Thursday, July 17, 2014

Western Motorcycle tour

I'm still running, but with a little more horespower these days. A leaky heart valve demoralized my efforts to run better so I moved on.

Many of the images in this post are marred by the cover getting in the way of the camera on the new tablet I bought for the trip. I'm sorry they aren't better.

It was quite the trip, thanks. I set out to find some areas I hadn't seen before, cross into the mountains in a novel way and to ride as many of the finest twisty roads the world has to offer, as I could.

6458 km @ 5.19 l/100km over nine days of of travel. I was gone for two weeks. I ate giant, perfectly fresh and healthy oysters, sockeye, crab and washed them down with some fine wine and a few pints of hand crafted ale. What's not to like?

Me on the ST and a friend on the KLR.

On the home front, there were 27.3 kilos of saskatoon's that came into our house in the last few days. I see pie in my future. Life is too short! It's good to be home.

Went Southwest from our Manitoba home through some intense prairie weather to Southern Montana and Northern Wyoming and on to climb the 11,000 foot Bear Tooth pass. It was plenty dramatic there. The road way provided many tight switch backs and the scenery was all about the theatrical. Then out through Yellowstone. American tourists there invoked a very strong flight response in me.

Then a long day took us North through the first of the twisty roads in the Helena state forest. My throttle hand got away on me a bit there. We continued on up the Western side of Glacier park and  I finished the day in Cranbrook BC.

It was the wild west out there.

At that point I went farther West and my partner went off into Alberta to see some relations.

The following day, I had another huge ride, making Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island from Cranbrook.

I had confirmed directions to the ferry the night before, but South Langley was a jumble of construction when I got there. I wasn't sure which way was up with the rush hour traffic making things even more challenging than they already were.

Stuck in traffic with the bike heating hard and the sun beating down on my tired self, a Harley pulled up on my wing. I yanked my helmet down and yelled "Tell me this goes to the ferry!" He laughed and said he grew up in Ladner and he'd take me right there.

Off we went among the tidal ditches and narrow roads of rural delta land. Every time we stopped for a turn we added a little more to our collective story and both of us had a few laughs along the way. That guy made my day.

He lead me to the terminal and went on with his day with a honk and a wave. I like bike culture. As it turned out I was headed in the right direction, it just wouldn't have been as fast that way.

There was no one in line ahead of me at the toll booth so I rolled up and paid my money down. Bikes get loaded first and I went to the head of the line with the other bikes then didn't have time to get my helmet off before we were waving us on to load. Brilliant timing.

Then it was a couple hours of welcome down time smelling the salt air again.

I bought this bike for its aptitude with long travel days and I'm thrilled these distances are still possible for me, thanks to this fine Honda classic, a 1998 ST1100 Pan American. I am a proud, and grateful owner. I looked for four years for a bike that reflects me now. I resist nostalgia.

I gave it a good cleaning at M&P's. I think that's the first time I've washed it.

Four days at my folks place in Qualicum provided some welcome soft living. Cleaned up the hedge trimmings and made a run to the dump, but it was a soft landing there regardless. I also got caught up with some of the relations that faciliated my journey into the world of bikes many years ago. I like bike culture. They are still riding and are still just as much fun as ever.

Heading home I was on my steed at 5:20 Tuesday morning to make the 6:20 ferry from Naniamo's Departure Bay headed to Horseshoe Bay.

From there I headed North up the Sea to Sky highway toward Whistler.

Not my image:

I headed off onto new territory for me in Pemberton and Lilooet. I put 14 hours in the saddle that day through some very challenging roadways. Just what I was after. I angled down through Cache Creek, through Kamloops and then South through Vernon.

The temperatures were pushing 40C for a lot of the day and I was determined to wear ATGATT (all the gear all the time) and managed it well enough, but fluid intake took on a much higher level of priority as a consequence.

Tuesday wound down with a short cable ferry ride across Lower Arrow Lake at Needles. I ran up to yet another beautiful BC provincial campground named McDonald Creek and called an end to a very demanding and tremendously satisfying day on the bike.

The inland ferries are part of the highway system and are free for all.

The fellow collecting the camp fees at McDonald Creek was a rider and a lot of fun in his enthusiasm with what I had done that day. His laughter was attractive and it lead to a camp fire invitation with some bright lights from the U of A, some very welcome cold beer and more stimulating company. Bed was welcome, even if it was on the ground in a tent.

I had a very lazy Wednesday morning taking time to luxuriate with some great coffee, savoured in spectacular mountain surroundings.

What lay ahead were well documented world class motorcycle riding twisties.

Around and down from Nakusp and the famous little run from New Denver to Kaslo and then onto Balfour, was nothing short of a living fantasy. Good pavement and non-stop curves.

I came out at Kaslo with virtually all the tire edges used and some new scuffs on my boots where I had neglected to keep my toes tucked in on the pegs. Brilliant! By this time in the trip I had become quite smooth on the controls, so it was very rewarding as well as more than a little thrilling to ride those roads.

After Kaslo, I headed South down 35A which was busier than the New Denver run, but otherwise it is another amazing road to ride down on a bike.  The day went on by catching a stunning 35 minute ferry ride in the brilliant sun, across Kootney Lake at Balfour and down to Creston then on to camp at Kikomun Creek. Not a great vibe there. Insecure Albertans in abundance, unfortunately. I won't labour the point.

After two big days of travel, fighting the slippery slope toward heat stroke, I was fatigued through and through. Thursday was a welcome cool day and I didn't take my warm layer out of my jacket until after 13:00.

I had wanted to stay off the #1 across the prairie altogether, but with all the flooding, I decided against and told myself that if I had it in me to make Swift Current Thursday night I would push for home on Friday.

I took a cheap motel that night in Swift Current and enjoyed as much hot water and hoppy ale as I thought wise and headed to a dreamless sleep.

A long dreary run to Winnipeg on the #1 is punishing, even in a car and worse on a bike. South to the welcome at home.

The road always calls.

I've had bikes since I was coming out of my teens. It's been about 30 years since I thought I could dedicate much time to one, but since 2009 I've been shopping for a bike. I thought my days of biking were over because I couldn't find a bike that reflected me now. I looked at all the popular brands and models, but came up short.

The remaining choices seemed surrounded by nostalgia which I deliberately run from. Then I found this classic bit of sport touring magic I have now and I was in with both feet, purchasing one in early 2013.

I put on 13000 km last year and have been wholly hooked back into the biking life since.

I grew up in BC so I knew and missed winding mountain roads and was anxious to re-learn my riding skill-set there.

The ergonomics on this bike are very deliberately utilitarian. Everything about the ST1100 is about the function defining the form, it seems. I bought the best long distance saddle available, to help with my aging bods tolerance for long days in the saddle and it made it possible for me to do what I did. Electrically heated handle bar grips were a great help on the cooler mornings too, as was all the high tech gear I'm using.

When I had the suspension adjusted for hard cornering, my lower back tightened up over the course of a long day, but otherwise I experienced only general fatigue and nothing specific. I thought this was a good sign that I had the bike set up just about right and that my riding position and technique was appropriate. Sure was knackered at the end of a few of those days though!

There is something especially attractive about long days on a bike travelling like I did. The combination of fresh air, the intimacy and vagaries of what Mother Nature dishes out and the changing scenery, is at the very least, addictive. I got more big smiles from good looking women than I've had in ages. It must the right thing to be doing.