Ride Report: 2020 BC | Page 7 | GTAMotorcycle.com

Ride Report: 2020 BC

shanekingsley

Curry - so nice it burns you twice
Site Supporter
Day 22 & 23

Gene and Neda's place is great and they were very gracious hosts with a very clean, cozy and comfortable home. It's always nice to meet some fine folks off this forum and as we talked, it came out that I had taught at RTI starting the year they began their big trip. They taught at RTI until they quit their jobs, sold their homes and went riding, so we know a lot of the same people. Neda used to also work in a similar environment as I currently do so that was interesting. And we all love to travel and have been to different places so that's always refreshing to hear about others experiences. It's also nice to meet folks that ride, and be able to have great conversations about other meaningful things like family and happiness - other than bikes or GTAM!

We have a nice dinner of Indian food take-out and Gene and I plan to ride some nice roads the next day. I have a rear tire waiting for me to be swapped in the afternoon, so we can go riding in the morning and then maybe have some lunch and take care of the tire swap.

The Saturday route we are going to do will include a few of the best roads in the area, which is also helpful because I was going to ride these exact roads the next day anyways and this will reduce the length of that route. Here's our plan for Saturday: Kelowna to West Kelowna
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We wake up and get rolling at 8am. Gene is on Neda's BMW and I'm riding ol faithful.


The ride up the 97 takes me by surprise. I was totally expecting a drab slab experience, but the views of the water and hills to my right were really beautiful in the morning. Gene is leading which is refreshing for me. It's the first chance I've had to ride without thinking about anything and just blindly following someone else. As we make our way onto the Hwy 6 towards the Needles Ferry, Gene motions me to go up front and off we go. The 6 is a really nice ride with a good balance of excellent pavement, fast sweepers, tight corners when going up or down the mountains and some really nice scenery throughout. Since it's a Saturday morning, there isn't much traffic and we can move at a fun pace. When we get to the ferry we take a break and there is a noticeable amount of smoke that is sitting along the mountain ridges. It was not like that at all yesterday. I wasn't sure if this is normal at this time of year from the local fires or if it's from the big fires in Washington/Oregon, but it was certainly there. It actually reminded me of the Blue Ridge and the Smoky Mountains:


I want to grab a picture of Gene and there he is, embracing the elegant mediocrity of a VStrom:


By now the amount of vehicles coming to and from the ferry are starting to increase, so we decide to make our way back to Vernon. On the west side of Vernon is a road called... Westside Road. It's really nice and hugs the shoreline of Okanagan Lake. The elevation goes up and down and the corners are pretty tight in some spots. It's a must ride if you are in the area:






Gene is a great rider and it was a pleasure to ride with him. Very smooth and very safe. After this we head over to the shop and it's pointed out to me by the staff that I booked the tire swap at their other location which is just a few minutes from Gene's house. This one is at least 30 minutes away. So we hop on the bikes and head over to the other shop and they take my bike in right away. While they are putting the tire on, the Indian restaurant we had dinner from yesterday is very closeby, so we have that again for lunch. I could eat Indian every day!

Later that evening Gene attempts to educate me a little on MotoGP and it's very interesting. We also watched this really cool doc called Religion of Sports which had a focus on the Isle of Man TT and it's actually produced by Tom Brady, Michael Strahan and Deepak Chopra's son or cousin or something. It's really good!

It's time to hit the sack and I pummel off a few more days of this ride report and pass out. The next morning I wake up and look out the window. I could have sworn there's more houses and some hills in this view, but it's all smoked out:


It's amazing how much the sky has changed in 12 hours. Gene shows me a picture of what the fires are looking like in the US and it's really heartbreaking. Just total devastation down there. I pull out my phone and start reading more about it and it seems like this is going to get pretty bad in southern BC before it gets better. This is one of those moments where I start thinking about just how bad my day is going to get. I'm also thinking about whether I should just get out of BC, or head north and get up and out via Jasper or try my luck and head south towards Creston like I had originally planned. Because I'm an idiot, I choose to do my Creston route. I quickly pack up, skip breakfast and say my goodbye's. Thank you very much Gene and Neda for all you have shared with me - very much appreciated and it would be an honour to host you both if/when you make it out my way.


My planned route for the day to get me to Creston: Hwy 97 N to Creston
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As I make my way down the 33 towards Rock Creek I'm starting to have second thoughts. The air is so thick that it's actually hard to breathe. The further south I get, the thicker the smoke becomes. It's kind of like riding in a dense fog, but it's smoke and it's scratching up your lungs. As I make my way down the 33, I see another rider who has just stopped - maybe about 50 km south of Kelowna. I also stop and we talk for a bit - taking pictures of the sun against the backdrop of smoke!


He asks me where I'm headed, so I pull out my large map and he looks over my planned route. He tells me it's an awesome route and I should do it. He just came from that way, so it seems like heading to Creston was the right choice!

"Hi, I'd like to report a wildfire"


I get on the 3 (Crowsnest Highway) and start heading east. By the time I'm at Grand Forks I have to stop because the air is so thick. I can't really breathe and also can't stop thinking about what this is doing to my lungs. The smoke is similar to fog, in that one area is really smoky and then a few km up the road or around a few corners it's a little better. It's all still crap, but some spots seem to be much worse. Today is actually supposed to be a sunny day with no clouds!


I stop inside Subway and plan out what to do. I could continue my ride. I could stop here and wait this Apocalypse out. I could skip the upper portions of my route and just go straight to Creston. I decide to go direct to Creston and then reassess the situation. Maybe I can wait it out for a day and ride those upper roads tomorrow or day after. No matter what, I need to wear a mask right now, so I take one of the awesome facemasks my beautiful wife got for me before I left and stuff it with a subway napkin. Hopefully this makes more of a difference than it did during Game 7, otherwise I will have to stop riding.


I continue on along the #3 Crowsnest Highway and about 3 minutes before reaching Rossland my GPS shuts off and won't turn back on. Noooo.... I am fast approaching a fork in the road and didn't have time to read the signs and go right. Nope. This takes me to the US border which I only realize after seeing this sign:


I'm glad I brought my old iPhone 5 and a Ram mount with an X-Grip as a GPS backup. However since I didn't use the iPhone 5 for the entire first half of the trip, I gave it to my sister and so now I'm using my primary phone as my GPS:(

I have already had to wipe the inside of my visor clean because the ash is building up inside my helmet. My black gear has a thick coating of brownish/grey ash all over the front facing side. Regardless, the mask seems to be working well and I can breathe clearly. And having the cell phone mounted means I can take selfies and other pictures while I ride!


I get to Creston and this is what it looks like:


I take a moment to read some more news. It seems the smoke will be this bad up here for at least a day, likely two and maybe more depending on how the weather shapes up. I don't trust what I read and know that I have to get home for work by the following Monday and I don't want to suffer the black lung just for a few roads. I can't even believe map guy just said that! I decide to press on and see how far I can go. Pretty soon I see another sign telling me there's a fire ban in effect:


I pull out the phone and figure that today I can make it as far as Lethbridge AB and hopefully the skies will be much clearer there. I call a motel and book a room. When I arrive the thickness of the smoke in the air is not as bad as southern BC, but you can still taste it.


The Crowsnest Highway is a remarkable road. It stretches all the way from Hope BC to Medicine Hat AB. For all the stopping today and smoke to deal with, it was a very long day from Kelowna to Lethbridge. By the way - the town and area all around Fernie is simply gorgeous - I can't wait to see it again under clear skies.
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Up next - the smoke will decide for me!
 
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Priller

Well-known member
Bummer that the smoke interfered with those amazing roads, and especially sorry that you got turned around towards Rossland!

Still, as someone told me ages ago, it's when things go off plan when travelling that memories are made.

One note: if you were getting covered in ash, you should probably look at getting your air filter cleaned or replaced at the earliest opportunity...
 

shanekingsley

Curry - so nice it burns you twice
Site Supporter
Bummer that the smoke interfered with those amazing roads, and especially sorry that you got turned around towards Rossland!

Still, as someone told me ages ago, it's when things go off plan when travelling that memories are made.

One note: if you were getting covered in ash, you should probably look at getting your air filter cleaned or replaced at the earliest opportunity...
Thanks and I totally agree - plans were meant to be broken. I have absolutely nothing to complain about given that I'm getting a month of work to ride to BC and back:)
I was thinking the other day that if I ride all the planned routes, then I've really ridden pretty much 90% of all the best paved roads in BC. Now I have something to look forward to when I go back and ideally next time I'll even swap some knobbies on in BC and ride the trails for a few days.

I also have a bunch of maintenance to do when I get back, of which dealing with the air filter is one for sure.
 

shanekingsley

Curry - so nice it burns you twice
Site Supporter
Day 24 & 25

The plan for these two days is to cover as much ground as possible so I can be in Sault Ste Marie on Wednesday night. While covering ground, I also want to explore some of Northern Ontario a bit.

Leaving Lethbridge my goal is to make it at least to Brandon or Portage La Prairie in Manitoba. I had checked up the guidelines around interprovincial travel and now Manitoba is allowing people to stay in their province if you are travelling to or from Western Canada, which was not the case when I left for BC.
Day 24 Route: Lethbridge to Portage la Prairie
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This is just doing my ride out west in reverse, still taking the TransCanada. Along the way there are these massive grain silo's situated on the rail tracks. I recall reading about these many years ago and I think it has to do with a regional cooperative of farmers who bring their harvest here for shipping across the country. For some scale in this picture, at the bottom of the grain silos is a very long line of train cars - just outside Medicine Hat:


The interesting thing for me here was there was no definition in the sky. It was just an even sheet of grey and no clouds at all, but at least the air felt fine to breathe in and no face mask required while riding. Smoky skies from morning til night all the way into Manitoba:


I made it to Portage La Prairie at 6pm and had just enough time to grab a bite before passing out. 1100km in 11hours!

Day 25 Route: Portage la Prairie to Thunder Bay
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One my way out west, I missed the opportunity to ride a couple roads because of my clutch concerns. With that gone, now is my chance. I want to ride south from Kenora along the 71 through Sioux Narrows and then pass through Fort Frances and then make my way up the 502 to Dryden. A local from the area told me that the 502 was brand new pavement and a treat to ride. The run down past Sioux Narrows looks good on a map with so many lakes along the way.

Once I crossed the Ontario border there was some life in the landscape starting to reemerge and now I can start to see the defintion in the clouds. All the trees were just starting to turn colour and they were mostly yellows with a touch of orange there and there. Along one stretch just before Kenora, I saw some red trees in a group and they looked brilliant!


The 71 south of Kenora was a great ride. The top half is really scenic with big sweeping curves around lakes and elevation changes. The bottom half is pretty straight but has lots of interesting farmland on either side. This was a really interesting bridge on the 71 with wooden supports that I don't see very often:


I really liked Fort Frances and would go back with my wife to spend a night or two - very quaint town with lots to do in the area. Just outside Fort Frances is a pretty sweet bridge over a long section of water:


Now coming up the 502 the pavement is smooth like glass. It's a very fast road with long sweepers. There isn't too much for wide open scenery as the trees are in pretty tight to the road. 160km of no driveways and no services. I think I saw 2 other vehicles on it the whole stretch. One thing that I was really excited to start seeing again is the rock of the Canadian Shield, especially when the roads are cut into it:


I've seen so many full logging trucks go by me in the opposite direction, i was resigned that I would not get a picture of a full truck. And lo and behold I see this one waiting for me at the top of the 502.


As I pull into Thunder Bay, in the distance I can see this big hill in the distance. I go to check it out since it's my first time staying in the town and it was pretty cool. I did not know that Thunder Bay has lots of these big rock formations all around it.


Another 1000km in the books and now the rest of the trip can be shorter days. I can take my time since I only have two more days before getting home:)
 

shanekingsley

Curry - so nice it burns you twice
Site Supporter
Day 26 Route: Thunder Bay to Iron Bridge
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The plan today is to make it to Iron Bridge where I have a room booked at a motel that gets great reviews and is really low key. If time permits then I want to ride the good portion of the 129 - from Thessalon to Aubrey Falls.

My morning starts off with me not setting my alarm and sleeping in until 7:45. Normally I wake up by 5:30 so I can be on the road by 6:30. I also decide to do a relaxed sit down breakfast in Thunder Bay, so now I'm leaving at 9am. I wanted to stop at the Terry Fox Memorial again, having done so back in 2011 when I did a specific trip just to come out to see it. Any time I'm doing something and feel like quitting (like doing something physically exhausting, doing some complex task, etc.), I think of Terry and what a weakling I am to complain when i have it so good. I then shut up my mental dialogue and finish what I have started. Now leaving so late in the morning, I decide to scrap that idea of revisiting the site and paying my respects.

Leaving Thunder Bay I immediately stop when I see this amazing view of the water and rock formations on my right:


Normally when I take a picture of something, I stop and look around at the other side to see what else I may have missed that is also interesting.
And right opposite where I stop, but on the other side of the highway is Terry himself! Sometimes you can't escape what is meant to be:


It's hard to capture some of the things I've seen with a cell phone camera - like the amazing slew of colours that opened up just after Wawa and all the way down to Sault Ste Marie. Today was one of the most glorious displays of peak fall colours I have ridden through even though I do a fall colours ride every year and have also ridden across the northeastern states and Appalachian / Blue Ridge Mountains looking for fall colours.


I blast my way down to Iron Bridge and get myself checked in. I drop all my gear off and eat my dinner and realize I can ride up to Aubrey Falls along the 129 and back and still make it back before dark. I've been on this road before back in 2011, but it was undergoing a massive amount of roadwork and the best portion was all fresh, soft gravel. If you have never been on this road, it's this bit right here and the best section is between the 554 and Aubrey Falls. The pavement is a little bumpy, but very scenic and still a ton of fun, especially without all the luggage to slow me down. So off I go in search of twisty bits and more fall colours:








This road is sometimes known as 'Tail of the Dragon North' because of the twisty bit I linked to above and also because the Tail of the Dragon in the Smoky Mountains is US129. Just north of the intersection of the 129 & 556 is a small gas station and they are trying to get riders in on the action:


If you have ever ridden the roads in the Smoky's or the real US129, this north version doesn't quite compare, but it's still worth the ride if you are in the area. I do know of some other Ontario roads that are much better than this, but those I only show in person.

Next up - finally getting to see my lovely wife who's been holding down the fort.
 
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sburns

Well-known member
Dumb questions time - how are you able to park in the middle of the road and take pictures. I know if I did something like that some jerk body would show up. Happens all the time even when I try to park out of the way etc...
 

Iceman

Well-known member
Dumb questions time - how are you able to park in the middle of the road and take pictures. I know if I did something like that some jerk body would show up. Happens all the time even when I try to park out of the way etc...
I rode 129 to Aubrey Falls and back to 117, then later rode it all the way to Chapleau. Saw maybe three cars and two bikes the entire 450km combined.
Although Shane does get away with it ALOT!

Sent from my SM-A530W using Tapatalk
 

shanekingsley

Curry - so nice it burns you twice
Site Supporter
Dumb questions time - how are you able to park in the middle of the road and take pictures. I know if I did something like that some jerk body would show up. Happens all the time even when I try to park out of the way etc...
It’s a great question.
If I pass a slow moving truck or vehicle then I can continue to move quicker than them and keep track in my head of how much further up the road I am from them. Then when I see a spot I like and I know I have a couple minutes of buffer behind me, I also make sure I can see far enough down the road in front, so that if a car is coming in the oncoming direction, I can quickly get back to my bike and walk it to the side of the road. So far I’ve been lucky - haven’t had to move my bike yet!
 

bigpoppa

Well-known member
I also find its easier to move a tall and relatively light bike like a vstrom quickly in a hurry, as opposed to a low and heavy harley
 

MacDoc

Well-known member
Site Supporter
The wide angle lens makes it look farther away as well ...great ride report Shane. (y)
James Bay Road I swear you could have stopped in the middle of the highway and cooked lunch, traffic was so sparse.
 

sburns

Well-known member
The wide angle lens makes it look farther away as well ...great ride report Shane. (y)
James Bay Road I swear you could have stopped in the middle of the highway and cooked lunch, traffic was so sparse.
I must have dumb luck though. Riding back down on the JBR in the rain storm, no one was around. So I needed to pitstop at a rest stop to change some cloths. Park, duck under one of the covered picnic tables, and within like 2 sec's a family shows up to use porta potty.... :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
Oy vey....
 

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