Oct 7, 2021 Road Trip
Barrman mounted his Honda ST 1300 and looked into the bright sky. How long will you stay with me? He asked the sunshine. The glorious yellow glow lit the sky and warmed his heart.
But only seconds into the ride the Fifty-one-year-old kid stopped and turned back. The chill in the autumn air gave him pause.
This ride called for long underwear.
It was early October and the glorious rays of a fall day beamed down. In the shadows, the air was crisp and cool. A road trip on his bike warmed his heart even while it cooled his body.
He looked forward to riding Westside road to the Salmon River Road then on to Salmon Arm. His buddy from Calgary was there at his campsite. After far too long the high-school buddies were going to meet up for a weekend connection.
Westside Road is a motorcyclist’s dream and Barrman was looking forward to dancing with the corners on his trusty machine. Traffic was heavy on Highway 97 but he knew that once he turned off on the back road to the Shuswap he would miss most of the traffic that was clogging the arteries of the Okanagan.
Man and machine connected in a way that is seldom matched and the aging rider felt his youth pour back into his soul as he wound his way north along the lake. The first stretch of corners greeted Barrman as he passed the small community of Traders Cove. A smile widened his lips as rolled on the throttle and danced with the road on his 700-pound motorbike.
Days were getting shorter and Barrman knew that the sun was sinking lower every minute. He felt the cool air caress his face and smelt the aroma of the road. Pine trees and humidity coalesced to fill his nostrils with a happy glow. It was a smell of life, of fall, and of rejuvenation. Every day the sun sank to the west a few minutes earlier. With the sun dropping, so too did the temperature.
The rider looked into the distance and saw the road winding in front of him. Left, then right, then straight, and around the next bend. There was no room for error and no time to stare into the beauty beside him. For a minute the road straightened out and he paused to catch his breath. He admired the scenery for that split second. Then it was time to lay over his machine again and roll the throttle open as he sped out of the next set of corners.
Time passed in a slowing instant as the lake and mountains stood there watching the man fly his machine between them.
Then came the devastation on the side of the road.
The White Rock Lake fire burned a huge swath of land and this was the eastern edge of its path. A path that consumed over 81,362 hectares of forest and still smolders on. It will not be fully out until the snow smothers the last burning embers.
Barrman slowed and his heart ached when he saw what was left of so many homes and buildings. He passed the remains of the community of Killiney Beach. He slowed his machine so he could see the forest that was burned beyond recognition. A lump formed in his throat when he thought of all that was lost to mother natures fury. The fire didn’t choose its victims, it was a random reaction as it swept down the mountainside. The rider was amazed at the way some homes were nothing but rubble and yet only 100 metre’s away stood a house untouched. Was it because someone stayed to fight? Or was it random luck? His thoughts returned to the road as it twisted and narrowed on its path northward.
There were spots the fire was nowhere to be seen. Then there were areas of complete devastation. He wound his way through Parkers Cove and into the Okanagan Indian Band territory. Barrman’s heart sunk when he saw the remains of The Little Kingdom store. It has been a stopping place for many rides along the Westside Road and now it was a burnt-out shell.
It was gone.
Barrman slowed his steel horse and felt the lump on his throat grow. Would they rebuild? Where could he get the Salmon Jerky again? So many memories flashed in his mind as he rode past the destroyed structure.
His ride up westside road was almost over.
The sun was almost gone.
Barrman stopped at the last pullout before he returned to Highway 97 B and added a layer of clothes. His clothing could warm his body. His ride would warm his soul.
The highway towards Kamloops was busy with trucks and sports cars. He cruised at the pace of traffic. Only 20 kph over the speed limit of 100, it seemed the way it was these days – no one does the speed limit except some random few dawdlers. In no time at all, it was time to turn off and go up the Salmon River Road.
Salmon River Road is a nice winding road that connects Highway 97 with Highway 1 just west of the town of Salmon Arm. Traffic was light and Barrman sped by the first couple cars he saw. Leaning his machine over on the series of corners he thrilled with the joy of it all. He was that young man again that rode the winding paths of life.
As Barrman rode through the village of Silver Creek he reflected on how much danger the place was in from the wildfires that have plagued the British Columbia interior for thousands of years. Only now, they seem worse as the climate has changed. Just past the quiet village, he saw the remains of a forest fire from not all that long ago. The landscape of BC has been charred by many fires over the years and it will continue to be touched by the fury of mother nature.
There is not much anyone can do.
Our intrepid traveler’s ride was almost done and he looked forward to seeing his brother from another mother once again.
The last rays of daylight disappeared as the two long-time friends embraced in front of Brettman’s trailer. It was a great time to see each other. They both laughed and remembered when they met on their motorcycles thirty-plus years before. In their minds, they were the same young men who rode the backroads of Alberta all that time ago.
Except Barrman’s body reminded him that he was no longer that seventeen-year-old boy anymore.
As life races on, no one remains untouched by the ravages of time. Two old friends sat in front of the campfire and in their minds they felt the same as they did all those years before.