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Old 02-21-2012, 08:24 PM   #1
N-Id-Jim OP
Studly Adventurer
Joined: May 2009
Location: where elephants roam
Oddometer: 684
Idaho to BC Lakes with Ferries and beer

I'm putting a couple short trip reports together here because we are in the death grip of winter here in North Idaho and I'm bored or something like that. This galavant happend over the four days of last Labor Day weekend.

Labor Day, Beer, & BC Ferries

We have had a fine stretch of summer weather for the past few weeks here in the inland northwest, and it looks like we are in for another long weekend of perfect weather! My accomplice and GF is a school marm and has to go back to work after the Labor day holiday, so we are fixing to make the most of the last weekend of summer vacation. I may enjoy planning the routes almost as much as riding them, well that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I do enjoy it, so I pretty much have the trip maps figured out. Here is a link :

We will ride the Honda VFR 800 2-up, so we are not camping this weekend, tho we had discussed possibly taking two bikes so we could take our camp gear too.. the bike handles us and our gear just fine and still has plenty of pep do whatever is asked of it. Here are the perpetrator and accomplice…

The loosely planned route took us out of town on Thursday afternoon across the Rathdrum prairie and into Washington near the Hauser Junction. There is nothing fun or remarkable about getting across the north side of Spokane as you have to take a few crappy and heavily trafficked roadways no matter what route you pick. I wiggled my way across town to hwy 395 which is then becomes just a highway drone north to get up to bluer skies. About a hundred miles to Chewela, WA for fuel and a stretch, then on up the road. The traffic was settling down once we got past Colville, and we were completely on our own once we turned north out of Kettle Falls on Hwy 25 toward Northport, WA. The thirty or so miles along the Columbia River in the evening’s summer sun are fantastic. Great road quality and very scenic. It feels like we have broken into the weekend. My accomplice is smiling!

It is a fairly short jaunt through forested mountains from Northport WA to Rossland BC with the border crossing being about midway. The port of entry was efficient and friendly as we submitted our mug shot dossiers and passed through in minutes with a friendly wave from the officer. The deep woods is how I would describe the road here and I am wary of the creatures that make their homes within, so we just take our time in the pine scented forest and amble on in to Rossland. Our destination for the night is a roadside motel on the hill leaving town. A Rossland Thursday night is pretty quiet but we find the local liquor store to do some hops testing, and then enjoy a nice meal in a local establishment. With our fuel cells charged we retire to the motel for a nice rest, and make ready for the weekend ahead.

Friday morning arrived sunny and cool at this alpine elevation. After a little jogging up to see Red Mountain ski area, we hit the so-called “continental breakfast” at the motel and then shoved off on our day’s voyage to Revelstoke BC. These days are not high mileage, but are high quality for sure.. Our next leg runs through Castlegar and then takes us up the Slocan valley. We have done this route numerous times on our bicycles, but it is a lot quicker on the moto for sure. The Slocan Valley is full of small lakeside burgs that offer home-cooking and locally grown and or made products. How about some hemp underwear? We had a really nice breakfast of fresh products in Winlaw at a local diner, and later a snack while we perused the outdoor market goings on in New Denver. Along the way we are treated to many fantastic viewpoints of Slocan Lake and reflections of the rugged Purcell Mountains that bank the west side.

We made time for a stop and a swim in Summit Lake which is most of the way to Nakusp. We passed on the town of Nakusp for today, saving that one for tomorrow. We motored on up the road to the ferry landing at Galena. We had a short wait in the que for our turn to board the ferry. BC has a terrific network of free auto ferries here in the lakes region, and they are necessary as the geography abruptly limits the roadbuilders options. However the roads offer decent surface quality, plenty of fun undulations and curves, and great scenery.

One of the really great things about these car ferries is the way they prefer to load the motorcycles at the very front of the vessel. Since the only origin of any northbound traffic on the route is fresh off the ferry, being first down the gangplank has its benefits! Thirty gorgeous car free miles from Shelter Bay to Revelstoke through the mountains along Upper Arrow Lake. This is motorcycle heaven.

Revelstoke is definitely a place I would return to. It is home to a ski mountain with one of the biggest vertical drops in North America, and sits between two beautiful lakes namely Revelstoke and Upper Arrow, and a river flows from one to the other right through town. Of course there is always a good reason for the development of any significant town, and resource extraction is it. Like many mining and logging towns there is a colorful history, and now with world class skiing and recreation opportunities the town has an energetic vibrant feel coupled with its historic charm. We stayed in a hostel, Poppi’s, in the midst of downtown and had a great experience. We enjoyed the company of travelers from Europe, US, and Canadia, eh? It is a short walk from Poppi’s to any café, bar, or trinket store, we however opted for a local brew pub that promised some locally crafted adult beverages as well as chow.

The food and drink were great and we had a fun evening. In the morning, after a jogging excursion around town and through the riverside parks, we made a visit to the Saturday morning downtown open market which was fantastic. All varieties of local produce, products, and freshly baked goods were well represented. We really had a great stay here and want to return, but by now it is almost noon and it is checkout time. We are ready for the next stretch of scenic highway, in reverse.

Back to Nakusp! Just out of Revelstoke on hwy 23 we took a short detour up a side canyon for a better look at the big ski mountain, well lots of mountains, all spectacular too. Back on the main route we enjoyed the views all the way back to Shelter Bay, as well as those from the ferry to Galena. Well it’s Saturday, and the weekend is here because on this bluebird day in early September there must be 20 motorcycles fixing to board the good ship Galena.

Lots of chatter on deck and leathered up pirate types eyeing the jap bikes, while the sport bike riders are watching out for slippery oil spots. Everybody had a great time enjoying the perfect weather and the bountiful harvest of natural delights one can only fully appreciate on a bike. We all disembarked and had a blast motoring away from the landing up the mountain twisties. We took our time stopping a bit to just take in the views. Our next destination is just short hop away so there is no reason hurry other than the knowledge of how nice the Nakusp Hot Springs are going to feel!

The ride up to the hot springs is a treat in itself, twelve miles of absolutely bitchin writhing mountain twisty road! What a fine place this is. The geo-thermally heated pools did not disappoint either. The facility is sparkling clean and the water is amazing. We soaked in its mystical healing goodness for a couple hours and in so doing worked up a healthy thirst. A thirst like this cannot be ignored! We toweled down and suited back up and glided back down the mountain through the pine forest in golden late afternoon sunshine. What a day, and great timing to find the liquor store just prior to its closing. We found our motel for the night and commenced with our happy hour and snack-time festivities. A short while later we were strolling downtown Nakusp to find a quiet lakeside restaurant for dinner. The sunset over the mountains to the west cast a gorgeous glow on the lake. Another perfect day in BC. Tomorrow we will head toward Nelson, but not get there.

Ho hum, we wake up to yet another bluebird day in Eastern British Columbia! We follow our morning ritual of orienteering ourselves to the locality by jogging 4 or 5 miles around town which gives a good start to the day. Of course our next order of business is to find a good local coffee bean purveyor and sample the goods. We are in luck at the downtown beanery where they also deal in some delicious baked goods. The temperature has cooled off overnight so we are not in a hurry to hit the road. We just relax and enjoy the scene in Naksp as the day slowly warms up. We amuse ourselves a bit by sampling some of the available tourist apparel. Soon we have collected our gear at the motel and are kitted up to ride. We were feeling the suns warmth as we worked to get the bike loaded up. Heading east we were quickly climbing the grade up away from the shimmer of the Arrow Lakes and the valley in which they reside.

We motored back past Summit Lake (too cold to swim this morning) and were soon descending back into the Slocan Lake basin with the majestic mountains of the Valhalla Wilderness standing sentinel over the valley. Even though we have traveled out and back on these roads each direction is like a completely different ride with new vistas continually being revealed. The road dropped down into New Denver which is a charming little burg, but today we veered east to ride the mountain road over Kalso on Kootenay Lake. We quickly gained altitude as we ascended the steep grade out of the Slocan Valley. However on the way we were lured by the sign to visit the mining ghost town of Sandon. It is a detour of about 5 miles of well graded gravel road up a narrow canyon, but the viffer eats it up, ( I think it does better than my old vstrom… even 2 up) We were pleasantly surprised to find a neat and interesting museum at the end of the road that had a fascinating display of artifacts and stories of the rise and fall of Sandon.

All the usual trappings of mining, men, women, hucksters, and fires contribute to the story. There is also a small trinket shop here where you can buy an ice cream bar or a tee shirt. Amazing to me it’s all here in the out of the way place that it is. Curiosity satiated, we rolled back down the canyon to the main road.

The road from New Denver to Kaslo, we were told, has earned a reputation as favorite sport bike proving grounds. Annually a number of riders meet their demise by overcooking a curve or making an ill timed pass along this route. Also be warned that the LEO’s are watchful as they are tired of cleaning up the messes. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride over the top as it is a great road, and yes we did see some racer wannabes wicking it up to test their luck. Once down the east slope you are greeted by friendly Kaslo, BC sitting right on the edge of Kootenay Lake. There is a very nice city park right on the waterfront to enjoy a picnic lunch in, or test you skill in the skate park. We ate sandwiches and watched boats drift by in the azure water.

Hard work, but somebody has to do it. The road from Kaslo south is a well traveled road with plenty of traffic, but the scenery makes it a worthwhile trip. Another well known hot spring pool, Ainsworth, is here and is also a great place to soak tired bones. We stopped for a quick look around but did not stay.

Just down the trail a bit we come to the ferry terminal hamlet of Balfour. I believe this is the longest free auto ferry in Canada, about a 30 minute crossing. Two ships alternate on the line so the wait is not terribly long, unless the ques are all full. As usual there is a pretty good mob assembled on this sunny weekend afternoon, but there is plenty of space available for motorcycles. Before long we shove-off sailing the perfectly blue waters of the Kootenay Lake crossing.

We make a perfect landing at Kootenay Bay in anticipation of the ride south down Hwy 3A along the east side of the lake. 3A is a storied road in these parts, so we want to know what all the fuss is about.

We are not disappointed! We enjoyed mile after mile of curvy roadway around wooded hills, high vistas, rugged lakeside, and pretty beaches all on decent pavement. 3A is a fun road and a scenic road, however there are many blind driveways, some gravel in the curves, and deceptive sight distances. We could finally stand it no more, and we had to stop in a provincial park, and take the short trail walk to a sandy beach. We basked in the warm afternoon sun on the west facing sand and refreshed ourselves with some ice cold beverages. The water was nice enough for a swim, but we just waded a bit. Rested and refreshed we zig-zagged our way down the remaining miles of 3A to the City of Creston. Sorry no more pics...

Creston is an appealing town that is perched on a bench that overlooks a gorgeously expansive and fertile agricultural valley along the Kootenay River. Clearly that is the economic engine driving this region. This is definitely a destination that is worth an extra day of exploration to visit orchards, vineyards, and of course the Kookanee Brewery. We didn’t plan for all of that on this trip, but we did stay the night in a friendly motel which was very reasonable in cost. Downtown we experienced two great meals, dinner and breakfast, both in places we would return to. The next morning, Labor Day Monday, arrived beautifully and we were soon headed out of town eastbound on Hwy 3 through orchards and over rolling hills and lazy curves through Kitchener and then down Hwy 95 to the US port of entry at Kingsgate. We slipped through customs back into Idaho with no questions asked, but felt badly for the Canada bound traffic that looked to be in for a lengthy wait to return home from their weekend in the ‘States.

We rolled on down through Bonners Ferry, and then pretty much directly back home to Coeur d’Alene, well.. maybe we stopped somewhere along the way for refreshments before we gave up on the last hours of the weekend. In review I would have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised to find minimal crowds anywhere we went in this part of BC over the Labor Day weekend. We could have camped at pretty much any park, had no long lines at ferry terminals, and got quick service at all hospitality establishments. Even though we no longer enjoy the favorable currency exchange rate we once did, there is added value in less traffic and little to no waiting around. So this trip is rated as repeat worthy!
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Old 02-21-2012, 09:48 PM   #2
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Oct 2010
Location: Bend, Oregon
Oddometer: 370

I love that part of Canada! I was lucky enough to do a project on the Kootenay River that let me spend a lot of time exploring the entire watershed....all 19,000 square miles of it. That is a spot that I could spend another year or two exploring. Thanks for the great ride report!
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Old 02-24-2012, 09:32 AM   #3
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Feb 2010
Oddometer: 1,467
Awesome RR

Was through that part of BC last summer, the ferries were so cool. Some fantastic twisties in and around that area too!
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Old 02-24-2012, 11:43 AM   #4
N-Id-Jim OP
Studly Adventurer
Joined: May 2009
Location: where elephants roam
Oddometer: 684
Lake Shots

Thanks for the comments, it is a great place to ride and i never get tired of these views..

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