Wednesday August 6th, 2014
We spent last night in Derek & Julie’s tent trailer. It was actually a lovely alternative to sleeping in a warm house, and beat the air mattresses and tent for a couple of nights. Strangely though, I was more conscious of the fact that there were animals roaming out there now that I was actually sleeping in something a little bit more substantial than a tent, than when I was sleeping in a tent. Can’t explain it.
We were up and on the move early, but when Derek went out to pull the boat out of it’s chateau, he found that he’d caught a new candidate for relocation. My brother relocates squirrels, and flying squirrels, and packrats.
I’d never seen a packrat, and the one in his trap was nothing short of adorable, like a mini chinchilla. I know, they are destructive, but darn if it wasn’t cute!
The the packrat was packed – trap and all – in a box and covered with a towel to reduce a bit of its terror, ostensibly anyway. And then we were headed for the lake, with a planned short stop to release the packrat into some woods far from where it was caught.
You’d think that part would be easy, wouldn’t you?
I mean, how hard can it be to release a little packrat from a live trap?
Allow me to tell you….and honestly, it’s unfortunate that no one had the wherewithal to video record the event, let alone take a photo!
Derek pulled over to his usual release site and we all piled out to give the cute little creature a send off. Derek set the trap a few feet away from the vehicle, and opened the end of the trap for it to escape.
Now I have to start by saying that since Derek has had two failed pack rat releases – one committed suicide in the engine of his truck, and the other ran up the leg of his co-worker – one would think perhaps logic would dictate that release might work better a bit farther away from the vehicle. But sometimes it takes more than a few attempts to recognize a pattern and change one’s tactics.
Needless to say, the packrat, a nocturnal creature, probably headed for the nearest dark object, and that was the boat trailer.
My sister in law is a bit jumpy by nature, and provided a wonderful blow by blow account of the next 20 minutes, much of it punctuated by a raised voice. I can only imagine what we must have looked like to drivers passing by.
All four of us did the first thing that came naturally, we started banging on the trailer in an attempt to scare the thing out from underneath. All that did was send it up into a wheel-well where it stared out in sheer terror at us all.
I found a piece of wood and tried to push it down the wheel and onto the ground where I was hoping to sweep it towards the edge of the road. That didn’t work, it just kept crawling over the wood. So I poked around in the back of my brother’s truck and found a small hockey stick. I tried to push it down again, and this time got it onto the pavement, but then it was frightened towards the truck and Derek was yelling at us all to scare it back away from the truck or it would run up into the engine.
Back down to the trailer it went, and then back up on top of the tire under the wheel well. I pushed it down again, and this time it jumped into the wheel. I poked it out of the wheel, and it ran back up the tire. Seemed like a never ending cycle.
Then Derek decided to try driving the vehicle forward slowly. He jumped into the truck and started rolling it slowly forward. The packrat started to walk up the wheel like it was on the outside of a hamster wheel, and then stopped and rolled down with the wheel until the tire rolled over the end of his little tail!!!
The poor creature was flailing, the three of us were bellowing at Derek to back the truck up!!!
Unfortunately not one os us thought to grab the fish net and put it over the packrat before it was freed. So as soon as the little thing was free, it ran right up into the wheel well again, and we were right back where we started.
We tried putting the trap down next to the wheel and covering it with the towel to make it an attractive dark space, but he wasn’t having any of it. Then we had a breakthrough. I gave the little guy another nudge down with the hockey stick, and Derek, laying on his stomach, dropped the net over it.
I took the hockey stick and placed it over the edge of the net so that I could pick it up and not lose the packrat, and then I walked him deep down into the tall grasses at the edge of the bush where I let him loose. And he ran right at me! So I scooped him up in the net again, gave him a little trampoline jump, and set him back down a little farther away in the grasses before I backed away and left him there, hopefully safely.
I can’t imagine the terror that poor little creature felt. But I can say that those years catching everything possible that got loose in the pet store I worked at way back when, stood me in good stead.
So, lost time and many laughs alter, we got the boat launched and headed out on Lake Koocanusa for the day. It was a fabulous day, sunny, but a bit hazy from forest fire smoke. Fishing didn’t go as planned and we were almost skunked. We had a few swims, enjoyed the scenery, played some cards, talked, and generally enjoyed the day. It was the first time I’ve been on a pontoon boat, and I was surprised at how nimble it was and how well it handled. Impressive boat!
That evening we went to see Dad, and that was difficult. All I can say is that Alzheimer’s is a cruel, cruel disease. He’s as well as he can be, all things considered. And he is well cared for. He recognized me, for a bit anyway. There were flashes of happiness, and some smiles and the occasional laugh. But I left in tears.
My father is alive, but my Dad is gone. And it left me overwhelmed with sadness.
When I decided to make this trip I knew I would face heartbreak related to both of my parents. My Mom because the last time I was on these roads was the last road trip we made together, just a few short years before we lost her so suddenly. My Dad because I knew what I was going to face. He was going downhill quickly the last time I saw him, and I knew he’d deteriorated significantly since.
What’s harder – having a parent ripped from your world suddenly and unexpectedly and spending the following years wishing you’d had an opportunity to ask questions you thought you had years to ask? Or watching someone disappear slowly and cruelly, seeing them turn into a shell of their former self?
Neither is fair.
Both tear you to pieces inside.
The rest of the evening was pretty low key.
Thursday August 7th, 2014
In the morning we didn’t push for an early start, and were still deciding on exactly where we were going to end up and how we were going to get there. Derek had said that a big festival of some sort – Shambhala – was going on in Salmo. My nephew, Troy, referred to it as a giant rave. When Hans rode out on Tuesday he texted that he’d been stopped in a long roadblock. Our original plan had been to ride to Nelson via Salmo and then hook up to Kaslo and on, but with that going on in front of us, we opted to shorten the route and cut out Nelson.
Irritating to me, because it’s one place that I’ve tried to get to repeatedly and still not managed to visit.
So we took our leave after breakfast and headed towards Creston, with a couple of stops along the way. I shed a few more tears as we left the area, my heart breaking for my Dad.
We picked up a bag of Creston Valley cherries and found a viewpoint to enjoy them at. The road from Creston to Crawford Bay is a nice ride. Easy curves, nice pavement, not much traffic. And in fact there was virtually nothing on the road for traffic on our passing. At not one point did we ever have a vehicle behind us. So fabulous.
We stopped in at the Gray Creek General Store where we bought some snacks for the road and wandered the aisles in awe at the range of products that one general store could carry. We pulled over at the embalming bottle house, yes…a house made entirely of embalming fluid bottles. Who comes up with an idea like that?
We intended to stop in at Crawford Bay to visit the broom maker, but I looked at the clock and had an inkling that if we pushed over the hill we might “just” catch the ferry. And it was an excellent decision. On the Kootenay and Arrow Lake ferries the crossings are free, and therefore there is no priority boarding for motorcycles, so they aren’t ferries to run for at the last moment the way we do here on the coast.
The ferry was just coming in to dock and there were a few spaces left in the lines. While we weren’t disappointed in making the decision to head right through the the ferry terminal, they guy in the van behind us was probably left disliking motorcyclists very much. We loaded, and he was forced to back off the ramp and back up into the line, while the two bikes behind him managed to be squeezed in behind us.
It’s a pretty crossing, and the longest free ferry crossing in the world, and when we rode off at Balfour we were pleased to discover that virtually every other vehicle went towards Nelson while we took, as the sign said, the “Super Scenic Route”. I wouldn’t say the road to Kaslo was good. It might have been a good ride if the pavement were in better shape, but there were a lot of ruts and grooves, and a number of sections of loose gravel. There was also a jerk in a truck with a camper that made it nearly impossible to get past him.
Kalso was a pretty stop and we wandered down to the beach where we polished off the rest of the cherries and re-soaked our cooling vests. We stopped to look at the Moyie, a paddle wheeler that used to ply these waters. I was telling Kirk about how last time I was here, Mom and I ate at a restaurant and Jesus came in to visit. Well, he looked like the Jesus I see in pictures anyway, and he even dressed like him.
And a few moments after retelling this to Kirk, there he was again! He walked down tot he water and doffed his white cotton tunic, leaving him wearing grey and white striped drawstring pants and sandals. He stepped out of his sandals and walked towards the water. He stepped into the edge of the water and looked deep in thought. He waved his hands around slowly and methodically, and then slowly he walked forward. He placed his palms together and sunk into the cool water while children splashed nearby. It was a little different.
We fuelled up and found the road to New Denver. This was the road I was looking forward to. I remembered it well from the trip with Mom. Twisty, narrow, and little traffic. I was excited about it!
And it was everything I’d hoped for.
The road is just a fabulous stretch of pavement on a motorcycle. It was a thrill to ride, an absolute joy! And we only stopped once to admire a small lake and share with each other what a fabulous ride this was!
New Denver was nothing much to write home about, and we only stopped long enough to have a drink of water and a snack before riding on to Nakusp where we found our campground and set the tent up for the night.
No campfires this evening as the campfire ban had just been extended to the area. Oh well, we were off the bikes for the night and went to walk the town. Nakusp has a lovely waterfront, but we weren’t sure what we’d find for food in such a small place. I’d never been into town before, Mom and I had bypassed it on our trip. But did’t we find a treasure!
If you ever pass through here, the Three Lion’s Pub has simply the most amazing food. We just ate off the appetizer list and stuffed ourselves on fish tacos with jalapeno coleslaw, curry coconut shrimp with mango sauce, and baked brie encrusted with crushed walnuts with roasted garlic and fresh baguette slices. It was heaven in a pub!
Then it was a nice walk back along the waterfront to our campsite and we called it a night.
Friday August 8th, 2014
We broke camp early and found a place for breakfast before riding on towards Vernon, the planned destination for the night. In retrospect we should have filled the tanks at Nakusp, but we didn’t. We were both getting a little concerned when we were nearing Faquier (No, it’s not a swear word, it’s a place) and the signs indicated that it was the last gas stop for a very long ways. But the main gas station was visibly abandoned!
Turned out there was another, though one could have easily missed it if not for a pickup truck filling his tank. It was in a dusty lot, beside a mostly empty building, with nothing with any signs of life nearby. But they had gas, and they were friendly, and they let us fill our water bottles. So it was a good place.
Then it was just down the road to wait for the Needles Ferry.
The road to Faquier from Nakusp was a miserable stretch of pavement in my mind. It didn’t have much to look at, and it was pitted and rutted beyond what I call remotely pleasant.
Ahhh, but the Vernon-Slocan highway on the other side of the Needles ferry, now that is a road to ride! Many miles of fresh pavement, and curves and corners oh so fun. Not a fast road by any stretch, but fun, so fun! At the Monashee summit we stopped in at a rest stop and had a break. We chatted with a couple of riders going the other way, and then we pushed on. The whole “no gas” thing turned out to be a bit of a lie. There were definitely a couple of bigger stations along the way, but far enough in between that could cause concern.
We rode on through Lumby and arrived in Vernon around noon. Far too early to spend the night, so we decided to ride on to Kelowna, but around the backside, not the main route. That way is horrible, slow, full of too much traffic, and generally a miserable route. So we referenced the map and found Westside Road.
And what a fantastic find! A wonderful, twisty, quiet stretch of road that left us wanting to turn around and do it again! Two fabulous roads in one day, what more can a rider ask for 🙂
Why how about lunch at a winery? That sounds like an excellent followup!
We had visited an excellent winery a few years back – Mt. Boucherie. We checked the iPhone, noted the turn, and headed that way. We saw the sign, I was about to turn, and then noticed the winery on the other side of the sign. A quick adjustment, the second road, and stop in front.
Lunch was fantastic! The wines we each drank with our meals were excellent. And we were sure I had a bit of room in my bags to fit in a couple of bottles.
Over lunch we had discussed where to spend the night. It was possible to push through for home, but it would be a very long ride, and we were both tired. So that wasn’t a smart choice. All the campgrounds were full around Kelowna, so that option was out. We decided to see if we could get a room in Merritt for the night, and a couple of calls later had a room at the Ramada. A bed and a swim in a pool would feel good.
When we were paying for a couple of bottles of wine at the register I took a closer look at the bottles and something seemed off. The labels didn’t look right. I looked at the business cards next to the register and was confused.
We weren’t at Mt. Boucherie? Huh! Oh well, the wine was excellent and the food fantastic. Sometimes a wrong turn presents wonderful mistakes 🙂 While I was packing the wine Kirk went back in to use the washroom and I discovered that I could fit another couple of bottles, so I nipped back in to buy two more for home.
On the way onto the connector we were greeted by helicopters and planes putting out a grass fire at the side of the highway, but other than that, and some incredibly strong winds that came at us from absolutely everywhere, seemingly all at once, the ride was mostly uneventful.
Coming into Merritt, the cross winds were so strong that it felt as if I was riding on a sheet of ice. After we pulled in to the hotel lot and took a look at our tires, we noted that mine had been severely shaved down my the rough chip-top in the past two days. Time for new tires when we get home.
Dinner, a swim, a couple of slides down the waterslide, a dip in the hot tub, and we were done.
Saturday August 9th 2014
Honestly not much to say about today’s ride. We got going early because we wanted to make it back to Vancouver for a friend’s wedding party, which meant we had to be in Deep Cove to be picked up by boat at 4pm, for a ride up Indian Arm to their home.
It was a fast ride on the Coquihalla, the only stop a rest and refuel in Abbotsford. After a week of riding, that stretch seemed the hardest. I was pretty wiggly on my seat and when we arrived home around 11:30am I was more than happy to park the bike.
The final route ended up being 2700km and looked more or less like this.
A long trip, secluded inside your own helmet, provides hours of time to think and reflect on many things.
There was sadness; memories of Mom flashed through my mind on some stretches of the road. Heartbreak for Dad’s condition cast a shadow on some of the miles covered, but also a sense of gratefulness knowing that he is well cared for.
But it really was a wonderful trip. It was fabulous to see someone I went to school with from kindergarten to graduation, and even more fabulous to ride and reconnect for a few days with another high school friend. Camping after so many years was a blast, and the company shared made it even more enjoyable. And it was so wonderful to spend a couple of days with my brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and niece.
And on one last night note, the company I bought the luggage from, a year ago, has sent out two new bags, free of charge. They gave full warranty without so much as a blink.
That was a nice ending.