Friday, September 7, 2012

Final Chapter...

Today i woke up thinking I was already home, but was infact at my mother's cabin, which I guess is sort of home.. there was fog over the lake, quite beautiful infact, but that meant it was cool, mom said it was 4C brrrrrrrr.

i started getting packed and ready to leave, and pulled away from the cabin at 0930 hrs. It was cool, but not finger freezing cold like yesterday. Today was just about making the miles (kilometers) home. Rocky, Drayton Valley, Mayerthorpe, Whitecourt, Fox Creek, Valleyview and finally Grande Prairie... should be there by 3:30 PM

I stopped in Drayton for a Tim's steeped tea and a bagel, first Tim's in 15 days... I almost kicked the addiction :) met a group of riders on there way to Golden. They could tell that I was homeward, it must be the look on my face, or the fact that I look worn out... They wished me well and we left Tims.

Fuel in Drayton, and Fox Creek and I was infact home by 3:30 PM, even got to wake the lovely Marilyn up (remember she worked nights last night). I had a quick shower and then a bit of a nap. Told her some of the adventures from the trip and shared a couple of videos... We enjoyed a supper out together and now I am putting the finishing touches on the blog.

Were do I start?

Thank you to the lovely Marilyn who has supported me throughout this endevour.

Thank you to my Mother who for some reason agreed to let me do this when I was 17. What were you thinking?

Thank you to Doug for guiding me through the first Three Flags Classic 30 years ago and then meeting me at the finish line in Nelson for this one, that really ment alot to me...

Thank You to Don Brew who joined me to ride into the United States, and then taking my "support may be needed" call from Nelson. Your a great brother-in-law.

Thank You to the organizers of the Three Flags Classic... great job, excellent route selection, and thanks for the recognition that you gave me.

Thank you to Jim from Kansas, who pointed me through Utah.

Thank you to Bill and Bob, fellow Canadians who got me out of El Paso and I am happy to say Bill got a tire and finished the TFC...

Thank you to the guys I call the Harley Family, they stayed in the same hotel in El Paso, I rode with them a few times during the Rally, they were always cool and easy to chat with.

Thank you to Mark from Houston, I was a pleasure to ride with you through bits of the Rally, and thanks for all the help in Nelson when Vanessa was demanding more attention.

I know there are others, but i have probably lots most of you readers by now....

Most of all, Thank you to the stalkers... the words of encouragement and emails have been great. I was happy to provide some entertainment in your day.....

A couple of fast facts:

  • Vanessa and I travelled over 10,000 km round trip
  • I was gone for 15 days, riding for 13.
  • I rode through 2 provinces and 11 states.
  • I have a zip lock baggie full of fuel reciepts that I cannot bear to total up
  • I rode the only Suzuki motorcycle (out of 225 riders)
  • McDonalds restaurants have vastly different menus in the lower US (love the green chilie cheese burger)
  • I did not take enough photos....
Well, to quote Bugs Bunny..... That's all folks....

Me and Vanessa at the finish
Bikes at the finish
Highway 93

The long way home

I had decided the night before that this would be a bit later of a start based on the temperature through the mountains. So I got underway at about 0930 hrs and settled in to be cold all morning, I was actually fairly warm, except for my hands. I had to stop every 40-60km as I could not stand the pain beyond that. I need to invest in some good waterproof, heated gloves. Really I do.

I made my way through the mountains and was surprised at how poor the quality of the Trans-Canada has become, infact there were several sections that were very dangerous for motorcycles. I made it to Lake Louise and then onto Highway 93, otherwise known as the Banff/Jasper.

I was struggling with the cold, and sssssstarted thinking about my plan, the plan to get home... I thought about 2 options, 1 ride up to Jasper and then on to Grande Prairie (7 hours) or ride to Rocky Mountain House and spend the evening there (3 hours). I said to myself, lets decide at the Saskatchewan River Crossing where I planned on having lunch.

I reached the crossing with a couple of "warm up breaks" along the way, they were actually good for me, besides warming up, I got to look around at the sheer beauty around me... that's not a bad thing. I walked in to the crossing complex which I swear has not changed in over 30 years, got in line for the cafeteria and ordered a "Bubba" hot dog and fries and diet coke. Sure she says, that will be $21.49. No I said there must be some mistake, a hot dog, small fries and diet coke... Nope that's right she says... This better be the best Hot Dog I have ever had.

And it was, it was awesome, highly recommended despite the cost.

So at this point I went outside, the sun was out and I thought, I am not in a rush, there was a nice patch of grass in front of where I parked Vanessa, so I thought I would stop and enjoy the scenery and the sunshine. sat there for about 45 min. It was great.

I decided to head for Rocky, it was my brothers birthday, the lovely Marilyn is working nights so, I may as well see my Mom, Brother and his family, and some good friends in Rocky.

A very uneventful ride to Rocky, done it many times, nothing new.

Saw the friends, told some stories, caught up with my brother, and went out for Birthday supper with the family. It was a great end to the day.

Marilyn will be sleeping for most of the day tomorrow, I will ride up to Grande Prairie, be there about the time she will be getting up and spend some quality time with her. I am looking forward to that. This has been the longest period of time that we have been apart since we got married... I miss her...


I have some photos for the past couple of days that I will upload tomorrow... No internet at Mom's cabin...

Almost home.......

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Post Rally Day #1

Today was the scheduled banquet. Most people were staying for it, and I thought that it was an important part of the event, that it would bring some closure...

I went on a bit of a group ride with 5 BMW's and Vanessa... I had removed the top and side cases so she would handle much better. We went North to Kaslo, across to New Denver and then South towards Solcan and then back over to Nelson. This was the first time these guys had ridden this road... They loved it!! Especially the Kaslo to New Denver portion. We had a small lunch in New Denver and then got on our way.

On the way back I decided to look Doug up again and see his new place off in the hills as you get close to Castlegar. Nice place, beautiful home...

I proceeded back to the hotel and then off to the banquet.

I had brought my current TFC passport and the one from the 1982 TFC as well, one of the organizers heard about this and wanted to take a look at it. He thought it was really interesting and cool.

We had a wonderful dinner, sat with the same group that had gone on the ride with earlier in the day, That's kind of an interesting thing about these events, you make fast friends... The awards portion started, we were joking that when they announced that the average age of the riders was 64 years old, that I might very well be the youngest rider again, I had this honor in 1982, thought it would be funny if that were to occur again, it was not to be, the youngest male rider this year was 38. Oh well... But then they announced the rider that travelled the furthest to participate in the event.... They called out my name!! Too cool. They presented me with a plaque and congratulated me. Then the announcer went on to talk about the fact that this was my second Three Flags Classic, and that my first was 30 years ago.. the crowd applauded. It was very cool, they all thought it was a great story. The oragnzers asked that I consider doing another, just not wait another 30 years.

It was really nice to be recognized on a couple of different levels, it certainly was unexpected. It made me feel very good, and it certainly added to the sense of accomplishment.

So then it was off to bed, I had made plans to ride up and around Trout Lake with one of the guys I had met on the ride, and he thought it would be pretty cool. So I packed and got ready for a somewhat early departure.

Got up, loaded Vanessa, and went to push the start button to get Vanessa warming up, nothing, nada... seems as though Vanessa was demanding some attention... So we boosted Vanessa, she started right up. The voltmeter showed it was charging, so the thought was to stop up the block have breakfast and let her charge up. nope, as soon as I got on after breakfast... she died, battery stone dead. I am typing this in the Shell station parking lot across from the restaraunt waiting for Mark to bring back a Battery from the local Yamaha Dealer. Lets hope that it was just a dead battery and not the charging system....

More in a bit.... to be continued.

So, Mark brings back the exact replacement battery, and it gets installed in 3.5 min... Vanessa fires right up, re-energized so to speak (laughing at the pun) and the good news, the Voltmeter I had installed shows that she is charging... WooFreakinHooo.

Repacked and underway, I cannot thank Mark enough for going out of his way to help, oh sure he tells me it was tough drinking the free coffee and lounging in the service department, but sometimes you must do these things:). We altered our plans to delete the ride around Trout Lake, and just do the Kaslo-New Denver road again and then up to Revelstoke. We started pushing rain in Nakusp, and kthe skies were dark...

I put everything warm and "waterproof" on while riding the ferry up to Shelter Bay it was now 3pm by my watch, Lola tells me it's going to be 10:30 pm by the time I get to Rocky Mountain House... well ok... push on... then the skies really opened up and decided to get Vanessa and I wet.... I passed a 4 some on BMW's who were riding probably a more sane speed over the pass. The road is in the worst condition I have ever seen it, and infact there were sections that could very easily cause a motorcyclist to loose control.

It's still freakin raining, I am having a real delemia, I'm cold, I've got no drive, I am exhausted and it's getting close to 5pm and the skies are not letting up. I cave.... pulled into Golden, find the Best Western and get a room... It will be a long day tomorrow, very cold in the morning, but the forecast appears to improve.

The day overall was a roller coaster, Up when Mark and I planned to ride the Trout Lake road, down when Vanessa had a dead battery, up when we got her boosted, little bit higher when we had breakfast (best Eggs Bennys ever), big down when Vanessa died and the battery was not charging, up when mark called to say the dealership had a battery, down when we decided not to ride Trout Lake, down when it started to rain...... down, down, down.......

Checked in to the hotel, got somewhat dried out, and decided to find a good place for supper... Things are looking up, the Fire Pit BBQ across the street looks promising... Nice atmosphere, lots of things BBQ'd the server suggests the combo platter... done...

A group of four sits down beside me after a bit, they look like riders (you can just tell :) ) turns out the were the foursome on the BMW's, cool. we strike up a conversation, share some tales, a great way to finish the day... Garth and the rest of the group, it was great to meet you and share some stories... safe journey home..

Well that's it for me today, I have to get the riding gear dried out a bit... and turn in. Thanks for reading. Safe journies to all my two wheeled riding friends....


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The finish line....

OK, it's actually the day after the finish line but, I was tired.

The morning started out at 0630 hrs with a less than stellar breakfast in the hotel lobby, no waffles!! So I then took my time loading Vanessa, it was about 7C and I could see my breath. So if I packed slow it might warm up before we got going. Not so much. But the riding gear helps and it was not foggy out so everything stayed pretty much dry.

I proceeded North out of Missoula, MT on some very nice, slightly twisty typical Montana roads. The scenery was also typical Montana, if you have been there, you know exactally what I am talking about. I followed the Flathead river for quite a bit of the way. The time did seem to be flying by and at each intersection it seemed like the US/Canada border was getting closer. I looked as though with this pace I might be at the border at about noon. (ahead of schedule!!)

My concern was that the later in the day that I got to the Kootney Bay Ferry, north of Creston, the possibility of not finishing was higher because of the long weekend traffic delays, might delay the finish time of arrival.

Anyway, at this rate I had no worries, but there was in the back of my head the fear of mechanical failure or rider error causing damage to the bike. So I took it very easy on Vanessa and we in turn took it very easy on the very twisty road. We just enjoyed the sunshine, the road, and the fact that this rally was coming to an end.

The more that I started to think about the end of the rally, the sense of completion started to build inside of me. And an incredible sense of satisfaction, I set out to do something and I had.... well not yet!!

I was really enjoying the road, watching for any problems, getting closer to the ferry, I really started to worry... I feared that I was being over cautious now and that might screw something up. Finally the ferry sign makes it's appearance and I am in line waiting for the ferry. Only about 35 KM left after the ferry.

I found a couple of other TFC riders and they were setting a good pace for the last bit into Nelson, Excellent.

All oof the sudden we are turning into the Hotel parking lot, Holy Crap, I/We have done it,, we have finished the 2012 Three Flags Classic. I sort of go into a bit of shock, I'm trying to find a parking stall, trying to figure where the entrance to the hotel is, trying to remember to take the passport in.... Just hurry up Carl... get it done, all you need is the stamp in the passport and it's official...

As I am making my way to the entrance of the hotel, I see a familiar face, It's Doug. Doug was one of the three in our little group that did the TFC in 1982. He had said he would try to be at the finish, but I had not heard from him confirming, so I was not expecting hime. What a great sight. It meant alot to me that he had made the effort to be there. Doug has not changed, for those that know him, he is still the same Doug.. Outgoing, friendly and can and will talk to anyone. He had already found and met people while waiting for me. He had the place scoped out and walked me to the check in room. Very cool.


I find the check in room, get my passport stamped, get my completion package and I am standing outside the hall, it hits me.... it's over, all that riding, all the experiences, all the sights, over.... and short of Doug (which again was really cool) no fan fare, no bells... it's just over... I am kind of sad.... Happy, very happy that I have accomplished this but sort of sad that it is over...

Doug and I have an opportunity to catch up for a bit, I need to check into my hotel down the street, we agree to meet there. I need to get out of my hot riding clothes and get some lunch/supper. We decide on a place down town, I have been there before (Doug did not know this when he picked it) It's the same bar that the movie Roxanne was filmed in. (Frank Juhasz and I had been there in 1985 just days after they finished filming the movie.

Back to the hotel, call the lovely Marilyn. And fall asleep.

Some personal thoughts...

i am finished the 2012 TFC rally...

Vanessa and I had a great trip, we still have to get home, but she did it, she did not let me down, she demanded some attention every once and awhile, but together we did it. Thank you Vanessa.

Marilyn asked if I was happy, happy that I did it, absolutely. Happy that it is over... still working on that. Happy to have gained some more memories, without a doubt.

Did I enjoy myself, yes I did, there were times, when my butt was sore and my muscles complaining that no one should have to sit on a motorcycle for that many miles/hours, but weighed against the satisfaction... I enjoyed myself.

I met new friends whom I shared an experience with, that's extremely satisfying and brings about a sense of belonging, we did it, we rode the same ride... we did it.

So, does this end??? nope... I still have to tell you about the ride we did today, and the Banquet... really cool stuff there.... I almost cried... not really...but I had a moment....

Stay tuned stalkers, same bat time, same bat channel.... Your going to like the next installment.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Rally Day#3 Wisdom here I come...!

Ok, the pun is the fact that the third checkpoint was in Wisdom, Montana...

Got up at 0630 because I had ridden about an hour extra yesterday, I my thought was get up, ride for about an hour and have breakfast in some small town along the way...

If I thought yesterday was cold in the morning, I failed to factor in that we were traveling through the Teton's... Fog and freezing dew on the motorcycle windshield... Now here's the weird thing, apparently in the US vehicles are not equipped with Day time running lights... and the idiots down here seem adverse to using the headlights... one person ever suggested that they were saving gas by not having the lights on...Really!!!

Anyway, I driving along, stopping when my fingers are past the point of shear pain...warming them up, then continuing on... This happened about 3 times and I spy a small diner in the middle of nowhere. Excellent, a couple of other bikes there.. conversation and food... and warmth...

I go in and order, the waitress asks if I can move as there is a large group coming in, I join a couple of older guys also riding the TFC. We chat, they get their food, they finish their food... they get up and say good bye, they pay, I'm still waiting... 40 minutes... for 2 eggs over easy, with toast and bacon... come on...

I decide I don't need this breakfast that bad, get up, put my jacket on, walk up to the till, give the waitress $5 and say that should cover the tea. She looks at me and says, do you have your bill?, I say, I did not get a bill because the food I ordered never arrived at the table... there are 8 people seated for breakfast.... I walk out the door, she runs after me apologizing and wants to return the $5. Nope I said... I enjoyed the tea... Got on the bike and rode away...

It was cold and foggy for most of the morning, it cleared as I drove through Jackson, WY. Brother Mark and I were here on a Ski bus tour many years ago... I am pretty sure they don't remember us anymore!!!

I made the turn to ride up the Teton pass, wow... it's very beautiful, but lots of traffic (holiday weekend and too many granola crunchin, mountain bikin people) Took some photos and made my way down the other side to Driggs.

Small town, infact almost a 2 horse town :), Got fuel for Vanessa, and a water and Pop Tarts !!!! woo hooo

continued on into Idaho, just missing Yellowstone (good thing, traffic was insane) and then getting into Montana... lots of small towns, buys maps of each state to figure out if I am going the right way, now that Lola has decided to be somewhat of a ... (sounds like itch!!) (remember Lola is the GPS)

the sales clerks in these small towns must have quite the story when I leave... I assume it goes like this.. So there was this guy who came in in all this motorcycle gear (no helmets required in most of these states) and asks for a map, then he asks what state he is in... then what town... really!! how did he get here???

So armed with a map or two, and the trip notes I am off... trying to make time.... it is an elusive thing... and seems harder every town and every intersection. I am riding, thinking about which way to go, thinking about life (I like to do this) and looking at all the werid things people have in the farm yards... and livestock... I crest this hill and the road makes a sharp left, I look to the right and see something tha does not seem quite right.. it's a cow, but it's long like a stretched limo, but with six legs... back to looking at the road and not crashing, got to get one more look at the cow... ahhhh!!! now the angles have changed, it was 2 cows, standing a bit staggered... gave the illusion of a stretched, six legged cow.... still weird and kinda cool.

By now I am starving, with only a couple of Pop Tarts and some water... and it's now 4 in the afternoon... and there is about 80miles to the checkpoint it's time to get food... the Golden Arches.... Food goes in, fast and even had a ice cream cone... back on the road... thought this section was going to drag on forever, but perhaps it was the anticipation... got to check point #3 in Wisdom at approximately 5:00 pm. The sky was so smoke filled, must be the fires burning in Idaho... Passport Stamped... on the final leg.

Looked at a mmap to seem my options for where to sleep for the evening, 120 miles to Missoula, MT hmmm I can bee there in a couple of hours, they'll have lots of hotel rooms... Missoula it is.. Super 8 with a Pizza Hut accross the parking lot.. done...

Changed out of the riding gear, walked over and ordered, started typing this blog and a couple of fellow TFC riders come in, I invite them to join me (cause you all know I am so shy and not out going at all!!) We had a great conversation, both about the ride and other things in life... Sad thing is that they decided that this was as far as they were going. They had been on the road for 2 weeks prior and now were within 600 miles of being home... but hey, they made the decision, the decision was not made for them and that's cool in my book. Cool guys, lots of laughs, hope to cross paths again.

Tomorrow will be another early start for me, I hope it's warmer in the morning than it has been for the past few days... I will have to decide if I am going to chance taking the ferry on a long weekend, cause if the line up is long.. you still have to wait... and I want to make sure I finish. So I may just do the Creston-Salmo and then up to Nelson. I have ridden Highway #3A many times... If time permits I may even try to catch my old friend Wendell in Creston.

I am also really hoping another old friend and one of my fellow riders from the Three Flags Classic that we did in 1982 is going to be in Nelson at the finish. It would be really cool.

Well stalkers, it's almost midnight and I have to get up early tomorrow.... tune in tomorrow...same bat time, same bat channel.

Grand Tetons

Checkpoint #3 in Wisdom
Smokey and hazy

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Rally Day#2

Up at 0600, to pack and partake of the "included continental breakfast".. It was very cold packing Vanessa, in fact my hands were freezing. I had already pulled out the heavy riding jacket and liner, sweat pants underneath the riding pants.... but I did not pack any cold weather gloves... I do have heated grips..

According to the Hotel Hostess it was 40F which would be about 5C... Brrrrrrrrr

Off and running, I did not take the suggested route through Aspen, based on some recommendations about traffic and the long weekend. So I found myself almost alone on Highway 24 up to Avon, Colorado. It was great,, freakin cold and I mean cold. Had to stop several times to try and warm my fingers up. Lesson learned... always take warm gloves.

This detour mean that I got to ride part of the interstate, which has to be one of the coolest interstates I have ever been on. Two tiered and one of the longest tunnels I have driven through. Really cool.

When I turned North, I found a small gas station and went in, I said been lots of bikes through today? She said, well some late yesterday, and a bunch early this morning, but none for quite awhile.... oh no I thought... how far behind am I?

So I pick up the pace, ask Vanessa nicely to stretch her legs a bit and make some miles.

I caught up with a guy I had met (Mark riding a BMW GS1200R) while in El Paso, he had stopped to take some photo's and I stopped to check the map... we started to ride together until the check point.

Caught some rain about 15 min prior to the check point, and not just the light sprinkle we always hope for, but full fledged, get everything wet kind of rain... I think I got parts of me wet that don't ever get wet in the tub.... just kidding.

Made it to the check point by about 3:30 pm, pretty happy with that... I checked the list of checked in riders and it looks as though I am mid pack... again, pretty happy with that.

I grabbed a burger, I had not eaten since breakfast... it tasted pretty good, or maybe it was because I was hungary... :)

I looked at my watch, 4:40pm I am beat, but there is still daylight and it looks as though the rain clouds are blowing to the east... maybe... sure lets try it.. about 80 miles to the next town.

I was literally riding between the rain clouds, I could see them ahead of me and by the time I got to that area they had blown further east. Great luck...

When I reached Big Piney, WY I decided not to push my luck any further... got a room at the Big Piney Motel and met up with 5 other TFC riders, we shot the shit and then I joined them for supper. Cool bunch of retired guys... If this is what retirement looks like... I need to retire soon...

Some photos...

Vanessa looking good at the look out..


Tomorrow... Wisdom, MT for check point #3


Friday, August 31, 2012

Rally Day #1

0200 up with a start, I had set two alarm clocks "just in case"..

Packed the bags on the bike, it was 23C at 2 in the morning. I glad we started at 3. Went over to the host hotel, met up with the other 225 riders, handed in my "start card" and found a couple of riding buddies to start with.

I had met Bill (Kelowna) and Bob (Langley) when I arrived at the hotel in El Paso. Nice guys, both retired, they've done this ride together several times. So I kind of latched on to them, asked if they minded if I tagged along for a bit.

Most of the riders lit out of the hotel parking lot like they were on fire. Our threesome had a little more subdued pace, which was good for me.

We travelled for a few hours and stopped in some small town for breakfast/bathroom break... back on the road. We were travelling at about 10 mph over what ever the posted limit was. I started to feel the effect of a breakfast and waking up way too early... started yawning...alot...

Turned on some good riding tunes, and thought about new ways to stay awake, it worked... we stopped for fuel and we noticed that Bill's rear tire on his Goldwing was almost flat... we put some air in and rode 15 miles to the next town... the pressure had decreased by 4 psi.. not good. So bill put in some run flat tire sealant. About 5 miles down the Bill was pulled over on the side of the road, tire completely flat.

I had a spare valve stem and a 12V compressor. Neither helped. Bill called for a tow truck and they bothh looked at me and said you might as well continue on. Made sense to me, kinda hate leaving someone on the side of the road but his buddy Bob was going to be there and a tow truck was already dispatched. I hope the repair went well and that they made the check point.

So now I am alone, traveling north with Lola guiding me towards the check point... then Lola decides to not work with the 12V plug in... thus it is not charging and the battery is now dead... oh crap... Lola is important to me for 2 reasons, first as a GPS with a route saved in it telling me where to go, second as a speedometer indicating actual MPH instead of my less than accurate KPH. crap....

So I leached onto another group and they got me part way through Santa Fe, until I saw a McDonalds.. I needed something and could try and fix the power supply in the parking lot... food ok, repair... not so much.

So here I am pretty much flying blind, I have a general idea which way to go, the crib notes that they gave us indicates the intersection, but nothing about the town....

Time to try and fix the plug in again... Gorilla tape to the rescue.... we are back up!! Go Lola go!!

Please remember that the GPS is named Lola...

I am riding alone across the northren part of New Mexico it's pretty desolate but I can keep the speed above the suggested limit for most of the time.

The towns all start to run together, get fuel, get a water, get back on the road.

Finall make it to the first checkpoint... Woohooo!! They had some tents set up to stamping the passport and snacks and beverages.. nice job guys.

Some riders booked a night in Buena Vista, but most pushed on.

I pushed on a bit, got to Leadville, saw a hotel with a vacancy, it was starting to rain.... I'm done..

Grabbed some pizza at Pizzahut accross the street, typed uup the blog, and now I am ready for some sleep...

It was a great day, I am 1/4 done, I am confident.. and Vanessa seems to be enjoying the ride as well.

The Start.. yes my eyes were blurry
Dawn, in New Mexico

This guy keeps following me
Route 285 into Check point #1

Checkpoint #1