To Calgary and back

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting in Kelowna, a meeting a Calgary, then another meeting in Kelowna. Rather than flying, I decided to take the motorcycle given that we’re in the middle of beautiful riding weather.

On Friday, I set off for Kelowna. The ride from Vancouver to Kelowna was uneventful. I have done the most boring Hwy 1 and the beautiful Coquihalla a number of times.

On Saturday, I left Kelowna and headed south towards Osoyoos, then east towards the Nelson. I got to Nelson around 5 pm, so I figured I had enough daylight left to cram in a bit more mileage. I went up to Belfour to catch the ferry across Kootenay Lake. By the time I got across the lake, daylight was starting to fade and I was getting pretty tired. There was nothing to stop for south bound along the lake. The road was amazing–in fact, it was hands down one of the best roads I have ever been on. I eventually rolled into Creston, and picked a motel off the highway to stay at.

Leaving Creston on Sunday, I rode through Cranbrook and Fernie, turning up north just before Lundbrek to aim at Calgary. I mean, I have always thought BC is freaking amazing, but man, I have never seen how beautiful the interior is! After living in BC for 24 years, this was my first time in the interior. I feel like I found my new favorite motorcycle roads along Kootenay Lake, and my new favorite town of Fernie with the gorgeous mountains.

Two days later, I left Calgary, riding on Hwy 1 back west. So far, I have had nothing but amazing weather. But by the time I hit Sicamous, my luck had run out. Standing in the McDonalds parking lot (to steal wifi signal), I can see the dark rain clouds ahead. From Sicamous to Vernon, heavy rain pounded on my faceshield, thunder rolled, and lightning struck. The rain water pooled in the tire grooves on the pavement, making it a bit of a scary ride along Mare Lake. I probably could have made it to Kelowna that night, but I threw in my towel in Vernon and stayed the night.

I have never seen rain in Kelowna, until this trip. The next day, after my last of the meetings in Kelowna, I rode home with rain and hail on the Coquihalla.

In total, it was 2,413 km of solo riding through some of the best roads I’ve been on, and some of the best scenery in the world.

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My route tracker

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Full of dead bugs

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Beautiful Okanagan

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Kootenay Lake ferry

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Advertised as “the biggest truck in the world” in Sparwood

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The fading light in Creston, BC

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A vintage Customs office in Grand Forks

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This weather forecast gave me chills down my back. Luckily, I was a step behind the storm and avoided all of it on my way to Calgary.

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I thought I was going to get punished by the rain clouds on Hwy 22 in Alberta. Thankfully the rain held off.

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Calgary

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Calgary

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Calgary

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Calgary

 

 

 

Two-wheel round-up

For as long as I can remember, I loved motorcycles. It was a love not shared by many other people in my life. Still, I always wanted one, and dreamed of one day riding one.

Here is a post to introduce my 6 babies.

The first bike I owned was an almost-brand-new Yamaha Virago. Some guy bought it and then had buyer’s remorse after a few weeks, and traded it back at the shop. I took it home with less than 600 km on it. It was a measly 250 cc little thing. For my first bike, I wanted something sensible, not too expensive, not too fast, not too heavy.

Virago again ViragoThe thing with a “sensible” bike is, I was bored of it after 2 months. A 250 cc engine is fine for riding around in the city, but lacking on the highway. I rode everyday of the week, and was getting comfortable enough to want a bigger bike. I sold it to a lady from Vancouver Island. She met me at the ferry terminal and took the shiny bike home.

Next, I bought a 1988 Honda Hurricane 600 from some kid in North Van. It was my first sport bike. The original color was white and grey. Whoever re-built the bike painted it yellow and grey. I loved that full fairing look. Now I’m officially “cool” because I’m riding a sport bike.

I rode the crap out of that bike. I rode to Squamish after work at least 3 times a week, and up to Duffy Lake maybe once a week. I also rode this thing to Prince George, Calgary, a trip to California all over western Washington, and a couple of times on the Island. I also hit the pavement for the first time on this bike up in Sechelt. I think I will always look back at this bike as my favorite. It was so forgiving, comfortable, and all around just a fun bike to ride.

Hurricanehurricane crashedhurricane_

Once I started to plan a cross-country trip, I had all these ideas in my head that the Hurricane won’t make it. It had 78,000 km on the clock, which is quite a bit for an old bike. Looking back, the bike was performing flawlessly. A new set of tires would have been enough to get me across the country. Nonetheless, I was young and stupid and lusted after newer and prettier things. I sold the Hurricane in favor of a much newer sport touring bike–the 2004 Yamaha FZ6.

FZ6 Duffy Lake FZ6

I took the FZ6 across the country. It had a touring shield, a hard Givi case, and I added a set of Nelson Rigg saddle bags and duffel bag. I took this baby across the country and rode over 6,000 km in 10 days.

Even though this bike was shiny and beautiful and we went through a lot together, I wasn’t in love with this bike. It just always felt cold to me. Like there is no soul. There was no connection. It was a flawless machine, but that was it.

Then I get the idea that I might ride up to Alaska. I was then on the hunt for a dirt bike that will take me there. I went through the trouble and imported a Suzuki DR400, owned it for all of 2 months, barely rode it, then sold it because I had change my mind about Alaska.

DR2

At the rate I’m going through bikes, I am just surprised that Cliff hasn’t divorced me.

Then I want to get out of sport bikes because I felt like I was getting old. I wanted a “dual sport”, which is good for both road and dirt riding. I watched the “Long Way Round” series and I was totally inspired to ride one of those bikes. Even though I was 34, I was acting like a 5-year-old. I wanted whatever I saw on TV. So I sold the FZ6, flew down to Oregon, and rode this 2001 BMW Dakar home.

Dakar

I didn’t have much saddle time on the Dakar. We adopted Sam. We got into hiking, went to hike the Inca Trail and climb Kilimanjaro. The next summer I went to volunteer in Botswana for a month. Life was busy and I was away a lot. And then the biological clock started to kick in, and I wanted a baby.

I sold the Dakar when I was 3 months pregnant with Joshua in my belly. I watched the buyer ride the bike away and cried. I loved that bike, and would have totally kept it. But we were in a very new territory in our lives, I didn’t want to have to keep and maintain a bike for an indefinite amount of time.

For the next four years, my life was turned upside down (in the most amazing way) by two little human beings. Earlier this year, I finally felt like we’re in a place stable enough to start thinking about riding again. So I bought a 2009 BMW F800ST. It’s the biggest bike I’ve ever ridden with an 800 cc engine. I love that it is fuel injected and a belt drive. The less maintenance the better!

Duffy Lake loop motorcycle ride-6422

 

So far this bike has been up and down the coast a decent amount, as good as schedule with two kids allow. I do enjoy how low maintenance it is. It is certain refreshing to not clean up chain lube around tire rims anymore.

There you have it, a round-up of my babies.

What does a biker look like?

I get this a lot.

Person X: “What? You ride a motorcycle?”

Me: “Yes.”

Person X: “You don’t look like a biker!”

Then if I asked them what a biker should look like, they look a little guilty and try to take back what they blurted out.

I mean, I am trying not to take this personally. I don’t look completely out of place, right?

So tonight I decided to Google “What does a biker look like?” This is what I found:

Hell Ride

Ok, so, I don’t have chest hair poking out of my vest, and I don’t have any facial hair. According to this picture, right, I don’t look like a biker. They look so badass. I wish I’m so badass!

So I keep looking on Google, and this is what I found next:

castor-biker-stool-designboom03

Ok, so I don’t have tattoos, and I don’t sit with my bike half naked with a pink hammer. Again, I guess I don’t look like a biker. (By the way, this is an ad for the stool he is sitting on, and I am jealous of the photographer who made this wicked image! So perfectly done!)

Ok, how about some biker girls images? This is what I found:biker_girl_by_platen-d6qp75sWowza, nope, I look nowhere near that. She is so hot. Although I don’t know if I’d ride my bike with a bra and skirt and high heel shoes.

Ok, that was 3 for 3. I don’t look like a biker. Damn. People are right.

 

 

Iron (popsicle) Butt ride

Here's the route.

Here’s the route.

The Iron Butt Association is an association of long distance motorcycle riders. They have all sorts of sanctioned rides. The entry level ride is called SaddleSore 1000 (riding 1000 miles or 1667 kilometres in 24 hours). They also have crazy stuff like CC50 (coast to coast in 50 hours), CCC100 (coast to coast and back in 100 hours), etc. The whole point is to ride long distance in a given time limit to challenge yourself.

Years ago, when I was young and stupid, I did the SaddleSore (1667 km in 24 hours) ride. I went from Vancouver, up Highway 97 to Prince George, and to Calgary. At the end of it, I swore to myself to never do such such a thing again.

I guess now I’m just old and stupid, because I just did it again.

At 2:30 am on Saturday morning, I was half asleep and stumbled around getting my stuff together, and left the house at 3 am.

The stars were out and it was warm. Surprisingly at 3 am there was quite a bit of traffic in the city. I headed towards Hope. For the better part of that stretch, I felt pretty good with my heated vest on and turned on my heated grips. Yeah, I am a whimp. I think I might need a heated seat and heated boots next. By the time I got to Hope, the temperature dropped to 8 Celsius.

Turning north at Hope, I went up the Coquihalla Highway in pitch darkness. I figured that as long as the temperature stays around 2 or 3 Celsius, I will be fine. I had my heated vest, a fleece layer and my riding jacket on. As I climbed the Coquihallla, the thermometer on my bike kept dropping. 5c degrees, 3c degrees, 1c degree, zero!

As I continued on, the thermometer was showing -1c, -3c. I was swearing at no one in particular. I felt the cold air rushing up my helmet and freezing my face. My nose was a drippy mess and my eyes watered. The lowest point was -4c. I yelled “Minus 4? Are you f****** kidding me? I’m freeeezing!!” I’m sure nobody heard me.

I can see ice crystals form on my helmet shield. F@$*!*$&#!

This freezing cold temperature lasted all the way between Hope and Kamloops. Even when the sun finally came up, the temperature stayed in the negatives. Going north past Kamloops, it finally warmed up to +3 or 4c. But by this time I had been riding in freezing temperature for so long that I continue to shiver. It didn’t warm up to 10c until almost noon.

Aside from feeling like a popsicle for a good chunk of the ride, I was enjoying it. I have never been on Highway 5 north of Merritt before. I took it all the way up and connected to Highway 16 to Prince George. It is a beautiful road with little traffic. Especially between Valemount and Prince George, I barely saw any cars. The pavement is in very good condition, and the view of the mountains and water gorgeous. It is very representative of the beautiful province we live in. I love BC, and I’m so proud to call BC home. I love seeing parts of the province I haven’t seen before.

It was 2 pm when I finally arrived in Prince George. I turned southwest to take Highway 97. I finally felt warm enough at this point to stop shivering. I stopped in Hixon for gas and continued on.

I was feeling very sleepy, so I stopped in Quesnel for a quick coffee. When I left Quesnel, I was riding behind a V-strom. He was riding at a very similar pace, so I ended up riding with him for 3 hours. We stopped in 100 Mile House for gas and chatted briefly. He had just spent a week riding from Spokane to the Yukon, and he was on his way home. We rode a bit more and then parted ways in Cache Creek. Good luck, mister V-strom. I hope you got home safely!

When I entered the Fraser Canyon at Cache Creek, the sun was setting. Everything was casted a beautiful pink hue. But the light quickly faded, leaving pitch blackness for me to ride in. There are no street lights in the canyon. There are hundreds of turns, and I have terrible night vision. I was going painfully slow, and it felt like eternity before I got to Hope.

It was 11 pm by the time I arrived back home. I slept very well that night.

So, note to self:

1. Do not take the Coquihalla at night, even in the summer. I will freeze and hate the world.

2. The connection from Highway 16 to Highway 97 in Prince George does not have a gas station. If I last filled up in Valemount, I was lucky to get to Hixon for the next gas stop.

3. Going through the Fraser canyon in the dark is a bad idea. Don’t ever do that again.

5:22 am. First gas stop in Merritt. I can barely pull the gas pump trigger with my frozen fingers.

5:22 am. First gas stop in Merritt.

Can't remember where this was.

Can’t remember where this was.

BC, you are so beautiful.

BC, you are so beautiful.

Stopped to thaw out a little.

Stopped to thaw out a little.

Pulled over on a straight stretch because I was feeling too sleepy.

Pulled over on a straight stretch because I was feeling too sleepy.

Having a snack with a full face helmet on is tricky. You have to feed yourself in a funny angle to get food in your mouth.

Having a snack with a full face helmet on is tricky. You have to feed yourself in a funny angle to get food in your mouth.

Lots of juicy bugs.

Lots of juicy bugs.

Beautiful sun set in the Fraser canyon.

Beautiful sun set in the Fraser canyon.

Do you think I've collected enough bugs?

Do you think I’ve collected enough bugs?

Vancouver to San Francisco and back

9 years ago, a group of four of us tried riding our bikes down to San Francisco. We turned back at Redding, California because we were running out of time. We didn’t realize riding such long distance in the summer heat can be so taxing.

9 years later, Fiona and I attempted the trip again. We rode for 12 hours a day, 4 days straight, and actually managed to cram in 3,264 km to San Francisco and back.

Day 1: Vancouver to Newport, Oregon, 745 km

Leaving town first thing in the morning, we ride down I-5 to connect to highway 30. From there on, it’s Highway 101 all the way down.

We both fell asleep really quickly that night. Neither of us have done this type of distance in a long time.

My bike

My bike

Fiona's bike

Fiona’s bike

First stop on the Pacific Highway

First stop on the Pacific Highway

Oregon coast

Oregon coast

Mexican food dinner

Mexican food dinner

Day 2: Newport, Oregon to Willits, California, 734 km

Riding through very wet fog on the Oregon coast all morning was interesting. But as soon as we went past northern California, the temperature just kept rising. At one point we were riding in 37 Celsius weather. I drank up my 2 litre water and was thirsty for more.  It was another long day in the saddle.

The scenery along Highway 101 cannot be beat.

Someone gave us some homemade blueberry muffins. Lucky us!

Someone gave us some homemade blueberry muffins. Lucky us!

Oregon coast

Oregon coast

Reached California

Reached California

Paul Bunyan and Babe

Paul Bunyan and Babe

Very, very, very tired

Very, very, very tired

Day 3: Willits to San Francisco, then up to Medford, Oregon, 840 km

We took the last bit of Highway 101 to get to San Francisco. At the Golden Gate vista point, we took some “we were here” pictures and then turned right around back. The rest of the day was spent on the I-5 trying to make some distance. We found a very nice campsite with hot shower and flush toilets. Dinner was instant noodles and ice cream.

Getting ready for a long day in the saddle

Getting ready for a long day in the saddle

Made it to San Francisco

Made it to San Francisco

This girl was pretty excited

This girl was pretty excited

Trying to make this look like a bike ad

Trying to make this look like a bike ad

Golden Gate bridge

Golden Gate bridge

Camping

Camping

This map has feet

This map has feet

Day 4: Medford, Oregon to Vancouver, 945 km

We booted it along the I-5 for the entire day, riding through rain, hail, sunshine, at least 6 accidents (including a motorcycle accident) and car fires and stalled cars. The goal was just to get home so we aren’t caught in the rain forecasted for Sunday.

945 km in a day is one of the longest rides I’ve ever done (second only to the Iron Butt ride I did way back in 2005). The most important thing was that we got home safe and sound.

I was having a really great hair day

I was having a really great hair day

Riding through the smoke from forest fires around Mount Sashta

Riding through the smoke from forest fires around Mount Sashta

Taking a break from the rain

Taking a break from the rain

Fiona's luggage got a little beaten up on the trip. A little bungee net to help it hang on.

Fiona’s luggage got a little beaten up on the trip. A little bungee net to help it hang on.

Got home safely!

Got home safely!