BikeBandit Guest Blogger Series: The Observer Effect



Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that we’ve been reaching out for guest bloggers to share your adventures with our fans. Ted from Wenatchee, WA wanted to share his story about a great ride he enjoyed with some of his closest family and friends as they ventured north of the border in to Canada, so sit back and enjoy. If you’d like to join our team of guest bloggers and want to share some of your adventures, contact us at [email protected].


The Observer Effect declares that the measurement of certain things cannot be made without affecting the object being measured. In other words, the attempt to observe or accurately measure an object changes that object’s measurements. Putting a caliper on it? You’ve changed it. All motorcyclists are unknowingly intimate with this principle. If you have doubts, here is proof.

Pretend you are having a “spirited” ride on a glorious road, like Idaho’s infamous Lolo Pass. You know you are speeding, the state patrol knows you are speeding, everyone on the planet knows you are speeding. However, as soon as that officer attempts to measure your speed by drawing his radar gun, your speed changes. The very act of him attempting to measure your speed has changed your speed. The Observer Effect. The observer, in this case the police, know this as well. So when they stop you, they let you off with a warning and say “I caught you slowing down, didn’t I?” However, Idaho’s finest don’t usually let bikers off so easily. Don’t ask me how I know.

So it was with this attempt to chronicle our trip from our hometown of Wenatchee, Washington to Nelson, Canada. My son Matt, my father Don, step-brother Todd (a.k.a. The Carb Whisperer), my cousin Dave and his son Garrick and I all rallied for a 3 day, 900 mile assault on the best roads anywhere.

The night before departure, four bikes sat in nervous anticipation in the garage the like twitchy racehorses awaiting their jockeys. Even not saddled up, we were already having a good time bench racing in the garage. Dave and I ogled our matched pair of 1998 Honda VFRs flanked by Matt’s 1991 Honda VFR and Garrick’s Suzuki GSXR-600, all of them blood red and different flavors of touring sport bikes. Nobody genuinely needs a machine with power to weight ratio of 4 pounds per horsepower, but I do love it so when they fill my garage. We started the bikes randomly to compare exhaust notes, derailing my wife’s vain attempts at sleep. However, when she left for work the next morning, even she demanded a photo of the spectacle.

That morning, we planned to leave early. Yet, leaving later than planned has morphed into a tradition. A misplaced passport, a forgotten driver’s license and a scavenger hunt for a birth certificate later, we thumbed starter buttons and followed the mighty Columbia north on highway 97. Crisp September morning air pushed aside the sweltering heat of summer and announced the arrival of the year’s best riding weather. I could smell the green of the orchards that bordered both sides of the road through my helmet and knew this would be a special trip.


Garrick soaks up some morning sun in the cold temps while someone who shall remain nameless searches for documentation to enter Canada.


After filling our bellies with lunch (it was supposed to be breakfast), we pounded slab north to Tonasket and turned east on Havillah road, which used to be a flat, peacefully meandering farm road until someone ruined it with chip seal. I determined that whomever invented chip seal should be flogged in the public square by the demon ghost of Giovanni Pirelli with a Supercorsa SP racing slick.

We detoured west, then north to the town of Molson, where a cow temporarily blockaded the road. She attempted to make a break for the fence, but promptly face planted on the asphalt. Every one of her subsequent failed attempts to flee from my booming V-four exhaust note and back into the safety of her pasture made her increasingly agitated. My plan, in case she decided that the red bodywork on my VFR too much resembled a matador’s cape, was to hit the kill switch, run like hell and leap over the barbed wire fence to where the stupid cow should have been in the first place. Luckily, she went first, charging head first through the barbed wire, successfully reentering the pen and ruining someone’s perfectly good future leather jacket.

Molson is a small town, population none. Evidently, the Molson family was guzzling too much of their own brew when they accidentally built this town 3 miles too far south to be in Canada. Major beer foul. Presently, the Molson Ghost Town is an outdoor museum of antique tractors and farm implements stored in three sided sheds, all rusted red by Mother Nature and father time. It is a slowly decaying testament to the rugged history of the early 20th century. I like to walk behind the bank teller’s counter and attempt to open the bank safe. I haven’t opened it yet. One day…


The bell at Molson still functions perfectly. Too bad there is no one around to hear it.


We backtracked and crossed into Canada at the Midway border crossing, then joined highway 3 east to Nelson and the Adventure Hotel. I am mad for the Adventure hotel because it has a motorcycle wash station, a Triumph Thunderbird in the middle of the bar and an all you can eat buffet staring prime rib from very relaxed Canadian cows that actually stay in their pens. At dinner, we toasted what would normally have been a red letter day for any motorcyclist. For us though, this was just the opening act. We knew what tomorrow would bring.

The next morning my dad and I rose early and walked the main street perusing a local car show, met the rest of the late sleepers for our ceremonial Kiwanis club pancake feed, then mounted our bikes to head north to Kaslo. There, we pulled up to the farmer’s market, parking a small distance away from the outdoor concert so our combined 24 cylinders and 600 horsepower exhaling through barely muffled exhausts didn’t horrify the public. Kaslo sits at the foundation of famous highway 31A and is like pit lane to the racetrack of motorcycle heaven. Yet even in this sleepy, motorcycle saturated hamlet, our bikes captivated. Five red sportbikes parked parallel looked like racetrack refugees, magnets for photographers and onlookers. A wife gawked at the spectacle and said to her husband, “Look at all of the pretty red motorcycles.” However, he was unable to speak with his mouth agape, chin permanently planted on his chest.


Our VFR party invades Kaslo. No doubt the youngsters had these pics posted on InstaFaceTwitterTube immediately.


As captivating as Kaslo was, I couldn’t wait to leave. Highway 31A leaving Kaslo starts with a fast sweeper leaving town, and the smooth, fast sweepers bordering the river don’t end until 28 miles later in New Denver. Early on, Garrick took over the lead and disappeared, while Todd and Matt paced Dave, Don and I in a perfect symphony of V-four exhaust notes. This is the best engine sound in all of motorcycling. If you don’t love the sound of this engine, you simply don’t like engines. The piston powered symphony that echoed off the rock walls as we darted through the canyon in perfect spacing and speed seared itself in my memory. A fellow VFR rider parked by the side of the road watched us roar by and I am certain his goosebumps were as big as mine.


Matt and Todd prepare to leave pit lane in Kaslo. Gentlemen, start your V-fours.


Yet, as mythical as 31A is, highway 6 to Vernon is better. It is the best road I have ridden in my life, and one of the best roads in North America that few know exists, until now at least. The road’s best feature, ironically, is the ferry. It allows travel only every 30-minutes, so with a few key passes on the two long straights leaving the ferry, you can have the road all to yourself.


“I am oldest, so I am getting off this ferry first.”, my dad says. It didn’t matter, Matt soon passed everybody.


Two hairpins at the end of the long straights warmed up the edges of our tires while a slight uphill climb introduced much needed chill. I was last in the horsepower parade behind Garrick, Matt and Todd when the road suddenly darted into the mountain side. Game on. I tapped down twice on the gear lever and dropped the clutch. It was time to quit looking at the speedo and time to use the bar tingles as my tach. Tight, snaking switchbacks came in such relentless succession I forced myself to breathe, relax, then pin the throttle for 1.5 seconds and then brake like hell, then repeat over and over, and over. Linked sweepers with perfect pavement meant putting our bikes and bodies through a workout. I am sure the scenery was beautiful. I will have to look at it sometime.

We pulled into the Tiki Motor Inn, which is a funky as it sounds, and walked to the Chinese buffet for dinner. Sitting around the table, we dined and toasted like kings. I suppose the moment could have been better, I just can’t fathom how. The next morning as we fueled up, we watched Garrick’s GSX-R reject gasoline as an energy source, deciding instead to vomit it all over the pavement. Todd slowly shook his head and solemnly stated, “I would not ride that bike,” Like the ancient EF Hutton commercials, when The Carb Whisperer talks, people listen. Not Garrick. He ignores The Carb Whisperer and rides on despite the ominous warning.

As Matt and I arrived at home and enjoyed not speeding along for the first time in 3 days, Matt looked tiredly into the distance and said, “Dad, I know we just did 900 miles, but I want to get back on the bike and do it all again.” Amen brother. My soul knows its proper place outside of heaven, and that is with my biker family. These events have to be lived to be understood and any attempt to pour this experience through the filter of words gives an outsider a diluted taste of the event’s true nature. The Observer Effect in action. Yet as bikers, we must continue in vain to attempt to put something that defies description into words. After all, what else would we talk about?

We turn gasoline into noise, speed and storytelling, and the lore we share is as much about the people, personalities, scenery as it is about the bikes. Without motorcycles, we would rarely get together, and when we did, we would have meaningless conversations about boring stuff like our failing bodies, the weather and who we should vote for. But introduce a motorcycle into the equation and suddenly we are slapping each other on the back talking about how truly life threatening cows are, plotting our revenge on the inventor of chip seal, and how majestic the Canadian landscape could be if it wasn’t always passing by at insane speeds.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, this explains why we ride. None of us have ever questioned why we ride. For us, riding is as natural as breathing. And we can’t quit either.


As the stories get told and embellished they become more. They morph into folklore, then history. Trying to describe it to the non-biker is pointless because The Observer Effect takes over. We try, but we know we can’t put it into words. We give up and simply say, “You just had to be there.” So ride every chance you get. Ride at sunrise greeted by empty roads and the chill of the morning. Ride at night to nowhere in particular with the only thought in your mind the thrill of the act. Preferably, ride with others for many days and over long distances to other cities, states or countries. Just don’t attempt to explain it the non-biker. They won’t understand.



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