Ride of Memories

Dale Bike

Just before the ride

How many truly special moments have you experienced in your life? If you could create a movie of all of those special moments,  how long would it be? If you were to compare that with how much time you have lived so far, what kind of percentage would that work out to be?

Perhaps like me, you get up early Monday to Friday and go to work, come home, eat supper, maybe watch some TV or use the computer, then go to bed. On the weekends you might sleep in a little, go for a long walk with the dog, spend some time on the computer, watch a movie, or do some chores you would rather not be doing on your day off. However, once in a while you might do something special, like spending some time with family or friends, or doing some activity you really love. These are the moments we live for; the moments that make life truly worth living. Unfortunately, these are also the moments we often don’t make enough time for, or take for granted at the time.

I thought about this a lot on my last motorcycle ride. Although I ride to work every day, this ride was special. I had ridden to Kamloops to see my Dad, but I took the long and scenic Duffy Lake road to get there. While this might not sound too special, for me it was, because it had been several years since I rode a motorcycle anywhere other than work or University.

Several years ago, my wife and I used to ride a few hundred kilometres almost every other weekend during the summer months. For a short day ride we often went North to Whistler. On long weekends, we would sometimes head west into the BC interior, or south into Washington, or even east to Vancouver Island. A few times we went for rides that lasted a couple of weeks, and travelled along beautiful twisty roads in Oregon, California, and Montana. Unfortunately, those riding days are just a distant memory now, but they still remain some of the happiest times of my life.

In the past few years, I have found myself reflecting on my life more often, and wondering if I’m really making the most of it. I usually imagine a chart showing years across the bottom, and a jagged line going up and down like a commodity on the stock market. My goal is to try and have most of that jagged line in the upper “happy” portion, compared with the lower “unhappy” portion. While it’s easy to plan a vacation that would give you a week in the upper half, some things you don’t plan can drive you deep into the lower half. That’s life. Sometimes I even wonder if the best years of my life have already come and gone.

Looking back, I feel that my last great peak was almost 10 years ago in the summer of 2003. My wife and I were on a two week vacation and we were riding through Glacier National Park in Montana. It had been a great ride so far on my cherished YZF 750, with lots of beautiful twisty roads to enjoy. At one point during the ride through the park, I stopped by the side of the road to just soak it all in. There was a tall majestic snow capped mountain peak in the distance, a couple of spectacular waterfalls, and lush green grass with a sprinkle of colourful wild flowers. It was as if I had walked into a painting of a scene that could only exist in someone’s imagination.

Glacier National Park Montana

Glacier National Park Montana

As I stood there, I thought about my life up to that point. I had been through a lot of tough years, but the past three or four years had been among the best years in a long time. I was living in a nice new condo that my wife and I owned, I had a good job, I had a lot great friends I could ride and socialize with, and I finally had a really nice motorcycle. Even the rest of my family were all pretty happy and healthy at this time. How much better could life get?

At that moment, I realized how truly precious this moment was. I tried to savour every detail of my surroundings; the way it looked, the way it sounded, the smell of the mountain fresh air, and the feeling of the sun on my face. I knew that there would be many times ahead of me where life would seem to do it’s best to beat me down, but for now, this moment, I was truly happy. I felt that if I remembered this place clearly enough, whenever I needed to come back here, I could just close my eyes and the sights, sounds and smells would come back to me, and the feeling of peace and happiness I was feeling at that moment would return.

Even though I realized my life had just hit a rare and special peak, it was tinged with a bit of sadness. I knew that in the next few minutes my ride through Glacier National Park would be over, and a few days after that this enjoyable trip will also be over. However, life at that time was still pretty good. I could never have imagined that over the next three years my life would spiral down to a depth lower than almost any other time in my life.

By the summer of 2006, I had lost my mother to cancer, my job, and a couple close friends I rode with. I had even been forced to sell my cherished motorcycle. Also, since we had recently moved from our tiny condo to a new townhouse, we had to find almost double our old mortgage payments. To add to the stress, I had also started a University course to finish my degree which compounded the financial difficulties, and also erased all of my free time. It was as if everything and everyone I cared about was suddenly taken away from me. I wasn’t living life any more, I was surviving it.

While I still had my health, a roof over my head and food on the table, by the summer of 2010, even these last few things seemed to be jeopardy. After being laid off for a third time, I had decided to start my own business, and although it was slowly growing, the revenue was nowhere near enough to live on. As the date for my EI benefits running out drew closer, the thought of becoming homeless was beginning to seem like a very real possibility.

During difficult times like this, relationships can sometimes be strained to their breaking point. Ideally, while one person in a relationship is going through a tough time, the other person will be there to offer support and encouragement. Unfortunately, the person I needed support from was also drowning in a sea of despair herself. At one point, we were both unemployed at the same time.

Around this time, I kept having a recurring dream, or should I say nightmare. I was riding my motorcycle through the Fraser Canyon on my way back home. I was leaned over taking a right hand curve, but for some reason, I was drifting wide. There was a large truck coming toward me in the oncoming lane, and I could see myself heading straight toward it. I remember watching the front of the truck coming closer and closer until the inevitable impact. At that moment I would be jarred awake and find myself lying in bed with my heart racing. Although I wouldn’t claim to be clairvoyant, there have been times when I have sensed things that have come true later. The question I asked myself was, is this just a dream, or my destiny?

For me, birthdays always seem to force me to evaluate my life, and act as a constant reminder that I’m getting older. When life is going great, I never want it to end, however, when life is in a tailspin, the end doesn’t seem to look as ominous. After several months of working from home, my spare bedroom office felt more like a jail cell, and my home had become a prison. I felt if I didn’t do something to break free of this prison I would lose my mind. Since my birthday was coming at the end of June, I thought it would be nice to celebrate it by going for a nice long ride. I wanted to enjoy the feeling of carving through a twisty road on two wheels one more time before I possibly lost everything. As well as having some fun, there was always the outside chance I would have an epiphany on the ride, and come up with a million dollar idea. On the other hand, if the recurring dream I had came true, I wouldn’t have anything to worry about any more. Either way, I could feel a change in my destiny was about to happen really soon.

I remember hearing a funny quote somewhere: “If you want to make God laugh, make plans”. I never could have imagined that my plan for a birthday ride would get screwed up by a job interview. I also never could have imagined that two weeks later I would be working at my old job again. The only explanation I have is to say my plans were changed through divine intervention. Not only was my previous employer kind enough to hire me back, I was even allowed to have every other Friday off to finish my degree. Suddenly, I went from having no future at all, to having something to work towards and hope for the future. To say they saved my life is not too far from the truth, and I feel I owe them a debt of gratitude I can never repay.

Two years later, and seven years after I started my University program, I was very happy to finally receive my Degree with Distinction. I had sacrificed a lot of time and money to get it, but the feeling of pride and accomplishment is something I will carry with me the rest of my life. The only sad part was my mother never got to see my graduate, however, a part of her was with me that day. On my last trip to Kamloops, I removed a leaf from a tree planted in my mother’s memory, and that leaf was inside the pocket of my vest, next to my heart, as I crossed the stage.

Now that I was finally finished University, I wanted to enjoy my life again, and do all the things I couldn’t do for so long. Top among those things was going for a nice long ride on a motorcycle.

Around this time, August 2012, my brother phoned me to say he was coming down from Prince George to visit our father in Kamloops, and thought it would be nice for me to come up and visit as well. I thought it was a great idea, and I looked forward to riding up there to see them. I imagined a nice scenic ride up through the Fraser Canyon, and perhaps taking the Hope Princeton highway on the way back. It had been a long time since I went for a nice long ride, and I was really looking forward to it. I never could have imagined that my plans would be changed by a simple tip-over while leaving my driveway that left me with a broken collarbone.

I still went to see my brother and father, but since my arm was in a sling, I had to take a Greyhound bus instead. Not the kind of trip I had imagined. It was eight months later, with a mismatched yellow panel on an otherwise orange bike, and a collarbone that was still aching, I finally went on my long awaited ride to see my father.

Although I was looking forward to seeing my dad and his wife, and enjoying the ride along the way, there was another more important reason. A few weeks earlier I found out my dad had prostate cancer. He was having an operation to remove it, and I wanted to visit him before surgery. While I was confident everything was going to be OK, the fact that my mother passed away from cancer in 2006 was on the back of my mind.

During the time my mother was dying, I rode to Kamloops along the Coquihalla highway every two weeks. For this trip, I was adamant that I was not going to take the Coquihalla. I just didn’t want to have anything to do with the memories of that time of my life, especially under these circumstances. Although I originally thought a nice ride along the Fraser Canyon would be a good idea, after some consideration, I eventually decided to do an even longer route via Whistler. I really wanted this ride to be special, since I had no idea when I would have the chance to do a ride like that again.

Flying Swan Cafe

Flying Swan Cafe

Back in the “VROM” days (Vancouver Riders of Motorcycles), a decade or so ago, most long rides began with breakfast at the Flying Swan. Julia used to run the little café, which was adorned with motorcycle memorabilia everywhere you looked. I was introduced to Julia by my co-worker and fellow riding friend Bog. Between 2000 and 2004 we shared a lot of good times together.

As I walked through the door of the Flying Swan, I was glad to see it hadn’t changed, at least in appearance. What had changed was not being able to hear Julia’s enthusiastic greeting: “Dale, how’s it going, it’s so good to see you”. Instead, Julia’s elderly mother greeted me with a conservative smile, and showed me to an empty table. I was glad to see it was busy; at least business was good. After placing my order with my waitress, I walked over to the wall of photographs. It was nice to see some old familiar faces, and pictures of happier times on many of the VROM rides. Occasionally I would see a picture of myself, or a picture I took. If only I could build a time machine and go back to those days.

Mural of Julia riding her Honda CBR 600 F4i

I struck up a conversation with my waitresses and found out it was Julia’s ex sister in law. I told her a little bit about my memories of Bog and Julia, and she shared some memories of Julia as well. It felt good to be visiting the Flying Swan again before going on my long awaited ride. It was almost like a special ritual that had to be done first.

Although my ride had started the moment I left home, I never really felt like I was on a special memorable ride until I saw the sign telling me I was entering the “Sea to Sky Highway”. A few minutes later, I saw the blue water of the inlet, and the white capped mountains in the distance. The smooth twisty road stretched out ahead of me, and I felt a long lost sense of elation at thought of the ride ahead. The weather was beautiful, although the wind was still chilly when riding in the shadows.

After a few minutes of riding I saw a sign saying Porteau Cove. A feeling of sadness came over me as I passed the sign. I remember hearing the news about Ethan being killed at Porteau Cove on a ride to Squamish. Somehow, he crossed the center line on a right hand corner and crashed head on with a Jeep Cherokee.

I was supposed to be on that ride, but my wife had a meeting to go to that night, so I missed it. In hindsight, I’m glad I wasn’t there. It was hard to imagine that someone I was riding with just a few days earlier had met such a tragic death. It was also the first of four motorcycle related accidents I would attend.

I rode into Squamish and stopped by the Starbucks there. As expected, there were at least a dozen motorcycles parked outside. I’m not sure what it is about Starbucks that seems to attract motorcycles like a moth to a flame. This was the main destination for many night time rides with the VROMies. I always wanted to go, but I was usually walking the dog while my wife was cooking supper. Sometimes on those walks, I would see my friends riding over Burrard street bridge on the way to Squamish and wished I could be going with them, but being married comes with obligations.

After getting gas at the Chevron station at the other side of town, I turned on to the highway to head towards Whistler. The long straight road ahead just seemed to be beckoning me to open the bike up a little bit and eat up some miles. Suddenly I could see a traffic warning sign above the road that read “Motorcyclists Watch Your Speed. Ride Safely”. The superstitious part of me began to wonder if this was a sign meant just for me, so I decided to take the “sign” seriously. I backed off the gas a little and resumed a more conservative pace. A minute later, a police car drove past me in the oncoming lane.

The ride towards Whistler was a breathtaking experience. Every once in a while, I would find myself looking at an incredible mountain range, and thinking how lucky I was to live somewhere so beautiful.

Most of the times that I had arrived in Whistler it had been my final destination. This time, it was not even the half way point to my final destination. Although the road improvements done for the winter Olympics had made my ride quite enjoyable so far, those nicely paved roads with sweeping corners were about to come to an end. It was a slightly twistier and bumpier ride to get to Pemberton, but that was nothing compared to what lay ahead.

As I passed the McDonalds in Pemberton, I thought about one of my VROM rides. I was on my way to Kamloops to see my mom and dad, but thought it would be nice to ride with my fellow VROMies since they were also heading that way on a weekend ride. For some reason, we ended up leaving late, and missed meeting them at the Flying Swan before they left. However, I was really happy we managed to meet up with them at the gas station in Squamish. What started as a day of missed opportunities had seemed to be a good day of riding after all. From there it was a nice group ride into Pemberton, and it brought back some good memories of Sportbike West and our trip to California.

After everyone was gassed up, we were ready to get going to Lillooet where we would all have lunch together. However, my wife decided she was too hungry to wait until then, and wanted to have something now. Although I wasn’t too happy about this decision, I tried not to get too upset about it. After all, there would always be other rides or parties in the future. I never realized until later how that decision would come back to haunt me.

As I rode along the winding road out of Pemberton, I started to get my riding legs back a little. This was a good thing since the uphill switchbacks were coming pretty soon. Unfortunately, before I reached them, I had caught up to a small red car. Unlike the Sea to Sky Highway, there are not too many passing opportunities on the Duffy Lake road, so I had to be patient and wait for a safe place. Minute after minute passed, and rather than seeing a nice open road as I imagined, I was staring at the back of this car.

Suddenly, just as I was contemplating a somewhat aggressive pass, the little red car put his signal on and began to pull over to the side of the road. I guess he realized he was being tailed by a slightly impatient sportbike rider, and decided to be kind enough to let me pass. I flew past the little car, and gave him a wave to say thanks. Now I was happy. The road was finally mine to explore, and I was going to enjoy every minute of it.

After riding mostly uphill for several kilometres, I noticed the temperature had cooled off significantly. Not surprising since there were traces of snow starting to show up on the sides of the road. Higher and higher I climbed, and the traces of snow began to look more like snow banks. I wondered if I should pull over and put on a sweat top, but then I thought about how hot it was going to get on the other side of this mountain. I thought “an hour from now I will be missing this cool breeze”. A few minutes later, I was thinking “cool breeze? I’m freezing my ass off.”

Snow Ride Manning Park

Snow Ride Manning Park

I began thinking of one of my most memorable early VROM rides. It was late in the riding season, and a few riders planned a ride to Manning Park. However, by the time we reached Hope, some riders decided to turn back because it was too cold. A few brave (or crazy) riders pressed on, but there were moments when we wondered if it was wise to continue, especially after seeing snow on the sides of the road. Thankfully we all made it safely to Manning Park for a hot lunch and a good chat. On the way back we all posed next to a snow covered parking lot nearby for the brag picture. It was one of those rides I will never forget, and every once in a while when reminiscing with my old friends, one of them might say “remember the snow ride?”

Sportbike West 1999

As I rode on, eventually the road began winding down a little, and I finally began warming up. A few minutes later I saw a familiar looking lake on the left. It brought back memories of my first ride to Sportbike West. My friend Bog had told me all about this gathering of hundreds of Sportbikes, and it reminded me of the Isle of Man TT. I really wanted to go, but since I didn’t have a bike of my own at the time, I rented a Yamaha Seca for the trip. This was the spark that got me back into riding after a four year hiatus. I had a really great time on that trip, and on my way back home along this highway, I pulled over to take a picture. I ended up putting that picture on a cork board in my cubicle at work, and stared at it hundreds of times over the next few years.

After an hour or more of riding, I was starting to get pretty warm in my leather jacket under the baking afternoon sun. As the road began to get really twisty again, I knew that I would be arriving in Lillooet pretty soon, and I could finally get something to drink. But first, I had to navigate a very windy road with steep cliffs that followed the river hundreds of feet below. Even though the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful, I couldn’t spend too much time looking at it, because I would have a very long tumble down to the bottom if I went over the edge.

It was a nice feeling of relief when I finally reached the gas station just outside Lilooett. I took a long relaxing break in the shade while enjoying a cool juice, and figured the most challenging part of the trip was over. No more patches of gravel, sudden bumps or giant cracks in the road to worry about. Best of all, there were no heart stopping tankslappers this time.

Once I felt rested enough, I set off for the next leg of my trip. As I passed through the junction towards the highway, I took a long look up the hill towards the centre of town. I began thinking of the last time I rode a motorcycle here. That was the ride my wife and I had lunch in Pemberton rather than Lilooett. I remember how happy I was arriving at the restaurant in town, and finding my friend’s bikes were still parked outside. I hoped there would still be enough time to have a coffee with them before they left, but they were just walking out the door as I parked my bike.

I remember having a chat with Bog outside the restaurant, and he mentioned they were thinking of watching a movie in Kamloops, and asked me if I wanted to come. I told him   couldn’t this time, but I would love to meet up for a movie next time. Although I was sad that ride didn’t go as planned, I thought there would be always be another time when we would watch a movie, or ride together. I never could have imagined it would be the last time I would ever talk to him. He was killed a month later while riding to Lytton.

While I could spend a lot of time thinking about what I wish I had done differently; how I wish I had taken more time to be with my friends while they were still here, I had to remember the main purpose of my ride. I was going to see my dad and his wife, and make new memories I will cherish. I reminded myself I needed to think about what I had to look forward to in the future rather than wrestling with the regrets of the past.

The road to Cache Creek was much smoother, but unfortunately a lot straighter than the Duffy Lake road. While I enjoyed the nice scenery and challenging corners, it felt nice to be on a road that wouldn’t bite back if I wasn’t careful. After a relatively uneventful ride of about 45 minutes, I arrived in Cache Creek. It had been a very long time since I was last here. It was almost a regular place to see in my twenties, but times change, and I haven’t been up north in many years now.

I was feeling a bit anxious to finally get to my Dad’s place, and caught myself riding at speeds that were a little higher than I should have been. Every once in a while I would force myself to slow down a bit and take it easy. I didn’t want to ruin what had been a good ride up till now. Several minutes later, my patience paid off, and I finally rolled into my father’s driveway.

It was so good to see my Dad and his wife again. We sat outside in the garden for a while before heading to the balcony to barbecue some steaks for supper. As we sat and enjoyed the wine and sunset, my Dad said “We’re losing the sun, son”. It sounded so funny we had to laugh. Although hearing those two different words being said together was funny, there was something else. Since I never grew up with my Dad, I wondered how many times has he had the chance to look at me and say “son”? On the other hand, how many times have I had the chance to use the word “Dad”? I think that’s what made that moment so special and memorable.

A little while later, my Dad and I talked a little more seriously. He wondered about how many more times we would see each other before he is gone. We had missed so much of our life together already, and over the years it had only been a few days here and there. It seemed like there was always somewhere else we needed to be, or something else we needed to do. I reminded my Dad that I would be back in 6 weeks, and we would probably see each other this fall at his mother’s place. Yes; one more day in a few weeks, two more days in the fall, and another year would be gone. If we put all those days together, we might only have a month or two left to spend time with each other. It was a sobering thought.

The next day I had to head home. Although my detour route along the Duffy Lake road had made for a pleasurable ride, it meant my time with my Dad was shorter than I would have liked. I was thankful that I had made plans to come back in a few weeks, but next time I would take a shorter route. My Dad and his wife made sure I had lots of food and drinks for the trip home, as they always do. I felt almost like a kid whose parents were making sure their child didn’t get hungry on the long trip back. I guess age is irrelevant, I will always be their son, and they will always be my loving parents.

There were a couple reasons why I had decided to go home via the Hope Princeton Highway. The first was I wanted to avoid the boring Coquihalla, but the more important reason was because I wanted to visit a very close friend. There have been a lot of people throughout the years I have called my friend, but Stormy is different. I have known her since I was four years old. She even came to visit my brother and I while we were still living in England, and that’s where our friendship grew stronger.

There are very few people I know I could call in the middle of the night, and they would drop everything to be there for me. Stormy is one of those people. I know that because it happened once. I was with some tree-planting friends, and they gave me some brownies, however, they also contained an extra ingredient I wasn’t aware of. By the time I found out, I had already eaten a couple of them.

To make matters worse, they decided to go out to a place called the Ivanhoe in a less than desirable neighbourhood, and I went with them. While I was there, I decided to call Stormy and told her the situation. She dropped everything and raced over there to take care of me. By the time she arrived the effects of what I had eaten were definitely kicking in, and I was completely out of it. The moment I saw her, I felt like I was looking at my guardian angel. I have never been so happy to see someone in my entire life. She took care of me all night, and made sure I stayed safe. I will always be grateful to her for that.

I left Kamloops and followed the Coquihalla to Merritt. I was thankful to get off the Coquihalla as it started bringing back some painful memories of my mother. After getting gas and having a drink in Merritt, I started heading along a two lane highway towards Kelowna. A little while later I turned off that highway to take a smaller twistier route towards Princeton. I had ridden this road a few times before, but that was a long time ago. It’s funny how you remember little things here and there when you see them, but you would never be able to recall them just from memory. Every few minutes I would have a Déjà vu moment. While the road was fairly twisty towards Princeton, it was in pretty good shape, so I was able to relax more than riding the Duffy Lake road.

I stopped at the Chevron Station in Princeton to fill up. Memories of one of my first VROM rides started coming back to me. I was riding my old Kawasaki at the time, and it was having some minor engine trouble. Whenever I opened up the throttle aggressively, it started spluttering like it was running out of gas. By the time I limped into Princeton, I could see Bog and a few other riders sitting down drinking coffee. I noticed Ethan just coming out of the station with a Starbucks coffee in his hand, and I asked him if they had been there long. He replied “this is my second cup”.

After getting gas, I phoned Stormy to arrange to meet in Hedley. About twenty minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of our meeting place, and within seconds, Stormy also pulled in. She greeted with a big long hug, and an even bigger smile. Although she had been going through some rough times, it was nice to see her happy. We talked for almost an hour about everything we had been up to lately, as well as remising about some good times in the past. Unfortunately, it was only a short visit, since I still had a long ride ahead of me.

As I was getting ready to leave, she said “The last time you rode up here was when my mother passed away”. She barely made it to the end of the sentence when the tears began to flow. A year after I lost my mother, Stormy lost hers. Not only was it a great loss for her, it was also a loss for me as well. Stormy’s mother was a very close friend of mine, and her loss hit me pretty hard.

Memories of her came flooding back to me. At times, she reminded me of the grandma from the Beverly Hillbillies. I think it was partly because she grew up on a farm, and was a very tough strong willed woman. Also, her silver hair was always tied in a small bun at the back of her head. However, rather than a long dress she always wore jeans. Even when she was in her late sixties, she could still swing an axe to chop firewood. Although I had always considered Stormy’s mother a friend, the last few years we became close friends.

Part of that friendship came from the fact that we both had a love of ancient history; not the kind of history typically taught in history books, but the type that inspired movies like Chariots of the Gods. She had spent years researching dozens of books trying to find the hidden truth about our long lost history, and the fascinating world we live in. Sometimes I felt like Neo talking to the Oracle, or Mulder from the X-files searching for the truth.

During one of my talks with her, I said I wanted to write a science fiction story about some of the things we had discussed over the years. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until she ended up in hospital for a brief stay that I thought I should stop procrastinating and get writing. A few weeks later, I showed up at their home with the first chapter. As the months went by, the chapters grew. I really enjoyed reading my latest chapter with Stormy and her mother whenever I came to visit, and they always made me feel special.

Also, not only did we share a love of the mysteries of our world, she was also an ex rider herself. She told me all kinds of stories about her riding friends and the bikes she rode, like Harleys and Triumphs. One time, I said I wanted to write a short story about her motorcycle adventures, and take a couple of pictures of her next to an old motorcycle like the one she used to own. We arranged to go to the Trev Deeley Museum, but since they were only open on weekdays, I had to take the day off work.

I remember heading over to her place with great excitement and anticipation of the day we would have together, but unfortunately when I arrived, Stormy was gone with the van. We waited, drank some tea, talked, and waited some more. Minutes eventually turned into hours, and by the time Stormy returned it was too late to go. I was going to re-schedule, but due to my procrastination I never got around to it. Shortly afterwards, the land they were living on got sold to a developer, and they were forced to move to Keremeos.

A few months later, I remember getting a phone call from Stormy saying her mother was in the hospital again. I rode over to Princeton to visit her, and I also took my mini tape recorder with me. I was looking forward to having a chat with her and hoping we would have some time to talk about her riding adventures for that story I had planned to write. Unfortunately, she was much sicker than I had imagined. Also, because she was having a reaction in her throat to the medication she was taking, she couldn’t speak at all.

While my hopes of recording any of her riding stories were gone, I had managed to bring something special for her; the latest version of my science fiction story. However, this time it wasn’t just another chapter, it was the outline of the entire story from start to finish. Before I left home, I had been desperately trying to work out how everything was going to fit together, and wanted to share it with her. Although it was a bittersweet story telling experience, she seemed to enjoy what I had put together for her. As I left the hospital, I told her how much she meant to me, and promised I would return again soon.

A few weeks later, as promised, I returned to the hospital for another visit, but this time she never woke up. Her condition was very serious, and it appeared that the end was near. I sat next to her and held her hand for a while, and wished I had spent more time with her when I had the chance. I thought about all of that knowledge, and all of those great stories that were locked away inside her, and because of my procrastination, they would be lost forever. Not only that, I was also losing one of my closest friends.

After so many people I cared about had passed way in the last few years, I felt almost numb with grief by this time. When it was eventually time for me to leave, I kissed her on the hand and said “I‘ll see you again on the other side”. As I rode home along the Hope Princeton highway that night, she passed away.

Six years had gone by since that time, but it felt more like six months. I looked into Stormy’s eyes and said “I remember that time”. I walked over to Stormy, and gave her one last long hug before setting off towards Hope.

The highway was almost as twisty as the Duffy Lake road in parts, but the condition of the road was much better. I found myself hanging off the bike a little bit in a few corners. I hadn’t done that in a long time, and it felt great. Unfortunately, the deer were also enjoying an evening beside the highway as well which was not so great. Thankfully, there weren’t any really close calls this time, just a few nervous moments to keep me on my toes.

Along the way I passed Manning Park and saw the lodge I had lunch at during one of my rides. A few minutes later, I noticed the spot where the snow picture was taken. By that time I was starting to feel a bit chilly whenever the sun hid behind the trees or mountains, and had to pull over on the side of the road to put my sweatshirt on.

After arriving in Hope, I got some more gas and ate some of the food my Dad and his wife gave me for the trip. The sun had just set behind the mountains, but there was still plenty of light out. I was glad because there was one more important stop to make before going home. I pulled out of the gas station and went into the grocery store nearby. Thankfully, they had what I was looking for; flowers. I looked at all of the different colours and shapes on display when one of them jumped out at me. They were mauve, Julia’s favourite colour. Without hesitating, I purchased them. The hard part was trying to find a way to carry them. Eventually I was able to squeeze them into my jacket, and set off for my last destination before home.

I knew Julia’s spot was near Hope, just before a left hand corner, or if you’re heading into Hope, a right hand corner. I had only been there a couple of times, and the last time was several years ago. I was hoping I would be able to find it OK, preferably before it got too dark.

I began to head towards Boston Bar, although I would not be going that far. I scanned the scenery on both sides looking for clues to remind me where the spot was. Once in a while I would notice something that would get my hopes up thinking I was close, only to have them sink as it turned out to be wrong. On and on I rode through the Fraser Canyon. I began to wonder how far I should ride before giving up. I really wanted to find Julia’s spot, but if I didn’t find it soon the light would be gone. I began second guessing myself, have I missed it, or is it still ahead. When should I turn around? What if I turned around, then realized later if I had just gone one or two kilometres further I would have seen it. How far was too far?

After riding for over half an hour, I made the reluctant decision to turn back. I could feel the bouquet of flowers in my jacket pressing up against my chest as I began to head for home. Although I was a bit sad at not finding Julia’s spot, I began to notice how beautiful the scenery in the Fraser Canyon was at dusk. The tops of the mountains still had a bit of sun shining on them, and there was certain kind of calmness in the air, giving a serenely peaceful mood. The temperature was perfect, not too hot like Kamloops, and not too cold like Manning Park. There was also no-one else on the highway except me. I began to feel a sense of being one with the bike and my surroundings. As I rode along the highway, the bike seemed to melt away from my view until I felt like I was flying rather than riding a motorcycle. As each corner came, I gracefully flowed through them like an eagle soaring between the trees. Suddenly I realized that everything about this moment was perfect. I began to think to myself, “Life doesn’t get any better than this”.

And there it was again; one of those elusive perfect moments. One of those moments where you feel that this is what makes life worth living. A moment that will become a treasured memory you will hold on to and cherish for the rest of your life. I also began to wonder how many times I had experienced one of these special moments, and how many more will I experience before I’m gone.

I recently watched a Japanese movie called “After Life”. It was about a group of people who had died and gone to a waiting area between earth and heaven. They were given three days to decide on a single memory that they felt was the most special for them. After they chose this memory, they would spend the rest of eternity living in that moment. While it took the people in the movie three days to come up with that special moment, I decided on mine before the movie ended.

For me, that moment I had in Montana, riding through Glacier National Park on my motorcycle, was probably the moment I treasure the most. However, it wasn’t just because of the beauty of the scenery, or because I was riding my favourite motorcycle, it was also because it was one of the happiest times of my life. It was also a time when all my friends and family were happy and healthy, and I was able to enjoy doing something I loved with my wife.

Just as I was enjoying this perfect moment of bliss, I saw something ahead that grabbed my attention. There was a gentle sweeping corner to the right, and I thought to myself, “I’ve seen this corner before”. I slowed down a little, and after taking the corner, I peered into the darkness and found what I was looking for. I pulled over on the side of the road, and began walking towards the spot I had been trying to find for over an hour. In front of me stood a white cross about five feet tall, with Julia’s name on it.

I walked a bit closer, and noticed that the paint was chipped and fading. On the ground beside the cross was a tipped over vase full of dead flowers. It looked like no-one had been here for a while. I picked up the vase and placed it back down on its base. I carefully took the flowers out of my jacket, and after realizing they wouldn’t fit in the vase, dug a small hole with my fingers next to the cross, and planted my flowers. After a few moments of reflection, I knelt down next to the cross, closed my eyes and said a small prayer to Julia.

I remembered how she lent me her motorcycle to ride to California, and later lost her life at this spot riding that same bike. It’s times like this when I’m thinking about Bog and Julia and how they died, I wonder why I still ride. However, when I think about how I felt a few minutes earlier, it becomes easier to reconcile. While I still fear the thought of getting into an accident, living a life with no special moments to make life worth living is something I fear more.

After one last look at the flowers I had planted, I walked back towards my bike. Now that I had completed the final stop of my two day journey, it was time to head home.

The long ride back along the highway was more tiresome than exhilarating. The only view that caught my attention was the endless stream of red lights that represented all the cars ahead of me. As I pushed on through the night, I thought about my life, and those moments of happiness and sadness that I had experienced along the way. More important though, I realized how my outlook on life had changed since that special moment I had in Montana. When I reached that peak of contentment ten years earlier, I soon had a sense of dread that my life could only get worse from that moment. When I had that same kind of special moment a couple hours earlier, I felt more like a surfer at the top of a wave; enjoying that blissful moment while it lasted, but also looking forward to riding the next wave that was coming along. It had been a long struggle, but finally, life was good again.

By the time I arrived home, I could tell by the darkness of the windows that my wife was already in bed. I put the bike in the garage, patted the gas tank as if it were a horse, and said “thanks for getting me home safely”. Although I was happy to be home, I was a bit sad that the trip was over. I began to think about what lay ahead. In a few more minutes I will be sleeping beside my wife, and a few hours after that I will be back at work, toiling away in front of a computer. After work I will come home, walk the dog, eat some supper, watch some TV, check my e-mail on the computer, then go to bed. The day after that, I’ll probably do the same thing all over again. After a few brooding seconds, I had to remind myself tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet, and for those last few minutes of what had been a wonderful weekend adventure, I paused to savour the moment.

I have heard people say that in the last few seconds before you leave this earth, you will see your life pass before your eyes. My only hope is when I get to watch the movie of my life played out in those brief few seconds, my collection of special moments will leave me feeling that it was a truly worthwhile journey.


Leave a Reply