We’re off course, and we don’t need a map or GPS to tell us so. We’re headed south-west rather than north-west thanks to a wrong turn off of the Blackwater Forest Service Road and onto Batnuni, above the sky is darkening and the sun diminished to a glowing red-orange ember. Below me the BMW F800GS is skating on a road thick with pea-gravel ball-bearings. Even if the road we’re on was the right direction, it wouldn’t be. It’s carrying us towards the 4000 Road Fire, Northeast of Kluskus and west of Quesnel, a 2400 ha uncontrolled blaze that’s blotting out the sun.
Visually the effect is stunning, the world cast over in orange light. Glenn and Kevin, ever the photographers, take full advantage of it. Until the light starts to fade, sunset dark with Sol still high above the hills.
We stop, consult the maps, and backtrack through the pea-gravel, bikes sashaying beneath us. Eventually we regain the Blackwater road, chatting with two old-timers who’ve stopped at the intersection.
Say’s one to the other, “Is the fire going to get you?”
“No, don’t think so.” It’s a brief exchange, but a reminder that people still have homes on the line even out here, and some are unwilling to leave. Living out of panniers we’re so upwardly mobile it hurts, we’re driven by whim, weather and in the case of fires outright disaster; everywhere should be home, but in reality nowhere is.
Back to the south, we stopped in to visit my parents in Williams Lake, a place to stay, a meal, a quick glance at home. Except of course it isn’t. It’s all changed, time working lovely baroque intricacies on the places you remember; an overgrown lilac bush, a garden gone wild, a cabin being renovated, even the roads have changed.
“We we’re planning to head up to the Marguerite ferry, then cross over to the dirt on the west side of the Fraser and ride up to Quesnel.”
“They shut down the ferry years ago, but you can ride down to Rudy’s Bridge, and cross there. But they’ve paved the far side.”
It’s hard to mask my disappointment; I was looking forwards to showing Kevin and Glenn a road that authored my earliest road trip memories. This isn’t an anticlimax though, the BMW F800GS and I get on famously as we shoot through the twist and turns descending towards Soda Creek, then south along the Fraser to “Rudy’s Bridge” or as it’s more formally know Buckskin Road.
The ride North to Quesnel isn’t diminished by the pavement, just changed. This is a microclimate, warmer than the rest of the surrounding Cariboo region, lush by virtue of the river’s proximity and scenic with rolling farmlands. There are dirt spur roads everywhere, tempting off-road propositions that more often than not are driveways to someone’s home.