7-24-04  Jasper, British Columbia to Smithers, British Columbia... 

            ...a close encounter of the electrical kind.

          I got an early start (for me) around 9:30 AM, but gained a free hour crossing the border into British Columbia.  The Yellowhead Highway passes through the high country around Jasper and slowly works its way down the mountains, following the Fraser River Valley.

          There was much beautiful scenery to be admired.  At the Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies, I wandered around in grassy fields and took pictures.         

Mount Robson

         During this part of my trip, I kept passing an elderly lady wearing a floppy sun hat and driving an old BMW convertible, top down.  She moved leisurely with the road.  I saw her first at Mt. Robson, and after that initial sighting,  I would pass her, I’d stop, she’d get ahead of me, and I’d pass her again.  I began waving to her as I went by.  Finally, we both stopped in the same rest area and I said “hi”.

          She must have been in her seventies.  After removing her sun hat, she walked in sunshine along the banks of the Fraser river, talking to some of the picnicking families.   After a brief while, she returned to her car and tied her hat back on.  I preceded her out of the parking lot and didn’t see her again.   She seemed to be enjoying her journey.

          As I dropped over the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies, the landscape flattened out and the air temperature warmed.  I stopped frequently at roadside parks, always along the Fraser river.

Following the river

          The small towns in this part of Canada were invariably neat and well-kept.

Small town

          I ran into my first extended stretch of road construction.  Because of the extended wait, I shut down the bike and walked around.  The delay was for 10 –15 minutes, and when we were released, we drove over new asphalt.  I could feel the heat of the freshly-laid pavement radiating off the surface through my boots.

Construction zone

          I stopped one last time before reaching Prince George.  I shed my inside liner and rolled up my long sleeved shirt and packed both.  Shortly after beginning to roll again, one of the innocuous cumulus clouds overhead dropped a light rain, just enough to dampen the road surface. About the same time,  two small black bears, one crossing the road in front of me and the other sitting in a roadside ditch, marked my first observation of big game in BC.

            It felt hot in Prince George.  The sky looked capable of generating some weather.

          It began to sprinkle again as I pulled into Fraser Lake.  The sky appeared threatening, but to the west seemed clear.

           At Fraser Lake, I found an abandoned gas station where I  parked the bike and watched the clouds to see which direction the storms were moving.

Frazier storm

          Instead of clearing, it darkened to the southwest.  Rain increased in intensity, and lightning played overhead.

          It still looked as if there was an opening to the west.  After a cup of coffee at the adjacent restaurant, I decided to give the rain package its test.  I bagged the duffel with a garbage bag, pulled on the new rain boots, and added the rain jacket and pants.  The boots were a struggle to pull on, barely large enough to slide over my motorcycle boots.

            I pulled out.  Rain quickly increased and began sheeting on the road.

            As the road crested a hill, there were two simultaneous flashes of lightning, one hitting the top of a hill a few miles ahead and one hitting to my immediate right on the adjacent hillside.  The second flash was so close I could see the shaft's thickness, and a blue aura on its edges.  With the flash came a sound like a huge truck tire exploding, a giant "BOOMPF!".  There was no sustained rumble of thunder, just one hard, flat crash as the sound rolled over me.

           I hunched forward and increased my speed.

           A short time later, I ran out of the storm.  It retreated to the right and behind me.  There was sunshine ahead and it began to warm up again.

            At my next opportunity, I pulled into a rest area and doffed the rain gear.  My feet were dry.

             I gassed up at Burns Lake and thought about stopping, but I wanted to make Smithers for the day.  The ride turned into work.  My back started hurting, so I leaned forward over the tank bag and rested my helmet's chin guard on the surface of the fuel tank below the windscreen.  The wind noise immediately dropped, replaced by the drone of the engine, and the post-weather buffeting eased.   My vantage point, from a point of view stuck out over the front of the bike, was a little unnerving.  The steering felt slightly twitchy.

            I finally pulled into Smithers at 8:45 PM. and booked a cheap hotel, a really cheap hotel.  There was no air conditioning.  There were strange inhabitants.  There was lots of activity in the parking lot, since the hotel contained a liquor store.  Saturday night, alright, please don’t touch my bike.

            The hotel was  noisy… lots of yelling and engine noise.