Adventures In The Great White North | The Family Road

By Jack Lewis, Photography by Shasta Willson

“Nah,” I shrugged, “I’ll fill it this afternoon.”

At #3 among the top-100 North American destinations, Icefields Parkway ranks as the most overrated motorcycle road in the world. While it features approximately 23 miles of astonishing geography, the road itself is engineered for giant-slaloming RVs, not the overlord Multistrada. Quadrupling suggested cornering limits two-up with full bags without grazing a peg made me feel like the biggest, baddest bull elk that ever bugled.

We made for Radium Hot Springs, southwest of Banff. Between Lake Louise and Castle Junction, the 93 joined our old friend the Trans-Canada and our 90-kph road of gentle sweepers segued into a deadly boring, bowstring-straight 70-kph suburban street. Loud pipes save lives on the Trans-Can: They keep you awake!

Hot springs aren’t exactly refreshing at 35 degrees C. We ground on through the swelter to Wasa Lake Provincial Park before falling into the cool waters of the warmest lake in B.C.

Cranbrook offered a grimy jolt of pseudo-civilization, 6 lbs. of sodium-lit border town in a 4-lb. bag, but it quickly faded into the vast, vibrating blind spot of the Ducati’s mirrors. Along Crow’s Nest Highway we soaked up scenery equivalent to any world-class way from Lolo Pass to Passo dello Stelvio. When the Nest dropped into a bottomland of moose swamps and fruit orchards, we broke to canoe across the Creston Valley Wildlife Area.

Some families vacation with tour buses and cruise ships. We’re a motorcycling and canoeing family, I reckon.

In terms of charm, Creston is everything Cranbrook ain’t. Farmland ran right to the edge of a townful of pleasant restaurants and wineries, Columbia Brewery dispatched kegs of Kokanee Gold across the Canadian West, and we couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a fruit stand, coffee shop or state-endorsed artisanal outlet.

At Christina Lake, we pitched our defiant little Coleman amongst a fleet of mortgaged aluminum spacecraft. Our most expensive overnight at $32.50 plus a “Loonie” (metal dollar) for each shower, it at least offered a tiny swimming pool, clean flush toilets and water on the pad.

Sleep came hard when a nearby pavilion elected to party loudly until 0230. Breaking camp just after sunrise, I never felt less guilty about the Duc’s authoritative morning crack-a-boom. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man wheelie through the campground.

Twice.

There’s very little better than riding west with early sun on your back. Dripping hot by the time we rattled down the Penticton grade toward Lake Osoyoos like motorized pachinko balls, we gassed again and climbed into the Okanagon with a will.

We were nearly done. In seven 270-mile days, Smalldaughter had never once complained about jumping back on my bike to bore through cold mornings and hot afternoons. She didn’t stint at sleeping on the ground or eating lumpy grub out of a tin pot. Put a pea under this princess’ mattress and she won’t wake up puling about it. She’ll find out who put it there and strain his peas for him.

Remounted on my own bike, I diverted into Bellingham to play ditch-‘n’-chase southbound along Chuckanut Drive, which ranks high on any sane list of the 100 best places to ride.

“Where do you want to go next year?” I asked Smalldaughter at a sunny pullout overlooking Samish Bay, closing my eyes and muttering “khamsa fi ainek” against the evil eye of Mickey Mouse.

“Glacier National Park,” she said, “on moto-psychos!”

That’s my little cheapling. Gasoline for two bikes over 1900 miles at Canadian socialism rates: $412. MSR Dragonfly stove (and emergency fuel supply): $139. Commercial clothes-washer for filthy sleeping bags: $6. Recycled bungee cords and old rope: fully amortized.

Camping memories to last a lifetime? You do the math. MC

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Piglet2010
Note to the caption writer: That is a bull elk, not a moose.
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