Created by Gregg Ambrosi
Part 1 - A Bit Too Early
I thought I’d do a quick write up of my gravel adventures from last summer. It all started with me feeling restless in May. I quickly co-opted my crazy adventure buddy Diela into joining me. The plan; Vancouver to Penticton ‘the back way’!
So, first attempt didn’t go quite as planned.
East Van to Hope: There is not really a great gravel route that lets you cover this distance in one day. So, I opted for the Skytrain to Coquitlam & then to ride mainly roads from there. Its a gorgeous ride, even with it raining the entire time. Luckily it wasn’t too cold (12-16 degrees). Diella met me somewhere in Mission & we road into Hope happy & soggy. Hope just doesn’t have great hotel options but the Swiss Motel was perfect, definitely quaint.
Hope to Princeton: This is where the story gets good. So we left Hope on Othello Road, planning to ride side roads & trails as much as possible, parallelling the Coquihalla until arriving at Coquihalla Lakes Road (more on that coming…). It was a noble, but ill-conceived plan. We spent several hours covering only about 10k - watch out for those ‘trails’ as listed on Komoot. “Trail” is quite a bit of an overstatement for what we rode. We realized we needed to cover distance & once we were close enough to the highway, we jumped on, high-tailing it to the Portia exit. From here its an active logging area, partially following the old KVR route, partially a logging road. There were a few punchy climbs but nothing too intense. We tried to play it smart, not pushing too hard as there was still lots to come. We ran into some loggers & they mentioned they were not sure how the snow was… snow…oh oh. Sure enough 11-ish KM in - snow covering the road. We pushed for about 35 min until we decided to head back to the highway, ride to the Coq summit & find our next exit for the Tulameen Fire Service road. Somehow only now did we realize that maybe we were a bit early in the season for this (did I mention this was mid May?). We planned as we rode - if the Tulameen road was snowed over, we would put the pedal down & ride to Merritt (that’s the way Diella rolls - she’s a monster…). We get to the snow shed - its raining, we are covered in grit, but oddly still warm enough then Diella stops pedalling? Ugh, her derailleur hanger broke off - not ideal… So, she calls her amazing husband to pick us up, we push our bikes about 1km to the summit, discover a food truck & are able to hide inside to stay warm until he arrives. I get dropped off back in Hope for the night, Deilla & hubby go home to assess.
Hope to Princeton Round 2: Diella arrived back in Hope with her road bike (gravel bike toast until parts shipped - a week at the earliest) as we start our road ride along #3 to Princeton. The climb from Hope to the summit is long, but gorgeous. We were hungry by the time we stopped at Manning Park - this was the first day the lodge had re-opened & we were able to get sandwiches & hot chocolate while waiting out some rain that blew through. After eating, we waited for a break in the rain, then started out, but 5k down the road - rain... a descent…. wind… and 12 degrees. Yip we were cold - that kind of shaking that makes it hard to steer shaking. But when you are cold & wet on a bike, there really is only one choice - keep riding, maybe a bit harder. And it worked. We were fine by the time we reached the mine (Copper Hill Mine) having a nice final ride into Princeton. Our motel there was perfect as we were even able to wash our bikes at the local car wash. Time for a grocery store dinner & bed. (ok, motel was super basic, but it was cheap, had a shower, beds & heat…)
Princeton to Penticton: We were feeling proud of ourselves as we rode out of Princeton - I had unfortunately forgotten that the Old Hedley Road was paved as that would have made a much nicer route. Anywho… we see a cyclist ahead on the side of the road having a drink, the only one we had seen on the trip, & pulled over to say hi. This was the ‘bursting of my bubble’... he was a quiet fellow, riding a late 80s Mongoose MTB with what looked like mainly original parts. He has some scruffy walking shorts, super lean (ie: kinda skinny) late 50s or maybe 60s, white (but now grey) tube socks, some old runners, a t-shirt & a bunch of old school camping gear strapped to his very non-lightweight rack. He said ‘had to get out of that city for a while’. When we asked where he was going he said ‘dunno’. He. Was. Hardcore. Me <- feeling a bit wimpy… As we rode past Hedley, I was thinking how much I’d like to try the back way sometime - Hedley, up the Nickel Plate fire road, through Apex… but not on this trip. Just super gorgeous riding all the way to Osoyoos & I think downhill pretty much the whole way. We stopped for a grocery store lunch then started to Yellow Lake. And who did we come across? Yep, our floppy-clothing-hardcore-quiet-guy-cyclist. He was getting a drink from a creek that was flowing high. In fine old school fashion he drank straight from the creek… Sorry, this is getting long… Yellow Lake - amazing and sunny, descent into Kaleden - super fun, but a little rain. Ride into Penticton - triumphant.