Conversations

“You weigh 265 pounds”

On Highway 6 between Harrison and Hope, I pull into a trucker weigh station, just for the hell of it. Dominque tells me the bike and gear weigh 120kg (265lb). Specifications say the bike weighs 95kg and the bike’s weight limit is 136kg, so we agree that I am safe to proceed…

Symba Honda Cub at weigh station

 

Dominque invites me inside the weigh station and shares the staff’s Wall of Shame – incidents of truckers behaving badly, both locally and elsewhere. Wheels missing bolts, vans falling off flat-bed trucks, hay bales gone astray.

Bulletin board with photos of overloaded trucks

Free trail rides at Manning Park

First night camping is on the musical Similkameen River, in Manning Park‘s Mule Deer campground.

A neighbouring camper who is there with a couple of trail bikes and his family admires the Symba. He tries to give me his phone number in case I want to go trail riding with him when I return to Vancouver.

“Only if your wife comes along,” I offer. He doesn’t give me his phone number.

Symba at Manning Park campsite

A tough day at Nakusp Hot Springs

I had been in the Nakusp townsite for 4 days and had not visited Nakusp Hot Springs. It was time to fix that.

I pack up the bike and head north of town and onto the 15-kilometre, winding road up to the hot springs site. It is pouring, so I leave the bike unpacked and wander the area.  It is modest, with cabins and separated RV and tenting sites.

My tenting neighbours are three young guys on dual-sport bikes, and a semi-retired couple in a VW camper van. Us bikers stay out of the rain by standing under a tree bough, and across the way I see the couple pouring glasses of wine from the dry comfort of their van canopy.

“Hey!” I call over, “Is the bar open?!”

“Sure it is!” They shout back, “Come on over!”

We troop over and duck under the canopy, introduce ourselves, and the wine and stories start to flow. Delicious cheeses, pate, and rye crackers appear, and then the sun after that …

Couple in fron of camper van

 

I pitch my tent, then follow a trail to the hot spring source upstream. The City of Nakusp, who manage the site, have devised a shrewd way to keep the source secure…

Hot spring source sign says Beware of poisin ivy!

 

I walk the trail for an hour, taking in the forest air, the natural colours, and the peace…except for the sound of my two small rocks, which I carry in my hands and bang together to act as bear balls.

Nakusp forest trail

 

Orange tree fungus

 

The day feels lazy and luxurious, really, with a soak in the hot springs under a starry sky, then Baileys Irish Cream and a hot campfire at the bikers’ site. And no one tries to slip me his phone number.

“Travel is my Burning Man”

I ride the dreamy, black-topped Destination Highway 2 (Highway 6) at both Symba’s and my favourite speed: 60 kilometres per hour.  I stop to gas up, and take advantage of a lounge chair at the Cherryville turn-off to pull out my maps and figure out where I will stay that night.

A pick-up truck pulls up and Clint starts chatting with me. He offers me a peach and tells me, “I’m a renegade.” He tells me he manages fruit stands, rents out Egyptian tents, sells Indian-caught salmon to white people, designs solar panels, and hasn’t travelled, but has been to Burning Man, which really opened his mind.

“Travel is my Burning Man,” I tell him in my best renegade voice. “That’s what opens my mind.”

Clint suggests I check out “the meadows” for a place to camp. From his description, it sounds like a hippie commune in a daisy field. I ask for directions, and he asks for my phone number.

The Meadows turns out to be a forestry camp just north of Cherryville, situated on the Shuswap River as it flows south out of Mabel Lake. The site is on the river’s bank and truly beautiful…

Cherryville forestry camp site

 

Dinner is downstream, where the creek meets Shuswap River…River near Cherryville forestry camp site

 

The camp site neighbours are friendly, too. Marlene with dog Nikita is a retired nurse who lives in Vernon. “How did you find this place?” she asks incredulously (and a little protectively) over chamomile tea and local gouda cheese. She tells me I must check out Herald Provincial Park if I’m heading to the Shuswap area.

Darren is a musician and Kamloops radio DJ. I ask if he’ll play a tune (“not classic rock, if you don’t mind”) and he does, phenomenally. Between songs he talks about his spiritual journey, angels, the essenes, and freedom….

Darren with guitar on picnic table

 

He gives me his phone number and I wish him luck with his radio show later that night.

Here’s a YouTube clip of Darren playing the same song he played for me (5:59):

Harley loves his baby Cubs

Thanks to a cycling map from Shuswap Toursim, I manage to circumnavigate the “big city” of Vernon by riding first the Old Kamloops Road around the west side of Swan Lake, and then Otter Lake Road around…Otter Lake…

Otter Lake, north of Vernon

 

I end up in Armstrong, where the town is a-flutter over the Interior Provincial Exhibition starting the next day. There’s no camping to be found, so I gas up at the local Co-Op and consider my options.

A Harley-Davidson rider comes running up to me at the pump. He’s fully kitted: skull cap helmet, long ZZ Top beard, goggles, leather vest, tattoos, the whole deal.

“I just have to tell you, ” he says as he excitedly circles the Symba, “I LOVE THIS BIKE!”

“But—you’re a Harley guy!” I tease him.

“Yeah, but this is my first love!” He pulls out his smartphone and shows me photos of his own Honda Cubs as if they were baby pictures. Some of the bikes are fully restored, and he is ecstatic to see that the bike is available on the market again. He asks to take my picture (but doesn’t ask for my phone number).

Happy Hour at Herald Provincial Park

I had high hopes for Sicamous. My British Columbia Road & Recreational Atlas shows that there is a ferry that connects Sicamous to the town of Silver Lake. My intention was to get on that ferry and then gravel it to the hostel at Squilax, where I could sleep in a caboose.

Unfortunately my atlas is showing its age and the ferry no longer exists.

Instead, I brave 45 kilometres of the mighty TransCanada Highway 1 and push the poor Symba to 90 kilometres an hour to stay out of the way of logging trucks and houseboat holidayers. Sometimes, to reduce the line-up behind me, I ride on the shoulder with my blinker on, inviting vehicles to pass me. This also invites some too-close passes.

I arrive at Tappen, and then Herald Provincial Park, shaken and stirred. I need a drink.

I set up my tent, answer some questions about the Symba, and go on the hunt…

Symba at Herald Provincial Park camp site

 

I love camping near RVers because they are friendly, curious, and well-stocked. Lucky for me, a couple from Alberta has erected a little flag that proclaims “Happy Hour” on their site.

“Can I buy a cold beer from you?” I call over to them from the road.

“No honey, you can come right on over here and have one on us. Are you the one on that little motorbike?” They crack open a President’s Choice can of beer and so for the next two nights we are happy hour pals.

“I could see myself on of those,” she says of the Symba.

“I used to ride one of those!” he says of the Honda Cub.

They tell me about the beautiful trail clear water of Reienecker Creek…

Reienecker Creek, BC

 

…and the towering Margaret Falls…

Margaret Falls in Herald Provincial Park

 

And they tell me if I wanted to stay off Highway 1, I should aim for Falkland. It turns out to be good advice—with a shocking result.

A shocking suggestion on Chase-Falkland Road

South of Chase, BC, I meet a person who changes my life for the next 4 days…

Signpost on Chase-Falkland backroad

 

I had stopped at Charcoal Creek on the Chase-Falkland Road to stretch my legs. A biker on a red Harley with a matching red trailer passes me, then does a U-turn to stop and ask a few questions.

His name is Frank. He is curious about where I’ve been and where I am going….

Frank, Harley rider

 

I tell him I have come from Tappen, and am headed to Falkland for lunch.

“What about after that?” he persists, “It’s Labour Day long weekend, all the campgrounds are full.” He looks at the sky. “And it’s probably going to rain.”

I admit he is probably right. He opens up his trailer, adjusts a few things, and turns back to me…

Frank's Harley trailer

 

“Just up the road there’s a Labour Day bike run,” he says, “It’s on a private rural property, there’s plenty of camping, hot food, bike games, a DJ, a clubhouse—and really nice people. You should come.”

I look at his bike. It’s a big, badass, bikers’ bike. It’s a Harley-Davidson.

“Er, is this bike run a, er, Harley-Davidson kind of bike run?” I probe. He nods enthusiastically. I imagine a pack of hogs, leather, bandannas, noise.

“And are these bikers, er, in a, um, bike gang or something…?”

“Oh no,” he shakes his head adamantly, “It’s not like that. They’re good people, it’s a really a good time.” He looks at me and my loaded Symba. “You’ll fit in just fine.”

This is a moment Nomad Journal would call Engineering serendipity through travel. It is moment where you have a choice: say No, and continue on your way; or say Yes, and accept serendipity’s invitation to show you a world you have not experienced before.

I accept the invitation. I say yes.

[Next: Welcome to Chase Creek Cattle Co.]

 

Mickey says I’m a Hard-Miler

Thanks to a chance meeting on the Chase-Falkland Road, I’d been adopted by a Harley-Davidson motorcycle club for the Labour Day weekend. For 4 days Mickey and his family had warmly included me in their lives, and I was now getting ready to continue my Symba journey westwards to Vancouver.

Before I leave, I get a few minutes alone with Mickey…

Mickey VanDyke of Chase Creek Cattle Co.

 

Mickey asks me about my trip and I tell him about my ride from Vancouver to Nakusp on the 100cc Symba bike, and my goal to take on challenging Duffey Lake Road on the way back. He looks at me and his eyes are serious.

“You, with that little 100cc bike, and all that camping gear?” he asks. I nod.

“If anyone gives you a hard time, you tell them, ‘Mickey of the Riders Motorcycle Club says I’m a Hard-Miler.””

“What’s a Hard Miler?” I ask.

“Take my word or it,” Mickey replies, “It is a sign of respect, and Respect is what counts around here.” He motions to the clubhouse, the other bikers, and his family. He shakes my hand.

“You ride safe,” he says, “And I hope we’ll see you here next year.”

I say my goodbyes, aim the little bike up Mickey’s steep gravel drive, and get myself into Falkland for that long-awaited lunch.

How to attract bears in Kamloops

In Chase Creek Mickey had declared me a “Hard-Miler,” but I am not happy with pushing the Symba 90 kilometres an hour on a stretch of the transcontinental Highway 1 into Kamloops.

I am also not happy with the grey colour of the sky, or how funky I feel after being on the road for almost two weeks. I decide to treat myself a couple of nights at a nice hotel in Kamloops. My goal is to clean up, dry out, and re-provision.

By luck and instinct, I roll into The Plaza Hotel in Kamloops‘ city centre. I am so delighted with the hotel, I write a glowing  TripAdvisor review, deeming it “well-priced, boutique” with “free appies.”…

Exterior of The Plaza Hotel in Kamloops

 

Back at Herald Provincial Park I had run out of cooking gas. My stove needs a particular Euro brand of butane-propane mixture that only MEC carries. My hope is that the Wholesale Sports hunting-fishing-camping emporium in Kamloops has what I need.

I’m at the store, comparing gas cannisters with a staff member when a youngish man with a German accent approaches us.

“Do you have bear attractant?” he asks, gesturing that it would be the kind you spray all over your body.

“Er, try the bait department,” suggests the staffer with a straight face.

After he leaves the staffer and I look at each other, and I start to laugh. He cracks a smile but maintains his professional demeanor.

“A little peanut butter will probably do it,” I grin.

Silly me, it turns out you can buy a spray bottle of bear attractant for $26.  It smells of blueberries.

 

Be Prepared!

I’m on the Thompson Valley section of Highway 1, somewhere between Spences Bridge and Lytton.  Doug has run out of gas. Again.

I met Doug back at a scenic lookout in the Nicola Valley. A lanky, semi-retired forester, Doug was riding an older Virago bike packed like the Beverly Hillbillies’ truck.

A tent still in the box, a sleeping bag still in a store bag, a duffel bag, a leather case—all were strapped to the rear area of his seat with 6 or 7 black rubber bungee cords. He had asked if he could ride with me and I said sure so long as he didn’t mind going 60 kilometres an hour.

Back on Highway 1, I realize he’s no longer behind me. I double back and find him looking forlorn as trucks blast past. I have a spare can of gas strapped to the front of my bike, so I add enough fuel to his tank that he can make it to nearby Skihist Provincial Park.

At the park, I pitch my tent, pour myself a mug of wine, grab my camp chair, and take in the great view of the Thompson River, the CN train tracks, and the setting sun…

Overlook of Thompson river and railway tracks

 

When I return to camp, Doug is still trying to assemble his tent. He has the pieces all laid out like a Meccano set. The instructions are in his hand, and the box is nearby.

“How are doing?” I ask. “Do you need a hand?” I take a look at the box. “Did you know this tent is a beach tent?”

I show him the photo of the tall, open-walled tent on the package—it says Sun Shade. “It’s the kind you would use on the beach.”

“Oh really? I picked it because it’s long. It should fit my new sleeping bag.” He pulls one of a plastic Canadian Tire bag. His other gear is scattered around him as if the Virago had belched it from his back seat.

“I used to be a Boy Scout you know,” he says, “A long time ago. I’m not familiar with these new kinds of tents, so it’s taking a while…”

Over the next few hours I offer Doug support, wine, and a hot dinner and  as he continues to organize his gear…
BC-Honda-Cub-Symba-trip-Ulrike-Rodrigues (147)

 

He’s from Penticton, BC, and spontaneously decided to take his ’83 Virago for a road trip to Barkerville.

He’s run out of gas twice in three days because he doesn’t have an oil filter. He’s piled gear on the seat because the bike doesn’t have a rack. And he’s only just bought some camping gear that day because a motel stay in Merritt was “too pricey.” And—with exception of two boiled eggs in a plastic carton—he doesn’t have food, a stove, or utensils.

“How can I thank you for that gas top-up earlier?” he asks after dinner. “I could have been at the side of the highway for a long time if you didn’t turn around.”

“How about a hot cup of coffee delivered to my tent in the morning?” I joke. “I’d call it even after that!”

The next morning, I hear Doug try to start his Virago. He turns the key, the bike sputters, and then there is silence except for the sound of the bike silently rolling away from the camp site in neutral gear. Then I hear the bike sputter again, further away. This repeats for about 30 minutes, until the bike is far away enough that I can’t say if the bike has started or not.

Forty five minutes later Doug motors into camp.

“Did you find a gas station nearby to fill up your tank?” I query.

“Yep,” he replies, “There’s one about 15 kilometres from here. And I’ve got your coffee.”

He reaches inside his thick leather jacket and pulls out one, then another cup. “At the gas station we figured a soda cup would be stronger than the Styrofoam ones—if one of those busts, well, that could be a disaster.”

We bring our coffees into a clearing where the morning sun warms a comfortable-looking log. I tell Doug that many times a “Travel Angel” had helped me in my own adventures. “Thanks,” I say, toasting him. “For allowing me be an travel angel this time.”

The Duffey Lake Road on a C90?!

I fill up on cheap gas in the town of Lytton, and psych myself for the upcoming day. I will ride northwest along the Fraser River Canyon’s Highway 12, then pivot southwest in Lillooet to join the twisting Highway 99.

I have seen the Fraser Canyon from a slow-moving train, the Rocky Mountaineer (read the story in my blog, “Is that a FOLDING bike?”).

This time I will see it on a slow-moving motorcycle. It’s as windy and revealing I expected, with patches of road-tearing rockfalls and off-cambre curves to keep it interesting.

Symba motorbike on roadside near Lilloet, BC

 

I stop for lunch in the town of Lillooet, then cautiously ease my way onto 99—Duffey Lake Road. It’s a technical roadway designed for bikers on 1200cc bikes. I will be riding it on a fraction of the displacement, just 100cc.

Destination Highways describes the Duffey’s south-to-north route this way:

“The power of this challenging road is obvious from the moment you embark upon the long, corkscrew climb out of the Pemberton Valley. As you venture into the spectacular mountains of the Cayoosh Range, the barrage of curves is intense. They don’t let up when you pass along the dramatic shoreline of Duffey Lake, or even in the final section where you’ll be awestruck by the spectacular, winding canyon descent to the town of Lillooet…”

I am riding from the north. I get quickly distracted by Seton Lake…

Seton Lake on Duffey Lake Road

 

I kick the bike into fourth gear, then third as the switch-back climb gets steeper. Now and then I kick it into second gear and steer the bike along the road shoulder—if there is one.

The bike seems to losing its courage. It won’t respond to my twists on the throttle, it won’t recover on the flats, and it is sounding throaty. It’s not the Little Engine That Could I-know-I-can whine that I’ve become accustomed to on this trip.

I’ve got 80 kilometers to go, and cars and trucks pile up behind me. When I’m not pulled over to let them pass, I’m propelling the bike into its deep, blind hairpins through sheer mental power.

Dropping into the Cayoosh Creek valley, I pass a few forestry camp sites. Worn as I am, it’s too early to stop and the air is cold and drafty. I cross Cayoosh Creek over and over again, and happily emerge at Duffey Lake, where I intend to camp at Duffey Lake Provincial Park

Northern edge of Duffey Lake

 

However, there is no camping in the park. I stop again at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, but there is no camping there either.

“Hey!” Shouts one of a couple of young guys sitting next to dual-sport bikes in the Joffre parking lot, “Is that a Honda C90? Your bike is so cool!” I pull off my helmet, tell him it’s a Symba, and when he sees me he can barely contain himself.

“Did you just ride the DUFFEY LAKE ROAD on that THAT bike?!” he shouts. “And you’re a girl, on your own, on this C90, on the Duffey? THAT IS SO COOL!”

I feel pumped up, but I’m still worried about my bike’s performance, and the sun is getting low. I ask him about a place to camp, and he gives me directions to a nearby forestry site on Lillooet Lake.

As I pull out of the parking lot I can still hear him raving about the Honda C90 to his buddy…

 

(This is a Honda C90):

Red and white Honda C90, circa 1988