Monday, August 06, 2012

2,034 miles, 8 days, 2 countries, 2 provinces, 3 states 4 bikes, 8 friends, priceless memories

July 21st Bellingham to Clinton BC

We (Dave, Lorie, Dave, Dawn, Bill, Marla, Larry, and me) headed out from Starbucks on Bakerview at 8:00 AM.  We were suited up for rain because the clouds were hanging low over Whatcom and the weather prediction all the way to Whistler BC was rain.  We took Northwest and angled over to the Guide heading to the Lynden crossing.  A few quick questions and we were on our way.

Getting through the Vancouver traffic snarls, road improvements, drivers who think only they have the right of way, and large foreign objects in the middle of our lane was probably the most stressful part of the trip today.  But then Vancouver traffic is always like this.

The Sea to Sky highway is beautiful and we stopped for gas before we arrived in Whistler and then gazed in amazement at all the new condominiums, and houses that have been built since we last passed through Whistler right before the  2010 Winter Olympics.

We stopped in Pemberton at The Pony for lunch before climbing up and over the mountain to Lillooet.  A stop at the bottom of the mountain to remove the last of the rain gear and as many other layers as we could take off.  We started out in the high fifties when we left this morning with rain and now it is around eighty-two degrees. 
We are only one hundred kilometers or about sixty miles to Clinton where we are staying for the night.  We have been as far as the turn off to Cache Creek but have never gone farther north.  A new road, a new experience, a new memory.

Riding the canyon road far above the river you look out to the dry and parched high desert hills ahead.  A few twist and turns and we are down in the valley with small farms stretching out on either side of us.  Horses meander by small streams in the lush green fields while herds of white cattle stand in fields on the opposite side of the road.  Small vineyards are beginning to sprout up in the rich farmlands. 

We pass old log homes, barns, lean-tos, and outbuildings in various states of decay and disrepair.  Occasionally we would see one of these barns with a coat of paint that while maybe several years old, shows that someone is still using it and trying to preserve a part of history.

We checked into the Cariboo Lodge Resort and the owner Darla had a full crew to welcome us and chat.  With the bikes unloaded and settled into our rooms it was time to socialize.  We were on the second floor and had tables and chairs so we could sit around, relax, tell stories, and laugh. 

Clinton was originally known as 47 Mile House before being renamed Clinton in 1863 when the Cariboo Wagon Road was completed and only had a population of about six hundred.  The Cariboo Lodge was built on top of the original lodge and is constructed of spruce logs and even has a western saloon.

The lodge had a restaurant so we didn’t have to ride someplace else for dinner.  The waitress was one of the ladies who helped check us in and she was vibrant and fun.  She kept up with our jokes, dinner orders, and everything else in-between and the smile never left her face.  The patrons behind us even joined in several times.

Back at the ranch we sat on the balcony talking and laughing.  We have ridden with this group many times and it is always a pleasure whether it is a day ride or a multiple day ride just to be with them.  No drama, no worries, just friends who care about you, and with whom you enjoy spending time.

July 22nd Clinton BC to Prince George BC

We were on our way before 8:00 AM.  We only have to travel about 250 miles today.  No gas stations open in Clinton on a Sunday morning so we went north to 70 Mile House to get gas which was only about thirty miles.  The good part was they were open, but the bad part was they only had regular gas and our bikes run on premium.  Dave and Bill had enough till we got to 100 Mile House but Dave and Larry each put a couple of gallons in so we were not running on empty.

We stopped for breakfast in 100 Mile House which got its name because it was 100 miles from Lillooet.  The original name of the town was Bridge Creek House.  The area has a population of about 20,000. 

We stopped at Smitty’s for breakfast with lots of laughter and then topped off our tanks with premium with a higher grade.  Back on the road… You could say it is a pretty straight shot because there were not a lot of noticeable twist and turns in the road and every few miles there were passing lanes.  The roads are fairly well maintained and lots of improvements in the works to add more lanes in some areas and more passing lanes in lots of areas.

A few eagles, three deer, and one possible fox sighting was the total animal count for the day.  Well, we also saw a few cows and lots of horses.

Farmland stretched out on either side of us, farmers bailing hay and some fields looked like they had been planted a second time.  Fields were dotted with round hay bales and open sided barns were filled.  We passed several large lakes and small communities but the wide open spaces with farms and forest land is almost more than you can comprehend when everyone is talking about how populated the world is.

More homesteads, barns, and out buildings built with logs lay abandoned and replaced by newer houses built from the early nineteen hundreds to the current date.  Split rail fences lined some of the old farms and numerous cattle chutes stood deserted.
A couple of stops to stretch our legs and we pulled into Prince George around three o’clock.  We headed to the local Harley dealer and it normally would have been closed on Sunday but a HOG group from Vancouver BC had arranged for the store to be open for their arrival.  A little shopping and we headed to our hotel.

Prince George is the largest city in northern British Columbia and was named in honor of King George III.  Logging and lumber mills are still the primary employers.
Mischief…we don’t look for it, it just sort of comes our way. All the girls are people watchers, not stalkers, we just watch people to see who they are and what they are doing. We laughed about the guy whose car broke down and hired some local guys who work on machinery for the logging industry to hammer, pound and bang away at this guy’s SUV trying to fix it.  They met at an ATM and I can’t imagine hiring anyone who looked like they did--no recommendations, no real shop, they just arrived at the motel with some tools and spent hours hammering away at fixing the bearing on his vehicle.

Ok, we went to dinner, laughed way too much and thought we would just go back to our rooms, socialize a little more and call it a night.  That was the plan.  The guys sort of were talking guy stuff and the girls were still just laughing and joking innocently enough.

 A car pulls into the parking lot, a woman gets out, low cut top, high heels, lace tights, short black skirt, (a lady of the night)  and proceeds up the stairs to the room of the out of town guy who had his car worked on by the sort of odd repairmen.  The door is open, she goes in unannounced but expected, about five minutes later the door is locked the curtains closed and we can’t believe there is a prostitute in our motel.
A few minutes later a pickup truck with two guys pulls into the parking lot taking up two spaces and this is what gets us to look at them because it seems all the trucks in the lots think they need two spaces.  The motor is running, and they just sit there.  We begin to think they are with the hooker when they don’t get out or leave.  Well they finally roll down the window; say something we can’t understand, get out of the truck and go into Wendy’s which is right across from the motel.  More speculation on our part and super sleuth detective Dawn decides to investigate.  She walks over to the motel entrance driveway and can see the two guys in Wendy’s having a cold drink watching the motel.  One of the guys is looking up at the room where we all firmly believe a transaction and exchange of money has taken place for sex.   Are these the pimps, the husband, the boyfriend, the brother who worked on the guy’s car…we don’t know, but they seem interested in the room.  About twenty-five minutes after she went in the room the two guys finally come out of Wendy’s and leave slowly.
About this time our husbands are thinking it’s getting late and time to head to our rooms so they come to check on us.  We told them our story and they sort of looked at us like we had been reading one too many novels or watching one too many police shows on television.  Well the innuendos rang out from the guys and a little singing with the girls saying shhhhhh and laughing.  Thirty-five minutes after the hooker went into the room, she left.  Lorie timed her. Then the guys believed us.
Speechless is what it came down to.  How could you ever imagine that we would stay in a motel and we would watch a hooker do business in front of us?  What happened in Prince George BC is public knowledge…the names were not changed because we don’t know who they are, but these are the facts, nothing but the facts, this is our story and we are sticking to it.

Night, night, 5:45 AM is wake up and we need to be in full rain gear, breakfast finished and on the road by 8:00 AM.  It is not a long day by miles, about two hundred and fifty miles, but rain, thunder, and lightening is predicted.

July 23, 2012 Prince George BC to Jasper National Park, Alberta

Bill said there was a sixty percent chance of rain today and it rained all but about fifteen minutes of the two hundred and fifty or so miles we rode from Prince George to Jasper, Alberta on the Trans-Canada Highway #16 also known as the Yellowhead Highway.  It misted, sprinkled, rained, poured, and dumped on us all day.

In those early morning hours you could see the heavy fog clinging to the side of the mountains.  Occasionally it would dip low into the valley and we would ride through this veil of mist.  There was never a clear hole in the clouds ahead; instead it was a grey cold day, all day.

The roads were pretty good with only an occasional rough spot and lots of passing lanes.  The traffic itself was not bad until we neared Jasper and then most of it was going east.  We did see our first moose running parallel to the road on the opposite side of the road from us.  What a magnificent sight. 

We were pretty much enveloped in a forest for the first one hundred and twenty-five miles.  It is almost unimaginable to think of this much land that is uninhabited except for an occasional farm or provincial park.  Of course this meant there were no towns for gas or breaks. 

When we finally arrived at a rest stop, I think McBride, we did stop for a short break and to add more layers, tuck existing  layers in, and try to find whatever else we had packed that might keep us warm and dry.

Back on the road our trip was interspersed with small clearings that farmers had carved out enough forest land to grown hay.  Occasionally a few horses could be seen huddled together in a field.  The rest of the day was forest and farms until we reached Jasper and then everything just seemed to change to canyons and rivers. 

A very slow moving train that must have been over a hundred cars moved westward between the road and the river.  To the west of Jasper, we crossed into the province of Alberta.  The main highway between Canada runs through Jasper National Park so you have to pay to go through it.  Dave and Lorie were the lead bike and paid for everyone so we wouldn’t have to stop for each bike.  When we pulled into for a pit stop a few minutes later the train had crossed to the other side of the road and the engineer blew his whistle and waved to us as he went by.  The thunder clapped overhead and it was time to ride.  Several minutes later we saw our first elk grazing under the tree branches on both sides of the road as we arrived in Jasper.

We drove from one end of town to the other and the street was filled with clothing stores, restaurants, and souvenirs shops.   We found our hotel and began pulling of layers of gear and clothing.  Water had managed to seep into and under rain gear, soaking shirts, pants, shoes, and socks and under the protective covers for our nylon bags strapped to our tour packs.  The hotel had a laundry so some items went straight to the dryer; other items were placed over the heaters in the bedrooms to dry.  My boots stayed dry but others were not as lucky, including Larry.  My helmet is another story and not sure how the whole lining became wet when I was wearing my hood from the rain gear.  It acted like a big wick which made for a fuzzy head of hair.
Everyone brewed a pot of coffee in their rooms to try and get warm and some of us had to go to the office for more coffee and towels.  Hot showers felt great and dry clothes even better.

Rather than ride to dinner or walk we found a local pizza place that also had sandwiches and salads so we ordered in.  Good idea!  Marla took our orders and called it in.   And still the rain is coming down.

It was a quiet evening visiting with our friends, watching a little television, and resting.  The funny thing is last night and tonight both the television had all three of the major Seattle channels so we could catch up on everything that was going on at home.
The plan is to have breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 AM and be on the road by8:00 AM. 

July 24th Jasper BC to Lake Louise BC and Radium Hot Springs BC

Food, dry clothes and we are ready to ride.  We were on the road by 8:00 AM.  The skies are grey and we are dressed for rain.  Going south we hope to leave the cooler weather and rain behind sometime today.

The pass through the mountains is beautiful.  We stopped at Sunwapta Falls to take pictures and had a short break.  It has been a steady light shower but nothing like yesterday.

We are pretty much following the valley floor next to the river.  You can see high the water marks when the spring floods come from melting snow.  The Canadian Rockies are breath taking and Larry said it was like riding through the North Cascades on steroids.  We stopped at the Columbia Ice Fields to take a break and admire the amazing scenery.  Marla fed crackers to a Canadian blue jay which sat on Bill’s windshield waiting to be fed.  We had our first mountain goat sighting.  Dawn spotted three teeny tiny white dots up on the mountainside that if you watched would slowly move.  We made one more stop at Crossing Café and motel for a break.

We stopped at Lake Louise for gas, food, and sightseeing.  Not as many tourists as I thought we might find considering the parking lot was full.  The lake is beautiful with its green ice cold glacier water and up high you can see the glacier that the water comes from.  Sometime after we left Lake Louise we crossed back into British Columbia.
Around every bend you think this must be it, but the road just keeps going past more amazing mountains, cliffs, and rock formations.  We began to see lots of deer alongside the road as we moved farther south. 

We arrived in Radium Hot Springs about 3:30 PM and checked into our motel.  We walked down to a German restaurant for dinner and it was early to bed for an early departure tomorrow morning.

Radium Hot springs is a small town of about eight hundred people in east Kootenay BC.  It is named for the hot spring in Kootenay National Park.  There are radioactive elements but they are insignificant.  We did not, however, decide to join the several hundred other people in dipping our toes in the hot springs.

July 25th Radium Hot Springs BC to Columbia Falls Montana USA

The sun is shining and while there is a little fog surrounding the valley, there is no rain in the forecast.  We filled our tanks and looked across the street to see seven male Big Horn Sheep having an early morning meal of plants and leaves on the center median.  They looked calm, not afraid of people, and no fear of vehicles. 

We crossed back into Alberta and passed Frank’s Slide near Crowsnest Pass.  Turtle Mountain collapsed April 29, 1903 and in one hundred seconds, rock, wind, and dust blew through this little valley killing seventy to ninety people.  This was one of the largest landslides in Canadian history and the deadliest.  The slide area looks almost exactly as it did the day it happened.  To see half a mountain side gone, spread out across the valley floor with boulders as big as semi trucks is truly remarkable.
We passed many lakes and streams, crossed the Columbia River, Kootenai River, saw deer, and cattle in the farmlands.  The forested lands gave way to farm land that changed into dry land covered in sage brush.

The border crossing was quick at Chief Mountain  and we drove through open range land and slowed for cattle that couldn’t decide, when they heard our loud pipes, if they wanted to cross the road or just stand and stare at us. We stopped at St. Mary’s on the east of Glacier National Park for lunch.   A half hour wait at the small restaurant (they make homemade pie) was more than we wanted to wait, so we grabbed lunchables and rode on.  There are only a few restaurants and gas stations for miles in either direction and this is a popular rest stop and accounts for the large crowds at any time of the day.
We entered Glacier National Park on the east side riding the “Going-to-the Sun” to the top of mountain.  Clear blue skies with white fluffy clouds that Montana is so famous for filled the horizon.  We stopped at the top of the mountain and saw big horn sheep, mountain goats, and ground squirrels. 

Glacier National Park is over one million acres and borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.  The two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and was designated as the world’s first International Peace Park in nineteen thirty-two.

We were on the mountain side going east to west towards Columbia Falls where we would be staying for the night.  A long stretch of the road was one lane and long lines of cars, trucks and motorcycles were led through by a pilot car as we crossed the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.

We checked into our motel for the night, the guys washed the bikes, we found ice, soda, chairs, glasses, and settled in to socialize.  We ordered pizza, salad, wings, and sat out in a little covered barbeque area behind our rooms to eat dinner. 

July 26 Columbia Falls Montana to Sandpoint Idaho

A beautiful sunny day and I am starting the day out without having to layer on or plug in the heated gear.  From Columbia Falls we went south along Flathead Lake to Elmo where we went west and south to Hot Springs Montana which is about half way between Kalispell and Missoula in the Cabinet Mountains.   After a brief stop for cold drinks and Dave J. tried to peek into the wizard’s room and got caught, we were back on the road again.

We stopped in Thompson Falls Montana for lunch at Minnie’s Café.  Great service, good food, and we had the whole back room to ourselves or maybe they wanted to keep us bad bikers away from the regular customers…haha.  This is a cute little town with businesses on one side and the railway on the other side of the street.

We got stopped somewhere before Sandpoint Idaho for road construction.  We had about a fifteen to twenty minute wait before a pilot car led us out of the construction zone.  We headed northwest to our destination and our route took us next to lakes and rivers, slowly leaving the farmland behind and climbing into forest. 

We arrived in Sandpoint Idaho in time for a quick rest before we gathered to as Larry likes to say “laugh and splash”.  We choose McDonalds for dinner rather than ride and it was only about a hundred yards away from the motel.  Something for everyone, salads, chicken, burgers, mocha frappes, and ice cream in waffle cones.  What a way to end the day

7-27 Sandpoint to Omak

Continental breakfast in the motel and we were ready to go.  It is going to be another warm day.  We heard before we left that Republic had winds over one hundred miles an hour the week before.  Downed power lines meant power outages and we weren’t sure what to expect on the roads.   Republic has been our go-to Fourth of July get away for several years.  We broke from tradition this year, instead just passing through on our week long ride.

The roads are less traveled in this part of the state, mostly locals and vacationers.  I missed the sign saying we had crossed into Washington State but the landscape didn’t scream, leaving Idaho, entering Washington.  In fact it looked a lot like the mountains of Montana and lower British Columbia and Alberta we rode through. 

We stopped at Beaver Lodge Resort and Campground located at Tiger Pass in the Colville National Forest for a break.  It sits next to Lake Gillette and Lorie said it is one of four interconnected lakes of Little Pend Oreille Lakes chain.   

We stopped for gas in Colville and continued on toward Republic.  We ran into road construction in several places but were lucky enough not to have to wait in the heat today.

 We continued on past Kettle Falls, over Sherman Pass, and began our descent into the valley to Republic.  We began to see trees snapped in two or completely uprooted.  Several trees were downed and laying on top of outbuildings.  Road crews had been through and cleared the road leaving chain sawed remnants beside the road.  The closer we got to town the more devastation of the forest we saw. 

We stopped at Sportsman Roost for lunch.  Our waitress said the town had been without power for about a day and a half but some places lost power for five days.  Right before we finished and left the restaurant a tree crew came in for lunch.  They were from Seattle and had come to help clear trees so power could be restored.   

We rode to Tonasket for a pit stop, shade, cold drinks, ice cream and then finished the final leg of our trip today in Omak.    Did I mention it’s hot, really hot?  Checked in we had air conditioned rooms, time for showers, and naps before dinner.  We walked across the parking lot to the Koala Street Grill for dinner.  This is our last night together.  We stood around the parking lot after dinner talking, laughing, watching the wind pick up, and finally blowing tumbleweeds across the road which was our sign to call it a night.

7-28 Omak to home

We had continental breakfast in the motel and then we mounted up and headed home.  We stopped in Twisp for gas and then breezed through Winthrop.  Heading up the mountain we could feel the cold air and were thankful we had layered up for the trip home.  There is still snow on the sides of the roadway and we pulled off at Rainy Pass for a rest stop.  Next stop Marblemount for gas and drinks.  We have decided to stop at Bob’s Burger and Brew in Burlington for lunch.  It’s been eight days since we pulled out of Bellingham and the time has gone quickly.

We can’t wait for the next adventure and we are genuinely thankful for true friends to ride with.  A special thank you to Dave M. for planning, arranging accommodations, details, and making this trip a success.

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