British Columbia and entering the USA

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We’re learning the hard way that waiting two weeks between blog posts is way too long. So many things happened that we feel a little overwhelmed when it comes to writing about them so from now on we’re going to try to post more frequently and see how that goes. By the way a notification probably went out yesterday to people who have subscribed, sorry about that I was uploading pictures for this post and the preview button is way too close to the publish button!

After we left Peace River we had what Google maps says is a 5 hour journey ahead of us but it took us just about 7 hours. Reason being it was very cold and we had to stop repeatedly to warm up or put on more clothes, luckily I had borrowed Brad’s handlebar mitts which are like giant oven gloves that fit over the handle bars without them the journey would have been impossible. We eventually arrived in Barrhead and stayed with the Stephani family again for one night who had so kindly also hosted us on the way up to Peace River and gave me my first taste of off road biking. Shawn, the dad gave me a hand doing an oil change on the bike which on an Adventure 990 is always interesting. The next day we headed for Evensburg which is west of Edmonton and over nighted as guests of Donna and Floyd whom we met twice travelling across Ontario. They have a business where they build fully finished houses indoors and then transport them by truck to the owner, it was cool to get a tour of the factory from Floyd.

Evensburg is on the Yellowhead highway which we took all the way to British Columbia via Jasper and the Rockies. It constantly changes in altitude and therefore temperature so just like the trip from Peace River we felt like two Michelin Men on a motorbike with all the layers we were wearing. We didn’t mind because at the end of the day we knew we were heading south away from this sudden cold change in the weather. When we arrived in Kamloops which is about a 3-4 hour drive from Vancouver we made the decision to go via the motorway instead of the more scenic route via Cache Creek which would have added on 2 or 3 hours to the journey. Like most driving decisions made over the previous days it was influenced by the weather and the temperature, the day after we left Jasper it had snowed there so we didn’t want to gamble and tried to stay ahead of it.

It was a great feeling to arrive at sea level (more or less) and ride into Vancouver. The GPS brought us through the downtown area which at first was a bit confusing because we weren’t sure if someone was shooting an “End of the World” movie or not but we later found out that it’s normal for Hastings Street to look like that. People from Vancouver will know what I’m talking about. We shacked up with Ger a friend from back home in Ireland who is over on a two year working visa in Canada. He’s living with a few other lads from Dublin so it was good to fall back into the Dublin accent again which doubled in intensity on the night when everyone got together to watch the first episode of the new season of Love/Hate. Over the next five days we explored the city and at one point stopped at a motorbike shop because I was looking for new trousers. The shop didn’t have the ones I was looking for but the owners who are Japanese were extremely friendly and were very interested in our trip. That night I noticed an increase in views on the site coming from Japan, it turned out they had posted a picture of us on their site and mentioned our trip which was pretty cool and unexpected. To finish off our Trans Canada adventure we decided to visit Vancouver Island, we took the ferry from Tsawwassen to Sidney which only lasts an hour and a half. Good thing we decided to go on that day at that time too because we bumped into Sara and Dan who are on what seems to be an endless round the world motorbike adventure. When we met them they were on a borrowed bike as their bikes are currently down in Argentina awaiting their return at the end of the month when they’ll travel through Argentina and Brazil and once that’s done they’re off to Europe. Check out their site at http://www.worldwideride.ca . During the ferry trip we got a lot of tips and information from Sara and Dan relating to the journey south as they had done it already and left their bikes in South America with the intention of returning. They also recommended we get in touch with Tad a friend of theirs in Seattle as we might be able to stay there with him on the way down.

We rode off the ferry and down to Victoria which is probably the most European looking city I’ve seen in Canada. After some food we headed off looking for a campsite but were dismayed to find out that most had closed down for the winter just a few days previous at the end of September. In the end we camped in Goldstream Provincial Park which is opened year round. We initially wanted to see the salmon swim upstream which should be happening in October but we found out after arriving that because so little rain had fallen in recent weeks that the Salmon aren’t expected till the end of October. We didn’t mind though we had seen enough of the Canadian nature over the past months to last us quite a long time. A couple of days spent exploring the island and we began to make plans to leave for the USA via ferry to Port Angeles in Washington State. The ferry left at 1030 am and we had to be there at 9am to clear customs and immigration which went surprisingly smoothly. The customs officer looked the bike up and down and wrote the registration number down, that was it. For immigration we had to fill in some green forms, included on the form is a field for the address of the place you will be staying in the US. Courteously stuck on the wall right beside the forms was a list of hotel and campground addresses for you to choose from if you didn’t have one. The immigration officer was extremely friendly we didn’t get grilled just a few normal questions. Even when asked how long we would be staying and I said not sure maybe 2 months maybe more, he was fine with it. They do take your picture and fingerprints so now we’re on a database somewhere for no reason what so ever. The trip across was short enough, we couldn’t see a thing out the window due to fog so spent the entire time talking to another biking couple who were on their way to Arizona.

When you get on a ferry with a motorbike they always send you to the front so that the motorbikes are first on and first off. You end up chatting to the other bikers, especially if you have a German registration plate! But we were quite surprised when just before disembarking another biker who we hadn’t spoken to yet just walked up to us with a piece of paper in his hand and said if we’re going to be in the LA area that here’s his number and we can stay at his place no problem. Time and again we’ve been caught off guard by these random acts of kindness and offers of hospitality from strangers. As we drove off the ferry another boarder officer signaled us to stop. I pulled over and he asked where we are headed, I said Mexico and he asked in Spanish if I can speak Spanish, I said not yet and he smiled and said welcome to the USA.

The first thing which was striking about the US over Canada was the volume of traffic on the roads, added to this the change from kph to mph it wasn’t long before I realised I was riding all tensed up and forgetting to breath. Once I noticed though it was fine and I relaxed into it. I especially felt more relaxed when I found out a litre of petrol cost 60 cent! I had contacted Tad over Facebook the guy Sara and Dan recommended to us to see if we could stay with him in Seattle. He very kindly said yes so that was our destination for the day. We arrived in Seattle via the Bainbridge ferry which only cost 6 dollars for a motorbike and two passengers and were met with near 45 degree roads uphill right off the ferry. Worst was that there was a traffic light at the junction of each block so you could easily end up stopped on the slope. No problem for a car but not desirable for a fully loaded KTM Adventure. Naturally we got red on the first slope and sat there ready to spill over in one direction or the other, or maybe even end up back down on the Bainbridge ferry. A bit of hand-foot-leg-wrist-eye coordination and we moved off in the right direction. We stopped at Touratech and i90 motorsports to price some parts and clothing but decided against any purchases when we found out that in Washington around a 10% sales tax on top of the displayed price is added a the till and we would be going to Oregon where they have no sales tax at all. One of only two states that doesn’t have it apparently! We finally arrived at Tad’s place at around 6pm and met him and his partner Gaila. They seemed to naturally understand the needs of motorbike travelers by immediately offering us food, showers and tools. We learned pretty soon that Tad and Gaila had been on a 14 month long motorbike trip south into Central America and had fallen in love with the idea of life on the road with your bike and whatever you can fit on it. So much so that they have started a website for people to meet and offer accommodation to touring motorcyclists whether they are on year long trips or shorter ones. Check it out at http://www.motostays.com

Tad and Gaila were great hosts and the next day we headed for Portland Oregon where I intended to get the bike serviced at KTM Gresham. I just called them the day before and told them we are heading from north to south so I couldn’t really make an appointment and hang around. They were pretty understanding and said just come along and we’ll see what we can do. Next morning we dropped off the bike at 10am and talked to the guys in the shop for a while before heading downtown. Three hours later we came back and the service was finished. Todd the technician went through the details with me, new rear tyre, new rear brake pads, new air filter, new spark plugs and he fitted the RK spare chain we had lugged across Canada. If you’re ever going to do a trip like this don’t bring a spare chain that weighs nearly 3kg. Just bring a chain tool and a spare link, learned the hard way. The bike rode much smoother after than it did before the service but because so many things were changed I don’t know what had the biggest impact. I like to think it’s the new chain just because we carried it all the way across Canada.
Tonight we are a stone’s throw from the Oregon coast camping at Devil’s lake, earlier today we visited the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum where the Spruce Goose is housed, the world’s largest wooden aircraft. Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.

We’ve put 10,000km on the bike since we left Halifax just over two months ago!

Next: Drive down the Oregon and California coast via San Francisco and LA.

The Spruce Goose (actually made from birch)

The Spruce Goose (actually made from birch)

The ride from Peace River to Vancouver

 

Vancouver, Vancouver Island and entering the USA

4 thoughts on “British Columbia and entering the USA

  1. 10,000 km! Lorri and I have driven just over 3500 km through Iceland, Scotland and Orkney. That’s not counting the bus tour in the middle of our trip. Our trip is almost over, leave for home in 4 days. I checked out the motostays website. You could also use the motorcycling groups on CouchSurfing. Find the link from my profile. That group seems to be quite active through the United States. Happy trails you two.
    Dawna

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