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Canada, PNW, and Southwest Ride (some pix)

Pat St. Jean

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August 13, 2010 -


The first day of the longest trip I've taken yet started late, partly due to circumstances beyond my control and partly by choice. It was hot today, really, really hot, even for Texas. I decided to start a little later to avoid the worst of the heat, doing at least part of the riding while the sun was down. My thoughts were to get to Perry, OK, about 240 miles north of home, to shave some distance off of the run to Regina, SK and open up my schedule for time in Canada. I made good time, and starting late worked out well. I did a lot of night riding, but the temperatures were way down. I rolled in to the hotel at around 10:30 PM. The bike ran great, with one exception. I’d noticed that visibility was a little lower than I’d liked so I’d turned on the fog lights and then switched to high beams. When I moved the bike to the parking spot I noticed that the HID low beam bulb was not lighting up. It was too dark, and I was too tired, to troubleshoot so I decided to look at it in the morning.



August 14, 2010 -


After a good night's sleep and some breakfast I started troubleshooting the low beam on the bike. It didn't take long at all to determine that the reason why it was not working was thanks to a shattered bulb. That was just a little annoying as HID bulbs aren't typically stocked at auto parts stores. I decided to ride on using my high beam for the time being and when I got a chance I would verify that the stock low beam socket was still live. If so, a new halogen bulb would be easy to install.


After that I loaded up the bike and pointed the wheels north. This last bit of I-35 and I-135 were the last bits of interstate I’d be on for a while. The route I picked out had me heading pretty much due north through the middle of Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.


The ride was pretty uneventful, thankfully. The temperatures steadily dropped as I moved further north, making the riding much more comfortable. North of Salina, KS, I-135 turns in to US-81 and the scenery gets much more interesting with small towns and farm land galore. I stayed on US routes and state highways through to tonight's stopping point, Spencer, NE. I pulled in to the parking lot of the Skyline Motel at around 7:45 PM, got the bike unloaded, and walked down the street for a late dinner. This should hopefully be the longest day of the trip, clocking in at about 530 miles.


August 15, 2010 -


I got to bed early the previous night and got up a little earlier this morning, helping me to get moving sooner. After a great breakfast at Nolan's Ironman Cafe, I fired the bike up and made the short hop through the last few miles of Nebraska and in to South Dakota. From there I got on SD-18 and took it west to SD-47 north. I stayed on SD-47 most of the way through the state, fighting a 20+ mph crosswind the whole time. I cut across to US-83 just south of Selby, SD. That pesky crosswind didn't give up, even as I crossed in to North Dakota. I had to get back on an interstate where US-83 and I-94 share the same road, but only for a few miles until US-83 split back off in Bismarck, heading for Minot. The crosswind started easing off, more hard gusts with a lighter sustained speed. It was still hard going, and I was definitely getting tired, but Minot was getting closer. I finally pulled in to the hotel at around 6:30 PM, got the bike unloaded, and got some food. Since there were auto parts stores in town, tomorrow was the day I would try to fix the headlight because I wanted the bike 100% before I crossed in to Canada.



August 16, 2010 -


Early to wake, early to work. I got moving and headed over to a local auto parts store to see about the headlight. They loaned me a meter which I used to confirm that the stock connector did in fact have power. So after purchasing and installing a halogen bulb (using clean gloves so as to not mess up the bulb) and doing some minor modifications to ensure that the HID ballast was completely disconnected and the connectors waterproofed, I hit the road for the border crossing in Portal, ND.




The ride up was really nice, thanks to the rolling hills and fields of sunflowers.




I arrived at the border crossing with plenty of time to spare on my internal schedule. Crossing in to Canada was a lot different than the last time, on a drive to Alaska in 1994. I was asked to go inside and went through a rather thorough interview, including questions about my financial status and the names and phone numbers of the friends I was going to be staying with in British Columbia. After immigrations was satisfied I got on SK-39 and followed it to Regina, SK. The weather was better, with much less wind to fight, but it was cool enough that I contemplated turning on the heated jacked liner I had packed. I arrived at the hotel in Regina at about 2:30 PM, got checked in, and unloaded the bike before heading over to the RCMP Heritage Centre. It’s a smallish museum, but was a very enjoyable place to spend some time. They had some really good exhibits and lots of information on the RCMP, from its founding to today.




After returning to the hotel I grabbed my maps and went out for some route planning over dinner.



August 17, 2010 -


A chilly Canadian morning greeted me as I packed the bike back up for the ride to Calgary. I skipped the hotel's free breakfast for a visit to Tim Hortons for some coffee and Timbits. It was well worth the slight detour as their coffee is excellent and the doughnuts hit the spot.


Following my caffeine and fried dough detour I got on Highway 1 and headed for Calgary. The ride was pretty uneventful, mostly just miles and miles of cultivated fields. I did have to dodge some rain through western Saskatchewan, but stayed mostly dry. The bike's odometer rolled over 60,000 miles on the outskirts of Calgary.


The one bit of excitement, if you can call it that, was getting pulled over for speeding coming in to Calgary. It was totally my fault, I missed the sign indicating that the speed limit had dropped from 110 kph to 70(!) kph. The cop was good though and let me go with a stern talking to and a good set of directions to help me avoid the city center and find a hotel.


Dinner was some tasty barbecue at Big T's BBQ where I also enjoyed a really good beer from Big Rock Brewery, a local brewery.



August 18, 2010 -


I slept in today, but I was on vacation and I only had 70 miles to ride. After some coffee and donuts at Timmy's, I topped the tank off and headed for Banff. The ride was great and the weather definitely warmed up. Coming in to the Canadian Rockies was a visual treat. At one of the photo spots outside the park I ran in to a pair of bikes from North Carolina, had a good chat, traded photo taking, and then rode in to the park and on to the town of Banff. Hotel rates were as high as I'd expected, but I wanted to stay in Banff so paying for the convenience was justified in my mind. There are cheaper alternatives if you don’t mind a little ride to get to the park.


After unloading the unnecessaries from the bike I scooted over to the Banff Gondola and rode up to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The views were spectacular though it was a little hazy thanks to all of the forest fires burning in British Columbia, but still well worth the trip up. Many pictures were taken before my empty stomach insisted on being filled. And what better way to fill it than poutine at 7500 feet elevation? I can't think of one.






I then headed back to the hotel to drop off the gear and walk over to the post office to mail a post card to my son and do some shopping. I found some neat stuff in The Bear and Butterfly, and since they directly support the park it was money well spent. After that I went over to The Bison for some local beer and food. I had a most excellent meat and cheese board and a couple really tasty local beers. The first was a Gopher from Big Rock, a nice hoppy lager. The second was a pilsner from Grizzly Paw, very malty and quite delicious.


After that I made my way back to the room and turned in early because tomorrow was going to be a long day, hopefully the last of them, as I planned ride up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper and then head over to British Columbia to meet and stay with some friends I haven’t seen in a long time.



August 19, 2010 -


The previous long days bought me the room in my schedule to be able to ride through Banff and Jasper. I took Route 1A north out of Banff up to Lake Louise, taking advantage of the many photography opportunities through Banff. I then merged back on to Route 1, heading to the Icefields Parkway for more spectacular sights. I got to see the Bow Lake Glacier, more of the Canadian Rockies, and the Columbia Icefield. Those were some really impressive glaciers, even with their steady retreat. Next time I hope to have time to go out on them, but it just wasn’t in the cards this trip. The weather got very cool, enough that I turned on the electric jacket, while being up in the mountains.




After leaving the glaciers behind I scooted up to Jasper, maxing out at 2074m elevation along the way, which turned out to be the high point in Canada. A quick lunch in Jasper and I was back on the road heading to some my friends’ place in Kamloops, BC. The ride down Route 5 was very smoky thanks to all of the forest fires burning throughout the province, to the point where I could actually smell the wood smoke. It really was like driving in fog, so I slowed down and paid attention more.


I pulled in to the farm at about 7:30 PM and had some delicious beer, tasty lasagna, and got caught up with old friends.



August 20, 2010 -


The last day in Canada saw me heading down 5A from Kamloops. It's a really nice road, with lots of twisties to keep you entertained. After that little bit of play time I got back on 5, going southwest towards Vancouver. I ran in to more chilly weather in the mountains and lots of turns and elevation changes as I made my way to the border crossing at Huntingdon, BC/Sumas, WA. The wait at the border crossing was longer than I'd expected and I had to start turning the bike off to keep it from overheating while I waited my turn. This crossing was a lot easier than the last one, with just a few questions about whether I’d picked up anything I might have to pay duties on. Once back in the US I headed for the Seattle area. Rush hour traffic was a bear, but thanks to HOV lanes I made it through to the Tacoma Narrows bridge and ultimately to the island for the party that was the genesis of this ride. I got the tent pitched, some food in my belly, and a cold beer in my hand, so all is right in the world.



August 21, 2010 -


Today was a completely down day, no riding period. Though I did notice that it appears the bike had started leaking some oil from somewhere on the left hand cylinder head. I cleaned it up and decided to watch it over the next few days to see where it was coming from.



August 22, 2010 -


You’d think I would have learned my lesson regarding getting up early while on vacation, but no. I got the last of the camping gear and clothes loaded on the bike, said my goodbyes, and headed for Tacoma to meet up with a friend I haven't seen since I left Rhode Island, almost 20 years ago. The ride back over the Tacoma Narrows bridge was chilly but it was worth it. I got over to a little diner called Marcia's Silver Spoon Cafe a little later than I'd planned, but my friend stuck around. It was time well spent catching up with him after all that time. Unfortunately, I had to be going so we said our goodbyes and fired the bikes up.


After an excellent breakfast I headed south on I-5 down through Washington and in to Oregon. Just south of Eugene I got on OR-58 and headed for the first gas station I saw to top the tank off and walk around for a few. When I pulled in I was right behind Red and Jon Morgan, who I'd planned to meet up with in Chemult, OR. We rode the rest of the way down together, through a couple National Forests, on a very nice, winding road. The weather had gotten chilly again, and once we checked in to the motel we found out that there might be frost tonight.



August 23, 2010 -


Red, Morgan, and I fired the bikes up and made our way to Crater Lake National Park. It was a chilly morning, especially on top of the volcano, but the views were spectacular! We stopped at a few of the overlooks, took pictures and admired the scenery, and finally shopped at the information center. Red was having some trouble with her brakes so she and Jon decided to head down to Livermore while I continued on over to Nevada. We split up in Klamath Falls, OR, just before lunch. I was sorry to see them go, but misbehving brakes are not to be taken lightly.




From there I trekked across Oregon and the top of California on various state highways and US routes before ending up on I-80 on the way in to Reno. Once I got in to California the weather had warmed up enough that I could take off the jacket liner, in fact I had to because it was getting uncomfortable to keep it on.


After getting through Reno I got off the interstate and called it a night in Fernley, NV as I was pretty tired. It's pretty close to the start of the section of US-50 known as The Loneliest Road in America. I'll be riding that tomorrow, on my way to Delta, UT.



August 24, 2010 -


It was a good thing that I decided to stop in Fernley last night. I re-read the Loneliest Road challenge rules and it turns out I needed to get a stamp from there. So I went down to the chamber of commerce's office, picked up my survival guide, and got it stamped. They also gave me an audio tour on CD, but unfortunately between the I don't have anything that can play it.


I topped off the tank, not taking any chances, and rolled on down US-50 to Fallon. In Fallon I found the local UPS store and shipped my camping gear back. That removed a nice bit of weight from the bike! The UPS store stamped my survival guide for Fallon. Another splash of fuel, a refill of the hydration backpack, and I'm on the road for Austin.




This leg was where the signs of civilization started to disappear. Even the power lines weren't visible for part of it. It was really peaceful being the only human around for miles. But it had to end, and I arrived in Austin where I topped the tank off and got that stamp added to my growing collection. I also grabbed a bite to eat there as well at a local diner. The food was good, but a little overpriced.


With tank and belly full, I pressed on to Eureka. I think this was the toughest part of the ride, because between the full puppy syndrome and the monotonous riding, it was tough to stay awake. I managed though and once in Eureka I got some more fuel, another stamp for the guide, and some much appreciated caffeine.


Leaving Eureka I was on the way to Ely, the last of the five big towns on that stretch of US-50. The ride was a lot more interesting, with more twists and turns and more varied scenery than before. I made it in to Ely with no issues, got my guide stamped, topped the tank off, and pointed the bike towards Utah.




I got to my chosen stopping point, Delta, UT, a little later than I would have liked, but there were still rooms available. With the bike unloaded and my check-in phone calls done, I grabbed a bite to eat and then turned in. The oil leak, extremely minor though it was, continued.



August 25, 2010 -


Today was originally supposed to be a shorter day, but I decided to add in a stop at Natural Bridges National Monument which brought my route up to about 400 miles.


It was well worth it, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The first planned stop was at Capitol Reef National Park, and while on the way there I hit a new trip-altitude record of 8,385 feet. Capitol Reef was beautiful, with many stunning views of weathered mesas, cliffs, buttes, etc. composed of red, grey, yellow, and white rock. The ride through the park was great, and I stopped in many places to take pictures.




From there I made my way over to Natural Bridges, passing through Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the way there. It was, also, amazing. Words, especially ones from someone who is not a writer, don't do it justice. The roads, winding through canyons of red rock, are amazing motorcycling roads. I hadn't planned on seeing this and am definitely glad I had the opportunity.


After leaving Glen Canyon behind I pulled in to Natural Bridges and rode around the park, snapping pictures of the rock formations as I went. I didn't get to hike down to any of the lower viewing areas because, frankly, I didn't trust my footing in motorcycle boots. I'm sure the views were incredible, and I'll be back to do this again with better walking gear, but for now pictures from the overlooks had to do.


I rolled out of the park heading for Moab, UT, tonight's destination. I planned the route to have some time to really go though Arches tomorrow so I needed to press on tonight. The ride to Moab was even better, because even though I was out of the parks the scenery was still a feast for the eyes.


I arrived in Moab, got my hotel room for the next couple nights, and went over to The Moab Brewery for dinner and some very tasty, if a little low on the alcohol, brews.



August 26, 2010 -


After a good night's sleep I got up, packed the camera gear, and grabbed some breakfast before going over to Arches National Park for a day of hiking and photography. The park is beautiful, a feast for the eyes, and just a real pleasure to be in. I managed to get to most of the points of interest that I'd planned on before running around in the heat at altitude started beating me down. At that point I was guzzling Gatorade from the backpack and choosing not to hike except for important-to-me sights. I got to see the North and South Windows, Balancing Rock, Turret Arch, Delicate Arch, and a lot more. This is somewhere I'll be coming back to when the weather's a little cooler and I've got better hiking gear. Traipsing around on sandstone ledges in motorcycle boots is really not the best of ideas.








When I'd ridden all of the roads in the park, I started back for the hotel, stopping off to mail another post card to my son and fill the bike's tank. After cooling down and doing some school work, I made my way back over to The Moab Brewery for a burger and some more excellent beers.



August 27, 2010 -


I was definitely on the homeward leg of the trip by now. I checked the tire pressure (perfect) and oil level (a little low), got breakfast, and started down the road to Santa Fe. The ride was pretty uneventful, taking me through southern Utah, the southwest corner of Colorado, and finally New Mexico. I crossed the continental divide on US-84 in New Mexico but didn't stop to take a picture as I noticed the sign as I was riding by. My first stop on arriving in Santa Fe was the local BMW dealer to pick up replacement o-rings for my oil filler cap. It's the most likely cause of the leak I’ve been dealing with since Seattle. After that I checked in at the hotel and unloaded the bike, then walked down to Horseman's Haven for dinner. The green chile was as tasty and hot as I remembered, nicely scorching my face. I'll be back for breakfast for sure!



August 28, 2010 -


I got up early and went out to work on the bike's oil fill cap leak issue. After removing the plastic insert that goes in the head it was immediately apparent what the problem was. That o-ring was completely shot, flattened out on the side that goes against the plastic insert, allowing grit in and oil out. I replaced it and then got cleaned up and packed the bike. Breakfast was also at Horseman’s Haven, enjoying more of that delicious New Mexico green chile. With a full belly I topped the tank off and headed for Lubbock. The ride went well, up until a little past Clovis, NM, where I got caught in a classic high plains thunderstorm. I managed to skirt most of it, riding through the trailing end of the first cell and then watching the other one move up as I went by. I rolled in to my college roommates’ place in Lubbock and stayed up way too late catching up.



August 29, 2010 -


The last day of the ride. I'm definitely ready to be home but a part of me wants to keep going... The ride was a little windy, a little warm, but completely issue free. The o-ring replacement in Santa Fe seems to have worked. The oil leak is gone, so that's good. I rolled in to the driveway at around 5:00 PM, completing the longest ride both in distance and duration that I’ve done so far.


Here’s some raw data on the ride


  • 17 days
  • 5,892 miles
  • 2 countries
  • 13 states
  • 3 provinces


And here’s the Spot Adventures page for the ride.

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Wonderful trip journal and pics. Glad you got the same good weather in Canada we did the month before. You hit all my favorite roads in Nevada and Utah. Keep 'em coming!

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