Dan's big motorcycle trip, July-August 2003

On the day before my 40th birthday, as a celebration of that and being between jobs (thank you, Dalhousie!) I climbed on my Honda Pacific Coast and headed west for a road trip. The plan was to meet Norval in Regina and for us to go to his cousin Drew's wedding in Moose Jaw. I thought I might not enjoy driving much, so I had plans to crate up the motorcycle, ship it home, and take the train home.

But when I got to Regina, I decided that driving only 3/4 of the way across the country was a pretty lame thing to do. Plus, my brother Gary had reminded me that this was 25 years after he and I did a trip west from Calgary. Plus, my buddy Larry had invited me to Vancover since he had August off.

I arrived home one month and 15,000km later. On the map above (thanks MapQuest!) each segment and arrow represents one day's drive.

You can click on any thumbnail to get into the slideshow.

The trip started at the moment that Pride Parade 2003 ended; I headed towards Yarmouth to catch the ferry to Bar Harbour. On the way, I stopped in Barrington where I grew up. This is Aunt Mamie and Aunt Tessa's house in Coffinscroft. Mamie and Tessa ... hmmm... lived in books. Visiting them in their book summer home put me in contact with a wonderful world of literature.

Where I lived in Barrington Passage until I was 10.

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Not much has changed! You can see that they still get milk delivery. When I lived there there was a tall box to the right of the door for the milkman to put the bottles in.

My 40th birthday!! Crossing the mighty Connecticut River, near Brattleboro, VT.

a few minutes later waaaaay up in the Green Mountains, on Hogback Mountain. Then I doubled back and joined Phil and Mike's bro at the swimmin' hole, then went back to their place for a wonderful birthday supper and to stay overnight. Thanks guys!

Next day I had beautiful weather until about Buffalo, NY, then drove in light rain most of the way until Ohio, where it cleared up. Then I stopped for the day in Clevaland and got pounded by the heaviest rain I've ever experienced.

I stayed at the Club Bath Cleveland that night - about 25$US.


July 22nd. Interesting rock formation outside Camp Douglas, Ill. This day and the next would be the longest two on the trip - 1300km each.

And west of Chicago, I hit .. prairie! The land of the living sky!

I stayed overnight at a Motel 6 just N of Minneapolis/St Paul.


My breakfast the next, a couple of hours northwest, a couple of hours after dawn, in Tower City N Dakota (pop. 293) was glazed, uncooked highbush blueberries in a pie shell. Breakfast was just one of these, silly.

A Cavendish Farms processing plant - in North Dakota!

That day, I made it to the Plains Hotel in Regina just a half hour after Norval had checked in. The trip so far: 4600km of ride in 4 days.


I needed some pampering (and a haircut to get ready for the wedding) at Norval's SIL Elaine's. Sometimes you just need to look pretty.

For this pic, Elaine closed the salon door.


July 25th, the day before the Big Event, the day before Big Cop Drew and Julie tied the knot. Yes - the day before. The reception was held before the wedding, also at Buffalo Pound Lake.

Drew's dau Jocelyn and her great-Aunt Penny Waldo.

Inimitable matriarch Aunt Liz

and her No. 1 kid, Brent. Co-host with Randi for the wedding.

Aha, the day of the wedding itself! We're dressed to kill.

Randi's catering was impeccable, of course. I sampled all of it.

Aunt Penny was not to be outdone with matching dress and lawnchair.

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Tara was hell-bent on taking pictures, so after the wedding we took off to a rapeseed field, then to a farm.

An unwilling pic of Tara.

Thanks to Jim McSwain for his art form of doing a magic panorama in which someone can appear many times. You'll want to scroll sideways to see alls of mes.

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On the way back we stopped to take a picture of this slanted barn...

and discovered a field of peas which Norval and Tara tore into. So here is a picture of Norval and his cousin taking a pea together.

and then after that we got to relax, party and play at Brent and Randi's cottage.

Take it all off, Brent!

Boats on this lake are all winched up out of the water when not in use.


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Brent's cottage neighbour came over to give rides -- you can tell I was not having fun.

And then Brent gave us a ride in the "tube" which is really a triangle-shaped zodiac towed behind the speedboat. This is at the end when we are looking forward to recovering from it.

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Brent and Randi's cottage neighbour Cordell.

On the 29th, Norval headed east, and I west. At Swift Current I decided to reproduce Gary and my trip 25 years previously. So I headed north through Biggar, then west on the Yellow Head highway through Lloydminster.

I think Edmonton City Hall is really beautiful. There were kids and adults playing in the fountain.


One of the things Gary and I did was go for a laser show in the tiny Edmonton Planetarium.

Twenty five years later, it's been replaced by a giant science center with the largest planetarium in Canada inside. The old planetarium is used to store cleaning chemicals.


This is the Star Projector, before the very fun laser show for kids I attended.

The Muttart Conservatory, the view from the back of my hotel, across the Bow River. Very nice.

The front of my hotel. Not quite so nice.

The Mount Royal is on the nastier backside of Edmonton's Chinatown, near Jasper between 96th and 98th. However the very good Double Greeting Won Ton House is next door with some of the best ginger beef I had on the trip (I ate ginger beef almost every night.)

Later I went out to a local pub and did my first karaoke performance: Mac The Knife, the Ella Fitzgerald version. The audience at the Hub Hotel on Jasper did not get the joke and kept pointing out that the correct words were on the screen behind me.


The GPS says I'm precisely four thousand kilometers from home at 53°04'N and the sign says I'm at Pyramid Mount on the mighty Fraser River. My eyes are burning from driving through thick forest fire smoke all day. Some people were wearing wet hankies over their noses; visibility was rarely more than a hundred feet.

That night I stayed at the Connaught Inn in Prince George and went out with a bunch of BMW-driving doctors from California (on their way to Alaska) who took me to a surprisingly debauched stripper bar. It was surprising largely because it was Prince George.


Gary took this picture 25 years ago at Maligne Lake.

And a friendly German tourist took this one.

The time of year is exactly the same but there's no snow on the mountains.


There were lots of signs warning about animals on the roads.

They were right. These animals, and their vehicles, were a major hazard.


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After an extended and exciting race with the Via Canadian, I finally managed to get me, some scenery, the train, a camera with available memory stick space, all in the same place at the same time.

Some natives were fishing with nets at this very scenic falls.

That night I made it to Terrace! I had been planning to drive all the way to Prince Rupert but due to nasty cold rain I ended my day early.

Terrace was infested by fishermen.

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My Nishka buddy Henry.

Henry was lots of fun and didn't have too many teeth.

The Closet Queen in downtown Terrace.

As I was loading up the bike the next morning, Henry and Loretta showed up at my motel room!

And that day I did manage to make it to Prince Rupert, where I stayed with my cousin Val and her husband. Thanks guys! Val took me on a tour of downtown...

but did not accompany me into the newly-commissioned resort washroom with the TV screens over the urinals.

The ferry to Vancouver Island, 18 hours, left rediculously early the next morning - thanks Val for getting me reservations! We had to stop in Bella Bella to get a sick kid to the hospital there.

My buddies on the ferry were the music director of the Victoria public school system, and a guy who was hiking across Canada for $5 a day. Guess which is which.

"My" (thanks Norval!) trusty GPS was never far from my hand - here it is in the window so it can see the sky. I stayed at a B&B in Port Hardy that night; they are all set up to receive guests at ferry time, 11-12pm.


After a stunningly dull drive from Port Hardy to Campbell River, the scenery improved dramatically and I arrived at Jim and Pam's in very good spirits.

That evening we had a very fun meal with Holly, Eric and Sue on Jim and Pam's back deck.

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I did not fall off Jim's recumbent bike

and was on the road (here at Qualicum Beach) to Pacific Rim, not long after daybreak on August 8th.

The sign to the left says "Western Terminus of the Trans Canada,"

but really it goes down the boat ramp. My whole bike got christened in the Pacific when I hit algae while doing donuts on the ramp to entertain some hunky fishermen.

Twenty-five years ago, camping on Long Beach with a view of Lovekin Island to the right.

The same beach, the same shot, 25 years later. With fog.

The ride from Qualicum to Pacific Rim, I think, is the most beautiful and challenging road in the country.

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I got to the ferry in Nanaimo just in time. And met this friendly cub who was travelling with a hammock (and naan bread to share.)

All the bikes just before we docked at Horseshoe Bay. Cub and his bike are just past my bike.

I spent several days in Vancouver, staying with G/Larry. Thanks guys! One evening I visited my brother Michael. This is his place from the street. Confusingly the sign near the portal says "4300-4399". He's at 4348. So I drove in. It's a big parkade.

But upstairs, on top of the parkade, are some rather nice houses. And no cars.

My nephew Adam and his dad

and his sister Alusha and her hunky Russian boyfriend Sergei.

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I dropped by the next day, and drove Adam home, back downtown.

That night I put my Palm Pilot, which had been almost unusable since getting drenched in Cleveland, in G/Larry's food dehydrator. It worked! The Palm was as good as new the next morning.


Also that day, my last day in Vancouver, I met my 2nd cousin, once removed, Diana Cooper. She bought lunch at the Van Dusen Gardens. Thanks!

The next morning: East. This feels gooooood.

Revelstoke Dam on the mighty Columbia. Each of the four penstocks in use has a 500MW capacity. Total generating capacity of the mighty Columbia: 34GW. This is also the location for the second X-Men movie, "X-Men United." The tour is worth it.

GPS says that at exactly 4000km from home, at elevation 1071m, 51°15'N, is Glacier National Park.

That night I stayed at the YMCA in Banff: 25$ less 10% membership discount.

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And went to Banff Springs. Unfortunately the natural Springs, which I visited with my bro', 25 years ago, have been closed because they are habitat to a rare hyperthermic snail.

This is another composite, in case you didn't notice. The people on the left do one of three short plays every half hour. In this one, the guy is Tom Wilson, Scottish explorer, and the chick is a market researcher. The play in which they wore hyperthermic snail costumes was much more amusing.


Banff to S'toon on Aug. 11th. On the road at the crack of dawn as usual, air still smoky, GPS says 3860km from home. Temperature range for that day was 10°C when I left the Y at dawn, to 34°C. I had a delightful lunch with my cousin Eleanor in Calgary and then continued east. Stayed at the Stoon Steam Works, $20.

I got diverted in a good way and ended up on the road to Drumheller, where I visited the same agricultural museum that Gary and I had. Here I am at the badlands a quarter century ago,

and that day.

Crossing the mighty Assiniboine near the SK-MB border. For three hours I saw highway signs directing me to "Minnedosa."

It wasn't worth the wait.


The very nasty Woodbine Hotel in the 'peg. Recommendation: stay somewhere else. Anywhere else. It was not a deal at $18. Room temp was 34°C and there was a ladder to a hole in the ceiling instead of a window.

From the 'peg I headed south. Here I am at the 49th parallel. Every few minutes this cute li'l cop and his big dog would run up and down the line of traffic sniffin' for - who knows what?

The drive was made more interesting by Butch the Chippewa hitchhiker (I had packed a spare helmet.) I stayed at the Ashland Motel, overlooking Lake Superior for ... owww .... 58$US!!!


The drive from Duluth to Sault St Marie is more unimaginably dull than you can possibly imagine.
The view did not change from this for eight hours.

Well, there was this fork in the road during the 8 hours. The GPS told me that I was exactly 2000km from home, at 44°40'N.

There is a regional kind of food in Minnesota called a "pastie." This word does not rhyme with "tasty." It rhymes with "nasty." There's a good reason for this.

Also, there was a very nice break in the monotony at a beach on Lake Michigan near Au Train.


August 14th. As I was crossing the bridge from Sault St Marie to Sault St Marie ... the power failed on the eastern seaboard of north america.

I decided to stop an hour before sundown and well before I ran out of gas, in Blind River, on the quite lovely Ontario #17 highway. At the Northern Lights Motor Inn, I found Mary who had a big pot of meatballs on the stove, still-cold beer the fridge, and candles on the tables.

It was Mary's 60th birthday. Val had re-used a Christmas Card.


There was one other stranded traveller: Derrick the native carpenter.

I was on the road at dawn the next morning as usual, and picked up Steve on the highway outside Sudbury. Steve wanted to go to Montreal.

I decided it was a good day to go to Montreal.

The next day I met up with Norval, who had flown there to ride with me for the last couple days of our trip; we had a wonderful 2-up ride, stayed in Quebec City, and at Robert's place in Moncton. Thanks Robert! And the next day we were home. The end.


Slideshow code by Daniel MacKay, based on ideas from Gustav Evertsson