By Marissa Baecker
For the long distance traveller who aspires to cover great distances on a motorcycle, there is a weekend in British Columbia that draws like-minded riding enthusiasts. The riders that gather at the Motorbike Rally for Travellers are most likely member of the “Iron Butt Club”.
The Motorbike Rally for Travellers, scheduled for Thursday, August 2 through Sunday, August 5, 2012 and is held annually at Toad Rock Campground in the heart of the Kootenay’s in Nelson, B.C. or what the locals refer to as Mother Nature’s playground when it comes to outdoor activities – mountain biking, hiking, fishing, boating, rock climbing, dirt biking and an established arts and culture calendar.
The weekend is designed to be a relaxed weekend of riding, camping and information sharing with evening slide shows of rider travels. Don’t’ expect big crowds and rock music at the MRT as numbers are about a hundred people or so.
The rally is open to all makes and models of bikes but for those who prefer the adventure style riding, a two day side excursion of enduro riding, training and overnight in the wilderness was so well received last year that it is planned again for 2012.
Most travellers have arrived by Friday just in time for a welcome barbeque of bratwurst and beer. However, if you would like a little guided travel adventure of your own, plan to be at Toad Rock for Wednesday evening as Thursday morning at 8 a.m. a group of riders will head to Whatshan Lake campground for an overnight trip and then back to Toad Rock in time for the welcome barbeque.
Past presenters include authors Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads). Cormier spent close to five years travelling the globe on his motorcycle. His story is fabulous and includes an element of a love story as he met his wife in South Africa. With Africa holding a special place in Cormier’s heart, he now guides travellers on African excursions offering a combination of paved and dirt roads. If you want to ride Africa visit his website at www.renedianadventures.com.
Ted Simon is another incredible motorcycle traveller with several publications to his name (Jupiters Travels, Riding High, The Gypsy in Me and Dreaming of Jupiter). His travels are so extensive that he formed the Ted Simon Foundation to ‘encourage and assist travellers in making an extra effort to develop their observations and insights’ to share with the rest of the world in their chosen medium. This year’s presenters are still a secret at this time but promise to be equally engaging.
Saturday morning, awake in the heart of the Selkirk Mountains, go for a ride in any direction and be treated to twists and turns paired with fresh mountain air.
There is a ladies only off-road riding workshop scheduled which will share valuable tips and tricks for confident riding once you leave the ashphalt. Learning in a group can be beneficial as sometimes we learn by watching others do the same thing.
By the afternoon, the summer temperatures will send you to the lake for lounging on the beach, or floating on the water. Return to your campsite for an evening of story telling, a warm fire and travel conversation with your newly found friends.
For a physically challenging day excursion, trying tackling the Kokanee Glacier, a popular draw for hikers, the peak of the trek will take you up to 2,775 meters and wilderness camping is permitted in designated areas.
July weather is usually warm but bring your woolies and keep in mind that the Kootenays offer some higher altitude and the early morning mountain air is chilly not to mention that the temperature cools down quickly in the evening as the sun dips on the horizon.
Riders that own the popular Destination Highways map books, riding to Nelson offers several rides in your book to mark off from every direction. Highway 3 will guide you from Hope right through to Nelson and sprinkle beautiful scenery alongside for several hours.
Nelson is framed by mountains, lakes, wildlife and easy going hospitable residents who exude a healthy laid back lifestyle. Toad Rock Campground is infamous for riders. Most riders that appreciate a rustic camping travel lifestyle adore Toad Rock. Riders that prefer not to sleep on the ground and would rather stay at the Hilton Hotel, Toad Rock’s Hilton is an old VW Bus although the riders I queried can’t remember if it had windows or not but it definitely meant you didn’t have to sleep on the ground.
Attending a bike rally is one thing but a weekend at Toad Rock and spending time with its visionary, Mary Laird, is an experience. Laird lives on the property and has been expanding its amenities each year. The original log home was built in 1974 and since then the property consists of a social pavilion, wash house with showers, coin operated laundry service and complimentary morning coffee. Need more luxury – Ainsworth Hot Springs is a short five minutes away.
The campground’s 100 designated sites are nestled amid 34 acres of trees so large groups don’t have to worry about bothering the neighbours. There is no park patrol (other than two dogs that roam the property: “If the sound of your personal security force is a bother, there are complimentary earplugs at the washhouse).” Laird believes in people being respectful of one another.
“We’re not big on rules but we do have guidelines. We have done road trips with kids and dogs, so kids and dogs are welcome guests. No point in making a big deal about what you can and can’t do. We’re all adults, we’re all riders, and Mary is quick to let you know if she’s getting pissed off!”
The rally for travellers has a $25 registration fee which does not include camping at Toad Rock. If you plan to attend the adventure ride on Thursday, plan on an additional $30. To register for the rally, email Wolfgang and Anny at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website mrtcanada.org. To book camping, contact Toad Rock Campground online www.toadrockcampground.com or call 1-877-229-5448.