Day 4 – Merritt to Vancouver, BC
Distance: 413 kilometres
Temp: Low 12 / High 24
Riding Time: 7:45am-4:30pm
This looked like it would be a relatively short day but ended up being a long, but still enjoyable, one. We had contemplated cutting off the northern route altogether which would have saved time, but, we certainly would have missed some beautiful scenery along the way.
It’s a good thing we broke down the days from Nelson to Vancouver into two since it turns out the entire road from Lillooet to Vancouver is under construction for the Olympics. So what could have been a short trek of a few hours took the entire day. It’s amazing to see the amount of money being spent to twin and upgrade the entire 250 kilometre stretch of highway – kinda obscene in a way.
The trip from Merritt to Lytton was surreal. It’s truly desert-like conditions for the entire trip – dry, arid and largely uninhabited. We carved our way through the valley of the Nicola river right through to Spences Bridge. Not sure why, but I thought as a kid that there was a suspension bridge there. I kept waiting and waiting for the valley to open into a large chasm – boy, was I disappointed when we arrived to find what is largely a ghost town. Guess my childhood memories failed me on this one. 😉
A brief stop in Lytton, Canada’s hotspot, for what turned out to be a tough time to locate a gas station. There is one, although, it is outside of the town – rather odd. Holy shit, Batman, there were winds of biblical proportions – gusting into the high 80s and a bit scary to ride in. We chatted with the lady running the store, “apparently there’s a wind warning today.” No kidding! She did assure us that we were riding away from the storm – she was indeed correct, whew!
It’s unbelievable to see the abject poverty of the First Nations reserves across western Canada. There’s ‘white people’ poor – then there’s ‘first nations poor.’ There is no comparison. These reserves are truly run down to the lowest level. What is ironic is that people on the reserve, including the few we chatted with, are the most friendly and upbeat folks you could ever meet. At some point one can only hope they are given the financial support required to escape the desperate levels of poverty they face – hello, whitey, politicians? A hand up, not a hand-out? These people could sure use it!
A quick stop in Lillooet for refreshments and fuel and we were off to the Duffy Lake Road to Pemberton. An absolutely stunning vista for the entire trip. Beautiful valleys and somewhat distant glaciers and still snow-covered peaks. One hitch – the road is a disaster and is currently being rebuilt – causing massive delays. This added about 2.25 hours to the travel today. The newly paved stretches are unbelievable and fun to ride but the speed limit was 50 km/h for nearly 250 kilometres. Needless to say, I may have exceeded that limit and watched with an eagle-eye for officer friendly along the way.
I must say the Olympic developments in Whistler are horrifying. The ‘wallmartization’ of the mountains and ski resort are disastrous. It’s turned wilderness into about 25 kilometres of condos for the rich. Is this really what people want – chain stores and condos for as far as the eye can see? Not to mention the environmental impacts of building a new 250 kilometre highway to shuttle athletes and specatators between Vanc. and Whistler. Unbelievable….
A couple quick photos from Brandywine Falls outside of Whistler and Cypress Bowl Lookout over the city of Vancouver. Both worth stopping to check out.
Our end point, and temporary place of residence, for the next two days is Vancouver. I really had forgotten how much I’d been in love with living in this city in the early 90s. This is such a fantastic city and so very, ultimately, different from my alma mater of Calgary. It’s bristling with activity and energy, something that even with Calgary’s growth and influx of newcomers, is sorely missing from the atmosphere on the prairies. We did a quick jaunt through the west side of downtown where we are staying, to Kitsilano beach, and off for a great dinner here in the city. It’ll be nice to spend a few days reminiscing about the days of yore and visiting some old haunts here in the city.
Next stop – Sunshine Coast on Day 6
Today was a great day, although a bit of a marathon. As Mike wrote above, it was a good thing we revised our original plan to break the Nelson-Vancouver trip into two days – we ended up needing them! It was also a good thing we decided not to skip out on the road less travelled, since the scenery was breathtaking the whole way. I said at one point when we stopped for a break that I was glad there was something to look at – it definitely made up for the bone-jarring bumps and the snail’s-pace traffic through construction.
So far we’ve watched the landscape change dramatically, from the foothills outside of Calgary to the lush green of Nelson, to the badlands outside Merritt and the alpine-edged coast near Vancouver. It’s all been amazing. I’ve been to Vancouver before, but Mike showed me a couple of places just outside the city that I’d never been, Brandywine Falls and Cypress Hill. I’m thrilled I was able to see both, and will definitely keep them on my list of things to do when I’m out this way again.
I haven’t been to Vancouver for a couple of years, but it’s one of my favorite cities and I’m happy to take an extra day to chill out and see the sights. Whenever I visit I take a walk down through Kitsilano to the beach, so i was happy to stretch my legs after a long day on the bike with a walk around the area near our hotel (kudos to Mike for picking a nice, central location!). I truly enjoy the “street culture” in this city – it’s so refreshing to see people walking around in the evenings, picking up their groceries or just out for a stroll. Tomorrow I hope to see some of Mike’s old haunts, and maybe discover a few new ones as well. Then on Wednesday, it’s back on the Honda and the ferries and onward to the Sunshine Coast. Can’t wait!