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:
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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.
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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:
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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*.
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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.
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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!
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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*:
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On the Trans-Canada headed home, I hit a personal milestone:
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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:
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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

Final thoughts of the Grand Sunset Princess

After our first (written) and second (audio) impressions of the GSP, we are now back home in rainy Chilliwack, filled with memories of our amazing stay at the Grand Sunset Princess.DSC_8624

The first thing that stands out in my mind was the heat and the humidity. The Friday we were there, it was 37 degrees C (98 F) with *100%* humidity! For this poor Canadian, that’s “center of the earth” hot! But I was smart enough to drink lots of water (and certainly my fair share of beer!) and stay out of the sun for the most part.CPHfQoXUkAA35ar

DSC_8889The two most memorable things were the beautiful grounds and the wonderful, friendly staff. The grounds were immaculate. Everywhere I looked, there was something beautiful I wanted to take a picture of. Not just the plants but all the animals wandering around too.DSC_8757

We were really worried about the weather reports for our week there, both before we left and while at GSP but, even though “rain/thunderstorms” were predicted for every day of our stay, we couldn’t have had better weather. Although it did seem to be cloudy over the island of Cozumel for our entire stay. We even saw lightning!DSC_9161

Neither Kim or I are particularly social (it’s the Brit and Canuck in us respectively) but we did talk to a few people and everyone else seemed to be having a wonderful stay. GSP had a lot of Brits from north of London, we heard a lot of Southern US accents, particularly from Texas, and there were quite a few Russians, too. Interesting mix of people.IMG_7224

The restaurants seemed a bit hit and miss and their limited selection was a big downside. Having to make reservations in advance was a minor annoyance – after all, I have no idea what I’m going to want to eat two days from now nor at what time I’m going to be hungry! – but we managed just fine.

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Neither of us like the Miso restaurant (we didn’t sit to watch The Show), feeling the food was too salty and not particularly interesting. The Fondue place was OK (NEEDED MORE CHEESE!) and we really liked the Italian and Steakhouse restaurants.

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But for romantic ambiance, you can’t beat the (poorly named) Chill Out Bar. You have to pay for your meal (about the price of a nice meal in Canada) and, while their menu is as limited for selection as the others, they really made it worth it. We were offered a complimentary mixed drink (some kind of champagne cocktail) and then, after we ordered, cute little “amuse bouche” (hors d’oeuvres). The food was delicious and they followed dinner with another complimentary cocktail.

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For the nerd in me, the biggest advantage was, now that we had eaten at the COB, we had free access to it for the rest of our stay which meant not only another private section of the resort, but also the same kind of beach chair waitress service (but not the food) of the Platinum Beach and FREE WIFI! Sadly, it was about as good as the free wifi you get in other hotels which is to say, pretty slow and spotty. But you’re not there to work, are you!? (well, *I* was but you shouldn’t be!)

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Another downside was the snorkeling – there really wasn’t a whole lot to see. There is no coral reef easily accessible from the hotel’s beach.

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That being said, the hotel offers (for an hour at a time) free snorkeling gear and free use of the sailboats and kayaks. Jet skis are $50/30 mins.

I never did find out how much parasailing was.

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There was a wonderful variety of birds and animals for me to photograph – Pelicans and terns were fishing in front of us, Coaties by the dozens, turtles, iguanas, lizards and even the occasional monkey, crocodile and capybara!

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Another (very minor) downside were the folks walking by all day trying to get you to buy silver or jewelry or, and this guy was the worst, sunglasses. DUDE! I’m looking at you – THROUGH SUNGLASSES! Stop asking me if I want to buy your cheap ones! 🙂 But they weren’t as (mildly) aggressive as the vendors in Playa del Carmen and they were nowhere near as bad as the very handsy vendors in Egypt. A polite, “No gracias” and they were on their way. But you fended them off all day long.

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Some of us were less successful in the “fending off” area. 🙂

The other downside, and this was a huge one for us, was the almost complete lack of tipping by hotel guests. That was very disappointing. The staff were wonderful and friendly and obviously worked very hard to make our stay as enjoyable as possible and yet, it seemed as if no one but us ever offered the waiters and waitresses a couple of bucks for their service.

On our last day, Kim and I talked about the resort – was the Chill Out Bar worth it? Yes – for the ambiance and the convenience (access was right next to our room) and, for me, the wifi, spotty and slow though it was.DSC_8638 IMG_7376

Was Platinum worth the upgrade? That’s harder to quantify. The room was undoubtedly lovely and right on the beach with easy access and having a concierge to help with any questions was wonderful. But it was a long way away from the restaurants (we walked 75+ kms (46 miles) the week we were there – our average here at home is about 4km a day). The Platinum Gala Buffet on Thursday evening was nice too. If you’re like us and want the peace and quiet of being far away from the action (and by that I mean possibly noisy drunks) and want/need the waitress service at the beach (along with the larger room), go for the upgrade.

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Kim adds that she really enjoyed the private section of the beach with the waiter service and the food right on the beach – no need to go anywhere for lunch! And, while we never took advantage of it, there where masseuses right on the beach if you needed a rub down.

Overall was the Grand Sunset Princess worth our hard earned money? An unequivocal YES. For the price we paid, we could have barely gotten a hotel *room* in any major city in the world, let alone free food and drink. I would have absolutely no reservations in recommending the Grand Sunset Princess Resort to anyone who was thinking about going. We had a fabulous time and couldn’t have had a nicer seven days away from home. And if you knew how much I loved my motorcycle and how much Kim loves her dog Grommit, you’d know how big a statement that is! 🙂

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section or email me directly at [email protected]IMG_7400

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World's Largest Flying Water Insect

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OK…first of all…LOOK AT THAT THING!

Secondly, how stupid is Mashable? The text of the article says:

The insects’ venomous stings cause victims’ bodies to swell and can lead to kidney failure and even death.

But, if you watch the video, at the 40 second mark they say:

A female’s bit will reportedly hurt a whole lot more than a male’s but it’s not believed to cause any significant health effects…

I’m sorry but I consider “swelling, kidney failure and even death” to be fairly significant…

Regardless, it gives me another reason to not want to go to China, Vietnam or India.

World’s Largest Flying Water Insect.

Pay It Forward with a Cup of Joe

EU Embraces “Suspended Coffee”:

Tough economic times and growing poverty in much of Europe are reviving a humble tradition that began some one-hundred years ago in the Italian city of Naples. It’s called caffè sospeso — “suspended coffee”: A customer pays in advance for a person who cannot afford a cup of coffee.

I saw this mentioned on Facebook by Jell Carlson. What a great idea. I’ve “often” (whenever I can afford it) buy coffee for the person behind me at Starbucks. And I almost always do it for military personnel I see in a line. It’s a little thing you can do every now and then to make a complete stranger a little bit happier.

40 Breathtaking Places to See Before You Die

Check out the “40 Breathtaking Places to See Before You Die”.

Let’s play an imagination game…

I’ll give you unlimited funds to go to *ONE* (and only one) of these places with a friend to take pictures with your choice of cameras (and me along as your instructor, of course! 🙂 ).

So – which place would you pick? For me, it would be a toss up between #10 and #21 but if I was forced to pick, my heart always wants to go to Italy.

Jim Dalrymple and Keith Urban

Facebook.

My close personal friend, Jim Dalrymple, was down in Austin, Texas this past week attending the SXSW iTunes Music Festival. He apparently had a great time.

His lovely wife Monique posted this video on Facebook.

Now – leave aside how completely out of place Jim looks at a Keith Urban concert (or, for that matter, anywhere outside of a hardcore biker bar), there are a couple of things to note in this video.

At 1:28, Urban has climbed up into the crowd to play. You can see Jim on the right. He’s really easy to spot. He’s the biker looking dude who, quite simply, CAN’T DANCE.

But he’s obviously having fun, even though, as you can see by the video, he’s surrounded by douchebags who just want to get on camera.

At 3:26, Urban finishes the song, signs his name on the guitar he’d been playing and goes to hand it to Jim. A little backstory – Jim has been in Austin interviewing some of the people and bands playing at the festival. He had interviewed Willie Nelson and Urban earlier in the day.

WATCH THE DOUCHEBAG STEAL THE GUITAR FROM JIM.

I wonder if that guy is lying dead in an Austin ditch right now.

The Transfgran – 56 miles of twisties

EatSleepRide:
The Transfăgărășan, pronounced transfa-gara-shan, is the second highest paved road in Romania. Also called the DN7C, the road is 90 km (55.9 mi) of elevation changes, twists and turns running North-South through the Carpathian Mountains –aka the Făgăraș Mountains. The road connects the historic regions of Transylvania and Wallachia. This motorcycle route from Sibiu to Piteşti is 200 km (124.3 mi) of riding in 5 hours.

Car and motorcycle buffs have this road on the bucket lists.