Be Prepared! A Failure to Plan is a Plan to Fail! Plan for the Worst – Hope for the Best!
I’ve lived most of my life following the above RULES at one time or another, but somehow, I deviated from my normal self-discipline habits on a recent road trip that took me north through Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Central & Western British Columbia to Alaska and the edge of the Yukon Territory, then south through the amazing Canadian Rockies through Banff and on through Glacier Park into Salmon and Challis, Idaho and then home through Blackfoot and Pocatello.
As most of my Rally Master responsibilities at the Red Rock Rendezvous kept me from enjoying the daily rides to National and State Parks surrounding Panguitch, once home from the RRR I decided to visit the Grand Coulee Dam and enjoy the scenery in another part of the country where I had yet to travel.
Once I passed La Grande, Oregon and reached the Umatilla National Forest, I “shoulda” figured the rain-rain-rain was an indication of what the rest of my trip was going to be like. Entering into Washington at Walla Walla (Washington has some cool Indian names for rivers and townships) I found Route 17 that jogged up through Moses Lake and some of the sweetest road side smells you will NOT experience driving a car with the windows rolled up and the A/C on full blast. Miles and miles of Mint and Canola fields (Canola was yellow in full bloom), Sweet Cherries, Grapes, Raspberry and Strawberry fields in harvest (and roadside winery’s too numerous to count), acres and acres of Pear trees, and of course the famous Red Delicious Apples.
Once I reached Banks Lake, the humidity was almost unbearable (at least for someone acclimated to the dry climate of Utah) and the ride along Hwy 155 was amazing all the way to the Grand Coulee Dam Visitors Center, where you can spend hours and hours reading the history of this area of the country and how the dam was built (if so desired).
From the Coulee Dam I was less than 100 miles from the Canadian border so I decided to take the short trip and log CANADA as one of my ride destinations for the Mileage Ride Contest. BIG MISTAKE! What I found is that Hwy 97 from Omak north was crowded with RV’s and weekend campers trying to pre-position themselves for the upcoming 4th of July holiday.
I soon found myself in more rain-rain-rain with nightfall rapidly approaching as I entered Oroville, WA so I thought I would try finding a room for the night – only to learn there are only 2 hotels/motels in town, they were both overbooked and from what I could tell a 2 Star Rating was generous.
While refueling and trying to decide if I should turn around and head back south to Omak, WA for the night, a Canadian (getting a full tank of cheap gas before going home) told me I should stay in the border town of Osoyoos, BC (only 4 miles to the border) as there are at least 7 hotel/motels with very reasonable and favorable exchange rates. I found the Osoyoos, BC Super 8 to be fairly new and have plenty of rooms available, king size beds, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, free breakfast – and with exchange rates of only US$ 0.73 equal $1 Canadian Dollar – this was an exceptional bargain.
What I really liked about this Super 8 was the stone fire pit and seating area located just off the lobby. From the moment I pulled into the registration area I noticed guests gathered around making friendly talk. A couple from Texas on their Harley trike, riding to Prince Rupert where they planned to catch the ferry to Anchorage. A couple from Palmer, Alaska on a Gold Wing trike, heading south to visit kids and grandkids in Tennessee. A lady returning home to Canada after visiting her daughter going to school in Texas. A guy from the Netherlands – on a temporary Canadian work VISA, riding a KLR650 that he had modified with larger sprockets to make it road worthy. Another guy from Memphis on a new Honda Africa Twin with just about every Wolfman accessory bag available hanging off the sides in one location or another. There were a few other motorcycles (and a couple of Suzuki Burgman scooters with Nevada plates) in the parking area but not all travelers like to share road warrior tales with strangers. Then there was Jake from Nashville on his K75 w/K100 fairing (a regular at the MOA Rally’s) – but Jake needs a new GPS as although we headed out together the next day, he rides a little fast for me so we split up after fueling in Kelowna and he headed for Dawson Creek and I headed for the Caribou Hwy 97 with plans to overnight at the Super 8 in Prince George. Hours later (about 10pm), just as I was coming out of the restaurant next door to the Super 8 in Prince George, I saw Jake pull into the Burger King just across the street (wet and tired) so I went over and said; “fancy seeing you here” – NOT a happy traveler and he was really cussin’ his “automotive” Garmin GPS – he said something about getting stuck on a Ferry Boat and stormed off, so I let it go.
To make a long story short, I learned from the Super 8 in Osoyoos group that if my Bucket List only said; “Ride to Alaska”, I should take a short 2-day ride north on the Cassiar Hwy 37 to Stewart, BC pop. 400, with 3 hotels-with no problem getting a room. And, Stewart is one of the nicest little towns in Canada). My stay was at the King Edward Hotel & Motel (only 3.5 Stars but should be a 4.0 at least) with a view out my window of mountain glaciers and the quaintness of a small town from the 1950’s or 1960’s
Stewart, BC is located next to a lonely US Border Crossing to Hyder, Alaska – pop. 87, the very first US Township established in Alaska but now only a Ghost Town with a couple of souvenir shops. Hyder is also famous for being the start of the 2014 coast-to-coast Scooter Cannonball Run (now I understand the Suzuki Burgman scooters in Osoyoos), as well as, a popular Iron Butt Association waypoint for those looking to achieve their “48 Plus” award. The highway loop is only about 12 miles long but road conditions are great and it’s worth the ride (frequent Grizzly warning signs but not during my ride). Non-motorcyclist often drive their cars to hike the nearby “Salmon Glacier” (numerous glaciers in this area, some right along the side Highway 37A to Stewart, BC).
What your friends won’t tell you about your first motorcycle adventure through British Columbia:
1) You’re going to get WET! British Columbia is a rain forest and it’s not unusual for it to rain-rain-rain 365 days a year in some places. Rubberized Rain Gear works best. Riding jackets may hold up if yours is less than 2 years old (unlike my Kathmandu), otherwise the rain is surely going to seep through.
2) If you start out with plans to ride 400 miles / day, know that road construction, wild animals (bear, bison, caribou, mountain sheep, fox, coyotes, elk) and weather conditions may limit your travels to less than 250 miles / day.
3) If you have a thing about a clean motorcycle, FORGET IT! Logging, Oil Field Rig-Up trucks and such leave a dirt film on the pavement that easily clings to your bike during your highway travels. The rain makes it worse!
4) Wear ATGATT (including FULL-FACE helmet) for protection from rain, wind, bugs and cold – June temps can easily drop below 40 F going over some of the mountain passes (I actually started to feel a bit sorry for the Harley guys riding without a windshield, wearing only a skull cap helmet, sunglasses, leathers and fingerless gloves).
5) Although the US Dollar versus Canadian Dollar exchange rate is currently favorable for Americans, be prepared to pay US$ 4.50 ~ US$ 5.00 per / gallon for premium grade fuel – cigarettes, alcohol and tourism taxes are also high.
6) If you even THINK you’re going to cross the border into Canada, make-up a destination story for the Canadian Border Patrol. They DID NOT like the fact that I was just going to “look around” British Columbia and that I did not have a set agenda / itinerary. When I finally said my destination was Dawson Creek his tone changed to a nice and pleasant “Welcome to Canada – enjoy your stay”.
7) If you’re riding in a group of more than ONE, don’t expect to find a hotel/motel after about
4 pm (traveling on my own I was often lucky to hear; “I have one room with only a single bed” – but that was all I needed).
8) Stop at the iVistor Tourism Centers. They serve FREE hot coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soft drinks, bottled water and granola bars/chips and can give the best advise of places to stay and see (the girls in Hazelton told me where to find gas at the Indian Trading Post and the best hotel to stay at in Stewart ~ and they verified on-line that a room was available), as did the ladies in Fort Nelson.
9) Know your Canadian Holidays – July 1st is CANADA Day (similar to our 4th of July) and many of the resort areas are booked solid (Jasper and Banff areas had bus-loads of tourists). Most of the Canadians I talked to suggested mid to late July as the best time to travel through BC. But then again, the BUGS may be a bit hard to deal with in the warmer weather!
10) Know your Canadian Seasons – British Columbia has 2 – Winter and Construction. The frost heave, logging and oil field trucks take a real toll on the 2-lane pavement and road construction is almost constant during “motorcycle season”.
Also, worth mention is that many road side warning signs remind automobile and truck drivers this is; “Motorcycle Season” – Drive Careful and my experience was that Canadian drivers seem to be in less of a hurry and stay at posted speed limits (usually 100 kph – about 62 mph) more so than American counterparts (most instrument panels and GPS units can be easily switched from Imperial to Metric and I found this best for my travels). For me, 100 kph was the perfect speed to enjoy the amazing and beautiful scenery of British Columbia.
Oh, and I still have CN$80 (Canadian Dollars) so if anyone is heading north soon I would be glad to exchange at favorable rates (bank won’t do less than CN$300).
Since my return home I’ve been asked by several; “Would you do it again”? and my answer is always a resounding YES! However, that said, I would do it much different and follow a strict PLAN with set hotel/motel reservations and things to do and see. But for now, I’m thinking SOUTH to Mexico sometime during our COLD – WET WINTER is more in line with what goes on my Bucket List next.
Ride On Lone Ranger,
Ride On Forever.