I just had my 38th birthday and life is ruling. As mentioned in an earlier post, I will be the first to admit that I thought I would never get married. This thought was not because it wasn’t a dream to have a life partner, but rather because I couldn’t imagine that there was a dude out there remotely compatible to my outlook on life and still single and in my town and close to my age and literate and employed and of excellent character and on and on. Life experience had proven to me repeatedly not to expect much when it came to dating and romance. But, miracles do happen.
And now, after a year of marriage and a super sweet roadtrip under our belt, I’m starting to realize that this situation is for real! Scott got his first motorbike shortly after the wedding, passed his license test a few months after that (due to my excellent tutelage – ha!), and after a winter of wrenching and the acquisition of two Honda dual sports, we were ready for a proper getaway.
I ended up riding Alaska, even though I had got a friend (Aaron from Fabrikaat welding) to make a custom rack for Scott’s birthday – a pretty sly move on my part. It’s just that the ’94 XR650 (aka Yukon) was too tall for me to feel comfortable. I’ve promised Scott that I’ll get another custom rack built for Yukon and all will be fair and square.
On a sunny August morning we loaded up the bikes with sleeping bags, tent and supplies, and with a sketchy Google map printed from work we headed to the Sumas border going south down highway #9 to avoid the Interstate (which was so lovely!) to the highway #20 or the North Cascades highway. We popped into the Colonial Creek campground and found a secluded site that required a short hike. I had a moment of panic since it seemed like all the spots were taken but then we landed this one, and it was so rad, just oozing fresh green moss. I vow to come back and explore more of the area, especially the turquoise lakes.
We then cruised south along the #97 and #17 highways to roll blindly into this super cool place called Sun Lakes Dry Falls, which is this beautiful mini canyonland in the middle of Washington state! There was a hazy light due to all the forest fires, which are unfortunate, but made for some beautiful photos. We pitched our tent and then blasted into the canyon free bird, to explore the area. It was definitely a highlight!
The next day was more of an ordeal since the heat got really intense as we ripped across the #2 towards Spokane, and the wind was not in our favour. At times it felt like my helmet strap was trying to sever my jaw and pop my head off due to the wind. As well, even though I’m the “veteran” rider in the relationship, Scott’s bike was stronger on the highway and I actually wanted him to slow down at times. Hilarious.
Once in Spokane, we just wanted to get out of there. I wasn’t digging the traffic, so on we went into Idaho. Oh man, that’s one sweet State. In the late afternoon we took a side road off the highway and an old-timer explained that you can camp for free anywhere if it was State property. He recommended this random little spot by a creek, so we followed his instructions. I took a swim in the river and we prepared some food – or I should say, Scott prepared the food! But then, a train blasted past right across the creek and we knew we would have the worst sleep if we stayed. With a renewed level of energy, we just kept riding until we came to Bonners Ferry (making it a 200 mile ride day).Scott had a friend there but after lurking in the grocery store parking-lot and no response to our calls, we decided to find a place to crash. The one camp-spot on the Google map was long gone, so we casually pulled into a quaint motel. The owner was just getting off the phone and explained he had to give his last room to the local fire-fighters, but considering our bikes, he figured we could handle getting up to a free campspot nearby (with no trains in sight).
Smith Lake was the best! We blasted up the rough road, narrowly avoiding some crazy bucking deer en route. I was sort of freaked out but it was worth it. The camp spot was ideal and in the morning we had the lake to ourselves with the exception of a solo middle-aged lady who took it upon herself to gather the garbage left behind by rednecks, by paddling around on her stand-up paddle board. She was cool.
We took our time as usual, making our ritual espresso coffee and porridge, then headed north towards Canada. As we neared the border at Porthill I could distinctly see snakey fingers of smoke creeping down Parker Peak to the west. Forest fires were on a total rampage this summer, and I hoped we wouldn’t be trapped or sidelined somewhere. I have never been to the Kootenays but had a feeling that I would enjoy it. The 3A highway on the east side of Kootenay Lake is ridiculously rad. Constant windy sweet roads and a beautiful view!
In no time we were at the Kootenay Bay to Balfour Bay ferry, so we took a short hike to a lighthouse before crossing over. The campsite that was recommended called Kokannee Creek was packed, but the rangers allowed us to set up along a grassy stretch beside the boat-launch parking area. A boozy mom and her pre-teen son were in the tent next-door and the mosquitoes were vicious, but we made the most of the set-up by prepping and eating our meals on the sandy beach and watching the stars.
So far the bikes were pretty solid. Early on I learned that my tank hits empty well before Scott’s and that just because I can still see gas in the tank doesn’t mean I shouldn’t flip to reserve. It looks like 1/4 of the tank is reserve, which makes sense for a dual sport. I was just weirded out because in my mind I had recently filled the tank… time flies when you’re ripping! The only other trouble was that when my bike gets hot and I pull over for gas, I have to give it 20 to 30 minutes to cool off before I can kick it over again. In a way, it forced us to take proper breaks.
Since we were so close to Nelson, we decided to check it out and stock up on supplies. Upon entering the main drag I realized that we were now entering Canada’s hippie homeland. The streets were blocked off for a mid-week festival of bongo drums and fiddles, vegan baking, cheesy crafts and fresh produce. It had been awhile since I had witnessed so many dread-headed white youth, and if I had been twelve or thirteen I might have thought that was rad. Instead, I had a strong desire to get on my motorbike and flee!
It’s tricky because Nelson is a lovely place with quaint heritage homes and access to lake and forest, but I find the New Age vibe a bit tacky. I’m sure the folks are sweet and well-intentioned but there’s still this aesthetic that is bought into – plus, how many crystals and Buddha figurines does one need?
Anyways, I shouldn’t be cynical. We took a quick peek at the local library (and surprisingly enough they stocked books other than just Shantaram, hehehe!), Scott got himself a veggie burger, and then we were back on the sweetest highway in the land! Highways 31 and 31A are truly a motorcycle mecca. To be continued in Part Two…