Not to brag, but starting a trip in Vancouver, we are always facing a dilemma: there are wonderful destinations and beautiful nature in any direction from the city – so this weekend, we decide to head north-west and explore the Paradise Valley right by the Squamish River.
When we meet up at a gas station on Main Street at 6.30pm on a Friday night, it quickly becomes clear that we are in the middle of the worst after-work traffic, but while everybody else is rushing home to relax, we just want to ride away from the busy hustle for a while and experience a carefree adventure. Clare and Wendy lead the group. We dodge our way through crowded downtown streets, stop and go, randomly turn left or right at lights, but at some point just continue straight into a dead-end road.
In passing, I see a sign saying “NO THROUGH ROAD – EXCEPT BICYCLES”. Two wheels are two wheels, I guess, but we don’t pedal off on our enduros, cruisers and dirt bikes – we open the throttle. Finally, we reach Stanley Park and ride over the Lion’s Gate Bridge, leaving the city behind and taking in the open road before us. The Sea-to-Sky Highway leading from Vancouver to Whistler not only takes us from ocean-side levels up into the mountains tonight, but also west, and thus right into the setting sun. Moving towards the glare of steady bright yellow and orange light, I suddenly seem to be riding with twice as many women, since the sun hits us from the left for a moment and casts shadow riders to our right. The highway clings to gray, and sometimes shiny black wet rocks to one side, and overlooks silver blue reflective water on the other. Riding along this inlet, I always wonder where exactly the salty Pacific Ocean waves turn into the fresh river water that harbours salmon and other fish, but I know that there is no such thing as a concrete line, since it all just blends in smooth, constant motions. We move smoothly as well, now exiting the straight highway and rolling along soft, meandering roads through the forest and into the valley, where the green surrounding us gets denser and more lush after every curve. As the trees begin to grow from protective walls into an almost opaque roof, we hit the first campground we circled on the backroads map which we pored over when still at home. The site is fully booked, as is the second campground we had on our list. Both also do not seem to be motorcycle-friendly places at all, so we take off, hoping that the dust clouds our kick-start jumps and spinning tires raise will cover the rude faces we have encountered.
The sun has not set
“We made it, ladies! And my bike made it, too!” jubilates Wendy. Her 1983 Honda XL 250 is one tough little enduro; it smokes and swerves a bit, but she ploughed through the off-roads like nothing and with a big smile on her face. The bike is now parked proudly in front of her tent, and she fondly pets it on the back whispering “I love you, Babs” all night. Wendy is not only into vintage bikes, but also cameras, and takes beautiful images with her old Yashica and Zeiss cams. I hear their shutter releases click-clacking and the film rolling up when I slowly wake up in my tent on this hazy Sunday morning, after a long Saturday by the river beach filled with laughs, and a whiskey-infused night by the fire.
For one magical moment, I am just dazzled by how these camera noises perfectly blend into nature’s soundscape, how they chirp and chatter in unison with the critters of the forest and do not disturb the sleepy morning atmosphere at all. Some man-made machines just meld with the world, I muse. Even for seemingly alien objects like motorcycles, such a fusion makes so much sense: they run on oil and gas which derive from billion year old organic matter stored deep under the ground, in the earth.
I ponder on these things as I leave the little clearing of our site, which we dubbed ‘Camp Last Resort’, and then swing east onto the highway towards our other home in the city. I sit comfortably nestled between the tank and saddle bags on my 2006 Kawasaki KLR650, the unparalleled trail horse of light adventure bikes. This machine helps me to escape from the indoor life once in a while, and can take me anywhere on its 50/50 tires: half street, half dirt. Therefore, the bike feels like a part of nature, despite the engine noises and exhaust fumes, and like a part of me, despite the cold metal and inanimate plastic. Are motorcycles and cameras just extensions of our bodies, so that we can move around and experience things in ways we otherwise would not? Yes, cameras capture more than our eyes can ever see, and motorcycles – they move us faster than our legs could ever run. But I think there’s even more to it: these machines are dreams made manifest.
© Melly Kage (2018)
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Melly is a rider and writer from Vancouver, BC.
She was born in Germany, and moved to Canada from Sweden several years ago. Her studies of language, literature, and culture not only brought her to the Pacific Northwest but also inspired her love for the stories that connect like-minded people, such as bikers. She rides and writes for fun and to celebrate such connections, especially among motorcycling women. As the curator of the event series “One Time I Rode – A Motorcycle Storytelling Night”, she thrives on rallying riders who share everyday chronicles, long-winding adventures, and feral poetry.
Melly currently choppers around on a 2005 Harley Davidson Sportster 883, but her heart also beats green for all Kawasaki dirt bikes and dual sports.
Wendy Dyk is a photographer, film processor, and photo lab technician from Vancouver, BC.
She shoots film
When she’s not out at the flat track oval or in the dirt dunes photographing racers and riders, she’s usually enjoying some whiskey with friends, cuddling her dog Walter, or savouring the freedom of motorcycle life, riding her 1983 Honda XL 250 on the Canadian highways.
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