Ride Report: Day 3

Day 3 / Saturday, June 14, 2008

From Great Falls, I was taking the scenic route to get to Vancouver. I went around Glacier National Park as I had already been on the Going to the Sun Highway through the park and wanted to get a different view point. MT-49 that hugs the southern boundary of the park was a fun road to ride and the views were just like from inside the park.

Riding around the southern perimeter of Glacier National Park on MT-49. I went through the park on the Going to the Sun Highway two years ago and figured I would go for some different views. This road was almost as exciting as the road in the park.

From there, I headed towards Lake Koocanusa in the north-western part of the state as I was told from sport-touring.net that the scenic road around the lake was a great ride. I really enjoy small, remote roads and in the West, one can easily find such roads through National Forests. The route around the western side of the lake was very twisty with low traffic, which made for an enjoyable ride.

Taking a break at Happys Inn on US-2 in north western Montana before heading north for Lake Koocanusa. I took this photo to show that there are indeed others that tour on their GSX-Rs. This was a son touring with his parents on the FJR. Gas here was around $4.60 a gallon.

Riding McKillop Creek Rd (NF-535) up to Lake Koocanusa. The tall trees coming right up to the road on either side provided a closeness with the surroundings.

Lake Koocanusa, which was formed by the Libby Dam on the Kootenay River. The lake crosses over into Canada and thus the name comes from KOOtenay, CANada and USA. Cute.

I came up this way because I was told the scenic road that skirts the lake is a real treat. Two scenic roads go up either side of this really long lake and the road on the western side was recommended due to it being tighter with less traffic.

Another view further up north of the lake.

And the winding road hugging the jagged shore.

I filled up in the remote mountain village of Yaak and had to convince the bar owner to turn the sole gas pump on as it was just after 6 pm and they were shutting down. Two guys came up to me, who were with a bunch of hikers and asked about my trip as they were riders on BMWs and KTMs from Missoula and were impressed that I was doing this trip on a DR and I discussed with them why I chose this bike for this trip.

One decision that I struggled with during my bike preparation was the mounting location of the extra fuel containers. After reading of a few successful stories of mounting them to the bottom of the panniers, I went with that direction as having a low center of gravity was important to me for the bike's handling. I believed that the tanks were out of harms way, but as a friend put it: I couldn't control myself and leaned the bike over too much in a few corners that ground the edges of the fuel containers, rendering them useless. It was 15 mph hairpins that I touched down on both sides. The rear of the bike lifted up and I knew right away what had happened. I figured I would deal with when I got to Vancouver.

I crossed into northern Idaho and headed for the Porthill border crossing, making my way towards Balfour in the Kootenays of lower British Columbia. The sun was dropping in the sky and the border crossing was set in this beautiful little valley.

That's a deer in the middle of the road up ahead. He quickly ran up this steep slope. And the old adage holds true of - Loud Pipes Save Lives, cause all the poor wildlife was being scared away by my exhaust.

Twisties in Northern Idaho heading up to the Canadian border.

Coming up to the US-Canada border in the middle of this beautiful land.

On the Canadian side, after the border officer asked what the purpose of my trip was (heading towards Alaska), he asked what I was carrying to protect myself. Huh? He asked, "no firearms or mace?" Nope. He said I should look into at least getting some mace as a last resort in defense against a bear attack. I didn't think the threat of bears was this real, but I would get some mace in Vancouver, just in case.

Once in Canada, I had to start getting used to thinking in Metric (converting the speed limit and distance signs) and besides that, the big difference on riding in Canada vs. the US is the graphics they use in their warning signs for deer, trucks entering, children playing, etc.

That sign says "Welcome to Canada" and look at the perfect backdrop: lake, forest and mountains. How appropriate.

The Canadian border. I find it interesting that international borders and sovereignty are supposed to be this big deal, but usually right across land borders, there's not much difference in the geology or the people. The difference of being in a new country usually only kicks in the further inside you go.

British Columbia - The Best Place on Earth. After riding the whole province up and down and east to west, I'd say it definitely comes close.

I was enjoying the sunset scenic ride on Route 3A along the Kootenay Lake and wasn't aware that I was getting late for the infrequent (at night) ferry that crosses the lake from Kootenay Bay to Balfour, where I had planned to spend the night at Toad Rock Motorcycle campground. I had just missed the ferry by 20 minutes and now had to wait an hour and a half for the last ferry. I looked for a decent place to camp on this side of the lake, but couldn't find anything without trespassing so I just waited it out by the lake and had an MRE (military meal ready to eat) for dinner.

I wish I had gotten the earlier ferry as I it would've been a sunset boat ride but a night ferry ride is just as magical, especially with a full moon. Steve, the owner of Toad Rock was still up and playing his guitar by the huge campfire he had going and we chatted for a while. He was a regular career kind-of-guy who decided he wanted to depart from that life and live out here creating a little haven for motorcyclists. The campground is set in some nice woods (lots of tree camping) and he has random old VW vans that you can also sleep in. The campground is geared towards motorcyclists in the sense that RVs are not really welcome, because they can fit anywhere. They've been holding annual rallies, which Steve says is coming to resemble Sturgis, with the crazy partying and also the vendors. They have an open air social pavilion and Steve said I could just sleep on the couch instead of having to pitch up my tent, meaning less packing time in the morning.

Kootenay Lake at sunset. What a great first impression of Canada. This is the largest natural lake in BC and it runs about 60 miles long.

Seeing mountains tumble into the water always makes a great sight.

I missed the ferry from Kootenay Bay to Balfour by just 20 minutes arriving at 9 pm and now I'd have to wait about 90 minutes to head over to the Toad Rock Motorcycle campground on the other side.

Oh well, the view was great so I had my dinner at that bench, just taking it all in...

Having an MRE of Chicken Noodle. And it's always Dinner with Music for me.

The ferry schedule.

The ferry at last. Couldn't take a better picture as I was in a rush to make the boat.

Crossing Kootenay Lake at around 10:30 pm. This ferry ride is supposed to be the longest free ferry in the world.

The Full Moon shimmering across the dark waters.

Crashing on that couch in the social pavilion of Toad Rock Campground. After chatting with the owner Steve around the campfire, he told me not to bother with setting up the tent. Sounded good to me - less packing in the morning.

Next: Day 4, Riding the Kootenays into Vancouver

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