Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

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Author and Kawasaki KLR650

 

It was in the summer of 2010 that I was walking along Quebec Street in Vancouver with my wife Laura when I spotted a red Kawasaki KLR650 with aluminum panniers parked at the curb. We stopped and I commented to her that the motorcycle, as it was modified, represented a kind of adventure motorcycle look that was popular among the ADV crowd.

In short, I wanted one.

A few months later I would be scouring the Craigslist posts, thinking that searching at the end of the riding season would create a buyer’s advantage for me. I thought that riders thinking of parting with their rides would likely be keen to do so before the gloom of winter set in. In October I got lucky, buying a well-kept blue 1999 KLR, with few modifications made, from a musician moving from a tiny ground floor suite off Commercial Drive in Vancouver, to a massive farmhouse in Manitoba. He was eager to sell, pricing his dual sport bike at $2000.

I would insure the bike for the day and ride it to Burnaby Kawasaki, where it would hole up for the rainy season as part of their winter storage program.

At the first sign of warm weather I started in with a vengeance. I ordered an aluminum pannier kit from Happy Trails in Boise, Idaho, and started working on it with a friend, modifying it to the adventure machine I wanted for an upcoming journey.

In a few months I would be riding with my friend Mike Whitfield along the Duffey Lake loop, taking the KLR from the cool coniferous air of Whistler, into the heat of Lillooet, one of the hottest places in Canada, before riding in the setting sun to Vancouver, clocking 660 kilometres that day.

By August, I was ready. I was nervous, but up for the challenge. Setting out with Mike, we would ride to Cache Creek, then next day on to Prince George. Mike had to get back to Vancouver, so I continued north while he returned back along the Cariboo Road.

The next ten days would introduce me to a part of British Columbia I had never seen before. I rode past the massive lumber mills of the Nechako, whistled along the waters of the Bulkley, leaned on my motorcycle while staring in awe at the Bear Glacier and sorted out camp gear on its flanks at Kinaskan Lake southeast of the stratovolcano of Mount Edziza. I would ride solo along the broken pavement and gravel of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway before turning around at the powerful and pristine waters of the Stikine River. That KLR gave me a sense of connection to my home province that I hadn’t had before, but had secretly craved since I was little, and learning about the history of my home province in the safety of the exhibitions of the provincial museum in my home of Victoria.

Connection. That’s what that motorcycle gave me.

I’m emphasizing it because, until then, British Columbia history was something static, that I took in from an armchair. The KLR pushed me out of my comfort zone and had me meeting people and really taking in the sights, smells and climate of the places I rode through.

The KLR and I would have many more adventures after that. We would bounce along the dusty rugged forest service roads leading from Cowichan Lake to the natural sanctuary of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park and the peaceful fishing village of Bamfield. I would ride with Mike again, visiting our American neighbours to the south, to the edge of the site of the nearest natural disaster of my youth; Mount Saint Helens, which erupted in May 1980. I would explore the silver towns of the Kootenays with Wes Taylor, a friend I made while traveling the Stewart-Cassiar Highway. Mike Whitfield and I would ride together one more time, attempting to get as far north as we could by road on Vancouver Island along bumpy forest service roads, stopping at the logging town of Holberg near Cape Scott.

This winter I learned that Mike, who was in his early seventies, would be retiring from motorcycling. He offered his riding buddy first dibs on his motorcycle, one I’d always admired, a 2010 BMW F650GS. This spring I bought it from him. Although I will think of the F650GS as Mike’s bike for years to come I’m sure, it really is a pleasant motorcycle to ride.

I had to be honest with myself. I couldn’t maintain and insure two motorcycles. So the practical solution was simple, if not a little difficult to face: I had to sell the KLR.

Parting with my old friend wasn’t easy. But when I realized that I was getting further into middle age, a more comfortable bike with a lower seat height (such as the F650GS) made a lot of sense. There were many other practical advantages to the F650GS, but it didn’t help my sensitive side, which believed I was planning to sell off an old friend.

I reluctantly got the word out that the motorcycle was for sale. A carefully worded post was composed for Craigslist. The right buyer, in all of my worrying to find him or her, responded right away. Cesar was finishing up his time in Vancouver after working construction sites for several months. In his mid-twenties and with few attachments, he was planning a cross-continent motorcycle journey, and needed the right adventure machine, for a good price.

Six years earlier, I had been much like him, although a bit longer in the tooth, yearning for adventure, with a certain expectation as to how it would look.

Knowing that the KLR would still be presenting someone with opportunities for exploration and adventure to come, I agreed to the sale. There is now one motorcycle in the garage, waiting to go on new adventures.

Although this year has presented a few obstacles provided by Mother Nature (heavy rain and cold leading in to summer, a record-setting wildfire season in the Cariboo), there are some adventures awaiting me this riding season I hope. And although the KLR is no longer with me, I will always have the connection with British Columbia it allowed me to have, as we whistled past the glorious rivers, mountains and historical sites of this wonderful part of the world.

 

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I’m selling my bike

9 Trevor's KLR650 in front of the restored CPR caboose at Midway-Mile Zero of the Kettle Valley Railway
The KLR650 rests beside a Canadian Pacific Railway caboose at the Kettle River Museum in Midway

 

 

I know this isn’t Craiglist. Nor is it a place to moan about the old days. But I’ve got some sad, perhaps surprising, news.

The motorcycle I’ve been riding for the past six years is for sale.

Yes, you read it right. The Kawasaki KLR650 that I’ve ridden all over British Columbia (into Alberta and Washington State a bit too, but who’s counting destinations?) searching for historic places while bouncing up and down on gravel roads and holding onto for dear life while taking switchbacks on FSRs to former gold towns is up for grabs.

It’s for sale. What am I doing? I’ve been sneaking into the garage not saying anything (I usually do say hello to my motorcycle…What? Don’t you?) to my KLR for days.

I’ve written notes on its solid, unforgiving factory seat that would become paragraphs in my two books. It has appeared, dusty and proud, in my  articles in Motorcycle Mojo, Inside Motorcycles, RidersWest, Canadian Biker, Rider Magazine… just to name a few.

The motorcycle has brought me to faded silver towns like Sandon in the Kootenays, to the back door route up forest service roads to park next to Mount St. Helens, to the northern extremes of Vancouver Island along unforgiving gravel, to the peaceful and rainy park at Waterton, Alberta, and led me up the Stewart-Cassiar Highway into the north of British Columbia.

Needless to say, I’m reluctant to part with this particular motorcycle.

But as I’ve recently purchased my friend Mike’s BMW F650GS (see Mike’s Bike), it’s time.

It’s time to part with an old friend who, I hope, will find a good home.

The motorcycle has been winter-stored at Burnaby Kawasaki for the six years I’ve owned it. It was bought in October 2011 from a musician leaving for Manitoba in a real hurry. I’m the third owner. It was a basic, non-modified factory model when I bought it. I added Happy Trails Teton 33-litre aluminum panniers, Happy Trails bash plate, Moose pegs, hand guards and a 16” Clearview windshield. The doohickey’s done. Also I’m including a Wolfman Explorer Lite tank bag and Wolfman Expedition Dry duffel bag as well as all the Rok Straps you’ll need to secure it. There are two Michelin T63 knobbies on, front and back, with lots of tread on (as well as an Avon rear and Bridgstone front as a spare pair of shoes).

Regularly maintained at Burnaby Kawasaki (I kept records and receipts), it was also valued by the good folks at BK at $3000. So that’s how I’ll price it.

So if you are in the market for a well-loved dual-sport motorcycle that has had its share of media exposure and still has many adventures left in it, I’d like to hear from you.

Here’s my email address: contact@trevormarchughes.ca

Don’t try to talk me out of it! Oh my my my…

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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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Pemberton: a step back in time

A few summers ago, friends Gabe Khouth, Matt Sell and I rode up the Sea-to-Sky and had a nice brunch in Pemberton. We decided to ride through the historic centre of town and pulled over by the Pemberton Museum. Stopping in I learned about how hard it was to live in Pemberton before the railroad and highway made it to town.  Today, people come for the active outdoor lifestyle and music festival. Back then, getting the necessities of life was difficult.  The Pemberton Museum & Archives Society is another one of the hardworking community groups I’ve met in my travels around the province that prioritize preserving how life was for early settlers to British Columbia…

 

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The Origins of Open Road MC

Gabe Khouth and I have been friends for almost three decades now. We met when we were actors with the same agent in the late 1980s as we both were auditioning for roles in the rapidly growing film and television industry in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I was fortunate enough to get to work with Gabe on the CBC-TV teen series Northwood. We would play friends going to the same high school. I remember with a smile how we got to play some fun comedic scenes together in a camping episode in the final episode of the series, filming in the wilderness of Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in North Vancouver.

Flash forward twenty-three years and we were still goofing around with a camera in the forest, this time at Alice Lake Provincial Park near Squamish, British Columbia while we made our Open Road MC segment about motocamping.

Gabe and I would both discover an interest in riding motorcycles later in our lives. Even though we rode different style bikes (my Kawasaki KLR650 and his Ducati Monster 696) we thought it would be an opportunity missed if we didn’t combine our on-screen abilities and our interest in motorbikes. So we created Open Road MC, a YouTube channel for anyone interested in riding motorbikes…and we make it clear it doesn’t matter what you ride, it’s that you ride in the first place that counts.

Gabe has moved on to be a series regular in the hit ABC-TV series Once Upon A Time and I’ve enjoyed seeing his success as an actor. I moved on from acting in 2005, working away at freelancing at CBC Radio before writing for a variety of magazines mainly about motorcycle travel in British Columbia, then writing my own books. Open Road MC is a chance for Gabe and I to be really creative on camera, explore different roads and avenues of motorcycling. From regional ride ideas, modifications, travel tips, bike reviews and event coverage, Gabe and I have covered quite a lot of ground over the last couple of years. We’re still coming up with ideas, getting together whenever our busy lives relent a bit for us to meet for a production meeting over a cup of coffee. Join us won’t you? And be sure to subscribe…

 

 

 

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An Oddity Among Motorcyclists

I’ve believed from time to time that I’m an oddity among motorcyclists. I mean, who uses the motorcycle to get to historic destinations around his own region? Most motorcyclists I know like to take short rides to camp or to a cafe somewhere, then ride back home. I think the motorcycle is the ideal form of transport to get to know my province’s past. And by getting to know its past, I feel I get to know its character. That past includes European settlement history, it includes First Nations history, it includes natural history. It is not restricted to British Columbia since it was included in Confederation in 1871.

So I rattle and snake my Kawasaki KLR650 along roads usually out of Vancouver, not only to enjoy the ride (although that is a big part of it) but also to stop from time to time, and check out the small towns that I never have stopped in. As a kid, my parents would take me on camping holidays around British Columbia, and as I would stare out from the back seat of the car, I would wonder what the story was about the town I was just passing through. Hmmm, I would think, this place looks interesting. I wonder why it’s here. I wonder who lives here. Where does that road lead? What to people do here? The motorcycle puts you in contact with these places when you step off the bike…and I’m certainly not the only one to have said that.

I’m not the first rider (and writer) to be influenced by RTW motorcyclist Ted Simon. I’ll put a link to a Geek Media Ltd “Under The Visor” segment at the end of this post in which he explains his view of motorcycling, and I have to say I’m very much in agreement with him. I may just be a “regional cheese” (as I heard Adam Cohen put it in a recent interview) and not a crosser of continents, but I do believe the motorcycle allows you to be in touch with it all in a way that a car or SUV inhibits.

I digress! The ride vid on my own YouTube Channel which I’ve posted a link to above, takes the viewer through a particularly historic part of British Columbia: The Silvery Slocan. Much of the province cropped up as a result of the discovery of gold or silver. Towns would be created seemingly overnight (such as is the case of Sandon, which I write about in Zero Avenue to Peace Park, my second book) as the result of some silver-rich ore being discovered in the Kootenay region…and the rush was on.  Much of the communities we see along the Silvery Slocan route were created in a real hurry. But the road to get to them, especially in the beautiful Kootenays, can make for scenic and fascinating riding. Enjoy the ride vid above…and I’ll post that Ted Simon segment below.

 

 

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North From Zero Avenue: riding across British Columbia

Connecting with British Columbia via my motorcycle is what I like to do. And to share that with you, I’ve started making YouTube segments on my own Trevor Marc Hughes channel. “North From Zero Avenue” will take you to remote places around British Columbia, perhaps some you’ve never even heard of. I think the motorcycle is the ideal form of transportation to connect with places, especially, if like me, you’d like to get a sense of why they’re there and why they have roads leading to them. Below are links to the first two episodes…and I know I’ll be making more. Enjoy.

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