All good things come to an end, and earlier this year I called time on 7 years of GT ownership. With 90,000kms on the clock, a valve service and tyres due, and a concern that the electronic suspension and shaft drive may require expensive replacement within the next year, I decided to cut my losses and sell it. On 17th March it was ridden away by its new owner leaving me without a road bike in the garage for the first time in 21 years, although I still have the R1 for trackdays.
Initially I have to say that I didn’t miss it and consoled myself that I’d put some money in the bank, but as time passed, I started to think that in the absence of any planned early year track days, it might be a long time before I’d be back riding again. Then I had an idea. Why not hire a bike during my annual trip to Canada, after all, British Columbia has some of the finest roads in Canada? I did some surfing on the net, and my research pointed me in the direction of McScoots rental bikes in Kelowna, a few hours away from where I’d be staying.
I’d always wondered what the attraction of riding a Harley was, and of course I’d never ride one after a dealer in Switzerland once asked me for some matches to set fire to my VFR800, but McScoots wasn’t renting out Harleys, he had Indians!
Everyone I’m sure, knows the iconic American Indian brand, and even if you’re not a biker you may be famiiar with the name from the film “The Worlds Fastest Indian” featuring Anthony Hopkins? The website showed two options available, the Vintage and Chieftain, the former apparently being a more comfortable option with a screen and leather bags, whilst the latter looked much more up my street with a handlebar fairing and hard luggage. McScoots owner Jack was super helpful when I called. Naturally when you rent out this type of expensive machine you need to know the person hiring it hasn’t just passed his test, but after running through my riding CV, we soon had the details agreed for a 3 day rental including 1000 kms, which should allow us plenty of scope for exploring some roads, on what would be a totally new experience for me, touring on a cruiser.
I’d arranged with Jack that we’d collect the bike at around 9.30, although he isn’t normally open until 10.00. My usual modus operandi when on tour is to have breakfast and be away by 10.00, which is what I hoped we could do today. With Kelowna being around 2 1/2 hours away, we got up at stupid o’clock and set off at 05.10am to catch the 05.30 ferry at Faquier. Despite the early hour we’re only fourth in the queue, behind three truckloads of workers in their orange jump suits. Most have less fat on them than a chip, obviously hard manual work keeping them all fit
It’s light and blue skies are present even at 05.30 in the morning. British Columbia cares for it’s environment and many places have switch off your engine signs when stopped
Once over the crossing the road soon passes into woodland and there are warning signs that animals are around, in fact the day we arrived in Canada we’d seen a bear after getting off another ferry. After a few miles I complained to Sue that we hadn’t seen sight nor sound of anything, only for her to exclaim less than a minute later that we’d just passed a deer looking out at us from the woods!
We’re driving on Highway 6 over the 1189m Monashee Pass this morning, and the tight and twisty bends through the Echo Lake Provincial Park are challenging in parts for the rented Jeep Grand Cherokee we’re driving (a pleasant upgrade from the mid size car we’d actually booked). Arriving in Cherryville and with time in hand, we decided to stop for breakfast. If you’re used to European continental breakfasts, you’re in for a shock, breakfasts in Canada are BIG! I treated myself to one aptly named the “Motherlode”, whilst Sue treated herself to pancakes with butter and blueberries. Yum! The waitress, hearing our accents asked where we were from. I told her we’re English but live in France, and have hired an Indian to take a tour, which seems to confuse her greatly until I explain that it’s an Indian motorcycle not a First Nations tribesman.
After Cherryville the roads open up onto wider and more flowing bends, much more suited to the giant size Jeep. I had to take this picture exiting Lumby as we have a badger in our garden back home!
Normally I plan everything to the nth degree, but this morning as we got closer to Kelowna, I realised that I didn’t actually have the address of McScoots, dummy! Stopping at a petrol station and asking drew a blank look from the cashier, but checking a phone directory gave me what I needed, so with an address now input into the GPS we should still be on track to get there on time, except even with the address we couldn’t find the place! Kelowna is basically one massive central main street with shopping malls, garages, and businesses on either side. As we passed a Yamaha dealer Sue shouted that she’d seen a truck with McScoots written on the side, but I discounted it, thinking it was just his van parked at the dealer. I wished I’d listened to her, as it was at least another 15 minutes before we’d retraced our steps to that Yamaha dealer having failed to find the address. I asked a guy outside the Yamaha shop if he knew of McScoots, and was surprised when he told me it was behind me, in a container!
We had eventually arrived closer to 10.30 than 09.30, and after apologising to Jack for not having been on time we quickly got down to paperwork so that we could get off exploring. I’d been expecting a shop, so was a little shocked to see the business was run from a container, but you entered through double glass doors, and inside it was kitted out with table, chairs, and hanging rails of riding gear, whilst the rental fleet was parked up outside glinting in the sun.
First sight of the massively imposing Indian Chieftain
The Chieftain looked as if it had just come out of a showroom, it was spotless! Jack takes huge pride in his fleet, this bike costing over 31,000 CAD. When a rental comes back he immediately cleans it, and it really was in such good condition I thought it was new! This particular bike was a 2016 model and didn’t have the GPS that the 2017 model does. I toyed with the idea of taking the GPS from the car, but as it’s not a bike system and may not withstand water if it were to rain, decided against it, besides, with so few roads criss crossing the state, it should be simple to locate the ones we wanted using a map, old school style.
Jack gave a thorough run through of the controls, showing me the tyre pressure monitor and pressures, something I always want to know are correct, although to my shame I was never able to find the screen again, only finding out how to access it when the bike was returned. Suggesting a brief ride round the car park, I quickly found the low seat height made putting both feet down simple, although I did find the left foot gear change odd as the lever is raised compared to “normal” bikes, but the footboards seemed to allow comfortable foot placement.
Finally after the paperwork had been completed and we’d got togged up in our vented summer jackets and riding gear, we were ready for the off. Jack had given us directions how to get onto Highway 33, although it seemed as if he was sending us North instead of South, still, he knew best! Heading back up the road we’d come into Kelowna on, I soon wondered if I was going the right way, and quickly bemoaned the lack of a GPS which would have seen us on the right road immediately. What followed was about 30 minutes of driving up and down Kelownas main street. At a garage a trucker told us to head back the way we’d just come and to take a left at Costco, except we never saw CostCo and ended up actually crossing a bridge and leaving Kelowna,which was obviously not right!. Thankfully the dual carriageway we’d ended up on had an off ramp, so back we turned and back along the main drag. At each set of traffic lights I felt my legs getting warmed by the big 1800cc engine beneath me, and I wasn’t enjoying the way the front end waggled as I slowed to stop, the heavy front fairing seemingly creating an imbalance as I tried to gently ease to a halt.
Eventually we found the turning for Highway 33 (having already passed it twice!), and once out of town the bike started to feel more natural and I began to explore the performance of the 1800cc engine.
Our route (below) saw us heading for Osoyoos, a place whose name I managed to mispronounce every single time I spoke it. We’d been there previously back in 2010 and been impressed with the beauty of the location and it’s amazing salt lake, so we were headed back to see if it was as good as we had remembered it being.
Highway 33 passed comfortably as I settled into a rythmn riding the big twin. It’s pretty comfortable, and riding at legal speeds and just enjoying the scenery is a real pleasure. We’d brought the GoPro and Contour cameras along to record some of the ride, and after 45 minutes and out into open countryside, we decided to try and do some filming. Pulling off into a roadside layby, I set up the camera and we decided to try some new ways of filming.
Starting with the GoPro facing us for head on pics.
We then stopped again, putting the camera on the tripod so we could do a ride by.
Then Sue held the tripod and camera on the bike allowing her to film ahead and to the sides, all these angles hopefully making some interesting alternatives to the usual forward facing films I’ve made to date.
Well they would have been interesting if the camera had been switched on and recording! It wasn’t until after I’d asked Sue to check the red recording light was flashing that we found out we hadn’t got any film at all, and that it hadn’t recorded any of the beautful countryside or lakes we’d passed, so we had to go through the whole rigmarole again. The pics above are from the second time of trying.
Despite the farce of the non filming, the ride was going well. The bike allowing us to “bimble” along enjoying a type of riding we haven’t experienced before, and I was really starting to see why people enjoy this type of experience. In the past I have always been very disparaging of Harleys and their seeming overly loud exhausts, but I have to confess to occasionally just accelerating for the fun of hearing the big twins exhaust note, which l justify to myself isn’t as loud and anti social as a Harleys, but still makes a great noise!
At Rock Creek we turned West onto Highway 3 towards Osoyoos and descending the steep hill towards the town are greeted with these fantastic views.
Stopped on Anarchist Mountain overlooking the Okanagan Valley and Osoyoos below
Descending towards the town of Osoyoos, whose fabulous location sees it surrounded by desert, vineyards and mountains, and well known for water sports on the massive lake.
In town I managed to take the only two wrong turns I could have made in my quest to find the road out to Spotted Lake, and once more was wishing we’d got the GPS with us.
Back in 2010 when we had first visited, this is the sight we had seen and were expecting.
After dragging all the way out to the lake, this is what we got in 2017, no salt circles!
As we headed back down towards town I noticed the fuel gauge flash up a low warning symbol. Strange, as last time I looked we still had plenty, and sure enough when we got down to the lower and flatter level in town, the gauge had returned to indicating around 100kms range left, still, as we were close to a petrol station we stopped to fill up.
The Chieftain has twin filler caps but only the right hand one is used, the left side is a dummy. After filling up we stopped at McDonalds, where a couple of locals, one of whom was from Portugal, enquired about the imposing bike parked outside. Although Harley owners they seemed impressed with the Indian.
Leaving Osoyoos we retraced our route back up the hill stopping for these last few pictures.
On the way in we had seen some impressive statues so tstopped and took pictures of some of them on the way back out.
The route we were taking was now heading East, passing back through Rock Creek on Highway 3, which turned out to be a great road through beautiful countryside, and which would take us right the way through to our overnight stop in Castlegar.
In Greenwood we stopped for an ice cream
Lots of red wooden buildings in BC
Great road sign
Onwards through Christina Lake, and as we passed through the Bonanza Pass at 1535m in Gladstone Provincial Park, it suddenly got very cold. The nice 72F temperatures we’d been enjoying at the height of the afternoon had been gradually falling, but the sudden plummet from 65F to 55F, and then 44F at 18.30, quickly meant our vented jackets weren’t providing enough warmth, and with teeth close to chattering we stopped and put on our rain jackets to try and get some heat back in our bodies. With our motel at Castlegar still around 40 minutes away, we were grateful when we eventually arrived, to check in and get warm again.
This sign on the main road outside the motel shows we’re not far from the USA border, in fact it’s only around 40kms away.
Later on we nipped out to the local supermarket and liquor store to get some food and drink. This impressive full size metal statue was surrounded by several smaller ones.
Extremely large bike failing spectacularly to hide behind pillar.
Final ride stats for the day, a thoroughly enjoyable 459kms, which was some 50kms further than I’d initially calculated, showing how much off route we’d been without GPS assistance.