by Rebecca Slaven | When someone asked why I decided to cycle to the Okanagan, a friend of mine said, “Because she’s fucking crazy!” Indeed, that is part of the answer, since multi-day bike trips are an adventure coloured by exhaustion and discomfort. But no matter the difficulty, it’s extraordinarily peaceful when the only obligation in a day is to bike from point A to whatever point B has a supply of beer and burgers.
Travelling by bike is also the most efficient way of intimately getting to know a piece of terrain and the population within. Roadside diners deserve particular attention. Some of the most valuable tips I’ve ever received on bike trips have been over biscuits and gravy with the locals. Plus, it’s nice to have a conversation after being lost in your own thoughts all day. Because after all, bike trips, even when done with others, are very solitary, individual experiences.
For this trip, I biked from Vancouver to Chilliwack, Manning, Princeton, and Naramata. Indoor accommodations can be found all year round, and in summer weather, campgrounds abound.
Vancouver to Chilliwack was a bit of a mess for me but this is roughly how I did it. I took the Central Valley Greenway and hopped on to the Patullo Bridge. Then I followed the first bike sign I saw to the heart of Langley, travelling down 200 St. and making my way to Huntingdon Road, which I recommend taking, as it’s full of picturesque farms. From there, I took Angus Campbell Road to the feeder road alongside Highway 1.
A trip to Chilliwack would not be complete without a stop at the Airport Coffee Shop, with its famous slogan, “I Fly for Pie”. While the meringue is fascinating to watch (seemingly taking on a life of its own), I recommend the fruit pies instead.
Leaving Chilliwack on Day 2, take Highway 1 until Highway 9, which eventually turns into the 7. You can continue on Highway 1, but the #9 is quieter and if you go at the right time of year, you’ll pass by tulip fields in full bloom. Once in Hope, make sure you’re stocked up for food before you leave because there are no opportunities for groceries until the next day. Leaving Hope, take the #3 and all the mental fortitude you can muster because it’s uphill for the rest of the day.
According to cyclists who have trekked across Canada, Hope to Allison Pass Summit (1342 m) is the most difficult section of the entire journey. This is a good time to remember that cycling this pass is your only obligation for the rest day. Your gelatinous legs may not be capable of more than ten-second increments, at times, but you will get to the summit eventually, after which is a quick 12k ride to Manning Park Resort. In the off-season, the restaurant is closed and the pub stops serving food at about 8:30 pm. Let that be a motivator to finish the day’s ride before sunset.
Take comfort that Day 3 is a relative breeze. Coast down the #3, up a small summit, and back downhill into Princeton. There’s not much to recommend in Princeton other than getting some Dairy Queen, a six-pack, and tuning into Robocop back at your motel. Even the grocery store was closed and grass was the only greens in sight. As one of the staff at the corner store said to me, “It’s a hard town to find a salad in…”
Day 4 is the longest in distance but it’s not too hilly. Continue on the #3 to Keremeos. Lunch at Benja Thai is well worth the stop. Huge portions for not a good price, perfect for mid-trip. Back track slightly to the Keremeos Bypass, which eventually takes you onto the #97. Resist the temptation to get onto the Kettle Valley Trail in Penticton. It’s not paved in this area and people will run faster than you will bike with all of your gear. Make your way onto Naramata Road until your destination. There are numerous small hills along this road and at this point you will probably be tired and questioning why you thought cycling to the Okanagan was a good idea. But then you’ll grab a bottle of wine and a bag of chips and all will be well.
The Naramata Bench is chock-a-block with wineries. Take your gear off of your bike and bring water for touring around. Two of my favourite vineyards that I visited during my stay were Elephant Island and Therapy. I’m kicking myself for not realizing thatJoie Farm was so close to my home base, which just means I’ll have to go back again soon (maybe via car this time). Happy Riding!
Rebecca Slaven is a librarian, writer, and cyclist. Her subject specialities include law, beauty, and croquet. Her format specialty is the how-to guide. She mostly rides her bike to work but has cycled as far as San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.