In July of 2016, three ladies set out on a 3-wheeled adventure through Washington, British Columbia, Montana, and Idaho. I'm one of them, Jenny Linquist, photographer and co-founder here at Pack Animal. Lily Brooks-Dalton is a writer, teacher, and author of the memoir Motorcycles I've Loved. Lindsay Merkle has been a mover and shaker in the high end audio equipment world for the last 7 years, as well as our comedic relief on the trip.
We're all adventurous ladies who have been riding motorcycles for quite some time but this was Lily and Lindsay's first trip on three wheels, and our first trip together. I'd actually never met either of these women before we began this adventure together, but after a week of shared meals, sore muscles, braiding each other's hair, roadside tire changes, and collective eye rolls at guys who couldn't understand how we were on this trip without our boyfriends or dads, I have this strong and priceless bond with two forever friends who know me more intimately than most ever will.
We were on two brand new 2016 Ural Gear-Ups, giving them the ultimate shake down test of about 2k miles roundtrip. Each of us took our turn in the side car to play navigator, catch up on texts or emails, take photos, or completely zone out. We're grateful to Ural Motorcycles for giving us this opportunity to become so intimately acquainted with their machines. They're not the fastest motorcycles out there, but we're pretty sure it's not possible to sit on one, ride one, or even look at one without smiling from ear to ear. Special thanks also to Aether Apparel for keeping our bodies as dry as scientifically possible on this very wet trip, and CLIF bar for nourishing our bellies.
For this trip we were traveling with four of Pack Animal's first generation saddlebags, and one duffle bag prototype. I did my best to document every little thing on this trip from beginning to end, but due to the all-too-frequent downpours we encountered on the road, there are some obvious gaps. If you have any questions about our route, scroll to the bottom and click the map. If that doesn't answer your question, leave a comment!
We took off from Seattle on a ferry to Bainbridge Island. On our way up to Port Angeles we stopped at Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm to stretch our legs and devour some lavender ice cream. Another ferry ride across the straight of Juan de Fuca and we were on Vancouver Island, BC, where we made a quick stop in Victoria. It was already late in the afternoon so we found a grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken, spinach, instant mashed potatoes, and fresh berries before setting up camp at a beautiful spot in Bamberton. It was raining when we arrived and, in true Pacific Northwest fashion, it continued to rain through the night.
After packing up our soaked tents and bundling up with every water repellant layer we had on hand, we rode North to Nanaimo to catch one last ferry to mainland BC. We learned the hard way (twice) that you should be present at the ferry terminal 30 minutes prior to departure (instead of the suggested 15) if you want a spot on the boat. After finally making the crossing we enjoyed the beautiful curvy coastline of the infamous Sea to Sky Highway, and it definitely lived up to the hype. We pulled off the highway a few times in search of the dirt roads Urals are made for with beautiful views of Canada's westernmost mountain ranges all the way to Whistler. Lindsey leveraged her boss lady status and scored us a free night at the Westin, where the bellhop laughed in disbelief as we loaded our saddlebags, helmets, and sopping wet tents onto his luggage cart. We welcomed a night of luxury as it gave us a chance to dry out all of our camping gear by the fireplace.
We packed up slowly and walked downtown to find crepes for breakfast among crowds of mountain bikers taking advantage of Whistler's gorgeous weather and summer trails. The landscape felt more and more wild as we rode Northeast, passing countless lakes and rivers with the sun shining down on us. A quick snack break at Duffey Lake was delightful. More important lessons learned: gas stops are really for stretching and in Canada grape flavored Gatorade is called "raisin." Somewhere along the road Lindsey's pocket knife flew out of it's case, opened when it hit the ground, and flew right past my helmet at 60mph. Without a camp plan we made it to a grocery store in Kamloops to grab spaghetti fixings and firewood and then we took off looking for anything other than an RV park. After a little bit of exploring, we found a dusty road hidden away between sagebrush covered hills and decided to set up camp there. Our Ural trunks turned into a makeshift kitchen and we ate our pasta dinner by the fire under a sky full of stars.
Bellies full of oatmeal and hair braided, we made a quick cloud of dust donuts before taking off from our strange little dead end road in the hills outside of Kamloops. We were beyond excited to hit the road because we knew by the end of the day we would be right inside the limits of Banff National Park.
It was smooth sailing through lush green forests until the back tire on the Ural I was riding blew on the Trans Canada Highway near Revelstoke. Fortunately the third wheel on the sidecar turns the bike into a pretty stable tripod even with a flat, and the 2016 Ural Gear Up comes with a spare wheel mounted to the trunk. All things considered, we were in an ideal situation for getting a flat at full speed in the middle of nowhere. We pulled off the road, managed to get screen shots from my husband of the maintenance manual from Ural's website on my phone, and got to work with our tools. A kind farmer from Saskatchewan pulled over and insisted on helping even though we told him multiple times we could do it ourselves. In the end, we appreciated the help since he probably saved us an hour of frustration.
With daylight waning we sped off on the fresh wheel, determined to make it to to Banff since we'd reserved a room at Simpson's Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. If it weren't for the reservation we might have stopped early, because it was probably the coldest ride of our lives. The night was DARK, as we rode through curvy mountain passes better seen in daylight with no street lights and pouring rain only making visibility worse. We were surprised to come across a stretch of highway covered in shattered marble sheets that must have slid out of the back of someone's truck. Rain and fog welcomed us into Banff around midnight, and we wouldn't realize until morning what a beautiful place in the Canadian Rockies that lodged was nestled into.
Hot showers and the view of glaciers melting into Bow Lake were enough to get our tired and sore asses out of bed. This was the one day we didn't need to crush miles in order to get to the next destination, so we took it easy and spent the morning by the lake. Water from the previous night's ride had found it's way into my cell phone, which slowly fizzled out over the course of the morning. Just as we loaded up our gear and got on the bikes, the rain picked up again and would stay with us for most of the day. We rode up and down the Icefields Parkway to see what we could see, usually not bothering to take our helmets off because it was the only way to keep our heads dry. The sun finally greeted us at Moraine Lake and it was about as picturesque a view of Banff as you could ever get.
Our goal for the night was to find a place to camp where we wouldn't get soaked all over again, and we found it in Kananaskis, in a big colorful teepee with three cots just for us.
Gloves stuffed with hand warmers, we put on our favorite playlists and hit every big puddle we could find on our way out of the Canadian Rockies. Calgary was our next destination, and we headed to Calgary Cycle City where some nice guys replaced the tube in our busted tire. We also stopped by the mall to replace my waterlogged phone (and maybe get matching custom hats made).
After a few hours of long straight highway and EVEN MORE rain, we saw the lights at the Sunset Motel in the tiny town of Fort McLeod and called it a night. Apparently we were 15 minutes from a place called "Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump" - where the First Nations people of Canada would kill buffalo by driving them off the 36 foot high cliff where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin to rise from the prairie. Who knew?! We grabbed burgers next-door at the A&W and watched the Calgary Stampede from our motel room, and I fell asleep wondering how the hell we ended up in this strange place.
We stormed Tim Horton's drive-through for donuts, stopped to smell the flowers on our last stretch of Canadian roads, and aimed for Montana. Glacier National Park's views are impressive as soon as you enter. We must have pulled over a million times in the four or five hour stretch we were inside the park. Every time we came around another bend it just got better. I'm sure we would have felt the same way about Banff if it didn't rain the whole time we were there, but this day in Glacier was sunny and delightful and the perfect way to wind down our trip.
That night I talked the girls into a night of glamping (not that there was much resistance) at Glacier Under Canvas. We picked up some fresh berries from a roadside stand and for the first time during the trip, made it to our "campsite" with enough daylight left to actually relax, spread out, dry out the rest of our damp clothes and gear, cook dinner together, and reflect on our trip. The comfy king size bed was a nice surprise, as were the hot showers.
My memory of these days is a bit of a blur, because after Glacier, there weren't any sights left to see on our checklist, only our final destination. These were long, straight days spent entirely on I-90 passing through Montana, Idaho, and Eastern Washington. We did our best to kindly engage with strangers at gas stations who were interested in our bikes or our story, though we had to take turns because the questions were practically the same at each stop and we grew tired of it by the end. There were many gas station stretch sessions, laying on the pavement in a shady spot trying to rehydrate enough to make it to the next stop. We may have even stopped for cheap massages - no one warns you that the inability to countersteer, the constant pushing and pulling on the Ural handlebars and leaning into each curve, is a constant arm & core workout.
We were relieved to finally make it to Skykomish, a small town in Washington's Cascade mountain range, to meet up with our guys, dogs, and friends. We spent our last night at a cabin nestled in the woods alongside Foss River, taking our dogs on sidecar rides, hot tubbing, and sharing stories with friends.