Monday 21 August 2017

"THE ride!" Going to the Sun Scooter Trip - Day 3 - Libby Montana to Lethbridge, Alberta

400 km
View from the Goring to the Sun Road
Around ten years ago, I went with five other guys on a cycling trip where we started in Fernie, BC, rode to Alberta, down to Montana, through Glacier National Park, and then back up to BC again, ending back in Fernie. It was a fantastic ride and I wanted to see it again, but this time on my scooter.

After having a fairly nice breakfast at the hotel, I checked out and headed on the road.
First stop was Bad Rock Canyon. I absolutely loved this sign because the language on it is like it was written in the times of the Old West.
The photo of the canyon was ok but not as exciting as the sign.

Finally, I reached my trip destination - THE road - the Going to the Sun Road! After paying my $25 entrance fee for Glacier National Park ($5 cheaper than a car - whoopee), I entered the West part of the park.  I took several photos of Lake MacDonald - and have included a few of them here.

Well, all that gorgeous scenery worked up an appetite! 

I stopped at Lake MacDonald Lodge and, after squeezing my scooter between a couple of Harleys, I went into the lodge. I remembered, on our cycling trip ten years ago, we stopped at the lodge (I forget the reason) and ended up talking to some of the young people that worked there - I believe that there is a dorm building beside the lodge where summer workers,  usually students from all over the US, stay while they work there. I think they have a lot of fun, if you know what I mean!

The restaurant was wonderfully 'lodgy" inside, my elk burger was very tasty, the beer I had was refreshing, and the service was, well, rather indifferent.  I was really surprised with the lack of enthusiasm and friendliness that I experienced in many of the places I stopped at this trip. It was a stark contrast to my previous trips to the US. Perhaps a result of the new government?
There was a bit of haze in the air for most of this leg of the trip but it wasn't bad and didn't really detract from the beautiful scenery of this ride. It was as pretty and as breathtaking as when I took this road ten years ago. I stopped several times, drove fairly slowly, and had only one problem - as I rode past an overlook, a van pulled out without warning right in front of me! I was wearing all of my gear so I know that I was visible. I did say a mild curse at the driver (nothing too nasty as there might have been kids in the car) but I was mostly relieved that I hadn't hit him. The ABS did engage, though. 

As from before, here are some of the nicest photos from the Going to the Sun Road:

Luckily, today was a bit of a shorter distance ride as I stopped so many times to take photos and appreciate the wonderful views. I made my way across the border back into Canada after a 25 minute wait and headed up to Lethbridge, Alberta.

I stayed at the Ramada and it was fantastic! The room was very spacious, clear and comfortable - and cheap! It was the best room of the trip and was the best price as well!

 I was tired after all my touring so I went to the local Subway, ordered a foot long sandwich, grabbed a couple of beers, and headed back to the hotel for,  you guessed it, some Netflix. I do have to say that the girl at Subway (I think her name was Sierra), was very friendly and enthusiastic - I expected this kind of welcome in the US but was happy to see it at home in Canada.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

"Bug Off!" - Going to the Sun Scooter Trip - Part 2 - Omak, Washington to Libby, Montana

470 km

Clark Fork, Montana
I woke up to smokiness which matched my own fuzziness in the morning. Maybe that second beer was a bit strong...

I checked out rather late (about 9:00) and headed to Starbucks for a latté and then to McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin. I just couldn't face the 'continental' breakfast available '24/7' in the hotel.

Off I went - to more smoke.

Happily, as I ventured towards the Eastern part of Washington state, the smoke began to lift - a little.

A photo at the overlook seconds before the 'bug incident'
At one point, I stopped at an overlook on Sherman Pass (I figured out that in BC we call a scenic view a Viewpoint but in the US they call it an Overlook). I took some nice photos and then noticed a bunch of little flies buzzing around my head. I flailed my hands around my head and then shoved on my helmet. Unfortunately, a fly was stuck in my ear. I whipped off my helmet and stuffed my finger in my ear, hoping to encourage the bugger out.

At this point the bug went the wrong way. How did I know? The bug sounded like the alien form the Alien movie series - and it was right...! And it was loud!

After trying a few different techniques at the Overlook including whacking the opposite side of my head, shaking my head at an angle, and stuffing a rolled up napkin in my ear, I decided to find a doctor or hospital.

It was a full 45 minutes of me freaking out on the scooter while Siri calmly directed me to the nearest hospital. This was supposed to be a scenic ride but I was only aware of the weird squelching noises in my ear as I zoomed towards hopeful salvation. It was not fun.
Awaiting my fate at the hospital - bug was still in my ear at this point.
Siri finally directed my to the Providence Mount Carmel Hospital in Colville. As a Canadian, we are sometimes a bit smug about how good our medical system is but when I arrived at this hospital, which was clean, empty of other patients, and staffed with friendly people from the receptionist to the doctor, I was very impressed by the service I received.
The giant creature, now removed.
Basically, the bug had become stuck in my ear was and I was hearing it trying to break free. After an ear irrigation, the bug and the wax came out of my ear. It was pretty small for such nightmarish sounds.

After the ordeal, I did spend some time in the financial part with a very sweet young woman who, I think, was a new employee. She took and copied my Carecard and my Blue Cross card and said that they would try to collect from the insurance themselves and send me a bill for any outstanding fees. They didn't ask me for a credit card or any deposit - pretty nice! Apparently they don't get very many Canadians in Colville, Washington!

The rest of the ride of the day was pleasant - and even euphoric without the bug!

I sped though the panhandle of Idaho (the top, skinny part) and did see some nice scenes.
Albeni Falls description

Albeni Falls dam
One of these was Albeni Falls. There is a dam there that provides electricity for the surrounding region.

I was then headed on the Panhandle Historic Rivers Passage Scenic Byway. Nice name! During one of my stops, I ended up watching this guy in a speedboat zoom by. I believe this is Priest River.

Here's another photo from the same stop. Although it is clearer, you can still see that it is smoky in the background.
Pondering my Ponderay Starbucks
After my bug ordeal, I treated myself to a nice, cool iced latte at the Starbucks in Ponderay, Idaho. It is comforting that even after my disturbing incident, and far away in a foreign country, I was still able to get a satisfying Starbucks - and use my Canadian Starbucks card!

By this time, the river had opened up into a lake and, outside of Hope, Idaho, I took this photo of a nice little island in the lake. Things were getting a bit clearer.

I particularly liked this photo from Clark Fork Idaho - it might be worth painting.

Finally, I entered Montana. Unfortunately, I overshot this sign so I had to take my life in my own hands to pull a U-turn on the highway in both directions. What can I say, anything for the shot!

Train bridge near Yaak Falls - how near? No idea!
My last stop of the day was Yaak Falls near Troy, Montana. I was exhausted by this point, and I hoped that the falls were near the road. After a bit of a hike, I came across this bridge which crossed railway tracks. There were about three flights of stairs on the other side and I was too hot and too tired to check it out. I turned around, satisfied that I had already seen Albeni Falls in Idaho, and headed to my destination for the night.

I rode into Libby, Montana, and stayed at the Country Inn which doesn't look that great from the outside but had a very nice room from the inside. I wandered around and found a grocery store - some chain that I didn't recognize - but seemed like a Safeway. I went there and got a two piece chicken dinner from the deli as well as some Chex snack stuff that was really good and useful for road food. I also grabbed a couple of beers and headed back to the hotel to watch some Netflix.

It was not too wild a night and I hit the hay about 10 o'clock, looking forward to the scenic part - Going to the Sun!

Monday 14 August 2017

"When Smoky Sings" - Going to the Sun Scooter Trip - Part 1 - Maple Ridge to Omak, Washington

430 kms

A smoky view from the Diablo Lake Overlook - on the North Cascades Highway
After last summer's trip to California, I thought I'd scale back my annual scooter trip. My friend, Dale, was unavailable as he was holidaying in Europe with his family, so I decided to do a trip that, all told, would last five days but would include a five day stay at Jasper National Park in Alberta.

The first day was a carbon copy (do you think Millennials understand that phrase?) of the first day that I did n my Cascades Loop Tour two years ago. When I looked at that trip, I noticed that it was so packed with things to see in 2015 that I took two posts to describe day one.

Not so this time.

Things started out a bit poorly on day one. I had packed my stuff the night before so I took my helmet electronics off the charger, grabbed my top case off of the counter and headed down to the underground parking. After loading up everything, I put on my jacket (despite the hot temperature) and turned the key.


I peered at the display of my BMW C600 and noted the word "LAMP!" and the yellow warning light lit up.

I grumbled to myself that I wasn't going to ride with a warning the next few days so I went upstairs, rummaged around the utility closet, and found the second replacement light for the burned out low beam bulb.

The interesting thing is that the low beam bulb is on the right side of the scoot. You can access it by taking off the right panel.

Wait! If you take of the right panel, the battery is in the way. So I removed the battery.

Wait! If you remove the battery, there is still a bunch of other stuff in the way.

Wait! I remember! If you reach up from the front tire you can actually squeeze your hand in there and feel around to replace the bulb. Problem was, my hand must have gotten a lot fatter than last year because I could barely squeeze it up the front of the bike....

Wait! If I turned the handlebars, there's tons of room!

After this unfortunate start, I was drenched in sweat so I took a brief shower, changed my shirt, and then actually embarked on my tour.

I took the Aldergrove border crossing as there was less of a line up there. It was smoky leaving Maple Ridge (from wildfires in the interior of the province) and that continued after I crossed the border. I took Interstate 5 until Sedro Wooley and then headed on the North Cascades highway.
A bit smoky - but not overly so - at a rest stop near Rockport WA on the North  Cascades Highway
Another view from the rest stop near Rockport, WA.
Unfortunately, it was smoky. And as I got closer to the more scenic aspects of the ride, it became smokier. I took a few photos, but mostly to show how the smoke basically ruined the view. It was disappointing.
An acceptable photo near Marblemount, WA on the North Cascades Highway
A terrible view of Diablo Lake - sooo smoky!
I stopped in Winthrop for lunch (again, like last year) and after deliberating, ended up at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery once again and had a great blonde beer and a pretzel (which was OK). The heat and smoke combined to reduce my hunger. When it came time to pay, and I handed over my credit card, it compared interestingly to two years ago, or even last year -  the US has really embraced chip technology on credit cards (rather than swipe technology), and it showed in the restaurant as well as the fill ups at gas stations. How times have changed!

The Old Schoolhouse Brewery in smoky Winthrop
I continued on to Omak which is in the American Okanogan (not the Canadian Okanagan. Interestingly, Canada, we have an area called the Okanagan but the US has a town called Okanogan. Also, we have another areas called the Kootenays but the US has a town called Kootenai! I stayed at a different hotel called the Omak Inn. It was a bit nicer than the Rodeway Inn I stayed at two years ago and was in a part of the town that I didn't recognize. I didn't feel like a giant Mexican meal like I had the previous visit so I just bought a deli sandwich at Safeway and had a couple of large craft beers while I watched Netflix on my iPad.

At least it wasn't smoky in the hotel room....

Sunday 25 June 2017

To Tofino..... and Back! In One Day!!!

This is one for the books.

Last week my friend, Dale, and I decided to go for a bike trip this weekend. My only caveat was that we had to do it in one day.

We looked at a few different locations including the Olympic Peninsula (too far, too long) and some others. We finally decided to go to Tofino, on Vancouver Island, have lunch, and then come back.

You have to understand that not only would this be over 500 km - but also included two ferries.

We thought we'd be home by dinner.


Dale met me at my place at 6:50am. It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm, and promised to be a great trip. We took off from Maple Ridge and, within 20 minutes, we were on the freeway.

You have to understand, Dale does not like the freeway. I don't like it all that much either but, thanks to my wine course in Vancouver, I have been taking it more often lately. I have gone from squeezing the life out of my handgrips to actually enjoying the ride a bit. Dale, on the other hand, has not had a lot of experience on the busy, fast freeway and was not exactly thrilled with that part of the trip.

Less than an hour after we left, we arrived at Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. We spent the next 20 minutes in the line and then, after paying for our ticket, loaded onto the ferry.

The nice thing about BC Ferries is, if you are a two wheeler, you make it on without a reservation. Interestingly, there were probably 30 bikes of different makes and models, all lined up on the top vehicle deck.

The ferry ride itself was a couple of hours and was fine. I had a coffee and bagel and figured that would suffice until lunch.

Arriving in Nanaimo, we all roared off the ferry (before the cars, heh - heh) and headed east.

Cameron Lake
Cameron Lake
After leaving highway 19, we got on the scenic highway 4. Our first stop was Cameron Lake in MacMillan Provincial Park. It was a very nice little stop and the weather was warm but not outrageous at that point.

The traffic was light and we could sit back and enjoy the ride. We went through Cathedral Grove, a forest of giant trees that rivals some of the Redwood forests that I saw in California. There were nice twists and turns on the highway and I really enjoyed the ride.

Kennedy Lake
Kennedy Lake
After we gassed up in Port Alberni, next up was Kennedy Lake in Kennedy Lake Provincial Park. Again, we really enjoyed this stop. It was lovely!

Somewhere around here, it became exceedingly hot. I was now just wearing my shell and I was not very positive that I would be able to stick with even that.

Wickaninnish Beach
Wickaninnish Beach
Closing in on Tofino, we took a side trip to Wickaninnish Beach along a heaved up road. The tricky ride was definitely worth it as we ventured down to the beach and enjoyed the scenery. It was definitely hot at this point. And it was at this point that I stuffed my day-glo green jacket, with all of its armour, into my top case.

The argument, of course, is that even on a quiet highway, like we were riding, you can have an accident or crash. However, we found that the temperature was in the 30s and the heat was making us groggy. Removing our jackets gave us a little bit of refreshment that kept us alert.

Speaking of refreshment, we found going both ways on Highway 4 that there were certain areas where we crossed a river or creek or went near a lake that the air cooled really noticeably. It was like someone pointed an air conditioner at us as we rode by certain parts. Very nice!

We finally made it into Tofino around 1:30 or 2:00pm.

After checking out the Farmer's Market (couldn't find a scarf for my wife), we looked for a place to eat lunch. After careful consideration (we looked at two restaurants) we selected the Schooner due to its patio and variety of menu besides fried fish.

Dale awaiting his beer and halibut burger

Ah, that was a great lunch!
We both ordered the halibut burger and it was very tasty. It was served on a brioche bun and had cole slaw, mayo, pickles and a lovely grilled halibut chuck that had some sort of cajun seasoning. It was accompanied by a mountain of fries.

Outside Tofino Brewing

Along with the meal, we split a large beer from he local brewery, Tofino Brewing, and, after we left the restaurant, we hunted down the brewery in the industrial section of Tofino (about 6 buildings). We each bought a couple of bottles to take home and then headed back up the highway, west, towards home.

Our last touristy stop was the radar hill in Pacific Rim National Park. The views were spectacular and I have included just a few of the many photos that we took there. Apparently during WW2, this was where a radar post was located to protect our fair nation from incursion!

Only bikes in the lineup!
The ride back on highway 4 was just as enjoyable although the temperature was really heating up. We stopped for some gas and an urgently needed vitamin drink in Port Alberni and, thanks to rehydration, stayed alert all the way back to Nanaimo.

We thought about going to Duke Point and taking the ferry to Tsawwassen, but, unfortunately, the last ferry from there was at 6:15 and that's about what time we arrived in Nanaimo. Luckily the ferry runs later from Departure Bay so, after about an hour wait, we took the ferry back to Horseshoe Bay.
Another beautiful west coast sunset 
It was pretty hot, even on the ferry, so we ended up on deck. I took a few photos of the setting sun - I love these photos and really enjoy painting sunsets!

After arriving in Horseshoe Bay, we took the freeway back to Maple Ridge, this time in mostly darkness. I am becoming more comfortable with the number 1 highway and this was the first time I was comfortable at night. It was a bit crazy when all the ferry traffic disembarked but traffic did thin out as we got farther away from Vancouver.

We finally arrived back shortly after 10:30 - it was a long day. Unfortunately, one of the beer that I bought (the stout! oh no!) leaked in my top case (yes, that's right, leaked!). After mopping up the beverage, I headed toned.

In future, I would probably do this ride in two days but there was certainly some satisfaction in finishing such a scenic ride in the time that we did.

Mind you, I spent most of the next day (Sunday) just lounging around the house!