About 20 truckers and their spouses jumped on 30 two-wheelers — mostly of the Harley-Davidson variety — this month for a three-day tour of the Canadian Rockies and to raise money to support the Professional Truck Drivers Institute.
This was the second time truckers put together their favorite pasttime — motorcycle touring — with their most pressing need: training safe, reliable truck drivers.
The Riders for Drivers Tour is the brainchild of executives at Carrier Transicold, builders of truck reefers. They realized that driver recruitment and retention is the major challenge for their customers, so decided to combine a hobby shared by many trucker customers and Carrier Transicold dealers with a meaningful fundraising effort.
The ride is tied to the annual meeting of the Truckload Carrier Assn.’s Refrigerated Division.
The group met in Coquitlam, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver, headed for Banff. Riders numbered 47 made up of truckers, Carrier Transicold dealers and staff. I was invited to come along as a guest and unofficial tour photographer.
Official tour photographer was John Leone, director of marketing services for Carrier, who was charged with videotaping the event. He was my ride for the tour, on which I learned a new skill: videotaping moving motorcycles off the back of a moving motorcycle (don’t tell my mother).
I was glad to be of assistance, especially when I heard from participants that last year Leone learned a new skill: photographing moving motorcycles while operating a moving motorcycle (don’t tell his mother).
All kidding aside, the ride was impeccably organized with the utmost safety in mind by Travis Smith, Carrier’s manager of dealer development. Riders were grouped in teams of about 10 bikes each and each team was provided with safety gear, detailed maps, and ride instructions with daily itinerary printed on small cards enclosed in a see-through, waterproof carrying case that hung from each rider’s neck.
The waterproof part came in handy on the first day of the ride, when we needed to pull out the rain gear to stave off occasional showers.
But it was blue skies and fair weather 98% of the time, and many a rider arrived in Banff with racoon-face sunburn, despite the sunscreen in our Carrier-supplied goody bags.
Words cannot describe the beauty we enjoyed along the 800-plus-mile ride through the Canadian countryside. At every stop we were sure nothing to come could beat what we’d already seen, and then it would.
Glaciers, forests, rivers, waterfalls, the bluest lakes I’ve ever seen. We traveled past the 90-mile long Lake Okanagan through miles and miles of wineries and orchards that grow along its banks. You could smell the fresh peaches in the trees.
One of the joys of Harley riding is feeling the temperature dip as the sun goes behind a cloud, only to warm up again when it peeks back through. Or smelling a waft of honeysuckle as you round a curve. On the downside: catching the scent of roadkill, or an unexcepted hail storm... but it’s well worth it.
This ride had no downside to speak of. The wildlife abounded. We saw elk, big horn sheep, mountain goats, deer and assorted birds including bald eagles and hawks. Some riders even reported a bear sighting.
The tour was accompanied by two Prevost coaches that carried our gear, box lunches, and spare fuel and room to haul some motorcycles in case of emergecy. But this ride went perfectly: no accidents, no one ran out of fuel (although John and I had one tense moment).
We stopped the first night in Penticton, British Columbia, alongside Lake Okanagan. Night two was spent at the brand new Trickle Creek Marriott ski resort in Kimberly, British Columbia.
The ride ended with a final banquet at the Banff Center for the Performing Arts, site of the TCA reefer meeting.
Bikers pledged donations to the Professional Truck Driver Institute, which were matched by Carrier Transicold. The donation totalled $10,900, which was presented to Bob Hansen, chairman of the Truckload Carrier Association. Hansen and his wife, Gail, were participants in the Riders for Drivers Tour both this year and last.
“How can words describe the ride?” Hansen said. “Carrier Transcold did an outstanding job of organizing the whole affair. The participants were so enthusiastic and great company to be with. Saw some old friends and made some new ones.
“The only thing you can say about the scenery is that you have to see it for yourself,” he continued. “The best part is we are having fun raising money for a very important entity in our industry. Through PTDI everyone will benefit by having properly trained drivers.”
“We started this because many of our customers and their spouses are avid motorcyclists and no one in the transportation industry was doing this type of event,” said Travis Smith, ride coordinator. “Linking this to a cause was important to us, and the severity of the driver shortage made the association with PTDI a natural fit. The enthusiasm and results have greatly exceeded our expectations.”
This is only the beginning, and Carrier plans to build and grow the event in years to come. Participation and contributions from the Riders for Drivers Tour have already doubled in the two years since its inception.
Next year’s tour is slated to be in the Sonoma, Calif., area, which has some of the best ranked motorcycle rides in the world.