The Great Northwest; Washington, Vancouver Island and British Columbia
Ben and I have been doing day rides and short one or two night trips since I moved out to Southern California from Boston. 12 months of riding is fantastic. I initially purchased a Suzuki GS500f because the price of a new one was in our budget and the gas mileage was good. Whenever you read about it people call it a "Great starter bike"...well, it's gotten me 30,000miles and all over the west, it can easily tackle highways and cities and, for me at least, it sits comfortably.
Here it is on a trip to Kernville, CA
After trips to Kernville, (recommended, but not in summer) and Death Valley, (recommended, but not in summer) we got an itch for a bigger, more ambitious trip. Ben has family in Washington State, Vancouver Island, Bella Coola, BC and a brother vacationing in Vernon, BC so the route was obvious.
Here's a rough estimate of our planned route: approx 2100 miles.
We planned and talked and planned and on July 3rd we busted ass to get from LA to our hopping off point in Vancouver WA, a nice little burb north of Portland OR. The ride up the 5 freeway BLOWS so we left at 2:00am and we trailered the bikes and took turns driving so we could get there ASAP.
Yeah, yeah, I'm a HUGE anti-trailer guy too but seriously, the 5 SUCKS through California. One quirk the trailer we rented had, the spare was mounted underneath so it had, literally, less than an inch clearance. This proved interesting when I drove over some roadkill.
The scenery got a bit more interesting as we passed
And passed by Weed
The 51st State, Jefferson
And finally into Portland and...
We stayed with Ben's parents that night who had earlier welcomed Jeff who had flown in from Toronto. Jeff works for CTV and rented a bike from a local area dealer. Mom and Dad greeted us with beer and a steak dinner. Not a bad end to Day 0 - Travel to WA.
Day one, July 4th 2011, consisted of getting to Victoria, BC. Our ferry was schedule for 5:15pm so we had some time to explore the Olympic peninsula. Washington is a gorgeous place.
Ben and Jeff load up
More to come when I get the pix from Ben and Jeff!
So far so good!
Looking forward to more!
I lived in Washington for 22 years before moving to Montana 4 years ago, and I've ridden much of what you have mapped out, with the exception of Vancouver Island. Haven't made it there yet...
(July 4, 2011) We're all packed, geared up and ready to go. Ben's mom and dad filled us with coffee and bacon and eggs assuring that rest room stops were in our near future, but we were happy.
Jeff and Ben finish gearing up.
My load job was unorthodox, but it held!
We take off up the 5 freeway from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Vancouver</st1:place></st1:City>, veer off on route 12, quick gas up, and head towards the coast and more scenic roads. Here we take a quick break
Day 1 continued
The Olympic Pennisula is a gorgeous place. We motored along enjoying the scenery and the fresh air and suddenly, around Aberdeen, WA we see red and blue lights behind us. We pull over, confused as to why.
The WA state trooper walks up to Jeff and starts going through the "License and registration" song and dance.
Here's Jeff with the Statie car
The tool gives Jeff some BS about it being illegal in Washington State to have a GoPro mounted to your helmet because kids on crotch rockets stop traffic and do stunting. WHAT!?!?!?! So he hands him a ticket that vaguely states, "Illegal M/C helmet." Jeff, being the trooper, shrugs it off and we press on.
Heading north on the 101 towards Forks, WA
And a stop at a "rain forest" trail
The little Forest Service Roads up there are simply gorgeous;
We stop at one of the VERY few gas stops
And back on the 101 towards Port Angeles
After hours enjoying the clean fresh air we get a bit hungry, but one problem, lack of choices. The place we find is blah and over-priced...
...but the view isn't too bad...
...not bad at all.
Day 1, after lunch...
After a relaxing lunch, our bellies and tanks full, we pressed on. We passed by Forks, WA, the location of those "Twilight" films. Well, Ben's a big Team Edward guy and Jeff a Team Jacob guy, so they screamed OMG and wanted to stop and take photos, but I implored them to keep going. So sorry if any of y'all wanted pix of Forks.
Anywho! As we got closer to Port Angeles we passed the amazingly gorgeous Lake Crescent, WOW, the water was crystalline and DEEP.
And the road running along side was leisurely and smooth
But the road was narrow with not a lot of places to stop, so when we found one we pulled over...
...right across from this neat, small, waterfall. The photo doesn't capture just how steep this hill is or how high it went.
Trying to get artistic at the lakeside
Well, we finally made it to Port Angeles and the ferry. There were 8 or so other bikes waiting, so we got in behind them. A couple I recognized from ADV, but forgot to get their names. When discussing our planned route they confirmed that we made the right choice by planning route 20 on the other end of the trip.
This is them waiting to board
Ben and Jeff wait to board
And we tie down
And go topside to catch a glimpse of Port Angeles as we depart
Hey, lookit my iPhone GPS
Now, being the super-nerds we are we immediately take out the iPhones and iPads and start downloading pix and updating Facebook statuses. Our table on the ferry looked like a NOC.
We near Victoria and get some more shots of our first MC ferry ride.
And clear customs with out a problem...(but it was HOT)
Evening in Victoria...
Wow, if you've never been to Victoria, BC do yourself a favor and go. What a gorgeous city. We spent the first night of our trip with Ben's sister Abby in Victoria and had a few hours to look around and get some food and stop at MEC, (Canada's version of REI) and pic up some extra Jetboil fuel.
Ben and Abby
The above pic was taken after 10:00pm and it's still pretty light outside. Being from LA it's dark long before this time.
Ben's sister is about as nice as can be. She has a studio apartment, (that's ONE room, for those of you not used to the term), and she still offered us a place to stay. She did inform us that all three of us snored pretty good and she didn't get much sleep.
Morning, day 2...all packed up and ready to go.
Day 2.1...dusty bottoms
Now our trip really began, as far as I was concerned. Mileage-wise it wasn't too ambitious, if we were taking asphalt roads, but this day involved a bunch of dirt, albeit pretty smooth.
A quick Starbucks stop and we head out of Victoria...stopping to enjoy the vistas
Take some photos and...
...admire my fine packing job that Ben likened to being performed by gypsies.
And then more gas and...
...a Lake Cowichan grocer to pick up some sandwiches for later.
But it's always good to take a moment to assure the wives that we're AOK.
Then into the woods...
I present to you...TREES!
We came to a fork in the road..."Which way?"
Ok, fine, we'll go that way. Getting a bit dusty by this point in the trip.
Our intended route had this sign tacked up...
Nope, no way through.
Well, it's a good excuse to stop for lunch. This place looked pretty good.
So I called Jeff over...
...who didn't handle the uneven rocks near the lake very well.
But not to worry, Ben was there with his camera...
As was I...
But enough shenanigans, Lunch time. I was so thirsty I drank a LOT of that water.
The joy of dusty roads and insane logging trucks...
After lunch we continued on and met our first logging trucks. Interesting, to say the least.
Just to give you a quick taste of what it's like meeting a logging truck.
Ben was in the lead and managed to capture this series of pix. FYI: They're barreling down the road going at least 60-70 mph...if not more.
Then a bit later Jeff was in the lead and Ben captured his disappearing act. The fourth one, here below, is a little bit further up the road, the dust still hanging in the air.
Excellent write up, sure nice to read other people's perspective on where you live.
Be sure to check out the "Goats on the roof" market in Coombs, great place to stop for lunch and grab stuff for later. Enjoy the island as much as we do. Thankfully we get to live here!
Day 2.2, more dust and confirmation that, yes, bears do sh*t in the woods
After lunch we continued down the dusty trails of Vancouver Island. I admit I was taken aback by the amount of clear-cutting on the island.
Let me say that I do realize that wood has to come from somewhere and that logging provides valuable jobs, but much like sausage, you hate seeing how it's done.
So we continued on...
Yeah, these roads were dusty, but damn they were fun...
Around 50 or 60 miles in and after being dusted by 7 or 8 logging trucks, we saw this warning sign...gee, thanks for the tip.
We pulled off to avoid another truck and the follow up van and Ben laughed and said he needed to get a pic. I guess we looked a tad dirty.
It was time for a break. We saw a little road going off with a little creek at the bottom. Very refreshing.
Ben and Jeff explore;
And I make my way through;
Strike a pose...
I think Jeff's helmet is a bit tight.
Alright, enough fun, let's get to Port Alberni...Which way Jeff?
Jeff checks his GPS
I just figured it out the old fashioned way.
Back on tarmac in Port Alberni...I was getting pretty tired...and needed a beer.
Between Port Alberni and Comox lake there aren't too many photos. I can't speak for Ben and Jeff but I was getting exhausted and, I have to admit, a bit grumpy. Using the Backroad Mapbooks, (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) we had located a camp on Elsie Lake and worked our way towards it. Near a fork in the road Ben remembered seeing a camp near Dickson lake, a few miles off the road we were on. I just wanted to make a decision and get somewhere and we continued towards our first destination. We took a wrong turn, just a few hundred yards, and saw our first bear and a LOT of piles of bear scat on the roads. After seeing our mistake, Jeff took a break and Ben and I went to explore. We thought we found it. Since our communication was three way and connected throught Jeff, who was out of range, Ben and I turned around to go get him. I was first around and headed down the trail until I heard Ben's horn....DOH!, he went over. PUSH! and he was back up. At that point I strongly suggested that being in the heart of bear country, we should probably all stay together or at least in communication at all times.
We found Jeff and all headed back to the "campsite". Well, turns out the campsite was actually on the otherside of the ravine and the bridge was out. There was a nice place that we could have camped, but it was miles from nowhere and surrounded by big ole piles of digested bear food...yep, big piles. I voted "push on" and Jeff was a bit nervous about the location too...after a few moments of reflection, Ben too realized this place wasn't ideal.
That turned out to be a great decision. We rode through more clear cutting devastation and thought we got lost, but realized we were fine and finally came upon Comox Lake. According to the map books there was camping at the northern end, but we passed a few unoccupied cabins and Ben suggested we borrow their front yards for camping. The first few we came across had steel cables across the drive, a sign the owners don't want to share. We saw another group of cabins down a steep hill and Ben shot down to explore. I wouldn't have and Jeff wouldn't have but thank god Ben did. This lakeside location was right out of a picture-book.
Our first good view of Comox Lake.
Next up..."Well, this was a GREAT choice"
Now THIS is camping.
What I learned on July 5, 2011.
Well, when in doubt, listen to Ben's instincts.
This is what he saw when he road down to explore the potential campsite;
While he waited for us, Ben played around with his waterproof camera.
I guess if he was drowning you, this is what you'd see
Another under water shot
Jeff looking happy to be done for the day
And happy to be munching...
My dirty bike and...
...my little home for the night
A campfire and a beer...good stuff.
Mmmm, freeze dried campfood
The lake was serene and relaxing as the sun went down. We had a few bugs, at first, but bugspray seemed to help. Just at twilight we saw a swarm of bats dive bombing the lake right next to us. By the time they went away there was nary a bug to be found. Later on we ventured out to the end of the dock and were struck silent by the sheer number of stars in the sky. Jeff lives in Toronto and Ben and I live in LA so our night skies are filled with light polution and we each really appreciated this.
So, this is my set up. Inexpensive, but decent quality tent, air mattress (with electric pump) small pillow and a decent sleeping bag.
The sun comes up, but Ben and Jeff sleep in, so being an early riser I use the time to take some photos...
My "artistical" shots.
Morning came and I awoke early and kept myself occupied;
The view from the campsite
A nearby cabin in the early sun
A sunny cove...not a bad way to wake up.
The dock, from below
A new little buddy.
And they still sleep...Ben...
Ben slowly wakes, and shoots me relaxing by the fire.
I cough and break sticks and finally get them up and about. We pack and get the Jetboil going for coffee. Ben takes a little time to enjoy the view.
But we have some miles to cover, so we gear up,
And take a last look...
July 6th dawned bright and beautiful....
We get all packed up and head up the hill,
coming across a gorgeous deer...
Ok, we didn't get a good pic, but that's him there in the middle.
After getting off the dusty trail near Comox Lake we enter Courtenay, a lovely little town about mid-island, and stop at a coffee shop. I see they had iced coffee and WiFi, so while Ben makes some calls Jeff grabs a muffin and I grab a coffee, and we use their internet connections.
For some reason, we didn't take many photos. All I got was an iPhone self portrait...
...and an iPhone pic of my tire. I was mesmerized how dirty it was.
Leaving Courtenay we headed north along the Island Highway that hugs the coast. Quite a scenic drive, but we didn't get much in the way of pix. Just a few of us trying to reconnect our Scala's
About halfway to Telegraph cove we stopped for lunch at cute little cafe' that was one woman, four small tables and serve yourself drinks. Very good, very casual and she had a big old dog that kind of lumbered around.
The only shot we got was of us leaving.
Several times over the past few days we had bragged about the weather...we were reminded that we were in the Great Northwest. It wasn't anything bad, but we put on the raingear anyway.
Our final destination was Port Hardy, but we swung by Telegraph Cove. Kind of a Disney-esque version of a VC Island town, but cute.
Ooh, Choo choo
And Ben, being the doting hubby, picked up some trinkets for Missy
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