Adventures In The Great White North | The Family Road

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Shasta Willson

Money or not, it was Smalldaughter’s turn for an adventure. Wordlessly, Pretty Wife threw down the gauntlet.

It looked suspiciously like a Coleman tent.

Two days later we were idling on our bikes, lined up for the Lynden border crossing. At Vancouver BMW-Ducati, the estimable Kelly Anderson swapped in my dirty black Beemer for a starched-white Ducati Multistrada with pre-scuffed panniers. We trimmed it like a Christmas tree with pots, pans and Therm-A-Rest pads. Across the two Givi steamer crates on her Tweety-yellow BMW F650GS, Pretty Wife carried surplus army luggage holding one entire campsite.

“That’s a fat old bag you got there,” Kelly observed.

Pretty Wife patted the L-E-W-I-S stencil on her badonka duffel: “Had his brand on it for years.”

The Trans-Canada bore us north out of Vancouver, across Lion’s Gate Bridge to where Sea to Sky Highway abuts the Strait of Georgia. Nicknamed “Ski and Die,” on a sunny day it formed first a perfect overlook for deep-blue saltwater; later for the curiously turquoise alpine lakes twinkling roadside as we climbed into the hills shadowing Squamish.

Even on the competent Ducati, “Speed to Fly” curves were best schussed at a reasonable clip. Wood-planked bridge decks frequently dumped into 90-degree curves backstopped by sheer rock faces. Also, the dark critter we saw scampering over the road wasn’t a big dog.

It was a small bear.

’Tis as pretty a road as exists, however. I’d always considered Americans who waxed orgasmic over British Columbia’s “super natural” scenery as fey apologists for southern border-huddled socialists, but B.C. is all that and a hardtack biscuit, more Oregon-like than even Idaho and far more worth possessing than any Middle Eastern spider hole.

Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!

Past Pemberton, the 99 transitioned to Duffy Lake Road, serving up sweepers and provincial parks aplenty en route to Lillooet, where we made first camp. Our only specific indulgence for this trip, a Dragonfly stove from Mountain Safety Research that burns anything from nitromethane to rancid suet, whistled cheerfully as we boiled up a bag of pirogues. On premium unleaded, the tiny stove boiled water faster than our kitchen range. If we ever finally conquer one of those pesky Middle Eastern countries, I’m converting the whole house to run on 91 RON.

That night Pretty Wife and I sat up, listening to the Fraser Valley moan in its sleep.

“That’s quite a wind,” she said.

“Train, I think.”

We woke up the next morning to a freight train rumbling across the river—and our stuff blown all over the campground.

After innumerable re-crossings of Cache Creek, we rejoined the Trans-Canada to ease into Kamloops. The big Multi proved a happy traveler, combining a Wee-Strom’s neutral ergonomics with 50 percent more vibration, twice the handling and 3.5 times the horsepower.

’Ware ye well that speed enforcement outside Vancouver (one of the few Canadian cities with an autonomous police force) is performed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police with rigor ranging from casual laxity to “ruin your day,” eh?

Since September 2010, “excessive speed” of 40 kph over the limit earns you a vacation-despoiling, mandatory 7-day impound. For Yankee reference, 40 kph over the 100-kph open-highway speed approximates 85 mph in a 60 zone—or about a millimeter’s rotation of the Mighty Duck’s addictive throttle.

Be careful up there.

Undistinguished but friendly, Kamloops widens the road with the province’s steepest ratio of strip malls to population. Verging toward the interior, tentative “oots” and “ehs” gave way to a fully Scotch-inflected brogue, as distinct from coastal Canadian as Bostonian is from the peached tones of Georgia debs.

Every time we hit a peeled road section, Pretty Wife’s mini-freighter left us for dead. Like so many formidable streetbikes, the Multi can be off-roaded if you’re sufficiently demented. On-highway, its front end arcs with Lasik precision. Off-road, it steers like a universal caster on the end of a pogo stick.

It was not Smalldaughter’s problem. She was on a motorcycle trip, which was most of what mattered, and the Multi pillows a pillion better than my irascible semi-sport. She also liked the look, bizarrely microcephalic front wheel or no.

“It’s cute,” she pronounced, “with its beak thing.”

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Note to the caption writer: That is a bull elk, not a moose.
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