April 2023 – Cars parked outside our Airbnb in Zona Romantica, Puerto Vallarta, MX.

In April 2023, staring out at the relics of cars on the cobblestoned street while sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of a small condo in Puerto Vallarta, MX, I began to day-dream of taking my, new-to-me, BMW R 1100S motorcycle on a trip across Canada.

July 2001 – Three amigos, Kirby, Craig and myself, ready to leave for Calgary, AB.

Travelling across the country on the Trans-Canada highway is not new to me. I had done a one-way section of the trip riding a small red BMW F650 motorcycle in the summer of 2001 with friends, Craig (on a well-suited BMW R 1100GS) and Kirby (on a less-suited Honda CBR 600F4i). There’s nothing that says male-bonding like 3 guys on a mission to get to Calgary in under 3 days despite a forecast of wind and rain. We discovered early on that Kirby’s ass-torturing crotch rocket did not have the fuel range required to hop from gas station to gas station in Northern Ontario. We solved that issue with the purchase of a bike matching red jerry can and some bungee cords at Canadian Tire in Sault Ste. Marie. To prove we-are-tougher-than-we-look, we chose camping in the ditch on the side of the highway vs forking over $100 to rent an arguably more practical and comfortable motel room. A $100 that we preferred to spend on draft beer on a sunny patio when we reached our destination.

Country-crossing vehicles as seen in Parry Sound, ON.

I’ve done the trip a handful of times in cars that seem to always involve some kind of mis-adventure. For example, there was the time in Sept 2001, when Justine and I, with our 6 mo old child and Baker, our 6 mo old chocolate lab, courageously drove across the country from Parry Sound, ON to Calgary, AB. We packed every square inch of our well-used green Subaru Forester including the roof rack and attached a heavily loaded utility trailer with essentials including a baby swing, dog crate and kitchen supplies. Before we even approached Sudbury, only a hundred kilometres from our courageous start, we had blown the Subaru’s head gasket. The Sudbury dealership told us we were crazy to continue and that it would take a couple weeks to repair. Being a proud mechanical engineer and thinking we (meaning “I”) could “MacGyver” our way around this potentially trip-ending roadblock, we decided to push on. For several days, our collective anxiety rose and fell on the hour when we were forced to pull over as the engine temperature gauge spiked into the red “danger” zone, requiring a 1/2 hour break to refill the steaming radiator with water. On the plus side, it gave us a chance to regularly feed our child and walk our energetic puppy while the Tetris-packed car recovered. We successfully made it to Calgary, admittedly a little worse for wear, and woke up the next morning to the world-changing event that was Sept 11, 2001.

Our youngest enjoying a DVD marathon with “blankie”, unicorn and Tim Hortons.

There were several family road trips from Calgary to Ontario in the following years which generally involved never-ending, sing-a-long cassette tapes with colours-themed songs like “Grey squirrel” with the slightly cringy jingle: “Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail. Wrinkle up your little nose, put a nut between your toes. Grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail.” In later trips it would be Harry Potter DVD marathons on dual-portable screens hanging on the back of the front seats and heated arguments in the back seat over which DVD movie would play next.

Jan 2022 – Arriving in Sault Ste. Marie after driving through a road-closing blizzard.

There was the time in 2022, when Justine and I returned to Ontario from Victoria, BC in our electric Tesla Model 3 during the coldest days of winter. While we enjoyed a very reliable and well spaced charging network across the country, we also discovered that the electric heater in the car was only capable of keeping the cabin warm when the outside temperature was -20ºC or warmer. Below that, the little made-in-California heater couldn’t keep up to the harsh reality of a -35ºC mid-western Canadian cold-snap, requiring hats, mitts, and towels wrapped around legs to stay warm during our 12 hour driving days.

A few of my friends had taken dozens of epic motorcycle trips over the past 10 years to remote corners of Canada, documenting countless adventures and mis-haps. I was always intrigued, but somewhat intimidated, by their adventures. Could I do something like that? Could I do it alone? How sore would my ass be?

So, sitting on the couch in Mexico, the air conditioning masking 34ºC sweltering temperatures outside, I was encouraged by my past experiences as I day-dreamed, Google-searched, poured over maps, considered routes, watched YouTube cross-Canada trip summaries and itemized the accessories I would need.

3 months later, I found myself cruising on the open road fulfilling my dream; taking a month long, solo, motorcycle trip from Montreal to the West Coast. The goal of this trip was two-fold: to visit friends and co-workers and to experience geographic wonders throughout Canada and the Western US. Camping for 8 nights and staying with friends and co-workers the remainder of the time, I was able to work remotely from various locations, while only using 6 days of vacation.

The route consisted of riding the TransCanada to visit friends in Calgary, AB, dipping into the US via Waterton National Park and Glacier National Park in Montana, then across Washington state to Seattle, a couple ferries to Victoria, BC, a rip around Vancouver Island, then a couple more ferries to The Sunshine Coast, then a visit in Chilliwack, BC, The Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper, over to Edmonton, AB, back to Calgary and then retracing the route back to Ontario on the TransCanada.

Armed with a carefully constructed spreadsheet planning accommodations, daily travel distances, ferry reservations and border crossing details, I left the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) neighbourhood of Montreal on June 22nd. After a night in Huntsville and visiting my parents in Parry Sound, I was on my way.

The following is a photo essay of trip highlights spanning, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana, Washington, and British Columbia.

Northern Ontario

I had a quick visit with co-worker, Lauren, at her parent’s place in Sault Ste. Marie and then onto Neys Provincial Park on the Northern most tip of Lake Superior. The history of Neys is intertwined with WWII as it was one of many internment camps for German POWs and Japanese-Canadians. The park is well known for it’s sandy campsites along a beautiful drift-wood strewn beach.

Neys Provincial Park, Lake Superior, ON

The longest section of the trip was from Neys to Brandon, MB. 1,208 km through North Ontario and into the prairies of Manitoba. While it rained most of the way, a couple standout views were sprinkled along the way.

Nipigon, ON
Rivers Provincial Park, Brandon, MB

The next day, Brandon to Calgary through the prairies was a relaxing ride. People generally ask if it’s boring to ride 1,100 kms of straight, flat highway through the prairies, and I’d say that it could be, but I love it. The views of the sky and expanse of farmland is liberating and really helps to remind you how big our country is. The 4 lane highway allows you to chill and think.

Calgary, AB

It has been 9 years since I visited Calgary and this time was filled with long overdue reunions with many friends and co-workers. I stayed with Chris & Shelly MacGregor, and their two well-loved dogs, and it took days to catch up on all the news that had accumulated over the years. Their generosity and kindness made the visit a real treat.

I was able to catch up with co-workers, Farhad and Eric, for coffees. Farhad wanted me to try one of his wife’s famous 7-layer cakes and promised when I came back through Calgary that there would be a cake waiting for me to try. Yum!

A wine-fuelled dinner hosted by my close friend, Jonathan Rose, was the perfect opportunity to reconnect with him and our mutual friend, sommelier, Paul Martzoukos, a self-admitted “proud Greek”. The adventures these two guys have taken are legendary. Over multiple pairings of wine, and Greek history we created chaos in the kitchen while various kids swooped in to roll their eyes at the old stories being told or to sneak a taste of the ingredients strewn around the kitchen. The big story of the night was Paul’s most recent “Iron Butt” motorcycle trip (1,000 miles in 24 hours) which involved three generations of his family: Paul, his oldest son, Thanos, and his 80+ year old father riding a motorcycle with a sidecar. The arc of the story reached a climax when Paul described an incident involving a panicked emergency stop where his father, bringing up the rear, had braked hard and swerved to avoid colliding with his grandson, Thanos. Due to the physics of a sidecar, this caused his bike to flip onto it’s left side, sidecar in the air, grandpa hanging on for dear life, and then immediately his bike slammed back down on the road. Remarkably, grandpa Martzoukos was unscathed, and the only thing harmed was a busted rear signal light on Thanos’ bike. Suffice it to say that the Martzoukos men enjoy more than their fair share of danger, which makes for good stories.

Waterton National Park, AB

Next destination on the road trip was a night at the Townsite campground in Waterton National Park. Jonathan escorted me out of Calgary towards Bragg Creek and we got properly drenched in a small but mighty thunderstorm. From Bragg Creek we followed a few twisty roads that Paul had recommended, then parted ways near Millarville. Jonathan back to Calgary and me down the famous Cowboy Trail, Hwy 22, through the Pincher Creek wind farm to Waterton.

The Cowboy Trail, AB

Waterton is a magic place on the side of a lake surrounded by mountains. The townsite campground features a separate area with walk-in campsites for tents only.

Townsite campground, Waterton National Park, AB

Knowing I had a big day ahead, I got up at the break of dawn determined to be extra efficient by multi-tasking the morning routine. Conscientiously, to avoid waking up all the neighbours, I setup breakfast-making headquarters beside my motorcycle in the parking lot behind a berm delineating the tenting area. I primed the stove and opened the valve to maximum output anticipating a nice hot cup of Aeropress coffee while I busied about. Justine and I recently replaced our 20+ year old WhisperLite® stove with a new MSR Dragonfly® known for two things: a consistent low simmer and sounding like a freakin’ jet engine taking off. With jet engine in full scream mode, I began to pack up the tent and sleeping gear and loaded the gear into the panniers on the bike. I stopped when I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye in the hatchback parked beside me. Two people lying in the back were up on their elbows giving me (and my screaming stove) the stink eye. Oh well. So much for being conscientious.

Glacier National Park as seen from Townsite campground, AB

The bright, cloudless, sky was royal blue as I started my ride to Montana. You can’t go to Waterton without a stop to admire the view from the Prince of Wales Hotel.

Town of Waterton from the Prince of Wales Hotel
The Prince of Wales Hotel

Crossing into Montana via the Chief Mountain Border Crossing, I rode past Chief Mountain to the little village of St Mary, known as the gateway to the Going To The Sun highway and Glacier National Park. This park boasts 3 million annual visitors and makes the list of top 10 most popular National Parks in the US. As such, visitors need to reserve a time slot, 6 months in advance, just to drive along the Going To The Sun highway. I was discouraged when I confirmed there were generally no slots available when I wanted to travel. After hours of research I discovered a loop hole though. No reservation is required for entering the park from the East (St Mary) side until July 1st, so I timed my trip so I arrived on June 30th.

Chief Mountain, Montana

Glacier National Park, Montana

I did two hikes in Glacier National Park on June 30th: the short St Mary/Virginia Falls and the much-hyped 24.5 km Highline Trail from Logan Pass (Continental Divide).

After a long day in Glacier National Park, I slept like a log at a run down highway campground in Whitefish, MT.

Whitefish, MT to Seattle, WA

Next day was a long one, involving a 34ºC high dessert crossing between Whitefish and Seattle via Spokane, WA. Only one photo of this drive taken at the Circle K gas stop in Ritzville, WA. I was waiting to pay for some refreshments, and the lady behind the counter said, “Sorry to keep you waiting sir. I can help you here.” I said, “No worries, I’m just enjoying the air conditioning.” She responded, “Honey, you can stay as long as you like!”

Circle K, Ritzville, WA

Crossing the Columbia river and over the mountain pass down into Seattle was spectacular riding.

Columbia River crossing (courtesy Google Maps)

I had the pleasure of staying with co-worker, Ben Rist and his wife, who took me out to the popular Tractor Tavern.

Carl Christensen & The Lake Flora Band, Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA to Victoria, BC

Canada Day, I took a couple ferries (Edmunds – Kingston and Port Angeles – Victoria) to arrive in Victoria, BC. Ferries are a great place to chat with other motorcyclists. The ferry across the Strait of Juan de Fuca was pure gold in this respect. A pretentious Ducati zealot on a Multistrda V4 talked my ear off at first. A 20 year-old asian guy, riding a black carbon fibre crotch rocket taking his first weekend trip. It was a couple of storied beemer dudes that told me everything that I needed to fix on my bike and which roads were the best for riding on Vancouver Island interspersed with stories of trips they had taken across North America and Mexico.

In Victoria, I spent the afternoon exploring with co-worker, John Rasmussen and his wife, Gen. While enjoying the sunset and distant misty view of Mount Baker on Willows Beach, we experienced a bald eagle being “chased” by a seagull and a couple crows out over the bay. Moments later, the eagle seemingly annoyed by the racket, pulled a Top Gun Maverick maneuver, “hit the brakes and they will fly right by”. It swooped up and behind the gull, then with a target in sight, snatched the seagull out of the air with it’s talons and flew it’s lifeless body back to shore to be eaten. Nature: eat or be eaten.

40,000 km on the 23 year old R1100S

Vancouver Island, BC

July 2 was a trip up to Strathcona Provincial Park.

July 3rd was a trip back south through Duncan and across to the West Coast via the Pacific Marine Road to Port Renfrew to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. Pacific Marine Road is a motorcycling playground. Essentially a quiet, recently paved, 62 km twisty logging road, without a single building on either side. The route features dozens of single lane bridges, switchbacks, mountain views, lush forests and rivers.

The sign that would put a smile on any riders face.

Juan de Fuca Provincial Park is a jewel of Vancouver Island. The storied beemer dudes from the ferry told me the Renfrew Pub and Botanical Beach were a must. They weren’t wrong.

Next destination on the trip was a quick stop on the Sunshine Coast after a quick visit with my uncle Jim near Sidney.

Sunshine Coast, BC

Sunshine Coast has relaxed friendly vibes and a seemingly infinite number of trails.

Chilliwack, BC

Next up, a short visit with co-worker Dean and his lovely family in Chilliwack, BC.

Dean Lotriet, Chilliwack, BC.

Chilliwack to Golden, BC via the Shuswaps.

Golden, BC

Golden, BC

Golden, BC to Edmonton, AB via the Icefields Parkway.

Kicking Horse River, Field, BC
Lake Louise, BC

Icefields Parkway, AB

Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, AB
Waterfowl Lakes, Icefields Parkway, AB
White Pyramid Peak, AB
Athabasca Falls

Edmonton, AB

Edmonton, AB with co-worker, Bruno and his wife, Karina. An absolutely epic 24 hours of feasting, drinking.

Calgary, AB (Take 2)

Calgary, AB for Stampede. Co-worker, Farhad’s wife is a fabulous 8 layer cake maker. They were kind enough to give me sample of her work. Sadly my attempt to transport it in my saddlebag was unsuccessful.

Homeward bound – Calgary, AB to Temagami, ON

Neys Provincial Park
Somewhere in Northern Ontario

After nearly a month on the road, I finished the trip at the family cottage in Temagami, ON.