The Two Bills – Part 2 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

Wind & Terrain  

It was Monday, July 11th, and we had to be in Kelowna, B.C. by Wednesday night to meet my sister, Bonnie, and my brother-in-law, Larry. That meant we had to cover 1,100 miles in three days, with most of it on two-lane mountain roads. So far in the trip, Milwaukee was the only 400 miles day. We would have to do three of those. It wasn’t part of my original trip plan, but we had to get to Kelowna a day earlier to hook up with everyone else there.

The day started out nice, with the sun shining down on us. The road was quiet and dry, heading northwest. US 212 clipped the northeast corner of Wyoming, and by midday it put us in Montana. The wind picked up with the later hours of the day. The rolling green hills were nice to look at when the wind wasn’t punching us like a giant boxing glove.

The Custer National Forest kept the wind at bay, but in the open, we blew right by the Little Bighorn battleground. US 212 joined Interstate 90 just outside Billings, where the speed limit is 75 mph. Heading directly west at that point, the gusts made it difficult for me to stay in my lane at the posted speed. We had intended to bed down in Bozeman that night, but the air-hammering got the best of us, and we called it an early day in a town called Big Timber.

We stayed on I 90 the next morning to make some time, stopping in Bozeman to fill the gas tank and our bellies. A great little diner there offered us a delicious breakfast, and made up sandwiches for our lunch on the road. The Interstate climbed to 6,300 feet in Elk Park Pass, just south of Butte, where we crossed the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. The scenery was impressive for an Interstate highway.

We had our picnic lunch in a town called Deer Lodge, then continued north and west to Missoula. Just west of there we caught US 93 north, which took us along Flathead Lake, to Kalispell. We hit the hay early, knowing that we’d only done about 650 of the 1,150 miles to Kelowna. Wednesday was going to be a long day.

We were on US 2 shortly after 7 am. That was good and bad. There was a light mist in the air – not as dense as fog, and not quite like rain. Heading into the Flathead National Forest, I hoped the sun would dry things up, but the trees were thick on both sides, and the canopy hardly let any light through. There was enough, however, to see all the deer.  They were everywhere.

If it wasn’t for my tight grip on the handlebars, my thumb resting on the horn button, and foot ready to brake, it would have been a lovely ride. Somewhere around McGregor Lake, the Flathead National Forest turned into the Kootenai National Forest, in the Purcell Mountains. We saw a Lynx, a first for the both of us, along the Kootenai River.

US 2 took us into the northeast corner of Idaho, in the Kaniksu National Forest, and to State 1, which crossed into Canada. The border was manned by one woman, something foreign to us Windsorites who live across from Detroit, and one of the busiest border crossings in the world.

In Canada, we took BC 3 west, crossing the Columbia River. The two-lane road wound its way through riverbeds, provincial parks, and around Red and Phoenix mountains. The day’s ride had been one of our most beautiful yet. We arrived in Kelowna at about 6 pm. It was a twelve hour ride, factoring in a one hour time change. Not bad, considering we did over 400 miles on mostly mountain roads. We were tired, but elated to hook up with my family.

After a well-needed shower, I hit the bar in our hotel restaurant, The Prestige.

I knew Cathryn was as parched as I was, so I had the bartender take two beers up to our room. She was drying her hair, and I scored brownie points. Larry, who was on his own motorcycle trip, met me in the bar with his cousin, Lowanda. He’d rode in from Calgary, Alberta and Golden, BC.

My sister Bonnie, and niece Shea, joined us for dinner in the restaurant. The food and service was fabulous enough that we ate there again the next day. It was unusual, we never eat in hotel restaurants.

 

Wine Country

 

Cathryn doesn’t sit still as well as I do, and even though we had a day off the bike, she was itching to go. We took a morning walk in search of a bank and breakfast. We found both, the downtown area has lots of trendy shops, restaurants and cafes. A bakery/bistro with a sidewalk patio was the perfect place to start our day. I’m more of a bacon and egg kind of guy, but I learned that my niece has quite the sweet tooth.

After breakfast Cathryn and the girls decided to hit the beach. I relaxed and caught up on our photos and blogging. The hotel was in a perfect location, situated directly across the street from a huge waterfront park.

My original plan was to have three days in Kelowna, and to spend at least one of those touring the local wineries. Being we were there less than two days, we had to settle for a sightseeing drive around Westbank, and a cursory stop at the Mission Hill Winery. The estate is magnificent, and the drive through wine country was eye-popping. The area is littered with big and small wineries, and rows upon rows of grapes.

 

The Scenic Route & Dirty Steak

 

On Friday, July 15th, we headed for Surrey, and Bonnie’s house. She suggested the scenic route, which kept us on BC 3, taking us through the Okanagan Mountains. It was at least two hours longer than the big highway, but we were in no hurry, and our mission was to see the countryside. We weren’t disappointed, the route took us along the shore of Lake Okanagan, to Penticton. Unfortunately, Ogopogo didn’t surface or make an appearance.

Number 3 wound its way along rivers and valleys, and up around mountains, with twists and turns, and even a few switchbacks. The forecast was clear when we left Kelowna, but the mountains created their own weather. First, the temperature dropped about twenty degrees, then the lingering clouds formed and alliance and dampened our spirits. The scenery was stunning, some of it reminding me of lush green valleys in the Swiss Alps.

The road didn’t widen to four lanes until our last hour, just before getting to Chilliwack. We eventually ended up on the Trans Canada Highway, which took us into Surrey, our final destination. We had ridden over 3,000 miles, since leaving home. Wow!

Saturday was a day to do nothing, with all day to do it. Well, okay, there was laundry to do and groceries to buy and more photo editing and blogging, but that was it – or so I thought.  Granville Island, in Vancouver, was on our list of places to see, so we borrowed my sister’s car and headed there for the afternoon. We were a little put off by the traffic heading in, but immediately knew we’d love the place. It was great for strolling; lots of unique shops and a picturesque waterfront. It was was once a decrepit industrial area, but it’s been completely revitalized.

The place has an artistic or perhaps an eclectic flare. Even the cement company located there has silos painted with cartoon characters. The market is huge and was bustling. Cathryn found some of the double-smoked salmon she calls Indian Candy. We picked and snacked, then settled down at the Granville Island Brewery to sample some of their craft beers and local fare.

I sat in one of the public squares, watching a Busker, while Cathryn checked out some of the little shops. The sky was a bit gloomy, but it didn’t stop us or the other throngs of tourists from enjoying the day. Our only complaint with Granville Island is the giant tour buses that struggle to negotiate the tight roads and neighborhood. My favorite sight there was the colorful boat houses that floated along the wharf.

We brought home fresh salmon and cheese from the market, they made a great appetizer for dinner. A Pinot Noir from Mission Hill paired with it perfectly. A Layer Cake Argentinian Malbec complimented the steak dinner we prepared for Bonnie, Shea and Kelly. Cathryn needed a rest from restaurant food, and wanted to cook for our hosts. The only hitch came when I dropped one of the steaks and it rolled into the bushes. Shea retrieved it. It’s a secret who ended up eating it.

Sunday, Kelly played tour guide, and took us into the Surrey/Langley countryside to do some wine touring. Medium and small-sized wineries were nestled in the fields along the winding and tree-lined roads. Like at home, Cathryn and I weren’t too impressed with the local reds, but we scored some superb whites to have with our salmon dinner that night. Although underage, and probably bored, Shea humored us, and did some photo ops with Axle.

Monday was our last day in Surrey, and the only day we could get the bike in for servicing. It needed a new front tire for the ride home, and a couple of other minor adjustments. I was not happy about the 1 pm appointment, since it screwed up our whole day.

Cathryn was dying to get to Stanley Park, so we borrowed Kelly’s Jeep and she followed me to the dealership. While Ruby was getting a new front skin, we drove and strolled around Stanley Park. It is beautiful, with its giant cedar and redwood trees, and views of the Vancouver harbourfront. Lunch at the Tea House, in the park, capped a great visit to Canada’s Pacific coast.

Continued Nov 7th, 16

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