Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our Fateful Canada Trip 2013

This story is the compilation of video photos and thoughts from our infamous “Canada Trip” during August of 2013 of which I had been planning for many years. After Tinker and I and our great friends John and Vicky did the Colorado Rocky Mountain ride trip back in 2009, we all believed that it would be very hard to ever experience anything as beautiful as we had for those 10 days on the road.  I had heard many great stories of the Canadian Rockies and thought well we will just have to see how they compare.

The plan was to spend another 10 days on the road and ride up through Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and then into Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta Canada. On the return we would hit Glacier National Park (B.C.), Revelstoke National Park and then down through Kelowna using the ferries of Okanagan Lake. I love the waterways!

I had mapped out and setup some great byways up through Idaho to see some of the beautiful back country of all the National Forest lands and Canyon lands that this great state has to offer ending up in Sandpoint along Lake Pend Oreille. This is a great little town to just hide-away and enjoy before our excursion into “Americas Hat”.

The trip was sort of doomed from the beginning as the plans didn’t quite work out as we had put down on paper. First off, this trip was not going to include our riding friends so they would be really missed; it was just going to be Tinker and myself on the road on our own. Second we had to ride through Northeastern NEVADA!.... yuck!... Third, weather became a constant peril that we just couldn’t avoid by any detour in the high country. And fourth, WEATHER conditions became the ultimate end to our fate for travelling to all the beautiful parks in Canada and getting us home safe. I will explain further as the story goes on. 

Here is our first leg of the trip from Sacramento, California up to Sandpoint, Idaho.

This explains some of the places in the pictures of the video:

Leaving Sacramento on Hwy 49 to Placerville, then to Hwy 50 to South Lake Tahoe. We went around the lake and out the east side near Carson City and out 447 around Pyramid Lake to 49 again which would take us up to Winnemucca. From there we hit 95 to Mc Dermitt, (Tumbleweed Junction) Nevada for the first night. 

Day 2 would be 95 North through Jordan Valley with unbelievable skies that looked as if God was leading the way before us…  We would cross over into Idaho somewhere in the desolate countryside of cattle and hay growing wild and along the way many river crossings. Caldwell would be the first city we would see since leaving Sac and found our way to Hwy 55 North which would be our road of choice for the next 100 or so miles around Lake Cascade and Payette Lake in McCall. From there it would be up 95 through Salmon River Canyon and Hells Canyon up to Grangeville for the night. Great little town and people!

Day 3 started pretty ugly coming out the backside of town on a very winding Hwy 13 all downhill to Kooskia. The fog was so thick you couldn’t see but 20 ft in front of the bike and it was wet fog and about 45 degrees out. We stopped and had breakfast at some awesome home-cooked -food-place! By the time we got out of there the sun was out and it was just … well beautiful!  

On down Hwy 12 (Lewis and Clark Trail) along the Clearwater River Canyon – this is one of the most beautiful roadways in the west to Orofino where we would catch the cutoff to Hwy 3 through the backside of the Saint Joe National Forest and up to Lake Coeur d’Alene. We hit some big rainstorms along this route as we came upon the lake. There was nowhere to stop and dry out so we just plowed through it and kept on going. Our goal was to get to Sandpoint for the night and dry-out there and eat and sleep well, and we did. We were soaked through all our riding gear but there was no laundry at this hotel we stayed at… so our room became a steam bath with all the drying leather and clothes with the heater turned up to 90 degrees. We found our dry clothes and made our way to the bar and the restaurant and made merry!
Day 3 ended ugly.

Weather and news reports in Alberta, Canada ranged from torrential rains in the valleys to blizzard snow conditions in the higher elevations which is exactly where we were headed…  we decided to wait it out a day in Sandpoint and see if it would clear out, but the reports were pretty much that a “system was blowing in over the next 4-5 days” and that would pretty much waste all the time we had to go up and come back from all the parks we wanted to visit. And with the weather socking everything in, there wouldn’t be anything to see! Canada at this point was a bust.

PLAN B!!!!  With all the bad weather up north we decided to go south and then over to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. These islands are in the “Banana Belt” of the Pacific Northwest and always have some good sun shining on them. Being that our plans had all changed now, we still had time to enjoy life however it was dealt to us. We were a bit saddened by the change but I think we shook the doldrums by the time we got headed into some sunshine…

Here is the second leg of the trip from Sandpoint, Idaho to Anacortes, Washington.

That sunshine wouldn’t come very quickly, as we headed out of Sandpoint we were under dark clouds along Hwy 2 down to Newport where we would catch Hwy 20 across Colville National Forest lands. Hit some more POUNDING RAIN… and then into Colville where we would go south along 395 to Addy. There we would continue across the mountains to the Columbia River where we caught the ferry across to Inchilum. 

Once here we didn’t really know which direction to head so we mapped out some more back roads and continued to traverse our way across the mountains to highway 155 and then headed down to Grand Coulee. We would spend the night there with some good food and a laser light show on the dam, it’s pretty cool. They release and run white water down the face of the dam and use it for the screen. 

Breakfast was at a local dive place where the staff pretty much lets you help yourself… and then onto the road again up through the mountains on hwy 174 to Brewster and then connect up with Hwy 153 North to Hwy 20 to take on the Cascade Mountain Range heading toward the coast of Washington. The Cascades, the high mountain lakes and rivers are just awe inspiring to witness. I wished I had taken some better pictures of the entire landscape but we were on a trek to meet a ferry by 4:00 and time was wasting!  

We made it into Anacortes with enough time to sit at the bar at Anthonys in the marina and have a few drinks and some good food and recall the days memories… in beautiful SUNSHINE!  We didn’t have to wear any rain gear for the first time since we left Nevada! The ferry ride over to Friday Harbor was late afternoon and the waters were calm and it was just a great end to a very long day.

The LAST LEG video contains our time on San Juan Island which is the largest of the 8 islands in the area. The photos include a visit over to Roche Harbor, Smallpox Bay, Lime Kiln Park and around to the southern area known as Cattle Point. It also includes the ride from Sydney B.C. down Hwy 101 through Washington and Oregon to our ultimate fate in Crescent City, California. 

Our trip over to Roche Harbor on the far north end of the island is always an enjoyable time of taking in all the history, grandeur and the feast the place has to offer. The harbor was used as bulk lime loading facility back in the late 1800’s of the lime that was mined on the island. The place is now known as a stop off point for the huge Million Dollar luxury ships that navigate the inside passage of Vancouver Island and into the Puget Sound for a place to dock, re-fuel and re-supply before heading to sea again either  to the north or south. Some pretty nice vessels in this place!  Had a visit by a sea plane too! and the best BLOODY
MARYS in the world!!!!

We also stopped into Smallpox Bay where many kayakers begin their journey out into the Straights around all the islands and points beyond!... My brother and I did a 7 day Kayak trip many years ago from here, what a great adventure that was.

We then went to Lime Kiln State Park where there is a lighthouse perfect for a backdrop of pictures. The waters are so blue and the lush greenery of the island makes for much color.  We then made our way further down the west side of the island where you can pretty much just look across to Victoria, Canada on the opposite shoreline. Lots of clouds over there, here? SUNSHINE!

We spent 2 days in Friday Harbor before finally leaving (against our will). It’s always hard leaving the islands and it was a bit sad again because we knew that at this point of our ride we were now turning the handlebars towards the direction of home and we would soon be back and this vacation would be over. Little did we know the beauty that was still ahead of us.

The ferry ride to Sydney was a gorgeous day to ride upon the waters of the Straights and the ride down into Victoria was very nice along the shoreline. We parked the bikes at the ferry terminal and walked out through the city to see all the local stuff going on, catch some food and tried to find a cigar store. Things were looking up weather wise as the day was shedding its warmth upon us. The ferry ride from Victoria over to Port Angeles Washington is about an hour and half tour across the Straights of Juan De Fuca and it was a bit windy out there so we were chopping the seas. Good thing the bikes were strapped down below with about 20 others a couple  hundred cars.

The city of Port Angeles sets right at the base of the north side of the Olympic National Park. Onto good ole Hwy 101 again and riding along we came upon Lake Crescent in the mountains of the Olympic Range. Wow what a beautiful site to see. It was getting pretty late in the day so we decided to find someplace out on the coast and bag down for the night. We rode into the town of Sekiu which is still on the Straights heading out to the point. We found a great little place to stay and some great neighbors to sit and tell stories with of our travels. In the morning we packed up and rode out to Neah Bay about 18 miles up the road to look around at Americas Northwestern most point. We watched a couple Eagles fight for some food on the banks near the marina. As we ate our breakfast meal together, it occurred to me that they were probably another husband and wife team out on an adventure of life together too. 

On down the road along Hwy 101 south and we were into the typical Washington fog and mist of the Olympic coastline most of the way down to Astoria, Oregon where we stopped in again for the night.  From there we continued on down the coast highway through the Oregon fog and mist and saw whatever we could of the Oceanside communities along the way. We ended up stopping in Gold Beach for the night with possible plans to head inland in the morning to get some relief from the cold and damp dreariness of the Oregon coast which is hit or miss, sometimes it can be fantastic out here.

The next day we hear news of a huge fire raging through the mountains where we planned to ride through to the Rogue River Canyon so the inland route was a no-go. We decide to keep on going down the coast and make the best of it, besides we were headed for our last stop which would be the isolated little secret village of Shelter Cove on the Lost Coast of California to spend our last night in peace and quiet with one another, it had to be special.

Well it was special alright… about 5 miles outside of Crescent city headed south we started to pass an 18 wheeler driving through the mountains at a pretty good clip and we come to the passing lanes and he doesn’t move over. So I went to the right lane trying to see whats up?  Well there’s a car there and he’s trying pass on an uphill grade and I’m just thinking WTF! …. All of sudden I see his right turn signal and he starts coming over so I move out to the left lane and start going around him just as a right turn starts banking I lean the bike over harder to lean into it and the front wheel begins to slide across the pavement (which is damp by the way)…. I slide across the double yellow trying to straighten it out and I see cars coming at me. I can see the ladies face (in disbelief) in the front car looking at me heading at her in her lane and I twist the handlebars one more time to try and get the bike to go right, the back wheel starts to slide now and do the wiggle thing, so at this point I know the only way to keep from going down in the road is to straighten this thing out and go off the left shoulder. Well there’s about  12 inches of pavement past the fog line on the road, about another 12 inches of dirt on the edge and then a canyon past that… is about all I can see. So I let it roll out to the left and let that front wheel down on the dirt and thinking to myself this is gonna hurt… and BAM!   I am on the ground rolling my way down the grade….  trying to breath, hurting.

I hear people, sirens, Tinker yelling. My bike ends up about 80 feet down a gorge. I am able to crawl back up to the road from about 20 feet down, can’t catch my breath can’t stand up, can’t lay down. It’s a mess.

I thank you Lord for sparing my life once again and although we never made it to Shelter Cove I still was able to spend the last night of our trip with my best friend and partner in life…  in the Crescent City Hospital. Thank you for her too! 

Happy Trails!