San Diego to Banff, Alberta and back - Suzuki Burgman Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 09-28-2016, 08:42 PM Thread Starter
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San Diego to Banff, Alberta and back

Just returned home from an 18 day trip from San Diego county to Canada and back. My old school pal on his Ducati and I on my 2007 650 Burgman had the time of our lives. The first day we spent getting outta Dodge and up Hwy 395 to Mammoth Mountain area. Spent the night in a camp ground near June lake. It gets cold up there! The next day we had a beautiful drive up 395 and made a left on Hwy 89 just before the state line. This brought us over to Lake Tahoe where we stayed on night two. From there 89 continues up to Lassen National Park. What a great ride that was through the Sierras. Beautiful country all around us. I have to say this was the best day ever on a motorcycle for me. The road had some great twisties and some fun broad curves to get up some speed. Magnificent!

After camping in at a beautiful spot near a small lake in Lassen we hit the road again towards Oregon and re-joined Hwy 395. This was our longest day of the trip covering 407 miles to John Day Oregon. There were so many fun sights along the way, forests, mountains, valleys, farms, outback, one long funky lake and a long empty stretch where I almost ran out of gas. Our only poor planning incident along the route. We ended up begging some gas from a passing camper that happened to be towing some quads on a trailer. They had gas cans aplenty and wouldn't take our money. Good people. Pizza and beer never tasted so good as in the pub in John Day. We camped out that night in the county park while a rodeo was going on close by. Slept like a rock.

Next day, Idaho! We ran up through some really pretty areas of north eastern Oregon. Great little towns seeing folks come in and rehab old buildings and make something out of them. Fun to explore. I wished we had more time. But onwards we went through a small slice of Washington and on into the panhandle of Idaho. We camped on the Snake River in Lewiston Id, and enjoyed a smoked salmon dinner provided by our neighbor campers in their big RV. My pal Bob is great at cajoling ice from RVers for our evening cocktails when we camp. We meet the best people that way.

Our next day on the road was our most difficult one yet. We were bucking into a strong head wind the whole way that knocked us around a bit. And the road was not as interesting as before, four lanes instead of two. Moscow was fun for breakfast. Always like a college town. Good energy. But by the time we hit Sand Point we also hit the wall and needed to stop in that sweet little town for coffee and pie to get us going again. This night we decided a motel was in order and stayed in a good one in Bonners Ferry. We also had an excellent dinner out at Mugsy's in the old part of town. If you are ever there, this is the place!

All this time the Burgman is running flawlessly. I love it more every day. We bought it to use as a TOAD on the back of our motorhome. It worked great for that until we sold the motorhome. Kept the Burg needless to say.

Next installment, onwards to Canada!
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 09-30-2016, 08:29 PM
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?Que pasa, El Jefe? The Canada instalment?

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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-01-2016, 12:44 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, sorry I've been lagging, part two...

September 13 we crossed into Canada at Kingsgate. What a fantastic ride up highway 95/93 passing lakes and rivers of incredible beauty. Amazing sight for a parched Southern California boy. And somehow the Canadians have figured out how to keep water in their lakes. Go figure! I also couldn't believe that I had come all this way on my scoot. Turns out it is an excellent ride for this sort of thing. Would never have considered it if I had not read accounts of long journeys here on burgmanusa.

We made the right turn at Radium Junction on 93 and into the national park. This was undeniably the most beautiful valley yet. Some of the rivers were a light milky green like I've never seen. It just got better and better with stunning mountain views on both sides, my head on a swivel. At last we approached Banff and pulled of the side of the road to marvel at enormous tilted slab of a mountain that defines the area. It was getting late in the day so we made our way to the campground near town and were very pleased to see there were tent sites available. Even though we were at the end of the season there were still a lot of campers and town was hustling. Next time I will make a reservation. After setting up camp we rode into town to the Irish Pub for a spendy night of food and drinks. Well, we deserved it! Back to camp well sated, we slept well again.

WOW, WOW, WOW, WOW!!!! That is what is says in my journal on the page dated September 14. Bob decided to explore town for the day but I was determined to experience the Icefields Parkway that runs up the big valley to Jasper. Knowing that I had to get back to Banff that day I rode up as far as the border line between Jasper and Banff National Parks, a 240 mile RT. Every few miles on this ride you are compelled to pull over and stop to gaze at utter magnificence. And the fun thing is that you are stopping with the same people who are doing the same drive as you. So you kind of become friends, swap cameras and take photos of one another. The mountains, glaciers, rivers and lakes were the most awe inspiring geology I have ever seen. Teal green lakes like giant reflecting pools, craggy mountains with brilliant white glaciers rising up beyond belief to meet the sky, all had me slack-jawed with delight. This was the big payoff, the highlight of the trip. I will be back, and I will bring my wife next time. Couldn't stop thinking about how much she would enjoy it.

The next day we said our farewells to Banff and headed off west on Canada Highway 1. The turnoff west is very close to Lake Louise which is one of the gems of the whole region. There is a very large hotel right on the lake that at first seems a little incongruous, but it is all very well done and allows for a lot of folks to experience the beauty of the area. What a view from all the rooms!

We thought after we exited the Banff National park that we would be done with the glaciers and such for the trip, but wait a minute, we still had Canada's Glacier National park to drive through. More and more amazing vistas this day. At long last we made our way down into a long valley to Revelstoke and on to Sicamous (Sik a moose?). There we made a left turn to the south on highway 97A down through the Okanagan.

Our original intent was to go west to Vancouver and over to Victoria before heading south. But a rainstorm was coming in from the Pacific and we chickened out. Neither Bob nor I has any real experience driving in the rain. It never rains in California as the song says. So south we would run, along the lee side of the Cascade Range.

After riding about 260 miles that day we found a nice little RV/camp ground along the river in the little town of Enderby. We walked along the river to "downtown" and had a great sushi dinner in a little old converted house. Perfect end for the day, except they didn't have a liquor license. More cocktails in camp.

To be continued.......
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-01-2016, 10:32 PM
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Gracias, El Jefe, por parte 2. I am enjoying the read.

I am surprised though that you never mentioned any close encounters with the four-legged kind. Banff is especially over-run with Elk and during rutting season, you do not turn your back on one of these as it saunters through town.

I encountered big horns coming out of the Lake Louise Hotel at twilight (astride my bro's BMW 90R many moons ago). Quite scary as they were numerous and standing roadside but just wide of the headlights. And it was starting to snow. In June.

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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-02-2016, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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Sadly we didn't see any Elk. There were lots of tourists in Banff though. The rangers said with the Canadian dollar low in value Canadians were not traveling abroad as much and foreigners like me were visiting in greater numbers. So we were all there together. Elk were lying low.

On to the Okanagan. This area is a long river valley with several fine large lakes (with actual water in them!) and beautiful vistas on either side of the valley. It's farming country clear up to the hillsides. Such a tranquil and bucolic ride it was, until......TRAFFIC! The main highway goes right through the towns of Vernon and Kelowna which both seem to have set up their traffic signals to stop traffic at every one. We had to wait at least two signal changes at many of the lights to get on to the next one. Would have been easy if we could have filtered up between lanes, but we doubted the legality of that move. Now really in retrospect it wasn't that horrible, but it just seemed like such a shock after being on two-lane country roads and four-lane open highways for so many days and so many miles.

As soon as we got out of Kelowna it all turned lovely again. Everything seemed so well-kept. The farms were beautifully arranged with an overall sense of abundance. And then we were in wine country! The harvest was just beginning and every few miles we could smell the fermentation from vats hidden somewhere among the old barns. It was like being in Napa Valley in California, except there were not the giant mansion/chalet wineries every mile. Much more low key here, but a big wine producing area none the less. We were tempted to do some tasting, but decided it would be better to remain sober for the crossing into the USA.

We crossed the border at Osoyoos and continued down the Okanagan River Valley in a new environment. The vineyards were gone and everything was apples. Washington Apples of course! On down the 97 it was apples for miles with little towns of migrant families scattered among them. We were getting hungrier and hungrier and finally stopped in the very small hamlet of Pateros on the Columbia River where we had the best Mexican food I had eaten in months. This place was the real deal, carnitas, al pastor, asada, you name it. And a Negra Modelo to go with! After that we were done with riding for the day and found a great hotel on the river that even had a garage just for our motorcycles. This turned out to be the nicest place we stayed in the whole ride. Who would have thought we would find this gem out here in the country?

We left Hwy 97 the next day at Wenatchee and took a meandering route through farmlands along the east side of the Columbia on county roads. We had heard that rain was coming but all we saw so far were some gray skies in the distance. We made a quick lunch stop for Mexican food, this time an excellent torta and pushed on to the south, re-joining Hwy 97 south of Yakima. In Goldendale we stopped again for a quick bite and had the worst french dip sandwich ever made. I think they used old boiled shoe leather. Should have stuck to Mexican. Here is where we made the decision to push on to Portland and our friend Cliff's house. We were road weary and knew that he and his wife would treat us well for a few days. And indeed they did.

But first we had to endure about 90 more miles into the rain which started as soon as we made the right turn on Hwy 84 along the Columbia in Oregon. Neither of us knew what to expect in the rain, but as it turned out (and as many here on this board have stated) it was not that difficult at all. Sure, I was 100% focused the whole time and passing or being passed by big water spewing trucks was, well interesting to say the least. I arrived at Cliff's warm garage dry as a bone under my rain gear. My only wet part was the hands under soaked gloves. OK, we can do this!

Our hostess made us an excellent late dinner on little notice, as we had told them we would arrive the next day, and we were soon off to bed. We had a real good time with our old high school pal for the next two days in Portland. It was great to get off the bikes and get cleaned up a bit before the long ride home.

to be continued....
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-02-2016, 01:53 PM
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I believe Kelowna is the fastest growing city in Canada so your comment re traffic does not surprise, though I would hope there would be a perimeter hwy/by-pass for travellers of your ilk. And the people who go through wine country in autos my never know it, missing the aromas in their air conditioned environments. I read that you now have more experience with rain, I am sure it will make you a more confident rider as a result. What excites my curiosity are your comments related to "little towns of migrant families". Are these permanent developments evolved from the apple picking farm workers imported to bring in the apples? Are they all/mostly Mexican?

And getting top notch Mexican food in a Washingtonon hamlet -- far out!!!

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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-02-2016, 03:06 PM Thread Starter
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I believe Kelowna is the fastest growing city in Canada so your comment re traffic does not surprise, though I would hope there would be a perimeter hwy/by-pass for travellers of your ilk. And the people who go through wine country in autos my never know it, missing the aromas in their air conditioned environments. I read that you now have more experience with rain, I am sure it will make you a more confident rider as a result. What excites my curiosity are your comments related to "little towns of migrant families". Are these permanent developments evolved from the apple picking farm workers imported to bring in the apples? Are they all/mostly Mexican?

And getting top notch Mexican food in a Washingtonon hamlet -- far out!!!
We asked about a bypass road with a local in a motorcycle shop in Kelowna, and he said we still have kind of a small town mentality around here and just can't seem to accept that we need some way around the town. Growing pains I guess.

Yes, I think you are correct about the Hispanic population in central Washington. Seemed to me that many were generations deep in the community. At the little shop we ordered tortas from a menu all in Spanish I asked for "dos tortas cubanos" and the Hispanic looking guy behind the counter said, "So ya want two cubans?" in unaccented English. I never quite know when to bust out my Spanish. Mexican, Central American, I'm sure there are working folks from all over in the region. Just like in my native Southern California.

What I found interesting was the juxtaposition of the Hispanic and native american neighborhoods with the big modern farm houses festooned with TRUMP signs. Interesting times.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-02-2016, 03:29 PM
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<<<SNIP>>>

We were getting hungrier and hungrier and finally stopped in the very small hamlet of Pateros on the Columbia River where we had the best Mexican food I had eaten in months. This place was the real deal, carnitas, al pastor, asada, you name it. And a Negra Modelo to go with!

<<<SNIP>>>

In Goldendale we stopped again for a quick bite and had the worst french dip sandwich ever made. I think they used old boiled shoe leather. Should have stuck to Mexican. (Oh we need to know what the places name was to avoid it too)

<<<SNIP>>>

to be continued....
Stopping in Pateros or Brewster WA for food is good. There are about 4 good places to eat and few gas stations. For lunch I would have went to Wenatchee and turned right and stopped at Cashmere for some of the BEST BBQ at Country Boys, then go over to Liberty Orchards outlet store to get a few boxes of "Aplet & Cotlets" Turkish delights.

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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-02-2016, 05:51 PM
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What I found interesting was the juxtaposition of the Hispanic and native american neighborhoods with the big modern farm houses festooned with TRUMP signs. Interesting times.
that's a surprise ....very few Canadians support him ...musta been an immigrant

We found the Okanagan very warm to ride through in June ...glad to get back up in the mountains later but the fruit at the roadside stands was very welcome. There was a water shortage when we rode through ...had a hard time even finding a water bottle fill up.


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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 10-02-2016, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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that's a surprise ....very few Canadians support him ...musta been an immigrant

We found the Okanagan very warm to ride through in June ...glad to get back up in the mountains later but the fruit at the roadside stands was very welcome. There was a water shortage when we rode through ...had a hard time even finding a water bottle fill up.
No, it was in Washington that the Trump signs came out. You are right, most Canadians are just dismayed.
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