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.
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.
When I was a kid, I would look forward to camping up island all year. My favourite campground was Miracle Beach near Courtenay. And I would get there on Vancouver Island’s wonderful Highway 19a.
Now that highway has a super-speedy counterpart, Highway 19, where travellers can blast along at 120 kph, but I prefer taking it slowly, riding along the coast past oyster farms, quiet bays and beautiful scenery.
Here is a visual record of riding this exceptional road from Oyster Bay south of Campbell River to Qualicum Beach. I hope you enjoy it…
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…
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.
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.