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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tour of the Inland NW USA

A few months ago some friends and I started roughing out some ideas for a 4 or 5 day motorcycle trip through the NW United States. The plan was to make a loop that would take us on the best motorcycle roads that Montana, Wyoming and Idaho had to offer. I wanted to ride the Beartooth Pass, Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, Going to the Sun Road, and the Lolo pass, and all the best motorcycle roads in between. We sketched out a route, agreed on dates, and made reservations.

This would be the first real trip I would take on the VFR. I've done long day rides but nothing that used more than a tank of fuel. This is the reason I got the bike and this kind of trip is what it was designed for. I was going sport-touring on my sport-tourer. On Sunday morning it was finally time to go, and I was vibrating with anticipation. Up until now my VFR has been treated as something of a treasure or prized possession. I had been very careful to keep it in pristine condition and I could point out to you where each of its 3 stone chips were. 5 days and 3600Kms from now I would feel very differently about the machine.

Day 1

Calgary to Red Lodge

Up at 4:30, leave the house at 5:30, collect Rob at 6:00 and hit the road. I didn't even need to set my alarm.

The first few hours were dull, slogging down the freeway towards the border, me on the VFR, Rob on his 1200GSA. We crossed at Carway, a little off the beaten path, west of I15. We would be taking US89 most of the way down, which would be more interesting than the interstate. The weather was perfect, starting at about 12 degrees when we left and warming up to the high 20s and then low 30s as we got further south.

The first great motorcycle road we came to was US49 or "Looking Glass Hill Road". It's a detour a little to the west of the main highway and runs down outside the eastern edge of Glacier Park. The first half of the road curls its way over some foothills, snaking up one side and down the other through a series of switchbacks and sweepers. The jagged peaks of glacier park provide a landscape oil painting backdrop to the right. The track day I attended a few weeks ago allowed me to learn the limits of the VFR, and this is the first road I've been on since that has let me approach those limits safely and confidently. I had no trouble railing through the s-bends and hairpins... fast, but smooth and safe. It felt great. The second half of the road winds its way alongside a mountain, with a steep drop-off to your right and no guard rails. The road is in rough shape, with washouts and patches of gravel on its edge. In this case it adds character and makes it more exciting. Pay close attention, because if you put your wheel one foot off the line you're going for a long tumble. There was almost zero traffic here. A couple bikes, a couple tourists and an old Grand Prix with 8 indians inside, the driver with a can of Black Label beer in his hand. He politely pulled over to let us by.
 2nd half of Looking Glass Hill Rd US49

We made our way back to US89 and the next few hours were pretty dull. We had lunch in a pretty little town called Choteau and shuffled our way southeast to Great Falls. From there we re-joined US89 and headed further south to the next good section of riding through the Lewis and Clark forest and over the King's Hill Pass. This road re-invigorated us after a long straight hot slog through the plains. It's about 70 miles of sweeping curves on great pavement through a wild forest. It reminded me of highway 40 through Kananaskis, except without the traffic. We saw few other vehicles here.

We fuelled up in White Sulfur Springs and continued south. Most of our riding up to this point was a fast cruise between 80 and 90mph. I had been consistently topping up with less fuel than Rob was using in his GS. Later on when the riding was slower, the GS had the advantage in fuel economy. This confirms what I've suspected, that the VFR1200 is happiest in top gear between 4500 and 5000RPM, which puts about 140km/h on the speedometer. (130 on the GPS) Fuel economy suffers a bit with the panniers and Givi E55 topcase. I can tell there is a lot of drag because when I close the throttle at speed the bike decelerates as if there were a parachute behind it. Over the entire trip I got 39-41MPG US. The next hundred miles consisted of more boring straight roads through Livingston and down to Gardiner, dropping in to the NW entrance of Yellowstone Park. The buzz from VFR's clip-ons makes my right hand numb after an hour or so of this. Remind me to order a Throttlemeister when I get home.
NW entrance to Yellowstone

Yellowstone is truly spectacular to see, but doesn't rank highly for pure riding roads. We were greeted in Mammoth Hot Springs by a massive herd of elk, as well as a massive herd of Japanese tourists. The road through Yellowstone is narrow, with low speed limits and a lot of traffic. There were certain parts where we could enjoy the curves, but it was better to just slow down and enjoy the scenery. We only needed to cut through the park to get to US212 and the Beartooth Pass. As we rode out of Gardiner it started to rain lightly. By the time we turned on to 212 it was raining quite heavily. I didn't pack rain gear because my Joe Rocket Survivor Suit was marked "100% WATERPROOF".  As it turns out, it's about as waterproof as my cat. I was wet and cold. I've decided that the 1-piece suit is not for me... even if it actually was waterproof, it's too hot below the waist. The front vent lets plenty of air through the torso but the legs have no ventilation at all and it gets quite uncomfortable. I would rather ride in armored jeans and a vented textile jacket, with a rain suit packed away just in case.

Cooke City marks the beginning of the Beartooth Scenic Highway. I pulled over to change to my winter gloves. It was raining hard, I was wet and cold, and I figured that if it were raining at the bottom, it could be snowing at the summit. We had come all this way to ride this road and we wouldn't have the weather to properly enjoy it. In spite of all that, there was a sense of adventure swelling within me, and in a strange way I hoped that we would ride through snow. It would be a character-building experience and a great story... an adventure.

As we pressed eastward, the road went from gentle sweeping turns to slightly tighter curves to 90 degree curves and then we started climbing... and climbing... and climbing. The road just kept going up. There was a moment earlier on where I was beginning to think that maybe the Beartooth Pass was a bit over-rated and that we came a long distance for something... forgettable. And then right as that seed was starting to take root, the skies suddenly cleared and the rain stopped. And then the switchbacks started. Climb climb climb, left hand hairpin, climb climb climb, right hand hairpin, climb climb, quick glance to your right and look down the canyon, climb climb left hand hairpin. It goes on like this for miles. The pavement is flawless. The air gets thinner, the trees get smaller, and soon you are above the treeline, and instead of trees there are lichen-covered boulders, scrub brush and pretty little alpine flowers. Your spine tingles and your heart swells with the overwhelming spiritual sensation of riding over the top of a mountain. Climb climb climb, left hand hairpin, climb climb right hand hairpin. You're no longer looking up at a huge mountain to climb, but looking down at a huge mountain below you, and beautiful peaks, emerald lakes, chasmic cliffs and little glaciers in every direction. You start to sense that you're at the summit well before you arrive. When it seems like you can't climb any higher the road just keeps going up and up and finally to the barren summit. Pictures can't capture the humbling sense of absolute majesty.  And then you get to do it all again riding down the other side. Over-rated? Absolutely not. Forgettable? I'll never forget it. This road lives up to it's hype and then some. Montana is the "Treasure State" and this is it's treasure.
 Lookout point about halfway up
 Pollard Inn, Red Lodge

We pulled in to Red Lodge around 7pm and checked into our hotel. We rode just under 1200Kms. Red Lodge is a great town. It was a booming city in the coal mining days of the 19th century and has been preserved as a bike-friendly tourist destination which hosts dozens of motorcycle meets and rallies throughout the summer. Our hotel, the Pollard Inn, was built over 200 years ago. It's the perfect place to stage a tour of the nearby roads. Our friends Brian and Tommy had arrived slightly earlier and rode over to our hotel to have dinner with us. They arrived wearing shorts and t-shirts and shades... no helmets. I had almost forgotten that helmets aren't required in Montana. It looked funny to me. Brian rides a Ducati Multistrada 1200 and Tommy had his MV Agusta 750 Brutale, outfitted with soft luggage and a small windscreen. Our group contained four very different motorcycles with 4 different types of engines. A 1200 V4 Sport Touring bike, a 1200 V-Twin adventurish sport-touring bike, a 750cc inline-4 streetfighter and a 1200 air-cooled boxer adventure touring bike. Oddly, all of them have their rear wheels bolted to single-sided swingarms.

We had steak and beers and ice cream and planned out our next day. We would go back over the Beartooth, turn southeast over the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway in Wyoming, lunch in Cody, then back into Yellowstone Park at the southeast entrance and over to our hotel in West Yellowstone.

Day 2

Red Lodge to West Yellowstone
Leaving Red Lodge in the rain

I had a terrible sleep. Our hotel was charming and historic, and therefore came with charming and historic tiny room. It didn't help that the reservation got screwed up and Rob and I ended up with a single queen bed to share. We drank a bunch of strong rum and cokes in the hotel pub before bed but that didn't make us any more attractive to each other. It was hot and stuffy and claustrophobic and my brain was still steering a motorcycle through the turns. It didn't matter because we had plenty of great riding ahead of us and I had no trouble finding energy and inspiration.

We were up for breakfast by 7:00 and on the road by 8:30. It was raining and the forecast indicated that we were heading into worse weather. Miraculously, the rain stopped and the road dried for a brief 20 minutes or so right as we hit the bottom of the Beartooth Pass. I attached my helmet cam and chased Tommy to the top. We both knew that this might be our only chance to really ride our bikes hard all day so we charged up the slope full blast. We had a great ride, but as we neared the summit it started raining again, and this would continue for most of the day.
Summit of Beartooth Pass

Riding through the rain just west of the Beartooth

Beautiful scenery between Cody and YP

We turned southeast towards Cody on the Chief Joseph and rode nonstop for what felt like several hours. The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway might have been the most beautiful and perfect motorcycle road of our entire trip but sadly we weren't able to properly enjoy it because of the constant pouring rain. There are all types of curves..... long fast sweepers, s-bends, hairpins plus thousands of feet of elevation change and breathtaking scenery. It's the type of road that, in good conditions, we might have spent all day riding, backtracking and taking dozens of pictures. I need to come back some day and ride it in the dry. We had lunch at a diner in Cody and stopped at a laundromat to dry our soaked gear.

 View from the lower falls lookout

Kelly Inn, Wet Yellowstone

The rain let up as we made our way west back towards Yellowstone. We took our time in the park, weaving our way up to the falls, where we took a hike down to the scenic viewpoint, and then looped back down to see Old Faithful. Right as the geyser finally erupted, the skies went black and we got hit with a big thunderstorm. After waiting probably 45 minutes to see the eruption, we only watched the first few seconds of it, getting our "money shot" and then sprinted to our parked bikes to beat the traffic out of the visitor's centre. We rode the 60 or so miles to West Yellowstone in the dark in pouring rain. We were exhausted and starved when we finally checked in to the Kelly Inn. On the desk clerk's recommendation we walked over to Buckaroo Bills for something to eat. It was a shithole. There was nobody there and we were lead into a back room dining area. The waiter was mopping the floor and the tables were done a in chintzy covered wagon theme. One by one, the staff poked their head in and winced at the sight of 4 more stupid tourists sitting down to eat at 9:30 when they were trying to clean up and go home. It smelled like mothballs and piss. Tommy asked what kind of non-alcoholic beers they had... the waiter's reply: "root beer". Rob asked what they had on tap. The waiter's reply: "water". We got up and walked out. It was a good decision because we ended up at the Beartooth BBQ which had great food, a great selection of beer and friendly staff. We waddled back to our hotel and I slept like a stone.

Day 3

West Yellowstone to Lolo
Kids fishing pond at Virginia City

With the aid of our trusty Butler Map, Tommy plotted a route through southwest Montana that would offer the best curvy roads available and avoid the interstate. It wouldn't be a direct route but that wasn't the point. It was still raining as we left Wet Yellowstone, but the skies cleared up as we passed alongside beautiful Hebgen Lake on hwy 287. The road twisted along the north side of the lake, with the Madison mountains forming a majestic backdrop. This stretch gave me flashbacks of riding through the Kootenays in BC... the scenery and roads were eerily similar. We continued alongside the Madison river to Ennis and then west to Virginia City and Nevada City, two old west towns with main streets preserved like living museums. Very quaint and pretty. We continued on 287 to Sheridan and Twin Bridges before turning south on 41 to Dillon and then west again on 278. From 278 we turned north on 73, which became 484, a windy pass through the Pioneer mountains that was some of our best riding of the entire trip. There was virtually zero traffic to interrupt a beautiful fast flowing ride twisting through the woods, following Rob who demonstrated the very surprising abilities of the 1200GSA on gravel-rated Metzeler tourance tires. The surface of the old chipseal road was even and grippy as long as you stayed away from the gravely shoulders. I gave the VFR a great workout. Its long wheelbase and creamy suspension had no problem flying over bumps while leaned way over. The ride was so fast, smooth and fun that we all stopped at the end and high-fived each other. We continued north to Wise River, went northwest on 43 and turned north again on 569. Through this bumpy unmaintained twisty stretch we did a little swapping and tried all of each others bikes. I only did a few minutes on each but here are my initial thoughts:

Brian's MTS1200:
Very cool high tech machine. I couldn't have picked a better ride for the bumpy parts. Great suspension with computerized modes. I switched from sport to "touring" to take the edge off the bumps a bit. Awesome power in that deceptive v-twin way that never really feels like you're going as fast as you really are. I felt like I was just casually enjoying the potholed broken road but I looked down a few times and saw 85mph on the clock. Sounds great. High, wide bars make it easy to snap the bike over from side to side with little effort. Feels very nimble. The riding position is very comfortable but locks the rider into a fixed triangle and leaves no room for shifting around. Lots of legroom, especially compared to the cramped legroom of my VFR. Center stand tang doesn't allow you to position your left foot properly. Tallness gives it too much teeter-tottering weight transfer under acceleration and braking for my liking. Feels more like a fast dirtbike than a tall sportbike. 

Tommy's Brutale
Hard, sharp, high-strung tiny little pissed-off machine, kind of like Tommy. Extremely cramped riding position, insanely short wheelbase, engine that needs its nards revved off. Really sexy bike but about the last motorcycle I would choose for long trips. Tommy's assessment of my VFR1200: "a big, very fast, very good handling couch... awesome brakes"

Hwy 484... moo

Rob's R1200GSA
Front end feels weird. Bouncy, cushy, torquey, smooth. Doesn't dive under braking but the front end pops up when you accelerate and squats under compression braking. Great wind protection, great seat. Probably the most comfortable bike I've ridden. I can see why they are so popular; it would be very easy to ride long miles on this bike. Rob is already looking at sport-touring bikes because he wants to ride faster. He'll probably end up with a K1300S in the stable beside his GSA.

Potter's Corner

 Skalkaho Pass summit

We turned west on highway 1, fueling up and getting a sandwich in Anaconda. Heading northwest out of town, we ran through a great little canyon and turned at Potter's Corner to go west through the Skalkaho pass of the Sapphire Mountains into Hamilton. I knew the route wasn't paved but I didn't realize I was heading towards one of the most intense motorcycle rides of my life. Approaching the Skalkaho, several signs warn of a narow winding gravel mountain road and caution trucks to turn back. 16 miles in, the narrow paved road turns to narrower gravel one and climbs to about 7300 feet. I cautiously followed Rob on his GS up the switchbacks. I've ridden over gravel roads on the VFR before, but not like this. It was steep and narrow, clinging to the side of the mountain with a steep drop into the valley to the left and no guard rails. I used only 2nd and 3rd gear with a gentle hand on the throttle and brake. We stopped at the summit and waited for Tommy and Brian to catch up. It had started to rain lightly, and as we got moving down the other side it started to pour. The red clay of the road was drenched and greasy and it was impossible to see the gravel ridges and find a smooth line. I had to keep my speed high enough to keep the bike stable, but slow enough that I could safely steer around the switchbacks. The ride got a lot easier. Riding the rear brake through the turns applied just enough front brake to effectively slow the bike without causing the front end to dive and over loading the front tire. Eventually we made our way to the bottom. The gravel turned back to pavement and the sun came out. We sped triumphantly through a series of sweepers and hills, the air turning immediately hot and dry. We stopped in Hamilton to compare our filthy bikes. I had several hundred miles worth of bug guts, road spray, rain and now mud all over my formerly pristine VFR... and in a way it looked better to me. The filth had a story to tell and provided proof of our adventure. I might have left it that way, but the wheels, brakes and radiator were full of mud so we rode to the nearest car wash to clean the mess up. I might not choose to deliberately ride that road again, especially in the rain, but I never regretted the decision for a second. I was proud of myself for getting through it and more confident in my motorcycle than ever. That was the end of our adventure for the day, but it wasn't the end of the gravel. Highway 93 was under construction and the ride from Hamilton to Lolo was a long one. We needed a good rest for the next day, which would take us on a big detour from our intended route.

My next helmet will be a modular. Super convenient for touring.
Skaklaho Pass and aftermath

Day 4
Lolo to Whitefish St Maries

Our day began with one of the biggest highlights and most anticipated roads of the trip: The Lolo Pass, Hwy 12 from Lolo Montana to Kooskia Idaho. The sign at the entrance reads "Winding Road Next 99 Miles". Take that in for a moment... think of your favorite section of twisty back road... the one you go play on every Sunday. How long is it? The Lolo pass is a series of intense curves of every type that goes on for 99 miles. At a quick pace on a sportbike it takes close to 2 hours. The actual "pass" part is over early. You climb up to about a mile high over some tighter turns and a few switchbacks, then more of the same down the other side and the rest of the road consists of 3rd and 4th gear sweepers alongside a river. Some of them feel like they just go on forever. You lean the bike over to the right and carve a giant fast semi-circle. The VFR1200 is perfect for a road like this. You just pick a line, lean it way over and roll on the throttle through to the next turn, fast, smooth and stable riding a wave of rumbling barking V4 torque. The road is in great shape and the weather was perfect. We stopped at a little cafe near the end for a break. Nearly 2 hours of constant curves demands a lot of mental and physical stamina. It was intense and exhilarating.
Lolo Pass
Fantastic cafe at the end of the pass

We fueled up in Kooskia and that's where Brian noticed he had a screw in his back tire. It was holding air but something had to be done about it quickly. Our original plan was to ride back through the Lolo Pass and into Glacier park to our hotel in Whitefish. The night before in Lolo we plotted a "plan B" that would give us a loop through the panhandle, crossing back into Montana on the St Joe River Road from St Marys to St Regis. We had considered going as far west as Lewiston to ride the "Old Spiral Highway" but ruled it out. As much as we wanted to ride our motorcycles on that brilliant piece of road, it amounted to a 2 hour detour for a 6 mile ride. By chance, we would end up riding it anyway as part of "plan C".

Brian, not wanting to spoil anyone's trip, was prepared to call his son in Boise to bring the truck and drive him home so we could carry on. We wouldn't allow it. We came here as a group and we would leave as a group. We weren't leaving our friend high and dry. The nearest import motorcycle shop that could change his tire was in Clarkston. (twin city to Lewiston, across the river on the Washington side) We cancelled our reservations in Whitefish and made new ones in St Mary's. We stopped at a tire shop in Kamiah where they removed the screw and installed a plug, then headed west to Lewiston. A plug may have been an adequate fix but couldn't be trusted with the demands that Brian, an expert club racer, would place on the tire. Even if the plug held up, he wouldn't have had full confidence in the tire and absolute confidence in your tires is paramount to riding fast on a motorcycle.

I had absolute confidence in my Pirelli Angel ST tires on any surface at any temperature, wet or dry. I am very pleased with these tires and they are perfect for the VFR1200. I love the way they handle, they never run out of grip and after nearly 4000Km they're showing very little sign of wear. 

Some old bullshitters in the tire shop warned us that highway 12 to Lewiston was under construction and recommended detouring across 64 to Highway 95 instead. It was 36 degrees and we were sweating our bags off so we would avoid waiting in traffic at all costs. What the geezers failed to mention is that our detour would take us up a narrow spiraling grade through the Nez Perce Indian Reserve out of the valley which turned to rough gravel at its treacherous summit. It was another adventure in itself and a great little ride.

We had lunch while Brian had a new tire fitted and headed over to the Old Spiral Highway. This brilliant little piece of civil engineering was the original way out of the valley to Highway 95 and winds steeply up the slope in a series of tight hairpins. It is no longer a necessary route out of town, but has been preserved as sort of a functional relic. A few wealthy folks have built homes along its 6 mile length and the road is basically their driveway. It is kept in impeccable shape with perfect black asphalt and freshly painted lines. The hairpins are banked dramatically and can be taken with surprising speed. We only ended up there by chance, but if I were planning the trip again I would still include it. It may only be 6 miles but it's the funnest 6 miles you'll ever ride. I recorded videos going up and back down. It's much easier to climb a grade like this than descend it... I confidently carved the curves on the ascent, and awkwardly wobbled through them on the way down.
On Top of Old Spiral, all covered with cheese

From Lewiston we wound our way north to St Maries on Highway 3, which was just about as perfect an afternoon motorcycle ride as you can imagine. This road is a sweetheart, full of great curves, challenging but smooth and forgiving, and providing short straight sections to give you a little rest as it weaves over high plains farmland and down through forested coulees. The VFR and I were working as one... as though my nervous system extended itself through the bike directly to the road. It felt great. It was a very hot afternoon and after checking into our motel we walked down to the St Joe river for a swim in the cool, clean slow-moving water.

Here is my summary of St Maries Idaho: as we pulled into town we stopped at a red light and a woman turned in front of us riding an ATV with a Coach handbag in her lap, with a chihuahua sitting in it yapping at us. Say no more...

Brian's punctured tire spun us off our intended course and our trip was better for it. This type of unexpected fork in the river is what can make an adventure truly memorable. I went to bed early as I would need plenty of rest for the last day of my trip.

Day 5

St Maries to Calgary

Our original plan had us staying in Whitefish and riding the "Going to the Sun Road" before splitting up and going home but after our detour we decided to skip it. I would have loved to ride this road but we had better options. GTTSR is a crowded tourist destination and while its views are breathtaking, you may never get your bike out of first gear. I've got the rest of my life to try it. Instead, we had two of the best roads I've ever ridden ahead of us: The St Joe River Road and the Koocanusa Lake road.

The St Joe River Road took us back across the Idaho panhandle into Montana and the town of St. Regis. It follows alongside the St Joe river through a beautiful canyon, with very little traffic and a million opportunities to stop and take great photos. Brian described it as a "slower Lolo Pass with a better view" which is quite apropos. Instead of the 4th and 5th gear sweepers of the Lolo pass, it takes you through tighter 2nd and third gear turns, with the occasional fast sweeper or hairpin. The pavement is mostly smooth and there is very little traffic, just the occasional campground and the odd truck stopped with a fly fisherman nearby. We all needed to make a lot of miles today but couldn't resist making several stops for photos... it was just too pretty. The road is only maintained for the first 60 miles or so, then it turns to rough pavement and then gravel. Of course it couldn't just be a straight gravel road, it had to be another winding gravel pass over a mountain, my 4th one of this trip.
St Joe River Road

The ultimate Honda on a perfect road
 Brian rumbles by on the Mutley
 I scrambled up the craggy slope for a few shots

Gravel portion of SJRR

We stopped for fuel and food in St Regis. While I was pumping gas, a gentleman probably in his 60s approached me with great interest in my kitted-up filthyVFR1200F. "An honest to goodness roadtest of the VFR1200F" he exclaimed. He knew a lot about the bike and I was happy to bullshit at length with him about it. He had been considering buying one and I may have talked him into it. For a brief pause I considered that I might be riding an old man's bike but the thought was fleeting. This distinguished gentleman had a 919 Hornet and a ZRX1200 and was probably a quick sport rider. I wouldn't have chosen any other motorcycle in the World for a trip like this. I don't feel like I ride an old man's bike, but I do recognize that I am maturing as a rider.

Our next destination was the Koocanusa Lake road. The ride there was a bit dull but would be more than worth it; this would arguably be the best ride of the entire trip. Koocanusa is a reservoir of the KOOtenay river, crossing the border of CANada and the USA. Get it? The 400 foot high Libby dam at is south end is an impressive structure, but not as impressive as the road that runs along the lake's west valley wall. The eastern side has a great road too, but with a lot of traffic. Much of the east valley is developed into cottage country, but on the west side there's nothing.... nothing but a road. It's narrow but has been kept in reasonably good condition, save for some tar snakes and bumps. Its sharp curves weave along the valley with a beautiful view of the lake below and here's the best part: no cars. Since there's nothing but a couple of little camp sites on the west side of the lake, there is very little reason for anyone to drive there... which makes it a perfect playground for motorcycles, especially a bike like the VFR with its smooth ride and stable handling. We had the whole road to ourselves. The four of us sliced through its hundreds of turns at a quick but safe pace and gathered at the bridge which spans the lake just south of the Canadian border. It was a perfect final chapter in our adventure but a bit sadly, this is where we would split up and head in separate directions. Brian would head east and then turn south to go home to Boise, Rob and Tommy would head northwest to play on the roads of BC's Kootenay range, and I would head northeast to the Alberta border and home to Calgary.
 Dam it
Time to say goodbye. Fast fact: Brian always turns his Ducati around so he can photograph the wheel side of the single-sided swingarm.

The rest of my ride home would be a bit of a grind, heading north to Highway 3, then east to the Cowboy Trail, and north again through Longview and Black Diamond to Calgary. Eager to get home to my wife and daughter I rocketed up through the lonely plains at full throttle, punching through the atmosphere at escape velocity and smashing a few million mosquitoes. I had a couple of hours to reflect on what an incredible 5 days of riding I had just experienced, with 3 of the best friends I could ever choose to go on a trip with, on the best motorcycle I could ever choose to take it on. My VFR motorcycle metamorphosed from a polished ornament to a loyal old dance partner.... we knew each other's style and habits and worked beautifully as a team. I relied on it and it never let me down no matter what the challenge. We turned a scribble of lines on a map into a tapestry of experiences and fond memories.

I got home, parked my VFR in my garage, stepped off and took a look back at it. It was covered with dust and tar and bug guts, and its paint job was blasted with stone chips. The filth and chips told the story of a great ride. It had never looked better.


  1. Fantastic piece! Inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Try one of these for the tingles in the right hand. Mine works great.


  3. Great prose son! Should be shared in a magazine..

  4. A great article with great photographs! A fun read, just like Bwhip's Laterbraker blog entry! It looks like a great ride, keep them coming!

  5. Beautiful bike, and nice to see you get her dirty...heheh...:D