Our Vancouver BC motorcycle trip was so over-the-top spectacular. So, I probably won’t know where to end, this will be part 1 of 2. We planned this to be different than any of our previous moto-vacations.
First, instead of National Parks and thousands of miles riding, we are going to the city (Greater Vancouver is around 2.5 million). And, we’re staying in one place for over a week! Then we’ll ferry over to Victoria for a couple more days.
I will use myself as an example as to not offend any others who may not be self-aware, or who go around saying such nonsensical things such as, “We’re number 1”. You know who I’m referring too ?
So, when I’m thinking of visiting a, “foreign” country, with their own, traditions, culture and pride (Hockey is NOT the only sport that matters), I try to not be an, “Obnoxious American Tourist”.
Without belaboring the issue, it’s nice to remember; Canada is a foreign country….unless you’re Canadian of course. It’s not part of the States and they’re rightfully proud of everything Canadian (and I’m a little envious).
Vancouver BC is only 470 miles from home, a relatively short travel for us and we are anxious to get up there and start the fun. We call these, “travel” days where we move a longer distance without much in the way of sightseeing stops.
As we head up into the Cascade Mountains toward Mt. Hood (elevation 11,000′) there is plenty to see, but this is our backyard and the highlights are easy to reach on a Saturday ride. Knowing that, we don’t hesitate to keep it pointed northwest at highway speed along Hwy 26 to Portland.
The goal (obstacle) of the first day is just to get through Seattle and it’s infamous traffic. With that in mind we planned our launch, timing the Emerald City for mid-day, as far from the ever increasing morning and evening rush hours (and hours) as possible.
I guess it could be worse, but traffic was starting to back up at Tacoma, and then it got worse. The next two hours will be awful.
There are three basic choices traversing this mess, if you need to stay on the east side of Puget Sound (we did)…….
I-5 goes up the middle and drains downtown when everyone gets off work……..
I-405 is the east side loop with traffic from Bellevue, Redmond (Microsoft) and about a million other drivers……at this time of day it seemed a toss up, we stayed on I-5.
The third (sometimes) option would be to use the Express Lanes. Not the HOV lane, but an actual freeway that switches direction depending on time of day, with limited exits and ramps.
Afternoon, the lanes are open to the north with a single lane entrance which was backed up (stopped) for a couple of miles. I thought it was going to be faster to stay on the slow, but moving main I-5……..WRONG!
We should have endured the snails pace “get on” because later as we were putting a foot down every 10 feet, we could see the express lanes whizzing past at 60+mph. For the next couple of hours we could have gotten off and walked faster than the two wheeled beast was moving.
Karla had a fourth option……..”Never, ever again do I want to see Seattle, or anything within 60 miles of Seattle.” Thinking this slogan was not going to make the tourism department’s top ten, we kept it to ourselves.
We have a few travel (Karla) rules (Don) guidelines……one is how many miles we will cover on our longest (travel) days. The number while still under debate, is 400…sometimes less (Karla) sometimes more (Don)….OK, usually less ?
We reached Bellingham at almost exactly 400 and checked in under a light drizzle (Seattle sunshine), relieved we would not be starting the next day in traffic.
Our alternate route would have been to stay on Hwy 97, riding the east side of the Cascades and then crossing over in northern Washington or southern BC.
On the next trip (there will be another) that’s going to be our plan. It will take an extra half-day to reach Vancouver, but worth it to miss Seattle.
However, there are some really great things to do in Seattle…… first I must convince Karla…..the plan would be to go west of Puget Sound and stay in Bremerton, then ride the ferry into Seattle. We’ll see.
In 2019 we did do a Seattle trip as part of our, “North Cascades National Park” motorcycle tour
We shipped a package UPS to our hotel a few days before we left home. With hiking boots and Camelbacks that were too bulky to carry on the bike, we really needed these to arrive before we did.
I guess I misunderstood the process and we had not, or could not pay customs fees ahead of time. We were out to dinner the night before leaving and my phone kept ringing (my phone rings all day) and I was ignoring it, thinking I would check messages…..but it kept ringing.
When someone calls me more than once or twice, it usually signals a problem at work….day or night.
I answered and it was the hotel manager with the, “UPS Guy” who she told me kept saying, “Call again, this is their boots and they’re going to want them.”
It was his last delivery of the day and he was leaving on vacation himself……but it was the start of a National Holiday in Canada and if he couldn’t get the customs thing fixed, we would not have gotten our package. She put him on the phone and we got it done, but what a guy!
He said he wasn’t going home until he knew we were covered…..You Canadians !!!!!
We are here to hike and eat….but mostly eat. We compiled a list of vegan restaurants as we planned this trip last winter. It got way better on our first stop.
“Meet on Main” looked like our kind of place, and was it ever a score. As soon as we arrived we met Jeff, a part-time server and full-time vegan adventurer. Jeff had taken an extended road trip and ate his way across something like 40 of the US states. He is exactly the kind of guy we like to meet on these trips, super friendly, knowledgeable and well….Canadian.
He noticed our logo and asked about our travels, but most of all he wanted to make sure we had a great time in Vancouver. He asked what was on our list and said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes, I want to give you a list.” As soon as he had time he came out and wrote a list of vegan restaurants that, “you can’t miss.” Thank you Jeff, I hope we meet again.
When I say Karla loves to hike, I am not kidding….actually, I’m crying out for help! We got the, “Compass Card” which is the pass for the Metro and bus lines around Vancouver….but in such a beautiful city when you have the time, why not walk?
The streets are clean, the people friendly and it’s just a great place to explore. So, we did ride the train and the buses but whenever possible, we walked.
Stanley Park is one of the city’s main tourist destinations, attracting approximately 8 million visitors each year. Featuring lovely beaches, miles of well-maintained paved and dirt trails.
It also is home to Canada’s largest aquarium, and an array of can’t-miss kid-friendly spots (including a pool, water park, miniature railway and more), this 400-hectare (1,000-acre) haven is recognized as one of the greatest urban parks in the world.
With all that, we chose to rent bicycles and ride the 6 mile Seawall path around the park. We went Sunday on the long weekend of, “Canada Day.” Crowded, congested & downright dangerous was our experience. Canada Day is, “similar” to our 4th of July. But you’re in Canada and it’s their holiday, not a knock off of ours 🙂
Not only was it, pedal to pedal crowded, but some, “tourists” seemed to not understand the one-way nature of such a busy place. I mean thousands of people; some of whom I’m pretty sure had never been on a bicycle before that day, were off like a colony of drunk ants.
It was a blast but not without a few close calls; never going down, the collisions kept you on your toes. This is like riding a motorcycle.
We make pretty incredible vegan pizza at home, and once….just once we ordered one from one of the, “best” places in Bend, OR.
Not so at, “Vegan Pizza House” on Kingsway in Vancouver! They have 18 pies, some with vegan cheese, Lasagna, Donairs and more. Unbelievable at a great price and wonderful people. Here we met Raul, who must hold the title of Co-King of vegans in Vancouver. Raul was so friendly you could not help but start a conversation. He sat down and made his list of, “can’t miss vegan restaurants” many of which he knew the owners……remember this is a city (greater) of 2.5 million people. Raul knew the backstory of lots of places and history in Vancouver. We ate, we shared, we laughed and upon parting we hugged…..he was that kind of guy.
Granville Island is an old industrial area that has been saved and modernized to now exhibit, galleries, shops and the, “Granville Market.” Getting to the island (not actually an island) will be challenging given the single road in and lots of traffic.
Parking can also be an issue, go early & ride a motorcycle. We call it, “Pirate Parking” not illegal as in we would never use a disabled parking space, but we find places to leave the bike where a car would never fit.
I think some enforcement folks must have a higher tolerance for motorcycles, as long as we are not blocking traffic, no one has ever asked us to move, or ticketed us.
On using GPS to find Granville Island
We rely heavily on GPS in these areas where we have never traveled, and for the motorcycle trip to Vancouver BC, we needed it to work. The Granville Island bridge goes high over the, “Island” but doesn’t allow you to exit onto the island.
As we passed over, and could see below where we wanted to be…..the GPS thought we were on the streets below…..as I began to hate the voice, he would say, “turn left”…..and I replied, “We’re on a bridge damn it, I can’t turn”…..he was unaffected and said, “Recalculating.”
We had to figure it out on our own, and we finally turned the GPS off. Once, I threatened to rip it from the dash and throw him into a dumpster as we passed. I then realized it was an electrical box, not a dumpster……
Canadians keep everything so clean and attractively painted, I can’t even spot a dumpster ? When you don’t know where you’re going, you try one street, then another and so on. Ultimately we crossed that damn bridge 6 times, 3 times each way, getting closer with each mistaken turn.
We ate on the docks and watched things go by…….
Artists are everywhere. Here are block prints in the making
There is so much to do in Vancouver BC. It’s a motorcycle trip and vacation you will enjoy.
To be continued in another post……There is so much more! Please check back in a few weeks.