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Spare Parts: Close encounters

By Ernie Copper

Seton Lake near Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s described as a fjord, meaning it’s a long, narrow freshwater lake surrounded by steep cliffs created by glaciers. Nature at its best.

Last summer, while on a Harley-Davidson press tour, our group stopped at a park ’n’ ride along Seton Lake for a quick break. I snapped a picture of one of the bikes we’d been riding, a Street Glide in Chrome Yellow Pearl livery, against the spectacular background of Seton Lake and the mountains surrounding it. The sun sparkled off the Glide’s pipes and air cleaner, almost giving the picture a mystical re-touched look, while a hint of snow on a distant mountaintop in mid-August assured me that I was no longer in western Pennsylvania. The picture has become the background on my phone, so I’m reminded of this magical place on a daily basis.

Lillooet and its surrounding area is perhaps the most remote place I have ever been. I was only there for a short rest; not an overnight stay or even a meal. Despite my brief stay, this most beautiful place left a very lasting impression on me. Seeing it from the saddle of a new Harley didn’t make it any worse.

Months later, as I was watching an NFL playoff game on a lazy weekend afternoon, Sam Elliott’s voiceover interrupted my doze. Sam usually puts me to sleep, but for some reason this time he woke me up. He was saying something about a truck being Ram tough. I opened one eye, then the other, then sprang from my recliner and excitedly pointed at the TV. I was nearly speechless for a moment. Possessed, even. Not because of the truck, but because Seton Lake was in a television commercial. I was sure of it!

I felt like Richard Dreyfuss’ character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as he was inexplicably drawn to Devil’s Tower. Also like Dreyfuss in the movie, my wife thought I was nuts! I wasn’t making mashed potato models of Lillooet, or hastily tossing my belongings into the family truckster to embark for Lillooet at all costs, but I was pretty excited.

I scrambled to find the remote control to rewind the commercial. (OK; I know DVRs don’t actually rewind, but I don’t know what else to call it.) With my phone in one hand and the remote in the other, I paused the commercial. With our heads on a swivel between the two devices, together we counted the slopes in both images. It was a match! I wasn’t nuts after all. The picture on my phone was the same location used in the truck commercial. I was able to confirm a wilderness location with modern technology while being thousands of miles away from the actual spot. Amazing.

I’m sure everyone has recognized more than one location in their life from a television commercial or movie. The bridge over the New River Gorge in West Virginia where General Motors bungee jumped a Blazer, and Ralph Parker’s house from the movie A Christmas Story, south of Cleveland, Ohio, comes to mind. Big-city landmarks are commonly featured in ad campaigns along with coastal roads, but this was different. One of the most remote places I’d ever been in my life had stolen my heart last August and I wasn’t sure I’d ever see it again. Now, suddenly it was on the big screen in my living room.

If you ever get the chance to tour this area of our neighbors to the north, seize it. The roads are spectacular, the scenery is literally unforgettable and the landscape so vast that you will realize how insignificant many of your worries are to anyone aside from yourself and a handful of others. It’s good for the soul.

I imagine the 2,000 or so people who live there feel the same way. Lillooet did enjoy a brief time in the spotlight during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858–1859. It is also reputed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited locations on the continent; not inhabited by many, but inhabited just the same.

Motorcycles can take us to some pretty amazing places; places we never forget and times we always remember. Apparently, trucks can, too, but I’d rather get there on a bike.


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