen on the right of picture …

With Phil’s new stator installed and seemingly working fine, we all ate off the BBQ brisket he brought over for dinner – he’s an actual chef.

Dan and I took a run at mounting the really loud horn on Louise’s VStrom, but failed … again. In fact I broke the mount even more so that I can see no way now to properly mount the thing anywhere. I will buy Louise a new one and try not to screw up the mount again.

Good times these Tech Nights.

08 VStrom Tech – Electronics/Crash Bar Install

With the panniers mounted last weekend, this weekend’s work involved installing the ALTrider crash bars and bash plate, as well as installing the accessory fuse panel, wiring up the power for the GPS and the new PTT gear for the Sena headsets that we now use for communications.

Here’s the VStrom before I started the work. The panniers are one from last weekend, but the stock windscreen is still on and you can see the stock plastic plate underneath the engine – that would be replaced today with a heavy aluminum plate.

The first thing I installed was the Eastern Beaver PC8 fuse panel. It came with a prebuilt cable for power and the relay for powering the panel with the ignition key.

After running a power line up to the GPS mount under the windscreen bracket, I removed the windscreen and setup the mounting plate of for the Garmin ZUMO and the SPOT tracker.

Next up – crash bars and frame sliders from ALTrider. Louise has the same setup on her VStrom and they work great.

Left side installed, I’m working on the right side …

Louise must have got bored with taking pictures after this one …

… because there are no more pictures.

We got the frame sliders and bash plate installed by the end of the day – all that was needed was the taller windscreen and she was ready for RTTH!