Fall Tour 2020 – Part 2, Fernie to Grand Forks, B.C.

COVID has changed the world. The worldwide pandemic has altered our everyday lives, and it has changed how we’re motorcycle touring in the Fall of 2020.

Normally, our regular lodging in Fernie provides a continental breakfast. “Sorry. Because of COVID, we can’t offer the (normal) continental breakfast.” The front desk clerk explains we can buy a $10.00 coupon for a limited menu ‘special’ at the Smitty’s chain restaurant next door.

Our group is comprised of early risers. We’re the the first customers of the morning. It’s a cool, mountain town morning, overcast with smoke from the burning wildfires in the U.S. I ask our server how the restaurant’s business has been over the COVID-affected summer. Surprisingly, she says since opening after the COVID shutdown, the restaurant has been busy. It’ll be the same answer I get at every eatery we stop in over the next few days.

Rod and I, both on new generation Honda DCT Tour Gold Wings, decide it’s wise to pump in a paltry $5.00 worth of fuel. As good as the Wings are with 400 km of range on their 21-litre fuel tanks, we can’t match the range of the BMW RTs and GSA. The $5.00 fill will take us easily to Cranbrook where all 6 bikes will require gas.

Our loose convoy of bikes rides west on the Crowsnest Highway 3. It’s the main route for Alberta motorcyclists to access the ‘good stuff’ in B.C., and road we’ve travelled dozens of times over the years.

This is a good group of riders with which to travel. Each rider has decades of experience, and we travel at a nice, sport-touring pace.

It’s easy to keep an eye on each other. All 6 bikes have auxiliary amber running lights, except for Walker’s BMW R1200GSA with the OEM white aux lights.

Finding a group of riders one truly enjoys traveling with is a challenge. These guys are great travel companions. They are happy riding at a similar pace, experienced enough to ride swiftly in a safe manner, and there’s not a complainer in the group. Everybody is easy going, happy to follow the group’s preferences, and “seldom is heard a discouraging word”, to quote Brewster M. Higley, who penned the words used in the song, Home on the Range.

Outstanding Chocolate Mocha Cheese Cake, “lunch” at the Dragonfly Cafe, Salmo, B.C.

Late morning, we arrive in Salmo, B.C. and the Dragonfly Cafe is a welcome sight. B.C. eateries are very different than the COVID-regulated restaurants in Alberta, where the province’s two major cities have mandated wearing masks in all indoor public spaces.

Lunch at the Dragonfly Cafe, Salmo, B.C. Highly recommended.

We automatically don our face masks and line up socially-distanced to order some sustenance. I wasn’t paying attention to the group’s patter and blithely ordered a delicious looking chocolate cheese cake and coffee. “Is that all you’re having for lunch?”, queried one of the gang. Blissfully unaware this was our lunch stop, I shrugged my shoulders and enjoyed one of the best pieces of cheese cake I’ve ever had (apart from Ingrid’s homemade fare.)

Grand Forks, B.C.

After lunch, we continue riding westbound to our destination for the day, Grand Forks, a small town in the West Kootenay District of B.C. It’s within spitting distance of the U.S. border.

At our motel, one of the two of our trip I booked for the group, the front desk area smells heavily of fried garlic; it’s a smell that makes me happy.

The motel operator comes to the front desk, and I greet him with, “That (the garlic) smells delicious! What’s for supper?” He doesn’t engage with me; clearly, we’ve interrupted his supper. He’s in no mood to chit chat and mechanically processes our check-in of our three rooms. I ask him for a restaurant recommendation within walking distance and he points us to a Chinese restaurant at the end of the block.

Lodging in Grand Forks, B.C.

While the guys unload their bikes, I walk to the end of the block to check out the restaurant, and it’s closed on Mondays, today’s day.

The next closest restaurant is 1.4 km away, and our group makes the hike. A funny sight, 6 old guys mostly wobbling down the street. A couple of guys’ gout is bothering them; they’re having trouble walking. One of the fellows has pulled a leg muscle getting off his bike; he’s limping. It’s the walking wounded. But the evening is pleasantly warm, and despite the slight smokiness, the walk is welcome.

We reach Golden Chopsticks Chinese Restaurant, boldly advertising itself as “The Best Chinese Food in the South Okanagan.” I mentally prepare for a classic, Canadian prairie Chinese restaurant meal. The guys order a variety of combination dinners, won ton soup and Cantonese Chow Mein ($18.95). The food is what I expected and it’s surprisingly good. The Chow Mein has all the correct ingredients, plentifully topped with shrimp, chicken, chinese BBQ pork and assorted vegetables. This is my comfort food.

It’s been another good day of riding.

Next: Part 3, Grand Forks to Kamloops, B.C.


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