Highwood Pass Loop – In Reverse

I know this is way late, but the new job has chewed up a lot of my free time! Anyway, read on!

Today is Canada Day! Happy Birthday Canada! To celebrate, we went for a motorcycle ride.

Bikes parked at Barrier Lake

Bikes parked at Barrier Lake Information Centre

We were supposed to go with a group. A few days ago, Louise got an invite to go with the Chinook Outriders, (a chapter of the Women in the Wind which is a North American-wide organization of woman riders), on a trip to Field, BC for today. She waffled, until Wednesday night, then we arranged to get the 1000K service done on the VStrom on Thursday.

So today, we were to meet up with the group at a gas station just off the TransCanada Highway on the west side at 930am. We got there right at 930, but there were absolutely no other bikes in site. Figuring the rest of the riders were maybe a few minutes late. we waited until 945, when Louise checked her email. Turns out that it was supposed to be 9am not 930! We were 30 minutes late! It’s not often that Louise makes that kind of mistake, so no worries.

We decided that we’d do the Highwood Pass Loop on Highway 40, in reverse. We’ve done it a couple of times from Longview south of Calgary and north onto Highway 1A and then east through Cochrane and into Calgary on Crowchild Trail. That meant lunch in either Longview or Black Diamond/Turner Valley.

I told the GPS to head to Longview and it promptly went crazy as we headed west as it told us to go east. From the gas station in Valley Ridge, we went east a bit to take Stoney to Crowchild then go west to the Kananaskis. Bitchin’ Betty (whatever the name of the Garmin voice I’m using right now), kept telling me to turn back, turn left, do a u-turn – nearly anything to get me going east and I presume to Deerfoot to go south. I ignored it and went the way I wanted to.

Every thing was going great until we turned of the 1A and onto the 1X so we could head over to the Kananaskis turnoff on the TransCanada. I was in the lead, took the left and I watched Louise come around in my mirror. I started freaking out because as I watched in horror, she went way wide in the turn and slid off the road and into the ditch!

I whipped the bike around on the road and roared back up to the corner, got off the bike and ran over to Louise. She was up on her feet and said she was OK. After looking her over and giving her some hugs, we picked up the bike and started getting organized to get the bike up out of the ditch and back onto the road.

Lots of cars passed by without a single glance, other than one car whose driver stopped and called out if everything was OK. I was sure that Louise was OK, so I gave them the thumbs up and they drove off. But that was the only one, until just as we were about to let out the clutch and run the bike up, a truck driver pulling a tanker of some sort, stopped, hopped out and asked if we wanted a hand. My first inclination was to say, “Naw we got it covered,” but instead I decided that the help would be great, so I said yes. He rushed over, got behind the bike, then I let out the clutch and just like that, had the VStrom back on pavement.

We looked the VStrom over carefully for damage, but the crash bars and frame sliders did a great job of protecting the plastic bits of the bike. The only bit that we had to address was the clutch lever, which had been rotated on the bars from the impact. I got my tools and in no time got it fixed.

This was the first time that Louise had had an off, and I am so proud of the way she handled it. I know she felt like crap, but she wasn’t hurt, the bike wasn’t hurt – so it was ok. A wakeup lesson for sure, but we were all ok. Instead of begging off and going home, she simply said we should get going to Longview for lunch. I’m not sure that most people, in a similar situation, would shrug it off and get back on with most of a days riding ahead, but she did and I’m really proud of Louise.

Post-repair on Highways 1x and 1A

The VStrom post-repair on Highways 1x and 1A

So we rolled on, into some pretty gusty winds, back onto the TransCanada, the east to the Kananaskis Turnoff onto Highway 40. Once out of the Morley flats and heading up into the mountains, the scenery gets really pretty, with mountains both on the left and right. Running past the south end of Barrier Lake, we saw at least a couple of dozen kayakers and canoeists on the water – proboably part of a class or something since they were all wearing similar lifejackets and helmets and in similar looking boats. Soon we came to the Barrier Lake Information Centre and we stopped for a quick bio break.

Louise and the VStrom

After finishing our bio break, we continued on to the Highwood Pass, which is the highest paved mountain pass in Canada at over 7300ft!

When we rolled into the parking lot, we found that we’d caught up to the Women in the Wind riders! They were all cruisers and most were dressed in their pirate garb, and although we were invited to join up with them, we decided to head off on our own to Longview, Turner Valley or Black Diamond for lunch. Once we reached Longview, we decided to continue on, eventually settling on a little place in Turner Valley called the Chuckwagon Cafe or something like that. Whatever it was called, the food was great.

With lunch done, we headed back out and super-slabbed it back home.