— This is the third day of a multi-day loop trip to British Columbia and northern California. —
I woke up just as the valley was getting light, but chose to go back to sleep. I kept my window open all night since my room had no air conditioning. The sound of the stiff breeze (wind?) and occasional rain outside didn’t bother me at all. I awoke again at 6:00 am but chose to stay in bed; I never fell back asleep.
I was the only diner in The Local — as the restaurant downstairs was called — as I ate breakfast. My waitress had a British accent and was very curious about my travels. She was jealous when I mentioned my eventual destination of California.
The sky was slate gray and spit occasional rain drops while I loaded up my bike. I fueled up at the gas station behind the hotel and then set off, following Dick’s directions. 15 miles outside of town it spontaneously changed its mind and told me to make a U-turn and head back to Pemberton. Once in town, 30 miles later, I decided to ignore the GPS for the time being and work my way back to the main highway the old fashioned way. Once I saw signs for Lillooet I knew I was on the right track. Dick agreed with me.
The rain began to come down fairly hard at this point. The road surface was broken and uneven, further slowing my pace. Eventually the road became a series of bumpy, narrow, tight switchbacks up into the rainy mist. The clouds and rain enveloped and concealed the mountains which I knew surrounded me. The road continued to climb, eventually cresting a pass at over 4,400 feet elevation. The rain never let up.
The scenery was rugged and remote, and other traffic was almost non-existent. I rode cautiously. Despite the foul weather, I was truly enjoying the experience. My impression of British Columbia so far was very favorable, comparing it to some of what Oregon and Washington have to offer, yet in a significantly more dramatic way.
The rough road and nasty, wet weather slowed my pace but the skies began to brighten just as the views became even more awe inspiring. The river gorges deepened and the mountains that surrounded them got taller and steeper. I stopped for a self-portrait, then continued onward. Soon I was descending into the dry and warm oasis of Lillooet.
Lillooet is a meteorological anomaly, getting sparse amounts of annual precipitation and unusually high temperatures compared to surrounding areas. The sun was shining and I quickly dried out by the time I rolled to a stop at an Esso station in town to fuel up. I used their facilities and wolfed down a candy bar, then answered the clerk’s question, “Are you from this country?” It was an odd query considering she appeared to be from India or perhaps even Pakistan, based upon her appearance and accent.
I got back on the road and as I was leaving town I could see dark clouds ahead and the beginnings of rain on my face shield. I pulled over and put on my waterproof glove covers. Within thirty-seconds it began to rain. Lillooet said, “See you later!” with a wet send-off.
After reaching the northernmost part of my trip in Lillooet, I began to ride south through even more dramatic scenery and topography. It became immediately obvious why that route has green dots next to it on the map (“scenic route”). The road rose and fell along the eastern shore of the surging and roaring Fraser River. “Mighty” was the word that came to mind as I caught glimpses of it’s seething torrent, roiling and the color of coffee with cream. I could see whole trees flowing with the swift current. Local news reports confirmed the Fraser was in an unusually high water event, the highest that late in the season since the 1920’s.
I eventually reached the small town of Hope, where the Sylvester Stallone film, First Blood, was filmed, one of my favorite movies. I recognized a few parts of town but the rest was unfamiliar. I pulled into a busy gas station to fill up, then noticed a homey looking diner sharing the same lot. I parked my bike in front and went inside The River Cafe. Seating was scarce so I had to sit at a dirty table. My lunch of halibut fish and chips, along with a delicious mocha, was well worth the wait. I managed to get geared up and back on the road just in time before the rain returned.
I left Hope and caught Highway 3 eastbound. The road was four lanes as it took me past the Hope Slide, a massive land slide that killed four people. Now a view point marks the location. After cresting the pass the rain let up and I had a lot of riding under mostly sunny skies to dry me out. Passing through Manning Park, the road remained at fairly high elevation almost the entire route eastward. Bouts of showers still pestered me from time to time just to keep things interesting.
The road was wide and has fast sweepers but something odd happened every time I came upon some tight twisties. Whenever tight curves came up, I always got stuck behind a slow RV, car, or tractor trailer crawling along. As soon as things got straight again, I would have the road to myself. It was if some power in the universe was conspiring to keep me from getting sideways. Without ever being able to really carve it up, I found myself in Osoyoos and the end of the day’s ride.
The sun was shining when I arrived and the temperature was the warmest of the entire trip so far. I fueled up, then crossed the street and checked into the Super 8 hotel. Cindy, the front desk clerk, was very welcoming and friendly. She had a very thick Canadian accent too, which I thought was odd considering the close proximity to the U.S. border.
I unloaded my gear and took a much needed shower. Upon Cindy’s recommendation, I walked the five blocks down the main drag to Smitty’s Family Restaurant for a dinner of veal parmesan, side salad, and Pellar Estates merlot, a local wine. I wore shorts and sandals and still felt a little warm. The walk back to the hotel was pleasant and it was good to get off of my ass and onto my feet.
Once back at my room I got some Loonies from the front desk and went to the guest laundry downstairs to wash a load of clothes. The rest of the trip should be dry, and will likely involve much warmer temperatures, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of clean clothes for the duration. Riding in hot weather really stinks up your gear much faster than cold-weather riding.