Toad Rock- It’s As Awesome As It Sounds

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Toad Rock- It’s As Awesome As It Sounds

We are always on the look out for interesting, fun, or unusual places to visit. Toad Rock Motorcycle Campground covers all of those, so it was a must do on our short trip to BC.

After our morning enjoying the activities at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, we headed south to ride some of the best motorcycle roads in Canada. Our route covered a third of the 850km Hot Springs Circle Route. There are 3 commercial hot springs along this portion of the route, but if you ask locals, they can usually point you to natural springs in the area, though you may need to hike a bit to get to them.

We followed Highway 23 south for about 50km to Shelter Bay, where we had just missed the Upper Arrow Lakes Ferry. Luckily it runs every hour on the hour heading east so we didn’t have too long to wait, just long enough to sit in the shade beside the snack truck and swap stories with other bikers.

Upper Arrow Lake Ferry

Upper Arrow Lake Ferry

Once the open deck ferry arrived, loading was quick and the 20-minute trip gives you time to enjoy the amazing view of Upper Arrow lake and the Monashee mountains on one side, and the Selkirk Mountains on the other. This year though there are forest fires all over BC, with smoke hanging in the valleys and fires can be seen from the road.  The ferry is free, provided by BC Highways.

forest fires seen from the upper arrow lake ferry

Forest Fires Seen From The Ferry

From the ferry we continue south for 50km to the end of Hwy23 and the Town of Nakusp. This is a lovely and quick ride with mostly gentle curves along the shore of Upper Arrow Lake. There are a lot of restaurants and shops here so it’s worth stopping for a stroll through the eclectic shops on the main street, to have lunch overlooking the lake. Or take the time to stop in for a relaxing dip at the Nakusp Hot Springs.

From Nakusp we picked up Hwy 6 East, to head towards New Denver. The road from Nakusp through to Balfour shows up on most lists of where to ride in BC. Highway 31A from New Denver to Kaslo, and Hwy 31 from Kaslo to Balfour is a destination route, riders come from afar to ride this beautiful highway whose tight twists and turns follow rivers and lakes, often right beside the road.

A popular spot for many rider, and our destination for the night was Toad Rock Campground. This is a funky, friendly motorcycle campground. You might think that with over 100 sites, it would be your basic commercial campground, but you would be wrong. Mary makes sure that you feel welcome from the moment you ride up. The sites are nicely treed and there is enough elbow room so as not to feel like you are in your neighbours site. Because it is a motorcycle campground there are cooking facilities, complete with pots, dishes, and even a few spices. There is a fridge to keep your food in, and coolers to borrow to keep your beverages cold at your site. Ice is available for a small fee at the wash-house. Speaking of which, the showers and washrooms are kept impeccably clean.  Didn’t bring a tent, no problem, they have an assortment of cabins, vans, buses, and tents that you can rent.

Campsite at Toad Rock

Campsite at Toad Rock

Surprisingly, the campground runs on the honour system. You get a hit when you check in. You keep track of how long you stay, any ice, pop etc that you use, and drop it and your cash in a box when you leave. They also do not have rules, but only guidelines. Basically, if you aren’t being an idiot, it’s all good.

If you want to meet other riders, there is a social area, strategically placed away from the campsites, where you can bring your beverages, swap tails, and sometimes even be entertained by someone playing one of the guitars (or drum set) that are there. No need even to bring that cooler you borrowed as there is a fridge in the shelter that you can keep your cans in.

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For us the most notable part of the campground is the warning to keep your food and beer secured. For bears you may think, but it’s actually because of the 4 dogs and 1 pig that call Toad Rock home. They keep the bears away, but are more than happy to eat any wayward food. The pig particularly likes beer and will grab unopened cans, use her built-in can opener teeth, and take in the rewards.

If you do a trip to the Kootenays you really do need to check this place out. Heck, if you aren’t planning a trip that way, then you really need to start.

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You only said we couldn’t go upside down.

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(edited 30 to add video)

Have you heard about mountain coasters? They consist of a very long length of pipe, winding down the side of a mountain and anchored into place. Then you take a small plastic sled with some running gear on the bottom and attach it to the pipe, add a handle for breaking and you have yourself a mountain coaster.

Mountain Coaster Sled

Mountain Coaster Sled (cc) Wiki Commons

Since I first heard of these I knew I needed to go on one, and was very pleasantly surprised when I saw a ticket package for “The Pipe” in Revelstoke. The catch though, is that Linda hates roller coasters. She says it’s because she doesn’t like to go upside down. So armed with that caveat, I suggested we should pick one up, it was for two trips on the mountain coaster (which doesn’t go upside down), and a gift card for the restaurant. I’m not sure if I just got her at a moment of weakness where the idea of hurtling down a mountain on a little plastic sled some how sounded appealing, or if was just because we had only recently moved back within spitting distance of the mountains and was up for an adventure. Either way, I didn’t ask twice and tossed the card into the shopping cart.

Once we got home and read the fine print, we discovered it was only good for one person. Gee, I guess we have to go get another and have 2 trips each. But, if the first ride was too much, then instead of a second coaster ride we could instead take the upper gondola to the top of the mountain. And, there was that $25 credit for the restaurant for each of us so that made the deal great.

When we were looking at when we should make the 4 hour trip, we were looking for events that we might be able to couple it with and were thrilled to find that we had not missed the Horizon’s Unlimited Travelers Meeting in Nakusp. It is a gathering of folk who either already do, or want to, travel to far away places on motorbikes. Perfect, we can add an extra day at the beginning of the trip and kill 2 birds with one stone.

WilliamsonLake

Williamson Lake Camp Ground

As it was only a 4 hour trip to Revelstoke, we decided to leave right after work to avoid using an extra day of vacation leave. That would have worked great except for few of things. First, rush hour traffic was insane, so it took us an hour just to get out of Calgary. Second, it is Canada’s 150 anniversary and all of the national parks are free to enter so the tourists are here in droves, and lastly it have been a horrendous summer for forest fires in BC. All of these things managed to add an extra couple of hours to our trip, so we arrived at out campground in the dark after the office had closed.

Some incredibly helpful campers helped us navigate to our site, and setting up by the light of a head-lamp isn’t actually all that bad. Particularly since we did a dry run the night before in our backyard. The campsite was great. Were were right on Williamson Lake, and there was enough ambient light that we could see the stillness of the water, with the trees being reflected, see the milky way, and listen to a waterfall across the lake while eating our craft dinner. It was quite delightful.

We wanted to get an early start in the morning, but not enough to set an alarm. Nature took care of that for us though, both with the sun and “nature calling”. We were quickly packed up and on our way to Revelstoke Mountain Resort. We were a bit worried about leaving our helmets on the bikes, and the luggage that was only strapped onto the bikes, but we needn’t have been. Everything was still there when we got back.

A friendly staff person at the hill pointed us in the right direction and we were quickly on the gondola heading up the hill. The view of the Columbia river and the mountains was amazing. Unfortunately, this is the moment where Linda says, “Did I tell you I’m afraid of heights”! She still managed to enjoy some of the view, but I was worried about the whole sitting on a plastic sled and going down the mountain thing was going to work for her.

I worried for nothing because fear or not she was bound and determined to go down. We both enjoyed the ride, but used the break more than we had hoped. We headed back up the gondola to use our $25 vouchers for brunch, which was exactly $25 LOL. It was a very nice buffet though, and the view from the deck was worth the price.

We headed off for our second run down, both of us determined to have a faster run than before. I shaved some time off, but Linda did amazing, arriving at the bottom hot on my heels. We thoroughly enjoyed the morning, and would definitely suggest putting it on your list of things-to-do if you are doing a trip through the Canadian Rockies and BC Interior.

 

 

 

The Dinosaur Trail

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As recent transplants to Calgary, we are spending our summer experiencing some of what the city has to offer. We have hiked, floated, Stampeded, taken in festivals and workshops, but honestly, there are more things to do than there is time to do them.

When it comes to riding, the choices are just as abundant. If you want the thrill of the tight twisties, you’ve got it. If you want a long leisurely ride under the big sky, yup it has that too. Exploring the mountains on gravel and trail? You bet. All within a short ride from the City

prairiescapeSmlThis weekend we picked big sky and headed out to Drumheller to ride the Dinosaur Loop, a 50km loop through the badlands, and we were certainly not disappointed. We headed north of Calgary on Hwy 2 to Balzac then turned east onto 566 and then hooked up with hwy 9 which took us all the way into Drumheller, around 1.5 hours. It is an awesome prairie ride, with rolling hills and sweeping vistas. It was a great way to start the morning.

Drumheller is nestled in what is know as the Badlands in the Red Deer River Valley. It is pretty amazing to be looking at flowing prairies then have the valley appear out of nowhere. The valley was carved out around 10-15,000 years ago, exposing a piece of history over 70 million years old. It is a palaeontological wonderland,  over 25 species of dinosaurs have been found here. It is also home to the Royal Tyrell Museum with  40 mounted skeletons and numerous activities for the family.

largestDinosaurSmlOnce in Drumheller, it is all about dinosaurs, all of the time. There are dinosaurs painted on the sides of buildings, there are more dinosaur statues than I could count, including one in front of Marks Work Warehouse properly attired in safety vests. You think it might just be businesses that do this. But, you would be wrong! We even saw dinosaur statues in people’s front yards. The City of course has join in with the dinosaur theme. There are dinosaurs and cavemen on the light standards on the main roads.  And not to be missed, is the Worlds Largest Dinosaur. It is an 86ft tall T-rex which for a small admission fee you can climb the stairs inside of him and look out of his mouth. Great fun.

After we visited with Rex, we headed off for the Dinosaur Trail North. The Trail follows along the Red Deer River, and is an amazing ride through history. The walls of the canyon are striped with different layers of rock, giving a glimpse into time. For me it was a very thought provoking ride, trying to place my life in the millions of years history I was passing, and trying to visualize how life may have been when the river valley was just a flood plain.

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My family had taken a vacation to Drumheller when I was a small child. I don’t really remember much of that, but I did remember that we had visited a tiny church, and have often seen pictures of my brother and I outside of it. As we were riding along Linda says, I think there is a little church just around this corner. Sure enough it was the one from my childhood. The sign on it says, “Seating 10,000 people, 6 at a time.”

FerrySmlAs we followed the trail to it’s end, we came to a cable ferry which took us to the other side of the river to pick up the Dinosaur Trail South. A little way along this road, is a turn off for a viewpoint. It was well worth the stop, the views were amazing. We also shed our coats here, as it was just too hot. We continued on the Dinosaur Trail to Drumheller, then kept going straight through to a little village called Rosedale to have a bite and a beverage at the Top Rocker Gear Shop and Café.

What a great little gem. I am not sure if I have ever felt so welcome walking into restaurant. We sat on the patio, had lunch and a beer, and swapped stories with other bikers. The menu is limited, but the service completely makes up for that. We will definitely go back, perhaps for one of their Thursday Bike Nights.

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We had hoped to take an alternate route back to Calgary, so head south a bit farther. The “highway” turned out to be a gravel road so we turned around, but we did get to see hoodoos along the way, so it wasn’t a wasted trip.  In the end we went home the way we came, which wasn’t really disappointing as it was a lovely ride. At the end of the day we arrived home safe and happy with another little adventure to share.

Adventures in Kingston 

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I have found myself sent to Kingston Ontario for work. It really is a great City, the original capital of Canada picturesque, rich in history and it has an amazing array of pubs. It takes me back to my navy days in Halifax. (We won’t mention how long ago that was).

There are also so fabulous motorcycle routes which I would love to ride. Unfortunately my motorcycle is over 900km away, so I have had to find other things to pass the time. Too much time in the pubs is hard on the liver and the wallet.

So looking for activities to get me out of the hotel room, I discovered a couple treasures in the Kingston area. The first is the Waterfront trail. Or at least the Kingston portion of it, which is part of the 900km Waterfront Trust Trail. Which runs from Niagra to Quebec!

The transit system is great in Kingston, so I was able to hop on an express bus that dropped me off at the trail head. The trail is 8 km long and is a lovely walk, following the shores of Lake Ontario.

One of the sites along the way is the Kingston Penitentiary which operated from 1835 – 2013. It was one of the longest operating prisons in the world at its closing. You can now take a tour through this famous prison http://www.kingstonpentour.com/

Other interesting spots along the way include: Bellevue House- The home of Sir John A Macdonald first Prime Minister of Canada, The Marine Museum of The Great Lakes, and Fort Frontenac.

And after a nice afternoon stroll, what better than to pop into one of the great pups downtown and have a pint and a bite. I chose to rest my legs at The Merchant Tap house where they have a great selection of beer and amazing but inexpensive strip loins. 

Spring has Sprung

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After a false start a month ago, I think we can safely say that spring is finally here. Its delay was probably a good thins as my bettery was toast and I had to haul a chager along with me to get the beast going whenever I stopped. The second coming of winter gave me time to get a new glass mat battery shipped in. Now she fires up like a charm.

Linda and I both had the day off on Saturday, so we went for a little ride, exploring some of the many back roads in the area. It is such a change from the grid roads we were riding on last year. We found some nice picturesque gravel roads with a few twists and turns, and hills. We are really looking forward to a summer of exploring Algoma and Ontario, and have started to plan out a few trips, both on and off road.

We are looking at doing the Cannon Ball 500 or 1000, still haven’t figured out which one yet. Also looking at a dual sport ride that would include logging roads and highways, a circle route including Thessalon, Chapleau, and Wawa. And of course just picking a lake at the end of a trail, and heading off for a ride and some fishing.

Governement road 2016

Government Road North of Bruce Mines, March 2016

 

 

Awesome off road day

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Near Annie Lake

Near Annie Lake

Well the day started with a great ride, Diane showed me where she used to live. We thought we would pick out a side road and venture out. All the way kept thanking and hearing the adventure camp instructors in our head as we hit some loose sand then crossed a creek which we would never have done before this trip. Then back from a gold mining area we veered off the path agin, we were getting tired but didn’t really realize it until came to a very technical hill which Diane made it up and I choose to hit the ditch as it was either that or the bush.

Got the bike upright and decided to head back and as we hit a creek or if in Saskatchewan a river I veered to the left which was not the best way to go and ended up under the water, once again got it upright and made it out only wet and not hurt,actually we both enjoyed it as we put to use what we were taught and never would have attempted before.

After the dip

After the dip

Now the big job is drying out the boots but probably won’t happen anytime soon. Enjoyed a great burger barbecued by Robert and settling for the night with a beer in hand. Still think it is strange as after 10 pm and totally light out. Will see what tomorrow brings.

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Another day at sea

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ImageAfter we left Ketchican we spent a great evening in the boat’s bar waxing philisophical about life with the other bikers on the boat and Fred the retired ER doc. it was a wonderful time, followed by a long hard sleep enhanced by the movement of the boat.  The next day started warm and sunny so we caught some rays on the sun deck surrounded by tents and people in sleeping bags on the loungers. The ferry does provide a great option for those who are trying to keep their costs down. The sun deck has I section that is covered over for protection from the wind and rain and even has heaters in it. People are welcome to sleep in the lounge chairs. If they want to set up a tent for privacy they can, but have to stay outside of the covered area. Other amenities include pay showers and the use do a microwave in the cafeteria We, however, opted for a stateroom, we are realizing we are getting a bit to old for somethings. 

 

ImageBy late morning the sun had gone and the rain had started. it stayed for the rest of the day. We arrived in Juneau late afternoon and had 3 hours to spend ashore So we shared a cab to the Mendenhall glacier with some shipmates. Our acquaintances walked up the trail, but with Diane’s cast we couldn’t do that so grabbed a cab and headed downtown, asking the cabbie to take us to a bar that wasn’t to shabby, but not too classy either and had good food. We ended up at the Imperial Saloon, one of the oldest bars on Juneau. It was great! We had seats at the window, which was an open garage door. So we sipped our beer, ate our burger, and talked with everyone who walked by and generally had a great time. Juneau is quite a ways from the ferry dock, so by the time all the cabs were paid for the burger ended up being about $100.

ImageWe arrived in Skagway around 3:30am And headed off to Whitehorse. After a brief visit with the local constabulary regarding a burnt out tail light, we continued on our way to Whitehorse. The fog from Skagway to Canada Customs was so bad we had to drive 20 to 30 km most of the way. We have always said that we will go out of this world together driving off a cliff and a few times thought that might be the case. Right after customs the fog lifted and we could go the speed limit again and arrived at Carl and Robert’s in Whitehorse around 7am, had a coffee with Robert and slept until early afternoon.