This is the story of a two-month trip through Western Canada and the US on a Yellow 1800 Honda Goldwing in 2013. We covered 10 577km. The bike was purchased from and sold back to the same dealership in Vancouver, British Columbia.
1. Bonkers in Honkers, but what rhymes with Vankers?
The Lovely Kate and I are on the road again and are currently in Vancouver, Canada and are picking up a bike we have bought for our trip tomorrow.
How is this for arsey? While we were clearing customs at Perth airport an old mate of ours walked past and said, ‘G'day’. It was Chris from Albany and he was one of the Cathay pilots flying our plane to Hong Kong. He said he’d catch up later.
In Hong Kong we were staying in the Novatel on Lantau Is. Chris organised to call past the hotel in a couple of hours and show us around as he and his wife Jeana used to live there years ago. As they say in Hong Kong, ‘It’ll be great when it’s finished,’ referring to all the building constantly going on.
Had magic night thanks to Chris and a great feed up ‘Rat Alley’ plus
many Tsingtao beers, which apparently stands for, ‘This Shit Is No Good
Try Another One’. It tasted all right to us.
Next day we took the gondola ride up to the giant Buddha statue, brilliant.
Hit the ground running in Vancouver. Booked in, long walk to Carter Motorsports to check out some bikes and feel them out. Looked positive. That was Saturday.
Sunday we sort of relaxed by hiring pushbikes to ride around Stanley
Park and Central Vancouver. Top spot.
Monday we spent ironing out a deal on a 2002 bright yellow Honda Goldwing. We also quite fancied 1983 Kawasaki Voyager full dress tourer. The biggest hassle was moving the money around for the purchase. They’ve agreed to buy it back at the end of our tour.
Cue music, ‘Get your motor running ...
2. Setting sail on a rubber duck in a vertical sea of green.
British Columbia is a landscape where superlatives are quickly exhausted. If you’ve half a mind to go, don’t leave it too long.
Since picking up the bike, a 2002 Honda Goldwing 1800 in bright yellow, which we named the ‘Rubber Duck’, we spent three days in North Vancouver. We scored an amazing B&B called Thistledown House that served gourmet three course breakfasts, awesome. From this base we were able to check out the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain with the Zipline rides between mountaintops, wicked and the beautiful Lynn Valley area. Deep Cove was also worth a look.
Rex and Ruth thought the name of the bike was so funny they gave us a small rubber duck, which we named ‘Christopher’ after the patron saint of travellers. Keep an eye out for him in the photos.
We headed out of North Vancouver on Saturday 15th of June up the ‘Sea to Sky’ highway. This runs from Vancouver up alongside huge bodies of water, vertical mountainsides covered in cedar and fir trees with snow capped peaks hovering above it all up through the town of Squawmish to the ski village of Whistler, named after the little squirrel critters that make that sound.
The ride was fantastic on a well-surfaced winding road with scenery that is only comparable to New Zealand. After having lunch in Whistler we kept heading up into the mountains to a little own called Pemberton. It was strange standing at the fuel station feeling hot and gazing up at snow capped peaks. There were a lot of bikes out enjoying the weather and the awesome road. We camped at a little provincial park campground just south off Pemberton called Nairn Falls. We seemed to be haemorrhaging cash since buying the bike so it was good to get back to basics. Although all the bear warnings still made me nervous. A wood fire and a quiet night was just what the doctor ordered for us.
Next morning we packed up the ‘Rubber Duck’ and headed back down through the mountains. It’s a tough life. We stopped in at a fast food chain called Tim Horton’s, a favourite of ours.
Then it was a ride down to Horseshoe Bay to catch a ferry to Langsdale where promptly got lost and rode in circles until we asked for directions. It reminded me of Ireland. “You just ride 4km back to the next town so you can get onto the Horseshoe Bay exit”, yeah goodonya.
From Langsdale it was a short ride up to Gibson’s Landing where the old 1970’s TV series ‘The Beachcombers’ was shot. As a kid growing up on a river and spending a lot of time in boats I loved the scenery and boat stunts in the series. We stopped for lunch at Molly’s Reach, the diner from the series. I even got to run my hand over the hull off the ‘Persephone’, a boat used in the series.
The scenery alone in the area warrants a visit. Outdoor paradise. We set up camp in a little park, Roberts Creek Provincial Park, and Kate told me about a bear she’d spotted in the bush on the side of the road on the ride down.
QUESTION: Does a bear shit in the woods?
ANSWER: Apparently yes and so does this aussie tourist when he spots one wandering 10m away from the tent where he’s about to spend the night. It was a young male black bear. Give me kangaroos any day.
After a nervous night and frequent pumping up of an air mattress that had developed a slow leak we set off towards Powell River through Sechelt via the ferry at Edgemont to Saltery Bay. We just missed the ferry and had a two-hour wait. So, finding a lake with a huge floating cedar log with a pontoon tethered to one end I took the opportunity, much to Kate’s dismay, to learn the art of log walking to find the leak in the air mattress. There ended up being two leaks and I didn’t end up in the lake.
We rode through Powell River and on up to Lund where we stopped for lunch: a famous cinnamon bun at Nancy’s Bakery. Another very picturesque place on the water.
We camped at Willingdon Beach just north of Powell River and walked into town for a few beers while the patches on the mattress dried. The patches held and we packed up to catch the early ferry from Powell River to Comox on Vancouver Island.
Once there we rode south then west across the island to Tofino, the famous Canadian surf town via the huge trees of Cathedral Grove and Ucluelet. Here we stood looking out to the Pacific Ocean amongst the tall trees. We stopped here a couple of nights to just chill around the campfire a down a few coldies.
We headed out in cold wet weather to make for Kate’s rellies, Ray (Stinger) and Delores, in Victoria. We’ve been here three days getting spoilt rotten and having our arms twisted to try all these local and boutique beers. Just call me rubber arm. We had a great night catching up with extended family last night and getting taken out to Spinnakers Pub the night before.
Currently the ‘Athena’ the world’s largest sailing ship is in Victoria
Harbour. It’s up for sale for 95 million. I told them “they were
dreamin’” and offered them 91. No sale.
From here we’re headed to the US via Port Angeles and down the west coast of Washington, Oregon and California. British Columbia is spectacular.
3. Tall trees and dodgy wildlife.
QUESTION: What do you get if you if you cross a couch with a truck and then get rid of all non-essential wheels?
ANSWER: A Goldwing Super-tourer.
We’ve now covered over 2500km on the ‘Rubber Duck’ and she’s doing it easily.
Negatives: She’s big and heavy and a handful to move around slowly fully loaded with Kate on the back.
Positives: She’s big and heavy and sits on the road beautifully at highway speeds. When you ask her the question she picks up her skirts and boogies, overtaking is a breeze with Kate on the back.
After being spoilt rotten by Kate’s rellies in Victoria it was time to cross by ferry to Port Angeles, Washington in the US. The ferry crossing and customs was a lot easier than we’d been led to believe. We met a couple of young guys on old bikes, CB750 and XJ650 heading to Halifax on Nova Scotia via the US. Cheaper fuel and more bike shops in case of repairs.
We arrived in the US at midday. The run out of Port Angeles was easy and we fuelled up, as it’s cheaper, less than $1 a litre. It was raining as we headed west around the peninsular stopping in at the Sol Duc Hot Springs in the Olympic NP. A nice spot with a great campground but we decided to bust some more miles as we may as well be wet on the bike than wet in a tent.
There’s something rotten in the state of Washington. The scenery was nice but the towns and roads had that rundown look when the maintenance drops off. We stopped in at a little roadside diner in the town of Forks. A rundown town with cheerful waitresses.
We pushed on south through the rain and the winding roads that ran along the coast briefly. Before we knew it we were crossing a huge bridge that spanned 4 miles across a river that separated Washington from Oregon. The roads were better and the place seemed in better shape, like crossing from NSW into Victoria back home.
The road was starting to hug the coast more but we’d been riding for about nine hours. We decided to try to get a room and scored a ripper in a Best Western in the town of Seaside, Washington. It was good to get out of the rain and we were right on the waterfront.
After a walk on the beach and a buffet brekkie we set of along the coast on 101 again. The road was much more interesting as it ran down the coast. Big timber, black volcanic rock that stuck up at weird angles. We stopped in at Cannon Beach where Kate’s cousin was recently married. There were some great viewing ‘pull outs’ along the road somewhere the road was carved high into cliff faces. Good photo opportunities.
The yanks tend to drive like they used to build cars, great in a straight line but not so hot in the twisty stuff. I was overtaken numerous times by dudes in sports cars on straight sections, only for them to have half a ton of bright yellow ‘Rubber Duck’ round them up through the uphill twisties with overtaking lanes. I think the duck may have dented a couple of egos.
We went past the Cheese factory in Tillamook, the second most popular tourist spot in Oregon. These yanks love their cheese. The Air Museum was good though. Housed in a huge wood framed hangar that used to house eight airships for the US Navy during WW2.
There are a lot of small towns along this coast road. We ended up camping in a state park camping ground on Siltcoos Lagoon in the Oregon Dunes Area. That night we turned in early before the mozzies carried us off. At about eleven I awoke to the sound of a redneck swearing and an engine revving. We found out in the morning there’d been a cougar wandering around and I’m not talking about a randy older lady.
We set off early and enjoyed the ride south. Not as cold and the rain
held off, but there was a weird mist coming in off the ocean. We stopped
in Brooking, Oregon for lunch and a look around, nice town.
Then we headed south across the border into California. Here we’ve pulled up for a couple of days in a log cabin in the Cresent City Redwood KOA campground amongst the redwood trees. What a great spot and we’ve had sunshine for the last two days. Beers around our campfire and a bit of a rest.
Yep, livin’ the dream.
4. Roast Duck, Iron Butts and Tumbleweeds.
‘Only a motorcyclist understands why a dog sticks its head out of the window.’
This phrase always makes me chuckle and on this trip it has also got me thinking. Why do we motorcyclists do what we do? When the sun scorches down and bakes the earth, we cook. When the temperature plummets and the air stings, we freeze. Still, we wouldn’t sacrifice our way of life for the climate controlled cocoon of a metal cage because when all the elements come together; the weather - perfect, the scenery - incredible, the road - empty of traffic, tight and twisty, the machine - the right one for the job purring beneath you as it moves you, body and soul. Ah, yes that’s why we do what we do. Well that’s my two bob's worth anyway. Enough philosophising and on with the saga that is ‘The Flight of the Rubber Duck’.
It’s been a while because times change. The Internet Cafe is dead and we have had a hard time getting wi-fi, plus we’ve been covering a lot of ground.
Sat 29th June
Leaving Cresent City the ride down through the Californian Redwoods was beautiful the trees looking like giant columns that have exploded up out of the earth reaching far up towards the heavens. Highway 101 began to become multilane and the progress became more rapid as we flew through Bigfoot country.
It was so hot that we ended up pulling off onto a little side road and jumped into a river for a bit a swim. We got a few honks from bikers riding past. I think they thought we had the right idea. At Leggett we turned off onto Highway 1 south. The road up and over this range was a tight, down to second gear in the hairpins, road lined with eucalypts. It reminded me a little of Victoria’s ‘Black Spur’, it was a hoot.
The road then hugged the coast with the Pacific sparkling off to our right and dark volcanic rock poking up out of the water here and there. A short stop in Fort Bragg for some tucker and we pushed on. The towns of Mendicino and Elk were nice little places. We camped the night at Manchester Beach, which was busy due to ‘Holiday Week’ leading up to the 4th of July, America’s Birthday.
Sun 30th June
We were up early with a cool mist rolling in off the Pacific as we cruised south along the coast stopping at Bones Diner in Gualala for a ‘Chicken fried steak with sausage gravy, hash browns and egg breakfast', brilliant. Kate fell in love with Buster, the huge dog that hung out in the shop. South of there was Fort Ross, an area that was once occupied by the Russians. We swooped down through Bodega Bay and Tomales. Then we were pulled up by a traffic jam. We thought there’d been an accident, but no. This is how you go to the beach in California.
We eventually got through and as we rode up through canyons the line of traffic from the other way stretched for miles. The bike got a bit hot because we were stuck behind a bus and the slow progress, low gears and high revs didn’t go down well. We got a few photos overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and then fulfilled a long held ambition of riding across the Golden Gate. Off to our left was Alcatraz, where twelve years ago we stood looking at this bridge. The traffic was pretty awful all the way down to Santa Cruz, partially due to the heatwave and partially due to it being Sunday. We camped near Salinas for the night. We were completely shagged by the time we pulled up.
Mon 1st July
Heading south through John Steinbeck’s backyard of Monterey I also thought of the end of the innocence for the sixties or was it the death. I’m referring to the ill-fated rock concert the Rolling Stones headlined at the Altamont Raceway, Monterey. The fact that the Hell’s Angels were on security was a bit of a worry. The fact that they had also recently discovered acid and were trying to outdo each other in consuming it was the nail in the coffin that was the age of the flower children.
Now we were into the section I had been looking forward to, the run down the coast through Big Sur. The morning mist was coming in from the ocean as it met the sheer, almost vertical landscape that dropped into the water while the road clung precariously to the cliffs as best it could and wound along the coast. What a trip. It was definitely a highlight of the ride. Down the coast we stopped to check out a colony of elephant seals on the beach. We had a great feed in a little Mexican place called The Round Up in Cambria and turned inland just before San Luis Obispo to camp up on Lake Santa Margarita.
The bike was making a bit of a funny bump in the back end which I hoped wasn’t a wheel bearing. We took the 41 northeast after we got out of the canyon country. The temperature was up over 40 degrees as the western US was gripped in a heatwave. The poor old duck was roasting as a scorching crosswind tried to blow us off the road as we travelled through the desert valley before Kettleman City. We saw 115 degrees F on the bike’s dash here.
Continuing on toward Fresno we passed through dry farmland that had cereal crops being harvested with unexpectedly small harvesters. We ended up camping in a cabin just outside of the town of Mariposa. The first thing we did after unpacking was cool off in the pool where we met Al and Barb from Florida who were travelling on a Red Goldwing with a camper trailer who we got on well with. We had plenty of ice cream to try and cool down.
By now we’d covered over 4000km. We got up early and headed into Yosemite through more winding canyon roads and then along the Merced River into the park. We had to take a detour because a rockslide had covered the road. Once into the park we headed up to Glacier Point. Twelve years ago we couldn’t get up there because the road had been snowed over. We experienced the amazing views of Yosemite Valley that had been carved out by glaciers.
We bumped into Al and Barb again as I heard a heap of loud abuse about ‘not parking that pile of shit bike there’. It’s all right: I gave as good as I got. While Kate was going gaga over the chipmunks Al told me that when he was a kid in Pennsylvania they used to catch them with a jar full of water. When a chipmunk ran down their burrow he’d upend the jar over the hole then the chipmunk would come barrelling back up into the jar. Caught.
We meandered through the beautiful valley to get back to our camp early and get into the pool before the hordes hit. More ice cream and cold beers took the edge off the relentless heat.
The day we qualified as ‘Ironbutts’. We set out early to avoid the traffic and the heat and it was nice heading back through the canyon to get to the Yosemite Pass over the Sierra Nevadas on the 120. More incredible scenery of shear smooth light grey rock standing at impossible angles as a backdrop to stunning alpine lakes. The temperature was nice as we got up to 3000m. The run down the other side was a lot faster with big sweepers to really get cranked over on. It took us 4 hours to do the first 200km.
On the other side we headed north on the 395. At Gardnerville just before Reno we stopped for some Taco Bell. There I had another look at the rear tyre, a Metzler Marathon, and noticed a very lumpy wear pattern. This was causing the strange sensations at low speed. Then I nearly freaked when I saw a plug in the tyre. The tyre had been repaired and we’d ridden well over 4000km on it. This was not good as we had to cross Nevada and it was a public holiday.
We pushed on travelling on the I 80, the temperature soaring in the land of casinos and correctional facilities. Sometimes when we stopped for fuel we’d soak ourselves to cool off but 10km down the road you’d be dry again. Through Winnemucca, past Battle Mountain to Wells where we couldn’t get fuel because the power was out. We’d been on the bike for 13hrs by this time and were a bit knackered.
We decided to try our luck north. As dusk settled all hell broke loose. A storm hit. First the howling wind kicked up and we could see the rain coming across the parched landscape and the smell of damp earth, though very pleasant, was ominous. As we pulled over, first Kate then the bike were nailed by tumbleweeds that were being hurled at us. Back on the bike we were being tossed around like a leaf in a breeze and I had to muscle the Duck the keep it on the road.
Just when I got on top of that in the fading light came the deer crossing warnings. What next? We limped into the little town of Jackpot, Nevada, a tiny town of about three casinos in pissing rain. The town was also blacked so we pulled up under the verandah to the main entrance to Barton’s Club 93 Casino Hotel after 14hrs riding. Is Kate the pillion in a million or what? 14hrs and 1,125km across Nevada and, I didn’t realise until I looked at our map, 200m short of the Idaho border. Yes, that is 200 metres.
Kate had organised a room that had no power, which was strange because even in the blackout the pokies were still running. Priorities I guess. As we were unloading the bike under the verandah the rain stopped then one of the most spectacular firework shows I’ve ever seen took place in front of us. We’d forgotten it was the 4th of July. It lasted for about 45min and I saw stuff I’d never seen before, brilliant. We collapsed and that was the end of the longest day’s ride I’d ever done. An Ironbutt, for those not in the know, is someone who does ridiculously big distances for long hours in the saddle and this day I believe Kate and I qualified. The bike ran like a charm the whole way and the tyre held. Hoo bloody ray.
5. Sawtooth, Beartooth and a Boston Cream
‘Whereever you go, look around and there you are.’ Bill from Boston
Leaving Jackpot, Nevada the next morning we were armed with a list of motorcycle shops in the Twin Falls, Idaho area. The first one we called into, Adventure Motorsports - Honda and Yamaha, were brilliant. At short notice Kevin, head of the service department, got grumpy but very capable Bill to fit new front and rear tyres and while it was on the hoist I thought an oil change and check the left brake calliper.
Wade, one of the salesmen, said we could take their ‘old beater’ out for a couple of hours to get lunch and supplies I had a clapped out CB 250 in mind. No no no, their version of an ‘old beater’ was a V8 F150 Ford pickup, nice. I discussed with the boys how passionate all the ‘Wing owners were that we met and how they said that it was, “the only genuine 300 000 mile (500 000 km) bike motor on the market.”
When we got back I showed Wade the footage of our ‘Motorcycle Soccer’ match. He loved it and now keeps in touch. He also recommended that instead of heading up the I 84 towards Yellowstone that we take the 75 up through Sun Valley to a little town called Stanley in the Sawtooth Ranges and camp at Redfish Lake as it was a great ride up there. He also mentioned that the town of Ketchum was were all the movie stars had ridiculously big pads and that they all parked their Lear jets in the next town of Hailey, where Bruce Willis has a bar. Sounded good.
Leaving Twin Falls the bike felt 100% with the new rubber, a set of Dunlop Elites. We didn’t get far before we had to pull over and check out Snake River Canyon, just north of Twin Falls. How come no one had mentioned this spectacular gorge. We got a few photos and motored on up through Sun Valley, home of one of the country’s earliest ski resorts. There was a shitload of Lear jets parked up at the airport in Hailey as there was something big on this weekend and the town of Kethcum was like an ant’s nest that a kid had poked a stick into.
The road got more interesting north of Ketchum and as we crossed a ridgeline we got a good view of the Sawtooth Mountains named for their evenly jagged peaks. Stunning. We rolled into Stanley, in Kate’s words ‘the most beautiful town' she has ever seen. There we called into Wade’s mate, Chris’ pub called the Bridge St Bar and Grill. We sat out on the deck that hung over the Salmon River and took in the incredible view of green meadows framed with the jagged peaks of the range and a river running through it all.
We met some great couples there and found out Redfish lake campground was full so we headed down the river and camped in a little spot called Casino Campground by the river. That night we shared a campfire with a family from Bellevue and Kate got to try her first S’more, roasted marshmallows, a slab of chocolate all between two sweet biscuits called gram crackers. Theoretically they are so good you’ll want s’more. We had a great night sharing stories.
Kate was a bit cold during the night and when got up early and found everything covered in ice I knew why. We packed and headed back to check out Redfish Lake. It was so early the only ones up were the chipmunks that Kate went gaga all over again. The lake was absolutely beautiful and on a less busy week would be a great place to camp. We then headed, me going lidless for bit, down along the Salmon River and through the canyons to Challis then south on the 93 to Arco.
From Arco we headed about 20 mi west to check out the Craters of the Moon National Park. This is a huge lava field from an eruption around two thousand years ago. We were going to check out the lava tube but a 5km hike in 36 degrees C put us off. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the area.
We took the 20 to Idaho Falls first through desert with the odd butte rising up, past the nuclear research facility and through farmland on the outskirts. We then took the 20 NE to West Yellowstone and the KOA campground and settled into our cabin just as a ripper of a thunderstorm hit.
Next morning we had to shuffle cabins so we had a late 11am start to the park. That was a mistake. Bumper to bumper all the way in and I was nearly ready to give up when it started to flow. The biggest pains were the ‘rolling roadblocks’ otherwise known as mobile homes. It was good to get around them. We checked out ‘Old Faithful’ something I’d heard and read about for years. The signs in the area were interesting. Very detailed maps with one small important detail absent. The ‘You are here’ indicator, which would have been handy. As vulnerable as I felt riding through bear and buffalo country on a motorcycle, there were these idiots on pushbikes, which made me feel less vulnerable. More in the February issue...