It was a 1984 Interstate Gold Wing 1200, they only made them from 84-85 stocky like a bull dog and relentless like a mule, more brawn then beauty. With little bits of baling twine holding down an encased and well worn tool kit, rivets binding the windshield back together and a practical yet unattractive bit of chicken wire moulded to the shape of a tin can of Planters Peanuts.
This is how I remember it…
This bike had been ridden across most of America, thorough sleet, snow & summer storm. It had be laid down and picked up, run over and put back together, not all that much different then it’s driver.
My Grandfather has ridden motorbikes across most of North American, and a number of these trips ending in a trip to the hospital for repair. Man and machine were a reflection of each other, …laid down, put back together and relentless like a mule.
Somehow this is my inspiration to risk life and limb on a motorbike, to see the world from another angle, just like my grandfather.
It takes me exactly two years from the date of getting my bike licence to actually buying a bike. Typically I give these types of decisions zero thought and just ask where to sign. The kick in the ass on this one was my biking buddy Andrew. One nice hot summer day in June I’m day dreaming about an adventure, this happens a lot of afternoons in my world. So I send Andrew a message asking if he’d be interested in doing “A road trip to the coast”. Andrew, having asked for two years why I still don’t own a bike replies with an encouraging “Hell Yes, all the way from here to the Vancouver coast!”.
I get back to him that “I was thinking Baja coast!”, being the ambitious day dreamer that I am. Andrew being the sensible guy that he is points out that 1: I’ve never actually ridden a bike on any type of highway and 2: I do not actually own a bike.
Minor set backs…
Alright, so I go online the next day looking for a Kawasaki Versys. I test drove one earlier this year and decide this is the bike for me. Low and behold I find the exact bike I want at a great deal, just seven hours away. I pay the guy online, have a friend pick it up and bam, I’m the proud new owner of a 2010 Kawasaki Versys 650.
Seven days later we are officially on a road trip. This makes me extremely happy and scared to death!
The plan: to ride from Red Deer through Banff to Fairmont British Columbia then down to Sandpoint Idaho and back up again in ten days. Just in time for some Kiwi friends, New Zealand Hangi Party.
The first stop being my Mums house to 1: worry her to pieces and ensure she does not sleep for the next ten nights and 2: have my 85 year old grandpa look everything over for approval.
Not having time to organise the proper mounting gear and hard luggage, cost $1200, has my ingenuity stop at Canadian Tire to get two rear tire pedal bike carriers that Andrew & I then bend to fit where normal mounting gear would go, cost $17 each. Then to Home Depot to get one 12” mounting bracket two nuts and two bolts, cost $5.65. Then to the local outdoor shop to buy two 42L North Face Base Camp waterproof bags in the brightest bug guts green you’ve ever seen, on sale $105 each. Total cost $249.65 nearly a $1000 savings, enough to pay for the trip.
I’m not sure if it was the series of straps holding the gear onto my mousetrap looking mounting gear, my road trip style bike, or just the look of excitement mixed with lack of planning. Thou after a series of slow inspection pokes from my Grandpas cane, he gave a tip of his cowboy hat and said it “looked good”.
To my Grandpas grin and Muthers dismay, we rumbled off down the gravel…
On this trip I covered the following “Firsts on a motorbike”.
First time riding on a highway with more then two lanes, first time riding in the mountains, first time riding up then skidding down a dirt road on a mountain, first time tying a case of beer to the back of a bike with a towel (clearly on holidays), first time riding in the USA, this leading to the first time riding with no helmet on, first time riding home at 2am in the dark, first time riding home at 2am through 30kms of fog so thick pirates would have turned back, (used one hand to wipe my face shield and the other to drive), first time coming out of night time fog only to see a deer staring at me (seriously I coulda done without that one), and first time going through bumper to bumper traffic at 100kms an hour only to learn there is a 8ft friggin aluminium ladder lying in the middle of the hwy, holy shit balls that was some quick manoeuvring!
Fairmount lead us to a two night stay with friends in a nice rental house right off the driving range of a swank golf course where we all drank wine and heckled armature golfers in expensive new golf pro clothes. Oddly enough, not one person in our house of hecklers golfed…
A few days of fresh cherries, good company and a day of being made fun of by kids and adults at the Hot Springs. Apparently my diving board cannon ball with wings entry wasn’t the gold standard for splash entrances :) .
Next stop Sandpoint. After crossing the boarder without being searched for fruit, guns or drugs, the first question Andrew asks me is if there are helmets or no helmets in Idaho? Hell if I know, three days ago I was honking the horn when I was supposed to be pushing the start button, should I really know if I can ride with no helmet???
First two bikers we pass in the nearest small town have no helmets on and the next two do. We decide to leave ours in place until consulting the internet. Internet says, no helmets and we proceed to think this is a much more enjoyable way to ride in 42oC heat then with those silly helmets they make you wear in Canada. Really in the war on terrorism and ensuring a right to bear arms (who updates rights in 200years?), there certainly isn’t going to be anyone forcing there crazy helmet rules on us that’s for sure.
First stop is the most American looking pub one could find in the sticks. A sort of pine barn look to it,The Wild Horse Mercantile was half gift shop, half wild west saloon with hitching rails and one old gas pump out front. Our timing landed us their on a Monday, only day the pub is closed. We drink juice on the patio while I smoke American cigars.
A lot of quizzing clerks at gas stations about how to get to the RV park at Sandpoint and we find my camping family. My brother, wife and two high energy, low attention span children all rolled in the day before and are still setting up camp for the month. My brother and his wife are both well educated, super keener school teachers. So they have two months off and ten months to run the numbers on the best overall way to spend the summer. The numbers came back at them with the largest old skool Winnebago ever made in 1980 something or other, a much newer borrowed boat from my Mum and there really cool minivan. They are set up in a sort of makeshift parking lot / rv park outside of the Best Western at 56 Bridge Street, Sandpoint, right on the water, full use of the hotel it’s pool etc. The gas, camping and food all worked out to be cheaper then a month at home and the scenery priceless, well done keeners, well done.
Andrew and I find a nice nook in the shade and set up our tent for the week. Sandpoint is beautiful, it has a ski hill that turns into a mountain bike paradise in the summer. Lake Pend Oreille is huge, 111 miles of shoreline, longest in the USA, a cute little downtown like you would see in The Great Outdoors movie, complete with yoga studio, farmers markets and little boutique shops. The sort of shops that sell battery operated single egg beaters with the words `Get crackin` etched on the side and heavily flowered sun dresses you’d never wear at home, thou they seem fitting with your flopsy sun hat & over sized beach bag while on vacation.
Thou cute, we did manage to awake on day two to find that someone had been rifling through the boat and taken the one and only key for the thing. Now over active imaginations lead the mothers of small children to think that everything they own will be stolen and the campers near the boat gates who do not say hello are responsible for it. No one stops to think they might not speak English or want to make new friends; nope these people who don’t speak back are the ones. I hear the echoing of Salem witch trials in the near distance.
For $19 and several return trips to the hardwear store my brother and Andrew re-key the boat and all is well again.
This leads to one of Andrews firsts, I believe first time in a ski boat followed by first time wake boarding. He looks a bit like goofy on a flutter board, though a few cracks at it, a face or two full of water and that kid is catching bugs in his ear to ear grin. All of our efforts are quickly outdone by a kid whom just turned eight.
I spend the morning with my nephew explaining how to get up on the wake board and letting him know how tricky it is and that it took me a lot of attempts over a few days to get up. This all goes out the door when on attempt #2 he is riding the board like Kelly Slater and by attempt #4 I ask his Muther if he was riding the other way before, at which point he too notices he’s now riding the opposite of before and quickly does a 180o turn to get back to normal. Again well outdone by a kid who was seven just 24hrs ago…
We tour the town, ski hill and lake side. Stopping for lunch some 15miles down the coast at Bottle Bay Restaurant for a waterside lunch of Salmon Tacos, made with huge rectangular chunks of seared Atlantic salmon, shaved cabbage, salsa, cilantro, guacamole and a homemade taco sauce, all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. It might have been the Laughing Dog Microbrew IPAs, the 42oC heat, waterfront eatery, or countless bikinis on the water, thou I’d say those were some of the best damn tacos I’d hade outside of Acapulco.
We opted to stay and extra day and ride the whole god damn way back instead of a night in Montana, again inspiration from my grandfather the mule. Last stop for fuel is an hour from home and I had finally settled down from almost becoming road kill from the 8ft friggin aluminium ladder lying across the hwy in Calgary. Of which I managed to only catch a leg of, that I promptly through into Andrews grill. I return a missed call I don’t recognize while fuelling up, it was from the most random of random friends I have and see yearly. We go for 5hr dinner in Calgary and this leads me to the night time / fog so thick pirates would have turned back / deer waiting for me on the other side ride home freezing my ass off. I make it back and promptly sleep for 13 hours, Andrew is sold on the Mexico bike trip and the family banks memories that will last a lifetime.
If you had to lose your bike virginity to any ho, I’d recommend Idaho. No shirt, no shoes, no helmet, no problem…
Looking for some more inspiration?
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