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01 New York
02 New England
03 Maine to Midland
04 Midland to Sturgis
05 Indians'n Cowboys
06 British Columbia
07 San Francisco
08 SF to San Diego
09 Baja to Canyons
10 Baja California
11 Northern Mexico
12 Mex. to Guatemala
13 Gua. to Costa Rica
14 CR to S. America
15 Ecuador
16 Peru and Bolivia
17 Chile
18 Patagonia
19 Argentina/Brasil
20 The road home
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Norwegian version

E-mail: mail at dagjen.no
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Chapter 06 Yellowstone to British Columbia

Start: July 5th, Gardiner, MT, Stop: July 20th, Marblemount, WA
: 4251 km (2642 miles), Total Distance: 13857 km [Map]

We finally left Montana after an extended stay and headed north west for Seattle and Vancouver Island, were more fellow Tiger owners were receiving us as old friends. A landmark was achieved when we saw the Pacific ocean, and another when we turned south in Canada.

Horseback riding
Getting our buttocks tested in the mountains north of Yellowstone NP. From time to time we needed a brake, in spite of all the motorcycle miles we had behind us.

After two more days in the Yellowstone park, one of them marking the first 10 000 km of the trip, we headed west again. Although, almost as normal when leaving a place we had stayed for a long time, we made a small detour which of course wasn't small at all. After seven hours of riding we were in Livingston, just half an hour from the ranch we started from.

We stayed two nights at the Slip and Slide Ranch, a small horse and cattle ranch by the main road from Livingston to Yellowstone. The first morning we went for a three hour horseback ride. My experience with horses was a similar ride in Spain two years ago and a day long ride in Colombia nine years ago. Bente had her teenager experience - lots of Norwegian teenagers work with horses for a while - and went along on the Spain ride two years ago. No problem, though, since our backs and buttocks should be well prepared after tens of thousands of motorcycle kilometers. We set off with Heather, a 24 year old woman married to the man who would eventually take over the farm when Franklin retired. She guided people like us in the summer besides training horses and guided hunting parties in the winter.

The first part of the trip we climbed up into the mountains, and we fell easy into the rhythm of the horses. From time to time I caught myself trying to avoid rocks in my path by pulling the ropes, a habit completely useless when dealing with a four legged animal, but hard to avoid since I still had my mind set for riding a bike. Bente had a couple of laughs behind me, and soon I let the horse go its own way. After two hours I started to realize that the horse actually moves all the time, not only forward but sideways to. My lower back had by now gotten pretty stiff. The last part of the trip went downhill, and for a long time, making both my knees and Bente's hurt because of the saddle construction which tries to twist your feet inwards. We were quite happy when the trip was over and we could finally stretch out and walk away, pretending to be relaxed while backs and knees screamed to get into a horizontal position. The fantastic scenery we rode through made the pain easy to bear though.

Geyser in Yellowstone

One of the many geysers in Yellowstone unloads.

Franklin, the owner of the farm, who lived on the ranch with his wife, his son and wife and his father in law, disturbed our peaceful barbecue on the last night, burning down irrigation channels just outside the garden fence. He took a break and chatted for a while, telling me that yes, it was him in the photograph I had seen hanging on the wall. The shot was taken in 1952, and included his father, him and the head of a grizzly bear his father had shot. It was from a local newspaper, saying his father had tracked down a grizzly bear which had killed more than $7500 worth of cattle. In 1952 that would have financed a house, so they were allowed to hunt down and kill the bear.

These days, he said, they introduced new species of wolf to the area, to preserve the number of wolves in the state. City slickers from Washington who had no idea about farming and who themselves didn't sacrifice a dollar to maintain the number of wild animals, made laws that introduced foreign wolves into farmland. He lost a lot of cattle each year because of the new initiative, but never received any of the promised compensation, since it was too difficult to prove that a wolf was to blame. He had tried, though. One summer he spent thirty two days in the saddle trying to catch a wolf in the act, to no avail. If he shot one of the beasts, it would cost him $100 000 in fine and up to ten years in prison. It was hard not to sympathize with him.

Gold wing
Luxury motorcycle travel. The brand new trailer had a cooler and you can hang your dress or suit inside when you stop for a rest. We met the two Wingers at the Beartooth Pass and chatted for a while. I can understand why people do this, since most of the Wingers we met were aged 50 and more.

Over 11900 feet towards the sky

Franklin said good-bye and reminded us that there was no way we could leave Montana without going over the Bear Tooth Pass, a 11 900 feet or approximately 4000 meter pass on Yellowstone's north eastern entrance. He convinced us and we left the ranch in the early morning after two nights of relaxed life in a very stylish little place overlooking the Paradise Valley. At the gas station in Gardiner, two Gold Wingers with trailers - by this time we were completely astounded to how many of these vehicles browsed the North American roads - pulled over, and Bente asked casually, "Hi guys", pointed at the trailer and said, "so I take it your camping?" I recognized the tone of her voice. The Wingers didn't and said, "Oh no, we're staying in motels and hotels". I laughed silently.

Later, when we were at the top of the Bear Tooth Pass, another couple on a Wing who had just left the week long Gold Wing rally in Billings, answered the same question, "Oh yes, we're camping all right". They were also towing a trailer which they purchased in the rally at the small price of $4000. "We UPS'ed our camping gear over here before we left". I had problems keeping a straight face. Naturally, when you don't have a trailer you send all your gear over with an express freight company. They were really nice people but we were just getting speechless from all the excessive travelling we'd seen. Wingers towing a trailer was nothing.

By now we had seen Gold Wings with support wheels. At first I believed it was a trike, but something was wrong. The wheels were of the correct size, but there was no drive shaft and the original bags were still in place, which was kind of weird since the lids would be obstructed by the extra wheels when opened. I looked under the bike and to my astonishment the original back wheel was still in place. What do you call a bike like that? It's not a trike. Maybe a frike. We'd seen RV's towing cars. A special towing arrangement attaches to the front wheels and allows the car to be towed without anyone in it. RV's the size of public buses towed street cars, utility vehicles and sometimes, to our disbelieves, a van or even a Gold Wing. You go on a holiday in your RV - your extended home - and carry along your eight passenger van. And the worst part is that many of these people were on a two week holiday. RV's, RV's towing cars, Gold Wings and Harleys dominated the roads, and as for the Harleys, by now we had decided to stop saluting and rather leave the initiative to them. We were getting tired of the arrogant attitudes we met, so we abandoned the practice of saluting every bike on the road.

Montana sunset

A Tiger and a chic in the Montana sunset.

The Bear Tooth Pass was worth the extra 400 km we had to do that day. On the top the landscape is unforgiving and wind blown. You can see into eternity and the roads turn in and out of valleys with such a speed that it's a real pleasure to ride them. Along the northern down slope we met a dual sport motorcycle with aluminum boxes. I saluted him and engaged my brakes, just to see if he stopped. This was the first fully packed up dual sport rider we had met, and I soon regretted not braking and waving harder, because he disappeared around the corner and out of our life just like that.

By six o'clock we had barely passed Livingston again, after a long and rough shortcut on a gravel road. The road started nice and evenly surfaced, changed into loose gravel with big rocks and finally went dirt. The rains and the big trucks that had gone there before us made the deep tracks difficult to navigate, and the heat made it worse. After sixty tiring kilometers we hit the I-90 again, the interstate that had accompanied us since Boston.

Clif and his '99 Tiger

Clif Brown and his '99 Tiger. The design is different, the bike is improved technically and Clif was very happy with it, something he never hesitated to show with a major wheelie.

Across a continent

The next few days we passed through north western Montana, into Idaho and then Washington. On our way towards Helena, state capital of Montana, we stopped at the very small village of Helmsville, located in the middle of nowhere. At the combined bar and gas station one of the few guests answered like this when asked how many lived there, "Let's see. Karen!", she yelled towards the back of the bar, "did you count how many we were the last time you updated the phone book?". "I think it was 33, but I believe that was before Frank moved out", was the answer. A big fire many many years ago made people run, and reduced the numbers from thousands to tens. From Helmsville we drove into one of the most beautiful sunsets on the trip, reaching Helena after dark.

When we came to Wenatchee, or Wenatsjoo as we called it - either one of us said "bless you" when the other said the town's name, we only found expensive motels and decided to push on. In Dryder, a small sign said "Welcome to Valley Cottage Motel", and we turned of the highway into a little and very empty motel with an owner that struck me as a brother of Norman Bates, the slightly bothered motel owner in Hitchcock's Psycho. Small cabins were spread out on his property and the price was right after some bargaining from his side. Bente protested when he said the price was $35, so he quickly replied, "What about $25, I'm easy". She smiled and accepted the price. We were allowed into his kitchen to check our e-mail and watched his kids trying to make the most out of a chemical set Norman had given them.

We called Clif Brown in the morning, one of the Tiger owners who had invited us when coming through Seattle. He was ready for us and to make the short ride to his place longer to allow him to get home from work, we took a loop into the woods around Index, a small town along route 2 to the Pacific. The road was graveled and enjoyable. Along the road dozens of other graveled roads joined and took of into the mountains. Index itself was a small mining and logging village with a few hundred people. We stayed for lunch and then headed for the ocean.

It was a landmark on our journey to see the Pacific ocean in Everett, a little town almost incorporated into Seattle which was growing very fast, eating up the smaller towns around. We didn't realize how much we had missed the smells and sights of open sea until we again could fill our nostrils with the salty odors that we used to live next to. While we shared an ice cream and drank a Latte, a popular espresso and milk coffee drink in Washington, I also remembered that this was actually the first time in my life I saw the Pacific ocean. Many years of working on seismic ships around the world and travelling on my spare time had never carried me to the biggest ocean on our planet. Bente had seen it before in California, but both of us loved it just as much. It will be our companion for the next ten, eleven months, so we better like it.

We stayed three nights with Clif, Melissa and her son Hans. The second day in Seattle the bike was serviced at I-90 Motorsports, and to my disappointment, the DAR-syndrom - the Dreaded Alternator Rattle, a infamous metallic sound from the alternator, had returned, despite the job Norm did back in Detroit. I asked them to check it again, but when I came to get the bike, they told me that nothing could be found. Clif and me picked out the alternator back in his garage and to my surprise there was no sign of the unit being taken off. When we looked at it we found that the spline was worn down and caused the drive plate to move. We had probably found the cause and a small dose of epoxy on the spline seemed to do the trick.

While the bike was serviced we spent the day in Seattle center, drinking Lattes and browsing the stores. Later in the day Bente prepared our favorite dinner for the Browns, a Pasta Lomados, created by a Swede when Bente worked in the Canary Islands and now served by a Norwegian. The next day went by to update our homepage and relax in the cosy garden of the Browns. Clif decided to go along with us up to Vancouver Island to Ken Minnion's place on Thursday, about 300 km of riding and three hours on a ferry. When we left his house in the morning the electronic engineer in his early forties took off with a wheelie the height of a small house. "Whoops, got a little carried away there", was his sardonic comment. It's always good to see youthful spirit in people, and Clif admitted that wheelies and airborne jumps was his little weakness when on the road. We had some of the same background, although different. He had also worked in the seismic business back in the seventies, going in and out of deserts in the middle east, trying to avoid land mines while mapping the subsurface. He travelled in his work for many years but finally settled down to raise a family.

British Columbia - a sample

The ride north to Canada went on some nice and twisty roads along the Pacific coast, and it was fun to have company for once. After the ferry ride to Vancouver Island Clif tried to photograph Bente and me while moving at 120 km/h, a not so successful stunt. He couldn't keep his eye on the subject of his pictures, and because the digital camera he was using had a fair amount of delay from he pushed the shutter until the photo was actually captured, most of the shots were of his own bike - or so it seemed through a haze of unsharpness. We both laughed when browsing through the results.

Ken, his wife Daphne, their kids Jeffrey and Theresa, Coal the dog and Sabre the cat where waving at us when we pulled up the driveway in Campbell River. After a short introduction - it was the first time Clif met Ken as well, we parked the two Tigers in the garage next to Ken's own Tiger and sat down at the dinner table. The night passed quickly with war stories from the road and two active kids joining in on whatever topic was discussed. In the morning we went for a little side trip to Gold River, 110 kilometers straight west of Campbell River. According to a book about good motorcycle roads in British Columbia, this road rated number four - a pretty high rating in one of the better motorcycle areas in this part of the world. Ken took Jeffrey with him, so all in all we were five people on three Tigers, Ken's 1995, our 1998 and Clif's 1999 model. The road twisted it's way into the dense forest, along Upper Campbell Lake and further out to Gold River, which lies by one of the fjords coming in from the west coast.

The trip was very enjoyable, and if we had not travelled with passengers, we would definitely have taken the parallel gravel road. This road goes alongside the paved road almost the entire way and was built to accommodate logging trucks too wide to travel on regular roads. It was well kept and looked like a lot of fun, especially since there was no traffic there whatsoever. Clif later told us about another photographic stunt he made on these roads. He was last in the pack and decided to have another try at catching us on film while doing about 100 km/h on twisty roads. His camera was around his neck and using the throttlemeister to keep up the speed, he lifted the camera with his right hand and shot photo after photo. Unfortunately we were just coming around a corner at the end of his session, and in front of him we were braking hard to avoid congested traffic. Clif did the only thing he could, bottomed out the rear brake pedal, causing the back wheel to lock and slide sideways, camera still in hand. He quickly let go of the camera and managed in a strange way to straighten the bike up again before disaster struck.

Dag canoing

Trying out a new mean of travel and splashing with expertise for the photographer.

We said good-bye to Clif at the end of the round-trip to Gold River and promised to keep in touch. Loads of work were waiting for him so he had to make a hasty return. Back at the house we went for a walk in the woods with Ken and Daphne, and I used the occasion to get more information about the island. Vancouver Island is about 450 km long and hosts a huge rain forest, snow capped mountains, ski resorts and a lot of game, including mountain lions - about 80 % of the cougars in North America have their home on this island and from time to time they attack people, only last year a kid was badly hurt in a school yard, and it also hosts black bear, elk and deer.

In the rivers there is an abundance of fish, including five different types of salmon and lots of trout. The ocean that surrounds the island hosts a number of whales, sea lion, sharks and huge fish. The west coast is as rugged and wind blown as the east coast is calm and lush. Wildlife protection programs have managed to reduce the logging to preserve life in the rivers - huge silt deposits caused by erosion have taken it's toll on the numbers of salmon and trout, and today you cannot use hooks with barbs in many of the rivers. Ken had hiked and fished on large portions of the island during the six years he had lived there, and he loved the nature surrounding him.

Fishing Vancouver island

Bill and Bente resting after a "hard" trip down the river.

After a Saturday picnic at one of the lakes, where we swam and paddled the Minnion family kayak, we prepared for the most decadent but efficient fishing trip in our life. Ken's friend Bill ran Bill's Belly Boat Charters, and Ken had arranged a short day trip for us that Sunday. We were going on a three to four hour pontoon boat trip down the Salmon river on the northern part of the island. The boat had two pontoons and a seat in the middle with a carrier for fishing rods and a place to stow away food and whatever you carry along. Two oars delivered the propulsion.

When I saw the boat I thought to myself what a lazy way of fishing, and it was. But it had a huge advantage compared to any other means of getting to the fishing grounds. With it we could access every little corner of the river, and if it got too shallow, which was when the oars struck rocks, all we had to do was step into the waters with our waders and pull the light vehicle along. Bill was an ex navy boatswain and ex fisherman, now converted to guide after the recession in the fishing industry. With his long curly red hair, a braid on one side, beard and dark but always happy voice, he made the perfect picture for a Canadian outbacker, ending every sentence with "ay..". We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxing trip down the river. It included a couple of small white water sections, but nothing any experienced rafter would call a challenge. Just the right amount of lazy adventure for a couple of city slickers like ourselves. There's no doubt about it, even with all the right gear including waders, hats and fisherman's vests, we still looked like two big city visitors.

Ken Minnion

Ken Minnion, our guide and host on Vancouver island, with his '95 Tiger. Why is he kissing the elk? We never found out.....

As every other host along our way, we left Ken and his family a little more stacked up on tools and small necessities. Our maps were filled with Ken's recommended sights and roads, and we headed for mainland British Columbia. After three ferries along the Sunshine Coast, we turned inland just north of Vancouver along the Sea to Sky Highway. The highway wound its way towards the mountains and the landscape changed for every new top we passed. At Whistler, the hottest alpine resort in Canada where there was a never ending series of expensive cabins and holiday homes, the nature were as alpine as it gets. Over the pass the landscape changed to semi desert and wind blown and dusty villages appeared every hour, in between there was nothing.

We stopped in Lilloet for the night, after braking a principle I had carried with me for a number of years. We ate burgers at McDonalds. It was my first ever, and unfortunately it will not be the last. It's cheap and not to lousy. I only stayed away from it because I have always hated chain food - not always come to think of it, but at least for the last ten years. Well, since the barrier was broken, why not accept it as part of life, since it is the fastest way to get a quick meal. Lilloet was a small town surrounded by a Indian reservation, which was quite obvious since more than half the people we saw were Indians. While Bente checked the price and room at the most central hotel in town, I sat on the bike as usual.

Out from the combined hotel and liquor store came an old Indian in jeans, cowboy boots and a feather dangling from his hat. He entered his pick up truck, where more feathers and bear tooth, or whatever teeth they were, hang from the rear view mirror. After starting the truck he looked at me and stopped again, exited his car and walked over. "Park the bike angular to the curb. If not the cops will come over and harass you." I thanked him and turned the bike the "right" way, not certain about his theory but why not please him. Two minutes later the police passed me, casting a casual stare in my direction. Tailing them was the same Indian, and when he passed me he gave the thumb up and smiled from ear to ear. Bente exited the hotel and we went to check out the alternatives in the area.

We soon decided the hotel was the best choice, so we returned, and once again I parked alongside the curb in conflict with the warnings I'd been given. A few minutes later the guy passed me for the second time - what was he doing, cruising the streets of Lilloet, and this time his nod was reserved and a disappointing expression said all that was needed about my parking. After he left silence took over, a silence that was only disturbed by a sign on a post creaking in the wind. With the semi desert mountain background the scene could have been taken from a dozen movies from the American backyard country.

Lunch break

A quick snack along the road.

Going south

The next day we changed plans every hour and finally decided to head south east to Vernon. When we pulled of the highway we realized we were leaving the northern most point of our entire journey and would for the next eight to ten months go south. "JiiiiHAAA, vamos a Mexico", we shouted in a chorus, getting more and more childish as the trip progressed.

With an intercom and a lot of hours in the saddle, there is no denying that we can be pretty foolish and play the most ridiculous games when the hours are getting long. We make new lyrics to old tunes, new tunes to old lyrics and mix old tunes into the most strange and silly songs ever sung. I make small poems not worth writing down, and when I sing Bente often asks if the intercom has a false tune in it. Bente has a voice. I have not. That's one of the facts of life, but it does not stop me from using it when only the two of us can hear it. At other times we connect the radio to the intercom to break the monotony of the long days, and sometimes Bente sings one of the songs she remember the lyrics of. When she does I either shut up or sing along very very low. All in all we manage to keep ourselves busy out there and rarely have either complained about getting bored - maybe because when we do we pull over and stop.

In Vernon we finally found a youth hostel to stay in, and what a change it was from the motels. In eight weeks of travel we had yet to meet another long term traveler in any of the motels we stayed at. Of course we didn't, they don't stay in motels, they use the chain of hostels around USA and Canada. This particular hostel was a converted old mansion with plenty of space, a big lounge, communal kitchen and a combination of dorms and double rooms.

Looking around the premises while waiting for the staff to return from a trip to town, I said to Bente that the place reminded me of the backpacker hostels we stayed at in Australia a few years ago. I had just finished the sentence when a young man came walking over saying, "G'day mate". He was from eastern Australia and worked for the time being in the hostel as part of his long term journey. The other people we met from the staff were from France, Germany and Uruguay, and the guests were from all over as well. The atmosphere of the place was wonderful and we quickly decided to stay two nights.

There was a second reason for abandoning our plans to go to the east part of BC and rather head south west towards Seattle again two days later. The rear tyre on Rocinante was by now almost worn down completely. I had believed I could extend the life a little longer, but the heat of the day before had taken it's toll on the rubber. New tyres were waiting for us in Seattle, so we were much better off to stay and go for a relaxing day by the lake, than head east away from Seattle and end up driving on slicks in a few days.


The northern Cascades in Washington in the late afternoon light.

When we headed south two days later, we got the first real heat test so far on the trip. As the day grew older the temperature raised to a peak of 38º Celsius, around 100º Fahrenheit. The riding pants were strapped on top of the panniers and the jackets adjusted to full ventilation. It was very warm, but none of us felt we had any problems.

We went south through the valley and entered USA again on a narrow back road. One custom officer was present at the little border station, and all he did was browse our passports and wish us a good trip south. We were in one of the warmest valleys of our leg, and when we spotted a lake and lunch tables under the trees, it took us about four minutes to stop, undress and get into shorts and bikini and dive in the refreshing water. We paused for an hour and then headed west over the scenic northern passage of the Cascade Mountains. We stopped in Marblemount for the night.

And who we met there can be read in the next chapter.

Elk in sunset
We saw lots of elk, once more than thirty in a pack by the road, sometimes lone males feeding in the sunset.

Catching ... nothing, although a couple came almost out of the water before I lost them. And they were big - oh yes, just huge fish. You know...

Fly fishing
Tangling while trying to learn the skills of fly fishing. Bill was helping me the best he could, but I guess I needed more than the half hour practice I had.

Row yer boat
A more decadent way of travelling down the rivers is hard to find. But it definitely was a good way to get to the best spots.

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