WeSTOC2013 Day 7

Friday, June 28, 2013 – It’s been a week since I’d seen my wife Louise, except for the evening FaceTime sessions to catch up. But I’d be picking her up at the airport in the morning at 830am. Back when I was planning this trip, Louise wanted to come, but it was the very last week of school for her, which is a really tough time to take off. So she thought she’d do the next best thing – she’d fly out early Friday morning with the minimum of stuff, wearing her gear and carrying her helmet – and ride back as pillion with me. So I packed all her traveling clothes and toiletries with my stuff when I left, so she wouldn’t have to have any luggage and a minimum of carry-on.

When I first arrived in Victoria, I connected with my friend Richard Catinus and we’d arranged for breakfast for us and our wives at the Brentwood Bay Resort restaurant. So as soon as I picked up Louise at the airport, we’d head over there. This was handy because our plan from breakfast was to head across Brentwood Bay on the small ferry and from there ride up to Departure Bay in Nanaimo for the ferry back to the mainland at Horseshoe Bay north of Vancouver, then stop for the night at Squamish.
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So I was up early to finish packing up and to load the bike, and have a coffee before heading out at about 745am.
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Traffic on the roads through the outskirts of Victoria were pretty light until I got closer to the airport, it seems I got in on the start of rush-hour traffic. I got there early, which is way better that being late, so I wandered around the airport and outside for a while until I noticed Louise’s flight had arrived. I waited, camera in hand, for Louise to come through the doors …
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I thought that there would have been some unusual looks or non-routine security hassles seeing as Louise didn’t have any luggage and was dressed in her motorcycle jacket and pants, carrying her helmet. But apparently no one gave her a second look, as if people dressed like that for the plane all the time!

It was only a few minutes to the Brentwood Bay Resort where we met up with Richard and Deb – they had arrived just before us. We had a great breakfast and they even had a cool looking teapot assembly to keep Louise’s tea hot:
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We had a great time catching up and before we left we asked the waitress to take a picture of all of us …
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With breakfast complete, we said our goodbyes, and we headed off to the Brentwood Bay Ferry Terminal not even a block away from the resort. We just missed the ferry and watched it pull away as I rode past a line of cars to near the front of the line. I couldn’t get right up front because a car pulling a tent trailer and truck pulling a horse trailer had the ramp totally blocked. I thought of riding up the off-ramp to get to the very front, but Louise didn’t like that idea so I stayed where I was. For some reason, the ferry was late coming back, so the wait was longer than the schedule showed. I chatted a bit with a BC Ferries employee, but he didn’t have any information on the holdup – he was just delivering a package for the other side in Mill Bay.

Eventually the ferry arrived, unloaded, and we got onboard for the 20 minute or so ride to Millwood Bay.
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Once we unloaded, the Zumo GPS led us to the Departure Bay Ferry Terminal for the 90 minute ride to Horseshoe Bay and from there, we’d ride up to Squamish for the dinner and the night. Since we had just missed the last ferry, we had a bit of a wait until the next one, so we had a snack from Starbucks and communed with the semi-wild bunnies that inhabited the grassy area next to the parking area.
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Oh wait, that’s not real grass there. It’s fake grass, astroturf or something. Looks real from a distance, but it’s clearly fake closeup.

It’s not too often you get to ride two ferries in one day – well, for a guy from the prairies, two in one day IS worth crowing about. Louise and I spent a pleasant 90 minutes or so just sitting reading and chatting as the ferry crossed over to Vancouver …
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… while the bike stood lonely in the belly of the boat.
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I did, however, take the time to make a hotel reservation at the brand-new Sandman Hotel in Squamish – Louise wanted nice places to stay at, not random small cheap motels.

While we were one of the first ones onto the ferry on boarding, the way the deck narrows, we wouldn’t be the first off, we pretty much had to wait until the entire centre section exited before the traffic guys waved at us to move out.
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Now an interesting thing happened, and while I’m sure that other folks who ride two-up get this, sitting on the back Louise wound up taking tons of pictures – way more than either of us would have riding out own bikes. Louise literally took a hundred pictures or more a day on the way home. So many in fact that it became difficult to figure out which photos to post!

So here’s a bit of a sample as we zipped along the Sea-to-Sky Highway on our way to Squamish.

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Late in the afternoon, we arrived in Squamish and prepared to seek out the Sandman for the night. So our first stop was at the Information Centre, which is a very cool looking new building on the highway. It must have been built for the Olympics …

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Does my bum look big in my Aerostich? Actually I don’t care if it is …
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We figured out where the hotel was (it was so new that it wasn’t in the GPS), checked in and got showered.
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Then we stopped at the front desk to see about recommendations for a dinner. A woman was checking out or in or something piped up and quickly suggested a place called The Water Shed. It sounded good, so with a minimum of pretty inadequate directions we took off looking for the place. Now Squamish isn’t very big, so you’d think that even with inadequate directions, it’d easy. First we had to decide – left or right?

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We chose left.

We chose the correct direction, but we drove up and down this one road until finally, after agreeing to go past just one more curve … Turns out it wasn’t so easy to find, but we found it and it was worth it – the food was pretty darn good.
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It was still pretty warm out but as we were finishing our dinner, we saw the mist start rolling in on the river, which was pretty cool – the picture doesn’t really do it justice.
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Back at the hotel, I parked right in front of the main entrance and that was it for the night.
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Tomorrow, we planned to get to Princeton, via Lilloet and Merritt.

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.

WeSTOC2013 Day 3

Monday, June 24 2013 – Today wasn’t a high mileage day, but involved bridges, two islands, and a ferry – and the beginnings of a huge issue that threatened to end the trip.

I had been emailing with a friend, Rick Wallace, the night before, and we’d arranged to meet for a coffee in the morning in Anacortes. So I set my alarm for early so I could get some breakfast and make it from Concrete to Anacortes in time.
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I woke up feeling pretty good after a good nights sleep in a comfy bed. I looked outside and everything was wet and dripping from the ongoing drizzle and the dew, so much so that I had to get some paper towel and wipe off the windscreen, mirrors, dash and the seat. Breakfast was going to be at the Perks Espresso & Deli back out on the highway.

In retrospect I should have taken a closer look at the back tire before pulling out, but it looked ok in the gravel parking pad at the cabin. This failure would haunt me later in the day.

I got packed up and headed out to the Perks.
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It’s a nice place, good food, but it’s kind of one of those small town places that has regulars who come in every morning for coffee. When I walked in looking like a blue spaceman, all conversation stopped and everyone stared at me as I walked to the back of the place to put my helmet and gloves on an empty table. By now, after 5 or 6 years of wearing the ‘Stich I’m somewhat used to it, but I still notice it.

After ordering my breakfast sandwich and a coffee, one old guy in the place started up a conversation – then all the others stared at him! He started by asking about the Aerostich and then went on, telling me that had fought in Vietnam as an infantryman, had a Harley-Davidson that he wrecked in a crash after getting back, then gave up riding for years and years until he found himself in a cabin way back of Concrete and used a 250cc scooter to ride into town for supplies, coffee at Perks and his pension cheques. While I ate I hardly had to say a word – he just talked and talked. What he had to say was rather interesting so it wasn’t very hard to take. But I did have a schedule to keep, and after finishing a second cup of coffee, I gathered up my helmet and gloves and said goodbye to the old fellow.

It wasn’t very warm, rather it was humid, but the Skagit River was steaming as the morning sun tried to burn through the clouds and light fog.
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As I headed west things got wetter and wetter with the drizzle turning into light rain as I passed through Sedro-Woolley and onto the causeway to Anacortes. The closer I got to the coffee shop, the heavier the rain got.

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Navigating to the Penguin Coffee Shop was pretty easy, it’s right on Commercial, one of the main roads in town. However, once inside I realized that I had somehow arrived way early and had about 45 minutes to wait. So I cracked open the iPad and surfed the news in Calgary for a bit on the free wireless in the coffee shop. Right on time, Rick showed up, so we got our coffees and muffins and caught up.

Rick is a really interesting guy, he’s served as a combat medic in Vietnam; as a firefighter/paramedic in Everett, WA and he’s taught a variety of courses over the years. A few years ago when he retired, he started his own business Crash Scene Safety Instruction in Anacortes. He teaches a series of courses that he offers to emergency first responders as well as to motorcyclists on how to manage a crash scene and help ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Finally, before leaving, he mentioned some roads I should ride on my way to the ferry terminal in Coupeville on Widby Island adjacent to Anacortes via the bridges at Deception Pass. They looked a heck of a lot more interesting than the arrow-straight Highway 20 on the island.

So we said adios, and I headed out – first stop, Deception Pass between Fidalgo Island and Whidby Island. There’s information on Deception Pass and the bridges on Wikipedia – click here. The area is called Deception because from far away, the two islands look connected, but in reality there’s a tiny third island, like the very tip of the peak of a mountain sticking up in the Strait between the two larger islands. In 1935, bridges were built from Whidby Island to Pass Island, and from Pass Island to Fidalgo Island.
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Just past the bridge I turned left across the highway and toured around the northern part of Whidby Island, taking the long way to the Coupeville ferry terminal. A few minutes of riding brought me to Dugualla Bay and Dike, which I believe protects parts of the runways at NAS Whidby on the west side of the island. Occasionally I could hear jets taking off and landing but because of the clouds I couldn’t see anything. I stopped for a second at the dike to take a couple of pictures …
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There’s a little town of Oak Bay that the road ran through and there’s a park on the waterfront. The tide was out and so I stopped and walked out on the pier that, instead of floating, was right down on the wet mud of the inner bay. The air smelled like ocean and sea-life and there were a ton of shell-fish scattered all over the place.

This picture was taken from the normally floating part of the pier back up to the fixed pier on the shore …
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For some reason, there’s a Flintstone’s car sculpture prominently displayed in the park …
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Rolling through downtown Oak Bay, I eventually wound up on the Highway 20 for a few miles until taking another local road along the waters edge. Lots of old homes, twistie roads and long vistas out over Puget Sound. Just south of the small town of Coupville is the Coupville-Port Townsend Ferry Terminal at Fort Casey State Park. I rolled up to the toll booth, paid my fare and got into a conversation with the supervisor and the girl in the booth. It started with her asking what the red thing on my left thumb was. I explained that it’s a squeegee for wiping the water off the helmet visor, and that led to riding in the rain (which at this point is was lightly drizzling) and a discussion among the three of us about the Aerostich suit and where was I from and where was I heading … Some cars pulled up behind me so I figured I’d better push on to the front of the line, and I was the first to board.

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Ferry pulling into the dock

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Right up front on the ferry

While I was on the ferry watching Port Townsend slowly getting closer, I was thinking about how the bike was handling the last little while – it was getting a little squirrelly. I figured at the time that it was just that the tire was getting old – it’s pretty near the end of life with the wear bars showing and it was pretty much squared off. Turned out to not quite be the case.

But I got distracted by this ship out ahead of the ferry:
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A little “google-fu” (thanks for that term Rob!) I discovered by searching the registry number on the forward hull (194) that the ship is the USNS John Ericsson – a fleet replenishment oiler – check her on wikipedia if you’re interested.

The waterfront part of Port Townsend looked pretty interesting and I would have liked to have had a look at a couple of larger buildings that were obviously pretty old and had very interesting lines.
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Instead of stopping and checking the bike out, because there wasn’t a handy place to pull over, I just pressed on towards Port Angeles. The rain eased off the closer I got to Port Angeles and I rolled into town and headed directly for the Black Ball Ferry Terminal and …. just missed the next-to-last ferry. Well it was still there, but they had the full capacity of bikes and had no more room. There was a later ferry, but it arrived in Victoria rather late and I didn’t want to have to be running around Victoria looking for a cheap motel at 1130pm. So I decided to stay overnight in Port Angeles. The helpful agent at the Black Ball office suggested coming back at 7am when the office opened to buy a ticket for the 830am departure – doing it that way would save me the reservation fee, while practically guaranteeing me a spot onboard.

There were a lot of motels up on the highway on the edge of town so I rode out there and pulled into a place called the Victorian Motel. I figured with a name like that it must be interesting. Parked and found the office, then asked how much for a ground floor room. The answer? $110 a night! For a dump of a motel! I figured there’s got to be better less expensive alternatives.

Rode back to the waterfront and popped into the Visitor Information Center and checked out some other places. I found the Downtown Hotel, which was less than a block away – with a Euro-room for $55 a night! Sold! Oh wait, there was a catch – there always is. I asked what a Euro-room meant. It means no toilet or shower in the room, just a sink. Toilets are out in the hall and shared among all the Euro-rooms. I went up to have a look and the manager showed be a room – and it was actually really nice! There was a bathroom right next door and the manager figured that they’d have lots of empty rooms so there’d be no problem with line-ups for the bathrooms. I paid up for the night and got a key.

It’s an old building and looks very heritage on the outside, but it’s been totally renovated inside.
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It was still pretty early in the day and so I thought maybe I’d get an early dinner and then head on up to Hurricane Ridge for a look. There’s a diner on the ground floor of the hotel, so I had a chicken sandwich and fries and watched my bike just outside as the rain slowly got heavier and heavier. Dinner done, I saddled up and headed for the Hurricane Ridge road and fought the bike on every curve and turn. The rain got worse and so when I got to the Park gates and was told that there’s a $15 charge to go further, I said to myself – that’s it done for the night, I’m not paying $15, going up to see clouds and rain, and fighting the bike all the way back.

Heading down, I finally pulled into a viewpoint, where there was no viewpoint because of the low clouds and rain, to check the tire. I kicked it and it was soft, so I checked the pressure and found it only had about 15 lbs!! No sweat, I have a compressor handy – I’ll just fill it up and it’ll be fine. So I dug it out and starting filling the tire up. It takes a while because it’s not a high capacity unit, so I was just standing around in the rain. I guess I looked like I needed help because three drivers stopped by to see if I needed a hand. That surprised me a bit.
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Anyway, with the tire back up to pressure, I rode back to the hotel, parked the bike and lugged the luggage up to the Euro-room, where I chatted with Louise and read a book on the iPad and worried about the tire and what to do about it in the morning.
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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.