North: The KTM Summer of Adventure – 5: Wells to Vanderhoof

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It’s a moment ripped from Northern Exposure, walking into the Wells Hotel for breakfast everyone already seems to know who the guy on the “big orange bike” is and where he’s come from. More mysteriously they have a fair idea where I’m heading.

Rolling into Barkerville on “the 3100” yesterday, my parents and I took a quick turn through the historic site. Spotting the orange Phase Jacket, one of the actors, dressed in historic garb, dropped completely out of character and started talking “bike”. Seems he’s talked “bike” to a few people.

Thrumming from Barkerville to Quesnel, the day start with twists, turns and tarmac that would do well by any sportbike, but the name of the bike is the Adventure and the dirt calls.

North: The KTM Summer of AdventureThe Quesnel-Hixon road serves up the dirt, a sharp slap in the face after the morning’s road riding and a previous day riding without luggage. The first gravel descent has me cursing.

What can I send home? Throw away? After the epiphany of riding the 990 without luggage, everything today is feeling top heavy and clumsy. I’ve always read the KTM 990 Adventure as fitting a more hard-core dirt niche than the likes of BMW’s GS series, I’ll take this as further evidence.

If you’re thinking of taking it all with you, well don’t. Underlining the point is a dirtbike who’s been capering though the corners and wheelying up hills in front of me. It’s all I can do to hold with the DRZ400 for a while, let alone put on a show. Eventually I give up, pull over and mount the video camera.

Again, BC has trotted out the “spectacular”. Why did we change our province’s tourism slogan from “Supernatural British Columbia” to the overly prideful and assertive “Best Place on Earth”?

From Hixon on the ride becomes a bit of a highway drone. Misreading the map leads to a mis-set of the GPS, robbing me of dirt road options that connect neatly through to my next waypoint, Prince George.

In Prince George, a nagging feeling says, “Check the oil.” Indeed the KTM is low on 10w50… Have you ever tried to find 10w50 on a Monday when most motorcycle shops are closed? A thanks goes out to the folks at the Harley Davidson dealer in Prince George who let me use the yellow pages to call around.

NR Motorsports was open, had a close enough weight of synthetic blend, and that was that. Actually the oil was the tipping point. Rolling the big and loaded KTM off the centre-stand the bike slowly toppled to one side – a true newbie mistake.

One good mistake deserves another, so my navigational impairment plunged me down a road to nowhere… or at least a housing establishment about 20kms from the highway. My first clue should have been when the GPS said I was riding through the middle of a lake. For the record I’m not a fan of pea-gravel, seems to let the front end push around a lot and the rear squirm tons.

The solutions of course are “more gas” and avoidance. After a brief fling with a parallel road composed of courser gravel, thickly strewn with fist-sized front-tire hopping rocks, I’m just fine with returning to the consistency of the pea-gravel.

So back to Highway 16 for the drone to Vanderhoof? Not quite, there seems to be long portions of an old highway 16 paralleling the drone-way. It’s rutted, bumped, graveled, pot-holed, paved, degraded, unpaved, even mud in places. Perfect, entertainment snatches the ride from the jaws of boredom.

It is here that the same bag that saved the Adventure from its parking lot drop, interfaced slightly with a couple branches. Apologies to KTM.

Pulling into Dave’s campground just outside Vanderhoof, I’m knackered. In distance terms it’s been a short day, in ride terms not so much.

Then I notice the front lock on the right luggage. Between one “interface” or the other, it’s been damaged. That nixes camping given that all my essentials and clothes are stashed in the slightly damaged bag. Ah, well, another night in a hotel.

Luckily the KTM toolkit is pretty robust – robust enough for me to get the lock operational. For the record if anyone is looking to steal some dirty socks, stinky undies, and my asthma inhaler the right case is open.

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