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 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.

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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WeSTOC2013 Day 2

Day 2 June 23, 2013 – After a pretty good sleep, I woke up to the alarm at 720am and promptly hit the snooze. Sometime later I got up, made a pot of coffee to go with the muffins Frank left me the night before and finished Day 1’s blog, chatted with Louise, and listened to a conference call on the Calgary flood’s affect and contingency plans for my employer. I’m totally out of the loop of course, and my team is doing what they have to, but I was curious and listened while I packed up and loaded the bike.

The goal for Day 2 was to get to Concrete, WA, via Hwy 20 …

Route for Day 2

By 930am, I was off, filled up the gas tank and headed further west. It got a bit chilly going over the Bonanza and Paulsen Passes, but it wasn’t for long and I didn’t bother adding any layers. After coming down from the pass, the highway goes past Christina Lake, where there was a bike race slowing traffic down. I managed to snap a couple of pictures.

Bike race in Christina Lake slows down traffic


I think she’s going to get a sunburn!

The weather was nice, warm not hot, and sunny although the sky to the south-west where I was headed looked dark. Stopping in Grand Forks for some water and trail mix, I remembered to dig my passport out of the top-box so I’d have it handy at the border. Crossing at Danville was no problem, only took about 5 minutes and most of that was because the agent was moving and talking real slow.

Because I’m the US now, I’ve shut off the data on my iPhone and iPad. I wanted to look up some maps and ping Louise, so I was looking for a place with free internet in Tonasket, where I stopped for gas. Turns out the gas station has free internet! So I grabbed a sandwich and a banana. Using FaceTime I called Louise – but talked to my son Robert in a Walmart instead. It’s kind of surreal video calling someone in a Walmart in Calgary from a gas station in a little town in Washington!

Eating lunch and keeping an eye on the bike


The Junction – home of free internet … and lunch … and gas

Headed out again …

Heading south on Highway 20

It was at this point that I started to unwind from work somewhat. I recall just thinking of the scenery and remembering coming up this stretch of road in reverse 2 years ago on the PNW trip in 2011. It felt good to let go of work stress and just focus on the here and now of the road, riding and the trip.

That happy state of mind was interrupted not far south of Tonasket in the town of Riverside, where a pretty big accident had just happened. Well, I suppose big by local standards, it looked like four cars and truck pulling a long horse (or cow) trailer had collided with the horse (or cow) trailer in the ditch on its’ side.

Accident scene at Riverside


I have no idea if there were any injuries – man or horse (or cow) – but there were a couple of ambulances on scene, and probably a dozen other police and emergency vehicles. Traffic was detouring through the town to go around the accident on the highway.

You can just see the horse (or cow) trailer behind the red FireRescue truck …

Accident scene at Riverside, WA

The scenery in this area is quite stark – rocky, low brush … quite a bit different from the mountainous area I’d come down through into Tonasket.

Soon enough I turned off Hwy 97 at Okanogan as Hwy 20 heads west from here instead of south. Almost immediately after turning, I noticed large white tent-like coverings over a pretty large area. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were, then thought maybe someone was making a lame attempt to hide marijuana plants – but that was stupid.

I’m pretty sure that what’s under the screen is an orchard of some kind of fruit, with the screening protecting the trees and fruit from birds and insects and other critters. Not far from the first screened orchard, I spotted these 2 helicopters on the side of the road. I’m not sure what kind of ‘copters they were, and I tried to look them up on the ‘Google’ but nothing. I suspect that they’re used for crop or orchard dusting, but not sure I saw sprayers on the fuselage or not.

From here I followed Hwy 20 as it wound through the mountains to Twisp where the highway follows the Methow River north. Along the way, I passed through the crazy town of Winthrop, which is a false-fronted old-west orientated town – well the main street anyway. I had first though to stop for gas and a bit of a break, but it was just packed from end to end on main street – there was no where to park. So I figured I’d carry on and stop a little later for a break. Eventually I found a road maintenance facility on the side just past where the highway leaves the Methow River and heads west, so I pulled off, took a bio break and snacked on cashews, and dried fruit.

The sign wouldn’t apply by this time of the year, but in the spring and fall, I bet it gets pulled out when Washington and Rainy Passes are snowed in.

It started to get rainy by this time and I was glad to have my Aerostich on – no need to stop and pull on rain-gear. I did put the squeegee onto the thumb of my glove though!

Snow ahead!

And snow by the side of the road too!

The scenery here was spectacular! Amazing vistas anywhere you looked – even the road itself. There are a couple of serious hairpin turns along here that are fantastic and thrilling to go around. The major features in the area of Washington Pass are Ross Lake and Diablo Lake, both of which feed hydro-electric dams. Highway 20 picks up and follows the Skagit River pretty much all the way to coast from here.

By the time I got to Marblemount, I only had a couple of bricks on the gas gauge so I figured I’d get some gas.

The house right behind the gas pumps had some interesting lawn ornaments …

The rain, while not at all heavy, was steady and the temperature hovered around 10 deg C. all day.

I was layered up and had the FJR’s heated grip on low, so I didn’t feel cold at all.

Looking west along the Skagit River.

By 5pm I reached Concrete and I was hoping to stay at one of the cabins at Ovenell’s Heritage Inn. It’s on the south side of the Skagit River, and I had to cross this bridge (actually crossed it a few times this evening) to get to Concrete-Souk Valley Road. Apparently this road runs the length of the Skagit River on the south side and might be worth riding as far as possible instead of the highway someday.

I road up to the main building at Ovenell’s and checked in, getting the key to the Woodsman Cabin and a recommendation for dinner – Cascade Burgers back out on the main highway. I had a really good burger and a milkshake, then saddled up again, crossed the bridge (again) and made my way to the Woodsman …


After enjoying a quick shower, I called Louise, read for a while and traded emails with a friend, Rick Wallace, in Anacortes. We made arrangements to meet for coffee in the morning, then I hit the sack.

WeSTOC 2013 Day 1

June 22, 2013 – Well here it is – the first trip of the 2013 season! WeSTOC XVIII starts on June 25 in Sooke, BC, just west of Victoria on Vancouver Island. I’ve known the disorganizer of WeSTOC XVIII, Tim Graham, for some years, since first meeting him at the Calgary Motorcycle Show in 2006. He sells the StarCom bike communications system that my wife and I have used for years on our bikes.

WeSTOC – Western ST Owners Club – is a group of Honda ST1100/1300 owners who get together in June of every year somewhere in the west. In 2011, it was Nelson, BC and Tim invited me along even though I ride a Yamaha FJR. I had a great time in ’11 in Nelson so when Tim announced that he’d been awarded WeSTOC XVIII in Victoria and asked if I was in, I accepted right away!

The whole trip is going to be Saturday to the following Sunday – 9 days total. I’m taking 3 days to get to Victoria, then WeSTOC is Tue, Wed, Thu, departing on Friday. I’ll pick up Louise from the Victoria airport on Friday morning and ride 2-up back home with her.

Day 1’s route looked like this: Calgary to Castlegar, via Hwy 3

Route for Day 1 – 607 km

I’ve been looking forward to this trip for weeks ands weeks, but the recent weather and floods in Calgary threatened to derail leaving. That minor inconvenience pales into insignificance though, when compared to the impact that the flooding has had on many thousands of people in Canmore, High River, Calgary and other communities in the area. I’m thankful that neither my family nor property were affected, but I feel deep sympathy for those who’ve been flooded out.

Friday morning Louise and I went to the embankment overlooking Deerfoot Trail, (the main north/south freeway in Calgary) and the entrance to the Inglewood golf course. Here’s a couple of pictures …

There was a golf course there between Deerfoot and the river …


Deerfoot Trail near Inglewood Golf Course

On Friday, it wasn’t sure that I’d be leaving, or if I did leave, what route I’d be taking. Checking the news and weather reports for Highway 3 through the Crowsnest Pass area, revealed that high streamflows along a couple of rivers had undercut the edge of the roadway near Sparwood and Fernie. It wasn’t clear if it would get worse or not. Road closures outside the city on Friday morning included Highway 2 south and all the bridges over the Bow south of Calgary.

So with it looking like the route south was out, I was looking at going north to Red Deer, also experiencing flooding on Friday, then head west on Highway 11 to the Ice Fields Parkway, then go to Jasper and though the Yellowhead Pass.

By Friday night though, things in the south through the Crowsnest Pass hadn’t got worse and for the most part improved, so I got packed up. Saturday morning I packed up the bike and hit the road by 10am.

Since I filled the gas tank on Wednesday, I didn’t have to stop for gas until Sparwood, where I tried the new A&W Teen Guacamole burger – it was pretty good actually! There was a diner that Louise and I stopped at a few times near the World’s Biggest Truck, but it’s been closed or moved.

All the rivers a long the way were running very fast and very high, here are a few pics of various rivers along the way …

Stream running high out of Chain Lakes Resovoir, Hwys 22 and 533.


Another stream on Hwy 22


River along side Hwy 3 in BC


Hwy 3 just east of Sparwood, river has washed out the edge of the roadway


Another washout on Hwy 3, just west of Fernie

Traffic was surprisingly light on the highway. I thought for sure with the TransCanada being closed at Canmore that there’d be tons of truck traffic, but there were long stretches where I was the only one on the road.

I stopped for a stretch and some trail mix on the western outskirts of Cranbrook and had a little buddy come around for some bits of cashew nut. Probably wasn’t good for him, but they were only little pieces.

Rodent looking for handouts …

Then it started to rain, so I took a pic of the bike and headed out again.

Cranbrook Visitors Centre

Before I got to Creston, I had a rather unique bear sighting. I was following a car ahead, and as we came around a corner I spotted a large dog sized black lump hanging over the concrete barrier at the side of the road. As I zoomed past, I glanced over and saw that it was a black bear cub hanging over the barrier watching the car and motorbike go by! He was still there when I glanced back in the rearview mirror. I hope he didn’t decide to try cross the road.

I stopped in Creston for gas and spotted a herd of bikes at station, so I pulled in, thinking maybe to chat a bit. To my surprise, one of the riders was Trent Koenigbaur, co-owner of Walt Healey Motorcycles – the dealership that we’ve bought all our bikes from. He and his brother Sheldon, also there, were taking part in a charity ride over the weekend from Calgary to Creston and back. We yakked for a few minutes, then I headed out again.

By just after 5pm local time I arrived in Castlegar and rode around looking for a new more rustic (cheaper) place to stay than the Sandman Inn where we usually stay and I found the Flamingo Motel. It turned out to be a great little place, the owners Debra and Frank, were super nice, and the room, while pretty small, was very clean and comfortable. While checking in with Debra, it turns out that she used to live in Calgary, in Erin Woods, on the other side of the elementary school from us! Small world! I chatted with Frank for a bit, had a quick shower, then went to the local pub for dinner and a beer. On the way back, I got a triple venti Latte from the Starbucks in the Safeway across the street AND found a couple of muffins waiting for me in the room!

The Flamingo Motel, great little place, great owners!


Unit #6

While drinking my Latte, I watched the flood news in Calgary on TV for a bit, then chatted with Louise. I’m planning to make it to Winthrop or Concrete WA tomorrow night.

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!