Duffy Lake Loop – Following A Bunch of Bikers Around

This is pretty early for me.

I pull up in front of a cafe at Horseshoe Bay. A few of the bikers are here already. I’m groggy this Saturday so after a few quick salutations I’m back in my car fiddling with the camera mount, somewhat hiding my sleepiness. Its not the nicest day out there, but its not the weather that will be exciting me today.

I think its early. But bikers are already here and they look pretty chipper…

What am I doing with a bunch of bikers?

A year ago, an email was sent out to a few people that I knew. The organizer, Colin (a colleague of mine), had mentioned a “bike ride” on Vancouver Island. Without reading the email carefully, I thought it sounded interesting, thinking it would be bicycle “tour” and answered with an enthusiast “Yes!”. As the date got closer, Colin sent out some of the details about the “bike ride”. Google mapping the route, it was three hours by car. At that moment, I re-read the original email and realized that this was not a “bicycle” ride, but a motorcycle ride.

Not wanting to shy away from an opportunity to greet twisty roads, I asked if it was ok for me to bring a small car. Colin gave me the thumbs up so I followed a bunch of bikers on that ride to Vancouver Island/Gold River.

It was epic.

Following bikers around. Who knew it could be so much fun?

Final destination in the bike ride last year – Gold River

That was one year ago. Now I am doing this again following the Duffy Lake route – starting off in Vancouver heading towards Squamish on Hwy 99, passing through Whistler, and then going through Pemberton, and ending in Lillooet. There is an optional trip to Cache Creek which I have opted out of today, so I will be heading back down to Hope on Hwy 12, and back into Vancouver. It’s roughly 700 kms round trip.

courtesy of http://members.shaw.ca/bjs1/DuffyLakeLoop_map.jpg

As we are waiting for the rest of the biker crew to arrive, I see bikers pull up unsurprised that a car will be following this year (last year I sat through an awkward moment when one of the bikers complained about cars “getting in her way”, being slow, and just generally annoying. All this before I told her that I would be tagging along – in a car nonetheless). This year most bikers have been prepared for me so no awkward moments this time. As the group gathers up we make some quick introductions and Colin signals for us to head off.

Being the largest vehicle (i.e. an actual vehicle) in the group, I bring up the rear to start. I am excited about this opportunity, and even though I am not inherently a “bike guy”, I can certainly appreciate some nice machinery when I see it. There is no shortage of that here; however I have no time to even think about what each bike is before Colin announces that he is passing me.

“BrraaaaAAAAPPP!!! BrraaaaAAAAAPPPP!”

And what an announcement. Colin’s black Triumph is an old cafe racer and there is something wonderfully British-retro about it. I quite literally know nothing about bikes but this one is a real beauty.

Our first stage of the ride we warm up heading towards Squamish. This is an easy drive, and with the recent road upgrades the roads are smoother and safer. Its a nice drive, but nothing exciting.

I tried to take a picture of the Triumph next to me as it passed, but by the time the camera was ready Colin was this far ahead….

We take a quick break for some coffee, breky, and a photo op by some cliffs on offer near Squamish.

By the rock faces in Squamish. Bikers were able to stop on the dock but I wasn’t due to weight restrictions.

The gauntlet of bikes. From bottom to top – Some Italian bike. A Honda I think….and the rest I haven’t got the foggiest idea….

Look at those beautifully machined forks! What bike was this? Some Italian brand…(not Ducati)

Back on the road, we head towards Pemberton.

What a nightmare. This is not what I signed up for.

I pull into the gas station and and rush to stop the car in a parking space before my eyelids complete their closing ceremonies. I am asleep for a few minutes before I realize that the bikers are in a different part of the gas station.

The last hour was brutal; I haven’t slept particularly well in anticipation of this drive, which so far has been a celebration of slow moving vehicles.

I go to the bathroom to splash some water on my face and bump into Colin in the hallway who reassures me that the “good part” is yet to come. I hope so.

I step outside to join back up with the rest of the gang.

As I move my car to join up with the rest of the bikers, I notice two things:
1. My brake warning light has come on

2. My car “smells like burning”

Upon closer inspection I notice that my passenger-side rear brakes are leaking fluid. And the burning smell is evidenced by oil stains on the valve cover of my engine. Not good.

Everybody is ready to go now. As we turn back onto Hwy 99 the roads are winding gently, but have seen better days as the repaired seams cause my car to trundle and jiggle. As we continue down Hwy 99, we turn right towards Lillooet and it’s here, where we start to see the roads I have been waiting for. The roads are starting to narrow and tighten up now as tall groves of trees surround me. The campers and minivans have – like the recycled news on ET – thankfully faded away after what has felt like an eternity. This is more like it!

As if on cue, the sun just starts to part the clouds, and cascades through the surrounding foliage as the road continues to snake along, with snow capped mountains serving as the backdrop. Soon we catch up to some family sedans and it’s here where I see the difficulty in following a group of bikers. There are not many locations to pass with a car but on a decently sighted short straight, the bikers are able to blast past the slower vehicles while I wait for an opportunity. And continue waiting. This is frustrating.

The bikers are long gone now, and after passing a few cars, I am eagerly trying to catch up with the rest of the group.

I carry as much speed as I can, using the road edges and the grip from my tires to hold me in the corners. Aware of my unknown engine problem, I try not to take my car above 5500rpm, working the power band between 3500 and 5500 rpm just below and above the cam profile change. I’ve taken the hard top off for this trip, and although I have sacrificed some structural rigidity, with my window zipped down I can hear the revs rise up and down through the range of that inline-4 (referring to my cylinder configuration – an “inline” bank of 4 cylinders), the exhaust bellowing like vibrating tubes and the discreet but noticeable humming from the intake.

Its been about 30mins since I last saw a biker from our group and I am afraid that they may be too far ahead.

Have I mentioned that I need to be back in Vancouver before 5pm to attend a personal event on a boat? If I fail to make it back in time I will quite literally miss the boat.

Originally when I asked Colin roughly how long the ride would be, he estimated 7 hours. Worry is setting in as I am not sure if he factored in my difficulty passing or not. Feeling beads of sweat growing on my brow, I pick up the pace.

The burning smell is getting stronger.

I have no idea where I am and I don’t care. I haven’t seen a biker in ages, much less another car – the roads are decently paved, and the scenery is beautiful. Can this be true? Am I dreaming? Have I already crashed and died?

The roads have nicely sighted stretches with good mixes of cambered, complex curves, and changes in elevation to boot. I thought last year’s ride to Gold River was the best I have driven in B.C., but I actually think this trumps it.

We are well into the mountains now, and after a few minutes I spot some bikers from our group who let me pass quite readily. I am thankful to have caught up with the group but want to get a good feel for where the rest of the pack is. I continue to press on.

We are starting to head down the mountain and the roads are mirroring the types of turns we had going up.

The roads start to get a bit rougher as we get closer to Lillooet, and my car returns back to the trundling as I am now following a Jetta. Rain is starting to sprinkle down as if to let me know once again that the roads are not as smooth as they were before.

I see another biker pulled over on the side of the road (the one sporting the Italian dirt bike) and ensure he is ok before continuing on. There are more and more single lane wooden bridges to cross now, and my pace is limited by the ruts and bumps in the roads.

I catch up to another biker shortly after, and although he leaves me behind in the straights, I catch up to him in the corners (understandably so with the rutted roads). Before long, I see the rest of the convoy. I back off the throttle for a bit as I am starting to feel a bit tired – driving at 40% is a nice change from the 100% concentration like I have for the last few hours.

The scenery is changing away from tree-lined roads, to trees and a mix of rock shapes and valleys as the road continues – still in rutted form unfortunately, however there are stretches where some fresh paving is evident. We catch up to other cars as the roads seem to become busier. I soon realize that another difficulty in following bikers is that car drivers will courteously let bikers by, but I don’t get the same treatment – not realizing that I am part of the same convoy.

I finally find a spot to pass just as we are entering some tight hairpin corners and I am eager to catch up to the rest of the group. Not having my GPS to sight the roads for me, and being eager, I head into the first hairpin after passing the group of cars with a bit too much heat. I can feel the wobble in my brakes (from the Targa Tour previously), as I struggle for traction, and I am forced into continuing my braking into the turn on a tight corner.

I can feel the sweat beads develop again – if I brake too much into the corner, I risk oversteering (the rear end swinging wide) into the concrete barriers, and if I underbrake, I understeer into the corner potentially plowing into the barrier and who-knows-what-else-aside-from-cliff beyond that. Thankfully, I make it out alive and breath out a sigh of relief.

We stop at a BC Hydro viewpoint just before Lillooet to gather everyone together before we head into town. There is what looks like a glacier water viewpoint – the water being an alien-ish blue-green, providing a great backdrop to the rusty coloured rocks.

Lone car in a group of bikers. Which one of these just doesn’t belong?

That Italian dirt bike. Oh – I guess its an “Aprilla”.

Another bike. It’s nice.

A Yamaha. Maybe it has a 1L engine? Honestly I don’t know anything about this stuff..

A BMW. That’s two names I’ve heard of.

Another Honda? Sorry guys if you are reading this…

Colin’s Triumph. Glorious!

….ummm yeah. Don’t know this one either….Sorry!

Its another Honda! Notice how I know the car-related manufacturers? Yeah – its because I don’t know bikes.

I’m trying to reattach my intake (which popped off during the bumps) when I get approached by a portly man in a suit who has just pulled into the lot in a Chevrolet Cruze.

He walks up right to me, and strangely asks me about my car. Thinking this a bit unusual (i.e. he doesn’t fit my profile of a normal car enthusiast), I answer his questions and we carry on a conversation about cars for a few minutes before he pauses.

“Say, have you looked at the Bible lately?”

Hmm. So that’s why you were talking to me.

“No, I haven’t”

“Would you be interested? Thats what we are doing out here – spreading God’s word.”

I look over at our group of bikers and I can see them pointing at me with smirks on their face.

“Sorry, I’m not interested”

“Ok – well have a good day.”

And with that, he leaves with his band of disciples in his Chevrolet Cruze. I do have to give him credit for 1. making an effort to chat with me, and 2. leaving once I told him I wasn’t interested. I have encountered many people who were much more insistent/persistent/annoying than that man.

And his car – “Chevrolet Cruze – The Car That God Built”

I am falling asleep; I can feel my eyes doing a convincing job of telling me to do so. I am trying to make it home for 5pm, but its not worth it. I can’t. I am heavily considering pulling over, which would mean missing my boat but its not worth the safety risk.

A few hours ago, we had reached Lillooet, grabbed a quick bite and said goodbye to the majority of bikers who were going to continue on Hwy 99 to Cache Creek. Since I had to get home by 5pm, I went back down on Hwy 12 with the remaining bikers. Although the map made it look pretty straight, the roads were pretty smooth and surprisingly twistier in sections. Hwy 12 was narrow and much more relaxed than Hwy 99 between Pemberton and Lillooet. It was highlighted by a section which was single lane, and driven on the side of a mountain – reminding me of sections of the Rally of Monte Carlo.

Hwy 12. Ok – so this is a picture from the Rally of Monte Carlo but the views were similar – steep rock faces on one side, steep drop off on the other, and single lane track. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/picturegalleries/8231801/Monte-Carlo-Rally-in-pictures.html)

Following the bikers on Hwy 12 home. It wasn’t all this straight.

Back on Hwy 1 heading back to Vancouver, I am just about to pull over for some kip, when, like an angel from the sky coming down to save me – I glance in my rear view and see a bright red car. I can’t quite tell what it is, but my spidey-sense tells me it is something special.

Is it a Mazda RX-7? No.

Wait – It’s a Ferrari!

The Ferrari pulls out of my lane and passes me slowly on the left.

Quick photo I managed to snap of the driver in the 348. Not that old…

Ok, so it is a 348, which in my mind is one of the worst of the “300” series, but the V8 noise generated from the engine sounds like the trumpets of God.

Not too far behind me is a 911 C4S in pursuit.

Instantly I feel more awake. I pull out to follow them, if nothing more than to listen to the glorious noises coming from those 6 & 8 cylinders.

Stalking a 348…with a Miata.

They eventually turned off at Mission, but their mission was accomplished. I am now wide awake and making my way home safely and on time for this boat party. Just.

So all in all, a pretty good drive. The best road in BC I have driven (between Pemberton and Lillooet that is). Perhaps I will give the drive to Cache Creek a go next time as I hear it is even better.

Mixed in with the driving, was the thrill of knowing that something is wrong with your car but not being sure what, bonding with a bunch of bikers, meeting God’s disciples, and having some divine intervention by a Ferrari and a Porsche no less.

Thanks to Colin for organizing, and a big thanks to the rest of the bikers on the ride for being such a great group of guys. Until next year!

I promise I’ll get to know my bikes a bit better next time.

The Bike “Crew”. And the guy who drives a Miata.

2 Comments Add Yours

  1. David Budgell

    Enjoyed your take on the days ride Jonathan.
    We really lucked out with the weather. I think it’s been at least two months of waiting for another day that nice!
    Hope we get another chance for an outing that good.


    • Jon

      Thanks for visiting Dave,

      Yes I hope we can repeat that again next year!

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