Day 16

A Shortcut Tommy!

Tommy from Chile next to his BMW sidecar he bought in Switzerland to the USA in Princeton, British Columbia, Canada
Tommy from Chile next to his BMW sidecar he bought in Switzerland to the USA in Princeton, British Columbia, Canada

Lake Roche Campground to side of the road near Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead (spider camp)


Instagram excerpt - See here


I began my decent South. I decided not to visit Whistler. It would add too much time to my trip. I packed up my camp and rode out of Roche Lake. It was quiet off the Trans-Canadian Highway. There were few vehiles on the Princeton-Kamloops Highway. It reminded me of Australia. It wound it’s way South along some scenic lakes. The mountains were noticably smaller. I must’ve been out of the Rocky Mountains.

There wasn’t much to speak of until I hit Princeton. I did a u-turn to park on the side of the road in the town. I saw a green shiney object in the corner of my eye as I did. I stopped the bike by the gutter and turned my head to inspect it better. It looked like a motorbike. It was obscured by the building in-front of me. I put my two feet on the pavement and began peddline the bike backwards to get a better view to reveal a beautiful old motorbike and sidecart. Next to it stood a man.

An immediate smile drew across his face as I waved. “Hello”, I cheered. “Hey!”, the man returned. “I love the bike” “Yours too”

His name was Tommy. An adventurer. We clicked immediately. He was from Chile (“It’s pronounced Chilé!”, he would say). The bike was a BMW. It had done 500,000 miles. He replaced the engine somewhere along its life to a larger 1200 for more power. The bike was well sorted with all his gear and trinkets in their correct place. He’d spent a lot of time perfecting it. He was retired and staying at the motel. He made me a cup of coffee. “I got it sent from Sweden to Chilé. I’ve ridden it it all the way from Chilé to the Yukon.”, he said.

Tommy felt familiar. Like a brother or even an older version of myself. He was someone I wanted to be at his age. Travelling around and enjoying myself. There was a comradere about it. Maybe it was the beret. Someone on the road to guide me. Almost spiritually. I didn’t feel alone. I hadn’t meet another adventure rider on my trip. An experienced one who never stopped. That’s the way I felt. Like I could never stop. I would become like Tommy.

I said goodbye to Tommy and attempted to go West to a city called Hope. There was no direct road to Hope. I didn’t want to take the Highway South. It seemed like I could take a shortcut through the mountain trails. It would be more fun. I stopped at a small town called Tulameen to fill up the gas tank. There was a young lady behind the counter. “Hey, can I get to Hope from here?”, I asked her. “Ahh, that depends. What are you riding?”, she seemed concerned. “A dirt bike?” “That’s okay, I thought you were on a road bike or something. The roads a bit rough but there’s a road before the store. You just follow that until you get to an intersection. You’ll see a red sign that says ‘Kohkihalla’. You need to turn left. That will take you to the highway.”, she instructed. “Kohkilalla”, I confirmed. “Yeah, Kohkihalla”.

She was right. There was a road called the Lawless Forest Service Road. It was a bit run down but easy on the bike. It went on for miles. Sometimes a second road would split off it. There was no red sign so I just stayed on the main one. I got deeper into the forest. There was no reception. I wondered if I would ever get out. It wasn’t until I hit a major intersection of three tracks that I got worried. I didn’t know which way to go. Then I saw it. The red sign. Thank god. She wasn’t lying. I took a left.

I made it to the Coquihalla Highway. I don’t know how, but I did. The instructions were simple. Following it was hard. I’m glad I went through the forest. It was picquresque and sweet. The highway was not. I got through Hope and made my way to Vancouver. A wildfire had broken out just next to it. The road was blocked off with a pilot vehicle we had to follow. I could see the smoke billowing off the mountain to my right.

A friend from High School saw my posts on Instagram and asked if I wanted to grab a beer in Vancouver. I checked my map. It was late. I was tired. There was no campgrounds until Mt. Baker in the USA. A beer would set me back too late into the night. I declined. I wish I hadn’t but I needed to find a place to camp. I continued past Vancouver. I wish I hadn’t.

I crossed the border around Abbotsford. I don’t remember. I got asked similar questions to before. When did I arrive, when will I leave, how long am I staying. I gave the same answers as before. I must’ve got through quickly as the light didn’t drop too much judging by my photos. I stopped at a small village called Maple Falls. I got fuel a pack of cheetos from the store. The attendant didn’t know if there were any campgrounds nearby. I began to roll up the mountain to see if there were any campgrounds. There were none. There was a clearing off the side of the road. I continued up the winding road.

There was a trailhead with some cars. It was Heliotrope Ridge. It had a picnic table and a drop toilet. I couldn’t camp there. I kept going up. It was getting colder. I must’ve been at some altitude because when I turned my head to the right, I saw snow. It must’ve been Hadley peak. It was the middle of Summer! The road ended further up on the map. It was too cold to camp on the side of the road here. I went back the way I came and found the clearing on the side of the road I passed earlier.

It was nothing special. A raised round flat clearing off the side of the road. It had a rock firepit and a wood trunk for a stool. It was scary at night. You couldn’t see past the edge of the clearing where it just fell like a cliff. If there was a haunted place, this was it. I setup my tent, rolled a doob from the remains of my weed and cooked dinner. It was silent. I smoked the weed and relaxed as my Campbles chunky soup began bubbling. I started eating when I noticed something move from the corner of by eye. What the hell was that. I peered to the ground. My headlamp lit up the floor of pine needles. Something else moved. I looked closer. It was a spider.

It darted across the pine floor nearby and stopped. Then started again. Then I saw another one. It ran the other one. Stopped then continued. Then I saw another one. I took a step back and tried to observe the entire ground of the clearing. There were spiders everywhere. Running and darting along the pine ridden dirt. It was unbelievably creepy. They were only small. Daddy long-legs. They meant no harm. It was a Arachnophobia’s nightmare. Thankfully, I managed to make peace with my friendly neighbourhood spiders. They seemed to avoid me as they did each other.

Headlights. I turned my head. They came down the road slowly. This was more concerning than the spiders and the darkness. Who was it and what are they doing here. A normal person would drive faster than that. They must be coming for me as they would’ve seen my headlight already. The can pulled over and turned with its headlights facing towards me. What now?

“Hey man, would you be able to help us?”, a voice came from the blinding headlights. “Yeah, what’s up?”, I asked as I approached the vehicle.

It was three boys in a car.

“We got a puncture. We got a spare but it’s flat. You wouldn’t have a pump or something would you?” “I do actually, it’s just a handpump though. It’ll take you a while to pump it” “Ahh, we’ll give it a shot!”

I walked over to the bike. I had a bicycle pump straped to the pannier rack. I snapped it off and handed it to the boys who had gotten out of the car. They seemed genuine. I grabbed the pressure gauge as well.

“It took me 100 pumps to go up 1 PSI on the bike. You’ll probably be going for a while. The car tyre’s a lot bigger”. “Thanks man, I’ll give it a shot”, he replied.

I handed him the pump and checked the pressure with the gauge first. It was 10 PSI. “Hey that’s not bad. You’ll be able to get to a town on that”. “Better safe than sorry”, he said as he began pumping.

I made small-talk with the others as one of them was pumping. They were around 18-19 and were ice climbing around Mt. Baker to get photographs. The explained if I was planning to go there to be careful. There was a huge chasm on the hike and you could fall to your death. I had no intention of going. I have no experience ice climbing. I’m from Australia.

The kid pumped furiously for 10 minutes. I got the gauge to check his work. 12 PSI. He called the quits. I think it will be fine. I agreed. They said goodbye and left me with the spiders.


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Day 16 - I left Roche and aimed for Vancouver. I took some breathtaking roads to Merritt before finding a windy road to Princeton. As I navigated a U-turn I saw a green machine and a man named Tommy from Chilé (not Chilli). I hit it off with the mechanic who’d owned the bike, shipped from his time in Switzerland, 40 years ago. A true adventure rider with his dachshund companion he’s done over 400k miles. Sharing a brotherly hug I got to Coalmont where the lovely store attended told the only way West is a hazardous dirt road. I followed her instructions to a tee and landed on the 5 South. I got lost and ran out of time and bypassed VC (Sorry Kirstin Oliver!). I left Canada and pushed to Mt. Baker where I slept with the spiders off the road. I’m not joking, the forest floor was teeming with them. Cute, but creepy! 😱

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