Asking for directions at the gas station

 

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 )

 

 

 

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When a riding buddy is hurting

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.

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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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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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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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A Watched Pot Never Boils

The flu is no fun, believe me.

Back at it.

One thing that happens when you stop looking at your inbox is things start to happen in your absence. There are some new things to report.

I’ve tried my hand at book reviewing. B.C. photographer Chris Harris makes me look like a novice when it comes to exploring historic British Columbia. His book British Columbia’s Cariboo Chilcotin Coast: a photographer’s journey was a privilege to review. Thanks to Alan Twigg, publisher of BC BookWorld and Richard Mackie, editor of The Ormsby Report, for sending me his book to review.

Here’s a look at the review:

http://bcbooklook.com/2017/02/24/94-draft-noah-has-nothing-on-chris-harris-ark/

Thanks to Motorcycle Mojo for publishing “The Coast to Kootenay Connection” in their March 2017 issue. The photo above is the one I took in Midway to start work on gathering material and notes for the article. Here’s the link to the online version…

http://www.motorcyclemojo.com/2017/02/kettle-valley-railway/

Also, I’ve just heard some exciting news about where I can develop Riding Across Historic British Columbia. I’ll let you know as that develops. Of course, I’ll be returning to Horizons Unlimited CanWest in Nakusp to give a presentation with some updates from the past year, some of which have yet to come. I’ll be riding up to the Likely and Quesnel Lake area in July with the Greater Vancouver Motorcycle Club to see what so many have recommended to me. Barkerville is one of those historic places in B.C. that is long overdue for me to experience. I can’t wait to see it.

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My History Teacher Was Right

About twenty-five years ago now I was enrolled in two history courses at Camosun College in Victoria as I worked toward my undergraduate degree. My professor was a positive, encouraging and jovial man who once, when I was done asking him a question about an upcoming project during his office hours, asked me a question I still think about to this day.

“Have you considered a career in history?”

I politely told him I would consider the possibility. But at the time I was more interested in filming another season of “Northwood” in Vancouver. I was twenty and, not unlike many twenty-year-old men, confident I was making my mark and on the right track, thank you very much.

As I would move into broadcasting and writing his words would continue to haunt me. History, and a growing interest in it, has become more of a part in my life.

The next book project I’m developing has a strong history focus. Much of the positive feedback I’ve received from my two books has to do with that I take in the historical context of the places I’m riding through.

My recent talks at Horizons Unlimited CanWest and Vancouver BMW Ducati have been called “Riding Across Historic British Columbia”. Yep, I think my history teacher saw my interest back in 1992. He nailed it.

It’s not as though I’m going to work on my Master’s Degree anytime soon. I’ve made my decisions. But the foundation that history has laid in British Columbia is becoming more of an integral part in how I write and why I ride.

Have you had an increasing interest in British Columbia’s history?

 

 

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Making Peace with CBC Radio

I don’t have a single picture of myself working at CBC Radio. Isn’t that odd?

I spent ten years of my life working at CBC Radio Vancouver, at the CBC HQ at 700 Hamilton Street, and didn’t think to take a single picture of myself doing my work, on-air in a studio, out in the field extending the microphone to the hundreds of people I interviewed, etc.

You could say it was because I left the CBC in January 2007,  ten years ago, prior to the inception of Instagram.

But the more I think about it I realize why.  I was working REALLY hard. I was a freelancer. Not unlike my previous occupation, which was acting, I was judged based on what I had done last. Sometimes that was working as an associate producer on a current affairs program, sometimes it was gathering sound or interviews and editing an individual documentary or report. In the second five years of that ten year term, I was brought in regularly to cover the regional arts beat as an arts reporter for British Columbia. Incidentally, this last kind of work no longer exists at CBC Radio.

Which is the main reason why I left.

I got wind of how The Arts Report, the Toronto-produced hub of arts reports from across the country, was being phased out.  I honestly couldn’t think of what I’d do if that happened. Go back to slogging along as a freelancer…piece by piece? That didn’t sound appealing.  More and more work, previously produced by staff, was being metered out to freelancers. The piece of the pie was getting smaller and smaller.

But that wasn’t all. Things in my personal life were not going well. Anyone who has read the initial chapters of my first book Nearly 40 on the 37 knows what was going on. My very young son was showing all the signs to what, I now know, would be diagnosed as autism. My relationship with his mother was falling apart. Then I turned to the freedom of motorcycling to gather back my thoughts. Day rides up the Sea-to-Sky Highway or along Highway 101 up the Sunshine Coast were how I coped. The enjoyment of riding a motorcycle and, eventually, writing about the experience, would get me out into my home province. As opposed to writing a story about a place I’d never been to before, doing interviews over the phone, I could go to that place and gather the material first hand.  I discovered a new way of applying the training that I had received working at CBC Radio.

Today I’m in a positive, loving and supportive relationship with my wife of seven years, Laura. My son Michael, diagnosed with autism in 2009, has transitioned wonderfully to high school and is in a technology immersion program that gives him fulfilling ways to apply his talents. I have a five-year-old son, Marc, who I live vicariously through as he sees for the first time the world around him and absorbs everything. I’m a happy husband and father.

I passed the much-changed edifice of the CBC building over the Christmas holidays. The sweeping staircase I always got a charge climbing has been replaced by a White Spot restaurant, jumbo television screen and shiny upper-floor TV news studios. I used to love passing the plaques for Bruno Gerussi, Robert Clothier and other figures that had been pioneers in the public broadcaster’s early decades as I climbed those stairs. Change is inevitable, but I do miss that old grand concrete staircase leading to a place where I was proud to work, that I had felt a connection to growing up. I will forever be indebted and appreciative of the journalism training, work and opportunities that I received at CBC Radio Vancouver, but now I’ve got to move on and make peace with the place that I blamed for dismissing The Arts Report.

Here’s the thing…as a freelancer I knew I was on the fringes. I knew that I would not be working if I didn’t pitch something really good after the story I was working on. I was never on staff, but I had a CBC Radio business card. At best, I was a contract player who could pick up the phone and preface a conversation with a potential interview subject or story contact with “Hello. I’m Trevor Hughes with CBC Radio.”  Like Al Pacino’s line in The Insider if you take the ‘with CBC Radio’ out of that sentence, no one returns your phone calls…or emails.

At least for awhile.

For the last five years I’ve been using that journalism experience and freelancer mentality in the field as I’ve been travelling the province and beyond on my Kawasaki KLR650. It is paying off. People weren’t at first, but they are returning my phone calls and emailing back. It does take time, but I’m enjoying a connection with my home province I haven’t experienced before…and enjoying the ride.

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Riding Across Historic British Columbia

It doesn’t seem that long ago I was pitching my tent in the Nakusp Municipal Campground. It was a weekend event that changed how I saw what I was doing.

Horizons Unlimited CanWest 2016 allowed me the opportunity to give a presentation I called “Riding Across Historic British Columbia”. I felt like a small fish in a big pond. Speakers were to talk about motorcycle travels across Russia, journeys to Alaska, riding across continents. I was going to speak about riding my Kawasaki KLR650 to regional places, locations of significant historical events in British Columbia’s history, but that didn’t take months to get to.

It was a standing-room-only event. There were about forty chairs set up in the ice-free hockey arena renamed “The Asia Room” for the event. I since gave the talk at Vancouver BMW Ducati to a full house. Clearly, there is some interest in riding across historic B.C, and learning about routes to get there. After I gave my talks I opened up the floor to ideas shared from the audience as to historic rides in the province. One route I heard about I’ve taken to heart, and have booked accommodation already for the July adventure north.

I’ve taken the interest I saw to heart and plan to add a historic rides section to my website and to make riding to historic locations in British Columbia a focus of my next book. Historic storytelling has been a part of my two books, but not to the extent I’m planning for my next project.

It’s interesting to me how some down time over holidays, to reflect and gain perspective, can help clarify goals and, sometimes, point out the obvious path for the new year.

My thanks to all that attended those two presentations which gave me such clarification. I’ve signed up again as a presenter for Horizons Unlimited CanWest 2017 and I’ll be talking “Riding Across Historic B.C.” in Nakusp again. I hope to see you there…

 

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Nearly 40 on the 37: the video journals

 

Before I had a GoPro stuck on to my helmet, before I had a Sena 10c camera and communication system, I had a simple HD JVC video camera my wife Laura gave me as a present before I motorcycled off into the unknown on my Stewart-Cassiar Highway journey in August 2012.

That video camera became, next to my Kawasaki KLR650, my constant companion. In fact I remember, concerned with how the cold and damp might affect it, keeping it warm in my sleeping bag at night, like a chicken egg in a schoolboy’s project.

I would talk to it as well. I suppose it was marginally healthier than talking to myself.

Along the way I would record some interesting progressions in myself. Not only was my facial hair growing, so to was my understanding of my home province of British Columbia.  I’ve kept the recordings as separate video files for years, but decided recently to edit them together to see how the Nearly 40 on the 37 journey affected me.

Viewers expecting lofty shots of motorcycles winding their way through mountain passes will be disappointed. Although there are some shots of my companion Kawasaki KLR650, this video chronicles how the journey was changing me. The exhaustion. The longing for home.  The appreciation for the scope of British Columbia. The rugged territory and vastness of it overwhelmed me.

And you can see it in my face…entry by entry.

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