Week One In Review: White Rock, BC to Vernon, BC

We’re not ones to lie, so believe us when we say that this has been a pretty tough week. The name of the game has definitely been lots of climbing. Luckily, with the gorgeous scenery of BC, we’ve been (mostly) distracted from the burning muscles in our legs. So, without further adieu, we’d like to share a selection of our photos and a little video from this past week with you!

Day 1 – White Rock, BC to Hope, BC (Route)

No matter how much you prepare for it, day one of a huge adventure still seems to take you by surprise. The morning started with us making frantic last minute packing changes, loading up the bikes, noticing issues, unloading the bikes, repacking things, repeat (over and over and over). Not that this was necessarily a bad thing — you definitely want to have your gear well-packed (and all present and accounted for).

Another positive to these last minute preparations was that it gave time for Jon’s brother, Dave, to get to our starting point for some heartfelt farewells. Once everything had been packed up, we lingered a bit longer for those goodbyes. Odd how when it finally comes time to leave that leaving seems so easy to put off.

However, all adventures start with that first uncertain step (or pedal stroke), and we finally had to take it. Heading out on familiar roads (to me, that is) helped. And once we were moving, the excitement of the trip started to kick in. It wasn’t a big explosion of excitement, but an intermittent flutter in the stomach that came and went as we pedalled along.

Since my dad was at work, we included a stop by his office along our route. There, we had a break and another set of goodbyes. Maybe it hit me then — it would be months of uncertainty for our families, as we would be in intermittent contact, and would only have our once-a-day SPOT transmission to keep everyone satisfied that we were in fact still alive.

Jon, the eager beaver that he is, couldn’t even wait for day two to get his first flat. Taken in Chilliwack, BC

The cycling for day one started out with rolling hills, but nothing too challenging. The weather, though, was gorgeous and sweat-inducing. Before too long, we were in Chilliwack, which marks the furthest I’ve ever cycled eastward from my parent’s house.

Chilliwack… ahh memories. Chilliwack holds a special place in my cycling past and development. It was during my 3rd or 4th year of university that I randomly and spontaneously decided it would be cool to ride to Chilliwack, where I would then get a ride back home. Only, at this time I had nothing but a mountain bike with front suspension — though, at least the suspension could be (mostly) locked.

Though it was a bit of a fool’s errand, I managed to successfully complete that ride. I remember it being a hot day, and I remember going through so many fluids. I had started out with a backpack full of gatorades and water, and found that I needed to stop for even more. And even with all of those electrolytes, I still had severe cramping in my calves and quads as I approached my destination. Yet, I made it! To this day, I still don’t know what inspired me to do that trip — but I am glad I did.

Later on, after graduating from UBC, a friend and I bought road bikes and were attempting to get more into cycling. As a part of this, naturally, we tried to do longer and longer rides. So, one day we went on a ride to — you guessed it — Chilliwack! Only, this time, there would be no car ride home; the plan was to ride there AND back. Long story short, after a trying day, we did indeed make it back. The last stretch was completed in the dark, and we were starving when we finally arrived. By starving, I mean we were literally so hungry that we went to McDonald’s and ordered a couple of burgers each.

So, back in the present, making it to Chilliwack was really the first milestone that made it hit home that this trip was actually underway!

After passing through Chilliwack, the road started to increase in grade. This didn’t happen suddenly — the road was very sneaky and the gradual increase was only evident at first by the decrease in our speed. At one rest stop along the way, both Jon and I needed to stop for a nice break, including food and stretching. I won’t lie — I especially needed this break, as the extra effort needed to pull the BOB trailer was starting to sap my strength. However, we were getting close, so we were in good spirits, looking forward to setting up our first night’s camp!

End of day one — we made it to Hope just in time to catch the sun set behind the mountains. Taken in Hope, BC.

Our arrival into Hope was beautifully timed with the start of the sun setting behind the surrounding mountains. We didn’t waste time, but quickly found a campground and set up our first camp! While I had used my tent a few years before, it still took some time. Jon was new at setting up the tent he had with him, but still managed well.

After we proudly admired our work, we went in search of a grocery store and then cooked our first dinner. We had definitely worked up an appetite over our first official day on the road!

First night of camping, with a pretty view! Taken in Hope, BC.

Day 2 – Hope, BC to Manning Park, BC (Route)

Awaking on day two was an educational experience. The first thing I felt was stiff and sore from sleeping — not so much from the previous day’s ride, but from sleeping on a thin camping mat. Then, the hunger pangs hit me. They hit fast and furious and did not hold any punches!

Aside from those feelings, I was excited to be waking up in my cozy tent! I was thrilled to breathe the fresh air. I was very much looking forward to the day’s ride to Manning Park, a place that — to the best of my knowledge — I had never been before. I was also glad it was only going to be a 67km ride (versus over 130km the previous day). Oh, how that distance turned out to be deceiving…

Super Jon is showing us how unafraid of the horrible, horrible climbs he is. Don’t worry, he later repents. Taken on the way to Manning Park from Hope, BC.

After eating, we hit the road. Once out of Hope, we noticed that it was pretty hard to pedal on the road. Maybe we were tired from the previous day? No, we were feeling okay. Maybe we had eaten too much for breakfast? Oatmeal shouldn’t slow us down that much. Maybe the bikes had a mechanical issue that came on over the night spent outside? The bikes seemed to be in proper working order. It didn’t take us long to realize that the road was climbing steadily up. Like, stairway to heaven kind of up. Well, it surely can’t last, right?

A stunning view at the Hope Rock Slide. Taken on the way to Manning Park from Hope, BC.

Not too far outside of Hope, we came across the Hope Rock Slide historic site. Not only was it a good excuse for a break, but it was an interesting historic site. Here, on January 9, 1965, the second largest landslide ever recorded in Canada occurred. Roughly 47 MILLION cubic metres of rock came down during the slide!

Intense Jon is intense. And reflective. Taken at the Hope Rock Slide, BC.

Remember when I said that the climb couldn’t last? Well, turns out that the climb certainly could last. Indeed, it could last all day. We climbed and climbed and climbed. Looking down at my Garmin GPS unit was just about the most discouraging sight possible; we were crawling along at 6km/h for large stretches. That alone is pretty hard to see, mentally. However, when paired with the burning and exhausted feelings threatening to overwhelm my legs, it became downright morale-shattering.

There were many moments during time where we seriously questioned if we could do this… Who were we kidding, thinking we could traverse the breadth of Canada on bikes? Besides that, if day two of this ride was going to kick our butts so hard, what were we going to do when we hit the Rockies?? I tell you, despite the flawless, sunny weather, there were many, many dark moments for us.

Luckily, we are both very stubborn people. So stubborn that we kept on pedalling, even for stretches where our speed dropped to 4km/h and it became hard to maintain balance because we were going so slow. How? Why? I honestly think part of it was knowing that every hill has a crest. The other part? Knowing that what goes up must come down!

As we persisted in our climb, the air temperature started to noticeably get colder. Yet, we kept our legs going. Then we started to see snow on the side of the road… how high were we?!?! Was it going to snow on us…in June?? After stopping to throw on our coats, the temperature became much more tolerable.

After an eternity, the road seemed to slowly get less and less steep, before finally leveling out. Just ahead, there was a sign on the side of the road — Allison Pass Summit! We were 1342 metres above sea level, and our climb was done. We whooped in joy and victory! Maybe we could do this trip after all!

Such a sight for sore eyes (and legs). Bring on the downhill!

From Allison Pass onward, we enjoyed the well-earned downhill slope of the road. Before long, we arrived in Manning Park, where we set up our second night’s camp and set to preparing dinner. Lesson for the day: always check the elevation profile of a route and never disrespect a seemingly short ride.

Blue skies and snow-capped mountains in Manning Park. Taken in Manning Park, BC

Day 3 – Manning Park, BC to Hedley, BC (Route)

We made a new friend at our campsite in Manning Park. Taken in Manning Park, BC

After making friends with the local wildlife, who were keen on invading our campsite, we were back on the road. What would today bring?? My legs, for one, were hoping — nay, crying out — for a break from the relentless climbs!

The day started off well, with a rainbow smiling down on us. Taken in Manning Park, BC

Despite hoping to continue the blissful descent that we had started the previous day, it didn’t take long before we found ourselves climbing again. Up and up and up. But, today was different — the climbs, while still long and toiling, were not constant, and had interspersed downhill sections. Oh, sweet, sweet downhills.

The Crow’s Nest Highway – such a memorable sign!

Near Princeton, we hit a couple sections of especially steep downhill (7-8%), which were much more exposed than previous descents. As we started down, watching the speedometer quickly climb, we were hit by harsh crosswinds out of nowhere! With our pannier bags and BOB trailing my bike, we were suddenly in a fierce fight to maintain control of our bikes — not only to keep ourselves from being toppled over, but also to maintain our tenuous position on the road’s shoulder. It was a life and death balancing act: lean too far into the wind, and a sudden let up in the wind’s strength would set us swerving into the passing vehicles; however, do not lean far enough, and we would be blown off the road and possibly over the edge of the guard rail!

While all of this was happening, I could also feel BOB, behind me, being pushed to and fro by the wind, increasing the tension level even further!

I’ve never been more thankful to reach the bottom of a hill. We both pulled over and proceeded to let off a string of obscenities that would make even the internet blush. Our bodies were visibly shaking from the ample adrenaline flowing through our veins, and it took more than a few minutes and a few deep breaths before we were finally ready to proceed.

In Princeton, we stopped at Thomasina’s, a local bakery, for delicious sandwiches and lemonade. We also bought some mini pies for later, and the owner threw in some coconut tarts to sweeten the deal. Mmmm!

Impressive rocky outcropping along the road out of Princeton. Taken near Princeton, BC.

Leaving Princeton, we only had to deal with rolling hills and some wind. These, we took in stride, thankful that no big climbs were left between us and our destination… today, at least.

Sunset near our campsite at Stemwinder Provincial Park. Taken at Stemwinder Provincial Park, near Hedley, BC.

Day 4 – Hedley, BC to Summerland, BC (Route)

It’s a good thing that BC has so much wild beauty going for it! Because, just when you think you’ve earned a break, you’re back into the fight.

Today started out climbing, and then proceeded further challenge us with strong head winds. Did I mention that it was also hooooooot?!? It got me thinking of the three deadly challenges of cycling, which I will call the 3 Hs: Hills, Headwinds, and Heat. Today was 3 for 3!

Looking back at the top of a 9% grade climb. The view makes it worth it! Taken on the road between Hedley, BC and Penticton, BC.

One of the most amazing parts of passing through this region is its bountiful orchards, vineyards, and farms. Everywhere you go, there are stands selling the freshest of fruits, berries, and vegetables, all for impressively cheap prices. Not only that, but several local companies make and sell amazing jams and fruit preserves. It is a complete food paradise!

After our blissful food stop in Keremeos, we were full of food and content with the world. And then we saw what lay ahead: a daunting 20km climb, with those horrible, horrible headwinds. Oh boy…

Nevertheless, we persisted and eventually arrived at Yellow Lake, with its well-timed rest area. There, we made lunch… and some reports suggest that the picnic tables may have been used for a bit of a nap. Allegedly.

Jon, knocked out by the one-two punch of climbing and lunching. Taken at Yellow Lake, between Keremeos, BC and Penticton, BC.

As we looked around the Yellow Lake area and its dam, we met a couple of older women who were rocking the same climb that we had just done, but with their road bikes! Naturally, we were a bit jealous of the speeds they were able to attain while climbing on their road bikes, but we tried not to show it too much as we chatted about our respective rides and where we were off to next.

Continuing on from Yellow Lake, we had large amounts of downhill leading into Penticton. The way was relatively flat, and we made quick progress. That is, until the monster climb out of Summerland took our breath away. Yet, as with all hills we had conquered up until now, we stayed positive and let our legs pedal and pedal onwards, in complete defiance of gravity.

Today was a day of transition in terms of landscapes. We started with shale mountains and huge scree slopes, which slowly gave way to lower mountains. These then melted away to rolling hills in the valley. Finally, as we passed Penticton, the landscape shifted to gorgeous, exposed bluffs.

If such changes are possible in a single day of riding, we can’t wait to see what else Canada has in store for us!

Dusky shot of the bluffs outside of Penticton. Taken near Penticton, BC.

As night started to fall in earnest, we finally saw the turn off for Lake Okanagan Provincial Park. Turning right into the park entrance, we saw it was all downhill to the lake — WOOHOO! We quickly found a campsite and set up, for this campground had a real treat in store for us. It was the first time we had had a chance to shower in FOUR DAYS!

Day 5 – Summerland, BC to Vernon, BC (Route)

A beautiful morning to wake up to in Lake Okanagan Provincial Park, near Summerland, BC. Taken at Lake Okanagan Provincial Park.

Another beautiful BC morning greeted us as we packed up camp and headed out on the road. It was so very tempting to take a day off to hang out at the lake, but we both heard the road calling and knew that today was not yet a rest day.

Before long, we came upon a loooooong line of cars, the drivers of which did not look happy. We thought that perhaps there had been an accident, but were relieved to see that it was some form of organized event going on. Children dressed in identical blue shirts were in bunches every kilometre or so. One group of kids was running in front of a van, along with police escort. Since we are big proponents of physical activity — obviously! — seeing this event made us so happy! Go runners, go!

We were also able to pretty swiftly pass by the traffic, so we were thankful for the small and nimble size of the bicycle — even ours, loaded down with panniers and camping gear! Because of this, we were soon past the event and back onto the road at our normal pace.

As we entered West Kelowna, we were taken aback by the large expanse of suburban sprawl and the numerous strip malls. This being our fifth day on the road, we had not passed through anything quite like this so far! It’s hard to trade in the wilderness and mountains of BC for endless commercial signs and heavy traffic.

However, once we passed through to Kelowna, we were glad to see a much more personable downtown area. We pulled in and found the nearest bike shop (ChainLine Cycle), as my bike had been acting up since just before West Kelowna and Jon’s bike was having some shifting issues. Good thing we didn’t just let it go — turns out that I had a broken spoke on my rear wheel and a bent derailleur hanger. The former was the bigger issue, as a broken spoke comprises the overall structure and strength of a wheel.

We were able to drop the bikes off, go grab lunch, and then come back with the bikes ready to go. Now, that’s great service!

Getting back on the road, the bikes felt great! We made our way the rest of the way to Vernon, continuing to have to deal with the unfamiliar, busy traffic. While we are both experienced cyclists, you never really get used to being buzzed — passed really closely by a car. It’s especially unnerving when you are loaded with panniers and gear and much wider than normal. Alas, we made it without any further mishaps.

In Vernon, we found our way to a Howard Johnson Inn. It was the eve of our first day off, and we felt that we had earned a good night’s rest in comfy beds!

And that was our week — sweat and tears omitted for your viewing pleasure. What do you think about the landscapes so far? Are there any places you would like to see us capture? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, please feel free to leave feedback on this weekly photo recap! What would you like to see here? More pictures? Less? More of us? Or absolutely none with us? Again, let us know in the comments!


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