I am an Everyman

I’ve got to point something out.

I’m a stay-at-home dad. I’m a loving husband to my wife, Laura. I look after my wonderful thirteen-year-old son Michael who was diagnosed with autism when he was six. I also look after my precocious six-year-old son Marc who is actively involved in tee ball, musical theatre and loves riding his bike. I coach his tee ball team on Tuesday evenings. I’ve struggled with anxiety, sometimes depression, throughout my life. I’m an introvert. I stand at five foot eight. Sometimes getting back on a motorcycle after a time not riding scares me.

Needless to say, I’m not the stereotypical image of a heroic adventurer.

I am an Everyman.

Actually, it wasn’t me who first described me that way. It was John Campbell, the editor of Canadian Biker Magazine, when he was writing an endorsement for my second book Zero Avenue to Peace Park

His writing is framed by the iron of tireless research and underscored by the musical notes of a relentless motorcycle as Zero Avenue to Peace Park, the Journey of an Everyman, brings new life to the dusty streets and forgotten people of long ago.

I’m grateful for John’s words, which are now on the cover and early pages of my second book. He gave me an objective look at myself. Sometimes when riding into the unknown I feel pumped up, almost believing my own publicity as it were. I need to remember who I am.

I’m that kid who looked out from the back seat of his parent’s Ford LTD while travelling to another campground, an old and weathered tent trailer being towed behind. The Okanagan, mid-Vancouver Island, the Kootenays. That kid looked out from that back seat, observing, wondering all sorts of things. What lay at the end of that secondary road? What was the story behind that collapsing farmhouse being reclaimed by nature? Why was a totem pole raised on that spot?

I’ve been underestimated at times. Not so long ago I asked a particular company if I could use their topographical maps in my second book. Interest turned to indifference after one look at me and my beat up KLR650. Granted I may not be the most shiny and buff of adventurers.

But what I’ve done on that KLR650 may surprise you. It may have surprised that map company too if they’d not judged a book by its cover.

I’ve ridden down deep gravel roads to forestry towns, taken muddy single tracks to former gold mining communities, pushed myself to the extremities of the province’s rugged north, as my motorcycle shook and squeaked under the punishment, me at times scared, exhausted and feeling out of my league.

But underlying it all, was the desire of that kid, looking out from the back seat of that Ford LTD, to explore beyond what he knew, to get to know his home province of British Columbia better. That’s what I do. That desire still drives me.

Recently I watch the film Eddie The Eagle. I haven’t been that taken with a film in a long time. It was the story of an underdog that may not have come in first, but wanted to prove himself, have his moment, prove deniers wrong. I’ve come to think of myself as an underdog. Eddie certainly had his moment, overcoming his fears.

When I get on a motorcycle, I sometimes get anxious. Once I’m riding I feel great. Usually I feel better when riding further out of town when I can ride along with as little traffic as possible.

John Campbell published my first magazine article in Canadian Biker about my two-week two-wheeled journey into northern British Columbia along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. He suggested that a trip like that would create memories that would last a lifetime and would be the envy of many who ride motorcycles. That was in 2012. I’m still going.

Grant Johnson, who, along with his wife Susan Johnson, created the overland adventurer forum Horizons Unlimited, once encouraged me to present my talk Riding Across Historic British Columbia. I was having my doubts about presenting with a group of cross-continent overland motorcyclists at their travellers meeting in Nakusp, British Columbia. Grant told me that many motorcycle adventurers were people like me, with a desire to explore their region. He wrote Horizons Unlimited needed people like me, the Everyman, to tell their stories and inspire others to explore.

Are you an adventuring Everyman… or Everywoman?

Then you have a story to tell too.

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Riding Highway 28 to Gold River

I found one of the best motorcycling roads on Vancouver Island in September 2016. But I hadn’t intended to…

You see, my friend Wes Taylor, who I’d met motorcycling in northern British Columbia in 2012, had invited me to ride in his home state of Colorado. A day before I was to fly to Colorado Springs, I received a baffling email. Wes was hurriedly typing on his smart phone, urging me to cancel my flight, if there was enough time to do so. He was in hospital. He had just been in a car accident.

Wes was lucky to be alive, but he would need some recovery time. I was glad my friend was relatively all right and concerned about him. But I was disappointed I couldn’t visit and ride with him along some of the best motorcycling roads in the United States of America.

I had more than a week freed up. What to do? Well, I hurriedly decided to travel a road on Vancouver Island that I knew was long overdue to ride. It also promised a great deal of historical incentive to get me going: Highway 28 west from Campbell River to Gold River.

Gold River is at the end of fifty-five kilometre Muchalat Inlet. It used to be a community known for its chief employer: the pulp and paper mill. I had prepared several stories on Gold River when I was at CBC Radio Vancouver, one of which was on the subject of Luna, the orca calf that had lost its mother and wandered in to Muchalat Inlet to befriend the people of Gold River. I was never comfortable filing stories about places I’d never been to. Visiting Gold River was long overdue.

The road west from Campbell River soon developed the curves I’d heard about from friends and other sources. It winded along, having me flick the bike back and forth in the sun of an early Fall day, the smell of burning leaves filling my nostrils while I anticipated the next series of turns leading to the Campbell Lakes.

There were no communities along the route to Gold River. The only structures seen were lodgings within Strathcona Provincial Park. Crossing a bridge at Buttle Narrows, I climbed, then descended, while stealing glances at formidable Kings Peak before encountering the boot: the Gold River Boot carving that is. It marked the entrance to the community.

I would ride another thirteen kilometres to Muchalat Marina before being treated to a view of Muchalat Inlet in the sun. The MV Uchuck III was in dock, men painting the historic vessel after a busy summer taking travellers to nearby Nootka Sound, Yuquot and beyond.

Yuquot village is a National Historic Site of Canada. It’s the ancestral home of the Mowachaht, and a place where traditional whaling was practiced. It had been a community for four thousand years by the time Captain James Cook encountered Chief Maquinna there. Europeans would call it Friendly Cove after their congenial visit in March of 1778. The MV Uchuck III, a former US Second World War minesweeper, makes daily runs to Yuquot in summer months. Uchuck means “healing waters” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language.

I looked out over the smooth lines afforded by the mountains rolling into the distance across from the inlet, listened to the calm water lapping against the dock supports and was warmed by the midday sun.

I said hello to the husky dog lazily guarding the office door of Get West Adventure Cruises, the business that runs the Uchuck III. Off to the right there was a log sorting station where heavy machinery was separating logs into piles according to type of wood in advance of them being hauled by truck into Campbell River. Some logs were dumped back into the inlet. This was all that was left of the pulp and paper mill that shut down in 1998.

A few men walked along the wooden planks of the small marina, where two tall modern sloops were in contrast to the stocky silver water taxis. The tug Malaspina Straits bobbed up and down next to its neighbour, Nanaimo Flyer. As I walked back to my motorcycle, I took note of the Air Nootka floatplane at a small dock. The Gold River-based business flies north regularly to Kyuquot as well as charters for those seeking an adventure beyond travel to Gold River.
My instinct was to try to get on a boat, or a plane and explore further, as this was the end of the asphalt. But it was time I got to my bed for the night in Qualicum Beach, a two hundred kilometre ride east.

Wait a minute! That meant I would get to ride the twists and turn of Highway 28 all over again!

With plans for future adventures on the MV Uchuck III or a seaplane filling my head, I got back on my Kawasaki KLR650 and rode east towards Campbell River. I had to call Wes Taylor and tell him about the joys of Highway 28. I knew it would make him feel better.

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Mike’s Bike

 

Buying a motorcycle. It sounds great doesn’t it? I have mixed feelings about it lately.

This past weekend I bought a 2010 BMW F650GS. I’d admired this de-tuned 798cc motorcycle for a while. I had seen it close up on several occasions, as it belonged to my friend and travel companion Mike Whitfield. Mike decided recently to retire from motorcycling.

For anyone who has read Nearly 40 on the 37 or Zero Avenue to Peace Park you know how influential Mike has been to me. He was the one that convinced me to continue on my Stewart-Cassiar Highway adventure years ago. He was the one who kept reminding me about the nature of adventure. Without him I may have turned around at Prince George…but I didn’t. After that trip there were Mount St. Helens and the Holberg Road on north Vancouver Island, two adventures I’ll never forget.

So, seeing his orange GS in my garage is a bit disconcerting. It’s with pride that I’ll ride it this weekend, but…it’s Mike’s bike!

I’ve received pleasant messages of support from friends reminding me that Mike would be glad to see the BMW in good hands, in the possession of someone who will take good care of it and ride it on other adventures.

Last weekend, Mike showed me the various features of the GS in his underground parking garage. There were features that blew my mind…like a fuel gauge! When ready I took it for several spins around the garage. Some clutch-throttle control exercises. Some sudden braking. Then it was time to exit into the world on Mike’s Bike.

It was raining. Pouring. I have to admit it affected my mood.

I’m planning a Saturday ride out to Iona Beach. I keep checking the weather forecast.

It’ll take a while to get used to riding Mike’s Bike. It’s a bike packed with memories of riding alongside my riding buddy…certainly for Mike who has ridden the GS all over the world.

It’s time to create some new memories.

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