In September of 2001, I was going to head out for a week-long tour through B.C., with folks I met through the online mailing list called SabMag. The name comes from the Honda Sabre and Magna V4 bikes, and how it functioned was a lot like social media does today. The stories and pictures from trips, tech advice, and plans for group rides was an exciting addition. The prospect of the upcoming group ride opened new doors, after riding for the last 20 years pretty much on my own.
A couple of days ahead of the meeting in Victoria, I started out from Edmonton on my trusty ’84 V45 Sabre. I was finally going to put a face to a familiar name from the list, and spend the night in Rocky Mountain House. The next morning we’d head west through David Thompson Country and pick up other riders along the way. Two days later, there were five of us heading down Highway 99, picking it up just past Cache Creek, on a warm, blue sky day, making our way south to the ferry at Horseshoe Bay, and then to Victoria to meet the other attendees. As these things go, it was the calm before the storm. Just past Whistler, I suddenly seemed to be down a couple of cylinders. This felt just like my old RD350 did when it fouled a plug. No joy here, we have a problem.
I considered my options, and ended up concluding that the biggest collection of V4 knowledge that I could get to would be in Victoria. At worst, I had an aunt in the area that might be persuaded to store the bike, if I had to leave it. This decision wasn’t without some challenges, best illustrated as I was being passed while going up a hill, by a vintage VW minibus. I have a memory of two of the most shocked faces from inside the van, as I did all I could to coax the Sabre up the hill, only to see the van pull away. When I got to the ferry waiting area, I checked connections and simple fixes, but I wasn’t getting off easy. At least I was getting better at dealing with my 375 cc parallel twin. This mostly consisted of full throttle everywhere, and lots of clutch slipping. The night’s accommodation outside of Victoria presented one last challenge; a hairpin turn and up the gravel road of yet another hill. It took a running push from one of my riding companions, but I just made it up. That day took me to the lowest point, but I didn’t stay there long. By the next morning, I’d borrowed a multi tester, a shop manual, and gotten the name of a motorcycle salvage yard as a source for parts. I had also tapped into the V4 wisdom I’d hoped for, and it boosted my confidence.
The new plan: While everyone else went north to Gold River and then on up to Port Hardy, I’d stay back and get sorted, and we’d all meet in the Nanaimo ferry parking lot in a couple of days.
The next morning, after my aunt gently declined turning her driveway into a makeshift workshop, I was off to the bike salvage shop. As I rolled up to the shop, I could see It had a lot of older bikes for sale out front, big racks of parts bikes, and a steady stream of customers. I fit right in! The shop was generous to a fault as they let me self-select from their boxes of parts to find the coils I needed; they made up the new spark plug leads I decided to get, and they only complained a little when I started installing all of this in their yard. They did wince when I snuck in an oil change using a drain pan I’d made by cutting up an empty jug. Not pretty, but circumstances forced my hand. By the afternoon I was as good as good could be. I got an early start the next day, and up the Island Highway to make quick work to Campbell River, and do my own side trip out to Gold River. By the afternoon, I was reunited with my travelling companions, and they shared the plans for the route back. We’d get back on Hwy 99, and find our way into the B.C. interior, and see what we could find. Years later we’d find out about best roads guidebooks, but at that moment all we had were speculation and rumour. Even so, we seemed to go from win to win. Cherryville to Fauquier was nominated as the find of the trip. Then onward to Kaslo via 31A, and a recount was demanded. How had we not heard about this?!! At Balfour we got another ferry, and by the time we got to Creston, you couldn’t pry the grins from our faces.
The last day together, we took Highway 22 to make our way home. It was the perfect postcard to end with; mountain views giving way to ranch land and fields at harvest. That trip was like a year’s experience condensed into a week; the roller coaster of emotions, the excitement of starting the trip, the anxiety of a breakdown, uplifted by support from the other riders, the tension of forced repairs, and then after all that, the surprise discoveries of epic roads; it had it all.
In the end, I think of what we tell those that don’t ride; it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And what a great journey it’s been.
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