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.

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