If this were the last time
I ever wrote a poem,
then at least one more
If this were the last time
I put ink on paper,
then at least I’ll have
made a mark.
If this were the last time
I helped my daughter find dinner,
then at least I have been
Grief and gratitude:
I never knew these two
were sisters.– E Bacon, Jan 6, 2022
My husband has been dead
for a year and almost ten months
as I sift slowly through
They are mine to sort, now
I find the love letters
his first wife wrote him
and some notes he wrote her
They sear my hands and
I drop them
I set them aside, for awhile
And then I gather them
up, and wrap them in
They’re safe this way
They sit for a long time
My husband has been dead
for two years, nine months, and two days
the day I carry these notes
in my car
to his ex-wife
and I float above them,
apart from them
They are not mine to carry,
They never were —
but I am a caretaker,
and I do take care
of those I love.
Today’s clearing work was a sewing project! All of these things that sit, undone, around the house are clutter: physical clutter as well as mental clutter. Taking on the thing and finishing it delivers really nice psychic dividends!
I have two matching leather ottomans that have seen better days – all beat up on top, cracking material. I started to envision putting on a slipcover many moons ago. Happily, I had a beautiful red brocade fabric with golden feathers on it, just sitting in the store room. I admit that I did look online to see if I could find a good off-the-shelf slipcover, but apparently, mine are an unusual size and shape, square and rather tall. So, no dice and I searched for a slipcover pattern to sew my own.
Voilà: Youtube delivered! This nice guy explained the steps. My fabric was wide enough to work for this method, and I laid out then cut an approximate piece. Next, I pinned the four edges tight, to indicate the corners and where the seam would be.
Then it was time to wake up the sewing machine! I got it out of its storage bag in the cabinet, and got it set up. I had to switch to a dark red thread that matched the fabric, and I re-read the manual to learn how to fill the bobbin with the same thread. That came together nicely, and soon I was putting down the first stitch.
Don’t forget to backstitch! Oh yes. There were re-fittings and adjustments partway through, on both of them. Besides that, the sewing machine decided to start making a crunchy noise and eating the thread of the bobbin in a weird way. I consulted the manual again, and troubleshooting involved disassembling part of the machine and cleaning out lint from key nooks and crannies. That resolved the issue and the project was completed forthwith!
Ground, clear, protect: all three elements help for a happy heart and home. Stay tethered to the earth, maintain a beautiful space, and keep aware of what’s for your highest good and what isn’t yours.
Wind sighs through my soul
that sheds weights of old
In the cold of the earth
is the deepest fire of life
and a diamond is revealed
in the night's raindrop before me.
The sorrow of the trees
is that of the buddha,
always watching these mortals
blow, blow and die without knowing
ever, truly, that all is well...
To forgive for the pain,
that too hurts like a hurricane,
a gale of longing and want
for the plant to grow up sure —
attracted by sun, grounded by dirt
and ever-expanding into air,
somehow a part of the forest
between bricks and mortar floundering
on a roughshod foundation.
May the peace of nature take root
and breathe a future more true.
- May 2012 (unearthed)
A home is the basis
of a turning in the sky
A patch of ground, wet,
reflects the gray above
A person tramps through,
marking space with steps
Another person stops here,
caught up in a thought
A tangle of forms seem
to be separate, apart
yet form the very fabric
of this life, utterly basic
and just another rubric.
- Dec 10, 2019
you're stuck behind
the garbage truck.
You just need to plug your nose,
and suck it up.
The windshield wipers
clear the rain,
again and again.
Do you feel the same
itch within your soul?
I see a smiling face
in my mind,
and wonder where I might find
First, clear out the trash.
Keep moving down the road.
- Jan 22 '20
I am truly grateful for the chance to be a mother in this lifetime, and I have been proud to parent a generally wonderful daughter. There’ve been some difficult times over the years, for sure: those early days-and-nights of constant feeding and diaper changes; the challenge of her having an emotional bully among her friends in 3rd grade; and then there was her recent threat to start eating vegan!
None of these experiences properly prepared me for parenting a teenager, however. She turned thirteen less than three months ago, but she dived in with both feet, one hand tightly clamping her nose. The waves continue to splash about, but one effect that I’m going to appreciate today in all its glory is: the eye roll.
That’s right, the eye roll is a classic teenager move that hasn’t lost any currency with the times. The kids may be glued to their devices, watching TikTok when they aren’t Snapchatting, but they’re still practicing this age-old move. In fact, it’s kind of contagious and my optic nerves are feeling a bit stressed from my own indulgences in this department.
I’m one for defining systems as a way of better understanding the world, and I venture to say that there are at least three classes of eye-rolls. Let’s walk through them together, shall we?
Class 1 Eye Rolls
Class 1 eye rolls are the most standard and commonly-seen manouever: eyelids open and eyeballs rotating visibly. There are a couple of variations that I’ve observed within the Class 1 eye roll.
Class 1, Subtype A: The eyeball is quickly rotated upwards towards the sky, and then dropped back into place. The primary effect is a flashing white eyeball. If you aren’t watching her, though, you might just miss it.
Class 1, Subtype B: The eyeball is rotated in a grand gesture from left to right or right to left, with some upward movement as well – a kind of parabola effect, if you will. This one takes longer to perform and is never intended to be hidden or subtle. It will be repeated if you were so dense as to miss it.
Class 1, Subtype C: Performed along with either Subtype A or Subtype B, the eyelids are made to flutter as well. Like Subtype B, this variant absolutely takes the eye roll into performative territory – it’s meant to be noticed.
Class 2 Eye Rolls
Class 2 eye rolls are performed with the eyelids closed. My daughter seems to believe that this obscures her action such that it is invisible. She is wrong.
Class 2, Subtype A: Usually performed at the dinner table in a very rapid manner, the eyelids are held closed while a Class 1, Subtype A eyeroll is performed under the covers, so to speak.
Class 2, Subtype B: Adding to the air of mystery, the hair is allowed to fall across the face and further obscure the eyes-closed Class 2 eyeroll. Somehow, the self-conscious teenager believes that a lock of hair completely hides the entire face.
Class 2, Subtype C: Removing any mystery altogether, this type of eyes-closed eye roll is a Class 1, Subtype B that is performed in such a protracted way that it’s dead obvious what’s going on if you have her anywhere in your field of view. Try it with a friend, and note for yourself that eyelids do not, in fact, hide the movement of the iris and eyeball.
Class 3 Eye Rolls
Class 3 eye rolls pull out all the teenager stops: it’s a Class 1 eye roll of one subtype or other that’s also accompanied by a synchronous movement or vocalization. There’s nothing subtle about this class of eye roll.
Class 3, Subtype A: Any of the Class 1 subtypes is embellished with a frown. Typically this is not your average, small-scale frown, but a huge, almost distended downturn of both corners of the mouth. Picture something like those two despairing emojis…but with the eyes rolling, of course.
Class 3, Subtype B: Any of the Class 1 or Class 2 eye roll subtypes is also joined by a deep sigh or similarly protracted & world-weary sound. This type of eye roll says: “I am absolutely going to die of exasperation…or perhaps this exhalation.”
I freely admit this set is just a first stab at capturing the deep world of teenagers’ eye-rolls. I welcome other parents helping me categorize the fine and important distinctions to be made in this arena. What’s your teenager demonstrating via eye roll that would help us all to better understand this very delicate yet highly judgmental creature? Comments encouraged!
Why be unhappy about something
If it can be remedied?
And what is the use of being unhappy about something
If it cannot be remedied?Shantideva
Accept, and let go.
I’ve been practicing this mantra of “accept and let go” that came to me out of necessity or at least circumstance last year. My father decided that his time had come, so he ceased dialysis and passed away peacefully in January 2018. My husband learned he had stage IV cancer and he departed the earth two months later, in March 2018. The dates are immaterial in the grand scheme of things, but precisely consequential to my experiencing great loss in a short period of time.
Death is a kind of loss that is more permanent and jarring than most other losses. We lose things in our lives all the time, from sweatshirts and sunglasses to jobs and relationships. Losing a human being to death, though, is irreversible and it completely removes that individual from the fabric of daily reality. (Even if you believe in ghosts/spirits, they are not the living person. I suppose that a celebrity whose image is captured and expanded, such as for example Robin Williams, doesn’t depart in the same way that your average person does. But my losses were average people…I have dreadfully little record of them, almost no video.) They aren’t here any more, period.
Accept, and let go.
The stages of grief are well known, and acceptance is the last of them. I felt and worked through shock and numbness, depression, anger, as well as denial and isolation. Each of those emotions or states still occasionally arises. Each of those feelings generates a reaction, most problematic. Thusly I believe that it’s the letting go that is most important alongside the acceptance. I must accept that this loss has happened, and let go of minding what happened, of wishing it were other. I must let go of a sense of injustice or wrongness as I accept the reality of what is.
Accept, and let go.
Every day — at least! — the universe gives us a chance to practice this awareness and flow. I’m learning to play the drums, and it is tremendously exciting and confounding at the same time. To date in my life, I’ve not done much music-making and my limbs barely conform even as my ears are still learning to hear and contribute ideas to my body. Yet, it’s a joyful practice to swing and make sounds. The beats are not always on, but I accept what’s done and let go and move into the next moment. They roll, we roll, and all there can be is acceptance and release, hearing and letting go. I have hardly ever jammed with other people, which, it turns out, leads to a whole ‘nother level of needing to accept, and let go. Sometimes I stop and shake my head at myself and occasionally I will laugh, but I am learning to simply…keep going. So it is. So it goes. Keep going.
Accept, and let go.
This is the diary of a 2500-mile motorcycle adventure trip with my dear friend Tahnee in July 2019, traveling from the United States into Canada.
Sunday July 21, 2019Lizz did 335 miles, Portland Oregon to Hells Canyon Park, Idaho (6:09 riding time)
Tahnee did about 550 miles, from Salt Lake City Utah to Hells Canyon Park (!!)
FUCK YEAH, I see Tahnee rolling up the road! I’ve been at our campground, Hells Canyon Park, for about ninety minutes, staking out a camping spot, enjoying some ginger tea, and watching people play with their boats on the Snake River that carved this remarkable canyon between curvaceous hills. As the hour progressed, I had started to worry that Tahnee might be waylaid or maybe we misunderstood which campsite we were meeting at, but my worries evaporate in the moment as I jump up and down and wave her in. Reunited – her bike, Kitty, parks next to my bike, Zee, for the first time. They’re clearly fast friends, without further ado, just like their owners.
My solo day of riding was pretty much smooth as silk. I left Portland on time at 9am, and headed east on 84. Happily my warm-up ride the prior weekend had assuaged my desire for central Oregon twisties (like the insanely great Shaniko – Fossil stretch of road) so I saved myself a couple hours by slabbing it to Baker City before turning east into the Hells Canyon scenic byway. I had nary a bad moment — amazingly, the wind that characterizes the Gorge (which is the pathway of the mighty Columbia River, which once carried Lewis & Clark to their western terminus) was absent and I cruised on through with a few little stops for gas, and rest, and lunch in Pendleton. Supposedly it was the last day of “Bike Week” in Pendleton but except for the number of Harley riders heading west on 84 towards the Portland metro area, I saw no evidence of its existence.
The road, 86, that carves through the canyons east of Baker City was an absolute delight. I literally saw maybe three cars for mile after mile, just small homesteads making their living amid the arid high desert alongside the small waterway. Unfortunately there was a terrible accident around one curve, but helpers were already on-site; I averted my eyes as I passed and sent a prayer upwards for all involved. The rest of the ride was uneventful, if you don’t count the waves of joy and awe that the landscape inspired in my free-range soul.
Tahnee was exhausted but jubilant upon arrival — she rode over 1100 miles in two days coming to this point in Oregon from her home in Boulder, about 18 hours in the saddle which we believe officially qualifies her for Iron Butt status. It’s not clear to me whether this is an entirely higher order of achievement than Bad Ass, but it’s certainly worthy. We ate a campsite dinner, dealt with the rules-bound park host, and made friends with a woman who gave us an amazing tent spot on the grass that she wasn’t using. We talked late into the night, lying in the sweet three-person tent she’d gotten on sale this spring, until I finally rolled over and called it a night. At one point during the night, the moon rising from the hills woke me with its spotlight, making me smile before dropping back into slumber.
Monday July 22, 2019 (Day 1)255 miles, Hells Canyon Park, Idaho to Heyburn State Park, Idaho
“My soats are socked,” said a wrecked Tahnee after we stumbled through erecting the tent and she took off her motorcycling boots to make this amusing discovery. We practically fell to the ground laughing at ourselves, pushing the limits of coherence to make it to this point. Somehow, we’re more intact than ever. But the darkness falls quickly amid the tall trees of this dry campground, apparently the oldest park in the entire Pacific Northwest, as I tap away on my laptop, eager to capture the memories before they flee my feeble brain.
Our day started slowly as Tahnee didn’t sleep too well, and we weren’t in any sort of rush. We heated water for coffee and breakfast (oatmeal for Tahnee and a rehydrated eggs-and-potato meal for me) as we continued to reconnect. Talking about school for her and work for me, boys and friends and hopes and dreams.
The conversation continued as we got our bikes ready for departure and headed off. Butler Maps devotees, today we eagerly targeted a stunning stretch from route 86 north to Joseph Oregon. It was about 45-50 miles of heavenly curves alongside a burbling rocky brook, climbing and falling through the mountain range. Rock cliffs alongside the road showed off shattered patterns and colorful strata, while white and yellow and purple wildflowers stretched from the edges of the road up and down the hillsides to either side. A small side road led us toward the ridiculous Hells Canyon Overlook.
I’m a much better rider than I was a year ago, having kept up seat time over the winter, but my personal kryptonite is still a left-hander with a cliff drop off to my right and no guardrail. This particular combination of road & landscape totally makes me choke up, losing the grounding in my seat and stiffening my arms: pretty much the exact opposite recipe from good cornering technique. I’ve especially been studying and concentrating on cornering (as you do), mainly by practicing trail braking, or at least covering the front brake through the apex.
Generally, I think of myself as a pretty poky rider; essentially, I’m cautious and don’t want to outpace my sightlines. Who knows what spray of gravel or chunk of rock or wild animal is going to occupy the center of my lane when I round that blind turn? I for sure would rather be prepared and avoid paying the often dire consequences of a motorcycle crash. (Happily, I have a healthy car track habit to feed that need for speed!) This practice served me well today when loose gravel on the far side of the apex made my front tire wobble ridiculously – but my conservative speed and balanced handle on the controls meant that I didn’t overreact and no harm resulted.
The day was super hot, and Tahnee relied on her cooling vest a lot. At one riverside park stop in Idaho, she walked fully clothed into the water and came out dripping (she wouldn’t recommend this plan though unless you’re immediately ready to hop on the bike and go and unfortunately we still had to get gas). She brought along another cooling vest for me, too, one that was black and padded, but honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t like feeling wet and sticky, and it didn’t seem to help my temperature either. But then, I tend to run on the chilly side, and usually keep all or most of my jacket vents zipped fully closed when it’s 67F degrees or less. I’ve even ridden a moto for hours in Spain at >40C/>104F degrees without too much discomfort!
We ate dinner at a superb little Co-Op in the charming town of Moscow, Idaho, fueling us for the final 75-minute push to our campsite. We rolled in without a reservation after 9pm, and secured a sweet spot among the trees. And here the tale pauses for conviviality and sleep. Cheers!
Tuesday July 23, 2019 – 8:27pm (Day 2)215 miles from Heyburn State Park, Idaho to Jimsmith Provincial Park, near Cranbrook B.C. (4:28 mins riding)
KOOTENAY! About an hour into our riding day around 12:24pm, we crossed over into Kootenai County, Idaho, amid much shouting and glee in our helmets. From our lovely campsite amid tall trees on the lakeshore, we headed east and then north, riding up the curvy beautiful eastern shore of what became the Coeur d’Alene Lake. Speeds fluctuated between 35-55 mph in bend after bend, delightful esses linking in both on-camber and off-camber combinations. I held my weight in my hips and feet, dropped my shoulder into the turn and just loved every minute of the twisties today.
The delightful riding was too short-lived, as we hit Interstate 90 and headed west to Coeur d’Alene to jump on 95 north and slab it up to Canada as quickly as possible. We passed a few motorcyclists, mostly on cruisers, and usually mutually flashed the sign at each other. (I sometimes say “peace” in my helmet when I do so – do you say anything?) Temperatures were between 85-95 degrees all day, making any stop for some cold lemonade for me and a refreshed cooling vest for Tahnee into a real pleasure-fest.
It’s through hardships and challenges that we find new ways to appreciate what we have and our ability to withstand. I’m grateful the lessons are clear and simple today, not so painful as they can be sometimes….
And just now the sun is setting behind the hills on the other side of the small Jimsmith Lake, a recreational destination for families and fine dry campsites (shout-out to AxlX on the ADVRider forum for the local tip!) Tahnee is cozy in the tent while I recoup some insights from the day. She and I make a great team and we may name ourselves Team Kootenay before too much longer.
Here as night falls, I’m feeling frustrating by my reliance on electronic devices, not to mention the quirkiness of dis/charging speeds among my Garmin Inreach Mini, Sena helmet communicator, and iPhone X. My portable battery died on day 2 and needs AC to recharge itself that we haven’t had. The USB charger that’s part of the electrical system on my moto isn’t strong enough to juice the iPhone but it works on the other two devices. Maybe I’ll try the battery tender USB charger adapter tomorrow and see if it provides more power. All three devices are necessary in my mind for safety, navigation and communications.
I suppose I could use just the Garmin GPS mounted on my bike for navigation, but it’s so hard to use compared to Google Maps. We also do have multiple printed maps. In fact, we were poring over the forest roads in the Whiteswan Provincial Park area and up into Kootenay NP this evening. We’ll be there tomorrow!! Sweet dreams ahead for sure…
Wednesday July 24, 2019 (Day 3)105 km: Jimsmith Provincial Park to Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park
Team Kootenay doesn’t get really going very early in the morning, and especially when a thunderstorm rolls in around midnight and it doesn’t stop raining until about 9am, we’re distinctly slow to get underway. We forgot to stake out the rain fly so everything got a bit misty inside our tent overnight, but the thrill of the intense lightning that roiled all around us during the night made up for any discomfort.
We stopped for lunch in Cranbrook at The Cottage, an apparently Polish-run restaurant with delicious homemade perogies (something my Polish mama never prepared though). 93 was basically a slab run from there to our turnoff for Whiteswan Lake, but traffic was light and the air clear and bright. At one point riding through pines on either side, both Tahnee and I sigh a dreamy “Aaaahhhh!” in our helmets at the same time, prompting a cascade of laughter. The mountains rise to either side, growing increasingly dramatic as we ride north, and the creeks, rivers and lakes start to turn that iridescent blue-white of the glacier-fed waters in these parts.
Last year we stayed for a glorious long sunset and nighttime hours at Lussier Hot Springs, which is about 20km in on the gravel road east that leads to Whiteswan Lake Park, but we never made it into the park or lake proper. This year, we went straight into the park to secure a campsite for the night and found one in the back corner of the first main campground. We went in a bit further and looked at the lake, as well. We secured our stuff, then Tahnee rested and I meditated for awhile before riding back up to the hot springs.
One thing that the universe shows us over and over again is that everything is always changing…this year, the super hot pool was still super hot but the other two rocky hot spring/river water pools were cool and cooler. Especially with over a dozen people trying to enjoy the same space, the stop was a bit underwhelming this year. Also, people seem to think that little kids enjoy the hot water as much as adults, but folks, those little bodies can only really stand those temperatures for 10-15 minutes before overheating. We heard lots of tears and tantrums that unfortunately drowned out the soothing sounds of the burbling river alongside us.
So it goes…we started dreaming of dinner and headed back to our campsite to feed ourselves. We put on some quiet music, ignored the generator next door, and did some route planning. We finally turned our lights out around 10pm. Some neighbors next door, however, remained perky and spoke loudly to each other in Japanese for the next hour until Tahnee mustered up the gumption to ask them to quiet down. They apologized and finally, blessed silence reigned. In the night, I enjoyed a fantastic lucid dream where I looked up into the sky and saw a road passing overhead, which made me realize that I was dreaming so I quickly declared, “Excellent, then now I can fly!” and then I leaped into the air and flew….
Thursday, July 25, 2019 (Day 4)115 km: Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park to Kootenay National Park?
Up before 9am and feeling good, we made quick work of some food and packed up to make our way to Kootenay National Park where we aim to spend two nights. Instead of riding backwoods roads to the NP all loaded up, we’re thinking we might do some backwoods routes with a settled home base in the NP tomorrow. We’ll see — Tahnee is actually pretty averse to riding in gravel and I don’t feel any need to push the issue. But, she felt more confident even this morning as we headed back to 93, so potentially this will come to pass.
We zipped up 93 and turned into Kootenay NP, which opens to visitors from the south with a gorgeous series of ess curves between tight towering cliffs of white, gold and reddish rock. “The park is giving us a hug!” said Tahnee, and that’s exactly what it felt like. I was so enamored of this park on our trip last year, but we didn’t even stop here on our way south except for when I pulled over to take a single picture.
We rode up the glorious road thru Kootenay (along with some annoying grooved pavement due to construction) about thirty minutes to the McLeod Meadows campgrounds. We figured out the reservation system after some effort and a helpful tip from a fellow camper. I hadn’t quite realized it was online reservable, but thankfully arriving early on a Thursday we had our pick of sites even for our two nights. This trip has been a new level for me of going with the flow and trusting in the universe for a spot, with our only reservations for Saturday and Sunday nights in the middle of our trip.
We’re now in Radium Hot Springs town center for food, laundry, and gas. A quick look towards a nearby view reveals a large logging facility, which is a sobering sight for a veritable tree-hugger like myself. Yes, I use paper and I live in a wooden house and I know it’s an industry that has fed so many families and the overall growth of the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, I rue the loss of these lives in the grand scheme of the earth, and wish we could move to more alternatives, like hemp for paper and what? concrete for buildings?? I’m too ignorant to weigh in intelligently on a debate, but my heart grows heavy every time I see a logging truck or take in the scope of the downed trees all piled up….
Next up, we’re heading to Radium Hot Springs bathing pools for some more water time. Honestly, we’re most excited for their shower facilities, as we haven’t bathed with soap since Sunday! (I’m pretty sure we smell fine but this hair of mine is outta control….) For somebody who’s never moto- or backpack-camped in her life before last year, Tahnee said I’m adapting very well. I have to admit that I don’t particularly enjoy being dirty (on the outside at least), but I do absolutely love being out in nature under my own power. Somehow, it all hangs together…good company and good spirits make everything all right.
Friday, July 26, 2019 (Day 5)~60 miles of forest service roads in Kootenay NP
Oh, frabulous joy! What a superbly delightful bit of riding today!! We enjoyed morning oatmeal & coffee and a stroll over to the Kootenay River for some amazing photos…
And then Tahnee professed to having all the gumption for off-roading and so we geared up for some forest road time. She kept the panniers on her bike while I shifted to just a Kriega day bag.
I found an easy-looking loop of forest service roads, starting with Settlers Road and heading south through the Kootenay River valley before looping back around at the White River and coming back north. With my hand-drawn copy of the map on my tank bag, I took the lead and we were off! We kept to a sedate pace getting oriented to the gravel, and before long we were both hooting and hollering about the fun of navigating pot-holey sections and zipping along the rocky road.
The trees were close on either side, with the Kootenay mountain range to the west on our right and another range off to our left on the far side of the river valley. I was intrigued by some overgrown forest road offshoots, but we kept to our route and enjoyed the scenery and gravelly momentum. The views were often outrageous.
I have such a ridiculously warm feeling about the Kootenay River, with its strong yet gentle flow and meandering ways, not to mention its stunning opalescence. We crossed over the river several times on narrow bridges, pausing to take in its ever-loving currents.
Kootenay is a deeply cheerful place, full of wildflowers and new growth and medium-old growth. And it’s so much less traveled than Banff and Jasper — we barely saw another person in our entire backwoods route today (and tragically no other motorcyclists at all). I could easily spend a week out here, nosing about and discovering some of its secrets. Somehow this park has indelibly made its mark on my heart.
It’s now almost a year and a half since my husband Jeffrey passed, and I continue to find great healing and solace from riding journeys and time spent appreciating nature. When I scattered his ashes in the Metolius River this past April, it helped me to feel that he was everywhere in the water and the woods and the wind…. The world is a wide place, and in motion somehow I come home to myself, over and over again.
Saturday, July 27, 2019 (Day 6)275 km from Kootenay National Park to Jasper National Park
We set the intention to get going early, and amazingly we left camp before 9am. We rode this route last year, but heading south, and it was remarkable how different the mountains are given a different orientation. (I suppose this is true at many levels, as we have both come a long way in our lives in this past year: Tahnee entering grad school to study mindfulness-based therapy and me on my winding recovery from a place of deep grief and loss). We stopped a couple of times for epic photos…
…but otherwise didn’t stop until Lake Louise, where we revisited a lovely sandwich shop and picked up supplies for a picnic lunch. As we headed out, the skies were low and gray and rain started to fall about thirty minutes into the gorgeous Icefields Parkway that runs through the center of Banff and up into Jasper. “It’s raining on my parade! This is MY Kootenay!” cried a distraught Tahnee and somehow she materialized a sheltered place for us to stop and wait out the storm.
We sat at the Num-Ti-Jah lodge and grabbed some satellite-supplied Internet for the price of $5/hour; Tahnee fought with technology while I updated this ride report. The rain eventually stopped and we hopped back on our machines for some glorious swooshing through the glacier-hewn valley. The mountains looked like they were dipped in trees, with swathes and patches of burnt umber pines speckling the green expanses. We learned later that the western pine beetle is wreaking devastation among the trees, reminding me of the huge patches of Yellowstone National Park that are also succumbing to this scourge.
And one must appreciate the colors abundant in this landscape — pines in green, orange, brown and gray — oh and the slivery-sage of aspen leaves wavering! — the rocky mountain cliffs and slopes in white and gray and gold and dun strata, the glaciers lurking between peaks in white and blue and gray, the ever-swirling river of opal, cream and aquamarine, the wildflowers and plants alongside the road speckling in white and orange and fuchsia and purple and yellow. The eye boggles. Along this stretch, we also passed a black bear foraging alongside the road!
The rain resumed for awhile with a surge of wind and spray in our faces as we cruised along doing about 100km and I regretted not wearing my heated jacket liner. About 40km south of Jasper, we pulled in to the Sumwata Falls restaurant/gift shop to reheat and refuel our bellies. I was pretty quiet this day, and Tahnee asked if I was feeling alright. Looking within, I realized I was a bit melancholy, and I think the ravens and my reflections on loss added up to a bit of a sad swell. Few concrete thoughts intruded in my mind, though, and the doldrums dissipated before too long — and truly, how could they dwell for long traveling amid such scenery ON A MOTORCYCLE?!?
It was raining when we checked in for our reserved campsite at Wapiti just south of Jasper, so we turned right around and went on into town. We parked and investigated the small motorcycle store we remembered, then had a yummy Asian-themed dinner. Gift shops beckoned and we made touristy on the main drag. Then back to camp, and with the skies clear we set up our home for the night. Tahnee decorated our space with some awesome LED lights from Revel Gear, a Boulder purveyor who gifted Tahnee a couple of sets, and then as the sun set slowly and even on into the night we threw our own dance party at our campsite.
Sunday, July 28, 2019 (Day 7)300 km from Jasper National Park to Valemount Mountain Retreat
We got up at a typical hour, and fueled up on coffee and oatmeal to ride straight up into Jasper National Park in order to pay a visit to Miette Hot Springs. The weird electrical glitch Tahnee’s bike had yesterday evening on our way in to the campsite didn’t reappear, while the funny smell on ignition that my bike exhibited the day before also hasn’t reappeared. Here at the end of day 7, I am hearing some slight whir-whir-whir sound when I decelerate (without the clutch engaged), but otherwise the Tiger is acting bulletproof. I’ll do a thorough visual inspection in the morning.
A week in, and we reached our northern apogee in our route today. Along the route, through the gorgeous Athabasca river valley in the center of Jasper NP, we encountered smooth pavement but more traffic than we’ve seen the past few days. A large cluster of cars was stopped to gape at two elk with giant antler racks just alongside the road. Alas, at that moment my phone was too dead for a pic.
The hot springs were crowded but not overly so, and we had an adesquatulent meal in the cafe before getting into the water. For some reason my body said it had had enough sun, so I only soaked for about 15 minutes in the midday light. I had a hot shower then caught up on some writing while enjoying a Coke and chips as Tahnee enjoyed a long bathing interlude. Getting back on the bike, we realized how the machines have become second nature. I’m a better rider than I was just a week ago, the seat time making the body flow more intuitive and integrated – I’m accelerating through and out of left-handers (even ones with a cliff side drop!) and setting a line with confidence even in tight hairpins. Such joy….
We spotted a couple more wild animals on our way out of Jasper. I also believe that I saw a gray wolf! Alas, I have no photographic evidence. We also saw a young bear cub eating berries, almost buried by bushes. And there’s no doubt we saw mountain goats:
We paused for gas and some last gifts for family & friends in Jasper, then kept moving westward. Another, more modest valley between hills was marked with lots of construction and then aggressive drivers who felt the need to pass outside the passing zones. I had quite a story going in my mind about the asshole in the red pickup truck who tailgated me then passed us both in an uphill curve…. Luckily, no harm done.
I got my fix of poutine for dinner in Valmount, and it was delicious!
And tonight we are luxuriating in our first (and only) night indoors, in a sweet little retreat run by a cool woman who rents rooms in her downstairs and said she once wanted to be a badass moto babe too. Tahnee is enjoying a bottle of wine with the other guests, a German couple from Bavaria.
Monday, July 29, 2019 (Day 8)213 miles, Valmount Mountain Resort to Harper Lake (Chase, B.C.)
I ate a prodigious pile of scrambled eggs in Valmount for breakfast while Tahnee had a grilled ham & cheese (not enjoying eggs and being gluten & (mostly) dairy-free can make breakfast choices tough!). We got on the road properly around 11:30am. Highway 5 wends its way south to the west of Jasper NP along the Thompson River Valley, a darker blue and sometimes very wide swathe of water. I spied a road sign announcing this attractive part of B.C. as “ranchlands & rivers” which seemed an apt depiction of the scene. I realized the other day that the way Tahnee feels about mountains is how I feel about rivers. They make me feel joyful and free, and especially riding the roads that curl alongside their flow makes my heart and body sing.
We took frequent breaks for our achy asses and my twangy arm (I experienced some concerning nerve problems in my right forearm in the weeks before this trip but am grateful to the ND who largely resolved the issue). We especially enjoyed a fantastic homemade lunch at a cafe in Clearwater. Today was wide open road vistas, and I usually pegged my cruise control at 110km without any need to slow for the curves.
What, did I not mention that my kickass touring machine has cruise control? Why, yes, it does; in fact, I specifically had this feature among my requirements after last year’s 2000 mile trip on the Street Triple trying to make that dang Cramp Buster work. Very grateful for this aid to long miles in the saddle! This Tiger is a rad adventure tourer. (Note that I’d use my Super Sherpa for more offload-centric/backwoods trips, but also for sure I’ll be getting more knobby tires after this original set dies. Care to share tire recs in the 80/20 street/offroad or 70/30 category, anybody?)
The temps rose from upper 60s to upper 80s as we descended southwards. Tahnee was feeling absolutely beat around 4:30pm and we spent awhile in an air-conditioned gas station drinking caffeinated beverages and scouting out possible camping options not too far beyond Kamloops. We eyed a remote mountain lake option but figured we’d try to get to Salmon Arm for a resorty-beachy style campground. Kamloops itself was kind of an ugly mess of traffic and road exchanges to get onto Highway 1 headed to Revelstoke and we didn’t stop.
Then, just before reaching the town of Chase, I somehow spotted the small road leading to that mountain option, Harper Lake. So we turned off and wended our way for about six kilometers on an occasionally gnarly two-track road up into the mountains south of Highway 1. The views on the way up were wonderful…
Neither of us had much trouble with this last awkward obstacle….
The rustic dry campsite is free, but still provides outhouses and was about 2/3 full when we arrived. We walked around the lake and took in the environment before setting up our tent and enjoying some food. One of the campsites provided some unhappy stress by undertaking sustained, super-loud banging on their truck’s bent rear bumper that they’d laid across a picnic table. Tahnee and a neighboring camper teamed up to school the youths in the ways of civility, and happily everything worked out well in the end.
Tuesday, July 30, 2019 (Day 9)250km from Harper Lake to Halfway River Hot Springs
Team Kootenay was up and off like a herd of turtles with a couple hours dawdling at the campsite and then a semi-rousing 6km ride back out to the main road. We spent an hour in a nearby town for some coffee & breakfast. I spotted a hot springs destination on the map just a little bit off the beaten path, and we decided to aim for this campsite rather than going all the way to Balfour/Toad Rock today.
The Trans-Canada Highway, AKA route 1, wended east and then south around some beautiful lakes before reaching Revelstoke. Quite a large town, Revelstoke, but not so sprawling as Kamloops nor as commercial-strip-seeming as Salmon Arm. We didn’t have a great memory of it from last year, but then we hadn’t made it over into the downtown drag. We ate at the aptly-named Village Idiot and fueled up on mediocre Caesar salad and fish tacos, plus a lovely cup of coffee.
Back on the west side of town, we rode highway 23 down towards Nakusp and our evening hot springs target. Most of the time we rode alongside the giant Arrow Lake, which we also took a ferry across. Somehow I barely got even one scenery picture all day, except for several on the Arrow Lake crossing.
About 22km south from the ferry landing, we found our turnoff for Halfway River Hot Springs and rode a 11km forest service road into this recreational spot. Surrounded by medium-old growth cedar and hemlock, it’s a veritable enchanted forest locale, with massively springy ground under our feet and small rock circles for fire pits. Apparently the spot was privately run for years and then in 2016 the Ministry of Forests took it over. Now Bob the camp host lives here from May – October, handling camping affairs and improving the facilities. As it’s again dry camping, we made sure to fill all our water bottles up at the fancy Halcyon Hot Springs lobby bathroom just before arriving.
We nabbed the last spot available among the seven little non-reservable camping areas, set up the tent, and went straight down the very steep but navigable trail to the hot springs pools that are right alongside the canyon river rushing by on the north side of the campsite.
There were three improved rock pools next to a nice changing area, and then further down another few pools built up with rocks just alongside the burbling water. The end where the hot springs entered the one pool was far too hot but the temperature was just right where the river water poured in to mix.
We indulged in some special goodies in the evening, and the entire forest turned into a beautiful fractal wonderland. The layers of life beneath our feet and over our heads was astounding. We came up from the hot springs before dark fell, and walked around giggling and enjoying ourselves for awhile before collapsing into our tent and watching the stars emerge overhead. Like a deep sparkling tapestry, the sky twinkled and shooting stars amused our eyes for hours before we faded into sleep.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019 (Day 10)0 miles
The evening’s fun took its toll on our get-up-and-go today, and Tahnee especially needed a day of rest. So, unfortunately that means no Toad Rock stop for us on this trip after all, since we each have to start heading for home on Thursday. But no matter — it is what it is.
Our nice neighbor, T.J., invited us to share his fire and delicious homemade shusuka for breakfast. We also got a load of tips from him and Bob the camp host on various sights to visit along the old Highway 31 that we still aim to ride tomorrow, but basically it looks like we will need to come right back to these parts and explore forest service roads until the cows come home.
Midday, we walked down to a different part of the river which features another set of hand-laid rock pools, and luxuriated there for a couple hours. The salmon were literally jumping up out of the water on their journey upriver to spawn. Afterwards, we both took a loooong nap. Heavenly!
Now thinking about dinner and another long soak down below, the sound of the rushing waters is a soothing backdrop and the only other noises are the snapping logs of campfires and chirping birds, and occasionally chatting humans. We can’t say enough good things about this charming location. I hope it’s not overwhelmed with folks the next time we pass through….
Thursday, Aug 1, 2019 (Day 11)300 miles from Halfway Hot Springs, BC to Spokane, WA for Lizz
350 miles to Kalispell MT for Tahnee
This day we knew we needed to part, as I wanted to get to at least Spokane, WA before my final leg home on Friday, while Tahnee aimed to do her return trip to Boulder across three days, not two. She’s been studying routes back to Boulder for days, and has a rough itinerary set up that avoids the very most boring slog through Wyoming but there’s no two ways about it: it’s a long ride!
We left lovely Halfway Hot Springs around 9:30am, and backtracked north a tiny bit to ride the old Highway 31 that curves north and then east and then south alongside the enormous Trout Lake in the central Kootenays. Folks at Toad Rock had talked up this route last year, so it was high on my agenda and it seemed a good last riding treat before parting. It was mostly unpaved, but was very well packed dirt and gravel that had us cruising at up to 70km — except through the super-curvy one-lane bits and hairpin turns. We enjoyed some stunning mountain/lake views, and raved about our amazing machines carrying us through the land.
Lunch in Kaslo at the Bluebell Bistro was a treat, and I enjoyed two espressos before we hit the road knowing that our parting was upon us. But still we mostly stayed in contact with our Senas, enjoying the awesome curves along Kootenay Lake. And then, alas, Tahnee was off for the Balfour Ferry to head more eastward on the far side of the lake, while I stayed on the road and curved westward towards Nelson. I reached Spokane in under four hours without much further ado, no thanks to the extremely conscientious and earnest border crossing guard in Nelway.
Team Kootenay shall endure forever, whether we’re together or apart…. I’m feeling so grateful for Tahnee’s original vision getting us to B.C. last year, and appreciating our commitment to embark again on such an adventure. I crunched for weeks at work in order to take these two weeks off, because such things don’t just tend to happen: we usually have to make an effort see it through. You only live once, you know. Don’t put that dream off too long, folks!
END OF TRIP WRAP-UP (Sunday August 4th)
I’m happy to report that Tahnee made it home to Boulder, CO safely — after dark! — on Saturday August 3rd, enjoying some lovely riding hours throughout Montana but also encountering some not-so-lovely crowded tourist towns where it was hard to get a hotel room. And I made it back from Spokane in record time (for me!) on the afternoon of Friday August 2nd, not letting the wind gusts deter my spirits although they were really rather exhausting. We traveled a total of 1,518 miles together. I put 2,550 miles on my machine, and Tahnee, 3,609 miles.
Somehow, my energy was great on Saturday, even after all that journeying. Hurrah for magnificent modern machines and a body in fine fettle!! I am very grateful. And thinking back on the trip, I don’t believe we encountered a single real mishap! How is this even possible?! I mean, there were tough sections and occasional head-scratching moments, but we tended to flow like water around the obstacles and find ourselves just where we needed to be. We got to know ourselves and each other even better.
And also, we would absolutely love to make a moto adventure tour an annual event, especially after this year’s stellar experience. We’d like to aim for touring Italy in 2021, as a graduation present for Tahnee! I think next year I’d personally just hightail it back to the Kootenays, though…maybe we can work in some backwoods routes in Idaho, too.
Apparently I’m some sort of crazy motohead, and went out dirt biking at an OHV park on my dual sport, Ramona (’09 Kawasaki Super Sherpa/KL250) with a friend this morning. And I let myself remember how much I love this form of offroad riding, which my late husband introduced me to but which I hadn’t done since 2015 for various reasons….
There’s literally no end of joy and challenge and opportunity to grow in this world. Thanks for vicariously partaking in our journey! May riding or another passion in your life deliver you equally great delights!