North: The KTM Summer of Adventure – 1: Vancouver to Tyax Lodge

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In the history of slow starts this has been epic. Hannibal had an easier time wrestling up some elephants and infantry, than my getting out on the road the past few days. Yet, sitting here at Tyax lodge I’m hard pressed to be more satisfied with the first day of “North: The KTM Summer of Adventure”.

Yes, so much for “sleeping rough on the road”, but this evening’s opulence rests on a down payment of frustration. The KTM 990 Adventures had arrived earlier in week, giving me the hope of hitting the road early.  That was thoroughly dashed by the brown collective.

Sartre is quoted as saying that hell is other people. Obviously he’d never dealt with UPS.

After six phone calls, a re-faxed invoice, conversations with border brokers, and a missing delivery that “Absolutely won’t reach you today Mr. Johnston”, I drove out to the UPS depot to pick up gear.  Odds were in my favour; three phone calls said the package would be there, while a fourth said it was unreachable on a delivery truck.

Decked out in a KTM Phase jacket, Alpinestars Tech 3 boots and Bionic Protection Jacket, I’d reached Ewan-Poser gear nirvana.  Ready to hit the road?  Not quite.

Philosophically I’m ready for this, I’ve watched Long Way Round and Long Way Down. I was raised with Robert Service poems as bedtime stories, and have caught up on my Jack London audio books.

The harsh reality is that two days of UPS-hell had kept me from picking up essentials; spare tubes, tire pries, gas cans, and a compressor…  Actually, the list just kept growing.  I’ve joked with friends calling this, “the worse planned adventure ever.”

Honestly though, I wasn’t really joking.  Even over drinks in the lodge Photographer Kevin and I are mining road information from the local colour who greeted us in the parking lot and then invited us along for a few beverages.  Lori, a rough-hewn sort of woman, is all right in our books.

Eventually you concede planning defeat, or you’ll never make it out of the back yard, and then hot and frustrated you find the 990 Adventure pointed north and you’re rolling of out of Squamish.

The destination? Today is the Hurly River Road from Pemberton to Gold Bridge, some of the most grandiose scenery British Columbia has to offer, and then on to Tyax Lodge as a gentle introduction to the world of dirt road riding.

Gentle might not be entirely accurate, but I’m seeing the world though a road rider’s bias.  Hairpins strewn with fist sized rocks; washboard and gravel are still challenges.  I know the KTM is compensating for my incompetence.

Yet, there are glimmers here.  Thrumming along at 70 to 100 kph with a plum of dust in my wake.  Bimbling along and taking in the scenery lakeside.  Feeling a sudden groove with the bike, roaring up the road to Tyax.

This mid-life-crisis orange Ka-Toom is teaching me lessons along the way; keep loose, stand on the pegs, add gas, give the bike its head, and there’s a feeling of confidence.  Tense and the ride becomes a battle.
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