WeSTOC2013 Day 6

Thursday, June 27, 2013 – The plan for today didn’t go beyond riding the Port Refrew – Lake Cowichan road. We had discussed it the night before and agreed that we’d be wheels up at 9am. It had rained most of the day yesterday and overnight and the forecast was for more rain today. Some of the guys weren’t sure they wanted to ride all day in the rain, but as we were gearing up and getting ready, the weather looked to be improving.

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So a few guys that were wavering on the fence decided to come along with us keeners.

However, the further north we went on Highway 14, the heavier the rain got. There were a few of us who were pretty blasé about the rain – we had the right gear so we stayed warm and dry, and I had my Aerostich finger wipe blade – but there were a few others that turned back for a spa day at the hotel. It was a steady downpour by the time we reached Port Renfrew. We stopped at a place on that was supposed to make good pie or something but it was closed on Thursdays of all days – and today was Thursday.

Someone, I can’t recall whether it was a passerby or one of crew, suggested going a little further up the road to the Port Renfrew Hotel.
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That turned out to be a great idea – the food was very good, and we had large number of WeSTOC folks here for a group brunch – in fact we pretty much took over the place!
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After brunch, a few more riders dropped off, heading back to the hotel. Us survivors carried on to Lake Cowichan and we rode through rain and lighter showers, with very occasional bright spots. With the road so wet, it somewhat took away from the experience in that no one was cranking and banking. We all took it pretty easy – so much so that instead of turning around at Lake Cowichan and doing the road again in reverse, the group consensus was to simply jump onto the highway at Duncan and slab it back to Sooke. We made pretty good time in spite of the rain and the beginnings of rush hour. It wasn’t really that hard a decision to come back, we all wanted to be back at the hotel cleaned up for the group picture and the big banquet dinner.

Arriving back in Sooke around 3pm or so, we all filled the tanks and Gord asked if I was interested in a coffee at the Stick in the Mud again? But of course I was!
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After heading back to the hotel and getting a quick shower, I wandered about killing time until the group photo was ready to go. With the full support of the hotel staff, various generations of Honda STs were run up into the courtyard to be in the foreground of the picture. This is almost the same angle as the eventual picture:
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We all enjoyed the banquets dinner and the prize handouts. Sadly though I did not win a set of tires like I did in 2011 in Nelson.

I ducked outside for some fresh air and noticed the fog rolling in …
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After a couple of drinks I headed back to get a head start on packing – I had to be up early so I could get to the Victoria Airport to pick Louise up at 830!

WeSTOC2013 Day 5

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 – The night before, a group of us who had ridden together before had decided to ride together today on some roads in the area that are the Destination Highways map of the area. Now admittedly there’s not a lot of fun-to-ride roads in the area. There’s Highway 14 up to Port Refrew, then the old logging road from Port Refrew to Lake Cowichan, which is awesome. But almost all the other roads around either have tons of traffic (Malahat) or homes and driveways all along the way and you never know when someone might suddenly pull out (Gillespie, Kangaroo) or are are very narrow forcing caution due to oncoming cars (Humpback Road).

It was wheels-up at 9am so I was in the ballroom just after 8am for a buffet breakfast sponsored by Honda Canada. During breakfast, our small Calgary crew decided on riding some of the local Destination Highways roads, and save Port Renfrew for tomorrow. Since Guy was the only one of us that remembered to bring a map, he was designated leader.

In addition to breakfast, Honda Canada also provided three bikes for test rides – one of the new NX700 (I think), a CBR1000 (I think) and the new F6B (Goldwing Bagger). They were out and about all day.
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By about 845am, we were all outside in the parking lot getting fired up and seeing who needed to hit the gas station before heading out – it turns out we all needed gas!
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At the gas station, one of the guys found that he’d picked up a nail or a screw in his rear tire, so he bailed, and headed off to Victoria to see if he could get it fixed. That left Guy, Rod, Gord and myself.

So we rode the obvious DH roads, and Guy took on some offshoots that looked suitably squiggly on the map. On one, we ran down a narrow paved lane to a dead end at a hiker’s trailhead.
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Here’s Guy, Gord and Rod
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While we couldn’t get up to any speed, and we were always on guard watching for cages and deer, the roads sure were fun to ride! Eventually we took a road called William Head Road that led to a spot near the water, and we were surprised that the road ended in the staff parking lot at the William Head Minimum-Security Federal penitentiary!
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We stopped to stretch and wander a bit, Gord took off to take some pictures. While he was up at the main building, the rest of us stayed at the bikes near the exit … and took some pictures. Gord also took some pictures, then asked an official coming out of the building if he could take pictures? Since we were at a federal institution, of course the answer was no, and the guy made Gord erase all the photos off his camera! We later found out that Gord did a bulk erase, deleting ALL the photos from the camera, not just the 4 or 5 he took at the Pen!
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I didn’t ask about any of the pictures I took, so I got away with it!

We found some twistie roads around Metchosin, to the north of Sooke, and around 1pm, decided to find a place for lunch. Guy led us on a merry route through the wilds of Esquimalt, which is the home of the Canadian Navy’s Pacific Fleet and Command. Finally, at the marina, we found this place …
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Rare among most places, this place had motorcycle-only parking right in front. The owner saw us pull into the parking lot and ran out to wave at us to make sure we parked there. We sat on the patio right next to the bikes!
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Lunch was really good – mostly fish that I assume was fresh caught. Our waitress, Giselle was originally from Edmonton, but she’s a surfer-girl and so she moved here to Victoria a few years ago. Rod took a shine to her and asked how long it took to accept the slower pace on the Island and to stop yelling at cage-drivers to “get a move on!”? She said it took her two years.

I got her to take a picture of all of us …
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… then Rod wanted a picture with Giselle, can’t remember why now …
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… and I thought I’d take a picture of myself too.
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There was one other road Guy was going to lead us to, before heading back to the hotel for the day – Humpback Road. That road was pretty close to Sooke, so we followed Metchosin Road where we had the closest encounter of the day with deer. I couldn’t get the camera out quick enough, but there were two small deer standing in the middle of the road as Guy braked – then they bolted off to the right and into the bush.

We also had a close encounter with some Canada Geese on the Ocean Blvd causeway between the ocean and the Esquimalt Lagoon. It’s a narrow road and both side had tons of geese in and out of the water. They’re pretty used to people and we had roll by a few very slowly …
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These geese weren’t running, they were just ambling along, like they owned the road instead of the other way around.

Eventually we found the Humpback Road which is pretty narrow, twisty and rough in spots. So rough in fact that Guy’s top-box came off his FJR and nearly hit Rod following behind. From behind Rod, I saw the wild Givi case bounce and bound and then roll into the deep ditch. We stopped and Guy kept going, oblivious. Rod retrieved the case and surprisingly, it didn’t open, nor did it look too damaged – just some scratches. We waited for a few more minutes to see if Guy was going to come back for his case, but when it looked like he wasn’t coming back, Rod strapped onto his ST1300 and we went off to find Guy.
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Quite a bit farther up the road, Rod came upon Guy headed back the other way – he finally realized that no one was behind him and so he turned back to find us, still not realizing that he’d lost his top-case, until Rod pointed it out. We all stopped while Guy secured the case back onto his bike, and we headed back down the road.
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Back near the hotel, we all stopped at the Petro-Canada to fill up. Rod and Guy went back to the hotel, while Gord and I went off to find the “Stick in the Mud” Coffee Shop in Sooke, just around the corner from the gas station. Well, that was easier said than found. Gord and I went all the way the road until it ended, turned around to come back, before finding the place, tucked in behind another building.
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Great service, great coffee, great carrot cake! Gord and I had a great conversation as well.

You’d think this orange sign on the side of the road would be hard to miss, but we both did the first time past …
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Back in my room for a quick shower and change before dinner in the hotel restaurant, I found this little piece of towel art left me by the cleaning staff!
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After dinner, I joined the guys for a wee shot of Irish Whiskey. I actually did just have a wee shot – my drink(s) of choice are beer and red wine, not so much whiskey – ever since that unfortunate night with a 26oz bottle of Canadian Club when I was 17 …

Tomorrow, wheels up a 9am again, this time we’re doing the Port Renfrew-Lake Cowichan road.

WeSTOC2013 Day 4

Tuesday, June 25 2013 – The day started out pretty bad. I could see the bike from my window, but not the tire, so after having a quick shower next door in the shared bathroom, I headed down to the diner for breakfast and checked out the tire, which was flat – flat to the rim.

While I ate a breakfast that I’m sure was pretty tasty, I just couldn’t finish it. Things looked kinda bleak, because if the tire wouldn’t hold air, I wasn’t sure I could get it replaced quickly in Port Angeles and of course without the bike being mobile, I’d have no way of getting around. I had a hotel waiting for me in Sooke tonight, so I didn’t want to spend another night in Port Angeles.

Oh and I was beating myself up just a bit for not looking more closely at the tire earlier – I could have avoided this drama if I’d have known the tire was leaking say on Sunday or even on Saturday night.

Anyway, I figured I’d get out the compressor and see if the tire would inflate and hold for a bit, then decide on what to do. Hooking up the compressor is much easier when not in the rain!
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I also put the bike on the centre stand and I got a pail of water to see if I could find the leak. If I found it I could at least plug it which would keep me mobile until I could get another tire in Victoria or make it home. I poured the entire pail of water over the entire tread of the tire and I could not find the leak. I did find a 1/4″ gash in the tread, but it was not bubbling, so it might not have been the leak.

It was now 7am, and since I’d left the tire 30 mins previously and it was still over 40 lbs, I figured I’d make it on the ferry to Victoria and once there I could get the tire fixed or whatever. The terminal office opened at 7am, so walked the 1/2 block and bought my ticket.

By 8am I had the bike in line all packed up and ready, with the compressor in the top box, easily accessible because I was sure I was going to need it before getting off the ferry. Since I had inflated the tire at about 645am, the tire had lost about 10 lbs.

There were a number of other bikers going across that were also going to WeSTOC and we got to chatting of course. Ironically only one of them was a Honda ST1300. After we got loaded onto the ferry and left the terminal, I got chatting with the ST1300 rider, Phil from Pennsylvania. Turns out, like two others that I chatted with so far on this trip, he was also a Vietnam vet – he was an lieutenant in one of the last infantry units in country before they all pulled out.

Because of the size of the SS Coho and possibility of rough seas in the Juan de Fuca Strait, the bikes all had to be secured to prevent them from tipping over.
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When we got close enough to Victoria that my phone switched back to Rogers instead of AT&T, I googled the motorcycle dealers in town to see if I could line up a tire. I recalled that a friend of mine in Victoria had mentioned SG Power on Hillside was pretty good, so I called them. As I expected, they did not have a BT023 Rear in stock – it would be a week away, so I asked for any tire that would fit the wheel. They did have a heavy duty sportbike tire, so I took that. The next part was lining up the installation – at first, the answer was not until Friday, but when I explained that I was traveling, the service guy said, “ok bring it in, we’ll do it right away”.

As the ferry pulled into the dock, I hooked up the compressor and brought the tire back up normal pressure, from the low of 20 lbs it reached during the 1 hour crossing. Good thing SG Power was close to downtown Victoria, because as I pulled into the service area, the tire was getting squishy again.

In addition to motocycles, SGpower does a lot of boats, and I mean a lot …
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I had given the service guys my name, so as soon I rolled in, they took the bike, got the panniers off and got to work. Within an hour they had the tire changed and I was back on the road with a brand new Bridgestone BT023! Now I have to scrub that newness off that tire!
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Many thanks have to go to the service and parts staff at SG Power – they clearly exhibited superior customer service and might have saved my trip! If you’re in need of motorcycle (or boat) service in Victoria – I can heartily recommend SG Power.

So, fully functional, I headed north to see a good friend of mine in Victoria, Richard Catinus and after spending a couple of hours catching up, I finally headed out to Sooke for WeSTOC!

I arrived at the hotel around 345pm, got checked in, unpacked and showered, and washed up some of my shirts and such in the sink and hung to dry. I wish I had taken a picture of the bathroom!

Downstairs, I hooked up with some riding buddies and got a beer before the BBQ and Riders Meeting. While things were getting started for the BBQ, the Victoria Police Motor Unit rolled up with three brand new Victory Cross-Country Police bikes.
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The Three officers, on their own time, spent about an hour talking about their unit, their experience with Honda ST1300 and the transition to the Victory Cross-Country Police bikes, and about the recent trip to a police motorcycle rally in northern California over the previous weekend. They told some great stories and then answered some questions.

In spite of some wild weather all over North America in the past few days, there was very little drop-off in attendees and the ballroom was pretty full for dinner …
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And Motoport was there again, with a huge amount of kevlar gear to see, touch, and try on. I had a good conversation with Wayne, the owner of Motoport, about Louise’s gear. He committed to make it all right – just get her gear back to them and they’d fix it. Good to know.
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The BBQ was followed by beer and bench racing. A small group of us decided on riding together the next day on some roads between Sooke and Victoria.

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.