Subject: WanderNorth 5 - Williams Lake, British Columbia
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2001 21:46:29 -0700
Too much time, not enough road!
(Sorry this is late in arriving. My laptop modem decided it didn't want to talk to the Canadian phone network. I was unable to connect after many attempts.)
There is a standard joke that ends "you can't get
there from here". Before coming to BC, I never considered it as a benefit
in America that you can get to almost anywhere by multiple different routes.
At first it seemed perfect that there was one week between the two LDR
events - that would give lots of roaming time. Now I find there is time
... but there is no where to go that I won't have to double back on later.
There is only one paved road north in BC. Looks like next time I'll have
to get a GS (on-off road) bike and chase bears into the woods.
Actually, it has been a disappointment that I've not seen any wildlife at all, no moose, not a deer, not even so much as a smushed squirrel. (In my best Boris Badenough accent: Vhere is muuse?!) Even the "Bald Eagle Capital of the World", Brackendale, was birdless. It turned out they only spend winter there, but that isn't clear until you ask around. I happened to overhear a couple, map in hand, asking where to look for roosts. A grandfatherly looking local was having a bit of fun with them, pointing out trees where the birds would build their nests next year (?). They nodded and folded their map. He continued, "Yup, there's soo many of 'em swooopin aboot, noo one in toown can keep a dog smaller than a full groown husky!" Standing behind the couple, I said with an obvious wink to him "And how many toddlers do you lose from backyard cribs each year?" He slipped right in ... "Noo, all the babies hafta wear a bright orange vest with a big X. That keeps the birds offn 'em."
Whistler was the second disappointment of the day.
I had been led to believe Whistler was a quaint western town made over
into a ski area - a small scale Aspen. Instead, it is all the worst of
Vail - carefully planned sterile condos packed upon each other and nothing
inviting you to get out of your car (or off your bike). I rode all around
and through the "village" (it isn't called a town) looking for a place
to stop for coffee. Oh sure, plenty of fancy restaurants, but if there
is any place casual and cozy, it is well hidden. What first set me off
was finding a sign for $6 parking, jeez, this is 100 kilometers from anything
that passes for civilization and they're gouging by the square meter? No
There is a ski area above Whistler, and there are plans to build another one north of there. The local Indian tribes have been in the news protesting the taking of their land for development. They announced they plan to randomly block traffic on BC99 (the only road through here) to make their point. I rode past their encampment at the edge of the road. A couple kids waved, I waved back. They had a large sign near their group tent that was painted with the Indian phrase I've heard before "When the last tree is cut down, when the last blade of grass ..." but that's all I could see because a huge pile of fresh cut firewood for their nighttime vigil was blocking the rest. Someone unclear on the concept?
From Pemberton to Lillooet (which still is a quaint western town), there
is another unbelievably beautiful canyon. Unbelievable because the mountain
ridges look like they have been precisely manufactured to always be 1500
meters above the road. Climb 1000 meters up a pass, yup they are still
the same height above the road. Dip into the next valley, down down down
and look up - exact same distance road to ridge. They are an eyeful, but
I'm beginning to wonder if I am riding through some huge model train set.
It is too consistent!
When you finally come out of the mountains above Cache Creek, the central BC plateau reminds me very much of the Black Hills of South Dakota. This made a peaceful and pensive close to the day.
Fellow riders - have you ever wondered why it just doesn't feel right following a vehicle on a scenic road? It doesn't matter if the driver is smooth or fast, following somehow feels wrong, but even at the same pace - being in front feels right. I thought about that today. I decided the difference is the 'visual radar' I have to constantly deploy when someone is in front. Even if they are safely far ahead, every second I have to re-determine range and re-detect velocity discrepancies. It is a protective mechanism that can't be turned off because most danger comes from the front. But when I'm in front, the 'radar' is off and I can absorb scenery (during my normal danger scan). For me, when the threat is behind, it is easier to catalog and control.
Hail hurts at a hundred.
The only time I maintain 100 is when I'm in Canada ... 100 kph, that is. :) Late this afternoon, just out of the town of 100 Mile House (a name left over from the pre-metric days), I saw a black-belly cloud squeeze its form between two hills and start roiling on itself. That meant either lightning soon, or very heavy rain. Rather than stop in the open, I decided to head for town ... and just over the next rise it opened up. Quarter sized hail, except they weren't flat. Damn they are hard at speed. Even tucked behind my fairing I was still getting whomped and my hands were stinging. I slowed to about 20 and pulled toward the side to let a pickup pass. He plowed through the collected hail mush and left a track to follow - except he was so intent on watching me in his mirror he almost drove off the road. The storm was over in a minute, but it left a good two inches ... sorry, 50 millimeters of slippery mush to ride through - then the sun came out and turned each hailstone into a sparkling diamond.
A good day's ride consists of varied roads and varied challenges without regard to distance or destination. Today was a good ride on all counts.
Vancouver BC99 BC97 Williams Lake
Sam Lepore, San Francisco