“I LOVE this bike!”

Off to a roaring start

The adventure begins at Trev Deeley Motorcycles in Vancouver.

I give a quick hello to Kyle, the Symba’s previous owner and a staffer at this Vancouver Harley-Davidson retailer. He’s impressed by how travel-ready the bike is, and says the tires look good. I am good to go.

Miteymiss and Symba at Trev Deeley

 

I head east on Highway 7. It is a flat, agricultural valley guarded by snow-topped mountains. I ride as far as Harrion Hot Springs where Arthur and Janet host me the first night. This is very gracious of them, as they are in the process of moving to Chilliwack.

They send me officially on my way the next morning with maps and best wishes.

My leather “party” pants are a size or two too large, but according to the Taber Abrasion Test, they’re still safer than jeans…

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Horizons Unlimited in Nakusp

In Nakusp, I slowly steer my red-and-white motorbike through the town’s campground. It’s crowded with tents, men, and burly, towering motorbikes.

It’s the meeting place for the Western Canadian members of Horizons Unlimited, a motorbike club for travellers on two wheels.

BMW, KTM, and Yamaha dual-sport bikes at Nakusp campground

 

On their website I had read that travellers of all kinds are welcome, but I instantly realize that I am an oddity here. I see everyone’s heads turn as I putt-putt by, and then one after another men come running towards me.

“What is that bike?” one man half cries. “I LOVE YOUR BIKE!” another shouts. A third grins and hands me a button that reads: You meet the nicest people on a Honda.

It takes a moment to realize that they are praising me, not making fun of me. They instantly recognize the Symba’s Honda Cub legacy, and I have become the rock star of the motorbike jamboree (as I like to call it).

A group waves me over to join their tent village and I gratefully accept. Jen, Leanne, Jay, Thomas and I become Team Spork (due to the regular use of our spoon/fork camping cutlery). We sip Shiraz during the day, Baileys at night, and goof around like a gang of kids.

Nakusp camp site

 

More a convention than a camp-out, the intensive schedule of the bikers’ jamboree includes back-to-back talks, presentation, readings, and demonstrations.

Nevil Stow—a round-the-world biker and one the Symba’s biggest fans—demonstrates how to break the bead on a motorcycle tire using a hand knife, a saw blade, and the principles of physics…

Nevil breaking bead

 

The good weather perseveres, so Jen suggests we go for a “gravel ride.” I jump on the back of Thomas’s bike and a small posse of us explore a forestry road to Wilson Lake.

Wilson Lake forestry road

 

Mike, Jay, Leanne, Thomas, Jen

(L-R) Mike, Jay, Leanne, Thomas, Jen

By the time Sunday rolls around, the Symba and I are minor celebrities due to a second place finish in both the Slow Race (where you ride as slow as you can) and the Keyhole race (where you ride increasingly smaller circles).

The Symba was looking comfortable stabled with its big brothers and sisters…

Symba with big bikes

 

It is sad to leave beautiful Nakusp and my camp-mates, but at the same time I am excited to get on the road again….

Upper Arrow Lake at Nakusp

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).

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