2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 13

27 August 2012 – After a nice sleep, at least for me, we got up and headed down to the little cafe off the lobby for breakfast. While the food was good, we easily overheard the staff bitching about the boss and pay. The boss was stomping around until a tray of glasses crashed to the floor spraying glass bits all over, then he stormed out, got in his car and roared off. I hope he didn’t crash the car.

Packing up, we talked about the route home and by the time we had the bikes loaded, we’d figured out which way we’d go. The choices were Highway 3 through the Crowsnest Pass, then north on Highway 22 to Calgary; or head north from Cranbrook through the Invermere/Radium area and then north on Highway 93 through the Kootenay National Park. It had been years and years since we’d been through that way so it would be interesting to see it again. Beside, we wouldn’t have to deal with the wind on 22. The hope that there’d be less traffic was dashed though – there were some stupid and crazy drivers out today.

So, the Highway 93 north of Cranbrook offered nothing really special in the way of scenery.

It was flat, mostly straight, but relatively light in traffic so we made pretty good time north.

We crossed this bridge over the Columbia River …

Traffic picked up a bit as we got into the Windemere/Invermere areas. We stopped in Radium Hot Springs PetroCanada for gas and a bite to eat.

We were heading through those mountains ahead …

… through a very narrow and spectacular canyon that twists along a river …

The Kootenay Highway continues north, meeting the TransCanada Highway just west of Banff, running almost parallel to the Kootenay River.

There was lots of haze in the air and there was a smell of smoke – there were some forest fires burning north and the breeze was blowing the smoke into the valley.

We stopped at the Canmore Visitor’s Centre for a bio break and water …

I think by this time we were both looking forward to getting home …

Bypassing the TransCanada and all it’s high speed passing and stuff, we took our usual route home from here – the good old Highway 1A and so about 90 minutes later we were home.

All in all, it was a great memorable trip, with some drama, spectacular scenery and roads, hanging out with some friends and a total of over 3131kms.

Although we were very happy to be home, we were also already looking forward to the next series of trips in 2013!

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 12

26 August 2012 – Today we started home and the VStrom gang was heading off in separate ways. Andrew was rocketing home to Calgary as were Rob and BigDan, well Rob was going to be heading home to Edmonton. Smurf and Pops were heading out to the west coast in Washington for an outdoor rock concert.

All of us had breakfast at the Broadway again, then headed back to the campsite to pack up.

Our plan was to get to Cranbrook, where we’d probably stay the night at the BestWestern – our usual place in Cranbrook. From there we’d figure out which route to take home.

But first we headed to NewDenver for some gas, and then zipped east on the famous Highway 31A between NewDenver and Kaslo.

We stopped for a bit in Kaslo for water and some trail mix, right outside the Kaslo Municipal Hall, undergoing some renovations. It was built in 1898 and looks like it’s in pretty good shape for 114 years old.

This is the entrance to the Library …

Wherever your mind wanders … ride after it! I wish we could live it.

We headed south from Kaslo, and were planning, sort of, to take the ferry at Balfour. But when we got there, the ferry was just pulling away, so we decided to carry on to Nelson and from there to Salmo on Highway 3. Louise had never been to Nelson, but I’d been there last year for the WeSTOC Honda ST1300 meet. One of the things that Nelson is famous for, among other things, is the bridge …

It was interesting to go past the Prestige Lakefront Hotel I stayed at on that trip. We needed water so we stopped at the Nelson Walmart down on the waterfront.

We managed to dork around for a while at the Walmart before heading out again, but eventually we were off. Next stop – Creston for a late lunch.

We’ve stopped at the Buffalo Trails Cafe a few times and the food has always been really good.

Louise and I shared a soup and sandwich, then filled up the gas tanks and carried on to Cranbrook.

Another couple of hours on the road and we arrived in Cranbrook, where we rode through town to reach the BestWestern on the east side of town.

Unpacking the bikes in Cranbrook

We went to check-in and I managed to talk my way into a Suite with a jacuzzi tub for a great price. I knew from past stays that there was no hot-tub in the pool area – only a swimming pool – so I whined and complained a bit so the girl behind the counter caved and gave us the suite for the price of a normal room.

Dusk at the BestWestern Cranbrook

One of the things that I noticed right way was the addition of Motorcycle Parking! That had been one of the complaints that I wrote about to the manager of the hotel a couple of years ago and it was nice to see that they had finally added it.

We had dinner at EastSide Mario’s, just missed getting a latte at Starbucks because it had just closed, then headed back to the hotel for some time with the jacuzzi tub and a nice comfy sleep in a giant king-sized bed and a quiet air-conditioner.

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 10/11

26 August 2012 – Friday and Saturday were spent taking in seminars, checking out local restaurants for breakfast or just hanging out relaxing at the campsite.

There were a total of seven bikes in our campsite …

and three tents (later four), and two hammocks.

Later on Friday, a seventh traveller joined us, a young fellow, Andrew, arrived on Friday evening and we invited him to pitch his tent on our site.

A couple of the better seminars were on packing and road meals by a couple that rode to South America on a Russian Ural sidecar rig. There was also a sort of motorcycle gymkhana skills test. One was slow speed race where the last one to cross the finish line won, and the other was a keyhole competition, where each rider rode into a circle, turned and came out again, and after each round the circle got smaller.

Rob and I decided to enter, he on his Varadero and me on the FJR. Now the FJR is a great bike but against the VStroms and BMWs, it was just too heavy and awkward to compete. In the slow speed race, I was doing good until the finish line where the front wheel slipped and I had to put my foot down – I was out. In the keyhole race I did better, making it to the third round where the front wheel, again, slipped a bit outside the circle – I was out, again. Against other FJRs I would have done OK. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Rob was a close second, but finished behind a small ancient, but beautiful, old BMW naked bike.

After dinner on Saturday night, six of us headed down to the lake just to watch the water … and watch Smurf go for a chilly swim in the lake.

For lunch one day we found the Woodfire Pizza N’ More – a Germanic pizza place where the food was excellent. For breakfast a couple of mornings we went to the Broadway Deli and Cafe, where the food was really good as well.

It was a lot of fun hanging out with the VStrom guys – it really changed the complexion of the event for us and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year!

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 9

23 August 2012 – Today was going to be another relatively easy day, Vernon to Nakusp is only 194kms and should only take 3 hours. There’s a ferry on the route and I like ferries! This ferry is the Needles-Faurquier Ferry across Arrow Lake on Highway 6.

We rolled out of bed, and headed to the attached Denny’s for breakfast. Service wasn’t the best but the food was alright. Packing up took little time and since we had got gas when we had arrived in Vernon, we just turned left on to the road in front of the hotel and road on out of town.

The first part of Highway 6 rolls through farmland and orchards along a railroad track that runs along the valley. There wasn’t much traffic, but there are limited places to pass so we were forced to meander along at a leisurely pace. Eventually we started climbing into the Monashee Mountains and traffic dropped off. This is where the highway became so much more fun! Lots of curves, in trees and along the edge of cliffs – it was a really fun road.

It was this road road where I noticed Louise’s increased confidence in her riding and in the bike. Usually in the curvy bits, I would race on ahead at a good pace, then slow down and wait for Louise on the straight parts, because Louise usually takes a much slower pace through the curves. Today though, as I ripped through a set of curves, I noticed Louise in mirror, not far behind me! At first I was pretty surprised, then I realized that the changes we’d made to the suspension of the bike and the thousands of kilometres she’d put on this summer already, had paid off in her vastly increased pace through the curves. Louise was really enjoying the riding too!

Eventually the highway got straighter and dropped down in elevation to the ferry ramp at Faurquier on the west side of Arrow Lake. We had passed, been passed by and passed again by a couple on a Honda GoldWing, who rolled onto the ferry right behind us.

It’s a little disconcerting rolling onto a little bitty ferry next to a giant 2-trailer semi-truck! But the most important thing is to not be behind it getting off the ferry on the other side!

The rest of Highway 6 to Nakusp is a bit of a let-down after the thrill the highway was on the other side of the lake, but we took it easy and made it into Nakusp mid-afternoon, where we registered for HU Event at the sports complex. Then we headed into the campground to get to our site.

That’s when the human-drama started.

Back in March, when I had registered us for the HU event, I had also emailed the Nakusp town to reserve our favourite site, and I had the email response back confirming it. We rolled into the campsite and I walked up to the office to pay-up. The new folks running things promptly informed me that the spot was reserved for someone else. I responded by informing them that I had reserved the spot in March – when did the others reserve it? The answer was July or something. So I said that a reservation made in March surely trumps one made in July? The Manager looked at me for a moment somewhat flustered, then to her credit decided – yes, a reservation made in March trumps one made in July, especially when I had proof of the reservation. She moved the other folks to some other site and I paid up through Sunday.

So with that crisis averted, we setup camp and waited to see if the VStrom guys would show up. Early in the summer, when I was on the VStrom Run to the Hills ride, I had mentioned that Louise and I were going to Nakusp and if anyone was interested in coming along, we’d be happy to share our campsite.

We were Not sure when the VStrom guys would be arriving, so we were surprised to see Smurf and Pops roll in on their VStroms not long after we had arrived ourselves. They’d been riding around BC, Washington, and Montana and had a short trip from Toad Rock campsite, a couple of hours south of Nakusp.

That’s Pops, and Pops’ and Smurf’s 2 hammocks

Later on at dinner, Big-Dan and Rob arrived, Dan on his VStrom and Rob on a Honda Varadero. They had some drama themselves – on the way out from Calgary, Rob’s chain broke, so a trip back to Calgary to get a new chain was needed, then the two of them decided to take a shortcut over the mountains from Invermere to Crawford Bay – which is a barely maintained two-track gravel/dirt road. Back at the campsite, it was dark so the guys put their tents up by headlight.

By evening, we were all registered, had eaten, started drinking and it was all good fun.

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 8

22 August 2012 – Today we were heading for Vernon, BC. It would be another easy day – only 240kms and probably about 4 hours on the road. For some reason we didn’t take too many pictures this day.

First we got got packed up and then decided to have breakfast at the KOA Restaurant.

We were pretty much the only ones in there, but maybe we came after the rush … or maybe it was this guy guarding the front entrance …

Since we filled up yesterday when we arrived, all we had to do was roll … wait, we decided to check the tire pressure, which turned out to take quite a while.

We had trouble with the pressure gauge, the compressor, where the valve stems were on the wheel … seems like it took an hour to simply get four tires up to the right pressure.

Anyway, we got it figured out and headed off down the highway, towards Kamloops. At Kamloops we’d turn east and travel down the TransCanada for ways until turning south to Vernon.

There was another way that I was considering that came out to the TransCanada at Salmon Arm, but the road looked pretty twisty and might have been gravel so we decided to stick to the highway.

We arrived in Vernon mid-afternoon in the blazing heat and stopped at a gas station to fill up with gas, chug some water and figure out where to stay. We also happened to chat with a couple of folks going in and out.

Usually Sandman Hotels have been good, we’ve stayed at a few in BC now. We’ve also stayed at a variety of Holiday Inns and BestWesterns, but for some reason I decided to go to the Sandman.

It turned out to be in dire need of a renovation … with a bulldozer. The folks there are nice, but the building(s) are pretty old and certainly don’t fit the image of the other Sandman Hotels in the chain. The worst things? No hot-tub – just a pool; and the room was really tiny.

After showering up and unpacking, we headed off to find a restaurant for dinner, two-up on my FJR, and wound up at Original Joe’s. I had spotted a Starbucks on the way to the restaurant, so we stopped for a Latte on the way back. MMMMM it was good.

Back at the hotel, we parked the bike …
and went to sleep.

Tomorrow we would be arriving at Nakusp!

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 7

21 August 2012 – We got up, ate our oatmeal, packed up and hit the road. We’d gassed up the night before coming in through Jasper so we were able to get rolling right away.

At the entrance to the highway waiting to turn left out of the campground, we witnessed one of the stupidest moves by the rider of a CanAm Spyder (a trike with the 2 wheels up front) that I have seen. Because there were two of us on two bikes I was waiting for a gap for both of us to roll into without going like bats out of hell. I guess I was waiting too long, because the idiot on the Spyder, two-up and wearing shorts, tshirt and flip-flops, went screaming around us on the left and whipped out onto the highway, turning left and narrowly missing getting clipped by a car coming south. Picking his sorry ass up off the highway after getting splattered was not how I wanted to start the day, so I was reluctantly glad he made it without getting smoked, but were both fervently wishing he’d get a brain.

Our goal for the day was to get to Clearwater, BC where there was a KOA Campground that I had made a reservation at. Just before the town of Jasper we took a left onto Highway 16 heading west to Highway 5 in BC where we’d head south.

South on BC Highway 5

Since it was pretty close to lunchtime and we both needed a bit of break, we stopped at Valemount for trail mix, a bio break, and some gas for the bikes.

We cruised on down the highway eventually paralleling the North Thompson River …

I “let” Louise lead for while, and while it looked like it could almost rain any second at times, it didn’t rain at all on us during the day. It did however rain late in the evening while we were at Clearwater.

Would it rain?

BC Transportation was busy fixing the highway at various points along the highway, causing the usual slowdowns …

The flagman cometh …

As is often the case, we had to stop for a few minutes waiting for oncoming traffic to clear past. So we took pictures of each other …

Still stopped – see the speed on the GPS? 0.0 kph

By mid-afternoon, we reached Clearwater. First we stopped at the gas station to fill up with gas, and we had burgers at the A&W for a late lunch/early dinner. Then, after much searching and checking the GPS, we found the KOA right across the alley from the gas station.

Campsite setup

Since we were so early we had time to do some laundry, have a shower and relax reading. Also Louise wore a skirt!

Waiting for tea!

Later on we went for a walk then went to bed early. More highway tomorrow!

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 6

20 August 2012 – We had done most of the packing the night before, so we had breakfast and packed up the bikes and headed out of Grande Prairie in the rush hour. Wasn’t too bad.

We were heading south on Highway 40 – the plan was to get to Jasper for the night where we’d camp in Whistlers Campground across the highway from the Wapiti Campground that we stayed at on the way north a few days ago.

Heading south …

Here’s the highway ahead and Louise behind me …

This is one of my favourite shots – it was an over the shoulder blind photo while I was riding along at like 100kph – it turned out almost like I was aiming it!

Over the shoulder blind shot of Louise behind me

So we rolled down a somewhat familiar highway, seeing as it had only been a few days since we were heading north.

Some curves, but mostly straight …

The scenery was pretty cool, not spectacular like the Icefields Parkway was, but with rolling foothills and forest everywhere it seemed very remote.

We stopped in Grande Cache for gas …

It was still really hot, but getting cloudier …

Because we weren’t too hungry we just decided to eat some trail mix and chug some water. We chatted with some other bikers on older bikes heading north to Alaska. They were just kinda winging it though, neither bike was really the kind of bike you’d think of taking to Alaska and with what they had packed on their bikes, they made our bikes with our loads look like giant enormous pack draft horses instead mules. Oh well, we’d be a hell of lot more comfortable …

After a couple of more hours riding, we stopped for more water and bit of a break for Louise. It was getting more and more cloudy and I started to suspect that we might get some rain before we reached Jasper.


Trail mix and water – yum yum

Bit of a “hero” shot …

Eventually Highway 40 crossed Highway 16 – the road between Edmonton and Jasper, so we turned right onto 16 and just past the Jasper National Park gates we ran into our first bit of rain. It wasn’t very hard, not enough to make me stop and put the thumb wiper on my glove, so we just motored on. The rain stopped before we got to Jasper although it continued to sprinkle on and off.

Just past Jasper was the Whistlers Campground where we were going to camp for the night. Heading into the campsite, we found a long line up of motorhomes and fifth-wheel rigs ahead of us. By this time the sun was out again and it was pretty hot just sitting there not moving very fast. Eventually though we were up to the checkin booth, behind some folks from Ireland if I recall correctly. They asked a couple of questions about bears and elk that had me laughing out loud – silly tourists!

Anyway, we checked in and setup camp …

The tent is too big for the site!

… and shortly after, we had some “food in a bag” from MEC. Louise had brought along some spices and thank God she did, otherwise it’d be tough to finish enough of the food because it’s so so bland.

After dinner a fellow riding solo on a Honda ST1300, the Honda equivalent of my bike, came over to ask about the showers and to have a wee chat. A nice guy, he was from Vancouver Island just tooling around for a couple of days. We only chatted with him that one time, we went to bed pretty early and he was on the road earlier than us.

Before bed, though we went on a short walk around the campsite just to walk.

I have no idea what Louise is looking at here …

We had stayed in Wapiti Campground a couple of kilometres south and on the other side of the highway. There was no comparison between the two campsites – Whistlers, where we were tonight, was no where near as nice as Wapiti. Next time we come through Jasper we’ll definitely be staying at Wapiti. The main differences were in the amount of tree cover and access to washrooms – Wapiti was way better.

Anyway, we crawled into sleeping bags early and slept the night away …

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 5

19 August 2012 – Since we had time and nothing else to do but wait and talk we figured out the options.

There was no way Louise wanted to ship the bikes and she didn’t want to cut my trip short by heading straight home. So we figured if we have to ride 3 days to get home, we might as well ride the three days to Nakusp, then we could rest up for a few days before heading home over 2 days. So I modified the plan and figured that we could head back to Jasper, then to Clearwater, BC., then Vernon, BC, and then Nakusp.

While it looks like Louise is going to cry, she’s actually just making a sad face

Finally released from the hospital at about 5am, we headed back to the hotel to sleep for as long as we could and we’d just take it easy for the rest of the day. I had already called the hotel to get the room for an extra night – turns out that the hotel had already earmarked our room for someone else, so they had to do some juggling to make everything work. I have to admit I did use the “sick wife card” to get the guy to do what I wanted – which was to not move rooms.

Later on in the early afternoon while Louise snoozed, I got bored and decided to go clean the bugs off the front of the bikes. So I popped down to the lobby and asked the front-end folks if I could borrow some rags, a bucket and some detergent.

After a few minutes of calling and to and fro, they came up with an old bucket, some rags and some detergent. There was no obvious convenient place to fill the bucket with water, so … I filled it up in the bathroom and went on out to the parking lot to wash things up.

It was blazingly hot outside in the sun, but I did manage to get the bug guts off the bikes and they looked a lot better.

Later we had dinner at the Five Guys Burger and Fries a short walk up the road. It was the first time I’d been to one, but Louise had been to one in Calgary before and knew what to do and expect. It was a good burger, not the best ever, but pretty good. On the way back to the hotel we stopped by the Starbucks for a triple vente extra-hot latte for me and a Chai Tea latte for Louise.

Now by this time, Louise was feeling much better, still in discomfort most of the time, but only in pain if she twisted or stretched or something, so we were feeling pretty confident that we’d be ok riding on as long as we took it easy.

Day 6 loomed ahead.

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 4 & 5

18 August 2012 – There were two things we wanted to do today – get another bolt for the VStrom’s front-end, and ride to the Dunvegan Bridge a couple of hours north of Grande Prairie. The third thing we did today was completely unplanned and nearly ended the trip!

Riding light, we first went over to the local Home Depot to get a second bolt for the VStrom’s front-end. I had gone over the night before after dinner, but I bought the wrong size.

I should have taken the remaining original bolt with me, because I wound up going back twice before I got the right bolt. With the right bolt in hand, finally, we started on putting them both back in.

With everything shipshape again, we headed north for the bridge. Along the way, I spotted this teepee in a parking lot in the midst of a bunch of industrial buildings on the edge of town.

Not sure this is original, strictly speaking

The road north was pretty straight and actually looked like it could have been east of Calgary – rolling prairie farm land. Once we got close to the Peace River valley though, the scenery changed.

That’s the Peace River down there in the valley …
and you can just see the top of the bridge on the left side.

I managed to get some pictures of the famous Dunvegan Suspension Bridge while riding up to it and across it.

Having crossed the bridge to the other side, we rolled into the parking lot of the Dunvegan Provincial Park …

We took off the gear, well I took off my suit but Louise left her riding pants on, and wandered around some. There was a trailer in the parking lot that sold pop, hamburgers, hotdogs, ice cream and COLD WATER!!! We got some cold water and it was good. I was talking with the woman running the thing and it was quite an interesting conversation.

It only looks like the trailer was in a little clearing in the woods – it actually was right in the parking lot.

There’s a museum/interpretive centre right at the parking lot and so we decided to take a look inside. Turns out there was a video presentation that was starting right away, followed by a guided tour of the old buildings that were still on site. The preso was kind of interesting – it went through some of the native legends and early history related the to Peace River in general and area around Dunvegan.

The guided tour was pretty interesting too. We went with a few other folks and were led through the grounds and in and out of the various buildings. Considering how old the buildings are, they are in great shape.

This is one of the oldest buildings there, the St. Charles Mission was first built in 1867 …
In fact, it’s in such great shape today that its almost livable!

There’s a few more pictures of the various buildings and interiors on my Flickr site – Dunvegan Prov Park

The bridge itself is quite famous for being the longest suspension bridge in Alberta.

We made a late lunch early dinner picnic in our barefeet, then headed out on the road back to Grande Prairie. Once we got back, we decided to go to the hot tub in the pool area. After a few minutes in the hot tub, Louise jumped into the cold pool for a swim and that’s when the trouble started.

She started getting chest pains that steadily got worse as the evening went on, eventually by 11pm, Louise asked me to take her to the hospital! So we climbed onto the FJR two-up and headed to emergency. We found it easy enough, parked the bike and went in to start the triage process. Normally you go to emergency and wait and wait and wait … unless of course you present with chest pains! Or a bone hanging out. But chest pains get you wheeled right on in and hooked up to machines. So Louise was in and hooked up well before midnight.

Now once the hospital has you in, they are loathe to cut you loose. They ran some tests, then waited around, ran another test, waited for the results from that, then the doctor came by and asked all the same questions the nurse and the technician asked. Now they all wrote the answers down, at least that’s what I assumed they were scribbling. Maybe they were just doodling to make the doctor ask all the questions again.

Anyway, it turned out that Louise had pleurisy which is inflammation of the lining of the lungs and chest that leads to chest pain (usually sharp) when you take a breath or cough. Not so serious, but it was certainly painful for Louise.

So we had some choices to make and since we had nothing else to do while waiting, we talked them through. Our original plan was to take another week going through Dawson Creek, Prince George and down to the Okanagan on the way to Nakusp. Than plan was now out the window – there’s no way we could leave in the morning and carry on the trip as planned.

We could arrange to ship the bikes home and fly home ourselves.

We could ship Louise’s bike home and fly her home, while I continued on alone.

We could ride straight home, taking it easy over three days.

We could ride straight on to Nakusp, taking it easy over three days.

Stay tuned for the next instalment …

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 3

17 Aug 2012 – Once upon a time, wild animals ruled these parts. Elk, wapiti, moose, wolves, cougars and so on. We thought those days were long gone, that the relentless march of civilization had pushed those magnificent animals far back into the wilds.

Well of course, if you’ve been in the mountains you know that’s not exactly true. The various wild animals get pretty used to having man around. Sometimes we leave out food, or eliminate predators, and sometimes, shelter!

Taking shelter

This young elk (I think it was an elk) was wandering around the eastern edge of the campground when I went to the bathroom in the morning. We passed by each other with a few yards between us, each of us giving the other the eye. At some point, maybe while I was in the bathroom, (can’t quite recall now), a woman must have got a little too close or didn’t give the guy enough of the hairy eyeball – and got charged by the young fella! There was some hollering and running around. No one was hurt but I suspect the woman ran back to her fifth-wheel and cowered, while the elk took refuge from the crazy humans in the cooking shelter. I tried to get as close as I could to get the picture, but he was giving me the hairy eyeball as I crept stealthily closer. So I just took the picture and backed away before he decided to take a run at me too.

Back at the campsite, we got things packed up and got ready to leave.

Ready to roll

The plan for today was to get to Grande Prairie, but at midday there was some doubt – more on that later!

So, into Jasper for some gas and then we headed east …

Heading towards Hinton

… toward Hinton, where we’d turn north on Highway 40 …

North on 40

Heading north, Louise and I switched places, with her leading. This doesn’t happen often so when it does happen, it’s worth a picture from the bike!

Louise in the lead!

At some point in the late morning, just south of Grande Cache, we spotted a plume of smoke ahead. We thought maybe it was a small fire, but when we got abreast of it, it turned out to be the … smoke … from a pulp mill or a saw mill or something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t a fire.

Fire? Nope – pulp mill

So by lunchtime we rolled into the town of Grande Cache and stopped for gas first, then looked for a place for to eat. There was some tension as we looked for a place, which I attribute to the fact that Grande Cache has … a federal penitentiary. I guess somehow we just couldn’t shake the unconscious feeling that we could be jumped by escaped convicts at any moment.

Anyway, we found a place to eat, looked very grande and modern on the outside …

Bighorn Grill

… but on the inside it was all early 1990s cafe diner kitsch. Decent food and service though.

No don’t! I have bad hair!!

Oh well, if you must …

To quote a famous Scottish actor, “Bad hair never looked so good!”

As we were getting back onto the bikes after lunch, Louise said she was having trouble turning the handlebars to the left. I figured that a pebble had got up inside the handlebar assembly and that it would fall out out on the road right away. Boy was I wrong.

It turns out that there are two things Grande Cache is known for, one is the federal penitentiary, and the other is … Grande Cache Coal. The coal mine is just north of the town and it turns out that this coal mine is the reason that the town of Grande Cache exists. It’s pretty a cool facility – it actually spans the highway and everything is black with coal dust! There’s a coal conveyor belt that carries coal from the mountain on the NW side of the highway across to the processing plant on the other side.

Eventually Louise insisted we stop and check things out – the bike just did not want to turn to the left and the entire front fairing was vibrating. We pulled into a rest stop / garbage bin area at the side of the road and got out the tools.

After peering and poking and prodding …

I figured out what had happened. There are two bolts to the frame that support the front fairing/dashboard assembly. Both bolts had vibrated out and fallen away, one somewhere down the road and the other bolt had fallen in between the forks and the lower triple tree assembly, binding when the handlebars are pushed left.

Since we had the one bolt remaining, Louise and I put back in, held things together and tightened it down real good’n tight.

I’d have to pick up a new bolt in Grande Prairie.

In all the miles we’ve put on all the bikes on the highway since 2007, this was probably the worst mechanical issue we’ve ever had – knock on wood. There’s been some electrical stuff that failed, like Louise’s push-to-talk button last year, but this was the first time I had to really break out the tools and fix something that could have stopped us.

Anyway, with the one remaining bolt tight, we chugged some water, got the gear back on, and headed on up the highway again.

We carried on, determined to find a campsite in the city of Grande Prairie. It became pretty obvious that we were getting closer to the city – the volume of traffic on the road, especially trucks, increased dramatically. I had the GPS programmed to direct us to a campsite on the edge of town. Well it turns out that the city of Grande Prairie has grown significantly faster than the GPS maps. The campground on the “edge of town” turned out to be a subdivision now! After some riding around, seeing more of Grande Prairie than we needed to, we decided to get a room for a couple of nights at a fairly new Holiday Inn back on the highway.

We found out the next day that there was a municipal campground 2 minutes farther up the highway. Oh well, as it turned out, we were better off in the hotel anyway. Our room was nice, we had a shower, then went for dinner, leaving the bikes right outside the front door.