WeSTOC Day 4 – Part 1 Kaslo / New Denver / Passcreek Road

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The usual suspects (Guy, Rod, Bob, Ken and myself) gathered for breakfast at the usual time and started working on a plan for the day. Bob and Ken bailed – they just wanted to wander Nelson, but we were joined at the table by, I’ll call him Rod2, and he figured he’d tag along with us, whatever we decided.

So the plan was to check out some squiggles on a map, then redo the Pass Creek Road that we did yesterday, backwards this time, then head up to the ferry at Balfour, ride down towards Creston, have lunch, and head back to Nelson. It was a good plan, but totally defeated by a wrong turn and ruthlessly slow chicken drivers on the highway north of Nelson.

Both Guy and I were looking at some squiggles on the DH map between Nelson and Castlegar, on the east side of the river. They looked intriguing and we were determined to seek out how good the Granite Road was. We were able to easily find the start at the Nelson end of the road and we happily roared down the road (well, as much as our FJRs and STs can roar). It was pretty fun, with lots of twists, and only a little gravel in some curves. But it was over too soon! We came around a nice 180 degree curve and we were right back at the highway.

Wondering why it was so short, we carried on to the same little road we were on yesterday – the Pass Creek Road, except that this time we entered it from the south and road it backwards. While many parts were recognizable, it was almost a different road. It too, was over too quickly, but at least we ran the entire road!

From here, the plan was to go back up north through Nelson to Balfour and catch the 1040am ferry. The GPS said we’d make it to the terminal by 1030am as we rolled across the Nelson Bridge, but then we got stuck behind a whole bunch of slowpoke chicken drivers. Yes, some of the curves on Highway 6 north of Nelson have a 40km speed suggestion versus the regular speed limit of 90km, but that’s no reason for the cage drivers to slam on their brakes and creep around the curve at a walking pace. So it was with mounting frustration that both Guy and I watched the arrival time on the GPS go up minute by minute. We arrived right at the revised on the fly arrival time – 1044am.

The ferry was still there, but the loadmaster (or whatever they call the person at the lineup who decides who gets on and who doesn’t), had already turned away a small group of bikes ahead of us. One more truck got onto the ferry and that was it – no ferry ride for us today.

So we had a quick bio break, then figured out a new plan. We’d go up to Kaslo for pie, over to New Denver, then back south to Nelson. Off we went up Highway 31, a very scenic and relatively entertaining road, which is Destination Highways #60. There’s one spot just south of Kaslo where the highway crosses a creek that runs into the Kootenay Lake, where the bridge is on a hairpin that goes almost 180 degrees – the road here makes a serious U off the line of the road along the lakeside. We got a little spread out along here, Rod was far out in front and arrived at Kaslo with enough time to have a full cigarette before Rod2 and I arrived, Guy was about 5 minutes behind me.

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With the bikes parked, we sauntered into Theresa’s for a coffee and pie (cinnamon roll for me). While we were polishing off our treats, some Harley riders pulled up out front, beside our bikes. The riders got off, removed their beanie helmets, and their leathers, all with the HD logos prominently displayed. All the bikes all had the typical Harley straight pipes treatment and had all the other patrons of the place shaking their heads.

As we left, one of the patrons started talking to me about where we were from and about our bikes, came outside, went right past the Harleys and walked all around the two FJRs and the two ST1300s, asking lots of questions.

Geared up, and mounted up, we rode out of town on Highway 31A, DH 5. Not far out of town, this road become a great road, lots of sweepers, almost all curves from Kaslo to New Denver. The highway runs along the Kaslo River, which is running very very high. At one point where the road runs through a narrow canyon, the river is coming very close to washing out the highway. When we went by, there was a BC Highways guy in a truck watching the river – no doubt trying to determine how long the pavement would last. We had been following another government truck on the road and the driver obviously knew the road well as he stayed well ahead of us and while we weren’t riding hard, we were pretty spirited in the curves.

Riding through the outskirts of New Denver, a number of what looked to be feral dogs, or maybe they were coyotes, crossed the road in front of us, completely oblivious to the bikes going by. Maybe they were ghost dogs and knew we couldn’t hurt them. We didn’t stop in New Denver, instead we figured we’d just run back to Nelson and get some food at the hotel.

Highway 6 is number 25 on the DH hit parade and it’s kind of two roads in one. The northern part has a number of sweepers with some great views from along the lake, both down at lakeside and up high as the road climbs and dips beside Slocan Lake. The southern part of the highway runs through forest and is really curvy as it follows the Slocan River to where it joins the Kootenay River.

It was near the start of the curvy part when the wind and rain started. Guy stopped to close the vents on his jacket and Rod2 mentioned that he wanted to stop in Winlaw to get his rain gear on. While we continued south to Winlaw, the wind really picked up and was tossing tree branches at us. A pretty large piece of a fir tree bounced off of my helmet at one point! So we stopped at a little cafe parking lot, where Guy put his rain gear on and Rod2 ducked into a shelter to put his rain liner on under his jacket. Rod’s jacket was mostly waterproof, so he just had a smoke, and since I was wearing my Aerostich, I didn’t have to do anything. While I was standing there, a hippie came across the highway to tell me that he had just heard the highway south was closed because the wind had caused a tree to come down across the road and onto some power lines. We figured we’d head down anyway, worst case, we’d get some pictures. Rod2 came out of the shelter, headed towards his bike, so Rod1 and Guy headed out. I held back for a bit waiting for Rod2 to get going. When I saw he had his gloves on, I pulled out onto the highway to follow the other two guys. He never caught up to us and it wasn’t until later at the banquet that we found out what happened to him – more on that later.

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The hippie guy was right, there was a tree down across the road and hanging on some power lines, and it hadn’t been down long – there was only a half dozen cars ahead of us. We rolled up to the back of the line and since we didn’t know how long it would take, we shut off the bikes and popped our helmets off. Then we watched behind us to see where Rod2 was and ahead to watch the progress with the tree. It didn’t take them long to get the tree down, after only about 10 minutes of waiting a pickup truck was pulling the top of the tree down the road towards us in the other lane. In no time, the line of cars ahead of us was moving, so we quickly geared up and started off ourselves, but still no sign of Rod2.
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We had thought of riding the Pass Creek Road again, (yes it’s that much fun), but it was still raining, and we figured it would be no fun wet. At the Pie stop in Kaslo, we figured we had located the highway access to the other part of the road we missed this morning, it’s called Blewette Road. So instead of just heading straight back to Nelson, we ducked off the highway and followed this absolutely brilliant narrow little road up above the Kootenay River and the power dams.

Since the rivers are running high from the rain and the melting snow, the water roaring through the spillways was pretty spectacular. It was almost distracting as we went into curve after curve, with the highlight being a tight hairpin going up hill, had to take it in second gear!

Continued in Day 4 – Part 2

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