“I just want to take a look,” I said to the obligatory young woman who was redirecting traffic away from Lake Louise. “I promise I won’t park.” She shook her head and wasn’t about to budge.
“Go five kilometres back along the freeway and park, and you can catch a free shuttle into town,” she rattled off by rote, clearly having repeated those instructions all day. I tried lying and told here that I had named my younger daughter Louise after the town, but it didn’t work. She did another headshake and pointed south. I scratched Lake Louise from my mental itinerary and headed west instead towards a little town called Field, which of course was also booked out. I finally found a motel in Golden, on the other side of Yoho National Park. I do not know if this park is named after a local yodeler, but it’s very pretty anyway.
Golden is not, especially, but I was so glad to get a bed that I really didn’t mind. I stayed in an ordinary motel called Mary’s, which had one major advantage: it’s right next door to the Whitetooth Brewing Company, one of the dozens of craft breweries I found on my travels.
The first of these was in Nelson, my initial overnight stop after crossing the border from the US at a small Washington State town called Danville. Even the short ride through Castlegar and Salmo was memorable, not least for the ticket I got just outside Ymir for failing to stop at a stop sign.
The very nice highway patrolman kept telling me to not worry about paying the fine because I was from Australia. He was suitably impressed when I told him that I’d rather clean up after myself, but he still booked me. Be warned; the office that collects fines has no internet address listed on the ticket. You need to pay by post, which is an absolute pain when you leave it till you get back home to Oz as I did.
Nelson is a nice town. It has some of the atmosphere that I found in Portland, over the border in Oregon – a bit of the hippie life lingers here and there are several book shops and wine bars in the tree-lined narrow streets as well as a collection of craft breweries. I stayed in a private room in a hostel, the Adventure Hotel, which also has a workmanlike bar downstairs offering the – you guessed it – local craft brews. Unfortunately, the hippie spirit in the street also stretches to panhandling. If I’d had any spare change it wouldn’t have lasted a single block, but I hadn’t as yet pulled any Canadian money out of any of the ubiquitous ATMs.
Unlike US currency, Canadian money is polymer like our own cash, and is in fact printed right here in Oz. Interesting factoid, eh. No?
The morning dawned bright and sunny, as did all of my mornings in Canada. I was ready for bad weather with my new Draggin Jeans Oilskins pants and a proven waterproof Ixon jacket; but as so often, just having the gear stopped the rain. But I’m sure you have noticed that yourself.
Like Canadians themselves, the weather for the rest of the ride proved mild and pleasant.
But don’t think that Canadians can’t be tough. Somewhere on a road by one of the wonderful lakes, I struck roadworks. There was a queue of vehicles, waiting to get the go-ahead while the industrious machinery did something or other to the road or its environs. I did what motorcyclists everywhere in the world do, except in Canada as it turns out: I slipped along the right-hand side of the traffic on the shoulder of the road. When I reached the front, the lollipop bloke made some kind of gesture which I must admit puzzled me, but which I chose to interpret as an invitation to proceed. It turned out to have been nothing of the kind when I reached the other end of the roadworks. The lollipop bloke there waved me over with a, this time, unmistakable gesture.
I pulled over and he enlightened me to the facts that not only did Canadian motorcyclists not jump queues, they also did not ignore directions from lollypop blokes to stop to receive a tongue-lashing. I got this with twice the intensity now, since I had committed two infractions. The whole thing was so bizarre that I actually showed him my licence when he demanded it. Where do lollipop blokes have the authority to demand to see your licence? In Canada, obviously.
He photographed the licence with his phone and warned me that I would be receiving a note from the Mounties (presumably) or the International Order of Righteous Lollypop People demanding reparations of some number of Canadian dollars. I debated mentally whether I should abuse him or point out to him that it was we Australians who print Canadian money, but decided either would be counterproductive. He was already morphing into the righteous anger of Lumberjack Mode and I wanted to get away.
I never did receive a note from the Mounties or anyone else, and I do hope I will be allowed into Canada again. Maybe even to visit Lake Louise.
(Phots The Bear. Thanks to MotoQuest for the Suzuki V Strom that made this story possible)