Monday, August 15, 2011

Days 7-11 A Wild Ride Indeed!

After I said goodbye to the Yukon I headed towards my rest stop for the night…The Mountain Shadow Lodge in Iskut. The road to here had several construction stops and the gravel sections were long as were the waits for pilot cars.

On highway 37 you do not want to ride past one fuel stop as they are few and very far between. I made the mistake of missing the fuel stop at Good Hope and thought I had lots of fuel to get to Dease Lake which I did, however, the fuel stop in Dease Lake closes at 6 pm on Sundays and 7 pm the rest of the week. So consequently there I am with not enough fuel to get to Iskut because the stops for construction made it so I didn’t get into Dease Lake until 6:30pm.

A gent heard me talking to the waitress about my dilemma and took me to the side and said he would be happy to give me a gallon or so of gas out of his tidy tank – he just didn’t want all of the other travellers thinking he could supply them as well.

After paying the man $5 for filling my tank up, I headed out to Iskut. The road had, again, a lot of construction but the scenery was stunning.  As I got to the Mountain Shadow Lodge it was approaching 8:30 at night, I had been in the saddle for 11 and a half hours and was looking forward to a hot shower and a bed. The long downhill windy gravel road into the lodge was in great shape considering it had begun raining about a half hour before I got to the lodge. The black gravel they used was well groomed and packed down.

The Mountain Shadow Lodge is GORGEOUS – the river and mountains the perfect backdrop for the log home that acts as the office for the park and campground.

This place is immaculate. So pristine clean – from the rustic cabin I stayed in to the shower house facilities you could have eaten off the floor. The turn around area was again well groomed with no ruts or pot holes. I parked and went and checked in, was given the map for the layout of the place and the key to the cabin I was in. They have two cabins on the property one with a bathroom and one without. I was in the one with out so I headed with my towels etc off to the shower house, got cleaned up and then made my way to the pay phone to call hubby and check in with him.  After a quick call I headed back to the cabin. No TV, no nothing, just a bed that was ultra comfy and a sense of peace listing to the rain come down. When I awoke in the morning I felt refreshed and ready to tackle the 500+ kilometres to Smithers.

As I headed towards Smithers I stopped for fuel and breakfast at the Tatogga Lodge.
Regular fuel is all that is available here – that’s where that can of octane boost comes in really handy!  Breakfast was expensive but huge. I had the breakfast sandwich with hash browns and for my taste it was too greasy – It was smothered in cheese which really took away from the taste, sometimes less is more!

The place is interesting as it has all kinds of stuffed wild life and interesting things to look at and the staff is helpful and friendly – just don’t order the breakfast sandwich – the pancakes and regular breakfasts looked like they were pretty awesome and everyone I talked to enjoyed their breakfasts!

From Tatogga Lodge the rest of the trip was peaceful and uneventful. I stopped for fuel at Bell II, I had heard this place was supposed to be really rider friendly – that was not my experience however. This country is so gorgeous – the scenery is stunning with little waterfalls that spring up out of now where and lots of beautiful curves and good pavement.

My next fuel stop was at Gitanyow – a small reserve where fuel was only $1.18 a litre and they had the most incredible totems. Sadly the museum was closed – I would have loved to have seen some of the artwork and history of the natives in this region.

Next and final stop for the day – Smithers!  I stopped in at Smithers Harley-Davidson and Stephen drug out the pressure washer for me so I could wash my poor dirty baby and then had him check out my brake pot that had started leaking – sure enough – water in the DOT 4 so they drained the brake system, put a new cover and gasket on for me and off to find the Capri Hotel I went. After I got checked in, Andy the tech from Smithers Harley-Davidson took me on a sight seeing tour of Smithers and Gary Adolph from Prince Rupert had planned his service to coincide with the conga so I got to hang out and spend time with him as well. We had supper at the Capri’s restaurant – the soup was phenomenal as was the Quesadilla I ate. Andy took me to Kathleen Lake and up to the airport to see the Grizzly that had been shot and stuffed and was on display there. 1012 pounds this big boy was – he had been killing cattle amongst other things and was a threat – it’s sad to see such a magnificent creature this way and yet I am glad to not meet him on the road somewhere!

After a wonderful tour of the region it was time to head to bed – I was bushed.

The Capri is an older establishment that is VERY well maintained! When I checked in, Steve at the desk made sure I knew there was private parking where I could see my bike from the room.  The room was spacious with a window looking out over the U shaped parking area and I slept like a baby. The combination of fresh air, good food and great conversation made for a wonderful day and as I said – I was tired but so satisfied.

The next morning I got up nice and early – wrote for about three hours and answered emails etc and themn met Stephen from Smithers Harley-Davidson for breakfast – then it was off to Eyecandy Customs to have my motorcycle serviced and a new back tire put on by Sam’s tech Laura. Sarah – Sam’s wife met me at the door with a big hug and took me for a different kind of tour of Smithers – off to a bakery/coffee house and a wonderful deli that had amazing elk and turkey jerky. While down town I was shown some of the little things that make Smithers a pretty and unique town.

I got the pleasure of visiting Sam and Sarah’s home on the river and then it was back to the shop to see how Laura made out with Black Betty.  When I got there the bike had already been test ridden and was good to go. Sam was already on his way to Sturgis North so I was planning on catching him there but I was so glad to have met his wife and his lady tech. The shop is small but Sam does custom builds out of it and also services any make or model of bike – old Harley’s are one of his specialities and he sees a lot of trade from the Dual Sport riders that frequent the highways up here.

I can not thank Sam, Sarah and Laura enough for sponsoring the Conga by providing a room, meals, oil change and back tire – with out the support of all of our partners and the tourism departments trips like this one to promote rider awareness just aren’t possible.

I got an email from Rhonda Rivers at Prince George Harley-Davidson asking if I was on track to come ride with some of the members of their HOG chapter and since my bike was serviced and ready to hit the road I said I would see them by 6:30pm.

The ride to Prince George was pleasant and uneventful under warm sunny skies.

When I got to the dealership I called my friends Deb and Dennis where I was staying for the night and Dennis came and rode me over to their house. I got the bike unpacked and Deb, Dennis and I went back to Prince George Harley-Davidson and met up with 6 other riders for a ride out to Hixon where we had some grub and bevies and then back in to Prince George we went.

After saying good bye we headed to Dennis and Deb’s place where we had some wonderful Pina Colada wine, great conversation and then headed off to bed but not before Dennis, a heavy duty mechanic was doing the happy dance as it started to rain which meant he wouldn’t have to work and could ride with me to Salmon Arm.

Sure enough, he got the call that he did not have to work and was a happy boy for it. We saddled up, had fantastic breakfast at the Husky Truck stop served by a waitress who had ZERO for a sense of humor.  We got bad fuel there and ended up having to head back to Dennis’s to drain our tanks – it was now 1:30 in the afternoon before we headed out and the thunderheads had started to build up. About 10 kilometres out of town we ended up pulling into a golf course owned by one of Dennis’s friends and throwing on our rain gear – the trip saw us go through 5 thunderstorms – three of them were HORRIBLE – during the one storm we had pulled of on the side of the road because we could not see and lightning struck just a few hundred feet away – you could feel the electrical charge in the air!

By the time we got to 100 Mile House the rain had stopped and the sun came out – we stopped for a hot buttered rum to warm the bones up and saddled back up to head for Salmon Arm.  We got as far as Sorrento where I called my sister in law and she said that she would love the company so after a great meal of cod and perogies – Dennis had a bed made for him on the couch and I got my nephew’s bedroom.  In the morning, Margaret Anne made us steak and eggs and sent us packing with full bellies. We decided to head for Kelowna and the Kreater Custom’s Poker Run to see what Jeff and his staff had planned for people. As Usual there was a bar b cue and a band and a hundred and fifty or so riders there.

We then set out for Merritt’s Great Canadian Bike Rally – since I sponsored both the Sturgis North event and the Great Canadian Bike rally events I wanted to see them both but as we got on the Coquihalla connector the sky was just black and we decided yah – had enough rain for a bit – so back towards Salmon Arm we headed. I figure I will head out on Saturday morning nice and early to go and see Merritt and our reporter Denise said she’d cover that event on the Friday and Saturday so we’d have it covered.

We road in to Salmon Arm and went to the venue outside of town, man – for a first time event they sure have a lot of stuff really well done. Once we got our Media Passes and Back Stage Access Passes and I went one way and Dennis (who not only sponsored me for fuel and meals – he has agreed to be a reporter for us) went the other way. I hooked up with Quentin our Vancouver Reporter and Denise our Medicine Hat area reporter and we discussed strategy on how we were going to cover these two big events and their enormous venues. I wandered around and met with some of the riding clubs, talked to the vendors and then after seeing Ray the event organizer set of for Joe Schmuck’s and my headquarters for the next three days.

When I got to Joe Schmuck’s I was so blown away to see a banner about the Saturday Night Belt Drive Betty Party and to see how many riders had filled the cabins and campground. The room I am in is similar to all of the other ground floor ones – big comfy double beds – 2 of them, table and chairs with a coffee pot – a plasma TV with satellite, internet, a bathroom you could throw a party in it’s that big and a sweet deck with chairs out front. For $130 a night it’s a great room!  The upstairs loft rooms are a wee bit smaller and run $110.

On this Friday morning I got up after a great sleep and was treated to a breakfast befitting a mountaineer – it was huge and AFFORDABLE and nummy!  As I sat in my room typing this article out with the door open so I could see the parking lot, I would periodically go out and BS with people I know and  by 2pm was pretty much ready to head out for the Burn Out Competition in down town Sicamous…until later ride safe.

Sturgis North – Days 12 - 14

 After all of the challenges that the organizers of Sturgis North faced the event finally went off – not without hiccups and challenges but fir a first time event, many things were done REALLY well.

The venues were in my humble opinion too far apart and should have all been contained to one area but I am sure that now that the coordinators were able to actually work the venues they will change many things for next year. What looks great on paper does not always translate as well in practice!

As you road up to the top venue where the main stage for the nostalgia bands was, the planning and effort was very evident. Parking areas were created in the ditches that were simply incredible. Well packed gravel with ties, created road type parking that was well used.

The main stage was incredible as well, boasting two jumbotron screens so that people in the beer gardens and VIP area were able to take in the music and see what was happening on stage.

There was a houseboat for the VIPs to use to get a higher vantage point to view the stage as well. (Some jerk however decided to wreck that for everybody by attempting to destroy the interior of the house boat and then proceeded to fall out of it – I wished I had been there later on Thursday night when that happened, I think I would have helped to push the jerk out of the house boat!)

After talking to Quentin, Denise and Dennis, our reporters for the event, I headed to Sicamous to check in to my room.  (Denise was going to head in to Merritt on Friday morning for me, to cover the Great Canadian Bike Rally – I can’t wait for her report!)

What a place Joe Schmucks is! My cabin was big enough to throw a party in, the bathroom was enormous and the hot water in the shower was plentiful.  Ken and the staff of Joe Schmucks are so wonderful. I can’t say enough good thins about this place. The food was wonderful, the service incredible and the accommodations, what can I say! The bed was the most comfortable one of the trip to date! I slept like a baby.

Friday morning, after a great feed of Eggs Benedict which was done to perfection, I headed up to the fair grounds venue in Salmon Arm to check things out and see Chica and Roger Goldammer. I got to see Bert – Roger’s Mentor and Bert’s newest protégé, Ashley who is apprenticing to be an automotive machinist.

I took in the vendors from the fair grounds, checked in with my Shuzi partners Michelle and Dee and was gratified to see how many Rider Friendly Phone Books had been handed out.  I spent a bit of time at the B Bands stage and listened to Skard.

After talking to the vendors and checking everything out I headed back to the Custom Bike Show area and Roger, Chica, Ashley, Bert and myself decided to head up to the top venue to take in the Nazareth Concert.

We decided to take the shuttles to the main venue to take in the Nazareth Concert and have supper.  We had a blast. The last time I had seen Chica and Roger was for the Canadian Championship of Custom Bike Building and it was truly wonderful to visit with these two fabulous builders who were going to be, along with myself and Travis from Denco Cycles doing the judging for the Custom Bike Show and Biker Build Off.

Nazareth was a blast; they sang songs from their newest album and some of their oldies which is the music every rider came to hear.  There had to be a good 15K people there!
The shuttles were filled to capacity and moved people back in to Salmon Arm in an amazingly efficient manner. Each bus held about 60 people and what an efficient crew of drivers they had! When we went to leave to concert we got in line and with 200 or so people ahead of us I thought it was going to take forever to get on a bus – I was wrong, in 15 minutes we were on a bus and on our way to our bikes in Salmon Arm!

Saturday morning, I spent time in my room editing pictures and writing and then took in the burn out pits and the arrival of the Veteran’s poker run in downtown Sicamous. 
The town of Sicamous was amazing, the main street was blocked off, there were bike and vendors everywhere and people smiling, laughing and sharing stories.

The beer garden was filled and the band on stage had everyone in a toe tapping mood. The legion was very creative with their bar, using a canoe for their beer tub!
It is estimated that some 3,000 bikes were in Sicamous for the event.

I headed back in to Salmon Arm and the Fair Grounds venue to go look over custom bikes and assist with the judging process.

There were some very well done bikes and after the hard job of going over them with a fine tooth comb and deciding the winners in the 4 categories, I jumped on my bike in the pouring down rain and headed off to Sicamous and the Belt Drive Betty – Minute to Win it party that Rachel from Joe Schmucks had put together.

Even in the rain 30 riders showed up to play some games, win some prizes and have a ton of laughs and folks, I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time! Rachel, the manager of the restaurant/bar and Wendy (Mark’s wife & Co Owner) did an amazing job

At about midnight I headed back to my room to have a good sleep as the next morning I would be back in Salmon Arm to partake in the Celebrity Ride. I finally got to meet the one and only Kimmy Kruz.

All of the builders, Kimmy, Roger, Chica and myself along with a number of people who paid to go on this ride to raise money for Breast Cancer Research saddled up and off to Revelstoke we went. Graham, the ride captain and organizer had a video crew following us and I myself was filming with my Drift HD170 Cameras.

The morning was picture perfect as we headed out. We stopped in Sicamous for fuel and off we went.

It was wonderful for Chica to get a chance to do some riding and see the Canadian Rockies, this California builder kept commenting on the beauty.

When we arrived at the resort we were treated to a luncheon, ribs, salads and burgers along with pop and water were on had. Some of the local breweries were offering beer samples and many enjoyed them.  After lunch, we took a last opportunity for photos with the riders, shared hugs and parted company. The builders to head back in to Salmon Arm to find out who won and I to head to Calgary and begin the next leg of my odyssey across Canada to spread the word about motorcycle awareness.