Category - favorite roads

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Penguins in New Zealand!! Oh yeah, sheep and cows too.
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Milford Sound New Zealand
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Haast to Cromwell New Zealand
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Adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.
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Montana to Wyoming, Beartooth Hwy here we come…
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Our last day in Canada
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Day 7:Banff Area
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Day 6 in Canada
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Jasper to Radium Hot Springs
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Jasper National Park

Penguins in New Zealand!! Oh yeah, sheep and cows too.

Today was going to be another ambitious day of high miles and lots of activities.  While sitting over breakfast we were contemplating what was on our wish list of things to see and do, and the topic of penguins came up.  When I had been researching the trip and where to stay, I discovered that New Zealand had penguins! At breakfast Catherine got on her phone and found a penguin tour that we could take that night out of Dunedin.  It was going to be an action packed day. For most of the morning we enjoyed more green rolling hills with the local “wild” animals.  I don’t think I have talked much about all the sheep and cows in New Zealand. Fun fact: New Zealand has 6 sheep for every person, which is down from the high of 22 per person back in 1982.  That’s a lot of sheep. Not only that but New Zealanders are also out numbered by cattle. We would be gifted with another day of hills dotted with sheep and cows as we meandered our way around and headed south. Ok, back to the trip. Our first official stop would be the Curio Bay and the Petrified Forest.  180 million years ago, some trees got buried by volcanic ash, and they were gradually exposed by the ocean. You can walk down from the upper cliffs to see the strange arrangement and patterns in the ground, as well as these enchanting little mini ecosystems that are formed by water being trapped in pools.  You really had to pay attention to not walk right into these pools because the top looks like glass and their depth was deceiving.  We also got the chance to see the mermaid hair seaweed up close.  It is truly  mesmerizing to watch it slowly move back and forth as the ocean waves some in and out of the small inlet. Later we found lunch at The Whistling Frog Cafe. After another delicious meal we continued and started making our way north again.  Paul had been hinting about a destination that we might be able to see today. He wasn’t giving us any clues, but I thought I heard him say he wasn’t sure if it was open.  When we got there it was such a fun surprise.  We took a right turn onto a small gravel road that ran into a river and we showed up to the Tuapeka Ferry.  Paul waved to the ferry captain who was on the other side of the river.  He acknowledged and started to head over. Paul disclosed to us that he wasn’t sure if the ferry was running or if it would be open.  We found out that it only runs from 8-10 am and 4-6pm.  We got there about 5 min before 4pm.  Talk about great timing again! Paul for the win!  The ferry is hooked up with cables that cross the river, and uses water power to cross the river to ferry cars back[…]

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Milford Sound New Zealand

Today would be on of the most beautiful days of our trip.  The night before we had checked the weather and it looked like it was safe to head to Milford Sound. We had a lot of miles to cover, and we would also be heading into some areas that were used in the filming of The Lord of the Rings.  I didn’t really do too much research, but I can assure you that even without having the exact points plotted out, the areas we would go through today were stunning and more than worthy of a movie location. For your future plans to visit New Zealand, here are the sites of some LOTR locations.  We hit it hard first thing in the morning, and made good time.  Paul rides a BMW R1150, with Catherine riding pillion, and he is a former and current racer, so he kept up a spirited pace throughout the whole day. We had read and been told that there would be a lot of tourists and tour buses, and that the road is long to get into Milford Sound.  I was expecting today to be slow going and possibly tedious.  This would not be the case, and the whole day would be an exercise in good timing,  low traffic, and gobsmacking views.  Part one,  just outside of Cromwell is a section of road that goes through the Kawarau Gorge, home of the world famous bungee jump. Lots of great twisties to start off the day. We did a lot of miles (or should I say kilometers ?) and did not stop at all except for gas and lunch. We stopped for pie in Te Anau.  Paul let us know that we would be having lots of chances to try pie over the next few days. Challenge accepted!! I have already started to fall in love with NZ pies.  I have never liked the American version we have which are chicken pot pies.  I am not a fan of that yellow gooey chicken gravy soupy filling.  NZ pies are filled with meat and cheese or other yummy goodness, but no icky heavy sauce. With tummies happy we continued on. We entered Eglinton Valley, and I imagined myself with the crew of Hobbits and Dwarves as they journeyed. The wide valley space was stunning, and there was still snow on the mountains, and views of waterfalls. Absolute heaven to look at plus the freedom of being on the motorcycles.  We tried taking pictures and video with the goPro.  Frank has mastered the feat of taking pictures with our good camera while he is riding.  We caught up to Paul and Catherine in front of a tunnel opening, already off their bike and enjoying the view, while waiting on the side of the road next to the line of cars for the tunnel.  We took some pictures and Paul said “do you want to wait around 20 min or go with the next group of cars?”  Cars from[…]

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Haast to Cromwell New Zealand

Today would be another short day as we would only be heading to Cromwell.  I had recently met someone who had just been to New Zealand, and she gave me some advice on her favorite things to see here.  We would stop by the Blue Pools today and go through the Remarkables Mountain Range. The sun was out, and the sky was clear, so I was happy. If you have followed along on any of my past trips, you know that I hate being cold. We stopped at Thunder Creek Falls, which have a little pool at the bottom. This reminded me of many films and commercials where someone is at the bottom of a perfect waterfall, bathing in the pool below…so picturesque. Down the road a little further we found the blue pools. Another suspension bridge and a 15 min hike was well worth the pristine cleared aqua blue water that we found beneath a second bridge.  New Zealand really loves bridges, and loves to torture me with wobbly bridges. We soon learned that the water was extremely cold. Locals were taking the plunge, as well as a few tourists.  One gentleman from Canada exclaimed “Whew! that is brisk.  Even for Canada that is cold”.  We only put our hands in, and can confirm that the water was pretty icy. We continued south and passed by two large lakes, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. I was loving the sun and warmer weather compared to the recent rain.  We found lunch in Wanaka, which was a super busy holiday spot with tons of people enjoying the summer sun.  The place was packed, and it took us quite a while to find parking.  Many of the cafes and food stands had lines out their doors. I’m sure everyone thought Frank and I were crazy dressed in full motorcycle gear while everyone else was in shorts and tank tops. Our final push south would take us to Cromwell.  This would be where we make use of Motostays for the first time.  It is a network of motorcyclist that host you in their home for free.  You in turn list your home as a possible place for other motorcyclist to stay. It seemed like a great way to to meet locals that knew all the details about the area and could point us in the right direction, especially all the best roads and sights to see.  We found Paul and Catherine who were located in Cromwell, and prior to the trip Paul and Frank had been emailing back and forth. He gave us a great general itinerary for the whole South Island based on how many days we had, and with that info I was able to plan out where our hotel stays would be. But last night was the last reservation I had made.  Paul told us not to make anymore reservations, because we would have to wait and see how the weather was. So the next few days, we would literally[…]

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Adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.

About 20 years ago, Frank and I almost went to New Zealand.  He was in Australia for work and I joined him for vacation.  Our plan was to do 2 weeks in Australia, then go to NZ.  However, it was winter there at the time, so we decided to go to Fiji instead.  Not a bad substitute at all, but we have talked about going to NZ ever since.  Well we had finally accumulated a lot of frequent flier miles and decided that we could use them on a big trip, and we bit the bullet and made the reservations almost a year ahead of time.  We talked about the possibility of bringing the kids, and maybe even shipping the sidecar over.  But the planning stages of this trip escaped us so quickly that we did as much research as we could but never found anything that would work in terms of shipping our own bikes over. This would also be the longest trip we would go on with out the kids. After lots of research, Frank found Circle NZ, and it’s owner Clive Chapman.  He would set us up on two Suzuki VStrom 650’s.  After a few emails back and forth, they showed us how right everyone is about how friendly Kiwi’s are.  They have a Christmas tradition of going over to a friends house, and when she found out that Clive would be picking up 2 American tourists from the airport on Christmas day she told him to invite them over.  We were just the right amount of curious and crazy and joined over 15 strangers for Christmas! Plus it was perfect timing as we were starving, and they had a feast that all of them contributed to. The other bonus was that Clive and his wife Kasha allowed us to stay in the separate quarters that Kasha’s parents live in as they went on holiday for a few days.  Amazing hospitality and great conversations.  I was already starting to learn a lot of fun new words.  My favorite of the day was “Suckee do”.  That is what our host calls the air vent over the stove that “sucks’ the air out. My VStrom was equipped with 3 hard bags, Frank’s had a hard top box and the soft side bags are SW Motech, and I think I really like the design idea of those bags.  They are waterproof, and the top rolls down just like most dry bags.  This is useful if you need to add stuff to the bags later, like for food or souvenirs or an extra pair of boots… We headed out on Tues Dec 26th, Boxing day in NZ.  very grey and cold morning and about a mile down the road it started raining for real, and we pulled over so that Frank could but on his rain gear.  As we continued I realized that my pants were not covering my boots.  I had brought my water proof ICON Raiden Adventure suit and[…]

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Montana to Wyoming, Beartooth Hwy here we come…

Our 10th day of being on the road would be a day to get some miles behind us.  We needed to go over 300 miles to get to Bozeman for the night, that way we would be closer to Yellowstone.  There wasn’t any sightseeing to be done today. This area looked similar to most areas of the midwest; with large areas of crops going on plains or rolling hills. That night we scored and found a great Chinese Buffet within walking distance of our hotel. The next day we drove the final leg to Yellowstone, going in from the north entrance, and arrived in Mammoth Hot Springs around 11am.  We would be staying at the cabins there.  As soon as we drove into the area we were greeted by an elk. Our luck continued as they let us check in early.  We unpacked and unhooked the trailer. We didn’t needed any extra weight going up Beartooth Highway. We went to lunch at the Terrace Grill at the same time everyone else in the park did, but the service was fast. We made a quick stop at the visitor center and got the mandatory park sticker to add to the sidecar, then we took off, with all four of us on the sidecar. We headed east toward the Towers Roosevelt area, then into Lamar Valley.  We saw so many animals today we lost count. First there was a lone coyote who looked very sickly at first glance, but then he got more energetic like he saw some food to chase.  Next we saw a very young, I might even  say a baby bear wandering along side the road.  Then we saw hundreds of Bison in Lamar Valley.  Frank and I spent the next hour saying Tatonka every time we saw one. We continued out the Northeast entrance of the park and made our way higher and higher up the mountains. Frank and I took turns piloting the Shadow.  It kept getting colder and colder, and the threat of rain was following us a little too closely. We put all our extra layers on, and we set up the kids with jackets. We also have a system for them in very cold weather. We lay a heated vest over their laps (turn it on of course) then cover that with a fleece blanket, and they say nice and toasty warm. We got to the top, to an elevation of 10,947 feet. There was very little traffic up there, and very few bikes. The threat of cold and wet had kept people away. We are never that smart. The weather finally caught us and we put on our rain gear and headed back down. We were literally in the clouds so the going was slow. Our visibility had dropped since we were battling the cloud “fog”, rain, and the fogged up helmet visors. It is always an adventure isn’t it? We made our way back down the mountain, back into the park and[…]

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Our last day in Canada

We had now been in Canada for a week, and had covered a lot of miles at a bit of a whirlwind pace.  It was now time to head south once again, as we needed to start the process of heading back home. We took the TransCanadian Hwy (2) for a bit, then 40 south which is called the Kananaskis Trail. This took us past the former 1988 Olympic Ski event venue, then we continued over Highroad Pass. This is the highest paved pass in canada. and it is usually closed from December to June due to snow. Today it was beautiful, sunny, with sweeping curves and beautiful trees and mountains on each side. We stopped for gas and lunch in Longview. Right next door was a local art museum and we had a nice chat with the owners about the different horse saddles they had on display.  They recommended that we stop at the Bar U Ranch, which was just a ways down the road.  I am really glad we took their advice. It is part of the Parks of Canada system, so admission was free (all parks are free in 2017 to celebrate their 150th).  We got to walk around what used to be Canada’s largest ranch. Frank took the lead and was telling the kids what some of the farm equipment was used for, but there were lots of friendly workers that would tell us about the ranch and all its workings.  We were also treated to see the giant Percherons they use on the farm. Back in the day they had 1000 of these horses working on the farm. We all tried our hand at twirling a lasso and trying to rope a hay bale cow.  We got to talking with the cowgirl that was teaching us and what a surprise, she goes to college in California, but comes back home and works on the farm during summer. Small world, aye? I had to fit that in before we left Canada.  And wouldn’t you know it, we found another set of big red chairs! these ones were easy to spot as they were right out in the open compared to the other chairs we found at the other parks we had been to. Our final stop in Canada would be at the Cobblestone Manor Bed and Breakfast in Cardston.  An unexpected and uniquely decorated place. Tomorrow we would cross the border back into Montana.  

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Day 7:Banff Area

We were not able to hike Johnston Canyon yesterday, so that was our first stop of the day. To get there we took the scenic Bow Valley Parkway.  I am really enjoying all the signs that are in English and French, and Makayla is having fun practicing her French as she took it as an elective last year.  I love this road, as it meanders back and forth it occasionally splits in two, so your side of traffic is all alone.  It is like having your own one lane normal speed raceway through a gorgeous forest.  We get to the canyon, park and proceed to hike up. All I have to say is thank God my fear of heights and unstable things like gondolas and elevators is getting better as I age and not worse.  This trail might even be hard for some people with vertigo issues. No matter what if you are in the area you definitely need to do this hike.  Parts of the trail are attached to the side of the mountain and you are basically hanging over the water.  I kept praying that whoever designed the walkways had a good grasp of physics and planned for 2 tour buses to arrive at the same time, because there was a lot of weight on those things.  The first one had a few loose boards, so it was not confidence inspiring, but I managed.  At the end there is a cave you walk through to get blasted by the mist of the waterfall. Our next stop took us over Yoho Valley Road, which is listed as one of the most dangerous roads in the world.  I chuckled about this after we passed by the one set of hard switchbacks.  I guess some people get really freaked out by steep curvy roads, but it is by no means dangerous.  We eventually get to Takakkaw Falls, which is the second highest waterfall in Canada. The other fun thing was we found another set of those big red chairs!  We are getting good at this game! We  then needed to back track and start heading back south again to try to fit in things we had passed.  We stopped by the sprial train tunnels, hoping that a train would go by, but we were not that lucky. I also forgot to take a photo of the area, but basically it is a set of spirals of train track that go in and out of tunnels to help trains get over the steep Kicking Horse Pass (another great name). Check out the link for some cool history about the project. Our final destination of the day would be Lake Louise.  My pictures don’t do it justice, especially because of the time of day and it was a little grey.  But looking at the lake you get a sense of magic about the place I think because the color of the water is so different, I believe Willy Wonka would approve. There is[…]

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Day 6 in Canada

It was time to leave Radium Hot Springs, but I must admit I kept calling it Radiator Springs.  This little town is known for its naturally-heated, mineral-rich hot pool between the walls of Sinclair Canyon. It is this canyon that reminds me of the Disney movie Cars and Radiator Springs.  We hit the visitor center before we left town, where they had some great displays and a kids area with interactive animal sounds and info.  We were even greeted by some Big Horn sheep right outside.  Thanks to the girl working the desk, we headed to a most unexpected place. The Radium Woodcarver and his strange and whimsical tree house. He does his carvings with a chain saw, feeds goats, squirrels and skunks, and has trick water features that get you wet if you try to open certain doors. Next up was the Paint Pots Hike in Kootenay National Park.  This hike takes you to an unusual orange ochre bed which was important to many Aboriginal peoples who gathered the ochre for centuries for use in ceremony and trade. In the early 1900’s ochre was mined and shipped to Calgary, where it was used as a pigment in paint. Remnants of twentieth century mining are still visible along the trail. Our final hike was up Marble Canyon to a series of bridges across a deep gorge with rushing waters.  I am noticing a trend in this area of the world.  Lots of amazing canyons that have been carved out by rushing glacial waters, each one more stunning then the last. We also found another set of the big red chairs! We stopped for a very late lunch in Johnston Canyon, and planned to hike there as well, but the weather quickly took a turn for the worse. We aborted the hike and jumped on the bikes as the wind picked up and it started to rain.  We headed south as fast as we could and made it to Banff before any heavy rain could get us.  Another great day of exploring in the books.

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Jasper to Radium Hot Springs

We woke up not knowing what today would bring, but boy did we have a variety of serendipitous things happen througout the day.  We first drove to Maligne Canyon, and on the way there we saw a group of 12 or so female and young elk, including what we thought were twins.  They were grazing along the side of the road eating the grass and flowers.  They were really taking their time, so we got to enjoy them peacefully moving about for quite a while. We continued on and soon learned that Maligne, which means means evil or wicked, is a gorgeous hike over 6 bridges that span a deep canyon  with water falls. We got there early enough to just miss the tour buses and tons of people, so off we went. The drive south was so much better today, and my sadness from yesterday was wiped away because it was so much clearer and we could actually see the mountains today. We took this opportunity and stopped many times and took lots of pictures to replace all the smokey ones. It really is a breathtaking view along this road.  For those of you familiar with Yosemite Valley in California, think of that but only twice as tall, twice as wide, and about as long as a third of the State of CA. Around another curvy mountain bend we saw huge group of mountain goats that kept running back and forth along the road. They seemed confused about which way they all wanted to go, and they held up traffic quite backed up for tourist to take photos. Soon we stopped to have lunch at Icefield Centre, and just as we walked into the restaurant and got in line the fire alarm goes off, and they completely evacuate the building.  (we later learned that the smoke from the grill was not going to the vent properly and it set off the alarm) We and hundreds of other tourists had to wait outside for 10-15 min while they made sure everything was OK.  When they let us all back in we basically made it almost to the front of the line, and quickly got food. We were then able to grab a table on the recently evacuated outdoor terrace. It was such a treat to sit outside in the sun, in full view of the glacier. The next thing that happened was almost a Twilight Zone experience.  I was driving the sidecar, and Frank had stopped to take a picture when all of a sudden I see a motorcycle and sidecar on the other side of the road. What really caught my attention was that it had a sidecar that opened like ours, and it looked they there were two kids!  I honked and we all waved at each other.  Then I thought we should go meet them.  Who else could be as crazy as us and travel around with their kids in a sidecar?  I asked the kids if they[…]

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Jasper National Park

The to do list for today was a long one. Our ride would be from Golden to Jasper, in Jasper National park.  I have to admit that today was not a good day.  I was pretty much miserably cold all day until about 3pm.  A major cold front had come down and even with many layers on I was freezing. I thought we would warm up as the day went on, but that didn’t happen.  We stopped at one point to dig out my heavy winter gloves and our rain jackets. That helped a bit. I even rode with my face covered, which generally annoys me, but I wanted more skin covered up. I hate being cold. In addition to the cold, I really let this dark thought cloud loom over me almost all day.  The smoke from the fires was so bad that we could barely see the mountains that were towering around us.  You could make out the shape and see some snow, but there was no blue sky.  I was cranky, the kids were cranky, and I was trapped in this negative attitude about how our vacation pictures were going to suck, and I would have to keep telling everyone how there is smoke in the sky. Plus did I mention I hate being cold? Our first major stop was the Saskatchewan River Crossing, a restaurant, gift shop, lodging and gas station. We welcomed the chance to stretch walk around and go inside out of the cold. They were making fresh popped popcorn, so we grabbed a welcome snack.  I knew we would be back here tomorrow, so I did some reconnaissance in the gift shop area as the side car needed more stickers. The road we were driving on is called the  Icefields Parkway ,which is about 230km.  Fun fact about the waters from the Icefield area: they flow to three different oceans: the Arctic, the Atlantic and the Pacific. Frank was great about pointing this out to us as we traveled.  We would go over a mountain pass and not so suddenly the rivers would be flowing in the opposite direction. He always notices those type of things. The Athabasca Glacier was our next stop and it is the only glacier on the Columbia Icefield accessible by road. It is located at the Icefield Center, and it is a huge tourist destination as you can actually walk on the glacier or ride a tram onto the ice.  We opted to park and walk up the path to the edge of the glacier. There were quite a few signs warning of the danger of not exploring past the ropes or the path. One sign was especially disturbing, as it yelled the tale of a 9 year old boy who died after the area of ice he was walking on collapsed and he fell into a crevase. People tried for 3 hours to get him out, but unfortunately he succumbed to hypothermia. I am always a bit nervous when we[…]

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