“Hey guys, the service appointment for my bike is scheduled for 8:30 this morning so I have time to help take down and button up the camper if you want,” I said, while enjoying a nice, strong cup of Richard’s fresh-brewed Seattle’s Best coffee (Richard had commandeered Don’s coffee pot and doubled the amount of coffee grounds per pot. Except for that small difference in opinion concerning the color and strength of coffee, the week on the road showed that we were an amicable team. I had been warned by experienced travelers that the most important task for ensuring a successful long-distance motorcycle trip is to choose your traveling companions carefully).
We had arrived in Saskatoon Saskatchewan the evening before after a pleasant ride from the Canadian/U.S. border. We camped in a lovely city park (Gordon Howe) on the south side and prepared and enjoyed dinner before it began to rain. The forecast for the rest of the night and the next day was more of the same—lots of rain.
Our normal morning routine was wake up at 5 am, coffee by 6, breakfast finished by 6:30, collapse and button up the pop-up camper by 7, and on the road by 7:30. This morning was different because I needed a scheduled service for my bike at the BMW service center in Saskatoon. That’s why we were enjoying a late wake-up (6 am), a relaxed breakfast, and conversation centered on how there were no leaks in the camper after the hard, continuous rain that had just ended.
” No problem,” Don said as he took another sip of coffee that he thought way too strong. “Richard and I can take the camper down. Then we’ll check out of camp, go to the grocery store, and meet you for lunch as planned.” “Sounds good,” I said. “The bike service should only take a couple of hours. Are you sure you guys can collapse the camper without my help?”
I washed most of the road grime from my bike during a lull in the rain the evening before; I hate delivering a dirty motorcycle for someone else to work on. I rode around the water puddles as I left the campsite, but then it began to rain again—hard.
Saskatoon is named after the berry of the same name, which is native to the region. Saskatoon is the largest city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. It straddles a bend in the South Saskatchewan River. There are nine river crossings, so the city is nicknamed “Paris of the Prairies” and “Bridge City.” One of its slogans is “Living in Harmony.” Each year the city recognizes local organizations or individuals for their efforts in promoting intercultural harmony. This effort seemed SO different and opposite from the political culture we left behind on the other side of the border. I left camp a bit early so I could ride through the city on the way to the service center to get a feel for why Saskatoon made its residents so proud. Despite the steady rain, I enjoyed the ride and hoped for another time to explore this place on a sunny day.
The bike service went well; nice guys those Canadians. Just as I zipped my rain jacket for the ride to meet the guys for lunch, my phone dinged a text: “Hey Jim, we are at the restaurant. All wet well, I mean all went well except we had a little trouble with the camper. Tell you about it when you get here.”
When I arrived, my Gray Grizzly buddies looked a bit more grizzled and soggy than usual. Richard volunteered: “We tried five times for 45 minutes in a steady rain but couldn’t get the canopy folded and tucked in so we threw all the bedding in the back of the truck.” “Well, no worries,” I said, “we’ll get it sorted out.” “OK, good,” Don said, “but you need to know that all the bedding is soaked, especially your sleeping bag.” Whoa, I thought. What about that advice about “choosing your traveling companions carefully?”
“The Best Place on Earth” is what the province of British Columbia claims on its road sign at the border. After rain and fog through most of Saskatchewan and Alberta, I found it hard to argue with their slogan. Because just as we crossed the border into BC, the clouds and rain vanished; it was all sunshine, blue skies, and perfect riding temperatures.
Just up the road from the border crossing was the town of Dawson Creek, famous, in some circles at least, for the beginning of the Alaska Highway, or Alaska/Canadian Highway, or AlCan for short. This point in the road, “Milepost 0”, marked the beginning of our AlCan adventure.
P. S. At a Horizon’s Unlimited rally last summer, a fellow from North Carolina gave a presentation of his solo ride to Alaska. It rained on him every single day of his trip and he had the photos to prove it. He told his disbelieving audience that he still had a good time. As it turned out, we had near-perfect weather except for three days of rain and a hot spell in Alaska. We were lucky, I guess. As for my Gray Grizzly companions, they were the best. No luck there; I knew it from the start.
For other motorcycling adventure stories go HERE.