Does BC Stand for "Bloody Cold" or "Beautifully Cenic"?
Sunday May 28, 2000
Kelowna B.C. - Whistler BC
4:28 driving time - 262 miles
by WhizmoWe made it. Today we arrived in Whistler, and this evening, we will join up with 'Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Holidays', the group we are going to be riding with for the next five days. This will put us back in Nelson where we'll split off and go home. Both Gizmo and I have to be back in Seattle for stuff on Sunday, so we will not do the last two days with the tour group from Nelson to Whistler - the route we just did. Yes, it is confusing, but I promise I won't bring it up any more.
Before I discuss today's ride, I'd like to backtrack to cover something I forgot. You will recall that we crossed the US-Canada border a couple days ago and they have these pesky border custom agents as you can see sitting in the booth in the picture to the right. (The border crossings on the back roads are a little more rustic than at Blain.) Would you believe that Gizmo had to endure a strip search at the border? No, I bet you wouldn't, but he was detained for an inordinate period. Me, being the savvy border-crosser I am, know how to handle those delicate questions they ask The key is to always answer with the shortest possible answer - a mono-syllable is preferred. Gizmo got all bound up explaining why we were going 600 miles out of our way from Seattle to Whistler. I guess Gizmo's public speaking career has him so used to talking that he doesn't know when to stop.
Yesterday's hotel in Kelowna was a Holiday Inn Express, probably the nicest of this particular brand I've ever stayed in. And everybody is ridiculously helpful and friendly including the hotel clerk - Amber - who concludes the check-in by saying, "I see you are on bikes....I tell you what, we don't have anyone staying tonight who is handicapped, so go ahead and park your bikes in the handicapped spot right by the front door, and we can keep an eye on them for you." OK Amber dear, anything you say. (Exactly how did she know that there were no handicapped guests?) Note in the picture that the Miata in the other handicapped spot appears to have a wheelchair carrier on the rear bumper. When we awoke this morning the lot was filled with Miatas; there must have been some kind of Miata meet in the area.
trips you got to see our glove farm, so this trip I thought I'd give you a shot
of my t-shirt farm. You see, t-shirts are the laundry currency of
motorcycle touring - you need exactly one for each day of the tour. Both
Gizmo and I wear lycra bicycle shorts and polypro long-johns which can easily be
washed each night, but t-shirts take too long to dry. Please note that all
my t-shirts have logos having to do with motorcycling - Gizmo was quite taken by
this and will endeavor to upgrade his collection before the next tour.
(Maybe we'll get one from the tour group - you listening Mike?)
In answer to the question in today's title, the answer is obviously BOTH. Neither Gizmo or I have every ridden motorcycles in BC before (other than Vancouver and THAT sure as heck doesn't count) and it is a wonderful treat. It is a gross understatement to say that it is unbelievably beautiful. And generally the roads are deserted, windy, and well-marked. A motorcycling paradise.
Well, maybe not paradise in this weather. This was another day of cold rain squalls. The day started auspiciously with bright sunshine and 60 degree temps in Kelowna, but the road immediately headed up into the high mountains, and it got damn cold as you can see by Gizmo's temperature gizmo on the LT. We must have passed at least ten signs telling us to carry chains and be prepared for bad weather. (No, we didn't have chains along.) We had all the grips, vests, jackets, and other electrified gear on full-high, but things were still marginal.
The Miracle of Electric Clothing
Before this trip, I thought that my tolerance for cold-weather riding bottomed out in the low 50's, and that was assuming that I had lots of layers of clothing underneath my riding suit. The K1200 has completely changed that. I've already mentioned the aerodynamic cocoon that shapes around you as you're riding, keeping hands and feet out of the way of both wind and water. Today's temperature reached down to 37 degrees F as we crossed a 5200' mountain pass. I was wearing jeans, a turtleneck, an electric jacket and my Aerostich riding suit, and I was perfectly comfortable. I'm confident that I could have handled chillier temperatures without a problem. The reason? I'm wearing an electric jacket that plugs into a 12v outlet on the bike. When I mount the bike, I plug in a cable that connects through a thermostat to the clothing. I can adjust the temperature from off to sauna. It feels like I'm wearing a fitted heating pad. There are also electric gloves, pants and socks available that can be added to complement one's electric wardrobe. These subtle improvements in wardrobe and riding aerodynamics make for enormous differences in my riding enjoyment. Of course, the bike also has heated grips and a heated seat, each with a 'Low' and 'High'setting. I leave the heated grips on 'Low' pretty much all the time, but I haven't even felt the need to turn the heated seat on yet. Very nice.
Part of the problem was that we were going fast - super fast. I don't know if it was because of Sunday AM, the holiday, or other factors, but Route 97C into the mountains was completely, absolutely, and totally deserted. Here was a superhighway climbing into the mountains and we had the road to ourselves. (It was so deserted that I chanced taking a rolling picture which is tricky - Gizmo's got it down pat, but I felt like I was trying to eat a club sandwich while racing in the Indy 500.) I just pinned Fritz from the bottom of the mountain to the summit and he worked up a good sweat doing about 105 mph. What's the wind chill of a 38 degree wind blast at 105 mph? Gizmo's wind chill tables only go up to a 40 mph wind, but even this temperature has a wind chill of well below zero.
road hazard we need to watch out for: BC has a bunch of wooden-deck,
one-lane bridges over all the little creeks throughout the mountains. I
just barely cracked the throttle on one of these babies today and was greeted
with a nice little slide. Very, very slick when wet. The
problem is that these bridges appear in the middle of blind corners. They
are typically marked with a hazard sign, but nothing that says that the bridge
deck is going to be wood. We always have to assume the worst.
We had one little bit of excitement today. Gizmo was refueling his bike and the pump malfunctioned - when he moved his bike to another pump, his ignition key was in the gas cap well where it got wedged and badly bent by the handlebars. We initially tried to use it in a bent condition, but these BMWs are very fussy about their keys - German precision and all - and it wouldn't work. So we chanced that it wouldn't break off and straightened it. We got lucky and it never snapped, but it still wouldn't work in the ignition even after straightening. Finally, we twisted and prodded, hemmed and hawed, jiggled and jaggled, and finally sang a few bars of "All Uber Deutschland" - it worked. Gizmo now has a very fussy key in his ignition. I have a spare, but Gizmo forgot his - just another example of the woes that can befall even the most careful motorcycle traveler. For the last couple tours I've resorted to using written checklists so I'll remember everything.
Late in the day it got colder and wetter. Just as we were gassing up for the final run to Whistler, a gent on a Honda VFR pulls up to the pumps and hops over to us. This guy has been riding alone for several days and immediately says, "Guys, you mind if I hitch up with you for the ride into Whistler?" So we rode with three bikes over the last pass in the cold, rain, and scenic splendor. Our new friend's name was Fletch . ("My name is Fletch, just like the movie" he said when introducing himself.). A seriously nice guy.
Later during a stop we learned that Fletch was from Minnesota and on a several week tour. He was headed for Vancouver today and then on to visit an Uncle near Bellingham. I commented on his Minnesota accent and made the obligatory "Ya sure, you betcha" impersonation. Fletch laughed out loud which is saying something given how often he probably hears this. My high-school buddy from Minnesota is not nearly as jocular when I tease him about how MinneSOHtans talk.
I'll close with this final picture which shows how salt and pepper is served at the Lytton Cafe. If they just put regular salt and pepper shakers on the table, then I never would have learned the French words for these condiments, would I? The world is truly a fascinating place.
I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about tomorrow as we "hitch up" to the tour group.
P.S. The contest (with the guy eating the floppy disk) is still open. We've had about six or eight responses, but there's still time for more responses. We'll close this contest tomorrow and start a new one.