The first piece of advice our friend and fellow adventure rider, Ismail Cem Esen gave to us when we met up with him for a day ride out of Vancouver, was, “Don’t come back.”
Ismail, whom we met in Central America riding a Triumph 800 XC, is originally from Turkey but has been living and working in Burnaby, B.C. for a few years. He had just returned from a 10-month trip riding through the U.S., Mexico and Central America and was missing his life on the road big time. We hoped a good day of riding dirt would help satiate him for at least a little while.
After leaving Arlington on July 10, Dave and I crossed into Canada to meet up with Ismail and attempt to ride a forest service road (FSR) that runs up the west side of Harrison Lake near Abbotsford, B.C. Sadly, the road was closed due to a bridge out about 60 km (37 m) up and we had to turn around. None of us apparently had seen any signs. Dave and I found a picturesque place to camp along the shores of the lake while Ismail, after an hour or two of hanging out, had to return back to the city for work in the morning. We enjoyed the time we had to catch up with him and watched him ride off sad that he couldn’t spend the night trading travel stories with us over a campfire and some adult beverages.
Dave and I set up the tent, which we hadn’t used in almost a month, and noticed two zippers were broken. We couldn’t keep travelling without being able to close or open our tent so we had to come up with a plan. Of course we didn’t find this out before we left the Seattle, WA area, where the makers of our tent—Hilleberg—have a warranty repair shop. That would be too easy.
As the road was closed for getting through to Pemberton on the FSR, we had to go back toward Vancouver anyway where we would ride the Sea to Sky highway to access the Chilcotins. We decided Dave would take the tent back to Seattle and get it fixed while I spent a night or two in Van with friends. This would be the first night we would spend apart in over 10 months. Party time! Except I’m not 20 anymore and neither are my friends so we ended up just having a fun evening ‘in’ and catching up.
Dave met me in Vancouver on July 13 after his marathon overnight trip to Seattle. Hilleberg went out of their way to fix our tent quickly and get Dave back on the road. Their customer service was excellent and as fast as you’d hope any company to fix something on the fly with only a few hours notice. We spent one more night in Vancouver visiting with friends then with our fixed tent and an itch to get back on track with our plan we headed toward Pemberton, B.C.
It had been almost two years since Dave and I were last in the Chilcotins. We’d taken five days to ride through the area in 2014 and had been very new riders then. I was pushed to the max on some of the challenging terrain and Dave actually submersed his bike and himself in a beaver pond that had flooded the road. It was his first-ever trip riding a motorcycle off-road and one of our first trips together. We were curious to get back into this area and see how much our skills had improved. We spent a night camping a few kilometres before one of the tough sections. The next morning, we rode through many huge mud puddles and thought we were going to have quite a time schlepping our big bikes through the beaver pond if the muddy trail was any indication. We rode all the sections we felt were tough two years ago with little problem. We still both dropped our bikes in one area but it was much easier than it had been as new riders. Next came the beaver pond, which we both sailed across without issue. Afterward, a series of creek crossings and heck, they were even fun! Like whitewater kayaking except when you flip upside down you stay down.
The rest of the day went along with some steep hill climbs and descents then we were back out on Highway 20 and in Prince George, B.C. by evening.
But wait, this is boring right? No falling off bikes. No swimming in beaver ponds. No one cried… as we get to be better riders our blog posts risk being more of a mundane read. We apologize for that. Although there is usually adventure in some form in our day-to-day lives as riders. For example, we got a hotel room in Prince George because it was wet and miserable outside. We don’t normally get hotels because of the cost so to save a few bucks on a restaurant meal we cooked mac and cheese in the bathroom using our camp stove. If you know me for my super huge pubic hair phobias, you’ll know this is my adventure to the extreme.
On July 15 we woke up excited to head to Fort St. James, B.C. to see friends we’d met in Baja on Christmas Day, 2015. Kathy and John Marchal spent six months riding their bicycles from Vancouver, B.C. to Los Cabos, Baja and were full of nostalgia about their great trip when we met them at their home in Fort St. James where they live with their three awesome kids and one wild grammy who tells great adventure stories of her own. Especially when you accidentally fill her wine glass a few times and she accidentally drinks it to empty a few times. After a night of story telling around an increasingly loud table prone to outbursts of laughter in the Marchal’s kitchen, someone responsible must have shut down the party because we crawled off to bed.
The morning didn’t come awfully early. Most of us were still in bed after 10:00 a.m. but later in the afternoon we rallied and the four of us walked over to the historic park that gives the Fort its namesake. We spent another more tame and adult-ish night with the Marchal’s and the next day after some carpentry tips from Dave to their son Luke, who was building something guys build, we headed off in search of Telkwa Pass—the more ‘exciting’ way to get from Smithers to Terrace. But this will have to wait for another post and I promise there will be a good bit of adventure to read in this one.
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