Month: April 2012

Sunshine Coast Motorcycle Tour

As many of you know, I traded in my Monster 620 at the beginning of March for a newer, more powerful Monster 796. (I’ll write more about this later.) Of course, the day after I bought the bike it started raining and didn’t stop until Friday, March 23rd. The forecast for the two days after that was for sun, so we decided to take the bikes for an impromptu adventure on BC’s Sunshine Coast. On this trip, we would go as far as Eggmont, saving the upper Sunshine Coast for another time.

Saturday started out predictably cold – it’s still March remember – but we had heated clothing so the blast up to the border was comfortable, if not a bit boring.

We left a few minutes later than planned and encountered a long line at the border, which resulted in us missing our ferry in Horseshoe Bay by 20 minutes. Fortunately, Horseshoe Bay is more than just ferry-side a coffee shop. It’s a proper Canadian seaside town, complete with a grassy beach promenade.

We wandered around for a bit and settled on a second-story restaurant for lunch, where we could enjoy vegetable sandwiches on the outside balcony and watch the boats come and go. It was here that I discovered my new heated motorcycle gloves might have been turned up a bit too high. Without realizing it, I’d given myself burns on the back of my hands – ouch! (Yes, that’s a blister on my right forefinger knuckle.)

Before too long we were boarding the ferry (first on, first off!) for a 40-minute crossing full of mountain views.

When we travel by bike or motorcycle, Nick and I end up talking to some pretty interesting people. This trip was no different. On the ferry we met a group of downhill skateboard racers. We swapped information about our respective riding suits (apparently, downhill skateboarders wear custom motorcycle leathers but without the armor) and good roads to ride on the Sunshine Coast. Skateboarders like the same types of twisty roads with good pavement that motorcyclists like. We also learned that the current speed record on a skateboard tops 80 mph. Holy mole!

Armed with insider beta on a new road to explore, we headed off the ferry. Our pole position wasn’t as good as you’d expect. The first thing you encounter after departing the ferry is a town…and slow-moving cars…By the time we got a few miles north of Sechelt, though, we had plenty of room to twist the throttle hard enough to start worrying about sight lines through the never-ending s-curves.

Admittedly, I was all over the road. The burns on my hands hurt, making it hard to hold onto the handlebars properly, and I really underestimated how much differently the Monster 796 would handle than my previous bike. With a little patience and practice, I’ll be as good as I ever was on the old Monster, I’m sure, hopefully a little better.

In Eggmont, we settled into our room at the Backeddy Resort and headed off for a short hike to the Skookumchuck Narrows, the tiny entrance of Sechelt Inlet. We were pleasantly surprised to pass “Brown Lake” along the way. Who knew?

 We got to the lookout near the Narrows a few hours after peak flow, but still caught sight of the tidal rush of water that famously forms into whitecaps and whirlpools.

Each day, tides force large roughly 200 billion gallons of seawater through the narrows which isn’t much wider than a football field. The resulting current can exceed 16 knots. There is no picture that can do the standing waves justice, so you just get a pretty picture of the area just north of the rapids.

The tidal patterns keep the water moving virtually all the time in the narrows area, which attracts a plethora of interesting, and apparently very large, sea life. From the shore we could see the veritable city of starfish.

Whitewater kayakers and surfers play in the rapids, which I imagine would be a lot of fun. The park service has even set up a storage rack where kayakers can lock up their boats between sessions.

Back at the hotel, we had just enough time to shower before dinner at the pub.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that this little pub in the middle of nowhere was packed on a Saturday night. Turns out it was the 70th birthday of a local legend – Artie – and he’d invited everyone within 200 miles to celebrate.

There was a huge spread of salmon, shrimp, and crab – all caught that morning by Artie and cooked moments before the party. (If you’re going to be a 90% vegan, it pays to save your meat-eating moments for times like this!) Surprisingly, Nick gave the shrimp a try and decided he actually liked it! This led to good times watching Nick figure out how to shell shrimp and mine crab legs for succulent morsels of meat.

With a belly full of caesars, Kokanee, and seafood, we headed to bed. The next morning, we explored the resort, walked around a bit, read books, and generally relaxed. No need to hurry home when it’s sunny and you’re on vacation. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at the pub and then geared up for more twisty roads.

This time, there wasn’t a single car or speed-tax-collector to impede our progress. With a few miles and a bit more confidence, I twisted the throttle and enjoyed the surge of the motor beneath me.

Of course, all good things have to come to an end. Back in Vancouver, it was hand-to-hand combat all the way to the border. The line wasn’t too long, but it’s never a bad idea to switch the bike off and push it up to the crossing. The border guard interrogated me relentlessly about where we’d been: Where did we go? What’s there? What’s the name of the road? I was starting to wonder if I was in trouble, when he finally let on that he drives a sports car and was interested about our destination on a personal level. Whew!

With the sun getting lower in the sky, we hopped on the freeway and headed home as fast as we thought the cops would let us get away with.

At the end of the weekend I’m 400 miles, I can say I’m pretty happy with my new bike and even happier to have spent a lovely weekend with my favorite motorcycle companion.

Vantage with my climbing students

Boy am I behind in posting! In mid-March, I took my climbing students to Vantage for a day of play. For many of them, it was their first time on “real” rock. Others already out-climb me. Here we are at the beginning of the day, practicing climbing and rappeling at the Feathers.