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Two rallies & Canada - our 3 week trip in July


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This is Part I of our journal. It's a long one, so grab a cup of whatever and come along for the ride.


This summer's riding adventure would take us to two rallies, through five states, two Canadian provinces, and cover 4,700 miles.


Heading out from Grass Valley along Hwy 20 on July 10, it was picture perfect weather over Donner Pass as we skirted the eastern edge of Lake Tahoe, crossing over the summit on Hwy 50.



Heading out - Day 1


After spending the night in Minden, NV, with fellow riders, Michael and Gwen, we all headed south on 395 to Topaz Lake Lodge and Casino, the site of the bmwst.com Unrally, north of the state line. There we were joined by 136 other riders from around the country to enjoy the abundant motorcycle roads and mountain passes of the Sierras.




A great time was had by all during the three day get together.




Due to pressing duties of being “co-chair” for the event, we didn’t get to do as much riding as I would have liked. One trip we did make was a wonderful loop up Hwy 88, then over to Hwy 50 and back to Topaz Lake. Along the way we took a side trip on Blue Lakes Road off Hwy 88, to Lower Blue Lake, a fun stretch of nice sweepers.



Blue Lakes Road off Hwy88


Proceeding west on 88 to the higher elevations, we passed Caples Lake, then stopped for lunch at Kirkwood Inn and Saloon (great food), then continued our trek west. After we passed Silver Lake, we turned onto Mormon Emigrant Trail, then onto Silver Fork Road. The very twisty, winding pavement works its way down to Kyburz along the Silver Fork River, where we picked up Hwy 50 and headed east. We completed our loop on Hwy 89, through Markleeville, and finally back on 395.


On Thursday morning we said our goodbyes to everyone and headed off for the BMW MOA rally in Redmond, OR. Our route took us north on 395 to Susanville, with little traffic once we based through Sparks. At lunch, met up with Ken and Kate (from IL) who were also on the way to Redmond. We took off together along scenic Hwy 139, through a mix of hills, valleys and pine forests around Eagle Lake, working our way north to Oregon.



Approaching Eagle Lake


At Klamath Falls, we continued on Hwy 97, a heavily congested 2-lane highway, north through the beautiful Klamath National Forrest. Entering Bend, traffic slowed to deal with the ridiculous 45 mph speed limit on the “expressway.” Joined by numerous BMWs, we reached the MOA rally site at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in the late afternoon.



BMW MOA Rally camping with the Sisters in the distance.


At the rally we camped out with a group of riders from our local BMW club, the River City Beemers. There we spent two days relaxing, while enjoying the varied bikes in attendance, new and old, and meeting riders from all over the planet. We also took advantage of the opportunity to have new tires put on, although prices were anything but a deal. We did take a great ride up through the nearby mountains, west through Sisters on Hwy 20, over the Santiam Pass, then along the McKenzie Hwy 126 and back over the pass on Hwy 242.




This is a “must do” ride for any motorcyclist coming to the area. Just watch for lots of gravel in the corners on 242, and very narrow sections of road west of the summit.


We headed out of Redmond on July 18, on a scenic ride through Prineville, on Hwy 26 thru the Ochoco National Forrest. In Mitchell we picked up 207, winding along the John Day River, and then up to Heppner. This route offers a great mix of sweepers and twisties with little traffic. We finished the day's ride at Kennewick, WA, staying at the Clover Island Inn on the Columbia River. We arrived early enough to enjoy a few hours relaxing poolside, sipping Margaritas while a great band played oldies rock music. For dinner we enjoyed some overpriced seafood at the restaurant right next door.


The next day we took 395 to I-80, thru the Washington wheat fields, to Spokane. Turning north through downtown, we picked up US Hwy 2, (one of America’s great interstate motorcycle roads), and once outside the metro area, wound our way through green wooded countryside, along the Priest River, into Idaho. We stopped for the night in Sandpoint at a funky little motel, and enjoyed great homemade pie at the Panhandler Restaurant and Bakery.


The following morning, we continued to enjoy fantastic weather during a relaxing, winding ride along Hwy 2 along the Kootenai River into Montana. We passed through Kalispell where traffic picked up significantly, and finally arrived at our Apgar Village motel in Glacier National Park on the southern end of Lake McDonald. The view from our room was truly breathtaking.



The view of Lake McDonald from our room


After getting the bike unloaded, we hooked up with my daughter, Megan, who was working in the park for the summer. After enjoying lunch together, we returned to Lake McDonald and took a small boat out to enjoy the sunshine and the incredible views from the water. That evening, we dined at the Belton Chalet, just outside the entrance to the park. The food and the restored lodge were an awesome combination.


The next day, we played tourist, taking the “Highway to the Sun” up to Logan Pass. Along the way, we passed a baby bear walking along the rock wall right next to the roadway.



Along the Highway to the Sun


Up on the pass, we found lots of snow still covering the hiking paths. Numerous big horn sheep and mountain goats posed for pictures as they grazed along the trail. Glacier Park is truly a national treasure.


As much as we would have like to stay longer, we were “on the road again” the following morning. Megan wanted to ride on the bike along the lake, opting not to do the Highway to the Sun, better know as the “Highway to the Construction.” We left Megan and Glacier under cloudy skies with rain threatening. At Logan Pass, we donned our rain gear and continued on to St. Mary, then turned north on Hwy 89. From Hwy 17, we passed into Canada on Hwy 6 towards Waterton. We hit a few light showers, whisking along this great stretch of road with virtually no traffic, transitioning onto Hwy 22 (The Canadian Cowboy Trail) to Longview in the middle of Alberta cattle country.


We arrived at our destination, the Blue Sky Motel, unloading the bike just minutes before it started to pour. Two doors down was the Longview Steakhouse, where we dined that evening with Mike and his wife (from Calgary), whom we had met at the Unrally. Although you would never have guessed it based on the outside appearance, we were treated to a delightful four-star meal.


The next day, our first really chilly morning, we headed north on Hwy 40 through the Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park, skirting the Canadian Rockies that were shrouded in breaking fog and a few scattered dark clouds. We experienced the amazing stretch of road with virtually no traffic.



Hwy 40, south of Banff


By the time we got to Banff, skies had cleared and the air began to warm steadily. We stopped for coffee and a chance to shed some layers in Banff, a cute village of mountain recreation outlets, tourist shops and eateries. A visit to the Banff Springs Resort Hotel afforded a chance to see some amazing architecture and admire the scenery off the bike for a while. Dodging road construction along the Trans-Canadian Hwy 1, we diverted to Highway 1A to take us into Lake Louise. This would be a great touring road (even without the construction) as an alternative to the four-lane highway.


We arrived at our hotel, Deer Lodge, too early to check in, so we took a twisty mountain road eight miles to see the aquamarine blue Moraine Lake. These mountain lakes, fed by the limestone and quartz-saturated melting snow and glacier runoff, defy accurate photography. We finally got into our room, and had a pleasant evening enjoying a light dinner and the spectacular views of Lake Louise from the lounge at the Chateau Lake Louise Fairmont Hotel. Sunset was about 10 p.m.



Lake Louise


The following day we set out on a trip out Hwy 1 to Emerald Lake, another gorgeous alpine lake, and out the Yoho Valley Road to the massive Takakkaw Falls. On the way we stopped along the Kicking Horse River to see the Natural Bridge, a rock formation that has carved through by the rushing waters. In the afternoon we headed up Hwy 93, the Icefields Highway, to check out Hector Lake, Bow Lake and glacier, and the Bow Summit overlook of the brilliantly turquoise Peyto Lake.


On July 25 we left Lake Louise for Jasper on another picture-perfect morning, heading north again on Hwy 93. Halfway along this 100-mile stretch of scenic wonder, we stopped at Columbia Icefield center, another “must see.” We hiked to the edge of the glacier, but decided not to explore the ice further. At its thickest point the glacier stands over 150 feet tall. If you have an extra $100 to spend, you can ride across the icefield on a special bus and get to hike around on the upper levels.



Columbia Icefields


That afternoon we arrived at the Jasper House Bungalows, our lodging for the next two nights, two miles south of the town. We were pleasantly surprised, to find wonderful fully-equipped, modern “cabins” overlooking the Athabasca River. Elk cruised through the property at sunset and in the morning.


The next morning we ventured out east from Jasper, about 25 miles out the Maligne Lake Road, a great motorcycle road, past Medicine Lake to spectacular Maligne Lake. There you can enjoy a decent lunch spot as well as hiking, boat and kayak rentals and a motor launch cruise across the lake.



Maligne Lake


That evening, we enjoyed a simple meal prepared in our room with a great bottle of Canadian wine from the Niagara region of Ontario. At sunset the herd of elk arrived again, a perfect ending to another spectacular day in Alberta. Tomorrow we would be heading west into British Columbia.






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Part II




Departing Jasper, we started northeast on Hwy 16 towards Prince George, then south onto the Yellowhead Highway, Hwy 6, along the Thompson River. At Little Fork, we headed west on Hwy 24, enjoying great pavement and incredible sweepers, up to MacDonald Summit, one of the better motorcycle roads on the trip. We had gentle sweepers along the upper South Caribou region of lakes and pine forests for about 50 miles, with virtually no traffic all the way to Lone Butte. There we stopped at the Iron Horse Pub for a great lunch.


Afterward, we traveled out Watch Lake Road, through acres of lodge pole pines, past a huge log home manufacturing operation, Pacific Log Homes. Finally, we reached our stop for the night, Tall Timbers Resort, at the edge of Watch Lake. This was primarily an RV resort with weekly cabin rentals, but they have two rooms in the lodge that they rent by the night. Ours was the entire top floor, with two bedrooms and a full kitchen, just 100 feet from the water. Nothing fancy but a nice venue. This area borders the much larger Green Lake, a popular area for vacation homes and campgrounds.



Sunset at Green Lake


In the morning, we headed along Green Lake out to the 70 Mile House on Hwy 97, the Cariboo Highway. After stopping for breakfast at the Cariboo Lodge in Clinton, we continued for another 15 miles where we picked up Hwy 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, which runs all the way to Vancouver. This is a wonderfully scenic road, but unfortunately a bone-jarring combination of bumps, dips, and hand-size potholes for the first 90 miles, until Duffey Lake. The remaining 35 miles into Whistler was a welcome relief after two hours of fighting horrible pavement.



Duffey Lake east of Pemberton


In the early afternoon we arrived at our B&B in Whistler, the Cedar Springs Lodge, just north of the town. We spent the rest of the day hiking around Whistler Village, which reminded me of a gigantic outdoor mall surrounded by ski lifts.


The next day we continued south on Hwy 99, cruising our way along the Strait of Georgia to catch our ferry at Horseshoe Bay. We were waved on to the front of the queue with about a dozen other bikes just as they were ready to load the ferry. After a great ferry ride of about 90 minutes, we off-loaded in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, 70 miles north of Victoria.



Vancouver Island ferry on Strait of Georgia


For lunch, we drove north to the village of Coombs and stopped at the Old Country Store. This place is a combination souvenir store, grocery, bakery, deli and restaurant. We decided to avoid the long lines waiting to get in the restaurant and ordered great sandwiches and salads at the deli counter. After finding seats on the deck, we were entertained by their herd of goats grazing on the rooftop.


By late afternoon we had arrived at our stop for the evening in Duncan, about 30 miles away, at the home of a member of the Motorcycle Travel Network (MTN). Our hosts John and Laesha have a great home with a view of Quamichan Lake. John is an avid motorcyclist and pilot, with a Gold Wing and Cessna. John fixed a delightful dinner for us, and we spent the evening talking bikes and travel.


We left in the morning in glorious sunshine for Victoria, traveling along the Chowichan Bay Road until we were forced to get back on the main highway. By the time we got to Victoria it was in the 80’s. We parked the bike at the Empress Hotel, ditched our riding gear in favor of walking shoes, then set off to explore Victoria Harbor for nearly three hours. We had lunch at the Fisherman’s Wharf and walked the harbor side until it was time get the bike to the pier for Custom’s Inspection for our ferry to Port Angeles.



Victoria Harbor


As usual, we and the other bikes were loaded before the cars, this time at the rear of the ferry. As this voyage was expected to have rougher waters than the Nanaimo Ferry, we lashed the bike to the bulkhead with ropes already positioned along the bulkhead just for the motorcycles. The 90-minute crossing was sunny but much cooler than weather in Victoria. Just off the coast of Washington, we hit heavy fog and the seas got choppy. Arriving at the pier in Port Angeles the ferry rotated itself to come into the dock stern first. We offloaded to cool temps and foggy skies typical of the Cascade Peninsula. Our next stop would be in Seattle at my daughter Ali’s place, a condo in the North Beacon Hill. Our route there would take us along the coast on Hwy 101 to 104, crossing the “floating bridge” at the Hood Canal , and then down to Bremerton on Hwy 3. There we would take another ferry to Seattle.


Forty miles from Bremerton my mileage computer said I was out of gas, but the odometer reading suggested I still had enough reserve to get to Seattle. Besides, we were late arriving in Port Angeles and I didn’t want to take the time to even do a “splash and go.” When we arrived on the ferry terminal, there were only a few cars in the loading area and the clock at the ticket booth suggested we had missed the ferry by 7 minutes. We were thrilled to discover the ferry was actually running late. As we parked at the front of the line (again), our Seattle ferry rounded the point. We loaded with a few motorcycles, a dozen cyclists, and just a few cars for a wonderful ride around the Manchester peninsula and past Bainbridge Island as the settling sun cast a golden hue across the Seattle waterfront. We relaxed with a glass of wine, watching coastline roll by, and savored the fact that we didn’t have to wait two hours for the next ferry.



Heading into Seattle on the Bremerton Ferry


We enjoyed a wonderful two days in Seattle with my daughter and her boyfriend, Matt. Our visit included touristy things, including walking to Pike Place Market to mingle with all the crowds. It was fun just to be with the kids and enjoy more great weather while getting some sorely needed exercise.


The next day I took the bike for gas and determined I still had well over a gallon left. This was the only quirk I could discover with the new bike, and something I could easily deal with when I got it home. Other than that, I was really in love with this 1200RT.


We departed Seattle on the 1st of August. I dropped Janet at SeaTac Airport for her flight back to Sacto, as she had to get back to work the next day. I continued on to Portland, where I was spending the evening with some old friends, Stephen and Jennifer, who have a wonderful home, situated in the northwest hills above the city. We had a great dinner and evening of conversation, but way too much wine.



Roadhouse breakfast special


Unfortunately I had to leave Portland the next morning, a town a really enjoy and a place where I have several other friends I didn’t get a chance to see. For the ride to my next stop in Brookings/Harbor, OR, I started out on I-5 south to make up some time. At Cottage Grove I cut west on Hwy 99, then onto Hwy 38 in Elkton, following Umpqua River to Reedsport on the coast. Along the way, I stopped for some pictures at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area. Hwy 38 is a great, windy river road with beautiful new pavement and virtually no traffic until road construction east of Reedsport.



Elk and passengers, Dean Creek, OR


Continuing south along Hwy 101 I hit alternating stretches of road construction and severe wind gusts. South of Coos Bay I encountered patches of fog and cooler temperatures all the way to Brookings.


Reaching Harbor, OR, I met my riding friend and host, Bill, at his house, and we decided to have dinner at one of the restaurants in the harbor. Afterwards, we got me set up for the evening in the “barn” on the animal reserve where he is caretaker. The barn was anything but, and in actuality was a modern studio apartment that housed a 1,500 gallon fresh water aquarium. Bill gave me a quick tour of this amazing property on the bluffs above the ocean, then left me alone to enjoy the surroundings. It’s home to a herd of pigmy horses, emu, and a huge furry dog the size of a small bear. Unfortunately, the whales that can sometimes be seen from the edge of the property were not passing by that evening.



Sunrise at the “ranch” in Harbor, OR


The next morning, I continued south along a very cold and foggy coast highway, crossing into my home state. I stopped for breakfast in Crescent City, then took a short detour off the Redwood Highway, along the Drury Scenic Parkway, through the Redwoods National Forrest. The road was deserted and somewhat foggy, forcing me to cruise through this amazing cathedral of redwood giants with the expectation of deer lurking in the shadows. Returning to the main highway, I wound along the fog-shrouded coast to McKinleyville, where I picked up Hwy 299 for the 100 mile ride east to Weaverville.


Dubbed the Trinity River National Scenic Highway, this two-hour stretch of 299 is one of the top-rated California touring roads, with lots with incredible vistas, fast sweepers and excellent pavement. Cresting Brush Mt. west of Willow Creek, the temperature jumped from 54 to 84. After peeling off my base layers and liner, I continued along this great stretch of road virtually by myself. Outside of Helena I did encounter a few paving crews putting the finishing touches on this stretch of road, but the delays were minimal.


I stopped for lunch in Weaverville, a picturesque little town that reminds me of Grass Valley. Unlike other towns I had passed through that were showing the ill-effects of the economy, this one was benefiting from being the seat of county government, the largest local employer. As the temperature climbed into the 90's, I decided to make a quick run up Hwy 3 (another great area motorcycle road) to check out Trinity Lake. The traffic was very light but the great twisties were impeded by trailer and RV traffic. Upon reaching Trinity Center at the north end of the lake, I made a u-turn and started back down 3. Instead of going all the way to Weaverville, I took the Trinity Dam Road east and south to Lewiston. If you’re looking for some great twisties to cut loose on, away from Hwy 3 traffic congestion, this is a great 24 mile diversion. Good pavement, no tar snakes, and virtually no traffic (I passed only one car along the entire route).



Trinity Lake


From Lewiston, I headed west again on 299, then picked up Hwy 3 at Douglas City and continued on to Hayfork. I arrived at the home of my MTN hosts, Phil and Charlene, shortly before 5. After a tour of their “stable” of three bikes (FJR, Gold Wing, and a Road King), we enjoyed the great American dinner of hamburger and hot dogs. Afterwards we talked bikes and roads trips well into the evening. Then I hit the sack in a bedroom decorated in motorcycling motif, complete with Harley Davidson pillow shams on the bed. It was the perfect place to spend my last night on the road.


The next morning Phil and Charlene stuffed me with a great breakfast, after which I headed south again on Hwy 3 until it ended at Hwy 36, the mother of NorCal motorcycle roads. It was early enough that I encountered few cars, but by 8:30 it was already pushing 90 degrees. The 60 mile ride to Red Bluff was pure heaven, with lots of fresh pavement and no traffic. By the time I reached Red Bluff, it was nearly 100, so I continued east on Hwy 36 up to the higher and cooler elevations near Mt. Lassen.



Early morning on Hwy 36


At Lake Almanor, I picked up Hwy 89 for a great ride down to the quaint town of Quincy. Of course there were the requisite stops for road construction along the way, but traffic was still light. Surprisingly, it was still quite warm when I arrived in Quincy. I stopped for lunch at Mill Creeks Fish and Chips (where they just happen to serve the best burgers in town), then headed east on Hwy 70, then south on 89 to Graeagle. Instead of continuing on to 49, I decided to take a shortcut up Gold Lake Highway. I couldn’t pass up this great collection of sweepers past Gold, Goose, and Sardine Lakes in the heart of the Sierras. Coming out at Bassetts Station on Hwy 49, I had a wonderful 60-mile run with little traffic for the remainder of the trip, through Sierra City, Downieville, Nevada City, and finally into Grass Valley. My final day’s ride was picture perfect and a pleasant ending to a fantastic three week adventure.



Gold Lake Highway, above Bassetts


Hope you enjoyed the ride! You’ll find the rest of my pictures at:

SmugMug Canada Photos

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I had a wonderful 60-mile run with little traffic for the remainder of the trip, through Sierra City, Downieville, Nevada City, and finally into Grass Valley.

What a rough way to end a great trip! :grin::thumbsup:

Great report. Thanks!!!

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Wow, what a great ride report and beautiful photographs as well. I enjoyed reading about your 3-week adventure.


I also attended the Redmond rally. Here are a few photos if you are interested.




Even though I now live in Bellingham, WA most of the time (Cupertino, CA the rest of the time) I still have not explored Canada extensively. But your photo essay makes me want to saddle up for an extended adventure north.


Thanks very much



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Dave, thanks for the tale. My own Canada tale is in the writing stage. Your view of Canada is much different than mine. Mine was filled with smoke. I like yours better.

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Dave, thanks for the tale and photos! It was fun revisiting places I've been and getting a preview of places I'd like to go now that I've seen your photos. I take it the new RT performed well? How does Janet like it as the pillion?

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