If the opportunity ever arises to go on a ride through British Columbia, don’t hesitate for one moment, GO. That’s what I did as soon as I saw that the third edition of the North American FJR Owners Rally would be held in Castlegar, BC.
Located in the heart of the Selkirk Mountains, this south central area of BC has some of the most spectacular scenery and mountain roads on the continent. So 140 of my closest Internet pals and I gathered in Castlegar to enjoy the company that only like-minded motorcycle owners can share.
The list of attendees reflected the diverse group that inhabits the FJR online forum (fjrforum.com). Riders came from as far away as New Brunswick, Oklahoma, Texas and Maine. Back in 2008 when the first NAFO was being planned, some wise soul made sure to include our neighbors to the north rather than just make this the typical national event. Smart move, as the Canadians have put on some of the best regional rallies, so the NAFOs that have resulted have all been tons of fun.
The format is a pretty loosely organized combination of riding and sightseeing on your own during the day, nightly social activities and tire kicking. The first day a large group of folks who spent the last few days on the road decided to visit one of the several hot springs in the area to soak their tired bones in the revitalizing mineral waters. Small groups planned their own routes to Ainsworth Hot Springs; the one I rode with headed north from Castlegar to New Denver, then east on Highway 31A. Write that down; 31A is one of the best roads in the region. It brought us to Kalso, a quaint village on the shores of Kootenay Lake. There are a number of reasons to spend some time in Kalso, but we were on the hunt for hot water. So we headed back south along the western shore of Kootenay Lake to Ainsworth. With multiple pools of warm, hot and cold water, all overlooking the Purcell Mountains and Kootenay Lake, we spent more than a few hours there.
Other features of this area include long, long lakes formed by the hydroelectric dams that dot the landscape. Normally these could be a hindrance to travel, but a well-planned ferry system makes riding this area a dream. First you enjoy spectacular mountain roads and scenery, then take a short 10-30 minute boat ride before heading back into the mountains feeling refreshed and ready to ride.
In the evening, a Meet and Greet was held with snacks and such to entice all to come out and socialize together. This might not seem so important, but we filled two hotels in town and overflowed to a third. So with people spread out, it was a great idea to make sure we all came together. In time, the group flowed out to the parking lot where farkles and accessories were compared, Dark Siders were chastised and the merits of the Generation 1 vs. the Generation 2 FJR were debated long into the night.
The next day brought the promise of rain in the afternoon. Some decided to stay close to home and check out the sights and sounds of Castlegar. There was, of course, a hardy or possibly foolhardy group that still headed out for a ride, myself included. The reward was mountain scenery draped with clouds, making for a surreal rain forest feeling. As predicted, the skies opened up just a bit past lunch and the ride back to Castlegar was a wet one. But as they say, a bad day on the bike is better than a good day….
Our last evening together featured a big banquet. There was food and drink and laughter all through the banquet hall. Then finally, after dinner was done, the really important stuff happened—door prizes! We were able to raise money for the local Red Cross through the sale of raffle tickets and an auction of some of the really good swag. It was good to give back to the community that welcomed us to this fabulous area.
These events never happen without someone doing the heavy lifting. Jeff Chorel spearheaded the planning, with help from Rosanne Hansen, Jeff Griffiths, Lucie Daneau and Barb Dietrichs, and lots more folks. Thanks to each and every one of them for making NAFO III great!
(This article was published in the Rallies & Clubs section of the April 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)