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Picnic at Port Alice: Part 3

Let the Picnic Begin

continued from part 2

In I went and began my romp. This was a road that had been engineered a little more thoughtfully than the original 99 (aka - 'the death road"), yet it was obvious it had been a logging road, and perhaps a First Nations trails long before it was a paved road.

The road started off rather solemnly. But at Marble River the corners began to tighten, and I could feel the fun factor kicking in.

Some years ago, I engaged in a sort-of track day event, more educational than the typical M.O. of riding around on a hamster wheel of pavement. In one leg of the day, we were all asked to ride the track backward and only use two gears to travel the length of the twisties. If on the first pass, if it seemed too slow, then pick up the pace and shift up to the next gear, but only down to the next lower. It was an eye-opening experience and one I incorporate into my riding when applicable, as this is only doable on certain roads. The road to Port Alice fit the bill.

I throttled the bike out of the Marble River area, which looked stunning out of the corner of my eye, with it's large boulders trying to hold back the flow of Port Alice which is draining into Rupert Inlet at a steady pace.

The bike and I rolled around the next corner and ahead was a short stretch that would soon disappear into the vanishing point, causing me to downshift for slowing, before grabbing the throttle again as I continued my dash through the various firs and Birch trees to my final destination.

It seemed as though the fun had ended almost as fast as it started, but to be honest it was a good 20 minutes from Marble River to Port Alice. I'd get another dose on the way back.

Arriving in Port Alice reminded me of several other inlet towns I'd visited the past week. There was the inlet. Instead of a lumber mill, there was a cellulose operation. The population here had decreased by 50% in the last 10 years. Not a lot going on and I was happy to have packed a lunch. Pizza was the only local option.

I poked around and decided to picnic in the waterside park. As I headed down the hill, there it was - the most bizarre touring bike I'd seen all week. After a closer look I made out that it was a Honda CBR600F4, covered in stickers from all over Canada and North America. Surely this was someone's touring mount that had seen many miles. Beyond the stickers was a stack full of assorted dry bags across the pillion seat, nylon saddle bags and a 30+liter tank bag. Just above the headlight was a deer skull. I assumed this rider might have rightly earned that skull in a near-death strike.

I tend to look other people's bikes over, primarily as a safety check. In the case of this bike, I noticed a droopy chain and some worn teeth on the rear sprocket. Tire pressure looked ok, but you never know.

But no rider was around.

Instead, I made friends with a British couple visiting. I placed my food on the empty table next to theirs and enjoyed chatting them up about how nice the weather was, what a hot summer they'd just gone through back at home and how global warming was making changes fast overall. Then I asked - "Is that your bike?" They chuckled.

"No, there's a girl somewhere around here. You can't miss her. Red hair, black pants. You can't miss her," said the man.

I looked up the hill and spotted something that looked a tad out of place. There was a woman, photographing each house along the roadside. Her hair was red to be sure, Electric red sprang from her skull like lava pouring out of a volcano the length of her back. This was some volcano. She appeared to be Middle Eastern, Indian perhaps, sporting a vibrant pink long-sleeve t-shirt, a large ring in her nose and black leather riding pants and boots.

As she walked down the hill toward us, I could only imagine the inlet at Port Alice filling with magma putting an end to all logging and cellulose operations.

She stopped at the bike and grabbed a stuff sack, then joined me at the table adjacent to the Brits.

"I like your bike," I said. She smiled. "Where are you traveling from?" The plate on the bike was from Quebec.

"I live in Montreal. I was going to go to Vancouver and when I got to Prince George it was snowing to the south, so I went to Prince Rupert and took the ferry to Port Hardy."

"Talk about the long way around." From Prince George to Vancouver it's a 9-hour ride. Instead, her re-route was 11 hours on pavement to Prince Rupert, 10 hours on a ferry to Port Hardy, and she had another 7 hours of road time and a two-hour ferry to go before finally reaching Vancouver. With a stop in Port Alice, that was essentially another three days of travel.

"I'm off work until November, so a few extra days of travel works okay for me."

"And then where do you have to be?"

"I work at a science station in Antarctica." With all that bright red flowing from her skull, I understood why all the ice was melting in Antarctica.

Just then a rumble came into audible distance. A black Harley-Davidson Tri Glide joined the other two bikes atop the parking area. Removing his helmet, a six-foot slender professor-like looking man also grabbed a bag from his bike and walked down the hill to join us at the water's edge.

"I'm Pete," he said extending his hand to me.

"Hi, I'm Gary," I said. "And this is…?"

"Hi, I'm Veranda," she said shaking his hand. He gave her a once over, a twice over, a three-times over, looked back up the hill at her bike, looked back at her and said nothing. I suppose being cooped up at the Canadian equivalent of Ice Station Zebra several months of the year sets a person in the direction of looking for attention and stuns most others on first view.

So, there we were. Three strangers all with our moto snack packs. What else to do but compare and then share.

In my bag were almonds, dried cherries and some Triscuit-like crackers. Gary pulled out a slab of sliced ham, some grapes and a bag of chips. Veranda had a fine assortment of organic chocolate, flatbread and carrots.

So, what are three moto-adventurists to do with all this food? At Gary's suggestion, we placed all the food into the center of the table and began to nibble. This was indeed a rare moment. Three riders who are completely strangers, nowhere to get food nearby, each with our snack-packs, sharing what we each have to offer, almost as if it were pre-planned. But it wasn't.

And we each shared our stories.

Gary explained that he lived nearby in Campbell River. His wife lets him out for a while so he can enjoy a ride now and then, that of which she is not interested in partaking in. He's retired, but somehow seems to have a list of honey-do's that makes him feel semi-retired.

Veranda shared her ice station zebra story with Gary.

I revealed that I was a digital media organ-grinders monkey, trapped on the social media hamster wheel of love.

Leaving nothing but a few crumbs behind, and the Brit-couple gone about 20 minutes ago, it was time for us all to move on with our day. We each headed back up the hill, donned our gear, fired the bikes and off we went.

Keep your eyes peeled for the final episode in an upcoming issue!

GM/March 2019


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