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Picnic at Port Alice

PNW Riding Fiction: Part 2

continued from part 1

After 20 minutes I had, yet, another tailgater on my butt. By now I had this all figured out.

I’ll have to say that the MTI does a great job of building in both broken lines and passing lanes across their primary and secondary arteries. BC 19 is no stranger to this. My game had become, as soon as someone tailgated me, throwing  on the right blinker, moving right and watching the left rearview mirror. This courtesy was an unheard-of miracle to several motorists sniffing my butt. Some got it right away, while others hesitated. I actually watched one vehicle drive the right wheels into the dirt trying to follow my line …or sniff my butt – I’m not sure. What they don’t get the first time, they usually figure out the next time and drive around me. I’m happy to have them take the next deer or elk strike for me.

Once past me, I could trail them for a while using them as a safety barrier, until alas, they just had to go-go-go and they were gone.

Logging trucks were another story. If you think logging trucks are slow, you’re only basing that on gravitational issues, which they all suffer from after about a 5% grade. But it’s important to know, these drivers are trained to keep a truck on the road, rarely use the oncoming traffic lane, and can drive a truck as well, or better, than you can ride a motorcycle.

So – should you pass one? That depends on your itinerary. If you’re in a hurry and need to get somewhere, then pass it and hope you don’t have to repeat the same with the same driver later. If a bathroom break, spontaneous photo snatch or gas stop is in your near future, think twice. They’re nice the first time, depending on the grade you pass them on. How nice will they be if you want to pass them a second time is entirely up to the patience of the trucker.

I have, on occasion, had a logging truck pull out in front of me and wave me past. Appreciated, but at that point it’s fair to commit to the next stretch of road and not stop until the next town.

It probably doesn’t hurt to consider the added passing time as well, since logging trucks are easily 3x the length of cars – and few will not drop the throttle to let you whiz by.

Today, I decided to hold my card, stayed behind the truck as he ascended a 6% grade, and sure enough, when the decline on the other side appeared he was gone. And I never saw him again.

There I was, all alone again on the road. Just me, my bike and the road. What could be better? The pillow layer of fog I saw ahead was beautiful. The sun was bathing it in a lovely yellow, the same color as the lenses in the eyewear I chose to ride with that morning. As I came down into the canyon, it was apparent I was going to enter into this pillow of white stuff. The yellow was fading, white took over and before I knew it I was in a blinding whiteout of fog refracting the above sunlight in every direction and burning holes in my corneas, pupils and laser sealing my optic nerves.

The Nolan 102 helmet comes complete with a sun visor that hides in the top of the helmet and can be released over the rider’s vision area simply by pushing the apparatus forward on the left underside. Since I don’t do this on a daily basis, I was a bit clunky making it work, but just in time, I did manage to bring down the smoke lens and stop the frying of what was left of my sight.

And then I simply floated up the other side of the canyon, out of the fog… And it was Wednesday morning 2.0. I was on my way to Port Alice. It was also the last time I saw any fog for the day.

Having done my homework, I knew I had two chores to do at Port McNeil, before heading for Alice. I would need to top off my tank and hit the grocery store.

I’ll eat anything. I’m at McDonald’s with the best of them, but when I eat at home it’s like eating in the 19th century. Everything is organic, grass fed, pastured, good and good for ya. A week of touring in a place like Vancouver Island can rip the soul out of a person’s appetite. Fast food and fried food is everywhere. It’s very apparent right down to the physique of typical BC islanders’ guts, which would provide many men extra Christmas money playing as Santa. Healthy food options are nil to none.

If the sign out front says public house/licensed – beware. The food inside will almost surely be primarily fried. Onion rings, tatter tots, calamari, hand cut fries, and the list goes on and on. And if you haven’t figured out how to fry something, someone else has. The dry-rub pork ribs I ordered in Ucluelet were actually breaded short ribs tossed in a deep fryer. Help me!

Even the grocery store provides little relief. Finding something that has been certified not to have been coated in chemical pesticides is – impossible. The province of BC, and the country of Canada overall does not have an Organic Certified program that protects consumers, eaters or diners. They’re still living in the 1970s trying to explain to the population there are no antibiotics in the meat at the store.

Port Alice would provide nothing in the way of ‘fine dining.’ I needed to pack a few things on the bike to make up the noon time meal. Port McNeil happily has an IGA that would do the trick. I was able to walk out with a can of smoked almonds, a package of Organic Valley cheese sticks and a few oranges. That would better serve me for lunch than someone’s fish and chips with fries, even if there was a water view.

Vancouver Island has a way about it when it comes to motorcycle touring. The idea is to ride up the backside and explore the western inlets one at a time. The roads leading to each have their own personalities and if motorcycles could talk, they would praise you for riding them there. However, these inlets are not places to overnight.

And, unlike many other places I’ve traveled and toured, when you reach the inlet, there is no high mountain view, no waterfall, no glacier and no baking desert. What is there then? Typically, a stunning water view with a logging operation in full swing. On this island, trees are logged and transported down to the nearest inlet. A boat is loaded, and the logs are taken down the inlet, across the water to the Frazier River and milled into 2x4s, plywood, pressed wood or whatever.

But other things happen in these inlets.

The most obvious is a population of sea lions yipping. They are singing their praises of taking down the Orca pods by eating more Chinook salmon in a day than you and I eat in a year (or two if you are really counting me).

Bald Eagles fly here. Even Orca pods show up, chowing on what the sea lions didn’t get.

I had an inlet to explore. I loaded the groceries on the bike and continued up BC 19 to the junction with BC 30. And there was the sign – “Welcome to Port Alice – A beautiful scenic drive awaits on the Frigon Road.”

GM/December 2018

-- stay tuned for the next installment in an upcoming issue --

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