Phone number?

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

Wine and woo at Nk’Mip Resort

Rolling into the Osoyoos Visitor Centre at the end of the day, I have a tall order for the staff: “I would like a nice tenting site, on the lake, and in a vineyard so I can do wine tastings without having to get on the bike.”

“Shure!” the lady says, “We have that!” She sends me to Nk’Mip RV Park. Three out of three ain’t bad…
Symba at Osoyoos camp site


Nk’Mip Cellars is an award-winning winery, owned and operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band…

Nk'Mip warrior statue


Nk'Mip vineyards


Nk’Mip’s resort includes a winery, RV park, time-share residences, and an elegant cultural centre with trails…
Osoyoos Nk'Mip cultural centre

As I pack to leave, the German couple that has ignored me all weekend turn friendly and offer to take my photo. When his wife’s not looking, the husband gives me his email and offers me a place to stay if I’m ever in Germany.

I’m starting to wonder what kind of magic power this little Symba is giving me. I starting winding up the switch-backed Highway 3 out of Osoyoos.

Osoyoos valley


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

“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).

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.]


Fun and games at Chase Creek

It’s Labour Day weekend, and I’ve been adopted by the Riders MC of Chase Creek, BC.

Kate rolls around in her golf cart and proclaims it’s time for fun and games. “Chicken Shit Bingo!” she announces, “Place your bets for chicken shit bingo!”

We gather around a table that’s been marked with squares and our names, and then Kate puts a chicken on the table, and then a wire cage…

Chicken shit bingo board


The chicken takes longer that you’d expect, but eventually it marks the square of Wes, a neighbour of Mickey’s and fellow biker…

Wes, winner of chicken shit bingo


(I got a chance to chat with Wes later that night, and he told me about his work with the Secwepemc people. He told me some stories that put tears into my eyes. I felt a lot of admiration for what he’s been able to achieve so far.)

Another traditional game for the Labour Day bike run is the burn-out contest. The club had a post and platform that they roll into the middle of the lawn. The platform has a deep black groove, burned by previous contests…

The burnout equipment


Chance rolls Mickey’s bike up to the post and makes some smoke, but Mickey’s not too happy about that…

Chance burns rubber for the burnout contest


Then another biker rolls his bike onto the platform and hits the gas…

John and burnout contest


…later he tells me he busted his clutch. Luckily his mechanic is camped next to him and they manage to harvest some parts and labour.

As it gets darker, Mickey orders more logs on the bonfire and more volume from the DJ onstage…

Billy and DJ

Dave, on the left, lives in Kelowna. He used to ride with A Well Known Motorcycle Club, but tells me he is done with that shit. Now he grows palm trees on his property in Kelowna.

John from Kelowna


Lillian and Billy are Kate’s siblings. They helped get the party going…

Lillion and Billy

…and I got caught up in the spirit…

Miteymiss and Lillian


[Next: Mickey says I’m a Hard-Miler]




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.