Look Ma

Look Ma

What a ride

Annual Fort St. James Poker Ride is one for the books...


Every event has many stories.

For each event, there might be the story of the ambulance attendant, the victim, maybe the police officer and an observer.

Each person will tell a different tale, and sometimes it won’t even seem like it could have been the same event they were all at.

This year’s annual Fort St. James ATV Poker Ride was likely that kind of event.

For me, the real story of the event was the kindness of strangers.

Once again, the big heart of the generous people of the area shone through, because without the help of Dave and James, it would have been a much different story for me.

I rode the Poker Ride route on my Enduro motorcycle, a Yamaha 350 XT, and while the varied terrain and changing landscape of the ride were great for the most part, there was one section I could not have done without help.

At first I thought the ride was just good skills practice, picking my way through some rough track and water bars, the route was challenging in parts to keep out of the ruts on two wheels or risk the middle ground, overgrown with grass so you couldn’t see rocks and stumps which might be hidden underneath.

It was all made just a little more challenging by the presence of my heavy pack full of camera equipment on my back, something I was always conscious of and which made me considerably more cautious than I might otherwise have been.

It was probably three-quarters of the way along the ride, after a technical rocky section which put my poor bike through the ringer, slowly picking my way over the extremely rough ground in low gears on an air-cooled bike, I was a bit worried everytime I heard a clunk in my suspension and I thought the engine might overheat.

After the rough patch, I thought for sure I must be in the clear, but I was not even close.

Instead, shortly after the first bridge, I came to a stop at a big mud hole. But not your average mud hole, and in fact, not really mud at all. Instead, fine, peaty bog had been chewed up to create a rutted and wet series of slippery pools, with the first one being the longest by far, and the second one being short and deep and the third bit being another messy gnarl, tightly surrounded by trees.

With no momentum, a fairly worn tire and my rather delicate and expensive camera gear on my back, I wasn’t able to make it through, and upon trying the one hole, I even fell into the mud, dropping my bike and ending up hip-deep in the sludge.

But thanks to the assistance of Dave and James, I was able to get my bike around, through and over, and ended up on the right end of a bad situation.

Those men were kind enough to not only help me push, lift and generally maneuver my bike through the ugly section, when they did not know me from Adam, but they also helped another unfortunate two-wheeler who also became mired in the same spot. First Dave and James helped the other rider get unstuck, then he hopped on his bike and rode off. But instead of also rushing off, they stayed to help me, man-handling my bike through the mud, despite having to get a decent amount of the stuff on themselves.

While they were helping me, a couple of different groups rode through past us, some who knew me, some who didn’t.

But the two generous men stayed to help this lone rider.

Now, while I was so busy working my bike through the mud with their help, I did unfortunately miss most chances to take photos at the mud holes of those going through, but as compensation I had a great human experience. One I won’t soon forget.

I told Dave and James they were the heroes of the Poker Ride, they stopped to help when others drove by, and they helped strangers without any expectation of reward.

While I know this kind of thing happens all the time, especially in smaller towns where we are all so reliant on each other, knowing it and experiencing it again first hand are two different things.

The day was a great lesson and a great experience for me, one I won’t soon forget.

This year’s Poker Ride had 61 riders and sold a total of 108 poker hands

The winners were:

First prize, $432 – for a straight, 8 high- went to Nicole Lodge

Second prize, $219 – for 3 Jacks, Ace high- went to Craig Birk

Third prize, $129 – for 3 Jacks, 10 high – went to Harley Laraway

Fourth prize, $43 – for 3 Sixes- went to Murray Honeywell

Fifth prize, $43- for 3 Fives – went to Russ Gingrich

The ATV and snowmobile club needs members and volunteers, anyone interested in getting involved can contact Craig Houghton at 250-996-7159.