An Ode to 3rd Gear and saying Goodbye to a Friend

I’ve been a motorcycle rider since 2005. I’ve owned three Yamaha FJRs (my first bike was a 2005 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe). My latest is a 2014 FJR1300 ES with 75,000 km (46,600 miles) on it. His name is Temeraire. And if I took my last ride on it this past Thursday, I’ll be sad but happy I got to ride such an amazing motorcycle.

Like all of us, life catches up to you and makes changes you may or may not be ready for or see coming.

Our “casual riding” season is coming to the end here on The Sunshine Coast. In past years, I have insured my bike and ridden it year-round, mostly because I don’t have a car and needed the transportation. But now that I’m (very happily!) married, we use my wife’s car 95% of the time. Sadly, I’ve become a casual rider. The insurance is up on the bike on September 10th and there’s really no reason to insure it for riding over the winter. And, because of “life changes” that will likely be happening next spring, I’ll probably sell the bike before the riding season starts again.

So, knowing this, I went for one “last” ride on Thursday. If in fact it was my last on this bike, I couldn’t have asked for a better last trip on this amazing motorcycle.

We live on the lovely Sunshine Coast of British Columbia in a little town called Gibsons. It’s spectacularly beautiful but, because of the location, weirdly isolated. We’re not officially on an island but the only way off the Coast is by a ferry to Vancouver or Nanaimo. So, unless you want to take a boat ride, you’re stuck riding between Gibsons and Earls Cove:

And frankly, from Gibsons to about Secret Cove (is it really a “secret” if there are signs pointing to it?), it’s boring.

But, after Secret Cove to Earls Cove, it can be damn fun when there’s no traffic. So that’s where I went for my last trip of 2018. And it was glorious.

I stopped next to Trout Lake to watch a fly fisherman for a bit and then decided to take off and see what I could do on the FJR if I pushed myself harder than usual. I figured I’d head to Earls Cove to do a recon of the road to makes sure there were no issues along the way. I timed it well as I just missed the ferry traffic out of Earls Cove.

After a bit of a break, I headed home. I decided I was going to do the entire 80 km (50 mile), one hour trip in my favourite gear – third.

I don’t have enough experience with enough motorcycles to know if this is true of all of them but for me and the FJR, third gear is the most fun. The FJR can easily be ridden in third down to 30 kmh (19mph) all the way up to XXX kmh (XXX mph) and redlines at nine thousand RPM. I definitely bounced off the rev limiter a few times on this short trip.

The FJR is amazing. It’s a much better motorcycle than I am a rider. I love riding but I would not be considered by any measure particularly “aggressive”. I’ve only scraped my pegs once or twice and, even then, it was on curves that cambered up to meet me. I don’t hang off or get my knee anywhere near the ground. But I definitely have fun. And the FJR makes that fun possible.

I can get as aggressive as I’m comfortable with knowing full well the bike won’t do anything to upset me or scare me. Even when I went into one turn a little too hot, the bike was like, “Dude. Chill. I got this.” A little extra pressure on the handlebars and Temeraire easily swung into the turn and saved my bacon.

One of a motorcycle rider’s favourite games is, “What other bike would I buy?” For me, there’s never been any question. For the kind of rider I am and the kind of riding I do, even if I had all the money in the world, I’d still ride an FJR. It’s the perfect bike for me.

I don’t know what life holds for me in the coming year. Most likely, I’ll be moving to Australia in the spring, if not sooner. So there’d be no point in re-insuring the FJR. If it means that Thursday was my last ride on Temeraire, I’ll be grateful for the 75,000 kms he provided, the smiles, the comraderie, and the community of fellow FJR riders.

And I’ll definitely buy another one in Australia!

Goodbye my friend and thank you.

My Wedding Day!

Today, at 4:30pm PT in Gibsons, BC, Canada, this kind, sweet, gentle, loving, giving, smart, funny, beautiful, sexy, truly AMAZING woman will make me the happiest man in the world by joining me in marriage.

Those of you who know her know I couldn’t have imagined a better woman, person, wife, lover, partner, and partner in crime. Those of you who don’t, I hope one day you’ll get to meet her. She will make your life better simply by her presence. She brings joy and happiness wherever she goes and the world is a better place because she is in it. And my world is immeasurably better for having known her.

Thank you, Melissa for letting me into your life, for loving me for who I am, faults and all, and for letting me become part of your family. I am honoured to be your husband. I cherish you. I adore you. And I love you to the stars and back.

Ride Report: Chilliwack -> Kamloops -> Chilliwack

This past weekend was my birthday (“Happy Birthday!” “Thanks!” There. We’ve gotten that out of the way) and I had originally planned on doing this ride with Kim but as she has apparently lost her mind, I had to do it on my own. 🙂

Even though I’ve put tens of thousands of kilometers on my 2014 Yamaha FJR 1300 ES Sport Tourer, it was all (except for a ride to Vancouver Island last summer) on Lower Mainland roads so I’d been itching to “get out of town” on a long ride.

I’d heard from several fellow riders that the “Duffy Lake Loop” was a real treat so I made that part of my goal. As I didn’t have anywhere else to be, I decided to make it an overnight trip so I could do the route as leisurely as I’d like.

Now, for you non-motorcyclists, the trip from where I live to Kamloops is 254kms (158 miles) and Google Maps says it would take a little under 3 hours. But that would be *boring*. I decided I’d make my route Chilliwack -> Squamish -> Pemberton -> Lillooet -> Cache Creek -> Spences Bridge -> Merritt -> Kamloops. Eight hours and 640kms (400 miles).

The trip from Chilliwack -> Squamish was uneventful. I’d done it many times before. I *thought* I was on a leisurely pace until I got to the Starbucks in Squamish and realized I’d gotten there in only 90 minutes. Ooops…in my defense, those of you who have ridden the new(ish) Sea To Sky Highway, with its smooth roads and big sweepy curves will understand.

I met this beautiful fella outside the Starbucks:

Next stop would be in Pemberton to fill up on gas. Unbeknownst to me (I’d never been past Whistler), this is where the real fun would begin. If you’ve never been, Pemberton is quite pretty.

I saw a group of local Gold Wing riders at the gas station and stopped to chat with them, mostly on behalf of my new Gold Wing riding buddy Terry:
Typical of riders in general, they were full of useful information and tips on the route I was about to take. They kindly offered to let me join up with them but, as I really didn’t have much of a plan and was thinking I’d stop frequently, I declined. Plus, I didn’t have the heart to tell them I planned on traveling at speeds a little higher than they were likely to be going. 🙂 (not a knock on Wings or Wingers. I know they can ride better and faster than I can but they were in a group and I was solo so…)

The Pemberton -> Lillooet road, 100kms (60 miles) is absolute nirvana. Beautiful (and highly distracting!) scenery, pretty good roads (only a couple of short construction areas), wonderful sweeping curves and not much traffic. It was *glorious*.

Next was the ride to the Horstings Farm Market in Cache Creek that had been recommended by a fellow rider. I will say, it was disappointing. Boring sandwich and bland, mushy blueberry pie.

My plan was to then go to Spences Bridge but, as I have the worst sense of direction in the world, I got lost even while using a GPS! 🙁 But, “lost” is the wrong word to use when you don’t care where you are or where you’re going. 🙂

There’s a fork in the road out of Cache Creek – one way goes to Spences Bridge, the other goes to Logan Lake. As is pretty typical of my life, whenever I come to a fork in the road, I inevitably take the *wrong* one. 🙂 I didn’t know I was even going in the “wrong” direction (I was headed to Merritt so I would have gotten there eventually regardless of the route I took) until I stopped by this weird “lake” near Logan Lake (anyone know what this is?):ShawnKing_2016-May-07
and talked to a couple of fellow riders who told me Spences Bridge was *behind* me. Oh well.

What was really interesting was how much the scenery changed from the Pemberton area (typical west coast trees and mountains) to the “almost desert” of the Logan Lake area.

I made it to Merritt with no problems and fueled up. I was meeting friends in Kamloops for a birthday dinner and didn’t want them to have to wait on me so I took the Coquihalla from Merritt to Kamloops. Ugh. What an awful, boring road on a motorcycle.

The only downside was, on a high speed stretch, I was following a SUV when suddenly, they swerved across the yellow line. I thought, “WTF are they doing!” as I braked. But there was no danger obvious – until I looked about 10 yards in front of the bike.

There was momma duck staring at me. Six baby ducks in a row, crossing the highway. One baby duck straggling behind.

There wasn’t enough time to get aggressive on the brakes but there was a gap between the six in a row and the straggler so I went for it…and the straggler ran in front of the bike….:(

“NO!” I screamed in my helmet. “YOU WERE OK WHERE YOU WERE!” I felt the small “bump, bump” under my tires. Poor little fellow. I felt awful about it but, as I explained to my non-riding friends over dinner, there are two obstacles on the road – “Squishables” and “Non-squishables”. You never lay your bike down for a squishable.

Once I got into Kamloops, I got lost a couple more times (my TomTom GPS, while OK, frequently can’t find addresses or know about roads that have been in place for *years*) before I made it to my perfectly ordinary but cheap hotel. Dinner with great friends from college and in bed by 9am, exhausted but happy.
I was up bright and early the next morning….even though I didn’t want to be. I have no idea why the Hospitality Inn staff decided to, while putting me at the very end of the building, also put a family of five in the room next to me. So the “Crying Baby Alarm Clock” I didn’t need went off at 3am….and 5am…and 7am….Oh, screw it – I’ll just get up…

The best part of my morning was, while I was at Starbucks, my mom, sister and niece back in Nova Scotia called and wished me a happy birthday. Always great talking to family.

I was in no hurry to get home so I wanted to make sure I at least found out where Spences Bridge was so, after coffee, I headed to Merritt via Highway 5A.IMG_7929
OH. MY. GOD. That sign should be amended to “Motorcyclists: Speed Up in Curves”! It was AMAZING. If you ever see a motorcyclist on the Coquihalla Highway between Merritt and Kamloops, THEY ARE ON THE WRONG ROAD. 5A was spectacular. Wonderful big sweeping curves, great scenery, no traffic. I couldn’t have had more fun. Until I got on Highway 8 to Spences Bridge!
It was just as much fun as 5A. Needless to say, I had an absolutely fantastic time on those roads.

After Spences Bridge (which, BTW, isn’t even there any more), it’s a pretty familiar trip back home. And the scenery got even *better*:

On the Trans-Canada headed home, I hit a personal milestone:
I haven’t been riding long (I got my M/C license 11 years ago but have only owned a bike for about half that time), so putting 40K kms (25,000 miles) on any one bike is a pretty big deal. Even more so, I’ve only had this bike for 18 months. 🙂IMG_7934

It might have been because of Mothers Day but there was very little traffic on the road and most of it was easy to pass. But I wasn’t in much of a hurry so I stopped often to enjoy the scenery and take pictures. There was only one section (about a kilometer long) that had this:
That sign tends to get your attention and slow you down on the bike! I stopped a few times (only when it was safe to do so!) to take pics of some of the various tunnels along the route:IMG_7937

Before finally making it home. Grand total was two days, 14 hours on the bike, 1300 kms (807 miles), great weather, great friends, and a great bike all mean it was the best birthday weekend I’ve ever had.IMG_7941