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California to British Columbia (Very Long)


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I've had my RT for two months and had the great privilege of taking it on my first long motorcycle trip. It was a great experience.



2002 R1150RT

Pleasanton CA




Trip mileage: 3,910 miles


Dates: Monday August 12 to Saturday August 17, 2002


Exact Route:


Day 1: 801 miles 15 hours. Pleasanton CA to Boise ID (680-80-505-5-36-395-20-84).

Day 2: 605 miles 13 hours. Boise ID to Kalispell MT (84-20-75-93).

Day 3: 616 miles 13 hours. Kalispell MT to McBride BC (93-16).

Day 4: 719 miles 17 hours. McBride BC to Omak WA (16-97-24-5-97).

Day 5: 594 miles 14 hours. Omak WA to Madera OR (20-530-9-2-97).

Day 6: 575 miles 10 hours. Madera OR to Pleasanton CA (97-5-505-80-680).



Day 1: Finding the Groove

I was on the road at last. My bike was ready, just serviced, cleaned and packed. I pulled away from my home in Pleasanton California at 7 a.m. for the far North. How far I wondered? Could I make it all the way to Hyder Alaska? Is that even a good idea? I had read many accounts of riding to Hyder and many other parts of Alaska and I knew that it was no simple ride to the panhandle of our biggest state. So I planned to ride to Prince George British Columbia and if the ride was going smoothly and the weather looked promising I would try for the extra 900 round trip miles from Prince George to Hyder. If I were struggling or the weather looked iffy, I'd leave Hyder for another time.


Wanting to leave the familiar behind as quickly as possible I started my trip on the freeways. I-5 is one of the few roads I ride on but do not enjoy. I take it often to get out of town to where I really want to go. This time, North to Red Bluff then East on 36 toward Susanville. 36 is very nice. At a stop on the side of the road I met a retired fellow. He seemed like so many retired people you see. He seemed prosperous but his eyes were lifeless. He looked like maybe he was able to do anything he wanted but nothing was worthwhile to him. He was up in the mountains for a month or six weeks, he hadn't decided yet. I told him about my long ride and he started telling me of his brother's 12,000 mile trip in a Winnebago that lasted 3 months. He was proud of his brother's trip but he didn't seem to have anywhere to go himself. He was a nice guy though.


Susanville looks to be a community on the rebound. I used to think it looked a little run down but things there seems to be picking up. That's nice to see.


I took 395 North from Susanville. The landscape immediately dried out to sagebrush and wide open spaces. I don't consider this kind of country attractive but there is a solitude I associate with these spaces that settles my soul and allows me to move away from the cares of the day. Today I struggled to find my riding groove. It usually comes so easy. Not today. I was enjoying the ride but I wasn't groovin'.


Alturas was my 400 mile mark. I stopped at an independent Burger stand I stopped at once 25 years ago. It looked the same. The food looked and tasted the same. Amazing. I enjoyed that. While I was there I watched a Bilingual Hispanic father with his 4 year old daughter. She had him wrapped around her finger. She would swing from the furniture in the cutest way looking over her shoulder to see if she had all of her daddy's attention. When she didn't she'd fix that right away by grabbing his leg, pulling on his pants and putting on a fine display of cutie of the year. Daddy was eating it up. He bought her a strawberry milkshake. She took one taste of it and asked for something completely different which of course she got. Daddy drank the strawberry shake. He didn't mind. Nothing she did bothered him. He would talk to her in English and then in Spanish. Switching languages was just so easy for the two.


I was beginning to think there was something wrong with my mood. Usually riding is carefree and fun and so far this day it wasn't. Perhaps I was preoccupied because I spent so much time and effort planning this trip or maybe it was because I wasn't sure if my vacation time would be canceled because of concerns at work. Whatever the reasons my riding mood wasn't what it usually is.


Outside the burger place I decided to raise the seat on my R1150RT. Around town I use the middle setting but I thought I'd try the top setting for the open road. What a difference! The riding position was perfect for the trip. I didn't touch it the rest of the week. 25 miles outside of town I was in the groove. The bike was working, my head was clear of day to day thoughts and home was a million miles behind me.


I packed my new digital camera for the trip. I was sure I'd come back with a load of pictures. I like the lowest resolution setting 640 x 480 because I email pictures and put them on my web page. On that setting the camera holds over 900 pictures. Just into Oregon on Highway 395 is a splendid looking Lake Abert that is a picture of desolate beauty. I had to have a picture of the reflection of the mountains in the lake. I parked in some gravel along the road and set my bike just so on the centerstand. I was fumbling with the latch on my top box. I had a camera in one hand, my helmet in the other and as I lowered the latch on the box my bike started to move. Oh, NO! *! GET IT, GET IT! I raced around the side of the bike ready to pitch the camera and my helmet if I had to in order to save my bike from falling but all I had to do was to touch the bars. There I stood, centerstand half collapsed in gravel, holding the bike, a camera and a helmet. I slowly secured everything and got back on the road as quickly as I could. My brand new RT almost went down in the gravel 50 miles from anything on the first afternoon of my trip. Great.


I was shaken when I got the bike back on the road. At first I could not go the speed limit. I was too rattled. A couple of miles later I was way over the speed limit and that felt great. Yeah, get out of here...


Not having a feeling for riding long distances on my new bike I didn't know how far I wanted to ride. I started thinking Boise was a good target. I wasn't sure how far it was but Idaho sounded like a good place to aim for. The rest of my ride through Eastern Oregon was great. The speed limits seemed frustratingly low but I enjoyed some great roads and started putting down the miles. Just me and my bike. Great fun. When I lowered my centerstand at my next gas stop I left a spot of dirt and gravel next to the gas pump.


As I neared Idaho I was ready to stop. Boise was a good 75 miles down the road but I was looking for a good place to stop. Just when I was about to stop I saw a very motivating thing in the dark of the evening. A 75 mph speed limit sign on Interstate 84. Well darn, if the fine people of Idaho are going to let me run 85 all the way to Boise then fine. I knew those speed limits in Oregon were slow.


As I pass a group of six cars something falls off a car ahead and crashes onto the freeway at speed. Whatever it was exploded with a loud bang underneath a car ahead of me in the adjacent lane. That car rolled up on the thing at 75 mph and crushed it into a million pieces sending splinters of wood careening all over the freeway including right in front of me. It might have been a dresser or a wooden pallet loaded with something wooden, I don't know. I easily avoided 99% of the rapidly spreading mess but had no choice but to run over a 6 foot splinter sitting across my lane. It wasn't a big piece of wood but it was unavoidable. OK, that was a wake up call. The car that rode up and over the object was obviously damaged and pulled off. I resolved to be more careful especially when I'm tired and pressed on without slowing.


The first day ended at a Motel 6 near the Boise Airport. 800 miles, 14 ½ hours on the road. I would have preferred 725 miles but it was a good start for my trip. I was far from home with 5 more days to look forward to. I couldn't believe how fortunate I was to be on such an adventure. I went to sleep wondering if I'd see Canada the next day.



Day 2: Learning to Meet People on the Road

When packing my bike for the day I met a Valkeryie Rider. He was on his way home from a 30 day trip from Bellingham Washington to Ohio for a Valkeryie meet. Needless to say he was taking the long way. He had been everywhere from Michigan to South Dakota, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and a lot of other places. He liked to ride 300 mile days. His bike was beautiful, red, white and chrome. This fellow described himself as semi-retired and had bright eyes and looked forward to the day. What a contrast from the guy I met on my way to Susanville.


I was excited about my second day. The first couple hour's ride from Boise to Missoula Montana was similar to many areas of Nevada I've ridden through, high desert, dry and sparse. I passed a hilarious sign announcing the entrance to the Sawtooth National Forest. It was funny because there didn't seem to be a tree within 20 miles. How do you have a National Forest without trees?


Awhile later there was debris in the road. It looked like lots of black asphalt bits left over from resurfacing the road. The only thing was there was no new asphalt. I thought a truck must dropped the stuff as it went to another job site. Then more debris, and more. The stuff even started forming small piles on the sides of turns like so much wintertime slush. What's the deal? Hey, some of that stuff is moving! I slowed and discovered to my amazement that all that debris was millions of Locust. As soon as I figured out what they were I saw dozens flying around like dragon flies but the vast majority were dead on the ground. They must have been gassed or something to all die at once like that. When I got back home an Idaho raised co-worker of mine corrected me and said they weren't really Locust but "Mormon Crickets". They sure look like Biblical Plague Locust to me.


As I neared Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley I began to think I had wrong ideas about how Idaho looked. While there was nothing wrong with the way anything looked I had expected more natural beauty. I saw a TV show once about how Bruce Willis and Demi Moore tried to build up the town of Hailey. The show was fascinating. The townspeople didn't really want a Hollywood couple coming to town and setting a new course for things but they allowed it and started buying into the plans of the actors. Then predictably, Willis and Moore lost interest and left the locals looking pretty silly. Today Hailey looks out of place to me. The little I saw of it resembled a modern upscale suburb sitting right in the middle of Idaho. Odd. Kinda nice but not really. Not at all consistent with the area. Ketchum wasn't especially impressive either to my eyes but as the jumping off place to Sun Valley I'm sure the people there are very happy with their town.


As I passed Ketchum the scenery and natural splendor I expected began to appear. This is what I had in mind! Curvy roads, interesting small towns, and mile after mile of riding along rivers. This is the kind of riding I like.


I've read many accounts of long trips on motorcycles so I expected construction delays but I didn't expect that they would be excellent opportunities to socialize with other riders. One time traffic was held for 30 minutes and I met two guys from South Florida who were on the 10th day of a 5 week trip. One was on a GL1500 Gold Wing and the other was on a Harley Road King. Great guys. They talked about the Sturgis and Daytona bike meets and about various bikes they had owned. They were having a blast. People like these two are great examples of how growing old doesn't have to sour a person. When I'm their age I want to be tearing up the roads just like them.


After a few hours with the two from South Florida we hit another construction zone and since this one was long and dusty the kind people managing the traffic moved us to the front so we didn't have to eat the dust of a legion of cars. The three of us pulled to the front right alongside a guy with a bike exactly like mine, a 2002 BMW R1150RT. Meeting this guy was one of the highlights of the entire trip. The RT rider was Jeff from Edmonton, Alberta. The Canadian summer is short so he was riding while the riding was good. He was on the home leg of a 5,000 mile trip from Edmonton to the Oregon and California Coast to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Idaho, Montana and home.


RT's are intricate bikes to own, I'm finding this out much to my delight. There are a million things to learn and know about these great motorcycles so I asked Jeff how his front tire was doing. He said fine but I checked it for him and it had started to cup. We went through that topic from RT 101 class. I asked him about the Internet BMW list and BMWRT.com. When we started talking about oil consumption and proper BMW boxer break in the Harley guy from South Florida couldn't contain himself any longer and had to jump in, "Don't ya know ya just put oil in it and ride it!? What are ya talkin' so much about it for?" His grin was as wide as South Florida but he was only half kidding. The fastidious detail oriented approach I've found common to most Beemer owners was a little ridiculous to this venerable biker.


After a dusty run through the long construction zone all 4 of us rode together for a half hour. Apparently Jeff couldn't take the pace set by the two retirees. He passed all three of us in fine style. His bike looked so good blazing past the three of us I just had to tear down the road after him. What fun! Juvenile fun sure, but I'm not apologizing. For the next couple of hours it was just two RT's dancing through the mountain roads of Idaho. We weren't going to scare any Supersport riders but the pace was as quick as I've ridden in a long while.


Jeff and I rode together for 6 hours or so and came to the Flathead Lake area of NW Montana. This area was a major surprise to me. It was very beautiful and had a thriving summer vacation economy in full bloom. The area made me think of Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border. One sight I'll never forget is the sunset I saw over Flathead Lake. The sky was filled with white puffy clouds colored all kinds of shades of orange and pink against a backlit blue sky. The mountains were black and yellow and the water reflected all of it. It was one of those once in a lifetime sights.


Jeff and I had dinner together and discussed the Edmonton Oilers Hockey club and the tragic loss of Wayne Gretzky. If you think the folks in Canada have gotten over the loss of their brightest sports star you're wrong. I was a Gretzky fan in the mid 80's and I couldn't believe they sold him either. How stupid do you have to be to sell someone like Gretzky or Babe Ruth? People will amaze you with the stupid things they'll do from time to time. Nothing is too stupid. After dinner Jeff and I went our separate ways. What a privilege it was to meet Jeff. I hope we meet again.


The day ended when I checked into a Motel in Kalispell Montana. I didn't make Canada this day but it was perhaps the best day of riding I've ever known. I went to sleep thinking the next day would be awesome if it were only half as great.



Day 3: My Idea of Adventure Riding

Alaska was back on my mind. The trip had been smooth so far and one more good day and I might try for Hyder. To me that sounded like climbing Mt. Everest. I thought it was possible but I knew my margin of error was tiny and the more difficult and unfamiliar portion of my ride lay ahead. All this was very exciting to me.


To cross the border I brought my expired passport and paperwork proving my birth and status as a Federal Employee. I wanted to get across. As it happened I didn't even show a driver's license. The kind Canadian Customs officer asked me if I had any alcohol, tobacco, firearms and what my job was and waved me through. Easy enough.


Not too far into Canada and I realized I was not well prepared. I didn't have any Canadian money and had no idea how I was going to pay for things. I had US money and a couple of credit cards but I didn't know if either was a good way to pay for things or how many places would take an American issued Credit Card. As far as I knew the exchange rate was whatever change the clerk gave me back. How could I have not thought about this? Did I need to find a bank and get some Canadian money? I was confused about the basics. How was I going to make it to Alaska?


I also hadn't had breakfast and it was getting near noon. I know how to make the best of being on the road in just about any state south of the border but here, where do you eat? I did something I'd do many times and wish I hadn't. I bought gas station food with my fuel purchase. This streamlined things and kept me out on the road but skipping meals in favor of chips and cookies gets old fast.


I also struggled the whole time I was in Canada with the hours the businesses keep. Gas is always available but lots of places are only open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. especially in the far north. Those are prime riding hours when I hardly ever stop long enough to eat a sit down meal.


I'm enjoying the miles as they slide by but as confused as I was about the differences between Canada and the US it is no wonder I made my next mistake. I got to the turnoff to Banff National Park at Radium Hot Springs and promptly got lost. That isn't easy since there's only two roads through Radium Hot Springs but I took the wrong one. There was a serious car accident at the town's only intersection. I think one person died on the spot. An unfortunate SUV had a caved in driver's door where a Pick up truck had T-boned it. One of the cops had a macabre look on his face just starring at the EMT's working feverishly on the victim. Judging from the look of that cop I'd say there was little chance that person lived out the day. I missed the turn.


It started to rain too. I expected rain and had decent gear but I was quite concerned about the onset of the rain and was preoccupied with changing my gear. All in all I made a series of minor missteps that cost me an hour and a half delay when I might have just ridden right through that intersection and not lost a minute. I wasn't making clear minded decisions. You could say my ride started becoming difficult at Radium Hot Springs.


Finally I reoriented myself and had all the proper gear on. I rode into the Kootenay National Park. The Canadians do National Parks quite differently than we do in America. For one, their parks are the size of small Northeastern states. Another difference is that often more than one park borders another. The park I entered was actually several parks, Kootenay, Banff and Jasper National parks. Together this is an enormous area. After an hour of motoring in the park I looked at a map and found I was more than 100 miles from the exit. The place is big.


When you enter from the Kootenay side you go over mountains and drop down into a long valley where most of the park's visitors spend their time. This valley is over 100 miles long with 2 towns Banff and Jasper more or less at the ends of the park. In the middle is the Lake Louise area which is one of the most beautiful spots you'll ever see. The water there is a turquoise powder blue-green color. Next to the lake is a building that you would never see in an American National Park. It is a modern looking top grade hotel building. It looks like a Casino building in Nevada. I'm sure it is a nice building but it is so darn out of place I can't figure out why the Canadians would want such a building in one of their most beautiful spots. A mile down the road there is the Rustic Lodge you would expect to find. Our daughter is 16. When she gets married I think she should honeymoon at that lodge. It is perfect.


It is hard to comprehend how big the rocks are in this park. I thought Yosemite had big rocks, but not compared to the rocks in Banff. They are so big it is hard to understand how big they are. And there are so many big rocks. Maybe they are the biggest rocks in the world. There is a glacier that sits between two giant mountains and descends to near the valley floor. This glacier is big. Really big. So are the mountains on each side. There they are like 3 giant thugs towering over the valley. Big. Very big. And impressive.


After I passed the glacier the road started to climb toward the town of Jasper. This is when it started to rain in earnest. I was cold. For the first time I set the heated grips to high. It was still cold. I had on every cold weather and wet weather item I have. The RT was fabulous in the rain as advertised. I've never felt comfortable with the safety of a motorcycle in the rain until now. This bike I can just ride in the rain. It is marvelously stable and sure footed. It has terrific antilock brakes and a most efficient fairing. Add the heated grips and the aftermarket Cee Bailey Windscreen into the picture and you have a darn fine foul weather bike.


I have little experience in the rain and cold. I live in California and I am happy to report that it is nice almost year round where I live. Because of this limited experience the going was difficult for me. After a couple of hours I reached Jasper, still well within the park. What a nice town. It has a semi-western style and the downtown section is mostly built on one side of the main street. The other side is a green space and behind that is a magnificent Canadian Rockies vista. I rode in during Rodeo week. That meant the place was buzzing with activity and the few hotel rooms left were very expensive. I checked two places, one rate was $190 Canadian for a twin bed. The other place was more so I didn't stick around. I looked at the map and decided to keep going. I was cold and tired and wanted to stop but not bad enough to pay those prices.


The rest of the ride was simple. Difficult but simple. I just keep going in the cold and rain. This part of my ride wore me out mentally and physically. It was tough going. I must have ridden another 100-120 miles to the next town over the next 3 hours. McBride is not a nice town. It reminded me of Laughlin City from the movie X-Men. That mythical Canadian town was unattractive and inhabited by truckers and bar room brawlers. I didn't see any ruffians in McBride but this town was anything but nice. I didn't know it at the time but I found the last motel for another 120 miles. Heck, it was the last anything for 120 miles.


When I got to McBride it was of course 8:10 p.m. The town had one store, two gas stations and 3 restaurants. Only the gas stations were open. Great. The only town big enough to have a gas station on almost 200 miles of my route and it only sells gas station food when I'm there. I bought a ham sandwich in one of those plastic packages, some nuts, a bottle of water and a pastry. My dinner nicely complimented the breakfast I'd had that wasn't enough different to comment on. I started thinking then how nice real food would be the next morning.


My room was $30 Canadian and smelled strongly of stale tobacco. One of the pillow cases was washed but stained yellow. Every time the people in the next room flushed their toilet the building made noise. When they talked I could hear muffled conversation in my room. When I was unpacking my bike a crusty traveler staying in a room down the way told me how fortunate he was to have found the town's liquor store before it closed. "Yeah man, that's good luck." I watched an interesting program on TV about motorcycles. They tested the Honda 919 and the Yamaha FZ-1. I must be nuts to like a show about motorcycles after the day I'd had.


To sleep with all the noise in the building I set the TV on an unused channel and listened to that while I slept. My ears were getting sore from wearing earplugs for 42 hours in three days. Alaska seemed as far away as the moon. I thought it might be hard to fall asleep with that terrible smell all over everything but it wasn't. I slept like a dead man.



Day 4: The Hyder Option

My stay in beautiful downtown McBride restored my resolve. I wanted to say to myself "I AM going to Hyder" but decided I'd put the Hyder option on hold until I reached Prince George like I originally planned. If everything went very smoothly I'd go. I wanted the decision to be as calm and rational as I could make it.


I opened my motel room door to see everything soaked. It sure rains a lot up north. The skies looked to be clearing though. As the night before nothing was open. Great. I'll eat when I get to Prince George. Not a happy thought since it had been almost 36 hours since I had anything but gas station food to eat. I pulled out of town with just over half a tank of gas but I was anxious to make Prince George and to leave McBride.


I passed a sign that said "Check your Gas - Next services 200 Km." A quick glance at my gas gauge confirmed that I had plenty of gas for 120 miles. Less than a mile later my gas gauge drops. Strange. Must have been a false reading back in town or maybe I was at the bottom of that LED segment on the gauge. No need to turn around I have plenty of gas still.


I'm the only one on the road. The forest is misty, the clouds are low and this folks is the wilderness. There is precious little of civilization around besides the road. I pass two elk. One has one of those fur collars with a large set of antlers. The two are 10 feet from the road and barely look at me as I ride by at 70 mph.


I'm 20 miles away from McBride and my gas gauge drops another segment. *. That's two segments in 20 miles. Usually I make 45-50 on those two segments. I'll be fine, I only have 100 miles to go and I can make it that far on 2 gallons if I have to and I'm sure I have that much including the reserve. I'll just cut my speed a little and I'll have plenty. It makes no sense to go back to McBride now. 65 mph it is.


30 miles down the road I look to my left I see a great sight. A solitary wolf standing on a rocky outcropping overlooking hundreds of square miles of valley wilderness below. The mist and the clouds in the foreground give way to the animal and the entire valley below is plainly visible. A Hollywood director couldn't have improved on the picture. It was amazing. My gas gauge drops another LED segment.


Now I'm getting concerned. I estimate my remaining fuel and distance and decide for the first time this is going to be tight. I should make it but it will be close. Darn, there are no signs here telling me how far to Prince George and I don't remember what my odometer said in McBride. I've probably come 50 or 55 miles. Hmmm. Yep I should make it but it sure is going to be close. Great. Better knock it down to 55 mph. Feels like walking speed out here but I don't want to run out of gas.


It seemed like only a few miles down the road and my gas gauge drops again. I'm sure it has never dropped that fast before. Now I'm in trouble. I still have 40 miles to go and now my reserve light is on. *. I'm not going to make it. *. This bike goes for a good long way on a fill up but that's the key, ya got to put gas in it. *.


I'm on max fuel conservation here, top gear, lowest possible revs, barely any throttle. 50 is no problem. A few miles later 45, sometimes 40. You don't get anywhere very fast going 40. I have plenty of time to worry.


I start going mentally thorough what will happen when I run out of gas. I'll park on the shoulder if I have to, secure the bike and wave down a passing motorist. Yeah, that'll happen. I haven't seen another car out here all morning. Well, I'll wait as long as I have to. What choice do I have? I'll ride to town, buy a gas container, get gas and hitch a ride back. My goal will be one hour plus the time I spend riding both ways. That won't be too bad. I'll plan on that and hope for better. I won't have any way to carry the gas container so I'll leave it on the road for whoever wants it.


Going 40 mph with very little fuel in the wilds of British Columbia is nerve racking. Just out of curiosity I drag my boots on the pavement for awhile and conclude "Gee, I thought there would be a lot more grinding action".


I make a turn 38 miles from Prince George, 38 miles I'll never make, and I see a wonderful sight. Redemption. 2 gas pumps at a camping resort. I am a happy dude. The only thing is there is nobody here. No sign about hours. No sign of this place being in business. I wonder if they have gas. I wonder if they've had gas in a week or a month? You know with my luck I'm going to find out this place hasn't been in operation since World War II.


I waited an hour for the place to open. Gas was $1 a liter. $8, Canadian I think, for 2 gallons. I would have waited 4 hours. I wasn't going anywhere.


After gassing up I passed a terrible wreck. It was an overturned car going the same direction as I was. It was a one car accident and I suspect that it hit an animal or swerved to avoid one. The driver was gone by ambulance already. No telling how bad they were hurt.


At a construction zone I pull up alongside a charming couple and we talk about Hyder. They are headed there. They tell me it is the time for bear in the town. That's "in the town". All day. Every day. And it's a small town. Great. They seem unconcerned that I'm riding in the countryside but when I ask them about riding to Hyder they express concern about me. They try to put into words what I should be careful about but nothing specific comes to mind. Except the bears. Do be careful around the bears. "Yeah, thanks. I will".


I'm working on 2 days without any real food and I think a real meal in Prince George sounds more than good. Prince George is a great looking town. A real jewel tucked in the wilderness. It looks like quite a business center for this far north. I cruise the streets without finding a restaurant. How can they have a city with no restaurants? Ahh, a Wendy's. Food! I pull up ready to eat myself silly. They're closed. 9:15 a.m. and they're closed. *. How bad can a guy's luck be?


The only open place seems to be a Subway shop. I order a foot long sandwich, chips and a coke. Way more food than you're supposed to eat at one sitting and even though it tasted a lot like gas station food I enjoyed every morsel and gulp. As I eat I read an article in the local paper urging locals to keep their trash locked up and their fruit trees tidy because of bears. It seems that not enough locals realize that bears are not relocated but destroyed. Last year 75 bear were destroyed for digging in trash around peoples homes.


Now, about Hyder. After taking 4 1/2 hours to travel the last 120 miles I try to calculate the number of wild horses it would take to drag me there. I wasn't going. Projecting any of the progress I made for the last day and a half I'd have to be crazy to press my meager luck right here, right now. I don't have near enough time to get back.


I proceed South out of town as quickly as I can. Hyder isn't going anywhere I'll get there on another ride. I didn't feel disappointed. It was the right decision.


As soon as I turn South on 97 the riding looses it's 'adventure' quality. This was fine by me. Whew. That was a difficult day and a half. No telling how hard it could have gotten if I'd gone the extra 900 miles round trip to Hyder. Now I felt like things were back to normal. The sky was blue, the road was great and I was going South.


Over to my left about 100 or 200 miles I could see large clouds gathering over Banff and Jasper parks. I know all about that. I stop to get a picture. The area seems normal to me, more people, traffic and the usual signs of country life. After I snap a few photos I turn to merge back on the road uh oh... hold everything... A bear 50 feet in front of me, with 2 cubs. I stopped according to a pre-thought out script designed to keep me from being bear food. I had searched the internet and asked various people what the best plan is for a cyclist coming face to face with a bear. I asked a park ranger. Nobody had any concrete advice so I made my own plan. I'd stop in a partial U-turn and wait to see what the bear does. If I felt the need I would just complete the U-turn and leave. So there I sat looking at Mommy bear. She sat up on her hind legs and took a long look at me, looked the other way and led her cubs across the road.


It didn't bother me that I came across a bear or three. What bugged me was I casually pulled off the highway got off my bike to take pictures with 3 bear within 100 feet of where I stood. They were probably watching me the whole time. Then I started thinking about nearly dumping my bike in the gravel when I was trying to take a picture in Oregon on the first day. That did it. No more pulling off the road for pictures unless I'm in a parking space. I barely touched the camera the rest of the trip.


I stopped at a McDonald's for a stretch and a guy on a scooter comes over and we talk for almost an hour about motorcycles. He was a Shadow-Touring rider. Great guy to talk to. He advised me to alter my route a little to ride through the mountains a little more. I did. It would have worked out well except for a large amount of dusty construction on that road. Who knew though?


I rode through Canada's warmest area, the Okanogan region of south central BC. It is quite dry and warm and very much like parts of Washington, Idaho and Oregon. It was nice and very popular with vacationing Canadians.


Coming back into the US I answered only one meaningful question. The Customs Officer asked "What do you have that you bought in Canada?" I said "a bottle of car wash." For a moment the Officer looked at me in disbelief. "That's it?!" He passed me through with a semi disgusted wave of his hand. It wasn't a wasted trip, honest officer.


I tried to stop for a second meal of the day but found that in the border towns of Washington they like Canadian business hours. Everything closes at 8.


It felt good to be back in the US. I made a point of taking my rain soaked bike cover out from the night before and putting it on my bike for the night. I did this as much to dry out the cover as anything else. It was a good day. I had survived the adventurous portion of my trip with no real problems.



Day 5: Reacting to Things

Early Friday morning around 2 a.m. I experienced one of the most bizarre episodes of my life. It was cool. I was awakened by a great noise outside my motel room to find everything pitch black. The power had gone out. I had only one thought on my mind. I had to check on my bike. Since I was in a strange dark room it was laughably difficult to make it outside. Finding my pants was difficult. Finding my boots was difficult. I never did find my glasses. When I opened the door I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.


The wind was furiously howling through two large willow trees in the parking lot making an amazing amount of noise, there was a backlit yellow sandstorm cloud covering the mostly blacked out town to about 50 feet deep and there was a utility truck with a searchlight moving along the street in front of the motel looking for downed power lines. A dozen people were out of their rooms watching the storm and wondering if they should do anything. I turned around for a moment and the sky above the motel was clear black and full of stars. On cue a fantastically bright shooting star streaked across the sky. It was all quite dazzling. I enjoyed wondering if the end of the world would bear any resemblance to this sight. And there was my bike, precariously on it's centerstand with the cover I had put on it.


My bike had it's rear wheel off the ground and was wagging it's tail in the wind. RT's balance on their centerstands with one wheel or the other off the ground. One finger of pressure can move the balance to the front or rear wheel and the wind was putting a lot more pressure than that on my bike. I took the cover off and began looking for a safer place for my bike. I wanted to place my bike on the sidestand 3/4's into the wind but I couldn't tell which way the wind was blowing. One willow tree was blowing left and the other was blowing right. Besides that it was rapidly getting hard to see. Sand was getting everywhere, in my eyes, in my hair. I felt silly as I put my helmet on and shield down just so I could see but that's what I did.


By now I was really enjoying the storm. It was sensational and my bike was fine after I took the cover off. A very kind Asian-Indian manager offered me the only remaining spot left in the motel garage so I put my bike there and went back inside.


Those sensational events never last long enough do they.


So far I had stuck to my planned route. Since the Hyder Option was a no-go I had some time to play with. I had covered just over 2,000 miles in 3 days and decided to try a different kind of riding. I had spent 3 days mostly on secondary highways. I love roads like that but it left me wondering if I should seek out some twister roads. I felt like I should try this because so many in the BMW community brag about staying off major roads and inhabiting "The Twisties". BMW people don't brag about much but this seems to be a particular matter of pride with many. Was I missing something?


With this in mind I chose a route I've always wanted to try, Highway 20 through the North Cascades. I thought I'd ride through Seattle and check out a few places I used to hang out. The next day I'd ride some back roads, see Mt. St. Helen's and head home. A good plan B I thought.


20 is a great RT road. This road and a stretch of 97 I was about to come to were the best roads of the trip, not for their scenic beauty but for the pleasure of riding a modern performance oriented motorcycle on. 20 had a lot of sweeping turns and yellow signs suggesting lower speeds. Ha! It was great fun to ignore those signs and try to hold 5-10 mph over the speed limit. I was almost the only person on the whole road. I enjoyed every minute of that.


As great as Highway 20 is the road turns pretty boring as it drops down into the more populated areas on the West side. The speed limits drop to sedate numbers and traffic picks up. I was looking for a place to stretch and saw an K1200LT and a K75 parked at a cafe. Perfect. It amazes me how easily I can ride up to another BMW owner and act like I've known them for years when I've never seen them before. This was no different. I met a wonderful couple on his and hers bikes. The gentleman had a small basket strapped to his tank with a blanket in it for his little dog to ride in! He said his dog likes 5 hour rides. Over that and the dog tires. What a great animal. Most bikers don't enjoy riding that much.


The wife was really spoiled too. Her husband wanted her to try riding so he coaxed her into letting him find her a bike. After a long search just the right bike was chosen, a K75. He patiently taught her how to ride and got her through the riding test. Now he dutifully puts her bike on it's centerstand when needed and he takes it off the centerstand and rolls it out facing the way she wants to leave a parking lot. He also washes and maintains the bike. Sheesh. I dote on my wife too but this was too much. Well, no it isn't. If that was what it took for my wife to enjoy riding I'd do the same for her.


The guy was a real BMW Community Enthusiast. He made sure I knew about the Internet BMW list and about BMW clubs. He was a stalwart of his club and most proud of the riding in Washington. He went on about how spectacular the ride was I just finished. I thought to myself "the road was great but hey, I just rode through a thousand miles of Canada and the scenery around here is nice, but..."


I was about to make a significant mistake that would have dampened my trip and this guy saved me from myself and my not so great plan B. It was 1 o'clock in the afternoon on a Friday, I was 90 minutes from town and considering riding through Seattle. Not a good idea. He got out the map and routed me skillfully around Seattle and back through the Cascades. This was a major help to me and I'm thankful to that kind couple for their help. As I rode by Seattle I listened to the traffic reports and Seattle sounds like they have the worst traffic anywhere now. Funny, they didn't have traffic problems when I left 20 years ago.


I took Highway 2 through Leavenworth to 97. 97 from there to Ellensburg is the prettiest road I covered in my short time in Washington. After talking to the Beemer guy with the dog I had intended to still ride by Mt. St. Helens but this section of 97 made me think how much I like secondary highways and their sweeping turns. I like the twisties too, but a few hours of tight stuff and I'm good for the day. I can happily spend all day on the sweeping turns you find on the secondary highways like 20 and 97.


The rest of the day was an enjoyable but uneventful trek south on 97 to Madera Oregon. I did use a night riding technique that I like a lot on this part of the trip. 97 is dark and hitting animals or other road debris is the danger. The updated lighting on the 2002 RT is fantastic so I would ride alone at night with the high beams and feel OK about it. I'd run the speed limit or the speed limit -5 mph and be safe. However, I know a safer way. I tucked in a comfortable distance, maybe 150-200 feet, behind an 18 wheeler and stayed there. My lights did a great job of showing me what was between the two of us but the truck's lights did a good job of showing me what was way down the road. Following a truck like this nicely deals with the threats of road debris and animals. I can see and avoid the debris easily and it is most unlikely that a deer could make it between me and the truck with both of us traveling at 60 mph, there just isn't time and space for the deer to get there, especially as I position myself to see well around the truck. I passed two deer carcasses without the slightest concern. This method is my first choice for traveling at night in deer country.


I made Madera Oregon. I wanted to get as far as Bend but found a good place to stay and called it a day.



Day 6: Smoky way Home

This was the simplest and most straightforward day of the trip. None of this route was new to me. I woke in Madera Oregon and had less than 600 miles home all on high speed roads.


There was a hint of smoke in Madera from the Oregon fires. As I rode the smoke grew thicker and thicker. At one point you could start to see smoke 10 feet in front of you. By the other side of the road things looked foggy and visibility disappeared over a quarter mile.


My throat started to get a little sore and my eyes were having a hard day. I began to wonder how long an air filter would last in this stuff. I'd have to remember to check mine when I get back.


When I got to Klamath Falls I was a little dizzy from the smoke and had a bit of a headache. I pulled off the road near the south of town and got lost for an hour. I couldn't believe I was lost is such a small town that I'd been in several times, but I couldn't see outside the town and get my bearings. Without knowing which direction the lake was or even which way the mountains were I was left to wander my way out of town. Odd and frustrating.


The smoke extended well into California. In all I think the smoke covered more than 300 miles of my route.


As I reached Weed California the temperature soared to 110 degrees. I loved it. Really. I've always liked riding in HOT weather and I did this time too. My body relaxed so much that the little aches from consecutive 14 hour days in the saddle melted away. I drank 1 Liter of cold water per hour for a few hours. I wouldn't want to ride all year in that kind of heat but as much as I see it I really do enjoy it.


This was the first time I had my RT in hot weather and it ran the same oil temperature as it did in the cold Canadian wilderness a couple of days before. Of course I kept moving. Had I got stuck in traffic I'm sure the bike would have run quite warm.


My RT is very hard on it's tires if the air pressure drops. After some trial and error I'm thinking my front tire starts eating itself (cupping) when the air pressure drops below 42 psi. The one time on the trip it dipped below that, 40.5 psi, it promptly started to cup. I wanted to know the tire pressure in super hot conditions so I pulled off the baking freeway and got a hot tire pressure reading before the tire had much of a chance to cool. 51.5 psi. Previously that morning with the tire cold from sitting all night I filled it to 42.5 psi. I also wanted to add air to see if I could discern a rough riding tire. I put 53 psi in the tire. I never detected a 'hard' riding tire. The next morning when I checked it cold at my home the pressure was 43 psi, and it was about 60 degrees. I don't know what all this means yet but I aim to learn all about RT tire pressure. I want the tires wearing out, not prematurely cupping.


The rest of the way home was routine freeway riding. My trip was done.




This was my first genuinely long motorcycle trip. It provided me with a great deal more experience than I had before. I saw many great things, learned a lot about my bike, long distance riding and the difference between good riding gear and poor. I learned that the people you meet on the road make the trip truly memorable.


Two places stick in my mind as completely special. The Flathead Lake area of NW Montana and the Kootenay-Banff-Jasper National park complex in British Columbia and Alberta. They are stunning and so memorable to me that I want to go back WITHOUT A MOTORCYCLE! I'm sure I'll ride through those places again, hopefully many times but I want to spend a week in each of those areas getting to know the places.


I will make it to Hyder Alaska and I think Fairbanks, Anchorage, etc. Now that I have some experience I feel confident I can plan and execute rides there. One thing I'll do differently is go with good gear. I'll have proper electric clothing, better boots, etc.


This trip cemented me and my bike into the BMW community. I am now fully converted. I am elated to own such a fine machine. I can now say with complete conviction that the RT is perfectly suited to the way I ride and a fine example of what I like in a motorcycle. The BMW community is the bonus, a most unexpected windfall. I still can't believe how I can ride up to people I've never seen before and act like we're old friends. The technical support, camaraderie, shared values and riding fun push motorcycling to a level that I always knew had to be there but never experienced before buying my RT.


This trip completes a 7,000 blitz in 2 months since I purchased my bike. Now I am going to relax some and let the rest of the riding season dribble quietly away. Sure I'll go on a few more all day rides and I might spend another weekend or two on the road but I'm done blitzing until next spring. I'll ride every day until then but I'm done shaking down my RT. I'm happy.



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Hi Cory,


Great read. I did a few of the same roads last week. Wish we would have met. I'll be at marin bmw tues the 3rd getting a new front tire after noon. That's a work day darn it.


Enjoy the bike and the fellowship.

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Thanks for a great storey. A few comments from the Canadian side of the fence. Anywhere you travelled, they would take your American money, but it is easier to just use your credit card. You were lucky to travel through some of the nicest parts of western Canada, but it's not the Canadian wilderness! You were in some of the most populated areas, you will have to travel much more off the beaten path to find our wilderness.


Today I arrived home from a quick trip through the Kootnies and the south Okanagan. Like you I enjoyed the twisties. Saw some storm damage in the orchards near Oliver and Osoyoos, from the storm you described in your tale.


Great story and a nice read, come on back up this way anytime, maybe we will meet.





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Hey Cory,


Great ride tale!


I road my new RT up Rt 3a/97 to Penticton last August/Sept. That valley took my breath away. Decending into what appeared to be the Garden of Eden I was assaulted by the aroma of Pear, Apple, Peach and Strawberry. The bees were terrifying, but they do a great job on the fruit! laugh.gif


Your writing made it easy to "be on the ride". Thanks again.

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