On day four we need to make it out to the coast and Prince Rupert with a distance of around 500 kms (310 miles) to cover. There is also a good helping of interesting vehicle finds.
Here is the map.
Since the sun rose so early we left Burns Lake much earlier than usual in the morning. The scenery along the road generally looks like this. Lots of trees, some hills. We were lucky enough to spy a few moose and elk on this day.
After a time we came to Smithers, BC which is the largest place along the route. We had noticed one of the two large bolts holding the kickstand on the V-Strom had fallen out and been lost on route. The V-Strom is a big and heavy bike so we felt we needed to source a replacement. The bolt in question is a big metric one which could be hard to find so we visited several hardware stores and a semi truck service shop without any luck. We were pointed to an old school bike shop as a potential source.
Yesterday was a little slim on the curbside classic count but spied this 6×6 right away.
At the bike shop they did not have the bolt but recommended the Toyota dealership who did have a suitable one in their pile of spare bolts. The bike shop then installed it nice and tightly. Outside was another customer on this BMW motorcycle. He was a real character with long, wild red hair and a braided beard. He had ridden his bike from up from Kentucky and was heading to Alaska to fish for salmon for two months. Given all that he was traveling extremely light. Surprisingly he was rough camping at the side of the road but without even a tent. He told us he did not use tents anymore after a squirrel got into his sometime back and he was now afraid of squirrels (and tents apparently). I am still not clear on how the lack of a tent protects you from squirrels but it obviously works for him.
The mountain climbs meant running full throttle a significant portion of the time so I popped into Canadian Tire to get some top up oil for my bike. As luck would have it this 1992 Mercedes Benz 310 van was in the parking lot.
The interior is definitely no frills.
I believe this is somewhere near New Hazelton which is the most northern point on our journey. Just above the southern most tip of Alaska.
I fueled up yet again as gas stations were becoming harder and harder to find. This one sits at the entrance to the Alaska highway. We came across the Mercedes van again which looked well outfitted for a journey up that road. We also meet a few Americans that were heading north in their RVs. They had ridden bikes this way years before and were interested in my bike particularly. The retro looks of the TU250X certainly attracts attention. One of the guys had a Suzuki VanVan 200 mounted to the front of his RV and couldn’t believe I had ridden something with an engine only a little bigger this far.
Speaking of bikes there were tons of adventure bikes around with their ubiquitous aluminum square box luggage. We later heard that there had been a fatality not too far up the Alaska highway that day.
The gas station was rather … errr … rugged.
The scenery changed to more mountainous again.
We came across another old growth forest but with much less massive trees.
Here we took another short hike and proved to be very popular with the local and hungry mosquito population.
As we were traveling beside the Skeena River heading into Prince Rupert it was amazingly windy. I was having to use full throttle and only achieving 90km/h (56 mph) and as a result my gas mileage was rather poor. The reserve light came on (the TU250X does not have a gas gauge) and it would touch and go if I would even make the next gas station 60 kms (37 miles) away.
We were both riding on fumes at this point so we detoured to Port Edward to add a splash of fuel. A gas station has never looked so good.
Also in Port Edward was the North Pacific Historic Fishing Village which is one of British Columbia’s oldest surviving salmon canneries.
I have never been to Prince Rupert and unfortunately saw only a portion this time but it is an interesting place with lots of older buildings including this church.
Some building are maintained better than others.
We were getting a ferry the next morning and needed to be up by 5am so we decided to splurge on a hotel but oddly they were almost all full. We later found out Justin Trudeau (our Prime Minister) was in town.
The Highliner Inn was recommended to us but my riding partner felt like we would get murdered there by the looks of it. It is the tallest building in town for what that is worth.
Instead we found this place which looked nice enough. Plus it had an older Jaguar parked out front so it had to be good. The main floor had a subtle smoke smell to it and oddly we got a stern lecture that no smoking was allowed in the rooms upstairs.
The room itself was nice and clean if a little old lady-ish in decor. We needed to get some laundry done in a bad way otherwise we would risk recycling underwear and socks. The front desk lady happily informed us there was a laundry facilities downstairs. Downstairs? There was some of a residence housing down there which was where the smoke smell was coming from. I am not sure what kind of residence it was but could have been for folks working on boats or a halfway house. Either way we did manage to get some laundry done and grabbed a bite to eat in the bar with a variety of locals.
As a unexpected bonus we had a fantastic view from our room.
That evening there was time for a short curbside classic hunt on foot as I had ridden enough for one day. We may as well start with the 1990 Jaguar XJ6 Sovereign out front.
A rare to see Chrysler LeBaron coupe was parked right across the street. It sported a for sale sign and I suspect a quick wash would revel a very solid body.
An Eighties era Ford Ranger pickup truck 4×4 was nearby as well. Someone has put some work into this one including a raised stance, cut fenders and aftermarket bumper.
The differential says “Ranger #2 Eats More Bush”.
Speaking of eating, we did not eat at this old International school bus turned restaurant.
The oldest vehicle I found on my short walk was this F-series pickup.
I did have more but annoyingly when I got home my phone seems to have lost about half an hours worth of photos. In the next installment we wake up early and take to the ocean.
The full trip log:
Road Trip: Part 1 – Preparation and Starting a 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 2 – Best Laid Plans on a 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 3 – Making up Time – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 4 – The Miles Pile On Up North – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 5 – Heading for the Coast – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 6 – A Coastal Ferry Cruise – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 7 – Vancouver Island and Rain – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 8 – Rain, Rain and More Rain – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 9 – Back to the Mainland and Two Becomes Three – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 10 – Riding Nirvana – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 11 – World’s Largest Collection of Brill Trolley Buses – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 12 – Beer, Dune Buggy and a Ferry – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Road Trip: Part 13 – Finale – 4,500km Road Trip on a 250cc Motorbike
Excellent as usual, glad to be along for the (virtual) ride. I think I need to head up there to see it all for myself.
One of the best parts of motorcycling is that since the tanks are so small the price of gas seems almost irrelevant as a fill up is rarely more than the cost of a cheap meal. Conversely, the pucker factor of being on the reserve without much in the way of infrastructure in the area is massive.
Any motorcyclist has known about “range anxiety” since they started riding. At least yours has a light telling you that you are on the reserve with no other action needed (besides finding a gas station). My old GS450 (and many others) merely started coughing and spluttering and then it was a scramble to reach down and find the switch at the side of the engine and rotate it to “reserve” before the engine fully died, always at speed and usually with following traffic.
I had well used a 1991 Honda Nighthawk 250 last year that I learned to ride on that still the reserve tank switch with no fuel gauge or light. I always kept it fairly full so never had to use it.
That’s what I usually did as well around town. On a road trip not so much an option unless you stop every hour. But then used so rarely that you’d always wonder if it would actually work and keep the engine going. (It did.)
I’m starting to get a bit confused by your route. You describe the large PetroCanada station as being at the junction of the Alaska Highway. But didn’t you pass that back in PG? Shouldn’t it be the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy (37)? Or have the roads been renamed since I was there in ‘87? At that time, 37 was unpaved all the way and definitely considered a more adventurous route. Which is of course why we took it. The twin gas pumps you show in Port Edward look much more like what I remember … though often there was only one pump on a small pad, surrounded by dirt, and no other forecourt amenities. Thanks for continuing with your saga, and too bad the VStrom is continuing to have (minor) issues. It must have been a Monday or Friday bike, built after or before the Golden Week holiday.
It could be – it was described to me as that I never did go back and study the map.
The Alaska Highway starts at Dawson Creek BC, a long way from where you were. The junction you describe is indeed the start of the Stewart-Cassiar.
The junction you passed in Prince George was the start of the Hart Highway.
Most maps just show the highway numbers, so it’s not always obvious. It’s easy if you know your way around, much like southern Alberta!
Cool trip, I guess a very expensive boat ride will be featured in the next installment.
I’m enjoying this series greatly.
Well, you are well out of the region I’m familiar with now, I’ve been to Prince George for work but never further.
500km at wide open throttle, ugh. Is the next installment where you push the bikes into the sea and take a charter flight back to Lethbridge? 😉
Or purchase another Curbside Classic (and trailer), and take the bikes back home that way. ;o)
The scenery, and your photography of it, has been a joy in this series. A big (and rather beautiful) country it is.
In Australia, it would be hard to fill a hotel for the Prime Minister, because of fear the hotel might fill for the wrong guy: on a trip of this length, it’d be a different one when you stopped. (We just got a new one last week, ridiculously, the 7th since November 2007).
Do you have 7/11 stores in Australia? If so, a nickname comes to mind, until #8’s turn comes up.
We do. But 7/11’s are a bit upmarket for this latest one.
Prince George, is otherwise known as ” eight hours from any place you want to be “. Its a rather interesting place though, with a outdoor train museum of sorts, and endless bush and scrub trees, friendly folks, a great university and had for a time “Mr. P.G.” which stood south of the city as a giant welcome sign. Great airport too!
West of Prince, its starts to get really neat by Fraser Lake, and the trip from Smithers thru to Rupert is really incredible. The wind always blows hard from the west and funnels up and down the valleys,especially west of Terrace on the Skeena as per your photo.
Just south of Terrace, is the town of Kitimat, and in general, the region is known as the land of rapid snowfalls. The region has several of the top ten places in Canada for record rates of snowfall.
A trip not to be missed for sure!
Beautiful country. Despite living in BC for almost 40 years, I’ve still never been more than a few hundred km north of Vancouver. Next year?
Smithers incidentally is home to Alex Cuba, 4-time Latin Grammy Award winner, and nominee for a mainsteam Grammy this year. He also has an affinity for the Canadian singer/songwriter canon. This song would be on my playlist for a BC road trip, and I’d try to stop by to say ‘Hi!’. 🙂
Thank you robadr. You have just helped solve a musical mystery that has bothered me for around 30 years. When the group Blue Rodeo became big, around 1988, their sound (and name) seemed very familiar to me at the time. But I couldn’t place it.
Clicking your link, and exploring further, I discovered the group from Vancouver that Blue Rodeo reminded me of… Blue Northern! Blue Northern earned four Top 40 hits in Canada in the early 80s. Including this one. Similar to that early 80s retro rockabilly sound popularized by Phil Seymour in the United States.
More amazing pics and dialogue. As is often the case, going off the beaten path introduces us to some of the most interesting beauty… and unique Curbside Classics.
I wonder if that gas station perhaps uses the mounted elk head to conceal its surveillance camera? 🙂
That ’77 LeBaron looks rather immaculate. Whenever I see very white, almost bleached whitewalls that appear chalky and runny, I think it’s from exposure to the environment. UV light and rain… plus sitting there for a long time.
I could see where a guy could get “fuel anxiety” in a remote place like that when driving something with a small capacity tank.
The scenery is beautiful (again). That LeBaron is a 79 if my memory is correct – that was the year that Chrysler filled in much of the C pillars with vinyl roof, making the quarter/opera windows smaller. I believe that was also the first year of those hugely famous Chrysler RWD wire wheel covers that would grace so many Fifth Avenues.
Thank you JPC, for your F-Body LeBaron expertise. I guessed it as a ’77, not realizing they redesigned the quarter window for ’79. To be honest, I think they should have retained the original design. It was uniquely attractive, and less claustrophobic for rear seat passengers. As too many cars it seemed, were now adopting the upright formal look.
Great Travelogue, David. I’m really enjoying this one.
When I was a newbie motorcyclist back in 1981 on my brand new Honda Hawk (CB400T), I had that reserve-tank switch-on-the-fly scare once. At first I thought something was wrong with my brand new bike, but then remembered the reserve [valve/switch?] and reached down and flipped it over. Fortunately, I was only going about 30mph (48kph), and no one else was around. I don’t think I ever let the tank get that low again.
Burns Lake to Smithers? Excellent. I almost wondered if Matt Groening came up with the names for his characters on a trip through BC, but Mr. Burns was apparently named after a street in Portland, OR (as were many of the Simpsons supporting characters, apparently).
Release the hounds!
I really like single cylinder motorbikes, but I do know that feeling when you’re into a headwind, heading up a slight incline and there just isn’t enough throttle there…
Some excellent photos David. ..
Someone correct me if I’m wrong ..Ten years as an Army brat would suggest to me that “6X6 ” would be referred to as a “Duce and a Half”
Great photos, too bad the phone lost some. Amazing what a well built 250cc engine can endure and keep on going. Some of the little towns you’ve visited seem to be living examples of an earlier time period.
I try to fuel before 150 miles, (no warning light) if still looking for fuel I just open the reserve so the engine won’t cut out, If I hit 180 miles I know I’ll be walking soon.
You are lucky with the weather by the looks of it. Rupert is well known for the amount of rain it gets. When we drove our old camper van out there in 97 it rained so hard all the way from Terrace to Rupert the water was pushing past the worn seals on the “no draft” windows.
Your series reminds me of a book I read several years ago by Neal Peart, Rush’s drummer titled “Ghost Rider”. Peart did a motorcycle journey throughout North America lasting over a year, but the beginning phase of the trip reminds me of your journey. Now I wish I hadn’t given the book to a friend.
More great story and pics. Nice to see some mountain scenery NOT currently on fire.Glad the gas pumps were marked as such lest you mistake them for fountain drinks. That big scary hotel looks Soviet Union-esque. That LeBaron (translates as “The Baron” you know) looks pretty clean. Beautiful scenery. I would not have gone into those woods without a full can of insect repellant on. Or two. Was that “International House Of …something” open for business? Bus-O-Noodles would be a better name. Look forward to the next installment.
Well written and interesting, looking forward to the next installment.
The reserve tank reminds me of the ’53 Beetle my mom had when I was very young. I don’t recall it having a light either, but I remember a lever under the dash. (I was about 6 when she replaced it so you’ll pardon my poor memory.)
My family took a boating trip up the Inside Passage from Washington to Alaska in ’80 or ’81. We stopped for a couple of days in Prince Rupert. Looks like it hasn’t changed much. Watched a demolition derby there.
I like the Ranger. Looks like time was taken to flare the fenders and box sides out around the wheel openings. A purpose built truck with, yes, appropriate patina. I’ll bet the interior is similar with homebrew add-ons and slightly scruffy.
I hope your bike has been reasonably comfy on this “Iron Butt” tour. I’m enjoying this series. I miss riding.
I don’t have a whole lot of experience on other bikes but it was comfortable. I could have gone further on each day if needed. I currently have a more retro seat on the bike is cool looking but not as comfy.
Finally getting to this chapter. It’s definitely a part of the world we want to get to, as we rather like remote places. You’ve given us the best look at it so far.
Very cool pictures you drove through Telkwa a where town my dad had clients