As with any good travel story, this one starts at the Greyhound Station on a Sunday night. The mission: To retrieve my new-to-me VFR in the Kootenays. If you watched the weather channel during the past few days, you’ve probably figured that Hwy 3 was out. In fact, the weather gods had conspired to rule out every mountainous route between Castlegar and the ‘Wack for two-wheeled travel. Avoiding the mountains meant heading south to the Columbia Gorge on the WA-OR border…
Last time I suffered through a ride on the Grey Dog, I was gifted with the company (and life story) of a manic-depressive religious fundamentalist with a little bit of crazy thrown in. This time, I sat next to a kid who remained strangely silent. Maybe he thought the bulging of my backpack was due to Aunt Marge’s severed head rather than my Arai? Aside from the hottie dancing to the music in her headphones, the “comedian”, and someone who kept lighting cigarettes at the back of the bus, the trip itself was uneventful. Ever wanted to see the Rock Creek Greyhound stop at 3 am? Me either. But here’s a pic of the Castlegar station at 4:30am:
Note the luggage I’d be carrying up the hill to my parent’s house when the cabbie failed to appear. At least it wasn’t raining. Hard.
Once I’d had a few hours of sleep, my friend Glenn picked me up to take me to Kootenay Sleds & Wheels in Nelson. They’d just finished some work on the bike; between my previous VFR and Glenn’s bike, they’ve looked after our VFR’s through close to 285000kms of riding. Glenn has owned it for 10 yrs and was on the verge of getting emotional at the thought of parting with it. I diffused this uncomfortable moment by telling him that I was planning to run the living shit out of it.
I sold the Givi luggage to Glenn when I unloaded my Viffer in 2001. Nice of him to look after it for me. The Corbin was another bonus.
Having paid the shop bill, eaten some lunch, and fed the ICBC monster, it was time to set out—only 3hrs behind schedule. The uncertain weather dictated avoidance of high elevation, so I followed the Columbia as far as Fort Spokane. Sunny one moment, rainy the next, but it’s the gravel keeps the rider honest on these roads. The VFR feels familiar and willing, but the rider will need plenty of seat time before playing along. A dry spot along the Columbia:
I didn’t want to ride at night, but my late start and the prospect of an even longer ride tomorrow kept me in the saddle well into the darkness. Settling for the night in Pasco, WA, I had a truck stop omelette served by a well-worn waitress named Dot. Really. I don’t recall seeing another bike on the road that day.