The Bride Ride

January 1 2008

“I’m getting married, babe” she said with a laugh.

In the background I could hear piano notes floating from a sexy Yaletown bistro.

Really soon…like a month or so… please come, Bella?”

(Squeals of delight)

“We’re getting married on the beach in Tofino.

You should ride your motorcycle over.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?”

That was Robin Bacsfalvi. One of my best friends and riding buddies and one of the most notorious single babes I knew… I laughed.

How perfect. How Robin.

She was finally getting married.

The funny thing was, it was about time.

Her version of the relationship, “We’re hangin’ out”. Yeah…two years later. And even funnier – a baby boy!

Yes, little Ryder.

married on a motorcycle But who was I to criticize or make comments or even point a finger? I could relate. Notoriously independent and, well…who needs a man? We can do it! But yes, this one was different… Steve – Mr. Stephen Bennett. He was one of the most patient men I knew. Oh, so very patient with his smart and beautiful motorcycle love. He waited and finally she surrendered. And in true fashion of a motorcycle mama she demanded a motorcycle as a wedding present…well, voila. She had one. One hot, sexy Harley-Davidson Street Rod, and I was her escort on my BMW winter blue K1200S.

Perfect.

In British Columbia, Tofino is literally the end of the road. If you kept going and going and going – you would end up in Japan. The Wild Wet Coast, The Edge of Vancouver Island, an area known to Captains as “The Graveyard of the Pacific” due to the rocky reaches, foul weather and storms blowing directly off the Pacific Ocean. And somewhere on one of these rough and beaten beaches, Robin had plans to commit to love. And not just any beach – Chesterman Beach, right beside the luxurious Wickaninnish Inn. According to the prestigious Robb Report, The Wickaninnish is one of the most celebrated and lavish Inns from Baja to Alaska – the best the West Coast has to offer.

Our Route

• From Vancouver you travel to Horseshoe Bay and take a ferry to Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

• Once you are in Nanaimo, travel north on Highway 19 for 43 km.

• Take Exit 60 onto Highway 4 (also known as the Pacific Rim Highway) heading west for 156 km. You will drive through spectacular Cathedral Grove, historic Port Alberni (drive straight downhill and turn right at the junction), and around beautiful Sproat and Kennedy Lakes. Travel westward until you come to the junction between Tofino and Ucluelet.

• Turn right at the Tofino/Ucluelet junction and drive north towards Tofino for 28 km.

• Once you pass the Clayoquot Orca Lodge, take the first left turn at the Wickaninnish Inn sign onto Lynn Road.

• Approximately 250 yards down Lynn Road take the right fork onto Osprey Lane and continue for 300 yards until you reach the Inn.

• Your overall travel time from Nanaimo to the Inn will range between 2.5 and 3 hours.

Well…it’s safe to say that with the torrential downpour that graced our riding day it took us more like 5 hours from Nanaimo, but what would a riding story be without a good old fashioned storm. To make matters worse, our bride had forgotten her rain gear. So, off to the side of the road we go, I divided my rubber gear with my forgetful friend. She had every right to be distracted – I mean a new motorcycle, marriage vows, a wedding to organize – despite the tempestuous storm looming overhead soaking us one minute and then stopping the next, I think we were both eager for some time in our helmets. Time to focus our riding skills, time to manoeuvre our new machines and most importantly, time to forget about the stress of wedding planning. My big job for this road trip – to be Robin’s loyal companion and guard her against the elements. All the while, escorting her on one of the most beautiful roads on the West Coast – the Pacific Rim Highway.

Hand over the whip!

I’m sure folks thought we were masochists. Motorcycle masochists. Autumn had just reared her golden head here on the edge of this island coast, riding through mountain passes with slippery moss covered roadways, huge southwesterly storms from the Pacific bringing storms across the land and onto the laps of two girls with barely enough protection. Like always, I knew that despite the torrential weather, Robin was smiling. And perhaps behind that smile was a small amount of fear…not from the insane weather, but for what was waiting for her at the end of the road. Commitment. Marriage. Yikes – the loss of her precious independent single years…and yet, the gaining of a beautiful love with vows and a sacred ritual. This was the adventure. This was the point.

Now, to just get through this.

At some point the cold really hit me. I had given Robin my rain pants and now my leather pants were officially drenched. With my core temperature dropping, the only thing to do was pull over. Ironically, once our motorcycles stopped, that was when the weather seemed to cooperate as well. This served us perfectly as we could check out the beautiful surroundings of Cathedral Grove, an old growth rain forest a few kilometers east of Port Alberni. I was thrilled. There’s nothing better than walking underneath these massive old growth beauties and it makes for a great photo opportunity.

I stretched out on a fallen cedar and looked up into the towering forest canopy and almost surreal green ecosystem, this was a chance for us to admire these impressive monsters. Robin needed to make a call on her cell and I had to laugh – here she was wedding planning on her Harley-Davidson underneath an umbrella of old growth trees – another surreal scene. The tourists seemed to find us amusing if nothing else.

Yes, we were riding today. Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was wet. Of course we were having fun! Yes…yes…yes…

We both looked at each other – better ride again before we get chilled.

The road along Highway 4 is breathtaking – unfortunately I barely remember it. The rain hit us so hard it was difficult to see the pavement. There were a couple of times I had to focus on my breath, the feeling of being underwater on a machine is suffocating to say the least. This is when it pays to have a good helmet. I was worried about Robin and her three quarter cut helmet, the sting of the rain was like frozen needles on my neck, I couldn’t imagine how she felt.

Eyes wide open.

The next stop was the Tseshaht First Nations Totem Poles. Here we gassed up, grabbed a snack and I gave Robin my red scarf to protect her face from the elements. It was better than nothing. I stood by these totems, intrigued by the words on the plaque:

“At the core of Nuu chah nulth society lays the belief that all aspects of nature live. That all things are connected to each other and come from the same place; that the humans, the animals, the elements, plants, trees, water, the air and the earth, all have value, and all have a voice. Before the life of a tree is taken, a ceremony respecting the life of the tree is performed. It is after this ceremony that the pole is carved. Once the poles have been completed the eyes of the pole are closed. They are reopened and life will come back when the poles are ready to be raised.”

Eyes wide open…hmmm…I walked out towards the forest and closely examined my surroundings. This was a gas station and a tourist stop now, but at some point it had been an ecosystem abundant with clover root, cinquefoil roots, camas bulbs, crab apples, blueberries, salal berries and rivers full of salmon. Sigh. I just never really knew what to say about these sorts of emersions. The first nations people hanging onto their tradition and trying to educate us white folk but in the same breath the tension and the frustration between the two cultures. And yet, I understood. In some way, riding through the elements, the sense of survival, my companion beside me watching my back – the handful of salal berries that I picked on the side of the road. At some point, a long time ago, this was a journey that might have happened for different reasons with different explorers but today I wanted to honour our journey and I placed a buttercup on the foot of the great Thunderbird Totem and then raced off before the storm started up again.

Robin was right beside me.

The next leg of the journey was a blur. On my sunny ride home at the end of the weekend, I was able to appreciate the gorgeous purple canyons along the lake and the towering cedars along the crystal riverbanks. But presently, I was practicing my breathing again. I even started chanting “Ohmmmmmmm…” Like some hippy rider, I discovered helmets have good acoustics. It’s times like these you realize you love your riding partner. Like really love them. Trust them explicitly. Neither one of us had any visibility. The storm off the ocean was blinding and bloody cold, we knew we were getting close to the edge of the Island simply by the salt smell in the air; we just needed to survive this last stretch. To make matters worse, the highway along the lake was in terrible shape. The road was hopelessly uneven and there were bumps every fifty feet that almost knocked you off your bike. Warning signs had been put up, barely accounting for half of the uneven terrain, plus, you add poor visibility…after a couple of nearly-broken-wrist moments, I slowed down cutting our travel time down even more!

Ta da!

Like some magical fairytale, the rains stopped. And in the same breath, there she was – The Pacific Ocean. We’d made it to the edge of British Columbia. Night was falling but there were wisps of silver light delicately balancing on the horizon. Our ears were filled with the orchestra of crashing waves against driftwood and salty crisp air in the wind leading us that way…that way…you’re almost there… We grabbed a little bottle of Jagermeister from our saddlebag and made a silent toast, barely standing, barely there but we were so close…we knew it. They were going to be so relieved to see us. We made it. Robin’s lips were blue. I’m sure mine were indigo. We could barely smile…our frozen grins.

That way. That way, Bella. MMM

For more stories and artwork by Lesley, go to www.motorgirl.com.

 

MORE ABOUT THE AREA

Protesters protecting the old growth forests converged on Tofino beginning in the 1980s to campaign against clear-cut logging, sparking the largest mass arrest in Canadian history – more than 800 people – in 1993.

When the Wickaninnish Inn (www.wickinn.com) opened its doors eleven years ago, welcoming visitors to the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island, the goal of the opening team was to create the “best hotel on the west coast of North America, from the Baja to Alaska”. Recognition from Robb Report Editors affirms that the team has achieved that goal. “We are honoured to have our name associated with a prestigious magazine like Robb Report”, says Charles McDiarmid, Managing Director, Wickaninnish Inn

A windswept Tofino beach, bleached driftwood, old-growth forest, and the Pacific Ocean’s horizon – this is also a surfer’s paradise to those who can tolerate the icy waters.

Tofino is a gem secluded on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia, Canada. At Tofino’s doorstep is the Clayoquot Sound region, a world UNESCO biosphere reserve. This area boasts one of British Columbia’s most prized nature reserves, Pacific Rim National Park.

Whale watching, storm watching, hiking, surfing, hot springs excursions and beach combing are just a few popular activities at Tofino’s doorstep.

A few of the websites devoted to the town’s tourism market are listed below.

• www.tofino-bc.com

• www.gotofino.com

• www.mytofino.com

Over the winter months, storm watching is popular. Plus, it’s incredible! You will find competitive rates on accommodation during these quieter months. However, be very cautious venturing out into the storms on the beaches, the waves can reach world record sizes and cause many deaths to tourists. During the busy summer months, I recommend you reserve accommodations well in advance – last time I showed up in peak season I had to set up a tent on my friend’s lawn.

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