Just for a change we were up early the next morning and were downstairs having breakfast as soon as they opened for service. An excellent spread saw us utilising the waffle maker and eating our fill, before readying ourselves for an unexpectedly early start to the days ride. Whilst eating I had asked a couple of ladies which was the route to take to get to Salmo, explaining that I wanted to get to Balfour to the ferry, but they couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go via Nelson. It took a while and showing them the map before they understood I wanted to go the scenic route across to Creston, before running up the side of Kootenay Lake to Kootenay Bay, where I wanted to catch the ferry over to Balfour.
When I told them we were going to be passing through Nakusp to Faquier, they warned of a bad left hand bend which had caught many a rider out. I was amazed that a bend on a road some 350kms away was so well known, but rode that bend later on in the day at 120kph whilst still accelerating, so I don’t know what the problem people had with it? Eventually with the correct route sorted we were off, and it’s only 07.20!
We stopped almost immediately for petrol, where a quick calculation showed that the bike was averaging 47.8mpg, which I thought was pretty good!
Once on the bike I’m full of the joys of spring, the early morning sun is warming but it is a bit chilly when it gets hidden behind the trees. Bizarrely I’m whooping and hollering like a big kid, I’m enjoying the ride, the experience, and the bike so much more than I ever expected to, life’s good!
Looking back in the mirror I spot this fantastic view and have to stop to take a picture.
With a full days riding behind me I’m now riding the Chieftain with confidence. The engine is most comfortable below 130kph, which is good as the limit is 100kph!. It starts to take off with a lovely intake gurgle from just over 3000rpm and at 3500 it’s starting to motor, but north of 130kph things start to get a bit shuddery and you quickly realise this isn’t where it’s going to spend much of its time. Braking is best accomplished using the rear brake in tandem with the front, something I’ve not done on a road bike since I last rode a Goldwing many years ago, but using both pulls you up more than adequately. The horn is loud, the seats comfortable, well for me more than Sue, and the handling is surprisingly good. It turns into bends quickly and holds a line well in fast sweepers. Importantly the sidestand is long and gives plenty of support. No centre stand for this 385kg behemoth, but it doesn’t feel 100kg heavier than my old GT, the weight being very well distributed when moving. The footboards offer a choice of positions and are perfectly placed for my 5’11 frame. The only small niggle was the occasional slight pain in my coccyx where the seat support sometimes rubbed, but overall I’d have to give it a massive thumbs up on pretty much every aspect.
When you’re not having issues with your bike the time and miles sail by, as you’re concentrating on nothing else but the road, and enjoying yourself. The roads this morning are fantastic, and continue to be throughout the whole day to come. Salmo to Creston saw us crossing the highest point of the tour over the Kootenay Pass at 1774m, where the uneven surface and lack of crash barriers made me a little uneasy as we neared the summit. There was snow at the top, but we were soon over it and onto The Crowsnest Highway, descending towards Creston and passing over this girder bridge.
As you can tell from the picture below the USA border was close by, I think the next sign said only 21kms.
From Creston it’s North on the 3A and more fun and games with lovely long sweepers and superb vistas.
Here’s Sue enjoying the view.
Here’s what she was looking at
Bike parked outside impressive wooden entry to viewing platform
More filming on this stretch, but the suction mount on the Contour camera I was using decided to lose suction 3 times and the camera fell off. Luckily I had it tethered so didn’t lose it. Annoyingly I’ve not yet been able to locate the chipmunk that ran across in front of us, or the caribou in the undergrowth, that I know are on this film.
Later on in the ride, the road to Kootenay Bay becomes super twisty with very few straights on it, and is restricted to 60kph in many places, but wasn’t the PITA you’d expect riding a big cruiser. The Chieftain took it all in its stride and we made it to the ferry on time, albeit the large time margin we’d built in so that we didn’t have to rush to get on the hourly crossing, had dropped to a mere 10 minutes.
The ferry across to Balfour is the longest ferry crossing in Canada and takes 35 minutes. Iniitally we weren’t sure if there was going to be enough space on board as we were pretty close to the back of the queue, but like the tardis, the ship swallowed all the waiting vehicles.
Underway and admiring the beautiful scenery behind us.
Returning from the upper deck and sightseeing, I looked under the bike and saw two small puddles of oil. I checked the bike over and the oil seemed to be emanating from the dipstick housing, running down onto the crankcase, then being blown back onto the exhaust and pannier. Worried there may be something amiss on the uber machine I pondered what to do next, but as we were in the middle of nowwhere and any dealer would be half a day away, we decided to ride on gently and see if the problem got worse.
Once off the ferry we joined Highway 31 to Kaslo. Here we overtook a couple of extremely slow Harley riders, demonstrating how we Euro riders do it, before stopping a few miles up the road to check the oil again. I wiped all the surfaces clean and resolved to check it again later. During this time the Harley guys came past, but less than 10kms later I’d caught and passed them again. Stitch that HD dudes, should have bought an Indian!!!!
Canada has plentiful trees and wild animals who live amongst them. On the Kaslo to New Denver leg of the ride we had this run-in with some local wildlife.
In the first picture you can just about make out a deer at the side of the road which has just been spooked by the noise of an 1800cc twin thundering his way.
Just in case you hadn’t spotted it, look directly above the letter D
In this picture he’s decided it’s time to get away from the noise
At this stage I’m braking hard and wondering whether it will carry on in front of me or turn back the way it came
Still looking like we’re going to collide, until at the last second it turned and ran the other way!!
In New Denver we’re only an hour and a half or so away from tonights stopover, so we took the time to refuel and have an ice cream to cool down. After a good run down to Nakusp and Arrow Lake, we arrived at our destination several hours earlier than planned, thanks to our 3 hours earlier than expected morning start. So with another 5 hours plus of superb riding under our belts, an ever increasing appreciation of the bike, and the 375 kms daily total matching my projected distance exactly, I decided to call Jack at McScoots and discuss the oil problem.
I had been concerned that if the oil leakage became too bad it might cause some damage. I voiced this concern to Jack, who asked if I would be able to get it to a dealer somewhere, but as Kelowna was the nearest big city and less than 3 hours away, I suggested that it might be better for both of us if I returned the bike there first thing the next morning, knowing that he had it rented out to another customer the following day. It would be a shame to have to cut short our tour, but we would still have had a decent ride to return it, and I wouldn’t have wanted Jack to lose his coming rental in case the problem was bigger than a dipstick leak. Agreeing to have it with him before 11.00 the following morning, I ended the day by taking multiple photos of a bike I had come to like immensely.
Brake reservoir cap
Just to let you know how big the motor is
Not pictured, countless other logos on bar ends, dials, footboards and pegs, mirrors, backrest…… I gave up counting after 24!
And leaving the coolest part on the bike til last, the Indian war bonnet head illuminates!
Day 3- Returning the Chieftain
We were up early again to catch the 06.30 ferry, which began its service in Faquier back in 1922, and is cable operated. I spent 5 minutes talking to some good old boy with a fantastic downward coiled moustache about the bike and his hot rod.
He told me the workers onboard today were heading up to 6000ft to plant trees. He also told me that there were moose up near some marshlands on the road ahead, so never having seen one, we resolved to have a good look out.
We should have realised that it would be cold that early in the morning and through the shaded wooded areas, and nearing Cherryville we almost decided to have another breakfast, but carried on to try and stay warm. Unfortunately we didn’t see any moose which was disappointing, but the roads were much more enjoyable on the bike than they had been in the Jeep 3 days earlier. One thing I did notice during this ride that had started to raise itself as an issue the day before, was that the handgrips seem quite large. I have relatively small hands so don’t know whether it was the grip size or engine vibration which was causing my left hand to go a bit numb, but it started to become an issue every now and then, although not so for the right hand, which I think this must be because the throttle hand is always moving.
Annoyingly I manged to somehow miss the turning for Kelowna as we passed through Vernon, which meant a 15 minute or so detour and retracing our steps, but we soon got back on track and were at McScoots before the promised time. Jack was obviously concerned about the leak and had appreciated my detecting it and agreeing to bring it back early. He had already booked it in to be checked over by the dealer but was mystified as to why there had been a problem, as it had literally only come back from a service the day before I collected it. Using the Indian supplied dipstick spanner which he had omitted to supply (but will for future rentals), Jack undid the dipstick and quckly discovered what we believed to be the root of the problem. The oil seal was split, which would have allowed oil to get past, and which could only have occured by being overtightened after the oil change.
With a hopefully cheap solution to the problem, Jack then offered to only invoice me for two days not three, as I’d brought the bike back so early in the day. I’d expected to have been billed for at least half a day, but he told me he’d rather have a satisifed customer than be rich. I have to say that his attitude and generosity in making that offer were both unexpected and much appreciated. He thanked me for looking out for a machine that was his livelihood, and in taking that action, I have to say he deserves to do tremendously well in business. Someone who values their customer (and he has an oilman who rents from him every month), will go far, and many others could learn a lesson from that gesture.
UPDATE- The problem was found to be due to an overtightened dipstick and its broken oil seal
In the end we rode 1050kms, the bike was outstanding and drew comments everywhere. The experience was unlike any other biking one I’ve had before, and the combination of the bike, the roads, the scenery, and just being back on two wheels again, made it a tour we’ll always remember.
I’d like to thank Jack at McScoots who was a pleasure to deal with when booking, and an absolute star when it came to dealing with an issue totally out of his control. I would unhesitatingly recommend his company to anyone looking to make a similar tour. His bikes are immaculate, his business ethics beyond reproach, and he’s a nice guy to boot. Me, I’m wondering what to ride next, it’s just a shame that the Chieftain wouldn’t really cut it for the type of riding and roads we have here in Europe, but over there, it was SUPERB!