There can't be too many places people travel to in order to watch the weather. But every winter patrons cram the hotels lining Long Beach on Vancouver Island's west coast and do just that. The next stop from there is Japan, and the 5,000-mile Pacific expanse between routinely unleashes much of its fury at the BC coastline. Howling winds and torrential rain slam the beaches in a spectacular demonstration of nature's power.
Life may be a beach, but our tour of the Pacific Rim starts in a mountain resort. Whistler, British Columbia, the host for the 2010 Winter Olympics, is also the base for Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Holidays. Company owner Brandon Douglas meets our touring group at the Summit Lodge, one of Whistler's best kept secrets, a reasonably priced boutique hotel that offers a friendly, personalized, and most relaxing atmosphere.
Rocky Mountain's fleet of mostly Triumph and BMW motorcycles is also garaged here, and by 8:00 a.m. sharp the next morning we've all assembled, bikes and travelers, in front of the lodge to begin our week-long tour. I've chosen a Moto Guzzi Breva with hard luggage for the trip - though guests are free to swap bikes if they like, and I plan to try out some different models. The fleet includes Sprint STs, Tigers, Bonnevilles, Thruxtons (with bar risers!), and BMW RTs among others.
Our early start is occasioned by the fact that we have ferries to catch. Our route will take us south to Horseshoe Bay, just north of Vancouver, for a ferry trip to the Sunshine Coast. BC's inner coastline (east of Vancouver Island) is shredded by fjords, so ferries are an essential element of coastal travel.
My fellow guests have traveled from England, Australia and the USA to join this Pacific Rim Tour, a new offering from RMMH. All are repeat guests, having taken at least one Rocky Mountain tour before. Some, including Lynn and Nigel King from Derbyshire, England, have been on numerous trips offered by the company.
Sea to Sky
The run south to Horseshoe Bay is one of the most spectacular coastal rides anywhere - except for the stretch of construction work going on to widen BC 99, the Sea-to-Sky Highway, in preparation for the 2010 Olympics. Picture though, if you will, a winding tarmac trail carved out of the cliff side with a single rail line perched on another cutout below, and beyond that a vertical drop into the ocean. Before the construction, it was (and will be after, although wider) a sport-biking paradise of twisty tarmac, even with the fun-dampening presence of the RCMP.