Okanagan-Similkameen, Canada - Polarsteps
We said goodbye to Chris at the Old Grist Mill and left Keremeos, then took some sweet backroads through the tiny town of Cawston, past little farms and fruit orchards. The rest of the day was steady climbing along Highway 3, to the point where we had to ask questions like, "What qualifies as a highway summit?" and "Why on earth would this not count as one?"
Cool things today included:
-Spotted Lake (Here's a CBC feature on it: https://www.cbc.ca/wildcanadianyear/m_blog/bcs-spotted-lake-is-the-most-magical-place-in-canada) This is a sacred place for the Syilx People, and the minerals collect in the lake in a way that gives it a striking spotted pattern. It's best seen in the summer-- the water level is still high right now, so the spots are much less visible but still there.
-The long descent into Osoyoos; you can see the whole town, the valley full of vineyards, and the Monashee Mountains (and the snaking switchbacks we'll be taking up into them).
-Roberto's Gelato in Osoyoos, owned by a bike traveller; we got a hot tip that they offer a free treat to touring cyclists, and pretty much thought about it all day as we pedalled uphill in the heat. Roberto was lovely and gave us each a cone of amazing house-made gelato and had us sign a years-long many-paged touring cyclist log.
Less cool things included:
-My back tire went flat twice-- no obvious cause, it just looks like a tube-pinching + loaded bike situation. The first time, the only way we could get off the road to fix it was by sort of scooting into a ditch and then sitting up on some rocks on the slope next to the road. I fully pulled my bike into the ditch, but Kini, trying to make it easier to get back on the road, laid their bike down partially sticking out of the ditch and slightly into the road shoulder. We were sitting and repairing the flat when a woman stopped her car across the road, looking terrified and then really relieved to spot us-- she got out and explained that she'd thought Kini's bike was a motorcycle accident, and that some of their gear was a person lying in the ditch. Still horrified/relieved, she put a couple of warm apple pies in our hands before leaving, and we cleaned up the bike and stood it up in the ditch, and realized we need to do better next time.
The second flat happened on our way through Osoyoos, and we stopped in a gas station parking lot to repair it before heading on to Roberto's. The seconds I rode on it unfortunately skewed the rim and tire, and have ended up keeping us in town an extra day.
-We'd seen on the map that there were a few campgrounds around town, and figured we'd sort out accomodations when we got into Osoyoos. Breezing past town wasn't an option because after town the road immediately starts climbing up Anarchist Mountain, and the landscape around here is tough for wild camping; it's very open, not a lot of trees, and most of what's next to the road is fenced-off private property. Sitting outside Roberto's we looked into our camping prospects and realized none of them were good. The cheapest, at a provincial park, still ran $30 for a tent site, and when we called it turned out they were completely full and unable to take us. Everything else was intensely RV-focused and around $50/night-- no tenting rates, only the option to rent a big site with full RV hookups. There are also no Warm Showers hosts in Osoyoos; the only member here is Roberto offering free gelato. In the end we went off an online tip and headed 10km off our route, up the river towards the next town, partly on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (which we'll be spending a lot more time with in the coming days), and found a quiet spot next to the river. Pretty wiped, we sat and waited until it was almost dark before setting up. It was a windy night, but one without incident, and we set a 5am alarm to get packed up the next morning.
-Every time we go through a town: lilacs, everywhere. Sometimes other flowering plants, too.
-Everywhere else, often mixed with the lilacs: sage brush, absolutely everywhere.
-Sunscreen and sweat (that's us).
-Quails. Crows. Mountain songbirds we don't know the names of.
-Dry seed pods from trees rattling across the road in the wind.
-This terrifying groaning creaking sound that the highway signs make in the wind when they're suspended from a metal bar. I haven't noticed this before-- maybe we have more hanging road signs in Canada? They do it out of nowhere when we're riding past and I jump a bit every time.
🚲 Bike Jaunt 🚲