Trip highlights

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

 

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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

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.

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

 

 

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.

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…
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.”

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…

BC-Honda-Cub-Symba-trip-Ulrike-Rodrigues (152)

 

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…
BC-Honda-Cub-Symba-trip-Ulrike-Rodrigues (153)

 

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