The Throttle West 2023 event, put on by Adventure Pacific Moto Tours and Events was a good excuse to go for another little road trip. I don’t often do road trips with others, but back in February, my friend Marlowe asked if I was going to the event and we decided to make a little adventure out of it. Marlowe was one of my original riding instructors! Mother Nature decided that Marlowe should start out with a deluge of rain on her way to Sechelt, from whence we would depart the next morning. I met her in Gibsons and after a quick visit to the Blackfish Pub for her Cafe to Cafe tour collection, we headed to our house and had a late supper talked way too much about life and nonsense before heading to bed to rest up for our adventure.
Thursday morning dawned cool, but dry and we made tracks for the scenic ferry ride over to Horseshoe Bay. We met Lorraine on the boat, who was also headed for Throttle West via the southern route. The bikes were off-loaded immediately, and Marlowe and I scooted off at the first exit to pick up the Sea to Sky Highway. This curvy road commands one’s attention and deserves much more respect from riders and drivers than it typically gets. Being a weekday, we had a lovely ride to Whistler, not encountering anyone crazier than ourselves. We pulled into Whistler for a break to stretch our legs, rehydrate and make a dent in the tub of cherries and blueberries I brought with me to use up. Whistler is as beautiful in the summer as it is in the winter and always bustling with people.
Jumping back on the bikes, we travelled on to Pemberton where we stopped briefly for gas before heading for the legendary Duffy Lake road that all riders in BC swoon over. It is still Hwy 99, but it is a scenic, twisty, technical road between Pemberton and Lillooet that is highly satisfying on a bike. Marlowe was wary, having not enjoyed the experience as a new rider many years ago. It is with proprietary pride that I can say I was with her when she found it an amazing ride as a very experienced rider and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Duffy Lake road eventually spits you out at Lillooet where we stopped for a break and some lunch. We still had a considerable distance to go, so we didn’t dawdle over lunch and headed south on Hwy 12 to Lytton. The town of Lytton was burned to the ground 2 years ago from wildfire and if it wasn’t sobering to see it burning on TV then, it was damn tragic to see “Main Street” with nothing ( and I mean nothing) but gated, empty lots waiting and hoping for rebuild, with the occasional lonesome tree standing unscathed amidst the devastation.
The brief stretch of Hwy 1 to the Hwy 8 turnoff was busy with traffic and a bit frustrating. The day was feeling long by now and in the last 8 kms, I made the decision not to take advantage of a passing lane to get by a very slow little truck. I regretted it as it seemed like a very long 8 kms before we turned off for the Spences Bridge road (Hwy 8). It was getting pretty hot, so we pulled over and crossed the street to the shade of an old building and had some more cherries and blueberries and chugged some water. The building was picturesque and a photo needed to be taken. Marlowe obliged and I think that was the first time I used my line on her to “smile like you’re having fun, not like you’re having your picture taken.” It worked - she laughed and she looks awesome! 😊
Hwy 8 between Spences Bridge and Merritt is another example of Mother Nature’s ability to humble us mere human beings. The road was almost completely washed away by floods and it has taken all of two years to make it passable again. I was on that road a few years ago and this time was struck by how dramatically the landscape has changed. There were lots of gravel stretches to keep us at a respectful speed and it wasn’t until we were about 30 kms short of Merritt that it smoothed out and we could sail along in relative ease to our hotel for the night. A late dinner of Chinese food and off to bed for an early start on Friday.
Hitting the road by 8:00 a.m. on Friday, we expected to arrive in Nakusp in lots of time for the event’s dinner and evening activities. You would think this would be gobs of time….. With only a brief stop for coffee and a snack in Kelowna, we were back on the bikes and up the back road to Lake Country to avoid the staggering gauntlet of lights through Kelowna on Hwy 97. A brief stop for gas in Lake Country and on to Cherryville where we would take a break for lunch at the Cherryville Roadhouse. I’ve been there before so I knew the food was decent. Neither of us being starved after our coffee stop, we decided to share the mandarin chicken salad. And a good thing we did – it was huge! Restored with real food, we hopped back on our bikes and sailed along the remaining miles of the absolutely spectacular Hwy 6 to the Needles ferry. It was with a bit of trepidation that we parked our bikes on the steeply sloped road to wait for the ferry, but we managed to park them solidly and drag our hot butts off for the wait. We had a great conversation with Tim while waiting. He had appeared behind us not far out of Cherryville and though we were navigating the highly technical road admirably, I expected him to fly by us on the straight stretches. He didn’t though, choosing to sit back at a respectful distance and let us do our thing. He rides the road regularly and is very familiar with it.
The traffic fairies continued to be kind as we disembarked on the east side of Arrow Lake, and we had a lovely, scenic, and smooth ride at a perfect pace for the last 45 minutes into Nakusp. Alas, when we arrived at 4:00 p.m. our room had missed the cleaning list! We ended up unloading our stuff into the pub while we waited for it to be prepared and missed the shuttle over to Rider’s Retreat where the event would kick off with dinner at 6. Eventually hauling everything up to our room, we had time for a quick shower and texted Rebecca at Rider’s Retreat to see about getting there so we didn’t have to get back on the bikes. We soon got the return message “Bald guy, black truck. Leaving now. 5 minutes.” The highly recognizable, admittedly bald Will, in a black truck, did arrive in about 5 minutes, tolerantly putting up with delivering us to the event and making bad jokes. Thanks Will!
More on the event itself later, but before I sign off on this blog, I want to explain the title “A Sense-ational Ride”. Taking the northern route from Horseshoe Bay to Lillooet is an amazing and welcome assault on the senses. It is not only visually stunning with its vistas of island-spotted ocean, soaring mountains, rushing creeks and deep gorges. As a rider, you also experience the change in the quality of the air, from the crisp, fresh essence of the mountains to the dryer, warmer air as you drop out of them. The smells change – a very green smell in the mountains, giving way to the smell of clover and wildflowers of the lower elevations as the air gets dryer and warmer. The temperatures shift - cooler in the mountains, riding through warm spots as the elevation drops, then cooling again as you climb the next, then smacked with a wall of heat as you descend from Lillooet into the arid Thompson-Nicola region. All of these things are experienced as a rider, a cyclist, a hiker – anything that takes you out of your “cage” and into the environment around you. It is so worth the time and energy.
Until later, my friends, thanks for joining me once again.