Bike Trip to Vancouver Island

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August 30th 2008
Published: October 14th 2008
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Edmonton Soaring Motorcycle Club Rides Again

There is a group of pilots in the Edmonton Soaring Club who are also motorcycle enthusiasts. Flying glider aircraft and riding motorcycles just seem to go together - the days when you want to go for a motorcycle ride are the same days you would want to fly a glider. There is nothing I like more than riding my motorcycle to the airport to go flying, I get to do my two favourite things on the same day.

The Edmonton Soaring Motorcycle Club is a “club within a club”, and doesn't really exist on paper. It is just a loose bunch of us that get together once a year for a ride somewhere. It started as just a short day ride; the first year we went to Rocky Mountain House and back. The next year we rode up to Cold Lake and had a nice lunch at an outside table overlooking the lake. Our ambitions increased last year, and we did a 3-night and 4 day trip into the east Kootenays in B.C. This year, we did a week long trip to Vancouver Island and back.

The participants this year were Henry Wyatt, riding a new (to him) Honda ST1300. Henry used to ride a very under-used Honda CB900 that he bought in the early 80's. He rented an ST1100 last year and decided that he liked it and an upgrade was necessary. Dave Scott joined our club this year, and he rides another ST1300. Dave spits his year between Alberta and New Zealand (living in perpetual summer the bugger). Dale Armstrong has a multiple-bike disorder like me, and rode his BMW RT1200. Bruce Friesen, an ESC member who retired last year and moved to White Rock joined us at the coast as we went by. He was riding a new Suzuki V-Strom 650. Bruce and I both bought V-Stroms this year, having fed off each other's research on the topic of adventure touring bikes (Bruce's other bike is a 1974 BMW R90 that he bought new and has ridden around the world). By the time of this trip however, I had put over 15,000 kilometers on my V-Strom this year (having been to Vancouver and back, then to Alaska and back). I decided for this trip I would take my Honda Valkyrie. Next year I plan on taking the V-Strom to South America.

We started from Edmonton on August 23rd. We met for breakfast at my favourite restaurant for a rib-sticking breakfast, the Saratoga on Calgary Trail just north of 23rd avenue. From there, we rode on mostly back roads, avoiding Highway #2 (the main Edmonton to Calgary link). We wound our way down to Bragg Creek on Highway 22 west of Calgary, then continued on 22 down to Pincher Creek where we spent our first night. It was our intention to be camping on this trip, and we stayed at a campground right in Pincher Creek that was within stumbling distance of some restaurants. We wanted to partake in some grog with supper each night, but not having to ride our bikes afterwards.

Highway 22 south of Black Diamond is an excellent ride, with the road flirting with the foothills, and affording a lovely view of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. We arrived in Pincher Creek about supper time, set up camp, then walked down the road for supper. For some reason, all of the usual haunts in Pincher were closed (glider pilots make two pilgrimages to Pincher Creek each year for gliding camps and are well acquainted with the the local road houses). We wound up having supper at the Heritage Inn hotel, and it was more than adequate mainly because they could supply cold beer. A slightly longer walk from the campground, but it was about the only game in town that night.

The next morning we broke camp and were on the road early after breakfast at a local restaurant. Our goal that day was Osoyoos, and we had lots of scenic ground to cover. Right off the bat, we had the Crowsnest Pass through Lumbreck, Blairmore, Coleman, and Sparwood. The mountain scenery continued as we pushed on through Fernie, Cranbrook, and Creston. The ride from Creston to Salmo was spectacular with a climb over the Kootenay Pass. We stopped for lunch at the rest stop at the summit of the pass. The rest of the day was spent going over one pass after another - between Salmo and Castlegar, then between Castlegar and Grand Forks, and continuous ups and downs before we arrived at Osoyoos. We stopped at a viewpoint on our descent to Osoyoos and watched rain clouds dumping on the other side of the valley. It didn't take much persuasion to check into a motel that evening. There was a great restaurant right across the street according to the motel owner, and after unpacking, we ventured over there in a rain shower. The meal turned out to be great, one of the best meals I have had on the road while traveling. I only wish I could remember the name of the place so I could recommend it to everyone.

The ride the next day took us over the Hope-Princeton highway, which again presented more mountainous terrain and fine motorcycle riding with all kinds of twisty roads. We detoured in Manning Park and climbed up to a viewpoint on a narrow paved road with many switchbacks. A joy to ride on a bike. We hit a bit of rain during our descent from Manning Park to Hope, but it didn't last too long. We rode the stretch into the lower mainland on the freeway dodging much heavier traffic than we were used to. We exited the freeway by Langley and went in to see the museum at the Langley airport. Bruce met us there and showed us around. He volunteers there one or two days a week working on restoring aircraft. He is currently working on a Dehavilland Vampire. We continued from Langley on the #10 Highway on our way to catch the ferry at Tsawwassen. Thanks to some road construction that took us over half an hour to go three blocks, we missed the ferry we planned to catch over to the Island and had to settle for one an hour later.

The great thing about bikes and ferries is that you go to the head of the line and are the first ones on, then you are close to the first ones off as well. We had supper on the ferry, which while a little pricey, was surprisingly good. Our next two nights stay was to be with Dave and Loretta Puckrin in Lake Cowichan. Dave is a member of the Soaring Club who recently moved to the Island in preparation for retirement, or something. I don't think Dave will ever retire, so it will be interesting to see what kind of trouble he can get himself into out there. Dave and I have been friends for many years, and even built an airplane together (which is currently up for sale, see We arrived in Cowichan after dark and had a bit of fun finding Dave's place after riding by it once. The next day we spent relaxing and looking around town before heading out to a pub in Youbou for supper. The weather turned foul and rained that afternoon and evening. The next morning it had stopped raining and we rode back to Duncan on the old Cowichan River Road which was a bit more scenic and interesting than the new highway. We stopped in Chemainus to look around town and see the famous murals, then worked our way up to Comox to catch the ferry over to Powell River. Technically we weren't in Powell River, but Westview. There was a campground close to the ferry terminal and Westview where we made camp then walked into town to find a restaurant for supper. We wound up at a Mexican Restaurant (where nobody could speak Spanish to me). It was a decent meal, and afterwards we left to walk back to the campground, but it had started raining. We ducked into another restaurant to have a drink and some desert to wait out the rain. I tasted a new malt whiskey there that I hadn't heard of before, from the Isle of Dura, called “Superstition”. I think I may have found my new favourite whiskey (I bought a bottle when I got home to Edmonton).

The weather the next day was iffy, and we were in and out of rain. By the time we had arrived at the ferry terminal in Gibsons, the rain was fairly well established. I bid the group temporary farewell in Horseshoe Bay and rode into North Vancouver to overnight with my parents. They continued on up to Pemberton. The next morning I got to sample the joys of the “Sea to Sky” highway which is under massive construction in preparation for the 2010 winter olympics. With glowing hearts.

Pemberton is about 30 minutes travel north of Whistler, and has a commercial gliding operation there. I booked some glider flights the next day, and we were to camp right at the airport. Dale pitched a tent, but the others chickened out and took a hotel room (as did I when I arrived the next day). We never did get to fly there, the weather started out too cloudy, then became too windy when the sun came out, then rained later on as well. The next morning we set out on the Duffy Lake road on our way back. Bruce left us in Pemberton and headed back to his home in White Rock.

My last motorcycle trip on the Duffy Lake road was about 3 years ago, and I recall the ride fondly (except for the raging forest fires around Lillooet). This year, the road was in much worse condition with many broken sections, potholes, etc. It wasn't much fun to ride. It was too bad because this road, in better shape, would be one of the best motorcycle roads in the province. With the number of boomers on bikes these days, the government would be wise to keep this road in good condition to promote motorcycle tourism.

We stopped for lunch in Cache Creek and did our farewells. Dave and Dale were heading to the Okanagan area via highway 1 to visit friends and family, and Henry and I continued on up Highway 97 to south of 100 Mile House, then across Highway 24 to Little Fort. We booked into a motel in Valemount for the night (giving up any pretension that this was actually a camping trip). I left Henry by Highway 43 just outside of Edmonton and went south to spend the remainder of the Labour Day weekend at Pigeon Lake with mom and my daughter Megan (and various other friends).

Despite the iffy weather, we had what I consider a great trip. The companionship and the common interests we share in flying and biking always makes for great conversation. We also got to see some fine country along the way.

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