Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Tour BC

After first meeting Danelle and John in 2003 through BC Randonneurs we had wanted to ride Tour BC which they organize but the timing never worked out. We had just found out that we would not be going to England in July when we saw them at the Seattle Bike Expo so Danelle sat us down with firm instructions to register immediately. We did as we were told and also got my brother Paul to sign up. During the ride we also met up with friends John and Sue who we knew through Cycle Tuesdays, Ralph and Carol from SIR (who were gearing up for PBP on their tandem), and Doug and Susan from BC Randonneurs.

We drove up to Penticton on Saturday July 14, got the bikes checked, had dinner, and returned to a hotel room that was blazing hot. There was a small 1960's vintage air conditioner that worked its heart out all night and maybe managed to drop the temperature about 10 degrees by the next morning. We were happy to get out into the cool morning air and begin our week-long bike trek.

Day one: 144 km from Penticton to Armstrong with 5500 feet of climbing. It was really hot and it took its toll on the riders. Lunch break included swimming but towards the end of the ride all fannies were dragging. We met Charlie and Terrie from Aberdeen who just happened to know our old pals Steve and Dian who had moved there from Bellevue a couple of years ago. We also met Jude and Nancy from Salmon Arm. Jude was riding and Nancy was driving her RV and dog-sitting. The 7 of us had a great time together the entire week. The campsite in Armstrong was a dry and hot showground/arena. Charlie and Robin found a dilapidated stage to set up camp because it offered the only shade. Good job guys! Also thanks to Terry and Charlie for all the photos since we didn't bring our camera.

Day two: 136 km from Armstrong to Revelstoke with 2900 feet of climbing. Still hot but a shorter and easier day ending at a campsite along the Columbia River with grass and shade. Charlie, Robin, Terry, Paul, and I all rode together on the flatter terrain. A quick scouting party into town brought back beer and chips so we hardly cared that the luggage truck was late getting there. Support on the ride was great and it was arranged so that the support crew could ride part of each day if they wished. Our lunch truck driver was another BC Randonneur rider, Bob, and we enjoyed seeing him each day. Michel covered afternoon water/rest stops and was beginning what he called his "one month training plan" for PBP. The river was bone chillingly cold. You know when you can put your feet in a stream or river and bear it long enough for everything to go numb? Not here - it just hurt too much (or maybe I'm just getting wimpier???). That didn't stop Paul however who took several cooling plunges. Yeow!

Day three: 103 km from Revelstoke to Nakusp with 4200 feet of climbing. A few thunder and rainstorms on this day. We managed to miss most of them somehow. A nice long climb to start the day and a lovely ferry ride across the Columbia to - another long climb - not quite so nice as it was getting much hotter. A beautiful waterfall and many gorgeous views marked the route. Camping was in a nice wooded campsite and the threat of a real soaker never materialized. We kept finding that by the time we got done riding in the afternoon we were much too hungry to wait for dinner. We all got laundry going then wandered into town and found a pizza place run by a German. At first he was a bit gruff but we finally pestered him enough he came to talk to us.

Day four: 149 km from Nakusp to Castlegar with 5600 feet of climbing. A beautiful but tough day of riding. Luckily my brother Paul stuck with me and towards t
he end of the day when we had to ride on a busy road followed by more climbing to the campsite he saved my butt. He said he would get us in if he could get a double espresso. My self-preservation radar kicked in and we found a coffee stand pronto so I could get him the required caffeine. That did the trick! Thanks Paul! A really lovely campsite including a nice shallow stream for sitting and soaking followed by a fantastic dinner - what a great day. It rained quite heavily that night but was mostly just cloudy when we woke. A terrific breakfast to start the day (the lady that did the catering for this stop was a marvel - we wanted to load her up and take her with us for the rest of the tour! - and we really wish we had later...)

Day five: 98 km from Castlegar to Grandforks with 4800 feet of cli
mbing. Two long passes to climb on this day and some pretty severe downpours. Heading down the last big descent I hit a huge cloudburst so I just kept it in the middle of the lane (there were 2 lanes of traffic in each direction) and rode it out. Smooth road with plenty of sight distance saved the day! Once again Paul stuck with me - until the final insult of the day. We had just linked up with Ralph and Carol when we saw another storm moving towards us. We thought we could outrun it so we stomped on it. We rounded a bend and saw something head in the road we couldn't identify. It was a wall of ran racing right at us. We slammed into it (or it slammed into us) about 5 km from Grandforks. Paul took off to save his skin and I did the best I could to push through. A small climb almost undid me as the water was running down at me so deep and fast I was having a hard time maintaining forward motion! For some reason I found the whole situation hilarious and was laughing out loud as I got completely drenched. At the campsite Robin had managed to get the tent and sleeping bags dry from the night before so we were comfy and cozy. A bagpipe group entertained us that night while loads of wet cycling gear dried on trees, fences, tables and benches.

Day six: 128 km from Grandforks to Osoyoos with 5100 feet of climbing. It was about at this point of the tour that I found out Danelle had made this the hardest route ever after having polled former tour participants. Well no wonder I was getting pooped! This was a gorgeous day of riding. Paul would usually wait for me at the tops of the long climbs and he and I would work together to roar down the descent. It was great fun but we found we were killing ourselves but we couldn't resist! The supposed final climb of the day was to Anarchist Pass. A great name but the problem was there was still plenty of climbing after that. I was saying bad words until at the last water stop Danelle assured me it was clear sailing from there. The descent was a gas! Right down into Osoyoos - frequently Canada's hot spot - and it didn't disappoint today - it was hot! Great entertainment by young dancers from the First Nation people (what we would call Native Americans) and massages to end the day - ahhh.

Day seven: 68 km from Osoyoos to Penticton with 1800 feet of climbing and several winery stops. A well deserved easy day with a strong tailwind - yahoo! We tasted and bought some wine, got cleaned up at the local recreation centre, then met up to bid goodbye to our new friends. It was such a fun week with special old and new friends.