Subject: WanderNorth 4 - Vancouver, British Columbia
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 22:33:31 -0700
As I often do when I am in a small town with an unusual name, I asked my waitress at dinner last night what Tonasket represented. She pointed to a mural on a cement wall across the main street and said it was the name of the local Indian chief who lived there a century ago. No one claimed to know what it meant, but at least my question didn't start an argument like that time in Idaho ... Anyway, the mural had the visage of a man surrounded by peaceful features - trees, birds, game, fields - and yet his face was a downturned scowl. Even the waitress said he looked angry, and she claimed it was his relatives who painted the mural. I'm sure there's more of a story to it. There is always a story in a small town.
Canada, Eh! I've heard and read lots of stories from
bikers who have had difficulty crossing into Canada. Canada is very serious
about preventing the entry of certain things, and like it or not the carefully
cultivated "image" of the badassbiker has taken a toll ... or perhaps imposed
one, of extra scrutiny on two wheeled marauders attempting to penetrate
the soft underbelly of the Queen's Provinces. So I prepared for the inquisition
- I developed a chant that became a mantra I could expel in one breath:
no guns no drugs no alcohol no tobacco no items of commercial value.
Why not just go ahead and answer all the pertinent questions at once. (Some
at the LDR lunch bet this was a sure way to get searched.)
Just my luck. First thing he says when I shut off the bike, even before I can take my one breath, "Niiiice bike!". I get the one border guard on the western frontier who rides a Honda ST1100 (his wife rides her own V-Star). They've been to San Francisco and Sturgis by bike. We talk about Russell seats, and riding in the wind, and the berry patches on Logan pass in Utah, and attaching a GPS to a bike ... (of course he *does* get his questions interspersed in the conversation :). Our chat goes on so long that 5 or 6 cars are backed up behind me and I'm getting nervous that the people will get upset. Me: "We got quite a line now. Maybe I'd better get on." He: "Let 'em wait. They'll think I'm being tough on a biker. (big smile)." Another minute or so and I'm on my way, but not before I notice two inspectors putting on latex gloves as they approach a van with everything disgorged on the pavement in the search area - including the battery. Serious indeed.
Part 2 of most international crossings is money exchange. I don't like to grow local currency by piecemeal purchases. I prefer to pay one set exchange rate and be done, so I went to the local branch of the national bank. Not having a "relationship" with this bank, I was informed I would have to pay an administrative fee of $10 (Canadian) before I could exchange my dollars. Ok, just add it to the total. "No, sir, it must be paid before." So how am I supposed to pay $10 Canadian if I don't have any Canadian? "You'll have to get it exchanged somewhere else first." So then I can come back here and pay you to do what I've already done? "Yes, sir." Okey dokey. Instead, I left the local branch of the national bank and went to the only branch of the local bank.
In the lovely valley near the town of Cawston are
several wineries. Crowsnest Vineyards was the only one open in the morning,
and although I couldn't taste wine while riding I was curious what kinds
of grapes would grow here (I have a fair wine collection). As I expected,
most of the varietals are white, but they also do a pinot noir and a "rushed"
merlot. The season is too short to build much body in a red grape. Nice
visit though. On the way out to the bike I was eagerly accosted by the
German owner of the vineyard who wanted to ask about my BMW. I wanted to
ask about the wines. It was a hilarious conversation if you stepped back.
For every answer I gave about how a GPS worked, he responded with the racking
method for each varietal. I explained Anti-Lock Braking, and he divulged
root stock pruning. We both went away happy. (Although I can't believe
his claim that a GPS in Germany costs $5,000?)
Oh, yeah, GPS! I am astounded that my lowly GPS III+ has all the small provincial highways in BC! I thought the base map would stop at the border like Garmin's MapSource and (DeLorme) Street Atlas. Not so! When I randomly decided to get off the TransCanada freeway for a backroad, there it was on the map. Excellent work, Garmin ... even if you did have me traveling right down the middle of the Fraser River.
I think BC may have invented tall mountains with
clouds. There are so many just lying about around here you'd think this
was the warehouse where all the extras are stored. Not having a roof overhead,
a motorcyclist can get a sore neck taking in all the sights. BC3 is one
of those impossible roads that seems to be going downhill forever, but
the mountains never get smaller. The drop from ridge to road doesn't vary
for a long way, and it gives the false impression that the mountains are
growing as you pass. Either way, it is a great ride.
Canadians I met in Kirkland warned me about the high price for gasoline. To them I say, Cheap Gas! at least compared to San Francisco. It may change as I get deep into the territories, but for most of the day the price was around 70 cents per litre. Figure roughly 4 to the US gallon, $2.80 C is $1.88 US. The lowest price I could find for no-name gas in SF before I left was $1.95, and the brand names were over $2. This is cheap gas, eh!!
One last observation that has been bothering me. I hope this has a good explanation, since I am not schooled in the 'necessary' methods of animal husbandry, but it didn't look right. I saw a horse standing alone on an unfenced rise just off the road. Its bridle was tied to its right rear hoof by a rope slack enough for it to stand, but too tight for it to take anything more than a half step at a time without pulling its head down. Is this a way to let it loose but keep it from wandering? Somehow, it seems wrong.
Short day. Tomorrow the bike gets a full body massage (scheduled maintenance), then we're off for bear country.
Tonasket US97 BC3 TransCanada1 BC9 BC7 Vancouver
Sam Lepore, San Francisco