Really liked the Best Western in Fernie. Without a doubt the most comfortable and nicest of the hotels we've stayed in on this trip. Never thought I'd say that about a BW. Very clean and a good mountain lodge look and decor in the lobby. There you go.
As ever, up at 6 and sown to breakfast at 06:50. Unfortunately the breakfast room didn't open until 7 so had to hang around the lobby for 10. Very clean and lots of choice. Another reason to like this BW. Choice not your usual motel fare and was surprisingly good considering that it was free. Best hotel breakfast of the trip to date although I only had a sausage sarnie, with the obligatory HP. Girl manning the place was rather stroppy though. Face like thunder. Who took the jam from her doughnut?
After breakfast went up to the room to do the final packing and put the boots and jacket on and missed an accident right outside of the window. I sat down on the bed to put on my socks facing the window. I bent down to put my socks on and by the time I sat back up and looked out of the window there was a Ford 4x4 in the storm-drain sized dip in the grass just outside reception. Two young lads were scrambling out and falling all over the place. One was throwing up and the other was walking away making a phone call. The one who threw up started walking up the Crowsnest and soon disappeared, The guy making the call then walked back to the cab and started throwing beer bottles and cans from the cab.
The Mounties quickly turned up to 'assist'. One in the usual patrol car and one in an unmarked 4x4. Looked like the had the up-chucker in custody in the back of the patrol car. Watched for about 10 minutes but had to get on the road so finished packing and checked out. Lady on reception this morning was British, sounded Yorkshire. She mentioned that the Mounties had been in to see if any of the staff had seen anything and said that the two lads were blaming each other.
Filled up at the Gas Bar $1.489, most expensive to date. Had a quick drive through Fernie town centre and then back onto the Crowsnest heading west towards Vancouver. Getting that end of holiday spectre.
Every town we ride through today prides itself as having an 'historic' downtown and on having a museum. Like 140 years is ancient history. Try telling that to the Cree and Siuox. I do have to admit that some towns we drive through today do look they've come straight from a starring role in a Western.
The Crowsnest was absolutely deserted and so we chugged along quite nicely sat at 110 kph. Lovely and wide and mostly straight with a few long bends. We stopped just after Wardner at a rest stop with flushing toilets rather than long drops. Made Wifey's day.
Turned off the 3 and headed a couple of clicks up the 93 to visit the 'historic' Fort Steele. And I'll give that this one is 'historic' and more than worth the $12 each. Set up as a North West Mounted Police station and named after one of the most famous Mounties, SUperintendent Samuel B. Steele who was dispatched hereabouts to settle a dispute between the local Ktunaxa nation and gold rushers.
The place today has dozens of rescued buildings from the across the province. Buildings included lodges used by the first Mounties, to theatre, churches, shops, blacksmiths etc. We arrived at 9:15. Doors opened at 9:30. A little bit of a hang around then and went and had a look at the dozen or so Clydesdales they had paddocked outside. So much to see but so far to go today so very touristy today and so we sped round. Lots of people dressed up in period clothing manning the various building and lots of animals too including a wallowing pig. The pig was good and muddy and there was a sign advising people not to pet it. Strange person who'd want to pet a muddy pig. Good brisk walk but so much see, we really did not do it justice. It's really a half day visit not the hour we took. The even had a cafe and a souvenir shop.
Back up the 93 to the 3 and through Cranbrook. On the next section I overtook a clapped out old space wagon doing 90 kph in a 100 zone. I overtook and he then chased me for a long while at 110 kph. Really can't explain why people seem to get annoyed when someone else overtakes them when they aren't doing the limit?
Very close to the US border here, only about 10 km to the south as the crow flies. Rode through the attractively named Yahk and on to Creston. Looked like another set of a Western film. Had tea and coffee in the Creston Valley Bakery with some cakes. Very nice place.
After Creston we hit the best road of the entire tour, the 3A along the side of the Kootenay Lake up to Kootenay Bay ferry. 80 km of sheer bliss with absolutely no traffic either in front or behind. Speed limit most of the way was only 60 kph and for most of it I stuck to it. Loved the road. Very picturesque views of the lake and pretty little hamlets. Vista after vista, turn after turn. Awesome.
Parked up at the ferry head at the end of the 3A at 12:20 with the next ferry scheduled at 14:00. The Kootenay Bay Ferry to Balfour is the longest free ferry in North America. Wonderful road and a free boat trip at the end. Fantastic. Big signs saying that bikes have to queue with everyone else and don't get preferential loading. I suppose in high season, with that road, the ferry is very popular with bikers and if we were all allowed to the front no-one else would get on.
Couple of eateries alongside the park-up for the ferry and as we were wandering to look at them who should pull up but our 'friends' in the Space Wagon. Bunch of college kids.
We chose the northern of the two cafes and I think it is the better of the two. Cheese and onion on fresh brown bread for me and a soup and a roll for Wifey. Woman was taken aback that all I wanted from the multitudinous choices they had on offer was cheese and onion, but that was all I felt like. Can't seem to get a good cheese and onion sarnie anywhere these days. Don't always want the rocket science fillings you get everywhere these days, just plain old cheese and onion. Have to admit their bread was fresh and the sandwich delightful. Woman behind the counter was a little bit ditzy. Reminded me a bit of a dithering Bette Midler. Nice enough woman. The view from their veranda was epic overlooking the lake with the mountains across it. The bloke clearing the tables said that he'd sat for an hour and a half just looking at the view this morning when he should have been doing the books. Said I couldn't blame him. I'd do the same.
The ferry crossing to Balfour takes about 35 minutes. Notwithstanding the notices regarding bikes queuing, once loading was underway bikes were put to the front, first to get off then. Then cars, then RVs last. I can see some method forming for disembarkation. There were probably 6-7 other bikes on this crossing besides us. A real motly collection of marques and types. Couple of VMAX and a few Harleys. Had a chat with an old German guy on an ancient 1200 Honda Goldwing. Or should I say he just wanted to talk about himself. Ordinarily I'd have been happy to listen, but wanted to get upstairs and take some photos. One of the Harley guys was interested in the RT and was surprised when I told him how heavy it was for a 1200. Did explain that my GT is far better than the RT and not that much heavier. I'd only chosen the RT for the fairing and passenger comfort after all.
Views from the ferry as epic as anywhere we've been on this trip. Ferry has a cafe as well. 35 minutes flew by, as the whole trip has, and before you knew it we were mounting up to ride off. Here the bikes did get preferential service as we were first to disembark. I kind of fluffed it though and lost my first mover advantage. The ramp was perforated iron and rather than ride two up I asked Wifey to walk off. By the time she and we'd mounted up a number of slow vehicles had pulled off ahead of us including a couple of RVs and doddery old bloke who couldn't get anywhere near the speed limit and broke at absolutely every corner. Must've be 10-15 cars stacked up behind him.
Eventually managed to overtake him just before Nelson. However, took a wrong turn in Nelson and rather than following the 3A west towards Castlegar I managed to take the 6 south. Happily it was another of those perfect happistances. The 6 was wide, quick and completely empty. What a blissful ride we had along it. Nicely sweeping 90 kph max and, as I didn't want the 6 to end, I stuck to it for a change.
We stopped in a small town, nay village, called Salmo and I ask again, how do these places still exist? Another town plucked straight from a Western together with the covered boardwalk and wooden saloon with the swing doors. Parked up next to the old clapboard station and took a wander down Fourth Street. Took two minutes then into a little internet cafe. Title on the building was JAS R. HUNNEX 1934, whatever that meant. Rather surprisingly cosmopolitan menu including cappuccino teas and doubled up as an art gallery with some fantastic animal and landscape photography for sale. Had tea coffee and too many cakes, and probably just as well we did as you'll see later. Cafe was doing brisk trade.
Final push to Rossland via the Crowsnest again now with lots of hotrods and classic cars coming towards us from the opposite direction. Soon popped off the Crowsnest and onto the 38 for Fruitvale and Trail. Trail is dominated by a huge factory. I took yet another wrong turn in Trail. The sign before the bridge into Trail said the turning to Rossland was after 900 m. I took the next turn instead and onto Trail's high street. True grid pattern with lights at every junction and every one turned red as I approached. Finally realised our mistake and asked a local. He said I'd turned to early and I needed to go back the the 38 and roll round to the right then take a road to the left. It's signposted. Thanks. Back down the high street with all the lights again on red.
Followed the sign and made it onto the windy and steep Rossland road, the Paterson Trail Highway, with more roadworks and no road markings but a decent riding road. Rode straight through Rossland and parked up outside the Casa Alpina. And I have to state that it was, after the Best Western last night being the best, the worst hotel of the trip without any shadow of a doubt. Room was crappy. Smelt musty and damp. Signs up everywhere full of does and don'ts. Furniture cheap. Bed uncomfortable. Indian proprietor not exactly effusive or welcoming. Add to that that it is a mile outside town and all adds up.
Now onto Rossland. It appeared that Rossland was closed. It was graduation weekend and so the whole town appeared to be at the Prestige Mountain Resort. No restaurants other than a Japanese were open so we ended up getting a couple of ready meals and snacks from a local supermarket. Rather disappointed. Got some crisps and chocolate from the petrol station attached to the motel. Girl behind the checkout was the bright point in Rossland as was rather chatty. Bored I guess. Quiet night with everyone at the Prestige. Filled up while I was at it. We'd done 426 km since filling up this morning so tank very empty. Very expensive at $1.539, but had little other choice.
Funniest thing about Rossland was a clapped out old car driven by a young lad with a big baseball cap cruising up and down the high street listening to gangster rap. Had to laugh.