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Old 09-22-2010, 12:56 PM   #1
ag_streak OP
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Two Flatlanders on a Rented Bike in BC, Canada

A decade ago, my wife and I went to Victoria, BC for our 10th anniversary and always regretted not seeing Vancouver. This year, for our 20th anniversary, we decided to toodle around southern BC on a bike.

Much to my disappointment, this ride wasn’t really an “adventure”. Hell, we never even got lost! Dammit! But, it was an incredible, awe-inspiring road ride through some of the most beautiful riding areas I’ve ever seen!

Since riding there on my Bandit was out of the question, we decided to fly to Seattle and rent a BMW R1200GS from EagleRider. We picked up the bike on a Sunday morning and rode it for 6 days and did just over 1200 miles.

We intended on just a short shakedown run over the border and into Vancouver the first day, but on the rental guy’s recommendation, we detoured east of Seattle to see beautiful Snoqualme Falls. It was worth the ride!

Falls

Falls_2

Later in the day, we crossed the border into Canada with no problems. The rental agency provided a form stating we were allowed to take the rental bike across the border, but the border guard never asked for it. The funny thing is, my wife is a Canadien with a US Green Card and a Canadian passport, we both live in Florida, and the rental bike had Florida plates on it. The border guard looked very confused!

After a night at a killer hotel in Vancouver (L’ Hermitage) we headed east in the rain towards Penticton. Once out of Vancouver’s sprawl on Canada 1 close to Hope, the skies cleared, the temps rose, and roads got beautiful! Even the four-lanes in BC are frigging awesome! For a couple of Florida flatlanders, this was nirvana!

map1

After Hope, we turned on 3 (Crowsnest Highway) through the Fraser Valley in the Manning Provincial Park. The pictures don’t do it justice! In fact, I was using a new camera, and it kind of sucks. Here’s a couple of the less scenic spots! I was too busy enjoying the ride to take many pictures!

Four_Lane

Bike_Sideroad

We went through Princeton, stopped for gas in Keremeos and on into Penticton on route 3A. We had heard Penticton was a fast growing community, and I expected the downtown area to be built up. It was pretty suburban and all, but still nice, and surrounded by the gorgeous Okanagan Lake, and those hills! (we called them mountains, and the locals corrected us!)

On the east side of the lake, just north out of town from Penticton, is one of the most beautiful wine regions we’ve ever visited, the Naramata Bench. It’s been producing apples, cherries, and other produce for ages, but went to producing wine grapes just 20 years ago, and the wines are outstanding! They’re comparable to anything from California, and we were dissappointed to find that US trade restrictions prevent their export to the US. 95% of the many, many wines produced there are consumed between Vancouver and Calgary.

Naramata

Lake_Breeze

We immediately decided to stay another night in Naramata, so the next day, we did a quick loop through Oliver and down to Osoyoos and back.

Map2

Osoyoos is located on the very northern tip of the Sonoran Desert. I was told few people know that it extends past the Canadian border. (I sure as hell didn’t!)

On just the other side of town, route 3 continues east. The first couple of miles are up a steep, twisting road. In the interest of time, we only went to the top of the hill and turned around. The view was spectacular. Again, these pictures don’t do it justice. It was a great riding road. Needless to say, we barely scratched the surface of the amazing riding in the area. This is looking back down again from the top towards Osoyoos.

Osoyoos

On the way back to Penticton, we rode route 3 north of Osoyoos back to Keremeos, where we had been the day before. That part of 3, through the Similkameen Valley, was the most beautiful of the trip. Maybe because it was over 70 degree and sunny, and it was just a great day to be alive, on vacation, and riding someplace totally frigging gorgeous!

Past Keremeos, we turned left off 3A onto the semi-famous Green Mountain Road which snakes one-lane wide up to Apex Mountain Ski Area and then down again into Penticton. On the way back, about 5 miles from Penticton, we saw a good sized black bear lumber across the road not 200 yards in front of us. We slowed, and by the time we passed the point he re-enterd the brush by the side of the road, he was long gone, like an apparition diasappearing!

Not five minutes later, we saw these wild horses. This time we had time to stop and snap some pictures. I didn’t know they were wild at the time, but the locals told us as much, and my wife said some others she saw had tags on their ears. These had none.

Horses

We also saw some mountain goats, or mountain sheep, or rams or something. Not sure what they were and I’m not sure exactly where we spotted them. After a few hundred miles of jaw-dropping scenery and amazing roads, I was in kind of a daze, and the best was yet to come!

(actually, I think we saw these the next day, somewhere on route 8 or maybe 12, or…)

Sheep

Oh yeah, deer too. This one right in town in Naramata.

Deer

The next day, we headed west towards Whistler, via Merritt (a sad place, sorry to say) and Lillooet (OK place, what little we saw). In between those two were some tiny specs on the map we zipped right through, like Aspen Grove, Spences Bridge, and Lytton.

map3

A couple of notes on the roads… As I mentioned, even the four lanes were spectacular. 97C from Penticton to Merritt was smooth, fast, desolate, remote, cold, high, and intimidating. Route 8 out of Merritt and Route 12 into Lillooet were rough, tight, gravel-strewn, scenic, and fun as ALL HELL. There were some depressing areas to ride through, though, mostly reservations. The stretch of Canada 1 between Lytton and Spences Bridge was AWESOME.

A couple of notes on the bike… I was glad for the GS. I had only ridden one once before for less than an hour. It was smooth and comfortable at speed, but a beast at parking lot speeds with about 80 pounds of hard bags and clothes, and about 320 pounds of me and wife, with the adjustable seat set to high. So set up, I could flat foot it only when the wife was seated. With just me, I was on the balls of my feet, and that bitch was a handful. Makes a great sport-tourer, though I wouldn’t want that much weight on dirt roads with anything less than perfect traction. I couldn’t believe how heavy the bags were empty!

We stopped to eat in Lillooet.

Lilloett

Then headed down 99 towards Pemberton, then Whistler. I had heard that 99 was straightened, repaved, and improved from Vancouver to Whistler for the Olympics, so I falsely assumed 99 from Lillooet was going to be a little boring. Uh…, no!

Road

Road_Glacier_99

Those pictures don’t show the ass-puckering, gravel-strewn switchbacks we rode this 800+ pound pig up and down in the rain! That stretch of 99 rises to some good altitude, and we went up into the clouds and rain, than tahnkfully back down again. The temps weren’t bad, only down to the mid-50’s, but I was glad for the electric grips. It drizzled all the way to Whistler. Most of the other time, the temps were from 60 to 75 degrees. Indian summer in BC!

Hotels in Whistler outside of ski season were cheap. We stayed right in the village at the base of the mountain, without making reservations. Two places told us that walk-in rates were the cheapest they offered. The next day we took a long hike (about 10 miles) around the village, up and down the hill a bit, then along the trails used for cross-country skiing up to Lost Lake. It was pretty cool.

They certainly warn you.

Bear_Sign

I guess they really mean it.

Bear_Sign_2

DANG, the DO mean it! This was 1/2 mile from the villages near a paved trail.

Bear_Shit

This is Lost Lake, at Whistler. Really nice hiking trails all around it.

Lost_Lake_1

The next morning we headed down towards Victoria and Vancouver Island.

map4

Just north of Squamish on route 99 is this glacier-topped mountain. It was either Alpha Mountain or Mount Thyestes, I’m not sure. You could see this thing a LONG ways away! There was a point on 97C where I think I saw it, and that was, I don’t know, over 100 miles away. It was definitely visible from the far side of Pemberton.

Glaciers

From there, it was just a short ways to Horseshoe Bay, where we caught the ferry to Vancouver Island. Horseshoe Bay was great. We had an awesome lunch and the weather was unbelievably nice.

Horseshoe_Bay

The BC Ferries company must have a lot of boats. They run like clockwork, and are very organized. The best part is bikes go right to the front of the waiting line, board first, and unload first. Awesome! It was about $50 bucks for two riders and the bike each passage, and the trip took a little over an hour and a half.

Ferry_Bikes

Ferry_Lucy

It was mostly rain from the ferry landing in Nanaimo down to Victoria, and we got a half-assed overpriced room there. The next morning we took another ferry from Swantz Bay to Tsawwassen, crossed the border into the US, and headed for Seattle.

One must-see road people told us about was Chuckanut Drive just south of Bellingham. Definitely worth the detour off the freeway.

Chuckanut_Lucy

It’s a scenic drive along the shore, with some dramatic curves and views. We were tired and taking it easy and slow.

Chuckanut_Sign

All in all, there aren’t many better ways to spend a week! It wasn’t exactly a romp through the backcountry wilderness, but it was the very reason I think we all do this. No work, no worries, no responsibilities except to get somewhere and have fun doing it! It was very notable that almost all the bikes we saw were really travelling. Very few were just out for a ride (you can tell be just looking, can’t you?) Almost every bike we saw had hard bags. On ferries, all the bikes are together, so you get to meet other riders and swap stories. You’re moving through the country, which is somehow inherently different than simply visiting. We weren’t just tourists in another area, we were experiencing it.

I knew it was a successful trip, when my wife said that going by bike was the best thing we could have done, and she wouldn’t want to travel any other way!

Ferry_both
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ag_streak screwed with this post 09-22-2010 at 02:28 PM
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Old 09-22-2010, 02:12 PM   #2
bigbadandugly
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Nice ride and pics. Your camera work improved as you went on.

I bought a Moto Guzzi Stelvio in Seattle and rode it back to Ottawa following the same route you did to Penticton and then on to Calgary thru to Saskatchewan and then down into Montana. All this using temporary Washington state plates. The CBP guards in Montana were quite curious as to why I was riding a bike with Washington temp plates from Canada into Montana when I was a Canadian!!

cory
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Old 09-22-2010, 05:51 PM   #3
BusyWeb
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Old 09-22-2010, 06:08 PM   #4
GB
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Beautiful BC..

Keep it comin'
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Old 09-23-2010, 03:55 AM   #5
Steelybeast
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Excellent pictures & sounded like a great way to spend an anniversary

We have been thinking about riding that same area for a year or two. I think we have narrowed it down to BC or going to Germany & riding down toward the Alps again next summer. From those pictures, BC is looking very tempting.

Too many places to ride and not enough time off...........

Glad you had a great time.

David
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Old 09-23-2010, 10:02 AM   #6
VancityCK
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Awesome trip! I love seeing my own backyard from another person's perspective. If you ever get back up here again, try a trip through the Kootenays, too. If you think you had some beautiful vistas in just the little corner you rode...
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Old 09-23-2010, 01:25 PM   #7
ag_streak OP
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Some more pictures...

Thanks for the comments. BC really is a special place.

David, if you go, take your ST. The roads are WIDE OPEN!

I definitely want to thank all the helpful BC area riders on this forum who contributed route suggestions!

Here are some more pictures as requested…

This is one of the many miles of hiking trails around Lost Lake at the foot of Whistler.

Hike

The sun was just coming up, and the skies were clear for a change...

Lake

This is Whistler Village. A KLR, a Goldwing, and a cruiser pulled in just after we got our room.

Whistler

Watching the sunset from here...

porch

...and overlooking Okanagan Lake in the Naramata...

porchsunset

...did not suck!

Here, we can be seen really roughing it...

roughingit

...at a lakeside vineyard.

winery

This is the road up the hill from Osoyoos. The pictures do not do it justice. Nice hairpin back there...

osoyoosturn

Here's a nice shot of some of the geology.

rocks

Contemplating selling all our worldly possessions and moving to the Naramata Bench!

contemplation

The best part of the whole trip was the people we met. Everyone was delightful, but this couple, Jim and Jan from Penticton, were just awesome. We met on a ferry, and they were riding their DL650s all around BC. Sorry for the crappy picture.

Jan and Jim, we'll be calling you sometime!

JanJim
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Old 12-16-2010, 02:40 PM   #8
David_Moen
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I'm glad you enjoyed your stay in BC! We love it here too!
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Old 12-16-2010, 04:14 PM   #9
WildsideRider
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Glad you had an awesome time! I love riding that route you took, as someone else mentioned if you come back again try the kootenays, they are awesome...and if you can, do the Icefields parkway between Banff and Jasper...possibly the most picturesque ride in the world. Thanks for the RR!
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