Highway 7 is my preferred route out of Vancouver. This past summer was a doozy when it came to wildfires in British Columbia, especially where I was planning to ride in the Cariboo. So, when plans changed, I took a more regional ride with the intent of exploring the secondary road that led me to Hope, British Columbia.
Wes Taylor and I had spent the day on our Kawasaki KLR650s weaving our way along the pleasant twists and turns of Highway 3A and 31 between Nelson and Kaslo. The sun was out, the riding easy and we enjoyed the introduction to our three-day adventure together.
We were walking along 4th Street in Kaslo returning from dinner and having seen the National Historic Site of the SS Moyie when I breached the subject of the day ahead.
“I think the road runs out at Meadow Creek.”
While most motorcyclists fancied the twists of Highway 31A east of Kaslo, to New Denver, Wes and I were taking the less beaten track: Highway 31 north to Meadow Creek and beyond. Most travel brochures stopped describing tourist destinations north of Meadow Creek. I suspected this was because the asphalt ran out north of the small community.
“What do you think we’ll be dealing with past there?” Wes asked.
“I’ve heard it’s a well-graded road but gravel,” I offered. I had a few other anecdotal bits of information to add, but it would be new ground. Our moods turned thoughtful as we walked towards the Kaslo Motel.
After returning from breakfast the next day, Wes and I set about packing up our KLRs in preparation for the ride ahead. There was a motorcycle parked next to ours, a BMW R1200GS. We soon met its owner; Dave from Nevada.
As it turns out, he had just finished riding south solo along Highway 31, the road we would be taking. We asked him how the riding was. Dave was a man of few words.
“It’s not a technical ride,” Dave told us. “It’s hard-packed gravel for the most part.”
Wes and I looked at each other and smiled. I think we breathed a little easier after hearing Dave’s brief road report, and meeting someone who had travelled the route successfully.
There was a lesson to be learned here, I think. Wes and I had kept our anxieties too much to ourselves. It was fortunate we met Dave as I think we enjoyed our morning much more having heard what was ahead. It’s not unlike asking for directions at a gas station, checking in at a tourist information booth or asking a friend you know who lives in a place you’re not familiar with. Asking alleviates anxiety about the road ahead.
Oh, and Wes and I did enjoy riding Highway 31. Very much.
(You can read the story of our ride through the West Kootenays in Zero Avenue to Peace Park )
I was delighted over the weekend to hear that Wes Taylor’s surgery went well and he’s recovering in a Colorado hospital.
He told me by email that he’s “recovering but hurting also.” I’ve been mailing him motorcycle travel books so he can pass the time while healing. I send my riding buddy emails from time to time in between bringing my sons to activities and the latest writing jobs. I’ve been thinking about him over the weekend, sending him good thoughts.
For those of you who don’t know the story of how I met Wes, it begins five years ago when I was setting up my one-man tent at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park when what should appear next to me but a huge trailer towed by a pick-up truck. Wes and Nancy Taylor and their friendly dog Amber soon emerged having driven south from Alaska and we have remained friends since we were neighbours at that northern British Columbia campground. Wes was keen on Kawasaki KLR650s and I was riding one. We would soon be talking about riding together. I tell the story in more detail in Nearly 40 on the 37.
I was looking through my Zero Avenue to Peace Park photos over the weekend and found the above shot. It tells a particular story about when Wes and I got to ride together, two years after we met.
We were riding north on a cloudy August day on Highway 31 near Kaslo, the shores of Kootenay Lake not far to our right. I was in the lead and checking to see Wes was in my vibrating rear view mirror. After a minute or two of not looking, entranced by the ride and the scenery, I looked back and Wes wasn’t in my mirror anymore.
I looked for a place to turn around, then rode back thinking the worst. When I finally did encounter him coming at me along empty Hwy 31 we stopped, our front wheels pointed in different directions. He said over the engine that he was scouting out locations for another spot to bring Nancy and Amber to in the RV along the many gravel dips off the road into Kootenay Lake Provincial Park. Just like Wes to be thinking of the next adventure when he was on an adventure!
(The full account of our ride in the Kootenays, exploring historic silver towns on and off road, is in Zero Avenue to Peace Park.)
Needless to say, Wes is an adventurous fellow. And despite being in his early 70s he is still thinking ahead to the next one. I admire that. I hope in my 70s I’m still dreaming of adventure, splaying out the maps in the winter and planning the next one, whether solo, with my family, or a riding buddy.
As for my riding buddy Wes, I wish him a swift recovery and hope he is dreaming of future adventures as he heals in his hospital room.