Western British Columbia Circle Tour

Day 13 – Prince George – Rest Day

As promised, Uncle Carl picked us up at the campground and off we went on a day of chauffeured touring! Downtown Prince George has a few decent bike shops, but we still couldn’t find any suitable slicks for Tim and no 27″ tire for Larry, although he was still balking at buying a spare, so he wasn’t looking too hard. Chinese food for lunch and an offer of a BBQ at Carl’s house for the evening, made for a pretty relaxing day.
I opted out of the BBQ to do some necessary bike maintenance back at the campground. The problem with the Mr. Tuffy tire liner was bothering me, so I stripped it out and discovered that at the overlap point, the liner was cut off too abruptly, providing an opportunity for a pinch flat – which is exactly what happened. To remedy this, I tapered the end of the liner with a sharp knife, to give it a smoother transition at the overlap. This fix proved to “do the trick” as I didn’t have any more problems with punctures for the rest of the trip, and no more “mystery flats” in the future either. A quiet dinner then into my tent for a read of my book; actually I feel asleep and didn’t even hear the guys coming back from the BBQ!

Day 14 – Prince George to Quesnel – 118 kms

After a good night’s sleep and a rest day we were all raring to go, so we packed up and before we knew it, the sun was out to make it a perfect start to the day. Finished with Highway 16, our route was now Highway 97 south, the Cariboo Highway. Larry seemed to have found his “bike legs” and was sticking with us.
The miles went by quickly for me and pretty soon I arrived in downtown Quesnel, but the guys were nowhere in sight. I suppose I must of been daydreaming and not noticed them stopping (easy to do if you don’t check your rearview mirror for a while). So I rode through town, stopped at the local Travel Info Centre, and pulled up a stump in the shade out of the reach of the hot sun. I was lucky that a young girl selling ice-creams happened to cycle by. She had one of those old fashioned three wheeled bikes, with one rear wheel and the cooler mounted over the two front wheels; I didn’t even have to move! I bought two of the largest ices she had, mmm good! Just as I was finishing these goodies Tim and Larry rode up, but the ice cream girl had already left, too bad for them! Turns out that Tim had a flat, and that’s what held them up. They also stopped at one of Quesnel’s bike shops and Tim managed to find some slicks and coaxed Larry into buying that elusive 27″ tire.

Larry filling his face at Robin's Roost

Larry filling his face at Robin’s Roost

Off we went again, to the grocery store first, and then to our campground 2 kms south of Quesnel. Robin’s Roost was the name of the place, and although it was full of massive RV buses and trailers, they were very accommodating and had a large grassy area for us to camp, complete with picnic tables. It turned out that the campground was being used for a dog show at the time, and the influx of RVers were dog fanciers. It was interesting to watch some of the events and see the fancy RV rigs that these people had. Nevertheless, the absolute best at this campground were the washrooms! They were in a block of about 16, each one separate and individual, just like your own private bathroom, super clean, nice linoleum, flowers on the countertops. In fact, it made my bathroom at home feel shabby! I know it’s hard to get excited about bathrooms when you’re at home, but when you’re touring, it’s the little things that mean a lot!

Day 15 – Quesnel to Williams Lake – 120 kms

The sun was already peeking out when we hit the highway the next morning, so we put on our sunscreen as it looked like being a scorcher, and indeed it was! The scenery in this part of the country is quite spectacular and in many places, one can literally see for miles and miles.
We stopped at just about every small town (there aren’t many) we passed through to replenish our water and Gatorade, as the heat was really taking its toll on us. What a difference from the start of our trip!

Panoramic Views

Panoramic Views

About a third of the way to our destination of Williams Lake, we were climbing quite a long hill, with Tim in front and Larry bringing up the rear, when I heard an almighty BANG! I thought a car going by had backfired or somebody was shooting at us, but no, I looked around and there was Larry with the remains of a tire on his back wheel. I guess he developed a cut, then the tube started poking out, then due to the poor condition of his tire it just blew a massive hole in it. But how lucky can you be? He’d just bought the spare tire the day before! After this event, it was “Lucky Larry.”Eventually we had a nice downhill ride into Williams Lake; on the way into the town there was one of those large digital signs displaying time and temperature, it was 98°F , phew, no wonder we were beat!

The Travel Info Centre informed us that the only campground in town was at the Williams Lake Stampede Grounds; now this place is really downtown! Very reasonable though, and showers too. After we pitched our tents, the consensus was to find an air-conditioned restaurant for a cold beer and a large meal; this was all found within a short walk from our camp. Afterwards back at camp, we were performing our usual bike check, and Larry found that his rear wheel bearings needed adjustment. Good job that I brought those cone wrenches along, Lucky Larry!
Although we were quite central to the town,the campground was amazingly quiet and we had no trouble laying our weary bodies to rest.

Day 16 – Williams Lake to 100 Mile House – 105 kms

Another stinking hot day was the forecast for this day and it didn’t fall short. The route involved a fair bit of climbing, but was mainly pleasant and especially scenic when we were passing Lac la Hache – “the Longest Town in the Cariboo,” – which is a very popular recreation area. We continued to glimpse trains and track who’s routes almost paralleled ours. And in fact our whole route, from Prince Rupert to Vancouver, could be travelled by train; Via Rail from Prince Rupert to Prince George, and BC Rail From Prince George to Vancouver.

Update…
BC Rail was taken over by another company which resulted in termination of passenger service from Prince George to Vancouver.

There was a nice municipal park for camping at 100 Mile House, so we pitched our tents and went to get our provisions in town. A well-stocked sporting goods store there had camp stove fuel and all different kinds of gas canisters for camp stoves. It was nice to see a good selection, as most places always seem to be out of stock of the particular canisters that we required. Larry bought another spare tire without being coaxed this time and we did the rest of our shopping. Halfway back to the park, Larry turned around and headed back downtown in a hurry? Tim and I followed to find Larry going into the grocery store then coming out with a glum look… “What’s up?” we said. “Lost my wallet,” was the reply. The grocery store was the last place he had it and it wasn’t there, so it must of slipped out of his pocket when he began riding back. We retraced our steps and couldn’t find a trace of it, Unlucky Larry! Fortunately, there was only a bit of cash in it, some ID and one bank card, which would be useless to anybody without the PIN. We appeased Larry, and ourselves with food and beer back at the park!

Tim and the Torrent!

Tim and the Torrent!

A Small Creek Once!

A Small Creek Once!

At the park we had striking evidence of the massive Spring runoff and floods that had happened a few weeks before. Normally a small creek that flowed through the park was a raging torrent. A footbridge crossing the “creek” was completely submerged and cut off the park trail. The photos show what a small creek can turn into, and the noise was like sleeping next to Niagara Falls!

Day 17 – 100 Mile House to Clinton – 80 kms

We stopped at the local Police Station before we left, to report the loss of Larry’s wallet and to see if perhaps someone had turned it in, no such luck! I guess that Larry was destined to rely on our generosity for the remainder of the tour!

Valley Views

Valley Views

The morning wake-up hill beckoned, and it was 6 kms long out of 100 Mile House, quite steep too, some 9% sections if I remember correctly. But after that it was plain sailing, and quite a short and leisurely ride passing through 70 Mile House, and onto our next destination of Clinton. Nice valley views to the east for many miles made it enjoyable too. Lakeview Campground was actually about 6 kms south of Clinton, quite nice but it was one of those places that charges “per tent.” So while there were only three small tents, that could easily fit into one camping spot, we were still charged for three spots, $10.00 per tent, what a rip-off! Needless to say we spread out to our full $10.00 worth! There wasn’t much else to choose from in the area, short of “guerilla camping,” and as a small consolation, the shower facilities were free and ice cream was available at the office/store.

We sat around for a while by the small lake at the campground and chewed the fat. Our discussion turned to how the weather had actually been very nice for the last few days. “See,” I said, “just like I promised!” That was the wrong thing to say – all I got after that was, “but where are the babes on the beach?”

Day 18 – Clinton to Lillooet – 100 kms

There is a choice of roads when leaving Clinton for Pavilion; one way is to continue on Highway 97 and the other is a secondary road (to Downing Provincial Park), much of which is gravel and posted as “Summer Travel Only.” We opted for the highway, as I had previously enquired about the secondary road and it was not recommended for (road) bicycle travel, and we didn’t really have the tires for off-road terrain either.

After expecting a morning climb for quite a few days, it was a pleasant surprise to find ourselves on a downhill run almost straight away. In fact this gradual downhill would continue for over 20 Km and almost until we made the right turn to leave Highway 97 and pick up the eastern end of Highway 99.

Eastern end of Highway 99

Eastern end of Highway 99

Once we started on 99 we lost the good road shoulder and had to contend with virtually none. The traffic flow was very low and that was just as well as this was another hot, dry day with quite a stretch of narrow winding and hilly road all the way to Lillooet. There wasn’t much for

facilities on this road except for the general store at Pavilion, which was a welcome ice-cream and water stop. Supposedly the oldest general store in BC, it was quite a step back in time.

Pavilion General Store

Pavilion General Store

From Pavilion on, the scenery changed dramatically. We we riding above and alongside the Fraser River and the usual greenery was changing to an almost desert like landscape. The heat of the day was a good complement to the surroundings. Lillooet was Mile Zero and the the start of the Gold Rush Trail back in the Cariboo Gold Rush days, hence the name of the towns we had already passed through further north were related to distances on the same route that the miners had taken, e.g. 100 Mile House, 70 Mile House etc. On our way into Lillooet, we crossed the Fraser river via the Bridge of 27 Camels! So named after a failed business venture that brought camels to this part of the world to be used as pack animals for the gold prospectors. Unfortunately for the entrepreneur, the camel’s feet were too tender for our rugged BC terrain!

Changing Scenery

Changing Scenery

The campground that we were heading for was at the end of the bridge next to a swollen river, nothing fancy, but very reasonable. Boy it was hot though. Too warm to cook, so we walked up the hill to town for beer and pizza. After one beer, we each needed a jug of water as we seemed to be very dehydrated and the beer just didn’t seem to help. The waitress just kept bringing the ice water and couldn’t believe how much we were drinking! Bellied up on pizza, diluted beer and water we went back to camp and sat around watching the wind pick up huge dust clouds on the other side of the riverbank. After a while the wind seemed to get worse, and the dust clouds bigger, and bigger, the wind got stronger, the sky got darker, the rain drops started and we really pegged our tents down. The wind was howling by then and we were worried about the tents blowing away, so in we went figuring that with our weight inside, the tents would be safe. Well they were, but the sky opened up and it poured down, together with some thunder and lightening, ear plug night!

Continued on Page Four…

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