Western Canadian Rain Festival - A LONG Trip Report

Charles Scappaticci scapco at ecentral.com
Tue Jul 3 23:01:47 PDT 2012

HI All,

I got back Sunday night from my trip to Alaska.  The old Geeper made it
with flying colors and has still never let me down on a long trip.  I can't
say the same for the shitty Dunlop Roadsmart tires I had on it though.

I am a planner by nature, so I carefully planned everything I would take,
the routes I wanted to ride and all of the distances.  The GPZ has been a
little neglected lately, so I rebuilt the front forks with new fluid and
seals, had the original OEM Race-Tech modified shock rebuilt for it's easy
adjust-ability, replaced the chain, sprockets, battery, and serviced the
air cleaner, changed the oil, replaced the rear brake pads and did a
thorough once over on all the bolts.  I even mocked up the Givi bags,
sleeping bag, tens, and Ventura rack and pack to be sure it would all fit.
I also decided to tow to Chuck Driscolls house in Helena Montana because I
despise riding through eastern or southern Wyoming, so I changed the oil in
my daughters Explorer and replaced the decking on my motorcycle trailer and
repacked the bearings while I was at it.  Expecting lots of rain, (I wasn't
disappointed) I purchased some nice clothing from REI,to wear under my
riding jacket and pants.

I left from work at noon Friday the 22nd planning on making Hyder Alaska in
3 1/2 days.  I slept miserably in the Explorer at a truck stop in Billings
Montana that night and made it to Chucks place around 11:00 on Saturday.
After unloading the GPZ and loading all the gear onto the bike, I got
dressed in my riding gear and then reached for my helmet.  Which was
hanging on the handlebars of my KX250 in the garage. F**k!!!  I rode to
Cycles of Helena and purchased a $159 HJC helmet for the trip which proved
to be nice and watertight and had good aerodynamics, it was just the two
hands it took to open the visor all trip, occasionally causing the left
hinge of visor to come off at inopportune times, that bothered me.

I had a good ride to the Canadian border where I was once again greeted by
a cute young Canadian woman.  Three times across the border here and always
some hot young thing to wait on me.  Where do you Canadians grow these
gals?  LOL!!  Within a few miles as I approached Lethbridge, I felt the
first of many raindrops I would encounter this trip.  I abandoned my plans
to ride the Kananaski's road to Canmore and made for Calgary, riding in
heavy rain.  I don't know what was going on in Calgary, but the Holiday Inn
Express tried to extort $180 for a single night in a hotel.  Shouldn't the
room come with a hooker for that price??  I said "no thanks" and headed out
the door where I ran into two gentlemen on Harleys why were pretty much
soaked to the bone.  I explained the pricing there so we all headed down
the road to a Travelodge where we were only gouged for $119 for the night.
After unloading our gear, Dwayne, Bob, and I headed next door for some
Vietnamese food which was pretty good for about four hours at which time it
ceased to be good anymore, LOL!!  Bob is 73 and was on his 19th trip across
the US.  Dwayne is 67 and has traveled extensively on bikes as well.  They
were heading for Anchorage, Denali, and beyond on a six week ride from
Michigan.  The next morning, we were greeted by more rain which didn't stop
until we were north of Lake Louise where we stopped for lunch.  We rode wet
roads all the way into Jasper where we booked a couple of camping spots in
the Canadian Forest Service campground.  The next morning we said our
goodbyes as they were headed farther north to Dawsons Creek and I headed
more westerly towards Prince George.  They had just gotten the road open
after three different areas had washouts and I was lucky they had finished
the repairs overnight. Here I got my first good weather and had a nice ride
the next couple of hundred miles.  At a gas station I met and chatted with
a guy on a gold Honda Varadero who was headed west as well.  I took off
again, but was starting to get nervous as my front tire was wearing very
prematurely and not looking good.  These tires weren't new, but did not
have all that many miles on them so I had thought them good for the trip.
Obviously not.  I knew it wouldn't make it the rest of the trip, so I
stopped at the Harley dealer there as it was Monday and the
Kawasaki/Yamaha/Honda dealer wasn't open.  He suggested the Suzuki dealer
so i rode there and the only tire they had that would fit was a Pirelli
Angel.  So three hours, $300 and a large jar of Vaseline later I was back
on the road and made it to Burns Lake just in time for it to open up and
rain again.  I found a cheap hotel and got some rest on a comfortable bed.

The next morning, I was greeted by a lot of ugly low level clouds that
meant lots of rain ahead, so I put on all my rain gear and headed to Hyder
on my wobbly, new front tire. For some reason, this tire vibrated and
bounced above 80mph (or 130kph for the rest of you) and would go into an
ugly wobble at just about any speed if I took my hands off the bars even
for a second.  I fought this headache the rest of the trip and believe it
was a combination of not being mounted quite right (It is worn noticeably
more on one side than the other) and just not meant for a heavily loaded
600 lb sport touring bike.

 I stopped in Smithers to ask the Honda dealer if he had any rain gear as
I'd ripped the butt out of mine and was surprised that they didn't carry
them.  Smithers is a nice ski/resort town with some nice shops and the kid
at the Honda dealer suggested Valhalla outfitters so I stopped in and
bought an $80 pair of really nice rain pants, then stopped at the Harley
dealer for a couple of souvenir t-shirts before heading on my way.  It was
about 275 miles to Hyder, so I knew I could make it even in the rain so I
kept riding and made it past the wet wooden bridges, cold glaciers, and
rain and arrived in Stewart BC about 4:00.  A quick loop around town and I
headed across the border into Hyder, AK.  I'd been holding the left side of
my visor on the last twenty miles in the rain so I stopped at a nice little
gift shop and got out of the rain.  I talked to the lady owner and fixed my
visor while waiting a bit to see if it would stop raining, but no such
luck, so I bought some chocolate fudge and some earrings for my daughter
and headed back into Stewart.  The road into Hyder is a dead end,
essentially you cannot go past Hyder so the US does not bother to maintain
a border station there, but for some unknown reason Canada does.  Out of
this beat up trailer, marches this young Canadian border patrolman wanting
to see my passport and wanting to know what I was doing in Canada.
"Getting Wet" was not the correct answer,  so I had to come up with a
better one and then went on my way to get some gas and see if I wanted to
spend the night there.  I had no desire to camp in a swamp since everything
was wet and I didn't find much in the way of hotels, so I decided to see if
I could make my way back east and find something.  I gassed up at a station
that seemed to sell just about anything one would need to fix a truck or
boat, and headed back about 150 miles to New Hazelton where I found a warm
motel room and was able to park the GPZ under an overhang to get it out of
the pouring rain.  The next morning started out looking pretty ugly and it
rained off and on for several hours, but became much nicer as I rode back
into Prince George.  I found a nice campground there, set up my tent, went
out for Chinese food and relaxed.

Next morning I loaded up, stopped by McDonalds and headed back east towards
Jasper.  While riding through Price George, I pulled up next to the gent on
the Honda Varadaro I'd met a few days before.  We traded pleasantries and
he turned off as I went on.  I made it into Jasper about three o'clock
after a nice sunny ride.  This same stretch of highway was about the only
sunny ride I had in Canada.  I did a little souvenir shopping and had an
excellent buffalo burger at Jasper pizza before heading out to get a
camping spot at the same campgrounds I had stopped at previously.  As I
rode through town, I again came upon the gent with the Varadero and pulled
over to talk.  He was looking for the campground as well after he ate some
dinner so I told him where it was and headed out.  I got my spot, right
next to where I'd stayed previously when along came the guy on the Varadero
and he was just camping a few spaces away from me.  We chatted for a couple
of hours and shared part of a bottle of Vodka he had brought along.  He was
from Saskatchewan and had ridden out to Prince Rupert in heavy rain, spent
the day walking around in the rain, then headed back like I did.  He was a
pleasant fellow and I enjoyed his company.  Next morning I bid him farewell
and headed through Jasper Park then turned west down Kootenay Park as my
intention was to ride down the west side of the Rockies.  I was starting to
get rather worried at this point about my rear tire as it was wearing
faster all the time though in the end it held up long enough to get me back
to Helena.  I rode south down the mountains and spent the night in
Kallispell Montana before riding the rest of the way to Helena.  I stopped
in to Helena Cycle to bitch about the visor on the helmet, so they looked
at it and replaced the hinging mechanism so it worked fine.  Of course, I
was only to wear it another 15 minutes the whole trip!!!

I got the Explorer from Chucks place and loaded the GPZ and all my gear in
it and turned the key to start it.  All I got were some clicks....  I knew
the battery was about ready to be replaced and I'd ran it dead listening to
the stereo and having the door all open, I just didn't know it was this
close.  Fortunately, Chuck was on his way with jumper cables (Thank you
again Chuck!) and soon I was off on my way to Yellowstone.  My original
intention was to unload the GPZ and ride the park, but between my rear tire
and the crowds, I decided not to.  I spent the night in a hotel/RV park in
West Yellowstone, sleeping in the Explorer, before entering the park the
next morning.  I had a nice leisurely drive, took some pictures and watch
Old Faithful go off before heading to the Tetons where I'd planned to
camp.  It was soon obvious that the holiday crowds had pretty much filled
up everything so I decided to try for Lander Wyoming for the night.  The
closer I got the more I realized it was going to be too hot there to sleep
so I decided to cut it all short and headed back to Denver, getting home
around 11:30 at night.

The total trip was about 4,500 miles, 1,600 by car and 2,900 on the bike,
averaging over 400 miles per day on the GPZ.  The rain gear and clothing
I'd taken turned out to be spot on as I was never wet, other than my hands,
and never overly cold.  I love my Oxford heated grips, REI mattress pad and
zero degree rated Coleman sleeping bag.  I rarely sleep well on trips, but
I did on this one.  I unloaded everything on Monday and then spent the
better part of Tuesday washing, waxing and cleaning the GPZ and swapping
the shitty tires for the Dunlop Qualifiers on my other rims.  The old gal
still cleans up pretty well though she's showing the battle scars of
seventeen years of trips, crashes and just general wear.  I've been looking
at the Concours 14's but money is an issue and then I look at the GPZ again
and think, how soon can I go again?  We're both ready.

I've attached a picture of the road into Hyder, it was a soggy place!

Charles S.
95 GPZ1100
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