Note: This nauseatingly long diatrabe is more for my benefit than yours. It is my account to remember this trip and if you feel like following along feel free...
My annual September trip almost didn't happen this year. The night before I was to leave I fell alarmingly sick with what felt like a rare Mongolian form of strep throat, the Ebola virus, or at the least just a very bad cold. I've been sick on the bike before, it's, ummm... highly recommended. So, I waited it out. For six days, I waited it out. When I get a cold, I get a cold.
Just when it looked like all hope might be lost, I left anyway. I was still sick, but setting up an IV drip of cold medication that hung off my mirror helped a little. Amazingly, it was perfect blue sky the day I left this pisshole of a town - this summer was a complete write-off with as much rain as those poor saps in Vancouver! This isn't to say that it was warm - I was dressed to the nines with electric vest and my grips on high right from the get go.
There isn't much to say about the road from Houston to Prince George, traffic is usually somewhat light but chances of meeting popo are pretty high in general. From PG the 189km stretch to McBride is quite a fun stretch if you want it to be. The pavement is brand new for a large chunk of it, the rest is almost brand new and perfect in every way. This road is desolate with wide lanes, a lot of shoulder, and big open ditches for tons of wildlife visibility. Alernating between mile long straight stretches and a surprising amount of extra long and smooth sweepers, the road begs for a Mr. Turbo'd ZX-14 or a Lear jet. Exploring the throttle stop and tucking in for re-entry is order of the day here folks - the entire way. Sometimes the road will twizzle down into a nice little set of esses right out of nowhere, a fresh thrill after purring along for a while somewhere just shy of escape velocity - make sure you have your shit sorted out if you haven't let off on the throttle...
The sun had set by 6:30, and by 7:30 it was too cold to ride. I tour with just a fat tank bag and the appreciable space under my seat, but going light has a price - I could have really used my cold weather gloves. Even grips on high can only do so much. It wasn't just me though, by the time I holed up in Valemount I saw several other people on bikes shattering like icycles when they fell over as they came to a stop in the hotel parking lot. The next morning was worse, there was frost on the bike and I hung out until nearly 11am trying to let the sun do something, anything. The ride to Kamloops was kinda brisk even with blue sky, this stretch down highway 5 is amusing enough however and very scenic especially in the sunshine. The traffic can get choked up a little here and there, but passing opportunities are plentiful enough. As soon as you hit Barriere something magical happens, you cross the Arctic Circle and suddenly it is summer. If you never saw the devastation left by the forest fires a few years back, it is an eerie place to ride through for sure. On a side note, I could not believe the traffic on a Sunday afternoon just going through the outskirts of Kamloops - I may be a country hick but sheesh, I wouldn't ride in the city.
Highway 97 through Falkland is a cool little romp, as long as you can stay away from the traffic. It isn't about high speed scratchin' but you can have some fun for sure. They have paved the 'other half' of it, the lines weren't even on the road and by then the traffic was nuts so it was just a grind... Which led me to explore a sign that pointed to Salmon Arm, a back road through the subdivision I'm sure some of you are familiar with. I wouldn't call it worthwhile but it is worth knowing about, I was planning to hook up with a friend in Salmon Arm but I was feeling rather out of it and woozy from way too many energy drinks and the come-down off of gobbling cold meds for the past week. Even the traffic of Salmon Arm proved too harrowing under these conditions, so I snuck down towards Vernon on a relaxing piece of road with surprisingly light traffic. I didn't know where I was supposed to be going, but ended up heading for Lumby with no idea of how late it was. If you can stay out of traffic the road to Lumby itself is pretty twisty, but narrow and not too friendly in spots. After heading out to Cherryville I realized that I was in no shape to push a bike in those conditions and also there was no way I was going to make the ferry anyway, so I spent the night at a nice little motel on the far side of Lumby. I felt like death warmed over and was worried about riding at all the next day, I seriously think I had some kind of toxic reaction to too much B6 or whatever else was in those damned ginormous energy drinks, and have since given them up entirely by the way.
The next morning my mojo was back, and it was over 20 degrees at 9:30 in the morning. For this piece of road you definitely want to have your wits about you, you have a smorgasboard of everything you can imagine and then some all the way to the needles ferry. Crazy dips and doodles, extremeo switch-backs from hell, blistering tight sweepers and pavement quality ranging from some of the worst in BC to sections near the end of autobahn quality and structure. You had better have your wits about you if you plan to play, suicidal deer are trained to jump out at you from the bushes and you may find all manner of surprises along the way. Definitely worth the trip, make sure you realize when you are coming up on the ferry landing because the hill... doesn't end. The road to Nakusp is nice along the lake, scenery wise. From here I headed to New Denver, try to stay out of traffic because there is the odd twisty bit worth peeling along although the road is narrow and the quality is mixed.
Heading to Kaslo from here the road climbs up out of town quickly, narrow and dotted with driveways for a few clicks until all of a sudden you hit some new pavement without warning and... It is on. There is a pullout that isn't even really more than a bit of open field off to the right here that I stop at to reflect on life, the first 'slow to 50kph with a wiggly arrow' sign hinting at things to come. When you are ready strap up and buckle your seatbelt, because NOTHING in BC can touch the next stretch of road, in particular the stretch up until the turnoff to Sandon a short ways in. It is hard to describe this section without having experienced it, think of the most perfect rollercoaster set of twists and humps and impossibly sweet pavement to go along with it. Something about this piece of road defies all common sense, it is simply too perfect to believe. The corners are tight but they all have just enough sight to hit them as hot as you want, and in almost every case you hit a nice hard dip just as the road rips one way or the other - dig as deep as you want and then dig a little deeper yet. There are a couple of switchbacks, one in particular that has cars doing three point turns in confusion it is so crazy and is also one of the only places to stop in this first part of the run. The pavement is perfect, a year or two old on this end and simply clean as a whistle. I'm pretty sure if a pebble fell onto the road God himself would reach down to pluck it away, so don't be alarmed if you see a giant couple of fingers as you round a corner hot as a qualifying lap as Estoril... Speaking of which, don't be alarmed when you meet fully loaded logging trucks either, these guys are pretty damn good and won't stray out of their lane but you had better keep some serious focus when you get surprised at full tilt through this stretch. Definitely a place where you want to bring your 'A game', and this stretch is well worth doing a few times before moving on. You just won't find anything this entertaining outside of a track day, to put it mildly.
The rest of the road to Kaslo is good stuff, a lot of it is absolute brand new pavement that I found more fulfilling to purr along peacefully through and not just because there was an alarming amount of gravel strewn about here and there on the corners. From Kaslo the highway has some very nice spots along the way to Balfour, abuse any opportunity there is to pass traffic here because they are far and few between and missing the ferry can mean a long wait although it isn't painful with some nice things to do in the meantime right there at the dock. Once across the lake the road is fun but quite beat up for a good long ways before you hit the newer pavement and you can twist things along, too many driveways and general local traffic to make it a real party though. From Creston to Salmo you start to see the pattern of this entire stretch of the Crowsnest, insane climbs to summits and then dizzying drops back down to the next town. Bring your finest block of cubic displacement to deal with these situations, for that I had things well in hand with my steed. You can make good time on these roads, lot's of double lane swerving around semis and the odd moose to keep things interesting. Because I had never seen the area I took the southern loop through to Trail and up, wow what a crazy rugged country! Hills and more hills, and more hills to say the least. A lot of fun on a bike, although I left Trail after dark and regretted the desolate run to Christina Lake from there where I thought chances were fair I would be raped by a Sasquatch if anything went wrong. On a side note, it was well over 25 degrees in the pitch dark and not a bug hit me that entire way, very odd riding in that warmth at night with my visor wide open.
The next day I planned to pile on the miles and the weather was as perfect as it could be, probably sat at around 33 degrees for most of the way to Cache Creek and a lot of awesome twisty roads along the way. Dropping down into Osoyoos from the East is always an eye-opener, if you enjoy switchbacks from Hell get your fill. I don't even enjoy corners that sharp, my bike shows it's weight under those circumstances and any sudden throttle transitions are spooky at those low speeds. Continuing on to the West there is another hill, perfectly straight and an invitation to see what kind of roll-on you really have under the hood. Feel free to try to out pull me on this piece of road, muahahahahahaaa....
The road from here to Princeton is one of the cooler stretches in all of BC. It isn't about anything but settling in and purring along in the zone, anything else would be sacriledge. Traffic can get in your way but there are always places to pass when you need to, watch out for popo around these parts as well. From Princeton to Merritt the road starts out twisty and narrow, and slowly gets hotter and hotter until you are carving around blind rock faces with decent pavement and fairly fast pacing. Watch out for debris on the road, loaded trucks flying around the corners with abandon, and lost tourists. Closer to the bypass the road gets wider, faster, and newer. A pleasant diversion, and a perfect setup for the next stretch past Merritt. From here to Spence's Bridge the road starts out rough and narrow, with nice corners along a creek where it is worth stopping when you can to soak your shirt in these kind of temperatures. About halfway along this valley the road goes crazy, and you better have your eyes open from here on out. Every corner is blind, every corner is almost assured to have some kind of grit and/or debris across it from the crumbling rock faces, and every corner is extreme. You are assured to nibble at the edges of your chicken strips on pavement that is relatively rough even though it is in decent enough shape, stay sharp because you do not want to fuck up around these bends. Heading West, there is one very sweet spot where if you carry enough speed around one corner you pop over a hump under enough throttle to lift a wheel all the way down the hill - it doesn't get much better than that folks. Oh, and there is no gas in Spence's Bridge, although it isn't far to Cache Creek from here after a bombing run up some big hills for the last gasp of the Canyon.
I won't go into any more nauseating detail about my trip, I made it to Quesnel that night and the next day it was back to being so friggin' cold all day that I wore my vest again all the way home to Houston. As an aside I shoehorned a new Pilot Road on the back and the one on the front had about 4000 miles on it when I left. I'm not sure how to describe this tire, it has never let me down but... It is a good friend. Not a best friend, but a decent friend. You might lend this friend your car, you might even help him move. Would you leave him alone with your wife? Probably not. How do you define a mistrust when something has never failed you? I wouldn't buy these tires again, and from reading on forums I am not the only one who thinks there is something suspicious about them. Some people call them outright dangerous, and I'm not sure I would disagree. The front also wears very strangely, with a noticable raised ridge down the middle. This is something I have read about and can verify has happened to me. Again, I dug as deep as I wanted with these boots all week, but there was always a nagging feeling about them even when they were hot and sticky on the best of surfaces. Not sure what I would go with next, probably some Stradas or flat out Pilot Powers.
As for pictures, I would love to take pictures. I would take a billion pictures of everything I see that is cool, including some great shots of corners and related scenery. Unfortunately, who has time to stop and take pictures? Having to play the games to stay away from traffic makes this impossible. I did take a couple, though:
Switchback from Hell, New Denver style. This picture does NOT show how bad this corner is:
This is what the other half of the New Denver to Kaslo stretch looks like, complete with gravel:
Tool of the trade, back home safe and sound:
Google Maps daily:
Day 1: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...=UTF8&z=7&om=1
Day 2: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=e...83203&z=7&om=1
Day 3: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=e...41602&z=8&om=1
Day 4: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&hl=e...83203&z=7&om=1
Day 5: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...=UTF8&z=8&om=1