Monday, September 7, 2009

September 3 - The Good, the Bad and...Beauty

The Good: Nelson

Nelson is a gorgeous town and, do to some unforeseen circumstances, I ended up returning there (and then home to Washington) instead of following my planned itinerary. I very much look forward to spending a few days in Nelson under better, less rushed circumstances, as soon as possible.

The bridge across to Nelson and the Information Centre.

Downtown Nelson (Baker Street)

On Vernon Street, the gorgeous architecture of the old Postal building (now an Art/History museum)

A monument to Nelson's first mayor, John Houston

The Courthouse

On a more pop culture note, if you've seen the movie Roxanne, this is the street (and stump) where Steve Martin's character had a fight with a pair of obnoxious skiers

A last shot of the motel. I'd finished lubing/cleaning the chain, the oil was fine - it was time to continue my travels. Little did I know, I'd be back in town within a day...

Heading North, for a little while, overcast and a forest fire nearby

The Bad - Strong winds and rain, falling rocks

What may not be apparent from the photos taken leaving Nelson is that it was starting to rain then and that the wind was kicking up.

My goal was New Denver and about 20 miles from New Denver, I passed a town called Slocan. With the wind and the rain, I thought about stopping to wait for the weather to improve. Being so close to New Denver, I decided to press on.

A few miles North of Slocan is a spot named Slocan Bluffs, where there are steep, rocky cliffs very close to the road. Here's a photo courtesy of Dave, a very talented photographer in Nelson. His blog.

I was riding past Slocan Bluffs, persevering through the rain, when suddenly rocks started to fall. I saw a flash of rocks up to 1 foot across and larger falling and rolling on the road, looked for a way to evade them and suddenly was hit. I think a small rock hit my helmet and then the bike was sliding on its side along the ground. Or maybe a rolling/falling rock just knocked the bike over. In any case, the bike was down.

The phone booth above was my high tech communications hub for about an hour, as I worked on getting in touch with the authorities and with family back home.

  • It was fussy about reading cards, occasionally refusing to do so at all. Later, it failed utterly.
  • 411 repeatedly gave me the number for the RCMP but it didn't work the first few times I dialed it, which I was trying to do from memory while feeling kind of sick from adrenaline and adding an unnecessary "1" before the number that doomed each attempt
Eventually, I reached my family and the RCMP. As it turned out, the RCMP constable and EMTs had come upon my battered motorcycle and been looking for me, thinking that it looked beat up enough that I could be really hurt. They soon joined me at the phone booth and took my statements, the EMTs checking to make sure that I hadn't suffered serious injury. Since I hadn't, we decided that they'd wrap my wrist (which was starting to be a bit sore and swollen...likely sprained they suggested, ending up completely correct) and I'd wait to return home and check in with a doctor there.

The EMTs were technically on strike (and wearing t-shirts that said so) then proceeded to go way beyond merely checking that I was OK and obtained for me a bus schedule back to Nelson, then dropped me off at the Harold Street Cafe (visible at the center of the above picture), where I waited about 5 hours for a bus back to Nelson.

Beauty - People of British Columbia

To be honest, having the accident was a disappointment: it probably totaled a favorite motorcycle and prevented me from reaching Yoho park, which has been at the top of my "must visit" list for the past year.

On the other hand, I had walked away from a motorcycle accident that could have been very bad, with only a sprained wrist and finger and a few minor contusions. Several people commented that I must have had angels watching over me when those rocks fell and that much is very very clear. So instead of dwelling on the down side to the experience, I will be grateful for my blessings.

Further, the people of BC(*) were unbelievably wonderful and helpful, making what could have been a bleak, cold experience an amusing (if expensive) "make lemonade from those lemons" experience. I salute them with great warmth and respect.
  • the driver who saw me crash and helped me get the bike off the road
  • the other driver who gave me a ride back into Slocan and told me not to bother taking off a soaking leather jacket before getting in her car
  • while still at the site, a group of three Harley-Davidson riders stopped to see if I was OK and needed any help
  • the EMTs for helping me pull together bus information I needed to start heading home
  • the RCMP constable for being out looking for me in the rain when he saw my battered bike by the road
  • the folks working at the Harold Street Cafe and its customers, for good conversation
  • the lady on the bus back to Nelson, for more info about Nelson and other conversation
  • everyone around Nelson and the route back who had a friendly word for the strange, limping USAn
  • Dave, for letting me use the Slocan Bluffs picture on this blog entry
Really, when you're visiting anyplace in the world, two very important aspects of the experience are going to be 1) how cool the sights and experience that draw you end up being and 2) how pleasant it is to visit with the people there. The most beautiful place in the world isn't going to be pleasant to visit if the people are jerks. On the other hand, the ugliest city in the world can be fun to visit when the people are smart, fun company and have a good attitude.

So to visit a place as achingly gorgeous as British Columbia and then be able to tell people "Wait until you meet the folks there. You'll love them...the scenery's NOTHING" my opinion, that places BC in a whole other category. There's not a whole lot I can add to that, except to quote California's governor, saying "I'll be back."

(*)Also, thanks to friends and family back home: family members who found the best transportation option for getting home from Nelson, a couple friends who offered to come up and get me if I needed help getting home.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 2 – My second jaunt into BC begins

Last year, I rode my Triumph Speed Triple up to Lillooet in British Columbia and wrote about the experience. While work and concerns about the economy have been nearly all-consuming this year, I managed to pull together a route plan that fit various time and dollar constraints. It was not completed, due to circumstances I will describe later but I did have some enjoyable experiences and so I’ll present what I have to present.

The map above shows my proposed 5 day schedule. My theme for travels into BC will be to seek out as much interesting stuff as I can: cultural sites, national parks, historic sites, views of the natural world and any other cool stuff I just discover.

Day 1: Counterclockwise, ride from the H near Everett, WA up to B, at Nelson, BC. A long start at over 400 miles but setting me up with a shorter ride and many cool sights the next day.

Interesting bits: Osoyoos pocket desert, Doukhobor historic bridge in Castlegar, as much cool stuff as I can find in Nelson (e.g., sites from filming of the movie Roxanne).

Day 2: Explore Nelson a bit then continue on past C (New Denver, BC) and F (Revelstoke) on to D (Golden).

Interesting bits: Nikkei internment memorial museum in New Denver, ghost town in Sandon, Golden’s outdoorsy paradise.

Day 3: Ride about 50 kilometers to Yoho park. Yoho is one of 4 Canadian National Parks on the BC/Alberta border and many consider it the most beautful of the 4. Get to Lake O’Hara if possible, take photos at Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls as well. Possible hiking, possible kayak or canoe rental at Emerald Lake back to hotel room in Golden. A whole park full of interesting bits, held as one of the most beautiful spots in Canada.

Day 4: Ride about halfway back from Golden towards home, possibly stopping somewhere like Kamloops

Day 5: All the way back home, stopping at various National Historic Markers in Hope, Abbotsford.

I’d originally planned to travel the route in the opposite direction but encroaching rain along much of the route made it seem I was most likely find good weather in Yoho by taking things in this order.

The previous night's event with Lois & Austin had been great inspiration for the trip and I awoke excited to be beginning an adventure, albeit a trivial one compared to the ones I'd heard reminiscences of the night before. I took this picture of the mighty Hulkette after gassing up and just before I headed out. I didn't know at the time that that may be the last time she'd be around home but that's a story for my next blog entry.

Salute, Hulkette!

Riding up towards Leavenworth, I was struck by how much gorgeous territory we have only a short ride from home. I didn't stop everywhere for pics, as there were a lot of miles to cover on the first day. But I do need to do more exploring on my own home ground as well!

Signs arriving in Leavenworth and Wenatchee:

Incidentally, the former owners of Alice's Restaurant, a motorcycling landmark in Northern California, now operate the motorbike friendly Timberline Motel just outside of Leavenworth. I looked for it on my way through and look forward to staying over sometime soon. Meanwhile, past Leavenworth the terrain was starting to become quite desert like. Stopped in Wenatchee for a burger at Dusty's and then cut North on highway 97.

Leaving Wenatchee, there were signs saying that the Beebe Bridge at Chelan Falls (40 miles away) was closed to vehicle traffic. It turns out that there was a nasty semi-truck collision there a few days earlier that damaged the bridges structure. I rode forward with a nervous hope that I'd get there and find a useful detour, not have to backtrack.

Riding towards Chelan Falls, the road continued to be desert-like and also became very lightly traveled. There were less and less cars and I had the road very much to myself. I think this photo captures that feel; the bridge in the distance is the Beebe Bridge.

Fortunately, close to the Beebe Bridge, there were signs indicating a detour for Route 97 and my journey continued without frustrating backtracking.

As I rode along the detour, it took me up into the hills and along some fun, curvy roads. So there was an up side in that I got to find some roads I otherwise wouldn't have.

At one point, I suddenly realized that there was something strange looking off to the right of the road up ahead. I thought it was a tornado and stopped (still a good distance away) to take some pictures:

The road didn't pass anywhere near the phenomenon and I've since learned that Dust Devils are common in the area. later, I encountered the Chief Joseph Dam and a vantage point nearby and stopped to take these photos.

Finally, the border was reached and I soon found myself entering the lovely province of British Columbia at Osoyoos.

One place that I'd looked forward to visiting was the Osoyoos Desert Museum. However, I arrived only 10 minutes before it was to close and so contented myself with taking pictures from outside.

Heading East from Osoyoos on the Crowsnest Highway led to some fun, curvy switchbacks and lovely views back down at Osoyoos.

Continuing on, the terrain quickly started to become less arid and a bit greener.

Another spot that looked interesting, closed because it was now about 5 pm.

Ran across a small town named Greenwood that looked like it would be a fun place to stop, some day.

It was getting later but the terrain was getting prettier. A few stops were mandatory!

Around 8 pm, I reached Castlegar, one of the stops I'd planned to make along the way. One reason Castlegar is noteworthy is for various historic sites with reference to the Doukhobors a Russian religious sect. their doctrine is interesting in that they see a divine presence in everyone, making clergy pretty much superfluous. This viewpoint alienated them from the Russian Orthodox Church and their pacifist, non-conformist views also made the Russian government unhappy with them. After much persecution, they were allowed to leave Russian for Canada in 1897. They first settled in Saskatchewan but eventually continued West towards more moderate climates.

Eventually, their aversion to private ownership of land, refusal to swear allegiance to the Crown and refusal to send their children to local schools caused friction with the Canadian government as well. The response to government edicts violating their beliefs included, in some cases, acts of arson...committed in the nude through the 1960s (which can't be a very safe proposition).

When I arrived in Castlegar around 8 it was starting to get dark and I was also told that getting down to photograph a Doukhobor suspension bridge that is a Canadian historic landmark would be difficult. I'd reconciled myself to missing it but then found a good vantage point for it just as I was leaving town and captured this photograph:

Around 8:0 or so, I arrived in Nelson. A bit late to capture first impressions with the camera but it was still great to arrive! The first shot was made coming into town; the second was made looking across the Nelson Avenue Bridge from the hotel where I stayed, looking back at the town of'd been a long day, 440 miles in nearly 11 hours but I was very excited about the experience...

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