Had a really good night's sleep last night. Wifey says that there was a lot of noise in the street outside our window last night, but I heard nothing.
Got up at 6 and decided to wander down the two blocks to Gastown to take some early morning photos. Lots of beggars about but mostly docile or comatose. For 6 on a Sunday morning I was surprised at just how many people where up and about in Vancouver.
There really are some lovely old buildings that have been carefully restored in Gastown. The rest of Downtown doesn't seem to have fared so well. In Toronto they now have laws that stop development of 'historic' buildings. Historic buildings must be incorporated into any new buildings planned. Doesn't seem the case in Vancouver. I feel the heart has been ripped out of the Downtown area. Anyway, hopefully will have some good photos once I upload them. Probably the most interesting thing in Gastown is the Steam Clock which looks old but has only been in creation since 1977.
The area named after a Gassy Jack, a talkative cove originally from 'Ull who managed to peddle whiskey in the area. Walked down to his statute opposite the Sitar that we ate in last night and then turned back for the hotel dodging the beggars, but as none of them seem capable of reasoning this morning so I was fairly unmolested. Again I have to go back to the shear number of beggars on the streets in Gastown especially. Not really a nice place to wander, the tourist shops (so loved by Wifey) all sell the same tat and a lot of little boys in and on big toys use it to pose.
As Wifey had packed the pannier bags last night there was only a slight reshuffle required in the bags this morning before trundling down to breakfast in the basement of the Ramada at just after 7. The breakfast room is very compact and was running out of tables when we arrived. It was also very hot and stuffy. Breakfast itself was standard motel fare: bagels and bread and cereals, some pre-packaged omelettes and pancakes rounded it off. It's free so not complaining. Only had a small bowl of cereal and a couple of rounds of toast as I'm expecting to be eating a lot on this trip.
We then went to find an ATM. Mina was not on duty this morning but the lad on duty directed us fairly to a 7-11 a couple of blocks away. I really am surprised just how dirty and grubby Vancouver is. I really am not liking the place and passed quite a few more dodgy looking characters staring at us. I am sure it is a safe place, I just don't feel safe walking around.
The ATM panicked Wifey as it refused her first withdrawal request but relented when she asked for less. Bought some painkillers and a small packet of washing powder as as we will be travelling light on the bike we will run out of clothes and will need to wash some. I did suggest using hotel laundry services but Wifey got huffey about the prices.
Back to the hotel and checked out at 08:40 giving us 20 minutes before Cycle BC opens for the taxi ride. Taxi driver is an old Chinese chap. We are only a couple of blocks away from Chinatown which is surprisingly large. We drove past Pacific Central station where we arrived in Vancouver yesterday and then turned off Main St to Quebec St. We were quickly at 5th and 6th but for some reason I kept saying 6th and 7th and confused the poor taxi driver hugely. After three or four U-turns I got it right and we pulled up in the alley between 5th and 6th, right outside Cycle BC at exactly 9 am. I'd obviously planned the detour that way.
They were already open. We presented ourselves to the very friendly (and very helpful, but more of that on a later post) Mike. Showed licenses, signed forms, pre-authorised $3000 security deposit. Mike said that he liked the way UK licenses come in two parts because you get to see people's misdemeanors. Lucky mine's clean then. The RT is absolutely brand new with only the breaking in mileage, 1024km, on it. Should be good then. Mike said broken in so we can 'enjoy' it. I said I couldn't 'enjoy' it as:
a. it's and RT and not exactly the most exhilarating of motorcycles
b. Wifey on board will prod me
He laughed. He also warned us about the very low Canadian speed limits and gave some sage advice for one of such tender years: drive slower than the fastest car on the road and the RCMP won't bother with you.
After all the formalities (which in reality only took 5-10 minutes) we tried to load the bike.
The two pannier bags I have that I use on my GT fitted like a dream. Well, they are made to fit the panniers and so they should. The Heine Gericke that I use in the top box of my GT did not fit. At all. My BMW top box is 55 litres. The Givi on the RT provided by Cycle BC is only 46 litres. Hmm. That'll be one pair of jeans for me, two t-shirts and only my para boots for the trip. Doesn't really bother me as I'm used to packing and travelling light. Sends Wifey into a bit of a tizzy though. Good job we bought the washing powder, but do we have the space for the box?
Mike did offer a 49 litre box but we said we'd manage. Can't fault his helpfulness.
Emptied the Heine Gericke bag putting it empty into one of the bags we'd be leaving with them and repacked the pannier bags. Top box was left to hold my camera bag, Wifey's little backpack and my electronics backpack with power adapters, laptop, spare memory cards and a copy of RiDE which we hope to use to get a photo published.
Once loaded I decided on a quick RT acclimatisation loop of the block, and just as I did the first time I tried an RT at Bahnstormers, I stalled it. Thanks, Mike, I know it has a long first gear. Sigh. First loop round the block ended up as a loop and a half as I missed the alley way first time round. RT much nimbler and lighter than my brute the GT. Slightly easier to handle and park up two up, but steering still not as precise although lighter than mine.
Pulled up and Tan was talking to an older guy who breaks in their bikes for them talking about the trip we're about to do. Said we'd love it. Mike also said the weather forecast is looking good for the whole time we are on the road. Sounds good. Speaking to many people in Canada, just like Britain, the weather this year has been appalling.
Impressed with the set-up at Cycle BC. They rent bicycles, mopeds and bikes and must have about 50 bikes of one sort or another in the shop. Beamers, Yamahas, Suzukis, Hogs and a load of Honda Jazz mopeds for which they seem to do a brisk trade.
Mike filled the tank up using a hand pump after walking me through the RT controls: I know, Mike, my GT's switchgear is identical. We left two large suitcases with them (note 2 not 3) in their secure storage and headed out onto quiet Sunday morning Vancouver streets.
I had planned to take W Georgia Street from Quebec all the way to Stanley Park and the Lion's Gate Bridge. That is Highway 99, an upside down Route 66 as Wifey points out. Somehow I managed to completely miss the turn and ended up on Pacific Boulevard that turned into Pacific St and Beach Ave. Lucky happenstance as it took us right past Sylvia Hotel that we'll be staying in when we get back to Vancouver in 9 days time. Looks nice, all ivy covered.
Edged the southern end of the park and then finally onto W Georgia St onto Stanley Park Causeway through the park and over the Lion's Gate Bridge. Onto Marine Drive West, narrowly missing ending up on Marine Drive East then up Taylor Way to the Trans-Canada Highway westbound - the Sea to Sky Highway beckons.
The speed limits in Canada are ridiculously low. It varied on the dual carriageway up to Whistler between 80-90 kph. That's only 50-55 mph on a nice wide, flowing, dual carriageway. All the other roads have similarly stupidly low limits. As Willy's brother, Jace, incredulously asks, "Why?"
Having said all that, almost immediately into the fun. The STS HW is windy and uppy and downy with truly awesomely majestic views of the mountains rising out of the sea. I will be lost for superlatives by the end of the day. Every single turn, every single up, every single down provides a new stunning vista and it continues all day.
Our first stop was at a Starbucks in Squamish. Obviously a bit of a biker cafe as there are about 40-50 bikes parked outside, mostly ridden by Chinese riders hanging out. There was an old Honda CBR 750 and an old MV Agusta parked up next to a brand new Indian. Rest of the bikes were new Japanese sports bikes. Don't see many Japanese bikes for the rest of the day. Harley country awaits. And there are huge numbers of them on the road today. First nice Sunday for weeks we were told and there is a gathering up in Kamloops so everyone with a bike seems to be on the road today.
Back onto the Sea to Sky Highway, missing the short exit from the Starbuck's car park, and ploughed on through increasing majesticness until Whistler. Due to the ludicrously low speed limits, no-one sticks to them. I'd read before we came that the police in BC are everywhere tax collectors. Mike reinforced this with his warning about limits and speed traps. So, forewarned, I stuck to 10 kph over whatever speed limit was posted. And was either passed by everyone or had queues of people staked behind me. Only saw one radar trap all day just outside Squamish, but felt better for not being prodded by Wifey. Apparently if you are caught doing 40 kph over the limit your vehicle is immediately impounded for 7 days. That's quite some deterrent.
Whistler is an odd place. It is purely and squarely aimed at winter sports pleasure seekers but re-markets itself in the summer for downhill biking. In the summer the ski lifts are converted to carry bikes up to the top of the mountain. Have to say that it is a strange sight. I do like the fact that bikes must be walked through the village though looking at the speeds some of the riders finish the runs.
Lots and lots of bike and skiing shops and a lot of arty, crafty and clothing boutiques and, of course, pubs and restaurants. Wifey managed to find one or two souvenir shops, one staffed by a girl from Verwood, and we had a mahoosive single scoop ice cream each.
Walked the length of the lower village which appears to be only one of four similar resorts in the area. As it is a beautiful Sunday the place was absolutely packed with visitors, and obviously, most of them haven't come for the biking by the look of the pubs.
After Whistler the 99, or upside down Route 66, becomes single lane. Just as windy and with just as ridiculous speed limits. Thinking about it. They may be ridiculous on a beautiful, dry summer day but in the winter?
We stopped in Pemberton for lunch. Can heartily recommend the Mile One Eating House. I Had the Mile One burger with smoked bacon, cheddar and Blue Buck beer braised onions. Wifey had an enormous chicken salad. Rather large portions and very reasonable price. Although clean and friendly the quality and value screamed out there were families and bikers in abundance. Good place. Had a chat with one Hog rider on the next table going home to Courtenay on Vancouver Island after being at a bike gathering in Kamloops that he goes to every year.
Whilst eating watched a 'gang' of four or five Sikhs on Harleys pull up at the traffic lights. Their turbans matching the colour of their bikes and all with really fantastic beards. They looked superb.
A little light shower while we were eating, but that was it for the day. Sky remained clear blue with the odd fluffy. So lucky today.
Back onto the 99 narrowly avoiding missing the turn in Mt Currie and the road appears to narrow again with some sharp turns as it traces its way along the side of a river towards Lillooet Lake. Although names around here all say Lillooet we're still about an hour and a half from the town itself.
Clip the top of the lake and then to a set of switch backs climbing up to Duffy Lake. Very steep and very slow. So glad that we had no RVs in front or cars behind as the RT really did not like the hill and I was having to take some of the corners in first. Did eventually, once through the chicanes, manage to almost catch up with an old school bus but he was really trucking, road by now a series of sweeping bends.
Then we hit the highlight of the day for me: Duffy Lake. Stopped two or three times in lay byes to take stunning photos of a stunning lake. At one stop over a deep valley there wasa young couple right at the edge. I fear that I may have incited a domestic by advising him not to jump. He replied that he'd push her over first. She wasn't best pleased, but he laughed. I said, yes you have to think of the insurance. Which went down even worse with her.
Road lovely an sweeping. Still keeping at 10 kph above the limit, but that was still so slow that I had cars stacked up behind me until the could overtake. At least everyone appears to respect the road markings and don't overtake where there is an unbroken central yellow line. And they don't seem to get as upset as Americans do when you hold them up. Even a couple of Harleys overtook us. You could see the footpegs grinding down in the corners.
One of the things to note about the road since leaving Pemberton is that all the bridge road beds are made of wood. Would imagine that they are treacherous in the wet on a bike. So glad it's dry today.
Missed a photo opportunity at Seton Lake and the hydro-electricity dam, but there are just too many places we could stop for photos we just wouldn't get anywhere. At least Wifey is practicing for becoming a motorcycle photographer for the Tour de France and snapping away as we ride along. No doubt there will be some interesting angles.
Rolled into Lillooet at exactly 17:00 with the bike showing 1282 km. That's 258 km ridden today and it seemed a lot easier than similar distances on the Harley. Interesting. Lighter bike? More comfortable seat?
The 4 Pines Motel is definitely more than adequate. We have a corner room suite with two bedrooms and a kitchen. Lovely and clean. Girl at reception was very chatty and pleasant asking about our journey. Lovely, big welcoming smile. Three old boys sat outside their rooms by their Harley, Victory and Suzuki nodded in appreciation at the pannier bags. Most comfortable place.
Wifey caught 40 winks too easily and it was an hour later that we thought about food. Girl at reception recommended Lillooet's Greek restaurant for dinner. Walked down Main Street to find it closed on the 2 June. That's today. Not many other eating opportunities. A couple of hotels/pubs and a rather greasy-spoon looking Chinese- the Gold Panner. We took a gamble on the Chinese. The menus were tacky, I mean physically sticky and the waitress could hardly speak a word of English but kept assuring us that we would like the food. Cooked fresh. Very good.
Wifey had her usual of chicken in black bean sauce and I had the 'Szechuang' beef. We had a bowl of boiled rice to share. The quantities were absolutely immense and the food was remarkably good. Waitress insisting that we try each other's dishes. Another of those hidden gems. We couldn't finish. Superb.
On the way back to the room we passed the museum, closed now, but looked interesting with an outside jail cell open to the elements. Also popped into the local supermarket to buy some water and other odds and sods. Got a few interested looks from the locals. Funniest thing was at the petrol station. Wifey went in to see if they had some postcards. I sat outside as the had tables and chairs. A woman, First Nation, pulled up at the pump with three dogs all sat on the back seat facing forward looking out of the window. Looked very funny. As she walked past me to pay she said I looked comfortable. I said not as comfortable as her dogs looked. She said they loved going for a drive.
Passing reception we popped in to ask about breakfast opportunities, the motel not having a restaurant. Advised that Reynolds hotel has the best breakfast in Lillooet. We then debated what to do tomorrow. Do we breakfast here or further down the road. Decided to take the chance and hit the road early in the morning and stop somewhere for breakfast.
Bed now as we've decided to start early.
Days ride below: