On August 3rd, my wife and I flew to Vancouver and met four other couples to begin our 1500 kilometer journey. The other riders included Paul Cote—who recently purchased a Triumph 1200 from Rocket Motorcycles, John Hecht—an on-and-off member of SDAMC, Dave Robbie—a brief owner of the Reno BMW dealership, and John Simonett—a Vancouver pilot, fisherman, engineer and sailor. Simonett was fairly new to motorcycling and was riding a Honda 750 4 banger of early ‘80’s vintage while Robbie, Hecht and I were riding BMW 1100GS rentals from the Great Canadian Motor Corp whose facility is very close to the Vancouver airport. I strongly recommend them. Although they engage in package tours, their primary activity is individual bike rental plus they act as suppliers of maps and recommended routes. (Peter has enclosed one of their brochures...more about that later—-Editor)
After we picked up our bikes, we took the ferry to Victoria, parked them and went whale watching on a 77’ ketch and ran into pods of killer whales...very exciting. The next day, we mounted up and headed West to Port Renfrew. This was the greatest moto-road of the trip. Very little traffic, clean road, sweepers, twisties, hairpins, and straight stretches where the GS could easily run The Ton two up. The road runs along the south end of Vancouver Island and has amazing vistas across the Juan De Fuca Straight to Washington State with its snowcapped Olympic Mountains.
The next day we took Highway 1 north to Crofton and ferried to Saltspring Island which featured some lovely rural twisties. Highway 1 was boring in that it had heavy traffic and ever present Mounties. Speed limit was 80kph. The next day, we headed north on Highway 1 along the East coast of Vancouver Island—- a very scenic but boring road, UNTIL we turned West near Parksville and took Highway 4 West over the mountains to Torfino on the west coast. The mountains were very much like the California coastal range near Eureka with big trees in the middle. Lots of motorhomes and trucks on this road but plenty of passing opportunities gave those GS's ample ability to show their stuff. Torfino reminded me of Coos Bay, Oregon with a great harbor, good motels, restaurants, and lots of fresh crab and salmon to eat. We had raccoons begging for food from the balcony of our motel room.
The next day we retraced our great ride over Highway 4 back to the east coast and headed North to Campbell River, a salmon fishing town where boats awaited our arrival. I landed a 10lb spring salmon with the required barbless hook and we ate it that evening. Yum, yum.
A word about Canadian traffic police...they use a radar gun and funnel traffic into a single lane where tickets can be handed to you as you drive by. One of us got pegged at 120k in a 80k zone and the rest of us were lucky...the fine was $175, VISA and MasterCard accepted.
Next day, we ferried across the inland passage to the West Coast of the mainland which they call the “Sunshine Coast” and headed south to a resort called Lord Jim’s. The roads in this area are great but we had become a bit radar-shy and more law-abiding. Lord Jim’s owner, Hugh Gadsby tried to sell us the place but embraced us as biker buddies. He had a gourmet chef on hand who cooked up my catch royally. We were getting sweaty by this point and Lord Jim’s had a great pool and a boat dock for us stalwarts to use for ocean swimming, which I estimated to be close to 70 degrees...surprising and refreshing.
The following day, we took two ferries south to Vancouver and then headed east up through the mountains to Whistler, a Vail type ski resort. A fine moto-road with lots of sweepers, turn-outs, and passing lanes. The next day was back to Vancouver and the trip home. We were very lucky and hit NO RAIN. We never took the rain suits out of the saddle bags. Mosquitos were a problem only on the Sunshine Coast.
Canadians like bikers and we encountered no problems. Bikers are given priority on ferries—-first on and first off. Gas is expensive—-up to 75 cents Canadian per liter, or around $3 US per gallon. The exchange rate is very good right now with $1.50 Canadian to $1 US. Roads are well maintained and swept. It is very beautiful country and a great place to ride. Yes, it IS cooler than California and the daytime temps ranged from 60 to 80 degrees, although I consider 60 degrees perfect weather for riding in leathers. I will admit to turning on the heated grips on the GS while leaving Whistler in the early morning but didn’t need them otherwise. Airfare, you ask? We got a deal on United/Air Canada fro $220 round trip. pay in advance. The GSs cost us about $100US/day all inclusive, taxes, insurance, etc. And, no, I didn’t see any Aprilias in Canada.
©Peter Picklsay 1999
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