The Motorcycle Diaries – Part Three

Part Three of The Motorcycle Diaries will take us from Jasper to Kamloops and then on to the lower mainland. If you’re just joining me you can find Part One here and Part Two here.

Jasper was beautiful! If you ever get a chance to drive (or even better, ride) through the Alberta National Parks – do it! We had taken a short walk around Jasper the night before but everything was already closed when we got there. We had a nice dinner at the fancy hotel restaurant but made a critical error in ordering an appetizer that was large and delicious and we ate all of it. I think both of us ate about half of our entrees due to the appetizer debacle. After a good sleep we set out for Kamloops in the morning. We stopped at the only souvenir store open in the morning for some Jasper stickers and fuelled up where we met a lady riding a Harley who was super hardcore. Long gray hair under a bandana and a leather wrap around her braid. She was obviously a very confident and competent rider because she passed several cars behind us before finally passing us and riding off alone into the beautiful day. I can only hope to be that cool when I grow up. We also saw a couple riding two up on a KLR650 with a significant amount of luggage and thanked the motorcycle gods that neither of us is interested in ever taking a trip together on one bike. The lady on the back waved at me wistfully and I could hear her thinking “oh gawd I wish I was riding my own bike on this trip.”

We stopped at Mt. Robson for some photos at the spectacular viewpoint. The weather was beautiful, there was no wind and I was listening to music and feeling really really good for the first time on the trip. We pulled in and I put my kickstand down to get off the bike. I wasn’t quite sure that it was down correctly so I looked down and made double sure it was secure. I stepped on my left peg to lift my right leg over my luggage and off the bike when I realized I was wrong and very wrong.  My kickstand folded and my bike started falling to the left. I hop-hopped off while I let out a little squeal and the bike dropped on its side. I wasn’t injured and Cameron and I picked up the bike without a problem but discovered the lock had broken on my pelican luggage case on the left side. The case itself was fine (thanks to Pelican’s amazing ruggedness) , and the bike was fine (CRASH BARS!!!!) but the lock was done. Cameron spent some time in this beautiful place zap strapping my case onto the rack and it was more secure when he was done than it is with the lock on it.

We read so many tips on things to bring on a long motorcycle trip before we left and almost every one of them said to bring extra zap straps because you never know when you might need them. Thankfully we took that advice and he had zap straps in his tool bag. We would have been royally screwed without them. If you go on a bike trip, BRING ZAP STRAPS. Or alternatively, don’t drop your bike. But seriously, bring zap straps.

It was hot enough at Mt. Robson that I decided it was time to ditch my jacket and ride in my jersey and armour for the first time on the trip. I have some amazing Icon ladies armour that I wear under my jacket. There are approximately one hundred options for mens armour and three for ladies armour. I ordered the Icon ladies armour earlier this year and I really love it. It’s only chest and back armour but it fits great and is really comfortable. Also, like the rest of my gear, it’s black and pink. I wore it over my black and pink Fox jersey with my black and pink Fox gloves and my black pink and white Fly Racing pants and felt pretty badass. My bike is black also so I make quite the black and pink spectacle flying down the road.

The ride was getting really hot and occasionally we’d come down into a valley and the road would wind beside the North Thompson River and the cool air would waft over us for a while. It would feel great for a few minutes before the road would climb back into a mountain pass that heated up. For the first time on the trip we started to encounter multi-lane roads and traffic. As we came down into Kamloops the temperature climbed until it was almost unbearable. We keep going until we ended up outside Hotel 540 in downtown Kamloops. By this time both of us were very overheated as were our bikes. I’ve been having trouble with my kickstand during this trip. If the ground where I stop is perfectly flat or sloped to the left I can get my kickstand down and step on my left peg to get off and it’s all good. If the ground is even slightly sloped to the right however I cannot get off the bike without Cameron’s help. The kickstand is about an inch too long. The bike doesn’t lean over enough and is in constant danger of falling over to the right. It has a centre stand which is very stable on any type of ground but I cannot get off the bike with the kickstand up. I’m too short to do it without dropping it. I’ve been feeling very dependant on Cameron to help me on and off about 75% of the time because of this. We’ve looked up the problem and apparently it’s a very common problem on my bike that is constantly complained about. Many people have their kickstand shortened about an inch to fix the problem but we haven’t been able to get that done for me yet. This is relevant as we pulled into Kamloops because as we parked on the street in the sun outside the hotel Cameron hopped off his bike and literally dove for the shade against the building to get out of the baking hell sun. It was 36 degrees Celsius there. We had parked on the side of the road so it was sloping to the right and I was stuck on my bike. I couldn’t get off without dropping it and Cameron was standing in the shade against the building while I sat on my bike sweating my face off. I turned my bike off, lifted my shield, looked and him and muttered “help, help” in a pathetic pleading voice. He said “you’re on your own” and left me there to bake. Douche

I must have given him an especially good – angry wife – look because moments later he came back into the vampire slaying sun to help me off and put my bike on it’s centre stand. We recovered in the shade for a few minutes before making our way into the hotel. Turned out they had a shady undercover breezeway right in front of the doors that we could have turned into but missed in our hot-panic. We stumbled into the lobby sweaty, dirty and shabby looking and checked in. We’d reserved a king club suite the day before with our BCAA discount. We’ve been getting pretty good deals as we’re right in the shoulder season before the kids get out of school. We didn’t plan it that way but it has worked out very well timing wise. This hotel was quite fancy on the inside and we felt very out of place in our dirtiness. We got up to our room after parking our bikes in the –slightly less sweltering than outside – underground parking lot. Immediately after unloading our things we headed for the rooftop pool. It so happened that there was a wedding reception taking place in the conference room adjacent to the pool. The room was open to the pool deck and roped off with a thick fancy velvet rope. We gave zero shits and plunged our hot selves into the pool. Every table around the pool was occupied and the wedding reception was full of fancily dressed people waiting for the couple to arrive. The pool was empty and we jumped right in to cool off. We spend about 10 minutes in there feeling like heaven and then another 5 minutes feeling awkward with all the fancy people around us until we got out to go back to our room. We gave ourselves a token dry with the pool towels and walked towards the elevator back to our room. When we passed the entrance to the conference room the bridal couple was waiting to enter their reception behind the closed doors and we passed within a foot of the bride dripping our pool water and road dirt just behind the train of her beautiful dress. Cameron muttered “don’t do it!” And I replied “it’s too late!” and we laughed all the way back to our room. We may have had some heat stroke… There’s no way to know. Don’t worry, we didn’t really say that.

For two days I had been feeling like I brought too many clothes and wanted to mail some things home to myself when we got the opportunity. After we dried off from our pool shenanigans I looked up post offices in Kamloops. There was no way I was getting back on my bike in the desert of misery so I was hoping there was one within walking distance. It was Saturday evening so I wasn’t very hopeful but the internet told me there was one post office still open in Kamloops and it happened to be in the London Drugs not 200 meters from our hotel. We had 40 minutes until it closed so I packed up everything I didn’t need and we walked over to mail it all home which made me feel much better about my luggage space. This is also where I picked up my awesome tiny keyboard that I’m typing this on now. I’m glad I brought everything I did on my first motorbike trip because I really wasn’t sure what I’d need, but I’m also glad I was able to unload some excess clothing back home when I did. We sent one package home that was probably close to five pounds in weight and included a lot of my extra clothes and all of Cameron’s extras which amounted to one thermal shirt. Cameron looked out the window and saw a Senor Froggys restaurant which we had never heard of but is apparently a Mexican fast food chain restaurant. We didn’t want to go to a chain restaurant. I read on one adventure biker’s tip article that “if you go on a motorcycle tour and eat at a chain restaurant, you’ve failed.” Well we’ve failed with some iced capps at Timmies and some DQ ice cream but I was determined not to fail so spectacularly as to have Mexican fast food for the main meal of the day. We searched out the best Mexican restaurant in Kamloops (thank you Internet) and it was 350 meters from our hotel. We ate there and I had the best quesadilla of my life.

The next morning we set out for fuel and then the Coquihalla Highway. Kamloops is very hilly and there aren’t really any traffic lights on hills in Whitehorse so neither of us have much experience starting our bikes on hills. We stopped at a steep light and I was nervous to get my bike started on it. Luckily we’d gotten out early as we wanted to make it to the lower mainland as early as possible to beat the heat that day so there was no traffic behind us. I kept my back brake on with my right foot while I let the clutch out and got my bike started. I stalled once but got it started up right away and took off. Cameron was ok also on this light. The next light however was even steeper. Cameron was on my right in the lane and I was slightly behind him. He stalled and I was able to start this time. I told him on the Sena that I was going to pass him on the left and he told me “FUCK!!!!” My bike can be started any time as long as the clutch is pulled in (which is normal). Cameron’s bike can only be started when it is in neutral. The previous owner had disabled something so that it can’t be started unless it’s in neutral which is very annoying and a little dangerous as well. My bike also turns off automatically if you put it in gear with the kickstand down. His doesn’t, so when he stalled he couldn’t just pull the clutch in and get it started again. He had to put the brake on to keep it from rolling backwards and then get in neutral (which is finicky on his bike) and then start it and try again. He said he felt like that was pretty unsafe and it was lucky he wasn’t in traffic. I agreed and said it was a pretty good reason to get a new bike. He actually agreed with me…. The – will he get a new bike? Won’t he get a new bike – saga continues…

We had a beautiful – warm but not too hot – drive on the Coquihalla. There were three lanes and the speed limit was 120kph the entire way. I didn’t remember the speed limit being so high but it was great. There was no wind and occasionally when we passed a little valley I could feel a blast of cold air coming off the mountain or the smell of the forest and I listened to some rock music, sang my face off and loved it. This was my best day so far. I was getting more comfortable and the weather was great and I was going to see my mommy and daddy that day which can do a lot for a girl ;). I told Cameron that there was a 40% chance I would collapse in my mother’s arms in tears when we got there relieved to have made it so far with only minor incidents. We only made two stops during the 340km ride. Once at a rest stop and once in Chilliwack. We exited the highway for fuel and stopped at a red light in the left turn lane. It was about 30 degrees and we were baking. It was a big intersection in which each direction of traffic goes one at a time including the left turn lane. We just missed the light and we were first in line. The three other directions of traffic went and we sat there in full sun, sweating. When it was our turn the left turn light didn’t go. We weren’t heavy enough to trigger the sensor. We swore and sweated and I creeped up as close as I could get to Cameron and the semi truck behind me creeped up until he was almost kissing my back tire so the light would turn green on the next rotation. After what felt like an hour in the sun the light changed and we got a green. We fuelled up and had the aforementioned iced capps in the air conditioned restaurant before leaving for Port Moody.

This was the first time we encountered real traffic on the whole journey. I wasn’t scared of the traffic at all. I thought that was kind of ironic considering all my fears up to that point because traffic is really the most dangerous thing to a motorcyclist. I figured that I wasn’t scared because I can usually predict what stupid shit those derps will do. I’ve been driving in lower mainland traffic since I learned how to drive and spent ten years doing it until I moved to the Yukon where the drivers are far worse but definitely fewer and slower. While I have lots of experience in traffic, I have had very little or no experience riding on wet roads, in gravel, or downhill on a wet road in gravel and wind (my own personal hell). Traffic didn’t bother me at all.

We pulled into my parents house and I did not collapse in tears because I was too fucking hot to do so. While it wasn’t as hot as Kamloops I was still in a hot panic by the time Cameron helped me (yes I was stuck on a slope again) get off my bike. I ripped off all my layers of armour and clothes and crazy hot dirt boots and just stood in the shade in my shorts and tank top happy to be home.

I wrote most of this blog about four days ago and have been so busy that I haven’t gotten around to editing and photoing and posting it. I’m getting pretty far behind now but I’m not too worried about it. I’m determined to get all of this trip blogged because it has been so amazing, and terrifying, and beautiful, and I guess… character building? I want to remember it all and even if only ten people ever read this I want to write it for Cameron and I to look back and remember how awesome it was, but at the same time I hope you also enjoy our stories of wonder and woe. So thank you for reading and see you soon!


Coming soon – Ferry shenanigans, Vancouver Island and Butchart Gardens, Saltspring Island, and more Ferry shenanigans.

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