Highwood Pass Loop

23 September 2012 – One of the FJR pilots that I’d met a few times at Tech Days and Beer nights, Guy Metcalfe, was the fellow that I rode out to last years’ WeSTOC in Nelson with, had asked a few times if I wanted to go for a day trip. Eventually we’d worked out a date for today, so Louise, myself, Guy, and Jeff, a Honda ST1300 pilot, decided to meet for breakfast in Turner Valley and do the Highwood Pass from the south.

Here’s a few pictures from the Highwood Pass parking lot …

Panoramic shot looking west

Panoramic shot looking east, with Guy and Jeff

Looking south, Jeff on the left, Guy on the right

Louise still hates getting her picture taken

Fall comes to the Kananaskis

It was an extremely busy day at the pass, hikers and sightseers … and us

On the way back, we parted company with Guy and Jeff at Cochrane – they continued on to home in Calgary and Louise and I stopped in Cochrane to have dinner with my dad.

The Proppin’ up the ‘Stich tradition continues at Smitty’s in Cochrane

VStrom Tech Day

09 September 2012 – Big Dan, with the local VSRI group decided to host a VStrom tech day at his place. Louise wanted to change out the links in the rear suspension of her VStrom, so we headed over.

There were a couple of other VStrom guys there, including Andrew, the young guy that had shared our site in Nakusp last month. He had his bike on the lift working on the shift lever and stuff.

Once he was done, we got Louise’s VStrom on the lift and she started working on changing out the links. Dan made her run the bike up onto the lift and do most of the wrenching, which was very cool.

While we were wrenching, a wicked storm blew in with high winds and marble-sized hail.

By the time Louise finished with the links, and we’d visited and drank some lovely tea made by Dan’s girlfriend Kay, the storm had passed over and we left to head home.

The new links were supposed to be the same height as the adjustable Soupys’ that she had on last year, but Louise noticed that the rear of the bike felt a little higher. She’ll have to ride it some more before knowing for sure.

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 13

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

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

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

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

We crossed this bridge over the Columbia River …

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

We were heading through those mountains ahead …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 12

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

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

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

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

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

This is the entrance to the Library …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unpacking the bikes in Cranbrook

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

Dusk at the BestWestern Cranbrook

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

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

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 10/11

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

There were a total of seven bikes in our campsite …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when the human-drama started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow we would be arriving at Nakusp!

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 7

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

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

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

South on BC Highway 5

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

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

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

Would it rain?

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

The flagman cometh …

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

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

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

Campsite setup

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

Waiting for tea!

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

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 6

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

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

Heading south …

Here’s the highway ahead and Louise behind me …

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

Over the shoulder blind shot of Louise behind me

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

Some curves, but mostly straight …

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

We stopped in Grande Cache for gas …

It was still really hot, but getting cloudier …

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

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


Trail mix and water – yum yum

Bit of a “hero” shot …

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

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

Anyway, we checked in and setup camp …

The tent is too big for the site!

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

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

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

I have no idea what Louise is looking at here …

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

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

2012 Nakusp HU Trip – Day 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 6 loomed ahead.