Motorcycle Touring: Canada

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Canadian Twist

Head For The Rockies

I've been living and riding in Puget Sound for three years and I've never once heard someone mention the Canadian Rockies. Sure, everyone talks about doing the Cascade loop, or the Olympic Peninsula, but there seems to be a foreign world few in Puget Sound have ventured out in.

The Canadian Rockies rival the Alps as one of the most awesome places to ride in the world. In six hours you can be there (including a stop for lunch). Gorgeous straight-aways, tight twisties, bears, goats, elk, quaint towns and resorts await you in an area that is low in traffic and high in fun.

Ride This

You could spend all day riding for two weeks and never cover the many miles of roads through this area. In fact, it seems British Columbia and Alberta are blessed with more miles of highway than people in the population. For this reason, resurfacing does not occur as often as needed and there will be times when you'll hit stretches of road that feature patched potholes and worn surfaces. Bear with them as they soon take a turn for the better, usually within a few miles. 

You like twisties? You'll be in heaven here. Highlights include the stretch of road in the nearby Selkirks between Kaslo and New Denver, and the hairpin turn that lies just below the Glacier tourist attraction on the Ice Fields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper.

Traffic? What's That?

The best times to go are early June or late September. At this time, the roads are little traveled... so little, in fact, that on a recent trip in June you'd have thought it was a national holiday - all weekend! There were stretches of 5-15 minutes when we'd never pass a soul, coming or going in any direction.

Free Ferries - Toll Highways

Ferries in this area are free, but unlike Puget Sound, motorcycles do not go to the front of the line. An area of the Trans Canadian Highway in B.C. is a toll area, and at the time of this writing motorcycles paid $5 to run the stretch that knocks two hours travel time off the sprint between Kamloops and Seattle.

Wild Things

This area of Canada is so abundant with roadside wildlife you'll realize you're in a perpetual zoo every mile you ride. It's not uncommon to see bear, elk, deer and mountain goats. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled at all times and slow down if you spot any of these in your view so that you can enjoy their incidence and not be one of theirs. And in case it hasn't crossed your mind, just because a bear is tame enough to walk around by the road doesn't mean you're going to be able to walk up to him and shake his hand.  Keep the, "Hello Mr. Bear," stuff in the back of your mind only, please.

Kilometers vs. MPH 

You're on the metric system here. All speed and distance postings are in Kilometers. A kilometer is .62 of a mile. If the road sign says it's 100 km to the next town, do the math and you'll know it's 62 miles. 

As for the speed limits, few pay attention to them, however citations are handed out if you get caught. American citizens are required to pay their fines, but the citation does not transfer to their US record. If you have an unpaid citation in Canada on your record, and get stopped, you could be deported. 

The Weather

As is the case with any mountain zone, conditions can change rapidly. You know that electric gear you stashed in the closet last spring? Well, even if it's summer, pull it out and pack it with you. Some passes can get down to the 30s in the summer months.

A Perfect Match

When you take your bike to Canada, be certain that your paperwork is in order. Your driver's license information should match that of your registration on the bike. If it doesn't and you get probed at the border, or along the way, there's a good chance you will be turned around.  Visas are not required for American citizens to enter the country. By all means, don't try to cross the border with a firearm in your possession.

Canadian Riviera

The Canadian Rockies are filled with small towns and resorts that can accommodate you as you make your way through at whatever pace you choose. You'll find peace and quite in areas like Jasper and Lake Louise, and if you need a little more action stay a night in Banff or Kamloops.

121 Cents On The Dollar

As is always the case when you enter Canada, you'll be dealing with their currency exchange. At the time of this update the Canadian dollar averages about 1.21 to the US dollar, so don't let those menu prices scare you. Your credit card will provide the best exchange rate so the more you use it the better off you'll be when it's time to pay for it all. Of course, it's handy to have some Canadian currency in your pants for quick gas stops and toll highway fees. This is most easily accomplished when you hit an ATM if your card is globally accepted (most major banks ATM cards are).

Getting There

From Seattle, you can reach the Canadian Rockies by heading north up I-5, taking 97 north out of Wenatchee, taking 395 or other back roads through eastern Washington, or using I-90 into Post Falls and using back roads northward through Idaho. Consult a map for more details about which roads have border crossings.

Sooo... What are you doing next September?  

Patrick Thomas/Summer 00 , Updated 2015

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