Vancouver Island is the largest island in the Pacific, north west of New Zeeland. Home, for thousands of years, to the first nation people Kwakwaka’wakw, which mean Kwak’wala-speaking peoples, they are also known, among the English speaking people as Kwakiutl. Their territory includes northern and northwestern Vancouver Island and some adjoining areas of the mainland. The Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations Territory span most of the West Coast and the Territory of the Coast Salish indigenous people cover the south eastern part of the island and southernmost extremities along the straits of Juan de Fuca. Somehow their influence and heritage is still felt strongly on the island to this day.
It falls under the province of British Colombia. It also has the mildest climate of Canada.
I had crossed Vancouver Island of my list and wasn’t gonna go there. But whilst in Chicken and once again in Dawson city Madeline and Felix, German couple travelling a Chevy van with pop up roof tent, really advised me to go there. Somehow the way they described it to me was reason enough to detour. So, I did and believe me I don’t regret it, It’s a Magic place.
It’s not possible to describe it in words or even the photos, it’s alive with an energy of its own. It attracts a certain type of person to live there, a lot of them will want to escape the mainland, others want to experience the ambiance, peace and tranquility of the island and some use it to fuel their artistic side. But among other things they all enjoy the soft climate.
The ferry ride takes just one and a half hours. Bikes are loaded on first and parked up across the lane with the rear towards the rail. They are not tied down but chocks, to wedge under the side, are supplied. Crossing is smooth.
Unfortunately, we were not escaping the smoke. Nanaimo is a large harbor town and I cleared it as quickly as possible. There were two ways to go, the coastal road or the freeway inland. I took the freeway, highway 4, as it was getting late and I wanted to stop on the 4 for the night. Easier said than done. Stopped at a provincial park camp site, Little Qualicum Falls but it was full, they offered me a place in the overflow which was the carpark but decided to check out another commercial campground a few kms back down the road.
Whisky Creek Campground, what a find, it was super. Clean, unlimited hot showers and excellent Wi-Fi. What more could you ask for. Set up tent and made din-dins. Next morning set off bright and early. When you don’t have a reservation, the walk-in camping spots are allocated on a first come first served basis, so the trick is to be there early.
It was about a 155-km ride to Tofino, our stop for a couple of days. But what a ride, again words can’t describe it. Suffice to say Tiggy Moon Dust and me had fun. The road is highway number 4, Pacific Rim Highway, a narrow road that runs across country, twisting and turning up over the mountains before dropping down to the sea on the other side. We overtook a RV who was struggling and suddenly we had a clean clear run.
Tiggy pawed the asphalt with her front wheel and we were off. Everything went perfect, we must have broken all the speed limits, but we had a super technically perfect ride, we just swept our way from corner to corner lining up perfect every time and having the ride of our lives. Scenery??? Photos …. No way, I didn’t stop I was having a ball. All the photos were taken on the way back. Tiggy was cleaning her exhaust pipe out and rounding her tires back up and I was getting rid of my frustrations at being a crappie off road rider!
When we arrived at the Tofino Visitors Centre I had a grin from ear to ear, after getting a list of the camping sites I couldn’t refrain or hold myself in I just turned around at the door and shouted back to the ranger who had helped me…. “ Woooow, that is one hell of a road, simply fantastic” to which he replied with a sickly grin … “ yes, if you are riding a motorcycle but not for these people”. It was then that I looked around, there were a load of stressed out looking, red puffy faced RV drivers, these RVs (“recreational vehicle”) are huge so to drive one of these down that road…. Oh boyyyy …. felt like quipping back “well if they had eaten all their veggies and done their best at school they also could have been bikers” but I held myself in…. just gloated. Life was wonderful. I just wish that I could do the technical stuff on the dirt, that’s my biggest issue with off-road riding, just gotta practice.
Tofino is a small area spread out on a peninsula in Clayoquot Sound, it has really nice sandy beaches offering year-round surfing and some really nice scenery, lakes, inlets and an really old rainforest, this area is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Preserve.
The town of Tofino is situated on the tip of the peninsula.
In Tofino, first choice campsite was fully booked up, no walk-in spots. Just across from it the other campground had places free, but at a price of 45 dollars for a tent. I complained of course but that’s the price in the tourist’s places.
But she had 3 spots where you had to roll the dice for, one roll and it was binding. Now the number you get on the dice is related to the price you pay, so I rolled the dice and ended up paying an average of 25 $ a night…… Welcome to Vancouver Island, ?! Met up with a super nice English couple, who had one of the other gambling spots, Janette and Toby…. I think… hope. If I got it wrong my deepest apologies. I really enjoyed the evenings and the chats, but as you probably had noticed I am a terrible chaotic person and forget names and faces. Hope you got home safely and hope you get to follow your dreams… Stayed 2 nights at that site and explored the area. Also met up with a nice family in a RV who charged my laptop up.
But another family won a place in my heart, I forget their names but the blue and white ex-school bus and our conversation live on. Hope you guys are okay and manage to live your dreams. The camping ground was situated right on the beach, weather was a bit overcast but had some nice walks along the strand, didn’t go in for a swim though.
Tofino town was a bit of a tourist place, but was nice. Went to the other town called Ucluelet, mainly a fishing town. Its situated on the Ucluelet Peninsula 40 km from Tofino. Ucluelet means people of the safe harbor in the language of the first nation people Nuu-chah-nulth.
This was a nice wee spot. Also had a good supermarket that happened to have some of my favorite foods on sale for a dollar each. These are tins of veggie chili and tins or packets of soup, but also a product from Knorr called Sidekicks. These are like pasta or rice dishes that you can cook in 5 minutes, kinda handy to have and easy to pep up with a bit of creativity. Also, handy if you arrive late somewhere and there are no shops, but generally I manage to cook fresh. But it was also here that I came across a meal called “Messy fries” These were being sold at a snack bar. So just had to try them. They were delicious, what they are is: simply chips (fries) covered in gravy. But at the counter there was also all the toppings for hotdogs, Pickles, onions, peppers etc. etc. and you just helped yourself….. so, I did, didn’t say anywhere that you had to have a hotdog. They tasted absolutely yummy on the chips and gravy, I pigged out. Can’t beat the simple pleasures in life.
Then it was time to move on. Back up the Pacific Rim Highway, the magic 4, but this time taking it easy, stopping to admire the scenery and make photos. Then onto the 19, the “Inland Island Highway” to Campbell River. Stayed in the Elk Falls Provincial Park and didn’t have to roll the dice!
Took the 28, or Gold River Highway, a super scenic ride along and around the Campbell and Upper Campbell Lake to a town called Gold River. This was a ghost town in the making, supermarket was closed and shops were closing, people leaving. It seems that the main employment was logging, pulp and paper industry. But the demand for wood was dropping so the saw mills closed. Really strange to see.
But it was a beautiful spot. Had my lunch in one of the local places that was still open, the wee man made summit special for me and it didn’t cost the earth and I didn’t have to roll the dice to see how much I had to pay! Had to use some gravel roads again but they were worth it. They led to some amazing little places, as do all dirt and gravel roads. Gold river is desperately trying to capitalize on its natural resources, it’s prime location. They are trying to get into the tourist trade. Just hope it works because there are some tremendous people living there.
There were some amazing hiking trails around the park, did the Millennium Trail to Elk Falls Suspension Bridge (Campbell River), past the Johnson Hydro Power Plant, and the Dam a nice wee walk, for the most part along the river.
The hydro power plant provides electricity to a large number of homes in the area. At the moment they are increasing the capacity of the power plant, the digital age calls for more power.
Then it was time to head back towards Nanaimo, used the coastal route, Highway 19A or North Island Highway to Qualicum Beach, approximately 125km.
On the way I passed through some amazing little seaside towns. One in particular stood out, it had a fantastic display of wood carvings.
These carvings are of life size and done with a chainsaw. Before Nanaimo I wanted to stay once again in Whisky Creek campground. Was kinda a hard decision because there were some nice places on the sea.
But I went for the Creek and was glad I did. This time I stayed three nights and done my laundry and pigged out in the shower. I also walked around the area and came across some amazing farms. One was the Organic and Glutton Free Baker so just had to call in. She was closed but welcomed me in and showed me around, she also just let me kick back and wander the premises. She opens at the weekend and organizes dinners, all organic. It is also a small organic farm with some veggies and a load of chickens. https://www.facebook.com/whiskeycreekbakery/ When I left she gave me a little bag with some zucchini and baby beets, dinner for that evening.
Then I found the Art Farm. The owner had passed away from old age and his son was looking after the place.
I wandered in and looked around it was amazing. It kinda sums up the people who live on this little island. Then on to Nanaimo and the ferry back to the mainland.
I had been receiving WhatsApp’s from that crazy duo Jean Paul and his better half Anna I met in Alaska. They were in Vancouver and wanted to know if I fancied meeting up for a coffee….., sounded like a good plan. Only problem was that I had to negotiate the Ring Road around Vancouver. Now for months I have been riding in the wilderness and countryside and the Ring Road…. Oh boyyyy, for months my biggest problem was bears and the odd moose that ran across the road and now I was trying not to get whacked by tin cans. Anyway, made it to the meeting place, a library …. They have free Wi-Fi and lovely chairs and tables to kick back and use it. It was good to meet up again, Jean always telling me off about my parking habits, or lack of them so I had to move the bike.
Then we all headed down to visit a friend of Anna’s family, Janette, who also invited me. She cooked a glorious meal and we had a super evening and morning chatting away. It was kinda nice to sit back and listen to family talk. Thanks Guys, but a special thanks to Janette who treated me like family.
But all good things come to an end and once again it was time to load the bike and Giddy up and go. The route is the Crows Nest Highway up over the Crows Nest Pass or highway number 3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowsnest_Highway
This road runs through the Canadian wine region and one of he most arid areas of Canada, it’s semi desert. Water for the grape vines is pumped up from underground streams. Many people complain that the humidity level has risen due to the vineyards. It’s a really picturesque area running past the Kootenay Rockies up over Crowsnest Pass.
First stop for the night was the little lake town of Osoyoos. Once again camping sites were full, but ignoring the full sign on Cabana Beach Campground I rode up to the office and guess what….. got the last site and what a site. It was on the beach right on the lake. It was actually an RV site, with water and power, but he gave it to me at a discount. The little girl in the office told me that the owner liked bikers.
That night there was a festival going on in the town, so went to have a look. It was a laugh, everybody out having a good time. From dancing, to Hula Hoop competitions.
Then back to the tent where I was lulled into sleep by the sound of the waves on the shore, really super.
Also met up with a guy driving a super charged V8 model T Ford. It was a real old model T lovingly restored and chopped into a hot rod. Really nice to see. What was also nice the car was pulling a small caravan.
Leaving the lake behind we carried on up the #3, climbing back up into the mountains to one of the most beautiful regions the Kootenay Rockies. http://www.travel-british-columbia.com/kootenay/
It’s an area of mountains, rivers and lakes. Stopped that night in a town called Creston, at Pair-A-Dice RV & Campground. The owner was from Korea and was a tremendous person….. and not just because he gave me a discount, map of the area and a little flash light.
Whilst setting my tent up a guy comes over with a glass of orange juice and gives it to me, just what I needed. It was really hot, later on after dinner they invited me for apple pie and ice cream. Life just doesn’t get any better. Nigel and Mathew, two bikers out for a weekend of fun. Nigel was from England, emigrated to Canada years ago. They had a caravan, an SUV and 4 bikes.
They were out riding the highway 3A. This is a twisty little road that runs up around the Kootenay mountain. The caravan was amazing. Everything folded up to the side or was raised to the ceiling leaving a large cargo space big enough for the bikes. The back wall of this contraption dropped open to form a ramp. These guys have the right idea.
Headed out onto the road with the plan to find a nice picnic spot to stop and eat my purposely delayed breakkies and watch the solar eclipse. Found a quiet spot on the side of the road, this was occupied by a lone biker, he was riding a Yamaha Virago, so joined him. He was an amazing guy, he had a sheet through which we could watch the eclipse in between me stuffing my face with a cheese and salad sandwich and a bottle of coke. He was just laid back puffing on a ciggie….. well at least I think it was a ciggie. We had a good conversation though. But it had to be one of the nicest ways to watch a solar eclipse, super location, super company and a super sandwich. Then on to Waterton lake national park via the Crow’s Nest Pass.
The scenery is really spectacular and we pass through some quaint little towns. Stopped in one of them to watch a chainsaw wood carver at work, he was finishing off a piece that he had made for a customer.
The pass itself is 1310 meters high. The road then drops down to the prairies, we are back in Alberta. We turn off the 3 onto the 6 Alberta Highway for a 50 km run into Waterton Lakes National Park. The road is flat and runs through the prairies.
Finally, the mountains draw closer and we reach the outskirts of the park, Pine ridge, a sign here sums it up… “Where the mountains meet the prairie”. This is a place where people, provinces and countries meet.
Waterton in the province of Alberta Canada and Glacier park in the state of Montana America. First Nation and native American people have lived here in peace and harmony for more than 11,000 years. Today a delicate balance is maintained to preserve the ecological balance. In 1932 the neighboring national parks joined to form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park dedicated to peace and cooperation.
Stayed here two nights and went star gazing in the company of two rangers and a group of people. The night sky here is amazing. They had 3 telescopes of different magnitude offering fantastic views of the stars and planets, plus they pointed out different galaxies and stars. The evening was really good, stayed chatting to the ranger, he was an interesting old guy, a retired sawmill worker and as deaf as a post, but he had a passion for the sky at night. We even saw faintly, Northern Lights. It was here that I received my official Junior Night Sky Ranger badge…, I was super chuffed. Keep it in the tent, unfortunately it doesn’t glow in the dark, maybe the senior one does.
Then it was time to commence Stage Two of our journey, time to cross over the border to enter Glacier Park in America. On leaving Waterton Park a big black bear crossed the road in front of the bike. Saw that as a kinda farewell to Canada.
Crossed the border on road number 6. This is a small road running through the park and the border post is a small one.
On the way up to the border stopped at a layby and met up with a French couple with two kids riding two bicycles, they were on their way to America, think that they were going down to south America.
Then the border, usual questions but it went smoothly, unfortunately had to surrender an orange, had planned to eat it before the crossing but the border kinda caught me by surprise. Then I was off again…, into the US of A and the state of Montana. Just as I pulled away from the border post a white cow walked across the road in front of the bike, I thought for a minute that I had crossed into India, but I took this as a sign of welcome and good luck. This part of glacier is on an Native reservation and their cows roam free, at least that is what one local told me.
It was a short hop to our stop for the night St Mary. With all the formalities it was early afternoon and I wanted to ride the “Going to the Sun Road” slowly and in good condition because this is a super road, it rates high up in the most scenic roads in the world, http://www.dangerousroads.org/rankings23/4731-ultimate-road-trips.html .
The road is named after the Going to the Sun Mountain, according to one native American legend the deity Sour Spirit who came down from the sun to teach the Blackfeet the basics of hunting. While returning to the sun, an image of Sour Spirit was placed on the mountain as an inspiration for the Blackfeet. Another story has suggested that a late-19th-century explorer provided the mountain’s name and the legend. Construction on the road begun in 1921 and was completed in 1932, its length is 50 miles or 80 Km. This is the only road that traverses the park, crossing the continental divide at Logan pass, 2,026 meters (6,646 feet), this is the highest point on the road.
The next morning, we were off. This road was really amazing, it was one of the best that I have ridden.
The scenery was stunning, the road itself is a load of hairpin bends connected by curves. It took me the best part of a day to ride, I just kept stopping to soak up the scenery and to take photos. There is no way that I can describe it in words.
There is a photo album on Facebook with more photos. Words can’t do it justice.
Finally stopped at the Apgar campsite, which is at the end of the road. Wanted to ride it again the next day but the weather had changed and everything was obscured by low hanging clouds, so I was lucky. Check out the you tube videos….
Amazing Going-to-the-Sun Road – Glacier National Park, Montana MT & Glacier National Park: Going to the Sun Road (GoPro HD) – 4 . They are not mine, I didn’t film any of this road, my action cam was on the blink. I will try to post some of my own videos later on.
The next episode will be another Iconic road, the Bears Tooth Highway to Yellowstone National Park and on to Seattle. So once again go make a cup of tea get a bite to eat and we will meet again later on.
You can also check out the photo album on my Facebook travel page Ride Live Explore. https://www.facebook.com/Ride-Live-Explore . It’s an open page so you don’t need a facebook account or be friends. Have fun.