Rockies Tour 2002 – Day 3: Were you ever arrested in Texas?

(click on map to enlarge)

Wednesday, July 17

  • Glacier National Park, MT to Skookumchuck, BC
  • 302 miles

The highlight of this day is riding the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the Glacier National Park. We tried to ride it last year and could not due to snow avalanches in late May. We’ve come later in the year this time to insure access and we are not disappointed. And yet, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is not superb motorcycle riding. It’s too narrow, tight, twisty and busy but riding it on a bike is still vastly superior to doing in a cage (car) due to the view it affords. We quickly figure out that it’s best to stop a lot and give ourselves time to stare at the majestic scenery rather than risk running our bikes off a cliff or into an oncoming vehicle. A convertible is probably the best compromise and in fact, the park’s tour buses are roofless.

Looking at this photo, one realizes how impressive the engineering that went into this road is. And how the Park manages the danger of avalanches, rock or snow, is beyond us.
(click photo to enlarge)

Anyway, we find lots of quiet, shady spots to admire the view from. The scale of the place is truly staggering and it boggles the mind. Another motorcyclist tells us that if we think this is awesome, just wait until we head North into the Canadian Rockies. He says the further north you go, the better it gets and in fact, this view before us pretty much sucks. We look at him like he’s nuts or stoned or both, smile politely and part company.  

We drive out of the Park and enter the Canadian part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park where we come to the Chief Mountain border crossing. We expect a smooth uneventful crossing. Everyone knows it’s easy to get into Canada and very tough getting back into the US. Wrong! Maybe it’s the fact that the border is staffed with only freshly scrubbed kids with clipboards and little real experience. Maybe it’s the fact that they see the Harleys and the do-rags and think we are bikers looking for trouble instead of motorcyclists on vacation. We spend an hour and a half being thoroughly interviewed and background checked. My brother, Paul, who was a bit “rowdy” during his teenage years is shocked to be reminded of events from over 20 years ago. These guys are obviously tapped into the FBI database. And how did the FBI find out about that stuff anyway seeing how he was a minor?? Not cool. Paul is asked why was this not mentioned on his entry questionnaire. He exclaims that was decades ago in a past life and he’s now a responsible adult with a kid and a good job. His exasperation is accepted as genuine and the spotlight is shifted to another in our group. 

It turns out that some guy with the same name as Jeff has a felony criminal record in Texas. Our Jeff is taken into a side room to take off his shirt, revealing his beer gut and his fish belly white skin, to prove he doesn’t have a tattoo on his chest, thank God. They do everything but body search us and when they are satisfied that we are not felons, they instantly start smiling again as if a switch has been flipped and we are warmly welcomed to Canada! Well, it’s safe to say that our enthusiasm for visiting Canada has utterly evaporated. Nevertheless, we enter the country and continue our journey. We later learn that if you have a DUI in the States, it is viewed as a felony in Canada and entry is refused. Apparently, US bikers have a higher percentage of DUIs hence the automatic scrutiny. Whew! Buzz kill!

We travel west on Hwy 3 back through the Rockies via the Crowsnest Pass. On the western slopes, we stop in Sparwood, BC and find the mother of all monster trucks, a bigger than a house dump truck from the nearby mines. 

We arrive in the town of Skookumchuck, a wide spot in the road, and the campground is nothing more than a nice elderly couple’s front lawn along the rural highway. We actually enter their living room where they are watching the telly to fill out a form and pay. 

We ask where the nearest pub is and we’re told of one a short ride down the road but it’s closing in 15 minutes at 9pm. The wife picks up the phone and calls the pub to say 4 hungry men are on the way. The smiling proprietor is waiting for us and makes us feel very welcome. We opt for huge steins of the local draft Canadian beer, Kokanee, to wash away the unpleasantness of the border crossing and after the first round, that has been accomplished. More beer, please!

We finish eating supper and we head out into the beer garden out back where we encounter a couple of locals. Remember those beer drinking, flannel shirt wearing Canadians on Second City TV that wore tuks, eh? Well, these guys look and talk exactly like them. At first, we think these guys are really putting us on but it finally dawns on us that we are truly looking at the real McKenzies.

They earnestly inform us that they only drink the imported beer, Budweiser. “That Kokanee will rip your guts out, eh?” We cheerfully thank them for the tip and keep drinking the refreshing local beer. We inquire as to what one does to earn a living out here in the BC wilderness and they halfheartedly tell us they are in the logging business. One of them tells us, “I moved here for the fly fishing, eh?” Cool.

We head back to camp on the front lawn and come to realize that “Skookumchuck” must be Native Canadian for bad ass mosquitos as they work very hard at sucking us dry while leaving huge welts on our skin. We don’t recall skeeter bites ever hurting like this and that’s saying a lot seeing how two of us are Wisconsin kids where the state bird is the mosquito. Each puncture feels like a sixteen penny nail has been used to break the skin. We employ bug spray plus campfire and cigar smoke to fumigate our campsite as we conduct our nightly campfire ritual. We will not be run off by a pack of bugs.

(click a photo to launch slideshow)

Go to Day 4: Bagging National Parks in BC

Return to Ride Summary

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