Road trip report

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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“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

Slow down for Old Hedley

The old Hedley Road heading east from Princeton to Hedley is an absolute dream. The Destination Highways motorcycle guidebook calls this route “geriatric,” because it so slow paced. I am in novice motor-biker’s heaven.

I ride the bike slower and slower because it is so beautiful and the water so clear and sparkling. The air heats up, so I switch into white jeans and dab on some suntan lotion. But I keep going slow.

Symba motorbike on the Old Hedley Road

Out of gas amongst the grapes

I roll through Keremos and continue following the Similikameen River towards the Okanagan Valley…

Symba overlooking Keremos orchards

 

A few kilometres later, I am pleased to run out of gas in such a picturesque place, surrounded by vineyards and orchards. I am ready, though: the red plastic jerry can is full and ready to reload my puny 4L gas tank.

Symba overlooking Similkameen valley

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

 

Joy and showers in Greenwood

Through the old mining towns of Rock Creek, Midway, and Greenwood I roll. It’s a different experience than a decade ago, when I led cycling tour groups through here as part of Great Explorations’ Kettle Valley Railway tours.

In Greenwood the sky opens up and I duck under an unsuspecting home’s eavestrough to check my gear. It’s looking a little droopy in the rear suspension area, but it’s all good…

Symba loaded with dry bags, rear view

 

As I prepare to turn back onto the highway, I get a glimpse of JOY, in the surprising form of heavy equipment.

JOY logo on yellow heavy equipment

Warm lake, cold beer at Texas Creek

East of Grand Forks, the power has gone out. I buy a single can of beer at the liquor store (“It’s still cold!” the cashier tells me shrilly) and aim for Gladstone Provincial Park on warm-water Christina Lake.

The Texas Creek campground is filling up, but Sylvia and son Kuba are delighted to share their site with me. They’re on a getaway holiday from Alberta…

Sylvia and Kuba from Alberta

 

I go for a swim and lay my bikini on my makeshift washing line, the motorbike’s handlebars. I appreciate the fact that this may be interpreted as provocative and seriously non-macho…

Symba at Texas Creek campground, Gladsone Provincial Park

 

I bring my comfy chair and cold-ish beer to the lakeshore, and watch a rain shower move over the dusky hill tops surrounding Christina Lake.

Darkness falls on Christina Lake

 

Deep forest in Valhalla Provincial Park

Mugs of hot coffee and a plate of buttery, pea-filled pyrahi with butter and sour cream at Castlegar’s Dawn’s Early Rising Sunshine Cafe sustain me as I turn the motorbike northwards. I following tiny, winding Pass Creek Road and I am once again delighted to go slow.

I follow the Slocan River north to its source, Slocan Lake. The tiny town is in a grid plan, and heavily forested by stop signs. I doubtfully pull into the Springer Creek RV Park and Campground, but more creek than RV, it turns out to be quiet but eclectic.

On one side of me, a woman called Charlie from northern Saskatchewan is camping with her bearish malmute (one of 5, she tells me) and the dog’s own little companion, a tiny chihuahua. On the other side, a team of 5 skateboarders have arrived in a Dodge Caravan. They slip on matching T-shirts, and head to the local skatepark. They tell me they are touring Western Canada’s skateparks.

The next morning I excitedly enter nearby Valhalla Provincial Park for a moring walk on the Evans/Beatrice lakeside trail…

Evans/Beatrice trail sign with bullet holes

 

Contrary to what the signpost bullet holes suggest, the trail is deeply peaceful, with a moss-covered carpet and glimpses of Slocan Lake…

Evan/Beatrice forest trail with moss Slocan Lake, view from south

 

Even though I have been by myself throughout this trip, I feel completely content and grateful for the beauty that I have experienced so far. I can’t believe it’s my own province, my own country.

Miteymiss in Valhalla Park

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

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.

Hot-dogging the Needles ferry

From Nakusp, I head south on Highway 6 to follow the east shoreline of Upper Arrow Lake and connect with the tiny Fauquier-Needles ferry. It will send me back to the warm Okanagan and Shuswap regions to the west.

The ride feels cool, and I wish I’d worn my heavy leather jacket. I stop to warm my hands, and admire Burton Creek…

Burton river and valley

 

At the ferry line-up in Fauquier, I warm up with a hot coffee and hot dog that a friendly woman is dishing out. She says the ride on Highway 6 the other side between Needles and Vernon will be perfect for my bike—lots of scenery, new asphalt, and not much traffic.

Unlike BC ferries closer to the coast, motorbikes are not entitled to board first. The little Symba looks defiant packed tightly between sport utility vehicles…

Symba squeezed between trucks on ferry

 

And to the north, all is calm on Upper Arrow Lake…

Ferry rail and view of Upper Arrow Lake

“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).

The healing powers of Whidmark Farmacy

I turn onto another wonderful, slow-moving side road, Knob Hill Road, and end up on a mystery freeway. I’m confused, but a kindly farmer who’s stopped his truck to pick up his mail asks if he can help.

“Well, I don’t know where I am, and I don’t know where I’m going.” I offer lamely. “That is, I’m looking for a place to camp for the night.”

He looks at me and the bike. “You are north of Enderby. I know a nice place, it’s right by the Shuswap River, you can have it all to yourself, if you don’t mind the cows.” He introduces himself as Eric, and  gives me directions to Whidmark Farmacy.

When I arrive I discover this is his place, his name is Whidmark, he is a cattle farmer, and the “farmacy” is a little roadside shop that sells neopolitan ice cream to lost motorbikers. Eric’s wife is there, and she motions to a luxuriant grassy area next to a wide, calm river. A portable toilet stands at a distance.

“We just had a family reunion there last week, so the place is all set up for you!” Eric joins her and they point me down the path, say the river water is clean to drink, and ask that I lock the gate behind me. Then they return to their tasks.

I roll down to the riverside and start unpacking…

Symba at bottom of hill, with farm at top

 

Soon I’m joined by the roving thugs I was warned about. They’re eying the Symba, just like everyone else…

Cows sniffing Symba motorbike and tent

 

Three brown cows nuzzle the Symba bike

 

The local security arrives not long after…

Beagle next to Shuswap River

 

Another security contingent arrives to guard my dinner. She looks relaxed, but you should see her move when a cow got too close…

Retriever guarding tree stump with cook stove

 

She lays by my tent all night, keeps me company at breakfast, and I reward her with a bit of cream cheese the next morning…

Retriever next to Alite Monarch chair, waiting a treat

 

The morning sky is clear,  and once again I feel lucky and blessed on this journey…

Cow, dog, tent, Symba by the side of the Shuswap River

 

 

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.]

 

Welcome to Chase Creek Cattle Co.

I just met Frank on the Chase-Falkland Road and spontaneously decided to follow him here, to the home of Mickey VanDyke, his wife Kate, and the Riders MC (Motorcycle Club)…

Entry to Chase Creek Cattle Co.

 

Mickey lives here with his wife Kate, and they host a Labour Day bike run every year. The property includes vintage bicycles…

Micky and Kate's house

 

Farming equipment…

Vintage farm equipment at Chase Creek Cattle Co.

 

and vehicles, including a battle-ready Humvee…

Vintage vehicles at Chase Creek Cattle Co.

 

Many, many Harley-Davidsons, from far and wide…

Harleys at Chase Creek Cattle Co.

 

One of Mickey’s farm vehicles (he races trucks in Baja, and is semi-retired as a forest road builder/decomissioner)…

Chase Creek Cattle Co. ATV

 

As you walk down to Chase creek, which flows through the property, Mickey’s other structures come into view…

Chase Creek and field

 

An open-sided barn serves as the food hospitality area for the weekend’s morning fry-ups and potluck dinners…

Hospitality shed at Chase Creek Cattle Co.

 

This is the clubhouse for the Riders MC (motorcycle club). Mickey tells me that the Riders are a German club that’s been around for more than 20 years. That’s Mickey’s road warrior parked out front…

Riders MC clubhouse exterior

 

(It’s official, I am now a Loose Woman)…

Entry to the Riders MC clubhouse

 

Inside, the clubhouse is cozy…

Clubhouse interior

 

And the clubhouse is fully stocked….

Riders MC bar

 

Over the next four days, I would frequently came into the clubhouse to request mugs of white wine from bartenders Jeff (owner of the Falkland Pub) and Riders MC member, Chance. These guys were so big, they stand me on a case of beer for the photo so they don’t tower over me…

Miteymiss with bikers

 

It’s Labour Day weekend, and bikers from as far as Grand Forks and Rock Creek start arriving at the Chase Creek Cattle ranch to get the weekend rolling…

[Next: Settling in at Chase Creek]

 

 

Settling in at Chase Creek

It’s Labour Day weekend and I have been graciously welcomed as a guest by Mickey and Kate, their friend Frank, and the Riders MC.

Frank and I pitch our tents, hopefully out of earshot of the stage…

Miteymiss with tents and Fireball whiskey

 

The Symba is too small to keep up with the Harleys for the Salmon Arm poker run, so Frank digs out a snappy helmet and I ride pillion, in the middle of the pack of about 25 roaring Harleys…

Frank and Miteymiss

 

I get myself an official Riders MC T-shirt…

Miteymiss in Bikers MC t-shirt

 

I alternate between blue mugs of white wine, Kokanee beer, and the occasional slug of Frank’s favourite—butterscotch-flavoured Fireball…

Miteymiss with Fireball

 

The atmosphere is casual and friendly and friends and family circulate around the camp-out property. Kate’s son Dave is a tattoo artist living in Victoria. He strung up a hammock and slept in that…

Dave from Victoria

 

Cindy is Frank’s buddy from Castlegar. She’s been riding a Harley since she was a little girl. She inspired me to get a T-shirt…

Cindy at Chase Creek Cattle Co.

 

Erin introduces herself as “Chance’s woman” and is easy to spot with her cache of Crown Royal…

Erin with bottle of Crown Royal

 

That’s Kate, Mickey’s wife on the right, with one of her sisters…

Two women in ATV

 

This rider matched her nail polish to her tank’s paint job…

Matching nail polish and Harley paint job

 

There are plenty of beautiful biker gals to be inspired by…

Four biker women

 

As the day goes on, the DJ pumps up the volume, Mickey throws logs on the bonfire, the party begins…

[Next: Fun and games at Chase Creek]

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]

 

 

 

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.

 

Slow 60 through the Nicola Valley

Continuing my quest to ride BC’s backroads, I choose Highway 5A which drops south and then west of Kamloops.

According to Destinations Highways, “… the sweeping asphalt mirrors the shoreline of six different lakes in the picturesque and historic Nicola Valley.”

It’s windy and there are plenty of heavy trucks travelling the opposite direction, but at 60 kilometres per hour, I find the route utterly beautiful. I stop at Shumway Lake…

Shumway Lake

 

The warm sun and fresh breeze feels great on my face…

Miteymiss at Shumway Lake

 

I stop again at Beaver Ranch Flats to listen to the birds. A falcon watches me from a fencepost, then flies off…

Beaver Ranch Flats, south of Kamloops

 

Lunch is chunky broccoli-and-cheese soup with home-baked cornbread from the boutique Quilchena Hotel (circa 1908).

I fill up on cheap gas in the town of Merritt, and then continue northwest on Highway 8 into the Nicola Valley. Again, the road is stunning and traffic-free. I cruise at a slow 60 to take in peeks of the Nicola River…

Nicolo Valley from highway 8

 

My goal for the night is to find somewhere to camp near Spences Bridge on the Fraser Canyon.

 

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…
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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

Symba’s trial by gravel

After a 85-kilometre workout on the Duffey Lake Road, I am ready for a break at the end of the day. I do not get one.

Instead, Lillooet River Road road takes on three personalities: a gravel road with resounding washboard ridges; a dusty road with deep, loose gravel; and a boulder road with sharp, embedded pieces of rock.

I slowly coax the loaded Symba along in second gear, sensitive to its tired engine and worn rubber. I remind myself that I am not punishing the bike, but rather allowing it to prove itself—to manifest its destiny as the world’s most popular motorized vehicle…

Honda Cub in Amercian Motorcyclist

 

I ride this road, rock by rock, for 4.97 kilometres. Frayed, I wave down a passing truck to ask how much further the recreation site is. Which one, they ask. The closest one, I respond. The driver points ahead.

I ride .03 kilometres farther, and then pull into the Strawberry Point recreation site.

I unload the bike, lock its front wheel to the park sign, and do three portages to get my bags, gear, and extra gas can from the parking lot down to the camp site. It’s worth it…

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After the sky darkens with night, the moon emerges from behind Mount Brew. It pushes and pulls the calm lake water against the shore like a tide. The rhythmic sound lulls me to sleep. When I wake in the middle of the night, the moon is gone and the water is quiet

A blue sky and bright sun transform my morning coffee ritual into a meditation on solitude, beauty, and serenity…
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I pack the bike, get back on the gravel road, and the Pemberton Valley convinces me to extend my return journey by one more day…

Symba on Lillooet River Road

 

A hard-miler’s final few miles

The bike is behaving better. I realize the reason I was experiencing power failure on the Duffey Lake Road yesterday is because…it’s a 100cc motorscooter on the DUFFEY LAKE ROAD, for chrissake. Hairpin turns. 12 percent grades. For 85 kilometres.

Today, Highway 99 between Mount Currie and Pemberton villages is a smooth, slow ride canopied by yellow leaves. South of Pemberton, Highway 1 becomes the Sea To Sky Highway, an unfortunate four-lane speedway through craggy mountains, green lakes, and boulder-strewn rivers. The highway dissects the resort town of Whistler, and I am not in the mood for urban culture just yet.

I continue south and pull into Cal-Cheak Recreation Site.

The site is large and near the Cheakamus River. Wary of bears after having reading the warning notices, I pitch my tent in a clearing near another site…
Campsite with Symba and tent at Cal-cheak forestry site

 

Visitors are usually told to put their food in their vehicle, but campers on bicycles and motorcycles are at a disadvantage. I usually ask a neighbouring family to store my food for me. However, this campground has bear-proof food caches…

Bear-proof food cache at Cal-Cheak forestry site

 

The next day, I step on the nearby Sea To Sky Trail to walk the 5 kilometres to Brandywine Falls Provincial Park

Brandywine falls

 

At the park’s vehicle entrance, I discover it is the weekend of the annual Whistler GranFondo mass bicycle ride. Thousands of cyclists are pedalling the 160-kilometre road from Vancouver to Whistler and they are slowing traffic—perfect!

I had been worried about riding the fast and aggressive Sea To Sky Highway to Vancouver. That stretch is famous for “weekend warriors” racing to and from Whistler at dangerous speeds. But today, an entire lane is blocked for the cyclists! The department of transportation has covered the usual 100kph speed limit signs with 60-kilometres-per-hour signs!

That is my speed sweet spot.

I walk back to camp, snagging a nutrition bar from one of the cyclists’ rest stations along the road. I hurriedly pack camp, pack the bike, and steer it onto the number 99. I cruise along at a comfortable 60.

As usual cars and trucks back up behind me, but this highway has plenty of passing lanes. I stop in the village of Brackendale for lunch, then enjoy a Saturday-afternoon roll back into Vancouver.

When I pull in to my East Vancouver address, I check my odometer. It was 7,291 when I left and it now reads 9,397. More than 2000 kilometres in 3 weeks on a 100cc vintage-style bike.

The trip didn’t seem that hard to me, but Mickey says I am a Hard Miler.  Maybe you just need to be a little hard-headed.

Map of the route