August 10, 2014 – Usually when I travel I take my laptop along and blog the trip along the way. I didn’t this time, and it turns out that not taking my laptop along may mean that I still have a laptop. That may not have been the case if I’d packed it on this trip.
Kirk and I were planning on taking a motorcycle trip this summer and as I started to plan a route, a friend from high school posted his planned trip. Cool thing was that they were very similar, though heading in different directions. We were both planning a loop through the National parks bordering BC and Alberta and through the Thompson Okanagan. We were starting in Vancouver, he was starting in Prince George. After a bit of dialogue, we decided to plan our routes to dovetail and spend a few days riding together before parting company in Cranbrook.
Kirk and I usually stay in hotels when we travel, but Hans was planning on tenting, so we decided, what the heck, hadn’t camped in years, it’d be a good excuse to to try out the tent we got last year but hadn’t yet used.
Out initial trip plan looked like this:
But we realized that we had a function to be at Saturday the 9th, so we decided to shave a day and the US portion of the trip off. We’ve been on the Cascades highway a few times, so it’s not as if it was we were losing something new.
We packed and repacked, space is the limiting factor on a motorcycle. Eventually we got it sorted out and were loaded and ready to go on Saturday the 2nd. We got out at a decent hour and planned to do a hard long ride to get to Blue River. It was a case of covering as much distance as we could the first day. We’d been a bit panicked over places to stay as it was a long weekend, I’d managed to book the absolute last campsite available in Jasper National Park for the Sunday evening, and we were even lucky to get a site in Blue River as it was full when we got there.
Saturday August 2nd:
The ride up was relatively uneventful, traffic was a bear getting out of Vancouver and by the time we reached Merritt the temperature was skyrocketing. We stopped at a gas station and soaked the hyra-vests to keep us cool – best things we ever bought for hot weather riding! They made the heat tolerable.
We passed through Kamloops quickly and stopped for some fresh fruit at a fruit stand in Mclure. Between Mclure and Barriere the former forest looked like a porcupine with the trees as blackened spines leading right to the edge of the river.
Ten years ago a forest fire tore through the area and burned down the local mill, it was never rebuilt. The McLure fire in 2003 caused the devastating loss or damage of 72 homes and nine businesses. Due to this fire, 3,800 people were evacuated (880 of these people were also evacuated for a second time) from the small communities of McLure, Barriere and Louis Creek. The fire reached a final size of 26,420 hectares and was started innocently enough; a homeowner smoked a cigarette in his backyard and flicked the butt into the grass behind his home, the fire took off before his eyes despite his attempts to put it out.
From there we pushed on up through Little Fort, a place our family used to drive through on the way to the Shuswap. Dad used to prefer to try and get to where we were going by using as many gravel roads as possible, so we’d often drive through Bridge Lake. It’s paved now, though I haven’t been since I was a kid. A trip for another time.
On through Clearwater and up to Blue River where we found our campsite and set up our tent before heading out to walk the ride off. We found a pretty little lake, were eaten alive by bugs, and eventually found a place to eat dinner and enjoy a beer before heading back to build a campfire and enjoy the evening.
It was the first time we’d carried camping gear on the bikes, granted it was just the tents, sleeping bags, air mattresses, camping pillows, and camping chairs – no cooking equipment, but it was still more than we’d carried before. A success so far!
We’d covered 600km and discussed the trip ahead before crawling into our tent for the night. Today had been a long, fast, mostly relatively uninteresting ride. Pretty country, sure, but no overly twisty or really fun pavement. What lay ahead should be more interesting!
Sunday August 3rd:
Sunday morning we intended to get a late start since we weren’t meeting Hans until around 11:30’ish and we only had an hour’s ride to the meeting point. But not having slept in a tent for some time, we were both awake early. Sleeping in on an air mattress isn’t really all that comfortable, so we were up and off for breakfast fairly early.
While trying to decide what to do in the time available, I received a Facebook message from a guy I went to school with from kindergarten all the way through grade 12. He said he was only an hour away in Valemount and that we were welcome to stop by for a coffee.
So off we went and found Dan’s place. What a fabulous log home he built for his family, and we met his father-in-law, his son, and his wife. Dan and I hadn’t seen each other since our ten year high school reunion and it was pretty cool to meet face to face again after 20 years.
Eventually we had to get on the move again, and we headed for Rearguard Falls just outside of Mount Robson Park. We were early and Hans had said he’d nose in and see if we were there when he came through – our plan was to meet up at the next rest stop down the road. Kirk and I wandered down to see the falls and take a few photos. The last time I was here it was with Mom and there were salmon leaping at the falls. No fish today, and Mom is gone. I was fighting a bit to keep the sadness at bay.
When we got back to the bikes we geared back up and just as we were pulling our helmets on, a well loaded blue Yamaha FZ1 came down the highway. Hans had arrived from Prince George!
We gave Hans time to stretch before heading on to Mount Robson Park. It was cloudy, so photo opportunities weren’t great, but the clouds were at least high enough that we could see the top.
On to Jasper, where I hadn’t been since I was a teenager. But as we entered Jasper National Park a familiar mountain range loomed up before us. I was riding at the back of our trio and that gave me an opportunity to let the tears roll down my cheeks inside my helmet. Again, the loss of Mom washed over me. I got myself back in control of my emotions by realizing that Mom would have been chastising me heavily. I could just hear her… “Paige, what are you doing! Pay attention to the road and focus on your riding. Don’t be silly, and stop crying!”
In Jasper we stopped at a pub for lunch and went for a wander around town to find Jasper the Bear. Not the same Jasper I remember, also not the same totem pole I remember. Seems that everything has been replaced…
Hans led us down a few side roads and we had a great ride. We ratted up to Maligne Lake and back down again, and gaped at stupid drivers who became complete morons when they spied anything with four legs. Complete chaos! People just flicked on their hazard lights and pretty much stopped wherever they pleased… and would totally block the path of vehicles trying to get through. We stopped to view an elk, and as we headed back to the bikes an SUV pulled up to us and a woman was excitedly yelling at us “A bear! There’s a bear! A bear, over there!!!” Kirk smiled and said, thanks, but we’ve seen lots of bears…
Our campsite was in Pocahantas, I’d managed to get the absolute last available reservable campsite in Jasper National Park, but it was a short haul east, 40km. The Jasper Parkway is flat, mostly straight, but pretty. And there were more idiots reacting to animals. My favourite was the Japanese girl taking a selfie with this elk close behind her. I’d personally never turn my back on one of these, though right now isn’t a terribly dangerous time of year. Give it a few weeks and it would be a different story…. her selfie might have been a bit more exciting!
I was riding at the back of our group and we were travelling at about 100km/hr when the back end of my bike wavered wildly! I saw something black in my peripheral vision, and heard a strange sound. I thought I’d gotten a flat tire. Then something just let go and there was a terrible noise behind me. I could see my right pannier spinning down the highway as the car behind me dodged it.
Kirk, ahead of me, heard the sound and thought I’d gone down because he couldn’t see me immediately. He pulled over and I pulled off ahead of him. Cars and trucks were slowing down and driving around my bag, which was lying in the middle of the highway. Amazingly, no one hit it, and I was grateful that it hadn’t caused an accident.
Kirk retrieved it and was walking back to me when Hans reappeared. We examined everything, reattached the bag, and came to a conclusion that I must not have locked it on fully. What was odd was that it had stayed on when we’d been ratting around on the twisty roads and none of the bumps had knocked it off. It was a mystery. But I was pretty grateful I’d opted to NOT take my laptop on this trip, and equally grateful that my cameras were in my tailbag.
Hans pointed forward and said “You, in front!” So I led the way to Pocahantas, where we camped for the night, without any further incident.
The day looked like this:
(I’m still trying to catch up, so I’ll pick this up again tomorrow when I have a chance to keep writing)