“Is it time for a picnic?”
Only pussies do picnics – bikers don’t do picnics.
Karl’s glacier blue eyes look at me with a mischievous smile.
“Is it time for a picnic?” he repeats.
Then Snuffy, our darling-red-haired-trumpet-player scowls, “Come on dude, bikers don’t do picnics!”
Karl-the-Viking-biker-poet howls with laughter, “We do.”
It reminds me of a scene out of Easy Rider.
Then again in some weird way we were the characters in the Canadian version of that movie. Me, the raven-haired artist girl, on the big-ass Valkyrie, Bella the Spanish philosopher on her raspberry sorbet Yamaha and the two “Old Guards”, both riding fifty some years for the Church of Harley-Davidson, not unlike two old bears – one white and one red.
The Bickerson’s I affectionately labelled them. You’d think they were married.
And we ride.
Meandering aimlessly towards the little town of Lytton down Highway One–the Trans Canada–as it dips down into the Fraser Valley. Hot, hot desert canyon. One of my favourite rides here in British Columbia, good for picnics and good for picking sage, another one of my most favourite things to do. Our plan: to pick some “medicine” from the only real plant that flourishes in this desert, not unlike the indigenous people of the area once did and probably still do. And apparently Karl was the man to show us.
“Are we ready for our picnic?”
“Here? I thought we were picking sage?”
“Yeah, you’re right – picnics are no good with rattlers.”
Right. Snakes. And unfortunately the Northern Okanagan plain creeps and crawls with rattlesnakes—not the best place for a picnic. To be honest, other than being under a big sky, inhaling the hot aromatic wind of the sagebrush and maybe catching a little scuttle from a mysterious reptile from one rock to another–this area known as Candy Valley–is not the greatest place to stop and hang out. No candy, no sweets, no shade and no trees—just wind and sky.
“Let’s pick sage!”
Karl looks towards me rather seriously, “There’s no JUST picking sage. You gotta’ leave a little bit of tobacco in gratitude and take only whatcha’ need.”
I follow Karl out on the plain, watch him as he cuts a few pieces off the nearest plant and twists some tobacco from his smoke, he hands me the knife and I follow suit.
We both smile at each other. It’s moments like this when I find the magic in motorcycling. Not necessarily in the physical act of riding, but the experience, the sharing, the exploration and then the stillness. I close my eyes and relish in this sense of freedom.
Riding through the desert is almost religious, or sacred, or however you want to put it and this area along the Number One beside the canyon is spectacular on a motorcycle. It’s low enough in altitude that you can avoid the snow, even when the other mountain passes going into the Okanagan Valley are snowed in, especially the Coquihalla. The four of us have no real agenda, we have a few turns here and there, from the Number One to Highway 12 and then twist high up into the little town of Lillooet nestled under the purple mountains of the Pashilqua people.
Now, to ride with Karl is a bit of a trick.
The three of us know this.
Karl is the leader because it’s essential that you stay away from his precarious lane changes. Basically, there is no “holding a line” – I don’t think that term is even in his vocabulary. Nope. His way is the highway, the whole damn lane and occasionally the lane of oncoming traffic, but I won’t talk about that. Karl looks around—at everything. A little bird, a deer over in the field, that big fluffy cloud that looks like a bunny. You get the idea. So, obviously it’s in our best interest to slow the hell down and ride the same way.
Karl finally pulls over and we discover a sweet little vista that overlooks the Thompson River called Cherry Bluff.
“Good place for a picnic?”
We roll our eyes.
Snuffy grumbles, “Bikers don’t DO picnics!”
But we’re all hungry and there’s no point bickering. We scramble off our bikes, grab whatever food we have in our saddlebags and lounge out on the grassy knoll.
Incredible—the view and even the loot. We gobble down our grub: a little bit of fruit, beef jerky, nuts and even a small bottle of napoleon brandy—just for one little nip. Yum!
That was our picnic?
Karl smiles, “Nah, that was a snack.”
We ride. We have a destination before nightfall. The breeze intoxicates us with the aroma of sweet grass; we are close now to the town of Lillooet and this is good, the sun will soon melt behind the mountains and our precious light will be lost. But for whatever reason, riding onwards does not seem to be in the cards.
Karl pulls over again, this time with the announcement: “NOW we can have a picnic!”
Snuffy scowls, “No damn way! Get your instrument you Fool!”
The purple indigo cliffs of the Cayoosh Creek hold us in her arms as these two riding companions pull out their musical toys.
Snuffy with his brass trumpet and Karl with his half-sized guitar made specially just so he can pack it on the back of his Harley – and the impromptu jam begins.
So, with ‘amusement’ written all over our faces, Bella and I sit on a rock. We both look down at the quaint cowboy town of Lillooet absorbing all the details of this sunset session and music filling our ears. An eagle flies overhead.
It was then, only then, as all four of us rode into our destination town that we unanimously voted to stop in front of a Greek Taverna. With big smiles on our faces, tummies grumbling, we all knew the word PICNIC was definitely going to be on the menu. MMM
More of Lesley Gering’s art & writing can be viewed at www.motorgirl.com, featuring new work painted in lacquer, acrylic and yes – used motorcycle oil! This article is dedicated to my three bears – Karl & Snuffy and the beautiful mama bear, Robin Bacsfalvi. We miss you Karl.