Fall Tour 2020 – Part 1, Edmonton to Fernie, B.C.

The Dragonfly Cafe, Salmo, B.C.

Motorcycle touring in September, especially in the Canadian prairies, is a risky proposition.

Once Labour Day arrives, temperatures usually nose-dive to the point where riders in southern climes are prepping their bikes for winter storage. But as our motorcyclists on the rainy West Coast say, “If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride.” In Alberta, the reality is if you don’t ride in the cold, you don’t ride.

So on a very cool Sunday morning, our hardy group of 6 riders met at our normal staging point, Blackjack’s Roadhouse in Nisku. Our group was had a fine collection of outstanding touring machines, with Phil, Robyn and Doug on late model BMW R1200RTs, Walker on a BMW R1200GSA, and Rod and me on the latest generation of Honda DCT Tour Gold Wings.

Departure morning was was a chilly 8 degrees Celsius, as we rolled south down the dreaded (boring) QE2 highway, a mindless, 4-lane divided highway that runs to Calgary.

From Edmonton, Day 1 of any motorcycle tour is always a transit day. It takes a good 4 hours of freeway riding to reach anything ‘interesting’ for motorcyclists.

The day stayed mostly cool. The smart ones had their heated vests plugged in. I was late in finding the appropriate adapter for my gear, so rode unheated, but the Wing’s heated handgrips and saddle made the morning reasonably tolerable.

At Olds, we exited Highway 2 and cut west to the much more scenic Highway 22, aka The Cowboy Trail, stopping in the southern town of Black Diamond for lunch.

Superb Philly Cheesesteak sandwich at the Black Diamond Hotel

Lunch at the Black Diamond Hotel was memorable. We’re in the heart of southern Alberta’s cattle country. Any savvy traveler would be smart to choose beef for lunch. Wisely, I order the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich ($16.95), and it was outstanding, with tenderloin beef, sauteed onions, mushrooms, green pepper loaded in a baguette, accompanied by a very nice cream of cauliflower soup. It turned out to be one of my favourite meals of the tour, and the Black Diamond Hotel now makes it onto my ‘Destination Diners’ List.

From Black Diamond, we rolled south to the Crowsnest Highway 3 and continued west.

Smoke from the raging wildfires in Oregon and Washington has was with us since mid-morning. We ended up riding in smoke for the next for the entire tour.

Fernie, British Columbia

We arrived in Fernie, B.C. in late afternoon. The small mountain town is just shy of 600 km from our starting point, and everyone was happy to call it a day.

I’d done a little pre-tour research and found the The Curry Bowl restaurant as the choice for supper. COVID regulations precluded dining in because the restaurant is very small. I had talked to Rose at the eatery the day before we arrived, and she confirmed they’d be happy to deliver food to our hotel.

The Curry Bowl has an intriguing array of Asian dishes on their menu. With good advice from Rose to accommodate members of the group with food allergies (onions an shell fish), we received a wonderfully eclectic mix of Indian, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese fare.

Our supper consisted of Ginger Beef ($20.00 x 2), Butter Chicken (($18.00), Kara-age Donburi – chicken coated in flour and fried – ($18.50), Vietnamese Stir-fry ($19.00 x 2), and a side order of steamed rice ($4.00.)

Our crew of mostly adventurous eaters and one lone, self-professed ‘meat and potatoes’ member, all revelled in the succulent, multi-national cuisine enjoyed in in our impromptu ‘dining room’, the tables in the hotel lobby.

After dining royally, we meandered down the street to the local DQ for ice cream to cleanse our palates.

It was the end of a great Day 1.

Next – Part 2, Fernie to Grand Forks, B.C.

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