Friday, September 26, 2014

Examples of bikers being bikers... paying it forward whenever we can... and instant (good) Karma...

The Africa Twin's power problem persisted but a mile after breaking down ourselves, we stopped to help these teenagers with a flat and a rusted spare on the 120-ish kms/75-ish mile stretch of gravel, potholes and no mobile service along the logging road between Lake Cowichan and Port Alberni.

The Africa Twin started back up, no problem, but 20 miles later the power began failing again. Keeping above 2,000rpms for the remaining 40ish miles, Roel managed to limp the AT to Port Alberni. We made it to the outskirts of town just as dark fell and the power completely failed at the top of the hill that leads to downtown Port Alberni. He coasted to the bottom where there happened to be a 24-hr gas station. Unable get the AT started again, and unwilling to abandon the bike in what seemed to be a seedy section of town, we set up camp at an abandoned diner next door and slept between the Transalp and the out-of-commission Twin.

Not exactly ideal, but our gratitude to be in a town and hence within reach of a mechanic overshadowed our surrounds completely.

(After month of intermittent power problems, Roel was finally able to determine that the Africa Twin needed a new battery... Done and done!)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Roel Rides a Multistrada

The next morning we continued in the direction of Vancouver, thoroughly enjoying the picturesque Trans Canada Highway (Route 99), that ran along a raging river for quite a while.
While fueling up in Pemberton, a solo female rider on a BWM 700 GS arrived and hurriedly got off of her bike and was trotting into the station. She paused upon seeing us and said with a slight Brazilian accent “Wow! Looks like quite an adventure - I would love to talk to you guys, because my husband and I want to do something similar but I have to go call a taxi to go back to him because he dropped his bike on the gravel road back there and has hurt his foot too badly to ride.”

Roel offered to take the taxi back with her and ride her husband’s bike back to the gas station while they took the taxi to the hospital, so that they could avoid paying rural towing charges. And mind you, this was not just any bike, but a Multistrada. Perhaps he was overly happy to help out another rider in this instance ;)

When Roel returned, we continued on our way to Vancouver as we had a ferry to Vancouver Island to catch. However, by the time we made it to Whistler, we were so hot and miserable in the heat of the day that we had to stop for a swim to refresh ourselves.

The Sea to Sky Highway was gorgeous - no wonder it is a popular spot for Vancouver riders any day of the week. We enjoyed the road and the views, and so did everyone else it seemed, as the traffic was pretty thick. By the time we made it through Vancouver to the ferry launch, we just made the last ferry to Victoria.

(Ferrying to Victoria, Vancouver Island)

(Perks of taking the last ferry)

From the ferry launch, we headed through downtown Victoria to the coast and found ourselves on the doorstep of our friend Phoenix, who we met at the Overland Expo back in Arizona. We had kept in touch via Facebook, and when she saw we were planning to visit Vancouver Island, she invited us to stay with her at the beach house she had rented for the summer.

(Delish breakfast with the Riding Lovebirds)

Reconnecting with Phoenix and meeting her partner (who she met while riding in Mexico), was good for my soul. Phoenix also rocks the KLiM Altitude suit, but is a girl after my own heart in so many other ways. Spending time with her felt like hanging out with the big sister I’ve never had.

(Altitude Ladies & Roel (photo credit: Bobbi Bjornholt)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Things We Love: Wines & Winding Roads (Not together, of course!)

Two full days of riding (and a few bear and moose sightings later) found us just outside of Kelowna, BC.

(I promise to stop posting bear photos, soon. Really.)

While (futilely) waiting out a rain storm in Glenallen, Alaska, we had met a super cool lady rider on a V Strom, Rachel, who had invited us to stay with her in Kelowna. We messaged her, but since we were ahead of “schedule” by a week, she had not yet returned. Not to worry, though… one of her travel-buddies would be happy to put us up and so it was that we did not have to sneak into a vineyard to camp.

Rosemary has retired from a career in nursing, though she still works in hospice care from time to time. Anyone who is able to do that kind of work deserves a special place in whatever comes after this life. And immediately upon meeting Rosemary, this was apparent. Her home is lovely, but her garden is a sanctuary. And her fresh-from-the-oven scones took me to heaven.

(Our hostess busily preparing her freshly harvested cherries, while I lurk nearby ready to snatch a warm-from-the-oven scone).

(For other scone-lovers out there, I can vouch for the awesomeness of this recipe.)

Roel and I tasted through several wineries in the Okanagan region and got a really good feeling for what the area has to offer in the way of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc.

(Had a lovely tasting at Tantalus where we actually enjoyed the entirety of the portfolio they had on offer AND they are doing cool things with Riesling... we really like places that experiment and take risks, and their Reisling Lab "experiment" was yummy.)

(Everyone in the Okanagan will tell you to go to Mission Hill Winery. We quickly discovered that this is ONLY because of the lovely gardens, impressive architecture and amazing views of the valley. The wine, and the service, is unmentionable.)

With some excellent advice from Rosemary, an avid outdoors person herself, we headed off roughly in the direction of Whistler, planning to take the scenic route and camp just before reaching Whistler.

Welllll, plans-shclans… turns out the Africa Twin wasn’t up for our so-called plans…

We were thoroughly enjoying one of the most incredible roads we have ridden in the past few months (we took Route 8 to Route 1, then took the right towards Lillooet on Route 12) when all of the sudden I hear a string of curses with a ring of confusion in my headset.

Roel: &*^%%*^ I don’t know what’s going on. I’m losing power.

The power fail was intermittent, though, so he kept going. Considering we were in the middle of nowhere and had no idea how much further “somewhere” was, that seemed to be the best option.

Until we crested a hill and on the downward winding portion of that hill, which happened to only be one lane where the guardrails of which gave way to 300ft+ drops. Roel honked his horn to let on-coming traffic beware of our presence on the single lane and as soon as the road opened to two lanes again, his power completely failed.

This was one of those occasions where had I not believed in guardian angels, or motorbike angels, I would have started to believe.

A second stroke of good fortune gave way to a pull off at the bottom of the hill where a few trees offered some respite from the sun that beat down on this wind-less, barren valley.

This was a new symptom of whatever was bothering the Africa Twin: never before had it lost power mid-ride… only when the bike had been turned off, did it refuse to start again.

Roel pulled everything off the bike, gently coaxing the battery and every wire connected to it and fuse related to it to work again, and turned the key. Bingo, we were back in action. For the moment, anyway.

(Amazing to see a long-distance bicyclist *almost* as packed up as the Africa Twin.)

We made it to a small town that gave us both the hee-bee-jee-bies for no apparent reason. There were a couple of campgrounds around this town, but riding into and out of them we determined that we did not feel comfortable and decide to continue on. Just before riding out of town, two separate people, completely unasked, recommended a campground about 7 kilometers out of town and so we decided to check that out.

It was beautiful… As a community/public relations project, BC Hydro maintains several free campgrounds throughout BC and this one was lovely.

We found a perfectly shaded spot to set up our tent which was only a 5-minute walk from a cool stream that relieved our swollen sweaty feet. We got to meet some interesting fellow campers and slept sweetly under a clear sky of a million stars.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Road Signs"

After a delightfully restful evening at JJ’s cozy “Warm Showers” cabin, we headed to Eye Candy Custom Cycles to catch up with Sam and get started on the much-needed and long-awaited top end job on the Transalp. Sam had very generously offered a lift in his shop, access to his tools and his priceless “supervision” which would make this task actually feasible.

We arrived at the shop excited to get started, only to find out from a somewhat grim Sam that the parts of the Transalp were on back-order and were not likely to arrive for another week “or so.”

Roel had also just found out that the US Consulate in Vancouver had closed it’s doors to non-Canadians applying for US work visas, so he would actually have to fly back to the Netherlands in order to apply for his work visa to work at the winery we had been accepted to intern at in Sonoma, beginning in August.

We were devastated. The opportunity we had been waiting for since last October had finally presented itself (expert mechanic, excellent shop, affordable top-end job), but we didn’t have a week “or so” to wait for the parts to arrive. Due to time restrictions and our desire to still see everything we had wanted to see in BC before heading back into the US, we were going to have to continue South, where we would intercept the parts in Vancouver, from which Roel would fly back to the Netherlands.

Many of our travel decisions are dictated by “signs," like roadworks detours or random encounters with people who share some special piece of local knowledge with us. Although most of the time they are always positive “signs” which guide us to one town or another or to some special experience, sometimes they are walls or gates that we simply cannot get over, under or around. With no other choice, we took this as a sign that we weren’t meant to work on the engine at this time. And perhaps… the solution to my oil consumption problem will just be to simply replace all of the seals, which we will try to do on our own when we reach California.

With that, Roel changed his rear tire and his oil in the comfort of Sam’s shop, and we headed South in a hurry. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back in British Columbia

The ferry landed at a very dark and rainy Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Before finding a place to camp, we had to go through Canadian Customs/Immigration, and for some reason, the line went especially slowly. Roel went ahead and when I finally arrived at the booth, I did my best to answer the very bedraggled looking border agent’s questions efficiently and honestly. He asked about food or animal products and I was about to lean over to check to see if I had eaten the last apple from my saddle bag when he stopped me and said “Listen, I’m talking about weird stuff… animal bones, bear hearts, that kind of thing. You have any of that? No? Good. It’s been a really bizarre night here. By the way, take care on the road once you get 10 miles out of town. The wind knocks me around in my truck, so I can only imagine how terrifying it would be on a bike. Welcome to Canada.”

Gotta love Canadian border agents.

After a chilly hour in the rain searching for a camp site, we did something we don’t usually do and rode around the gate at an open provincial campground. (Closed/off-season campgrounds are usually our thing - not open but “Gate Closed After 10pm Campgrounds”).  Figuring that at 2am, there would be no more arrivals, we glided into an empty spot and set up camp.

The next morning we were thrilled to see sun and we headed in the direction of Smithers. Sam at Eyecandy Custom Cycles had ordered all of the parts that would be necessary for us to begin the top end job on the Transalp, so they would be there ready and waiting for us.

And at a truck stop back in Idaho, we had met a V-Strom rider named JJ who had invited us to stay at his “Warm Showers” cabin just outside of Smithers. (“Warm Showers” is like the “Tent Space” equivalent of the bicycle world, fyi.)

Not only would we finally be able to get my bike’s engine sorted out, once and for all, we would actually have a warm, dry place to stay with shower, etc, while we were there.

The sun was out and things were looking up.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Love Bikes. But I Love Boats, Too: Ferrying Back to BC.

(The bikes all lashed-down and sea-worthy)

We boarded the ferry to Prince Rupert, and Roel secured the bikes while I pulled everything off of the bikes that we would need for the next 36 hours: food, the tent, pads and bags (yes, we would be camping on the top deck) and all of our electronic gear.

(Provisions for 36 hours away from the bikes. Kinda like when normal people pack their bags for a weekend getaway, right?)

We raced to the Solarium on the top deck and were relieved to find that only a few others would be camping up there (we had been warned that it could completely fill up). As the ferry pulled away from Juneau, the sun came out and we got some stellar views of the inner passage as the ship continued on.

I basked in the idea that I would have nowhere to go for 36 hours. And so did Roel. We did some reading, I caught up on some blogging and we took tons of photos.... of whale pods, lighthouses, fog-shrouded mountains and even an iceberg, which WE DID NOT HIT!!

(I'm no Rose. Giving the OK sign after our captain (who we're pretty sure was inebriated) safely navigated around an iceberg.)

It felt like 36 hours of vacation and I cannot remember a recent time where I have felt more relaxed. I never thought my Dutch boyfriend, who has taught me SO much about frugality, would be brilliantly pleased with an experience that required the expenditure of a large sum of money.

Although we had worked a grueling day of mushroom picking in Carmacks, Yukon in order to pay for our ferry fare, while whale spotting from my seat in the sun lounge on the solarium deck, I couldn’t have been happier with the cost or the reward.

I love bikes. But I love boats, too.