Ashes to ashes, coast to coast, Biker Bob roars back home

Biker Bob asked his wife to load his ashes and a twenty-sixer of Crown Royal into his canoe and push it out to the middle of Kootenay Lake.

“He wanted that bottle in with him,” said Maudine Previl. “Then I was to go up on the cabin porch and blow a hole in the canoe with his antique Winchester .30-30 and sink it in the middle of the lake.”

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Hugh Robert Nisbet, a motorcycle enthusiast who came to be known as Biker Bob, died on Aug. 10, 2013, from injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash in Saanich four days earlier. He was 71.

By the time Previl got Nisbet’s ashes, it was November and there were five mountain passes and eight hours of driving between their home, just outside Nanaimo, and Kootenay Lake.

Previl knew one thing: Biker Bob wanted to float away. So she made a decision that, unbeknownst to her, would send his ashes on an journey filled with twists and turns, beer and burgers, even a trip through the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

And in the end, almost three years later, he would roar back to her on the handlebars of a Harley.

“I did what he wanted me to do and his ashes came back. He’s here and he’s going to stay here,” Previl said.

It was late November 2015 when Previl put Nisbet’s ashes in an amber-coloured bottle with a porcelain flip-top. She scribbled a note: “Biker Bob. If you find me turn me loose.” Then she drew a heart with the initials B.B. for both Biker Bob and Betty Boobs, his favourite nickname for her, and placed the message in the bottle.

Previl hiked out to Jack Point, one of their favourite hiking spots, sat on the tree where she had carved his name and threw the bottle in. Biker Bob’s dog, Tika, retrieved the bottle three times before it eventually floated away.

As it turned out, Biker Bob didn’t get very far. Justun Bevis of Nanaimo found the bottle in the same spot where Previl had thrown it in.

“The tide had brought him right back in again,” Previl said. “The bottle was swirling around an eddy in the rocks.”

Bevis read the note. He wanted to set Biker Bob free, but he knew the tides in that spot weren’t right.

Caleb and Bethany Harding found a bottle washed up on the shore at China Beach containing ashes and a message from Biker Bob. The message reads, “If you find me turn me loose.” - Caleb Harding

He also decided that anyone named Biker Bob was up for adventure.

So Bevis took Biker Bob’s ashes with him the next day to Wheelies Motorcycle Cafe in Victoria, bought him a burger and a beer, and sent him on his way, tossing the bottle into the ocean off Clover Point.

On Feb. 20, 2016, Caleb and Bethany Harding found the bottle while strolling on China Beach. Along with the original Biker Bob note was one from Bevis saying he had taken Biker Bob out for a celebratory beer.

The Hardings decided to continue that tradition. But they also began a search for Biker Bob’s relatives.

Previl received a phone call from her hairdresser. “She said: ‘They found Bob.’ And I said: ‘Are you high? He’s dead.’ ”

“It’s on the news,” the hairdresser told her. “And they are looking for you.”

Previl got in touch with the Hardings and gave them her blessing to continue Biker Bob’s journey with a send-off in Tofino.

“Caleb’s a surfer and he was going to tuck Bob into his wetsuit, paddle out and put the bottle in the current,” Previl said. “But first, of course, they took him out for a beer and a burger.”

It was too windy to go to the beach, so Harding chucked the bottle off the First Street dock.

The bottle washed ashore in early March on nearby Clayoquot Island, having travelled only a couple of kilometres.

Tofino resident Dave Walton brought the bottle home. It seemed fitting to give Biker Bob’s ashes to his friend Andrew Corrigan, who had just bought a new Harley-Davidson. Corrigan wasn’t sure what to do with Biker Bob’s ashes and placed them on a shelf.

One day, Walton phoned and asked Corrigan what he’d decided to do with them. Corrigan said he hadn’t made up his mind yet.

“When he hung up, the shelf and everything on it fell off the wall,” Previl said. “Bob’s ashes landed on his motorcycle coat. And Andrew said: ‘So does this mean you want to go for a ride, Bob?’ ”

Corrigan strapped Biker Bob to the handlebars of his bike and drove him all the way to New Brunswick. Although he had intended to scatter Bob’s ashes off the coast of Newfoundland, bad weather stopped him from making the ferry crossing. So Corrigan brought the ashes home on a return journey through the U.S., Previl said. On the way, he stopped in at the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee, carrying Biker Bob’s ashes into the museum and showing him around.

“That was probably his fifth time going through,” Previl said.

Last September, Previl had a little party to meet Bevis, the Hardings and Walton, people she knew had been part of Biker Bob’s big adventure.

But Corrigan’s arrival was a surprise, and Previl was overcome with emotion when Biker Bob’s ashes thundered up to the house on the handlebars of Corrigan’s Harley.

“I think he actually wants to be here,” Previl said when the well-travelled bottle and its contents were given back to her.

And that’s the end of Biker Bob’s journey — for now.

“I may do a road trip this summer and put him where he really wants to be. But I won’t tell anyone,” Previl said with a laugh.

“It may not be the end, because it may not.”

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