Biker Bodie is too old to cross Canada

Biker Bodie is too old to cross Canada
Question is, are we?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Safe Return Home With Sincere Thanks To All

Well it was indeed great to be re-united my very good friend Bodie and have him join Grant and me on the final leg of the trip.
He had been staying at Kate's new house enjoying the freedom of her yard and the company of Kate's assembly of dogs, cats and kids. I was disappointed to learn Daisy was at her dad's but will catch up with her soon.
For a post-modern girl, Kate surprised me by falling in love with a hundred year old house in the Squamish village centre. Some work ahead, but the house has a wonderfully calm feel and Kate is indeed "happy". She has been painting and cleaning with the help of family and friends and the old house is becoming Katie's home and feels very welcoming. Her modern furniture and hand made lamps and tables look quite at home on the old wood floors. Lovely to sit in the garden in the sun and see the contented smile of her face as she builds her new life here.
When we arrived, the yard was full of friends doing battle with the overgrown garden, retrieving all manner of treasures that had been lost under decades of blackberries. Amongst them a chicken coup and a tiny cast iron stove. We joined the battle and with whoops of joy, discovered the scattered tops and handles that complete the stove.
Sarah particularly, blackberry warrior was criss-crossed with stinging scratches. We stopped to apply salve and force down a dose of medicinal beer.
Sunday morning was clear and sunny and Bodie reluctantly sulked in a cat carrier tied to Grant's bike with yellow poly. His proper plush lined dog carrier was in town.
The highway up to Squamish is just about finished and the views of the mountains and water are fabulous. Lots of bikes passed us and I envied them their ride up the coast in the sea air and sunshine.
Couldn't wait to get to town and see my mother, daughter Zoe, her man Geoff and baby Zara. We stopped at mum's first. It was so wonderful to see her after so long and share a hug. She treated us to a wonderful lunch and a few hours visit. As we were leaving, a gentleman approached and introduced himself as Harold who had kindly acted as go-between for my mother. He printed off our emails and blog entries and slid them under my mum's door. It was a kindness much appreciated.
Great to see Zoe and Geoff and enjoy another sunny afternoon in the retreat they've created in their backyard. They shared their plans for the future as Zara enjoyed pouring dirt down the front of her shirt. She has discovered her voice and speaks with her mum's lilt. They all looked great and we made plans for my return for a longer stay before heading out to the ferry. Bodie was back in his usual plush carrier for this leg of the trip.
We wanted to get in a visit to our friends Al and Denise on the Sunshine Coast before heading back to the Island. Once again, we were wined and dined blessed by their warm friendship. Denise and I shared a great day of chatter exploring the trails of Gibsons picking lusciously huge sweet blackberries. Grant spent the day off with Al, no doubt glad of some male company and conversation.
We woke the next morning and excitedly loaded the bikes for the return trip home. The sky was grey and rain threatened. It seemed somehow appropriate. We were lucky with connections and rode off one ferry and onto the next. Bodie caused quite a stir when his head poked out of the sunroof in his carrier. The paparazzi gathered and their photos must have looked very similar to the one at the top of our blog.
There were a number of bikers on the ferry, one of whom had also crossed Canada this summer on a solo "retirement" ride. We shared rain stories. He had ridden in some areas with 5 inches of water on the road.
We asked him about any adjustment he's experienced returning home. A jovial sort, he said he didn't know. He been on several other trips since his return, embracing every invitation to join a buddy on a 2 or 3 day adventure. He smiled at the thought of his patient wife of 36 years who blessed him with a "Just go!". He rides with some friends to Port Alberni every Friday at noon. They stop on the Quay for some of the excellent home made donuts and invited us to meet up with them there.
It felt lovely to return to calm and peace of our home. I suspect we shared a deep tiredness that goes to the bones and doesn't quite leave the body after 8 hours of sleep. It's taken two days and I'm coming round.
Aside from the experiences of the trip, the blog has been great fun. Grant's undiscovered writing talents have blossomed and he's enjoyed the process. It became a race to see who could get to the keyboard first.
The blog has been a great way to stay in touch and acts as a journal of sorts. Grant's dad, Mel has been kindly printing off entries and assembling them in a book so we can have the pleasure of re-visiting our trip in the years ahead.
Returning home has been followed by a busy two days as we've dealt a table top of mail and catching up with the business of life. It's interesting that Grant spent his first day home on his bike riding east to the motorcycle dealership and bike shop getting parts and oil for the bikes. He finished his day happily tinkering in his shop. I think this for him means being home.
For my part that has meant being out in the garden gathering flowers for arrangements and generally playing house. It feels good home and be still in body and spirit for awhile.
That being said, we're already talking and planning about our next trip. It won't be as long a duration, but being in the clear, fresh air on your bike with the promise of things new and unseen around the next corner is very addicting.
It is an interesting thing to travel and be away from job, home, friends and all the things that define us. It's an opportunity to revert back to basic self. One of the great pleasures of touring is the luxury of time to be alone with your thoughts.
It will take some time to process the events of the trip and what it has meant to us. Our chance meetings with people have enriched us. One of the great gifts of the trip has been an opportunity to renew our connection with Nature.
I looked at a map of Canada yesterday and was shocked that I, a granny biker, had ridden that distance. Aside from the rain which I have chosen to think of as character building, the trip was not terribly difficult. Like most of life's challenges it's clearly best taken one day at a time.
Our experiences on the road were made possible and enriched by the kindness of friends, family and strangers. We thank you all very much.
I'd also like to thank Grant who in so many ways made this trip possible. He introduced me to the joys of biking and patiently encouraged, not to mention financed, my journey to ride my own. He has been a wonderful road partner and life partner. Thank you.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Laydown In Logan Lake

Thursday morning. Yes,,, more sunshine. Another free motel breakfast. Two ladies riding Harleys from Alberta held the floor with their conversation with an elderly couple. A popular topic was the explanation of 'chicken strips. These are the unworn portions of tread on the edge of a rear tire that do not get worn from leaning into corners. The wider the strip the more chicken the rider. Once loaded up Jill lead over to the gas station. We left Princeton via hwy. 5A to Merrit. I had been on this road a couple years ago with a group from our bike club. That time we were going by Logan Lake too.
5A is a very enjoyable road to ride. Lots of windy bits but can be travelled at a nice speed. Numerous lakes are picturesquely placed along the highway. There are a lot of nice cabins and recreation properties around these lakes. One lake in particular was a gorgeous rich green color and there were two bright new red kayaks being paddled on it. The contrast of colors was spellbinding. The highway began to go up into higher terrain, not mountainous though. Low hills rolled off on both sides of us. Just before Merrit we came to the junction of 97C that leads right into Merrit and through to Logan Lake. We took a coffee break at an unusual restaurant called Red Top. A familiar name but the similarity ended there. It is a circular shaped building with windows all round. A Korean couple was busy setting up for the day. All of the hand written menus at the buffet and counter were written in Korean with English under. Our stop was only for coffee so I couldn't say how the food was.
From Merrit Jill lead the way to Logan Lake. This part was an extremely nice ride too. Lots of rangeland bordered the road. The ravages of the pine beetle is very obvious along the hillsides and quite starling to see the damage done. Near the large mining truck at the info centre of Logan Lake Jill let me go by as she wasn't sure of the exact way to cousin Norm and Marne's house. We somehow managed to arrive quietly and get to the front door before Norm exuberantly realized that we were there. We were immediately welcomed in and embroiled in conversation. Shortly Marne arrived home and met us with her ever warm smile. We were informed that Norm had all meals planned out and that we should just relax. And relax we did. We were treated absolutely royally. Beautifully BBQed dinners each came with a lesson. We learned how to use a steam cleaning kind of way of cleaning grills with denim and water. Of course the bbq is preheated to 700 degrees. And how to bake potatoes with a tube of copper. Here a length of copper is sharpened at one end. Nice to do on a lathe. Marked at the opposite end to identify the sharp one and polished clean. Two such implements were fabricated by Norm and given to us. The method is to simply push the pipe through the centre of the potato, poke out the core, butter and spice the potato, wrap in foil and grill. It takes about half as long to cook the potato and the centre is cooked every bit a well as the outside. Our hosts treated us tenderly and we really got chilled out.
Saturday brought us one step closer to home. We had heard that rain was expected by Wednesday so we would like to get home Tuesday. But we shall see. Now the forecast is for showers Tuesday.
We were on Hwy. 97C to Merrit by 10:00 after a great send off from Norm and Marne. The one hour time saving prompted us to consider taking the Coquohalla for scenery we hadn't seen yet. Another invigorating ride through the rangelands brought us to Merrit where we topped our tanks. At the gas station there were several other riders heading for one of the highways from town. One Harley, two sport bikes and a girl on a Honda Fury. Only the second one I have seen on the trip. I asked her opinion about the bike and she said it really was nice and went like stink. The Coqu. (or Hwy 5) sure does move the traffic along. Jill took the lead for the portion to Hope and set off in a blaze. I think she had daughters and grand daughters in her eyes. We did make good time although we took a stop at the rest area just after the toll booth that is no longer there. Arriving at the Home Cafe in Hope at noon you would just know there would be a line up at the door.
After lunch we were now off to a cluster of traffic that we would previously try to avoid. The ride in from Hope went quite smoothly though. Even the portion when Jill and I got separated by quite a distance in different lanes at the Port Mann Bridge. We got back together by Willingdon.
Jill had spoken to Kate earlier and was told there was a bed for us at her new home in Squamish. So we made our way through the North Shore and onto the new Squamish highway. It is a beautiful thing to drive. Thanks to very clear directions we rolled up to Kate's easily. Her house is a very nice two storey home with a great yard. Two of Kate's friends were there helping cut down the overgrown blackberries. The yard shows greater potential the more it is cleaned up. There are some pretty interesting finds too. Not the least of which is a small little cast iron wood burning camp stove. There is a healthy plum tree in the front yard, a cherry tree growing over the side fence and a magnificent arbor centering the back yard. The arbor is covered with grapes. I really like the open kitchen and living room. I will leave it for Jill to better describe the house. At the end of the workday Kate cooked us up a fabulous meal with lamb chops and a beet salad like only Kate can make it. With all the trimmings we were soon all stuffed. Sara had stayed for dinner and was going to a nearby pub with Kate to see an AC/DC cover band. We were invited to join them but chose discretion and opted to stay home and watch the dogs. Jill is now re-united with Bodie. I guess I won't be the only one sleeping in Jill's bed tonight.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chicken In Nelson

Hooray for sunshine. Jill and I both woke fairly early Monday morning in Revelstoke, so had lots of time to shower and wipe down the bikes before having our free continental breakfast. We fueled up and got under way on hwy. 23 to Shelter Bay to catch the ferry to Gelena and on to Nakusp were we went to a rustic little cafe in an old church that we had discovered several years ago. The coffee and cinnamon bun was as good as last time. The road down to there was very beautiful and Arrow lake is a great compliment to the scenery. No wildlife encounters like the one experienced by last year when James, Dan, Gary and I had driven that route. The roads in this part of BC are fabulous biking roads and are very popular. This time there were still lots of bikes to wave at as there usually is.
When we arrived in New Denver we took 31A via Kaslo. We did the other way on #6 earlier in our trip. Under sunny skies the ride to Kaslo was a true pleasure winding our way through heavy forested areas and along rivers. We stopped in Kaslo for lunch at the Blue Belle Cafe. It is a very hippyish (what isn't in Kaslo) restaurant with sensational sunscreen structure over the outside deck. The posts are arced wooden logs that have been ripped in half to make matching sides with similar roof frame and a screen mesh that cut the glare of the sun just right. The meal was a healthy spread with edible flowers decorating the plate.
We arrived in Nelson around 2:00 and headed to Kokanee Creek Provincial Park hoping to find a nice spot like the one we had our wet time here back in June. Although it was a Monday and early we still wound up in the overflow area. Luckily we still managed to get a corner spot that had a nice tree for shade. We got ourselves set up and called Donna and Norm to let them know we were there. Shortly we were in the loving embrace of very warm friends. Jill had been aching to hear how Donna and daughter Jodie's motorcycle lessons were going and to get a look at the bikes they had purchased since our last visit. Jodie had a lovely 750 Vulcan and Donna had a 600 Honda VLX just like the one Jill had before. Both were in lovely shape and both girls were sincerely endeared to them. Our arrival timed nicely with Norm's desire to call an end to his work day, so we sat out on the patio with a drink each. We were treated to an outstanding dinner that came largely from Donna's garden. Fresh garden salad and an absolutely wonderful eggplant lasagna that could have changed the heart of the most staunch eggplant hater. We enjoyed a wonderful evening visiting and headed back to the campground, which is only minutes away, before dark.
The next morning Jill got up to start coffee and discovered that we had a guest at the campsite. A lone wondering chicken had come around begging for food. She was the friendliest little thing, not the least bit shy of people. Rather surprising to find in a Provincial Park. After the three of us had breakfast I headed to the shower and Jill went for dip in the lake. Not my cup of tea in the morning so I took the walk over the proper camping area showers for some hot water. Afterwards Jill took a ride over to Donna's and called me to say that she, Donna and Jodie were going for a ride together to Harrop and Proctor. So I relaxed with my book under the tree.
Back in Revelstoke I had received a text message from Dan and Margaret, friends from Port Alberni to say that they were on a ride through the Kootenays and would be in Ainsworth Hot Springs on Tuesday and maybe we could meet for lunch or something. So we had arranged that they would call us when they arrived in Nelson. Well they surprised me by showing up at our campsite. The two smiling ecstatically got off their bikes and we soon were embroiled in tales of our respective trips. Shortly there after Jill, Donna and Jodie rolled in and we all sat around talking about bikes and life.
Jill escorted Donna and Jodie home as they are still required to have a supervisor ride with them till they have done their road tests. Then she, I, Dan and Margaret went to the Dock and Duck Pub at the Balfour Ferry terminal for lunch. Over looking the ferry terminal and Kokanee lake we enjoyed a very satisfying lunch. We wandered around the shops there and then went back to the campsite for a sit and a rest.
Donna had graciously invited all of us for a homemade ravioli dinner and said that preps would begin around three. So we then all drove over to Donna and Norm's. The women all participated in the making of the ravioli. With bbq-ed sausage and another great fresh salad we were treated to a dinner that was out of this world. Dan and Norm, both working in the forestry business found lots of common ground. The evening was splashed with stories from Jodie's job in a lingerie boutique and others of quirky little stories of life. It was a fantastic evening and I give my thanks to all who were a part of it. Dan and Margaret left for their reservations at Ainsworth and shortly after Jill and I retired to our familiar tent trailer.
Surprises just never end. When we got to the campsite we found messages on our cells that James and Bonnie, also from Port Alberni had checked in at Ainsworth Hot Springs and wondered if we could meet for coffee in the morning. Needless to say they met up with Dan and Margaret at Ainsworth.
This morning came with a cock-a-doodle-doo. It seems our little chicken has a suitor out in the bush and he made sure everyone was awake at dawn. And when we got out of the tent the chicken was back for more food. She would even walk right under your chair and pick crumbs at your feet.
I called James early, cause he said 'call me when you get up' and we arranged to meet at the campsite at 9:00. He and Bonnie showed up and had the same wild excited look that Dan and Margaret had had. We drove into Nelson and had coffee at a market along the main drag and talked about everything that we could think of. Their trip had been a spur of the moment thing on Sunday when James called Bonnie to say that he was heading to the house to pack their stuff and he would meet her go to the ferry. Good on them for seizing the moment.
Their destination was Osoyoos and ours was Princeton so we made the best of the co-incidence and rode together as far as Osoyoos. In Grand Forks we stopped at the Grand Forks Hotel to check out a russian restaurant that Dan had raved about the other day. We were not let down in the least. The perogies and cabbage rolls were like not I had ever had before. While in the restaurant two fellows walked in and low and behold they were from Port Alberni. Al Webb and his friend Wayne were on their way on their bikes to visit their sons in Pincher Creek. Wow what a small world.
In Osoyoos we waved good bye to James and Bonnie as they headed for accommodations and we rode on in the heat of the day for Princeton. It was only about another 120 kms. but it could not be managed without a stop in Keremeos for ice cream. By the time we made Princeton we were pretty much done by the heat, not that we will complain about having heat and sun. So we grabbed a motel we were familiar with that has an outdoor pool. Not long after arriving we had our core temperature drastically lowered in the cool pool. Refreshed and revitalized we strolled to the Brown Bridge Pub next door and had a very nice dinner. It has been a remarkable last couple of days. Filled with surprises, co-incidents and warm valuable friendships. Jill and I are feeling truly blessed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back in BC

We're back in BC today, refreshed by our stay at the Gibson Family Spa and Resort where we were coddled and doted on by the entire family.
Grant's dad, Mel made an amazing recovery from his surgery surprising his doctors who discharged him from hospital a day early. Our visit coincided with one from Grant's sister Kerri who had flown out from Victoria. His other sister, Melanie and family live in Calgary so the gang was all there!
As a mum, I can appreciate the joy Grant's mum Elsie must have felt to have her entire brood within arms reach. I ate so much of her wonderful baking, I had to add more air to the bike tires.
We were able to join the rest of the family for an evening at the Jubilee Theatre for a performance of The Lion King. It was so imaginatively presented and will remain a wonderful memory of our trip.
We brought grey skies with us to Calgary. Like the farmers, we have been obsessing about weather of late. Our only concern is getting wet, but for them it is becoming a question of survival. We have witnessed the toll this unusual weather has taken on crops across Canada. The next few weeks will be crucial. A poor harvest will be a real concern in recessionary times.
We spent last night and this morning glued to the weather channel. The satellite maps showed clear skies for Calgary west. They lied or we are indeed jinxed. It started to rain before we'd even cleared the city limits and we were forced to stop and join the several other bikers getting into rain gear. Grant had just washed the bikes and shook his fist at the sky, but it just got wet.
The rain cleared around Cochrane as the Rockies came into view. Wispy clouds stuck to the rocky tips of the mountains. Some of the valleys were opaque with sheets of rain, but curves of the highway saved us from a real drenching.
We stopped for gas and a coffee and Grant commented that his bike was not running well. Grant speculated that it might need new plugs and a fuel filter which would require a Honda dealer. We have such faith in Hondas. Even the parts person at the Harley dealer in St. Johns, NB whispered that of all the bikes one might use for touring, the Honda could be relied upon to get you home without a breakdown.
As Grant played with his throttle, even my unschooled ear could hear that the bike sounded terrible. We discussed the possibility of returning to Calgary rather than risk getting stranded. It seemed a terrible thing to back track and I was sooooo looking forward to getting to Nelson to see Donna's new bike.
Grant started removing housings and pushing and prodding on connections. It's a fortunate thing that I am traveling with someone who is so knowledgeable about the mechanics of motorcycles. We were saved from disaster and the expense of a mechanic when Grant noticed his choke was out from the morning's start.
We followed Hwy #1 all the way today. It was a busy route chock a block with cars, huge campers, trucks pulling boats, semis... the lot. The Rockies are still magnificent, but traffic required a rider's full attention. I missed the luxury of empty secondary highways under a clear blue sky. But it was still a good day.
We did about 460 km. today ending our ride in Revelstoke at about 4:30. Our sojourn with Mel and Elsie had left us well rested and I could happily have kept going. Perhaps we are becoming used to the rhythms of the road. Perhaps we have grown "iron butts". Perhaps we are geriatric "road warriors".
We opted for a motel as we didn't like the look of the sky and the simple act of closing our motel door allows us an early start to tomorrow's ride.
Our friends, Dan and Margaret left Port Alberni this morning headed east. Perhaps we will "meet in the middle" for a beer and chin wag somewhere in the Kootenays. Looking forward to it. They bring a touch of home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back to Cowtown

Saskatoon did a fine job of drying us out. We had a lovely lazy Sunday. I got the bikes clean and everything running like a top. A leisurely walk around the property stretched our muscles a bit.
It is more than a thankful thing that we headed straight to the campground Saturday rather than out onto the highway after the sad installation of my new back tire. As I began to install new brake pads the first thing that I noticed was the tube had been put in backwards with the stem pointing the wrong way. When I proceeded to loosen the caliper I became curious about why it would not swing up as it normally. Why did the brake line looked pinched? A good look over the situation soon identified a horrible fact. The all important bolt that holds the caliper bracket solid to the frame was not screwed in. Therefore, when a brake application was made the caliper spun with the rotor. Fortunately, to some degree, the caliper struck the rear shock getting stuck there. The shock is damaged but only cosmetic and it still functions fine. I had to loosen the wheel axle, re-align the bracket and secure the frame bolt. When this was all done I installed the new pads and was happy to see the pinched line did not leak when I tested the brakes. I really had some words for the shop that did the installation.
Monday was a bright sunny morning, already warm by the time we were ready to leave around 9:15. The first stop would be R&L Cycle before leaving town. At the shop I spoke with a chap who seemed to be the owner or manager, not there Saturday. He was quite horrified by my story and the possible risk. I got a complete refund with some humble pie and a vow to have strong words with the young guy who did the job.
We left Saskatoon on Hwy. 14 delaying our breakfast till our first fuel stop. We went as far a Biggar and stopped at a station that boasted a restaurant. The little station was run by an oriental couple who worked hard on their little enterprise. The restaurant could use a coat of paint but the breaky was good and they did have premium fuel. I was a little surprised to see the wife who did the cooking also come out to the pumps when we filled up. She couldn't believe that our bikes were six years old.
Our planned route was to leave via Hwy. 14 then turn onto #51 to travel on a quieter secondary highway. Quiet it was. The secondary routes are often more scenic and less traveled . The same held true this time. The fields of crops rolled like the swells out on the ocean. The intense yellow of the canola fields interspersed with the soft blue of the fields of flax.
Little dips and valleys added variety to the landscape that is quite lovely. The roads are long and straight but the prairies are by no means boring. We both enjoyed the flatlands a lot. The road surface of #51 is a bit rougher than the bigger ones but still easy to ride and the new tire certainly makes a difference. As we rode along my thoughts began to dwell on the issue of gas station frequency. We were well beyond the point of no return and my imagination started to run amok. One of the advantages of the straight rolling road is that you can see a vehicle coming for some time. I saw a pickup coming and pulled over and waited for it's arrival. Waving it down we met with a couple of friendly farmers curious about where we were from. They told us the next town was about 20 kms. ahead and it was a BIG town with 3,000 residents. We graciously thanked them and were off to checkout this big town. In Kerrobert we found the gas station, topped up and never worried about fuel supply again. The fellow there commented that it was surprising that the wind was not blowing 100 mph, yet. Luckily we didn't encounter any wind.
Our intended stop for the night was Coronation, Alberta. At the point of entering Alberta the road changed from #51 to #12. That was not all that changed. The road surface became wonderful. Coronation is a wonderful little town. As you come in there is a very attractive welcome sign in a park like setting with a CN railcar, some old buildings, some farm implements and just a real feel of a lot of pride in the little town. Because of the crowded situation in Saskatoon campsites, I had called ahead the day before to reserve a campsite. I spoke with Bob and when I asked if they were busy he said 'if making coffee is busy, I guess I am'. We followed the signage to the campground at the dam and found Bob and buddies at his trailer. Bob told me not to talk to the other two guys cause that would start a conversation and sure enough it did. They were a happy group of gentlemen who had done a bit of traveling themselves. Bob told us about a B&B he had stayed in out in Vancouver a few years back. About 20 minutes later we headed to our campsite. Clearly there was no need to call ahead.
The campground is located by a stocked pond with a resident pelican swimming aimlessly around. A large brood of other waterfowl also grouped together out near the centre of the pond. A group of young men were down on the dock fishing. After dinner we took a walk around the pond. We got some nice pictures of the pelican and of a fabulous sunset. We never did see the pelican catch a fish, he just swam around. There were however lots of fish jumping and feeding at the surface. Back at the campsite we enjoyed a big campfire thanks the kindness of Bob. Earlier Jill had gone over to confirm that we could have one and he gleefully took her for a ride on his tractor/quad unit and dumped a pile of nice wood at our site. We polished off the Sambuca and basked in the warmth of what could be our last fire. Likely we will not be able to have any in BC.
We had the campsite to ourselves. Our only neighbours were coyotes who gathered for a revival meeting during the night. They entertained us with spirited versions of old spirituals like, "The Hills Are Full of Fat, Glossy Gophers. Hallelujah!" and "There's A Hole In The Hen House and Farmer John's Gone to Town".
Tuesday morning we left Coronation and headed to Calgary. My dad had his first surgery ever and is in the hospital. My sister Kerri is also arriving today from Victoria. So we will stay till dad is home from hospital and comfortable.
Our first stop was in Stettler were we found a super little coffee shop and enjoyed coffee and a cinnamon bun. As we headed westward from there, the sky in that direction began to look very threatening. Fortunately, the way we were going was to turn south on #21 rather than go to Red Deer and onto #2. This was a very fortunate decision and we only met with a few raindrops and headed toward sunny skies. A fuel up in the one pump town of Elnora and onto Strathmore. Strathmore Husky had a restaurant were we had lunch and were served by one of the friendliest waitresses we ever met. Surprisingly, or not, it began to rain about three minutes after we arrived at my parents house.
Mom and I took a run to visit dad at the hospital while my sisters Melanie and Kerri looked after dinner. Dad is feeling well and in good spirits and hopefully the doctors will let him go home by the weekend. Back at the house we had a terrific dinner with mom, Melanie and her husband Kim, daughter Lisanne, son Josh, Kerri, Jill and me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Did that sign say Kandahar, Saskachewan???

Left Portage under grey skies. The Weather Channel advised humidity was at 89%. That’s a high number. One wondered if rain gear plus snorkel was required.

We geared up and pointed west through the gloom. The rain was light, but visibility poor. The straight flat road made for easy travel and within an hour or two the rain stopped and the roads were dry. Local traffic thinned out and we had the highway to ourselves.

I had suggested to Grant that we stop for lunch in Minnedosa, the town we enjoyed so much. They have an excellent restaurant there and I rode happily anticipating a bowl of hot, home made soup to ward off the chill.

Grant, in the lead drove past the restaurant, and headed off the highway into town stopping at the coffee shop we’d visited. It’s an old building with fourteen foot high ceilings covered with the old embossed tin panels. The counter and shelving are the original varnished oak. The mod cons are expresso machines and some leather couches.

We’d barely cleared the door when fellow seeing all our rain gear, yelled, “Have you guys been out snowmobiling?”

“Just about,” we laughed.

He was sitting at a table with three men in their sixties. One imagines it was a regularly scheduled meeting with the purpose of resolving important world issues. The caller was a string bean sort of fella sporting a John Deere green baseball hat worn high on his head. In gold embroidery were the words, “Veteran of the Korean War”.

He explained he was just released from hospital following knee surgery, but on a good day rode his Harley. He was 76 and full of curiosity about what we were up to and interrogated us fully. He went out and had a look at the trailer and came back with another barrage.

We joined the three at their table and enjoyed the wonderful company of these three intelligent, lively gentleman.

We learned more about the affect of the weather on local farmers. Crops in this part of Manitoba are a month behind and many fields required re-seeding after the constant rain rotted the first seeds.

Our 76 year old friend in the green hat still tours all over the Prairies with his bike. He’d been all over Vancouver Island and recounted lunch on the PA Quay watching the salmon run.

Seems Grant and my miscommunication was a happy mistake. So enjoyed meeting these gentlemen and seeing their lively age-defying spirit. Lunch at the coffee shop was a latté & cinnamon bun, not the healthiest of options. Also was able to use the “destiny” excuse to justify buying some jewellery I’d had my eye on first time around.

The after lunch ride became much wetter and more miserable. Find it best to ride with my visor up under rainy conditions. It’s the only way I can see the road and I’m hoping the rain will be good for my skin. The straight roads and sparse traffic were appreciated.

Rainfall increased as the afternoon wore on. The wet seeped down my neck, up my sleeves until I was wet through and chilled. My ability to “put on a good face”, “be a good sport about it” about riding in the rain have long gone. I was a grumpy sorry old woman when we pulled into the Howard Johnson in Yorkton.

Words cannot describe the deep simple pleasure of a hot bath, changing into dry clothes and sitting back with a paper cup of Sambuca, TV controller in hand.

That night we used the internet to check weather and picked the driest highway possible. Destination Saskatoon.

Our departure from Yorkton was a gloomy one. An expectant peek through the curtains confirmed the worst. The reality of putting on wet rain gear and slimy wet gloves takes the shine off a new day.

Again, this is the best place to be under these riding conditions. Traffic is light and the terrain flat enough to offer decent warning of approaching vehicles. The road was so straight, you could probably just tie off the handlebars with rope and sit back.

There is a certain beauty to the rainy landscape. Colours are deepened by the rain and the fields of canola surrounded by lines of dark green trees under grey skies would make a fine painting.

About two hundred kilometres from Saskatoon, the clouds broke up and the blue took over. I finally started to feel warm again. At a gas stop, we optimistically took off the wet rain gear.

It’s lovely country here. The canola fields are interspersed with blue fields of flax. Small lakes with waterfowl are everywhere. The broods of goslings are teenagers now and mum & dad stood tall and vigilant as their brood fed besides the roads. We could see them swimming in precise rows, everyone getting fat and strong for their Fall journey.

We were surprised to see signage pointing to the town of Kandahar. Learned later that it was named by Canadian Pacific Railway executives in the late 1800s for a British military victory in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Saskatoon lay ahead under clear blue skies. Our stop there has a mission. Grant was concerned about the lack of tread on his rear tire causing him to slip abit in the rain. He had phoned ahead and found the tire he wanted in one store, and a shop nearby to do the install. This gave us a relaxed lunch break before we headed to the Information booth for advice about campsites.

Saskatoon is a vibrant city with lots going on. it was the weekend and all the campgrounds were all full so we joined the “overflow” crowd in a field adjacent to the Gordon Howe Campground in the heart of Saskatoon. The campground proper is just lovely and we learned that many families from the farms and small towns in southern Saskatchewan were in town for the Exhibition.

The “overflow” area of a campground is perhaps the North American version of a refugee camp. There are no trees for shade or to act as a reminder of nature. It’s very much cheek to jowl. There is a porta potty and a tap, but the sign warns the water isn’t potable.

We've met some very nice folks here and been subjected to some pretty abusive partiers down the way.

When Grant picked up his bike, the mechanic warned him that his rear brakes were quite worn. Grant had a pair of pads with his tool kit and after the tent was up, a tired and sweating guy set to work.

It didn't go well. The young mechanic had neglected to tighten a key bolt. The brake callipers rotated about the hub, denting the shock and pinching the brake line. It is very fortunate Grant is the kind of person who does not let things ride. This mechanical situation could have been disastrous. We intend to return to the shop on Monday morning for words.

Grant is off now washing the bikes. They look absolutely terribly dirty and bug splattered. The term is “Rat Bike”.

We hope to explore the river side parks in Saskatoon today and generally take it easy. We’ve put in a series of long rides in the rain and I for one need a gentle day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The flat bit in the middle

Yesterday ended on a low note for me. We had enjoyed riding through this region of northwestern Ontario know as Lake of the Woods. It's aptly named, more lake than woods. As Grant commented, "There are lakes everywhere. Less of an 'event' than the rest of Canada."
Our detour lasted just shy of 200 km without a house to be seen. Trees and water and sky. The sky was blue for most the the ride, but on the horizon the dark clouds again had the look of the Vortex of Evil from the movies.
The thought of getting wet made me feel bad tempered. After our suit up in rain gear, my mood worsened. As the rain increased, my spirits bottomed out. When the rain came, it hit hard and nasty. I wanted to get off the bike and huddle under the tarp and have a good cry. That wasn't very mature or practical so we kept on going. It was a driving rain with strong wind gusts that skittered the bike across the road. Had to hold on tight and pray it didn't get any worse. Memories of TV coverage of the recent storms came to mind.
As Grant posted, everything ended well and we relaxed last evening and awoke in good spirits. Sun was called for and the weatherman finally delivered.
We chatted to our new friends, Clay and Yogi on the blue Harley who seem to always end up next door. They are on their way to Edmonton to see their daughter after a six year absence. Wow.
We pointed ourselves west and with the sun warming our backs, headed out to Kenora for breakfast. The traffic thinned allowing us to relax and enjoy the ride. The countryside dotted with lakes was a joy in the clear sunlit air.
Kenora seems a very pretty town set on the bank of a lake. We ate in a coffee house set in an old red brick building and enjoyed the very best granola I have ever eaten. I must try and duplicate the recipe. It kept me fueled up until our late supper.
After entering Manitoba, the landscape started to flatten. We stuck with Hwy #1, flat and straight and even. We were able to cover over 400 km today with very little fatigue.
Just shy of Winnipeg we crossed the longitudinal centre of Canada. N 49° 46.054 W 096° 48.583
I guess that's how the crow flies as it feels as though the bulk of our riding is behind us.
We missed the by-pass turn off and followed #1 through the centre of Winnipeg. I lived there for a year and remembered some of the beautiful old sandstone civic buildings. The traffic was a nuisance and it was great to be in the wind again on the four lane, pointed straight west highway. The bikes carried us along with very little effort or input. With a brief gas stop and leg stretch, we arrived in Portage La Prairie. We stopped at the Information centre for a weather update and they confirmed rain starting this evening. The decision was and easy one and Grant led us through town to a quiet fresh looking motel set back from the road. We both broke out in smiles to see that familiar blue Harley parked a few door down. It turned out to be a pleasant room with a kitchenette. The bedspread isn't as ugly as some of the others and everything is clean and homey.
My little bike has been as good as gold (touch wood), but today especially, I noticed a rattle that might have been from the chain. Grant had a look and confirmed the chain was loose. He offered to fix it if I made supper. A terrific deal from my point of view.
Rain called for tomorrow again so we have resigned ourselves to starting the day in rain gear. We've researched all the possible routes and will plan our route based on the least probability of rain. It will be what it will be.
It is good see Jill feeling good about the days ride. We had sun all day and that was great. Kenora was a delight to visit. With a population of 16,500 it is a bit bigger than Port Alberni. The downtown area looked to have a bit of funk to it. One of the things I noted about Ontario is the lakes. They are everywhere. They are like a frequent occurrence rather than an event along the highway. Of course the Great Lakes are awesomely huge. As big as the province is it is small in a way. Aside from Clay and Yogi we have encountered other people repeatedly. One of the fellows checking into the motel said that he had seen us the other day and earlier today too.
The roads of Ontario are nice to drive but could use a lot more pullouts in places that I would like to have stopped for pictures. The narrow shoulders don't really allow for photo ops. So much of the sights will have to be photographed in our memory. A resident of the province could spend years of vacations discovering their own province. Yesterday we passed a sign saying we were entering the Arctic Watershed. All rivers from that point north flow to the Arctic Ocean.
The tourist info centre here is located at a historic outdoor museum site. There are old buildings, machinery, railcars and an airplane. The site was closed when we arrived but when it is open it is staffed by people acting in period character. Portage la Prairie is quite a cool little city.
Our journey tomorrow doesn't appear to take us out of forecasted rain at all. However if we head to Saskatoon it may be nice there on Saturday.