It’s not so much the destination, but the journey that makes a great road trip.
Story by Bill Gedye
Photos by Bill Gedye and Bruce Carter
It all started out, as most road trips do, with a gaggle of riders sitting around in a back room trying to decipher the mystery of a crossplane crank and trading stories of their past road adventures.
“Have you guys ever been to what was once the largest waterfall in the world? Now it’s just the prehistoric bones of a 5.5 km-wide cataract at the end of a 30 km chasm.”
“Okay, I’m in.”
And just like that, the trip was on.
Here were Bruce, Shel and I ready to pull the trigger on our first trip of the year. Bruce would be on his Suzuki 1200 Bandit, Shel on his Ducati Multistrada, and yours truly with my Yamaha Royal Star Venture and cargo trailer full of camping gear.
As you all know, a large part of the enjoyment of a road trip is the anticipation and packing. Camping gear has to be sorted, the trailer bearings lubed and maps copied. My bike’s oil is changed to allow for long rides in hot weather, and before you know it, we’re meeting and taking off through Vancouver, up the historic Fraser Canyon and on to Kamloops for the first night’s layover.
Leaving Kamloops, we head east from Vernon on Highway 6 toward Cherryville and the Monashee Pass through lush farm country and past lumber operations. Then on to Nakusp after crossing Arrow Lake on the cable ferry. Keep in mind that it’s an inland ferry – not part of BC Ferries – so the usual loading rules do not apply and bikes have to get in line like everyone else.
On the road into Nakusp, take a look at the hydro poles on your right. They are a unique crossbar design and the local osprey take advantage of this to build huge nests on them – adding to the nests each year to the point where they start to look like Vancouver condos.
Still on Hwy 6 out of Nakusp, the road wanders through some high lakes and what resembles a green shag rug of evergreen forest until we descend into New Denver, where Tamara awaits us at the Nuru Coffee Bar. She rides a Ducati Monster and owns Nuru, so her connection with riders is real and immediate.
Destination Toad Rock
The road from New Denver gets really interesting as we head east on Hwy 31A to Kaslo, and finally Hwy 31 to Toad Rock Motorcycle Campground, just north of the Balfour ferry.
Great pavement, little traffic, spectacular abandoned-mine scenery on both sides of the road and gnarly twisties provide multiple layers of bliss for any rider. In the past on this road, I saw my first wild turkey in Canada, and on this trip, a turkey vulture is guarding something at the side of the road and refuses to budge as we blast by. Damn, they’re ugly.
We’ll stay at Toad Rock for a couple of nights, so we don’t just hit there and pack up the next morning – we’ll have time to tour and see the spectacular Kootenay countryside. Toad Rock is most likely the best motorcycle campground in the west. The first time I stayed there, I thought I’d died and gone to motorcycle heaven run by an angel called Mary Laird.
Mary greets us warmly as old friends and meets her newest campers, Bruce and Shel. While setting up camp, Shel and Bruce are introduced to Happy, the camp pig, as he waddles onto our site, mooching for anything to eat, grunting happily. In the evening, we wander down to the pavilion to join the Toad Rock family gathering, laughing with new friends and ruthlessly murdering the truth with our travel tales. There are no rules when you’re telling travel stories. Sitting around a campfire before sacking out is the ultimate camping experience, isn’t it?
After a camp breakfast of coffee and burnt toast, we ride into Nelson so Bruce and Shel can explore. Shel is searching for a 93 octane at a Chevron station, but there isn’t one, so he opts for a can of octane boost and we end up at the Oso Negro Cafe to unwind in the shade of its fancy patio.
Great final night at Toad Rock with the crowd at the pavilion, and after packing up camp, we head to Nelson for lunch and fuel before heading for the U.S. border via Castlegar and Grand Forks. It is pleasantly cool over the Blueberry-Paulson Pass after the oppressive heat of Castlegar. A quick stop at the Nancy Greene rest area re-establishes the plan to meet in Christina Lake for lunch if anyone gets separated.
An Easy Crossing
The border crossing at Danville, south of Grand Forks, is tiny compared to any of the other major ones we usually use, and the U.S. Customs gent has all three of us approach, rather than one at a time – much more efficient for him, I guess.
Heading south from Curlew, Washington, I think we have made a…