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Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, At the foot of the Bear Glaciers, eternal ice, British Columbia, Canada

Adventure is what you make it

Photo by Bettina Hoebenreich, at the foot of the Bear Glaciers, British Columbia, Canada.



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Old 10 Jan 2022
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My First Motorcycle Road Trip Around Western Canada

In 2020, as Covid hit and the world went into lockdown I moved back to Canada still pondering when my next trip will be. However, with the borders still closed international travel still seemed a long way off. Then I had an idea – I was going to explore the open roads of my own country on a motorcycle.

Route Planning



For this road trip, the old Ralph Waldo Emerson adage rings true: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” For me, the journey itself was the reason I was travelling. So, I set about choosing some of the best roads in British Columbia for motorcyclists, selected a few towns and cities to stop in, and my route pretty much wrote itself.

From Victoria, I would travel by ferry to Vancouver, ride up the Sea to Sky Highway, through the Kootenays, before making my way east to the Rocky Mountains. I would then turn back through Prince George, Prince Rupert and down Vancouver Island.

My bike is a 2018 Hond a CB500X, which I purchased used with just under 3000km on the clock. To make the bike a bit more roadworthy I made some additions, including attaching a set of Givi Trekker Outback side cases and a Nanuk 930 top case. I also installed the Givi crash bars, a Pipe Werx exhaust to give it some sexy sounds at full throttle, a set of inexpensive fog lights from Amazon because the stock light has all the light output of a candle, and several camera mounts to allow me to document my journey.



As I have mentioned, my trip was almost entirely determined by the roads I wanted to ride. The towns I visited were largely incidental, although in this section I will outline where I stayed, as well as some of the highlights and attractions, allowing you to decide whether or not you want to visit them on your trip.

Vancouver to Whistler

My road trip actually began on the water as I caught a short ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia from Victoria to Vancouver. It takes around 90 minutes to cross the 60km stretch, and you can spend your time taking in some picturesque views of the many local islands inside the Strait.

BC Ferries operates several sailings between the mainland Vancouver Island. I highly recommend making a reservation for vehicles during the summer months, but you won’t need it for a motorcycle as we always get to go to the front of the line!

Now, entire guide books have been written about Vancouver but, having lived there and run a business in the city for more than ten years, I was eager to get out of the city. No sooner had I arrived, I was heading back out of the city across the Lions Gate Bridge, where I connected with the Sea to Sky Highway, which would take me east to Whistler.

Officially known as Highway 99, this famous route is filled with incredible sights at every turn. Soon I arrived in Whistler for a quick lunch stop. Whistler is seen as one of the finest mountain resorts in the world, with world-class skiing in the winter and magnificent mountain biking trails in the warmer months.

Highway 99 eventually becomes the Duffey Lake Road, connecting Pemberton to Lillooet. As mentioned, this was one of my must-rides at the start of the trip.

It’s an 80km trip, filled with even more amazing scenery and miles of exciting twists and turns. I was really able to open up the bike and have some fun.



Merritt

After a long day of riding, my first stop was in Merritt, BC, where I had booked into a comfortable hotel room to crash for the night.

Not to disparage cities such as Merritt – which have their own unique quaintness – but there isn’t a great deal to say about them, especially when spending such a small amount of time there.

In fact, Merritt has a population of just 7,000 people and there’s very little to actually do. Yet, they still manage to host a popular music festival in the summer months – the Rockin’ River Musicfest, held in late July.

Kelowna

Refreshed and recharged after a good night’s sleep, I was back on the road for my second day, where I would be riding east to the village of Nakusp.

On the way to Nakusp, I would be making a planned pitstop in the city of Kelowna, as it was the city in which I spent a few years of my childhood. It had been 34 years since I last lived there and, as one of the fastest growing cities in BC, I was curious to see what had changed.

It was fun to see my old school and my old home, although I was a little saddened to see all the changes and development. It seems that no city in BC is immune from the rampant pace of generic condo development.



Nakusp

From Kelowna I made my way up to Vernon and then east to Nakusp. Coming out of Vernon the traffic was surprisingly heavy, so I was expecting a rather boring ride to Nakusp. However, it was a nice surprise when the traffic thinned out and the road turned nice and twisty. I was able to open up and enjoy the turns and twists of Highway 6.

All too soon I arrived at the Needles Ferry which is a free cable operated ferry across Lower Arrow Lake in the West Kootenay region of southeastern British Columbia.

The village of Nakusp lies at the north end of Arrow Lake and is known for its restorative hot springs and picturesque lakeside setting, sitting in the shadows of the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges.

I arrived at Nakusp in the late afternoon, which gave me enough time to grab some gas and some food, before finding my hotel for another night of well-deserved shuteye.

Highway 31A



Day three saw me make my way south from Nakusp to the small village of New Denver. Here I would ride east to the village of Kaslo via the infamous Highway 31A – aka, the Valley of Ghosts.

Ghost hunters may be a bit disappointed to find out that the stretch of highway is actually named the Valley of Ghosts on account of the many old towns it was once home to, as opposed to otherworldly spirits.

For ghost hunters, it may not provide the chills you crave, but for motorcyclists, Highway 31A is 46km of endlessly fun twisty roads!



Kaslo

At the other end of Highway 31A sits Kaslo. This was a very pretty village, sitting on the sandy shores of Kootenay Lake in the Selkirk Mountains. There’s also a lively downtown area with heritage buildings, offering enough choice for dining and shopping to justify an overnight stay.

It’s worth noting that Kaslo is a very popular stop for motorcyclists in the summer, so hotel reservations are definitely recommended.

Mount Buchanan



Day four began with a trip to Mount Buchanan, which is located about 11km outside of Kaslo. It’s a popular hiking and mountain biking area, but I had heard that there was a gravel road that would take you to the top of the mountain, a perfect test for my little “adventure bike”.

The view from the top of Mount Buchanan overlooking Kootenay Lake was magnificent, and it made for a fantastic picnic spot.

The historic fire lookout at the top is one of the very few in BC that is still standing, and to see it in a fully-restored condition was a nice bonus before I made my descent.

Canmore

One of the reasons I wanted to take this trip was to see the scenery in Alberta, Rocky Mountains. So once again I packed up my bike and set off for Canmore.

This part of the trip involved a crossing the Osprey Ferry, which, to my delight, was also free of charge. As someone who lives on Vancouver Island and has to take the rather expensive ferry to Vancouver a lot, I was really enjoying all these free inland ferries.

The day also involved riding on Highway 3A, which is a fun winding route along the north shore of Kootenay Lake, surrounded by stately homes, log cabins and fruit farms. As July was mid cherry season, it seemed a shame not to stop to sample a punnet of fresh cherries on the way!

I didn’t actually know about highway 3A before my trip, so it proved to be a surprise highlight for me.

Banff National Park

The next day I was up well before sunrise to meet Martina, a Canmore based photographer who offered to show me the amazing scenery of the Banff National Park.

The crowning jewel of the Canadian National Park system, Banff offers stunning views of waterfalls, emerald green lakes, majestic mountains, and local wildlife.

We set out very early in the morning to take advantage of golden hour. It was great to get off the bike and get up close to some of the nature that I had seen from the road and with Martina’s guidance I was able to take some fantastic photos!



Invermere

After our photoshoot I was back on the road and heading west to the small town of Invermere, where I was meeting up with Michael, who runs a motorcycle guiding business into the local mountains.

The mountain scenery was amazing and the off-road riding wasn’t as hard as I thought, despite taking a bit of a fall at the top due to my motorcycle bottoming out. With such beautiful scenery, fun riding, and a relaxed local vibe, Invermere is definitely a place I’d like to return to.

Jasper

From Invermere, it was time to get back on paved roads. I was looking forward to this, as I was about to ride the famous Icefields Parkway to Jasper – the halfway point of my trip.

This road is actually rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveller and I got to see glimpses of why. It’s 232km of fast highway that winds along the Continental Divide, offering views of soaring rocky mountain peaks, thundering waterfalls, and more than a hundred glaciers.

Unfortunately for me, most of the amazing views were hidden behind a thick haze of forest fire smoke. A shame, but a good excuse to return to ride the Icefields Parkway again in the future.

The alpine town of Jasper is a picturesque little place with plenty to do. The town itself is home to dozens of boutique stores and restaurants, although most people visiting will be interested in exploring Jasper National Park, which is one of Canada’s 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Jasper’s own website claims that it is ‘the perfect place to reconnect with nature and marvel at the majesty of the universe’. There are plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife, such as elk, bear, deer, moose, and sheep.

Unfortunately accommodation in Jasper is very expensive so I was only staying for one night but luckily for me my Airbnb host and fellow CB500X rider offered to show me her horses.



This proved a nice end to the ‘outbound’ leg of my journey – it was now time to head home.

Prince George

I woke refreshed and ready for day eight of my road trip, which would see me cover a good chunk of the 1200km I had planned for the next two days. I was heading west on Highway 16 towards Prince Rupert, with a quick stop over in Prince George.

Prince George is the largest city in northern British Columbia, Canada, with a population of just over 74,000. As you may expect from any large city, there is plenty to see and do in the spheres of culture, arts, dining and sports.

However, for me it was just a place to crash as I continued my way home.

Prince Rupert

As I pulled into Prince Rupert, the majority of my road trip was complete. Myself and my trusty bike had covered just over 3500km.

It was now time to put my feet up and take advantage of some rest and relaxation before traveling the penultimate leg of my journey, which would be a ferry south to Port Hardy.

Prince Rupert is a beautiful port city with an abundance of hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities to enjoy, as well as a Grizzly Bear Sanctuary with around 80 bears roaming in a protected area.

My time in Prince Rupert was primarily spent reflecting on my trip. My favorite moments were discovering so many epic roads in southern BC. Before the trip, I knew the roads like the Duffey Lake Road, the Sea to Sky Highway, and Highway 31A would be fun, but I loved discovering new roads such as Highway 6, Highway 3A and Highway 31A, which were a delight to ride.

But there was one more road to navigate before my trip was complete.

Ferry to Port Hardy



The Northern Adventure operates regular sailings from Prince Rupert to Port Hardly and between Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii.

On the ferry, you can reserve premium seating in the Aurora Lounge, located near the bow. With reclining seats and panoramic windows, this area offers you the chance to enjoy some stunning views of both the ocean and islands along the Inside Passage. Most of the sailings are run during the day, due to COVID and an unplanned schedule change, the sailing I was on ran overnight so I opted to check into a private cabin.

As I arrived back on Vancouver Island I was in the homestretch of my journey with just 500km separating me from home.

The ride from Port Hardy to Victoria can be done on the main highway but I recommend taking the scenic route of Highway 19A. Known to the locals as the ‘Old Island Highway’, this scenic oceanside route between Campbell River and Parksville offers miles of picturesque coastline, charming small towns, and outdoor adventure along the way.

The Final Stretch

As I cruised back into Victoria, I was in a reflective mood and even though I hadn’t travelled to some exotic locale, I was surprised at how much fun the trip had been.

The two weeks I spent riding through Western Canada motivated me to start planning an even bigger trip next year.

If you want to see the video of my trip here's the link
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Old 10 Jan 2022
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Great trip.
A lot of us (including myself) have realized how much there is in you own country/the area around you.
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Old 10 Jan 2022
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A great "mini-adventure" in your own back yard can be hugely rewarding, and in these COVID times, even more so, and as motoyen said " motivated me to start planning an even bigger trip next year."
And too it's a great shakedown to get your gear sorted, so you're not off-loading "too much stuff" and "sending another box of stuff I didn't need home" like too many of us - myself included!
Great writeup motyen, and for me, a reminder I should get out there and ride it all - again - this summer. It IS my backyard!
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Old 11 Jan 2022
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That was a really enjoyable read over a cup of coffee; thanks for doing it. My nephew is in Whistler at the moment, working as a ski lift operator I think he said when we Facetimed him over Christmas. Sadly it's not an area I've ever been to although my daughter did spend her gap year working on both Victoria Island and further inland near Kamloops.

Can I ask how you managed to get some of the pictures of you actually riding the bike - I'm putting together some camera gear at the moment for a bike trip in the summer and these things are catching my eye!
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Old 12 Jan 2022
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Thanks for the feedback.

For the shots of me riding the bike I was using a 360 camera mounted on a selfie stick. The 360 camera hides the stick so it looks like someone is filming me.
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Old 12 Jan 2022
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Banff national park looks amazing, and what a great trip too!

Whats "not exotic" to you is another world to other people, it's always great to see people enjoying whats in their locale
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Old 13 Jan 2022
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Originally Posted by Turbofurball View Post
Banff national park looks amazing, and what a great trip too!

Whats "not exotic" to you is another world to other people, it's always great to see people enjoying whats in their locale
This is a good point and something I didn't think about, having spent so many years in this area. I'll make sure to keep that wider audience in mind for my next film.
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Old 14 Jan 2022
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Watched the movie last week (One week)
Banff is worth exploring
And you took a nice shot too
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Old 14 Jan 2022
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This is a good point and something I didn't think about, having spent so many years in this area. I'll make sure to keep that wider audience in mind for my next film.
I need to take my own advice and take more photos while pootling around here too, lol
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