Road trip Days 5 & 6 – best laid plans & all that (Calgary to Nelson – 612 km; Nelson to home – 643 km)

The only thing you should ever expect in life is the unexpected. For example, I expected to be in Duluth today. But I am unexpectedly home instead.

We couldn’t find a simple or straightforward answer to the speed wobble in Scott’s front wheel, short of “remove side bags”. But it’s pretty hard to do a two week road trip without luggage, so that was hardly a workable solution. There likely is a way of fixing this – there has to be; I’ve seen lots of KLRs with hard cases – and once discovered it may even be fairly straightforward, but for now it seemed best to cut our losses. I would ride home, while Scott tries to work through the problem. Maybe we’ll try again in a couple months’ time.

Once we reached that decision, the rest of Monday was devoted to resting, recreation (at the Hop & Brew), and getting myself sorted for the early return to the west coast. None of which is worth going into in great detail.

Tuesday morning, I woke early, dressed & finished packing my bags. I had coffee with Scott, then loaded up the bike and set forth. I got about 25 km when I realized I’d left behind the 2 gallon Rotopax gas can I’d borrowed from Colin for the trip. If it were my own gas can, I’d have picked it up next time I was there. Or Scott could bring it out with him. But as it was a loaner, the only option was to go back and fetch it. Luckily the traffic wasn’t too bad heading back into downtown, at least by Vancouver standards. I fetched the Rotopax, said so long to Scott a second time, and headed south again.

I lived in Calgary for nearly 20 years, but the southwest of the city still confuses me, especially the areas that have been added since I left, nearly 25 years ago. Needless to say, I somehow missed the turn I needed to take to get on the 22x, and found myself, after several twists and turns, on Macleod Trail, several miles south of Anderson Road. By this time I’d been on the road for close to an hour, between backing and frothing and wandering around subdivisions meant to defeat navigation with the endless similarity of their street names and housing styles. I was getting hungry, so I stopped and had breakfast at a regrettable corporate diner, which shall remain nameless, mainly to protect my dignity. The best I can say for it is it didn’t make me sick.

It was nearly 11 a.m. by the time I reached the city limits, and I did eventually reach my chosen route, Hwy 22. I stopped for gas in Longview, and hopped back on the bike. To say the route is windy is like saying Donal Trump has positive self esteem. I spent most of the time being buffeted by cross winds and head winds (but never a tail wind) that seemed intent on pushing me off the road. Good thing it wasn’t an exceptionally windy day.

Eventually I reached Hwy 3, and turned the bike west. Into the wind, of course. I stopped to stretch and drink some water in a little town just west of Frank, home of the Hillcrest Mine disaster, in which nearly 200 miners were killed by an explosion that ripped through the mine, as well as the site of deadly landslide, which killed 90 people. If you like mass graves, there are two in the Crowsnest Pass.

I hopped back on the Valkyrie, as I like to call her, and continued my westward journey. A fellow biker passing in the other direction tapped his helmet near the edge of town, and I managed to slow down just in time to see the speed trap I would surely have been caught in without the warning. That was about as eventful as the day would be from there. I rolled into Nelson a little before 6, having booked a room at the Best Western there.

I unpacked my bike, showered and changed, and walked up and down the main street of the sleepy mountain town. Not much happening on a Tuesday night. None of the local restaurants caught my eye, so I opted for the one attached to the hotel. It had had some good reviews, apparently all from staff. I had the worst steak sandwich it is possible to imagine for dinner. The service was very good, though, so there’s that. I walked around a little more after that, then went back to the hotel to watch mindless TV and fall asleep early.

In the morning, I went to a breakfast place that I like in Nelson, called the Vienna Cafe. It’s attached to a very good used bookstore called Packrat Annie’s. The food is simple, but well prepared, and the jam you get with your toast is homemade. It’s also much less expensive than most other breakfasts in town, so if you find yourself needing breakfast in Nelson, you know where to go.

I still had plenty of gas from the day before. After Longview, I’d filled up in Cranbrook, and I’d emptied the Rotopax into the tank when I got to Nelson. I got back on the highway, and rode to Grand Forks before stopping for gas again. There was none of the usual feeling of adventure about this ride. I was just trying to get home as quickly as possible. From Grand Forks, I rode until I got to Princeton, where I had a burger at the DQ, and gassed up again. Then there was a brief stop in Abbotsford, just to get out of traffic for a bit, before completing the journey home.

It wasn’t how I expected or wanted this trip to go. It wasn’t how Scott did, either. But shit happens. Plans change. On the plus side, Adele now has next week off, and we’ll head over to Vancouver Island for a few days to visit my cousin Jan and her husband Chris. And, as I said earlier, maybe we’ll try again in September, if the bike can get sorted, and I can get the time off.

Road trip days 2-4 (Calgary to launch aborted)

I spent the weekend resting in Calgary. Saturday, I hung out with Scott. Sunday, I got together with my sister-in-law Marianne for breakfast, then spent the rest of the day lazing about, until Scott & I went to his ex-wife Kathy’s and her partner Paul’s place to cook sausages over a fire pit. Well, we had sausages, Kathy, et al, had veggie dogs. Incredibly sad looking things – the veggie dogs, that is – but to each their own. Kathy is an excellent person, which you kind of have to be to teach junior high, and Paul is interesting and engaging in the unassuming way that many introverts are. Then we came back to Scott’s place and finished preparing for today’s start to the trip.

This morning we got up, loaded up our bikes, went for coffee and a muffin to break our fast at a local diner, then hit the road. We reached the city limits and accelerated to match the change in the speed limit – a very civilized 110 kmh. We were riding into an east wind. It wasn’t strong, but it was cool. Scott took the lead.

I noticed several times that Scott’s KLR began to wobble when he got it up to speed, and he had to roll off the throttle to correct the situation. We pulled into a rest area not far past Strathmore, and Scott confirmed the wobble, and confessed it was both annoying and worrisome. He assumed it had to do with the hard cases he had installed for the trip. The bike had never wobbled before, but he hadn’t had it out on the highway since installing the bags. He made some minor adjustments and we set off eastward again, but we didn’t get far before pulling over again. A few more adjustments and we gave it another shot. That, too, was short-lived. I googled ‘KLR speed wobble’, which demonstrated a) Scott’s is not the first KLR to encounter this kind of issue, and b) no one online has any useful advice on fixing the problem. We decided the best & safest thing was to head back to Calgary and try to figure things out there.

 A visit to Scott’s mechanic didn’t help a whole lot. They suggested removing the bags and riding on the highway again to make sure that was the problem. We did, and it was. So. Now what? In a little while, after frustration has subsided, Scott will attempt some configuration changes: removing the hard case rack, and using soft bags instead; changing the windshield; etc. If all goes well, we’ll start eastward tomorrow. If not, I’ll take a winding route home, spend the long weekend with Adele, and decide what to do with the rest of my holidays. 

But that’s getting too far ahead. First things first, then we’ll go from there.

Road Trip – Day 1 – Vancouver to Calgary (approx. 1,000 km/600 mi)

The prepping and packing are behind me now. Now the trip is real.
The day began, as always, with my alarm waking me at 5:45. I made coffee, turned on the morning news. I planned to wake Adele at 6:30, as I normally do on her work days, but she got herself up early. I made breakfast and cleaned up the dishes. I got dressed. Did a last check that I had everything I needed. Said goodbye to the cat. Said ‘see you in a couple of weeks’ to Adele.

And then I started off, into the morning sun and the East wind. Dodging traffic until I got to Hope. I made good time most of the way, reaching Kamloops in under four hours, Revelstoke before 2 p.m., Golden by five, and Calgary in under 12 hours total.

I’d be more expansive and poetic, but it’s late and I’m tired. It was an uneventful, almost boring ride, but a slog. More a test of will than anything. I expect I’ll take my usual, more southerly route home, and in the usual two days, rather than one. The Crow is a prettier route, and the roads are more fun. The TransCanada is just meant to get shit from one city to another with as little fuss as possible. Who, on a bike, wants that?

I’ll be in Calgary for another couple of days before day two of the road trip.

The Anniversary Party

They descended the stairs into the room.
The waiters led them to their seats. The other guests were already there.
Everyone dressed for the occasion, whatever it was.
Reflections from the lights danced in the water glasses.

They had been the last to arrive. The other guests were already there.
The table was long, and they sat far from each other.
Reflections of light danced in the water glasses.
He did his best to keep up with the conversation around him.

It was a long table, and they sat so far from each other.
He couldn’t see who she was speaking to.
He did his best to keep up with the conversations that moved around him.
Every now and then he heard her laughter from where she sat.

He couldn’t see which of the men she was speaking to.
He couldn’t hear anything that either of them said.
Every now and then he heard her laughter from where she sat.
He kept wishing the dinner would be over.

He couldn’t hear anything that she or the man said.
It was impossible to determine how she was feeling.
He just wanted the dinner to be over.
He hadn’t really wanted to come tonight anyway.

He could never really tell how she was feeling.
They didn’t speak about things like that.
He hadn’t even wanted to come here tonight.
Things hadn’t been quite right between them lately.

She said she couldn’t tell him how she was feeling.
Something always made her hold back.
Things hadn’t been quite right between them lately.
He couldn’t put his finger on what it was.

Something was making her hold back.
He had a growing but vague sense of unease.
He couldn’t put his finger on what it was.
It felt like something or someone was dying.

He had a vague but growing sense of unease.
They descended the stairs into the room.
It felt more funereal than celebratory.
They were dressed for the occasion, whatever it was.

©  Mark Milner, 2017

Numbers, etc.

15 days off, starting Friday

12 stops on the road trip (give or take)

5 more nights at home before I hit the road for just over two weeks

4 more days of work

3 of those days commuting to the office. (I’m gonna work from home on Thursday)

2 gallon jerry-can (rotopax) picked up yesterday, so I won’t have any excuse to run out of gas.


Nearly everything is ready to go. A few things to pick up this week, and then there’s packing to do before I go. I’m looking forward to being on the road, although I’m going to miss my wife. I always do. She makes coming home worthwhile.

 The first stage of the trip will be solo, from Vancouver to Calgary. Not sure, yet, if I’ll do it in one push, or my usual two-day ride along Hwy 3. I have a few people to visit in Cowtown, and as always, I’ll want to visit my old man’s grave. Scott has to work Sunday, so we’ll point ourselves eastward Monday morning. The itinerary will evolve as we go, based on whim and weather, but so far a rough outline is:

  • Vancouver to Calgary
  • Calgary to Saskatoon 
  • Saskatoon to Portage La Prairie
  • PLP to Duluth, MN
  • Duluth to Sault Ste. Marie
  • The Sault to Fenelon Falls/Toronto
  • FF to Quebec City
  • Quebec to Erie, PA
  • Erie to Chicago
  • Chicago to Fargo
  • Fargo to Moose Jaw
  • Moose Jaw to Calgary
  • Calgary to Vancouver

That’s a little over 10,000 km (6,000 miles). I’ll need to arrange an oil change on my travels, and my bike will be due for it’s next service, and likely a new set of tires, when I get back. But that’s looking too far ahead. It’s time to start getting my mind into riding mode. 

When you’re travelling on a motorcycle, you need to focus on what’s immediate, and between you and the horizon. Everything else is too far away to think about. It’s a distraction and a danger. You can think about it later, when you’ve done with the day’s ride.

So for now I will put the itinerary out of mind. Focus on getting things done that need doing before I go. Focus on what and who is around me now. The horizon will arrive soon enough. Don’t rush it. 

The one I love

This one goes out to the one I love.



Relationships can be hard work. They often require patience, and compromise, consideration of how what we do and say will affect how someone else feels. For a relationship to work, that needs to be at least as important as our own feelings.

I’m good at working hard. (No, really.) I’m less good at patience and compromise, although I do try to be considerate most of the time. And I try to consider how my words and actions will affect the people I care about. I don’t always succeed, and that’s where the work comes in.

Some people like to say you should never be sorry for anything. No compromise and no regret. Look out for number one. Blah blah blah. I can’t imagine any such people having successful, healthy relationships. Of any description.

This is as true in business relationships and friendships as it is of those we like to call “love”. There is, however, much more at stake when it comes to love. Piss off a business contact, and maybe you lose a sale. And you can generally make things up to your friends. They’ll get over it, you’ll get over it. No hard feelings, eventually.

When we hurt someone we love, that tends to linger, for us as well as them. And sometimes more for us. Which is why we work harder, try harder to be patient, compromise more, when it comes to love. And most of the time, the work doesn’t feel like work, and the compromises don’t feel like sacrifice. Or rather, it’s work we’re happy to do, sacrifices we gladly make. The compromises we make in our negotiations with the ones we love feel like we’re winning.

Relationships also require a lot of luck. To paraphrase Somerset-Maugham, it’s a minor miracle when two people, who are each constantly changing, manage not to grow apart. In this respect, I have been exceptionally lucky. My wife and I have been married more than 24 years, and together for nearly 26. We’ve both changed over time. She continues to put up with me, in spite of my many faults. We forgive each other regularly for lapses in patience and compromise. We each endeavour to do better, and we both work hard at it.

I think that, really, is the recipe for success in anything: the serendipitous combination of hard work and good luck.

Here endeth the lesson.

Keeping My Cool

One of the challenges of a summertime motorcycle trip is heat. As someone who’s crashed in the past, I know first hand the importance of wearing all my gear, all the time. But motorcycle gear is hot. Or at least, mine is. And heat can cause you to crash. And some injuries just can’t be prevented by gear. So, what to do…. Wear my gear to protect me from injury, but risk crashing from overheat? Not wear my gear to stay cool, but risk tissue/blood loss if I crash anyway? Neither are very good options.

I could buy a mesh jacket, although this has some drawbacks. First, gear is expensive. Even a cheap mesh jacket will cost over $200, and I’ll still need a more robust jacket when it’s not crazy-hot. Also, mesh just allows the hot air easier access to my body. Riding at 100+ km/h in 35+ Celsius can feel like a riding in a kiln. And last, I’m not entirely sold on the safety of mesh gear. I can’t see it holding up all that well if I’m sliding down the road on my back.

What I’ve opted for instead is a cooling vest, which I ordered from FortNine last week, and which arrived in the post today. The idea is that on hot days, I soak the vest and wear it under my t-shirt. The gradual evaporation, combined with moisture wicking, will help keep my core cool. I’d heard from others that these work really well, so I’m going to give it a try. It has to be better than sticking bags of ice-cubes in my inner pockets, which works great – for about ten minutes. The vest is supposed to be good for several hours at a go. We’ll see. At any rate, it was less than half the price of a cheap mesh jacket, so at worst I’m not out all that much cash.


Only seventeen days till I hit the road.