The only thing better than ending the day with a ride is starting the next day with one. The motorcycle gods had smiled upon us: the morning was warm and bright with blue sky stretching from one end of the horizon to the other. The only thing I would change is to have my boots a little bigger. I didn’t notice the snugness so much while riding, but my toes found them a little restrictive when I had to walk around. But that’s a small price to pay for another day of riding.
Also, this morning I had the honor of deciding who would next wear the vest. Now, the problem with riding among a group of good people who are also good riders is that no one does anything particularly vest-worthy. So, I defaulted the vest to the last guy who was ready to ride, who just happened to be my brother. And that wasn’t intentional. Really. James and I are fortunate in that we are not only brothers, but also friends. There are six years between us, and so growing up I learned to do everything first and I remember how he was always struggling to keep up with me whenever we’d go bike riding.
It’s funny how sometimes in life the shoe (or the boot) ends up on the other foot. The only difference now is that James will stop and wait for me. And we enjoy a pint at the end of the day. Truthfully, as a new rider, even though I didn’t want it to bother me that I was the caboose…it did a little bit. Not because there was any pressure to ride in a way that was outside my capability; but because watching the way the other guys so effortlessly negotiated the road looked so…fun. Of course, I know enough to realize that when anything looks both effortless and fun it is always the result of a lot of time and a lot of work. And this is the work that I am just starting. And, indeed, even the learning is rewarding.
I remember that while planning this trip one of the guys commented that “riding around town is fine, but wait until you get out on some proper motorcycle roads.” He wasn’t kidding. If Friday night was the appetizer, then Saturday was the main course. South of the border the road meandered merrily through steadfast farmland and wandered among lazy foothills. By midday I was so full of riding as well as lunch (at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in the middle of…somewhere) that I could have almost had a nap if the road itself wasn’t such a feast that I had to keep riding.
As we crossed back into Canada I saw our foothills transform around me into the eternal Rockies, which are way bigger on a motorcycle, by the way. The landscape has so much more texture and personality when it’s not viewed through a car windshield. The trees seemed greener and I could almost feel the roughness of the granite in the distance as I rode by. I’ve always felt that the Rockies have an almost postcard-like quality; but riding among those steep sided stone giants with their proud peaks hidden under crowns of ice I couldn’t decide if I was a trespasser or a guest. These titanic monarchs are certainly no friends of man, if they bother with us at all, but I was nonetheless honored to pass through their kingdoms.
These mountains mark the threshold into the Kootenays, which are their own beautiful world, and if you’ve never been you definitely should (but don’t tell too many people, they kind of like being BC’s best kept secret). The Rockies also marked a threshold in my own riding. After fueling up in Creston in the late afternoon we headed towards Kootenay Lake and the ferry to Balfour (yes, it’s pretty cool to share a name with a town) and there was enough traffic on the road that our group was separated into a few smaller units and I found myself on my own somewhere in the middle.
“Have you become one with your bike yet?” I was asked the night before, to which I had nodded half-heartedly. After the ride into Nelson at the end of the day I could unreservedly say yes. The Radian was in her element and she looked after me all day: gripping the road as I felt myself leaning harder while turns got unexpectedly tighter, biting into the asphalt with a snarl when her back tire slipped on a loose curve, and smugly nipping me around cars as she devoured kilometers and corners. We’ve developed an intimate sort of trust on the road.
We rolled into Nelson, foot-sore, saddle sore, bug splattered, dusty, gritty, sunburned and happy. Riding is a funny paradox that way. It’s a community built in solitude. We are alone on the road and yet are somehow connected. The road, like a thread, twines our individual experiences of wonder, fear, gratitude, reverence, absurdity, or joy and weaves them together into a common story making even these familiar faces look different. Like the landscape, they somehow have more texture and personality: more story.
Meanwhile, the Nelson evening is cool and surprisingly quiet. And although I can’t see it, I know that just beyond the dull glow of the city lights the road, and our stories, are waiting…
David Balfour was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and has since lived in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as British Columbia’s Cariboo and Kootenay regions before settling in the Okanagan. David has had a variety of career tangents through the years: he was a roadie for a rock band in the 1990s, he worked on a mushroom farm, completed a Bachelor of Arts degree, owned a small business and is currently completing his Education degree at the University of British Columbia.
David is new to the world of motorcycles in general and MotoVida in particular. However, a love found later in life is better than a love never found at all. He lives in Kelowna, BC with his wife, Lindsay and their four children, Emma, Annie, Aidan and Cordelia, and the Radian, his motorcycle.