Oak & Sterling

The ride north to Peace River

I wrapped up a short visit to Peace River, AB, by camping for one night at Strong Creek campground in the Municipal District (MD) of Peace.
On Friday May 26, 2017, I started the morning with shooting some clay pigeons with Neal, a friend I met through Kathleen and Milan Skrecek.

This is my favourite spot to shoot clays in Woodlands County.
I’m not a great shooter but once Neal told me where I should sight in the clay when I fire, I was hitting 9/10 shots. Not bad. His Stoeger semi-auto shotgun is new and the action was snug on Victoria Day but with use I could feel it getting broken in more. His gun fit me well.

I packed up and met my friend Ken Westling for coffee at Tim Horton’s in Whitecourt and then fuelled up at Shell and hit the road to Peace River.

I have driven to Peace River before so I remembered two things that are extremely important for motorcyclists to know: There are deadly undulations in the road almost the whole way. The bridge over the Little Smoky River is a dangerous mess for all vehicles, but worse for motorcycles.

The Undulations

About 30 kilometres west of Whitecourt, Highway 43 starts to look like lasagna noodles. Sometimes there are road signs warning about a bump ahead, and then a little read diamond shaped sign near the ground at the location of the bump. Look for a change in the yellow and white lines marking the edge of the highway, or skid marks from the spare tires on a trailer getting low enough to scrape. On a motorcycle, if you don’t stand up on the pegs or slow down enough, you could get bucked off. A pillion is at greater risk of that happening.

Little Smoky bridge

After turning north in Valleyview onto Highway 49, you’ll approach a big valley. You’ll be doing 100 km/h but there is a warning sign letting you know the road is curvy ahead and suggests 65 km/h. On either side of the valley there is one lane descending and one lane crossing the bridge. A second lane opens on the ascent for heavy vehicles to climb slowly.

There are also warning flags for bumps. The road is mess, more so on the north lanes than south lanes. Random repair patches appear that are almost a foot higher than the road, and they also have a steep lateral angle that can cause you to shift into another lane. This is particularly bad on bikes and cars with wishbone suspensions that are prone to bump-steer.

Both these undulations and botched repair jobs are dangerous to inexperienced, unsuspecting or over-confident drivers.

When I worked for the Whitecourt Star, accidents were frequent in bad weather along that route. Most often it was a combination of poor driving skill, vehicles with a high centre of gravity, and inappropriate tires for the season.

When I drove in my Honda Prelude neither of these bother me because Preludes are wide and low. On my bike I slowed down to 80 km/h for the bumps and probably 50-60 km/h for the bridge.

Fuel Mileage

I wrote in a previous post about how my mileage has taken a steep decline since leaving Brampton. I left averaging 21-22 kilometres per litre, and arrived averaging 16 km/L. The bike was giving trouble starting, the choke was not working correctly, and the idle was rough.

I poured in a bottle of Seafoam, which I have used on my CB550 with success, with a full tank of Shell 91 octane and rode the bike for about 60 kilometres before adding any fuel. I did notice the bike start up more quickly, idle evenly and the choke was working the way it should.

I filled up in Whitecourt and in that first 60 kilometres of riding I filled up 4.6 litres! 12.8 km/L!! I was not too worried because I know I did some hard pulls up a hill on West Mountain Road just to give the bike a workout and work some of the Seafoam through the fuel system.

I rode to Fox Creek which is about 85 km away and filled up. I averaged 17.8 km/L. Fox Creek to Valleyview was another 85 km roughly I averaged 17.1 km/L. Valleyview to Peace River was roughly 143 kilometres and I filled up 7.5 litres, 19 km/L. I was also keeping the bike between 100 and 110 km/h

Maybe the Seafoam is actually working? I have heard people suggest it’s not good for your engine and any non metal parts. I am wondering if all that ethanol in the fuel in America was causing an issue. I specifically look for Shell gas because most of their 91 octane specifies “contains no ethanol”.

The older Shell gas stations have a dedicated pump for 91 octane. Not getting any off the last guys 87 still in the pipeline.
Check out the views in Peace River. The valley carved out by the river is quite picturesque.

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