Day 2 (July 19)
I got off to an earlier start this morning than the day before hitting the road at around 8:40am. Even though I needed gas I got on the freeway and headed north. I would much rather get a good hour of travelling in right off the bat instead of hanging around town for too long. I stopped 50 miles later in Kelso, WA and filled up the tank with a good feeling of getting a decent amount of miles in already.
I stopped in Smokey Point (about 50 miles north of Seattle where my grandparents used to live) to get gas and a bit to eat. My Italian bread that I had bought two days before had a couple small spots of mold growing on it but I just picked those off and spread peanut butter on the good stuff. A guy was parked next to me while I sat on the curb eating. When I told him my destination, he said he knew someone who took a motorhome to Alaska and it took them 10 days. Oh the horror stories. I just smiled and nodded, confident that my 7 day plan would work.
It was at this stop where I fixed my side stand switch. This switch detects when the kick stand is down and if you try to ride off with it down, it kills the engine. The bolts holding the switch on had come loose and so it was just dangling by a couple wires. I had spare screws though so I bolted the switch back on and it gave me no more problems the rest of the trip. At this point I felt confident, well prepared, and ready for anything. This was the first motorcycle casualty of the trip but certainly not the last.
I made it to the border crossing around 2:20pm. Traffic was backed up and it took me an hour or so just to get to the checkpoint. I presented my passport and answered questions about my occupation (student), how much money I had on me ($200), how much more I had access to (a couple thousand), where I was going, where I was from, how long I planned to be in Canada, whether I had any weapons on me. I guess I didn't answer them satisfactorily enough because I got sent to customs. I parked, doffed my helmet and jacket, and walked to customs where the guy asked me many of the same questions. Then he sent me to a different building. When I checked in there they said they were going to search my vehicle. I requested to be present during the inspection to make sure they didn't lose/steal/damage anything but I was denied. Ten minutes later the two guys came back and said I was free to go. I got to repack all my belongings (clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, etc.) because they had left it sitting on a wheeled cart. Fun stuff eh?
Canada, so close and yet so far
Still waiting to cross the border
Wow, Canada. I had been meaning to cross the border in the summer of 2002 when my brother and I drove to Washington and then again when Janelle and I did our road trip to Seattle but both attempts were stymied due to lack of time and lack of a passport. Now I was here and I had real Canadian bills in my wallet. My trip had begun!
The first notable sight was the George Massey Tunnel which goes under the south fork of the Fraser River. I don't know why they just didn't build a bridge over it. This is a weird tunnel because it's out in the middle of a wide open flat area and you drive down into the ground and then back up on the other side. After the tunnel I kept on highway 99 which goes straight through downtown Vancouver. That's a big city. There was some construction that slowed down traffic and it took me almost two hours to make it from the border and across the Lion's Gate Bridge (history, picture) to the other side of the city 40 miles away. I'm a big fan of bridges and riding over them on a motorcycle is especially fun. I wished I could have stopped and looked around more but I was busy navigating through a foreign city to admire the scenery very much.
I stopped at a Cypress Provincial Park north of Vancouver that was about an 8 mile detour from the main highway. This road wound up a hill and I got a good view of the city from there.
The next stretch of the road was some of the best riding I did during the entire 20 days. Highway 99 goes north through the towns of Squamish, Whistler, and Lillooet where I eventually camped. This road starts out following the Howe Sound coastline. Traffic was light and the curves were many and I was having a great time. I got Canadian gas for the first time in Squamish. 14.3 liters? Eighty cents a liter? These numbers meant nothing to me. Further on the curves tighten up and the road gets steep. It was getting to be dusk when I entered this section of road and I saw a couple deer standing near the shoulder. I forced myself to continually scan the road for one standing in my lane. This was a taxing ordeal and I was glad to finally arrive in the town of Lillooet.
I found the campground and didn't pay since it was so late, around 11:00pm. The place wasn't lit at all, my headlight was woefully inadequate, and I couldn't find any signs directing me where to go. I ended up following a dirt road which quickly turned to sand and put me out on a river bank. In case you haven't ridden a motorcycle on sand let me tell you that it is not a good idea. At least not on a 700 pound touring bike. Fully loaded. At night. After 14 hours on the road. I somehow managed to not drop the beast while turning it around and riding back up a small hill in the sand. I spent that night under the stars with just my sleeping mat below me and my sleeping bag around me. The weather was surprisingly warm and I had the sleeping bag zipper open all night.
My campsite the next morning
The river bank where I did a U-turn
The sandy hill I inadvertently rode on
Day 2 route