Forever etched in our minds, it was a truly life-changing experience. We were right there together, inches apart for days—my stepfather, Bruce Wheeler, and I. However, the motorcycle experience itself will be individual.
I cherish the memories, laughter, photos and the smell and feel of the water from both oceans. Unfortunately, 16,300 kilometres and the entire month of July 2012 involves not only the good, but the bad and the ugly as well. By reading this story, you will learn of the good, which is the beauty of Canada as can only be seen through a motorcyclist's eyes and what the openness of strangers across the country means to a couple of not-so-young motorcyclists. You will also learn of the bad: the bad weather; never-ending road construction; reckless driving by the inconsiderate; a destructive car fire; and even the irritatingly high gasoline prices in the North. You will also learn of the ugly: a horrific truck and motorcycle crash with heartbreaking consequences and several bloodied moose carcasses on the highways.
Taking the scenic route
The adventure began with Bruce flying to Victoria, B.C., where he awaited my arrival. My wife, Judy, was my backseat passenger as we headed west out of Edmonton, Alberta, through Jasper National Park. The mountain views and wildlife along the Jasper roadway were entertaining.
I chose to take the roads less travelled as we progressed west, snaking the Goldwing along with a small trailer full of camping gear in tow. We headed to the Vancouver Island ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay via secondary Highway 24, which leads through quaint communities such as Little Fort and Lone Butte. Then we went south on Highway 97 to Highway 99, which is commonly known as the Sea to Sky Highway.
The Sea to Sky snakes its way from Cache Creek through Lillooet, which is where we tented for the night. Through the screen window in our tent there was brief entertainment from a distance—a black bear across the river foraging.
So many sights and smells along the open road
The next day Judy and I passed through Pemberton, Whistler—the host to the 2010 Winter Olympics—and Squamish and then we continued on to Horseshoe Bay.
The Sea to Sky is a breathtaking, narrow, mountainous road with many challenging hairpin corners as well as long hill climbs and descents. We were visually treated to an assortment of terrain—from desert-like, semi-arid conditions and places where the smell of fresh-cut hay wafted through the air to snow-covered mountain peaks and areas where we could see and smell lush forests. Upon our arrival at the ferry terminal, I was greeted by what would be my first taste/smell of the salt air coming in off the ocean.
The ferry ride was uneventful and our ride south through Nanaimo and many other coastal communities en route to Victoria was enjoyable.
A side trip with Jodi
While on the Island, it was a necessity to take a tour with my daughter, Jodi, who is relatively new to Victoria.
Jodi and I meandered along the West Coast Highway through Sooke and Jordan River, which is a big surfing town, to the end of the road at Port Renfrew. Sooke to Port Renfrew is billed as "wild by nature" and the slogan for Sooke is "where the rainforest meets the sea." I also noticed that the community of Jordan River had "Tsunami Evacuation Zone" signs posted along its coastline.
It was a veritable sensory potpourri with the ocean views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the aroma from the rainforests, the sight of moss covering the trees, the vivid sound of chirping birds and an eagle soaring overhead as we passed, many whiffs of warming wood fires, the dozens of fishing boats and, of course, the smell of the ocean was astounding—making this father-and-daughter time so precious.
Now, back to the task at hand: Newfoundland.
The cross-Canada journey begins
I met up with Bruce in Victoria and as already depicted in the picture with the lead article on RidersWest, we had our first bottle of water. Bruce needed to go ankle deep to gather that Pacific Ocean water on the west shore, just off Ocean Boulevard in the community of Colwood.
Bruce and I were pumped when we got up early to start our journey across Canada. It was raining hard but we were determined not to let it dampen our spirits. By the time we reached the halfway point to the ferry terminal in Nanaimo, the rain had stopped, things had dried up and our spirits were soaring.
Somewhere along the highway en route traffic was snarled in both directions. We were front and centre and it was unknown to many that somebody's small dog was loose, panicked and running on the highway with several folks chasing after it. After several minutes of stop-and-go traffic chaos, the pet ran off and traffic resumed at its hurried pace.
The ferry ride was pleasing and while we were below on the car deck several other motorcyclists, as they do, quizzed Bruce about his adventure. Coast to coast is no small feat and many interested motorists during the entire trip were impressed with Bruce's endeavour. The many twinkles in his eye were my reward.
Driving the Sea to Sky Highway and getting wet
The trip back up the Sea to Sky Highway was just as exciting for me as it was when I was with my wife a few days earlier. Bruce was in awe of the varying terrain, which changed from mountainous to semi-arid and then desert-like. The climbs and the twisties on the backseat of the motorcycle must have been breathtaking.
We tented for the night in Lone Butte and disappointingly, the rain was not finished with us just yet. We managed to set up camp prior to the sky opening up. It was wet and cold that night and the temperature dropped to 6º C by morning. I was prepared with a tent heater so the night was restful except for the rain that beat down on the tent.
The rain ended by morning and off we headed after packing our wet gear. The smell from a recent rainfall was so fresh that it seemed to crisp up and clean the morning air.
For those not aware, motorcyclists always need to be cautious of wildlife, but the animals do seem to be on the move more so in the morning and at dusk. I kept track of the wildlife for this second-day portion of our trek and we were privy to the sight of 13 deer, one brown bear and one black bear.
Onward to Alberta
The entire two days, even accepting of the rain and cold, were spectacular but it was briefly overshadowed by the bad: an inconsiderate motorist with criminal behaviour.
We were west of Valemount on the Yellowhead Highway heading eastbound when I noted a vehicle approaching from the rear that was travelling at an alarming speed, endangering many. I alerted Bruce to watch for this vehicle that would pass.
The vehicle, a black Ferrari, was probably under full acceleration and likely travelling between 180 and 200 kilometres per hour. It screamed by, passing a long line of traffic as it raced towards oncoming traffic. I suspect the high-pitched scream was from some sort of turbo charger. Well, 20 minutes later, that vehicle was parked at a restaurant in Valemount, when we meandered in for gas. I just don't get it.
The remainder of the second day was uneventful. Prior to leaving B.C. and entering Alberta, we stopped at Mount Robson Provincial Park. Reportedly, Mount Robson is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. We headed east to my home in Edmonton, Alberta, for a sleepover and oil change for my motorcycle prior to the long haul.
There’s more to come
Stay tuned for more sensory overload. The next leg of the journey led us northeast through many isolated backroads passing by Cold Lake, Alberta, Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, and eastward through northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba—where the dragonflies seemed as big as hummingbirds.
Wayne Hamm’s cross-Canada journey was supported by Riverside Honda and Ski-Doo in St. Albert, Alberta.