By Heather Pardon
The mountains of the west have afforded ample opportunity for one of my favourite types of cycling, climbing. In my RV, “Miss Daisy” I also enjoy the mountain climbs much more than I do the descents, which are a little unnerving to a neophyte driver of a 27 foot RV.
After visiting a friend up in Quesnel, BC, my route would take me along Highway 99 to Pemberton, Whistler and eventually Vancouver. I’ve never before experienced such a challenging drive in a vehicle as I did on that highway, experiencing a few steep “ups and downs” on the drive. The 400 or so kilometres from Quesnel to Pemberton took me roughly nine hours to travel.
The scenery on the route is gorgeous as you are beckoned by the beauty of the Coastal Mountains. Thankfully it somewhat calmed my nerves as I made the 13 km descent into Pemberton, negotiating several hairpin switchbacks and inclines reaching 15% in spots. Due to my already distinguished salt and pepper hair, no-one will notice the new grey growth that sprouted as a result of that section of the drive.
As I completed the descent, thanking the gods of mountain-pass-driving for granting me safe passage, the climber in me wondered what the ride would be like on a bicycle. I decided to find out the following day.
The town of Pemberton sits 20 km south of the bottom of the pass. Pemberton, population approx. 3,000 is 32 km from Whistler, a quieter and more serene alternative to the hustle and bustle of Whistler Village. The surrounding countryside is quiet and peaceful, dotted with farmland and livestock, streams and sheltered all-around by the majestic snow-capped Coastal Mountains. Pemberton offers a peaceful beauty and a great base for a variety of area outdoor pursuits.
I ventured east the next morning, under slightly grey skies. The approach to the mountain pass was mostly flat, allowing for a nice warm-up for what lay on the road ahead. The climb began rather mercilessly and steeply, best to leave your ego aside and just accept the help of your granny gear right from the outset.
As I climbed I could smell the rubber of the brakes on the vehicles coming down. As I recalled my own descent the previous day, I was happy to continue climbing, even at an average speed of 7 kph. I was happy for the slow pace as it there is much to see and savour in the surroundings; it’s the type of cycling where “slow is more”. It took me a little more than an hour and a half to reach the top, where I, and my pounding heart that was beating furiously, were happy to stop for a snack break and a few moments to savour the view.
Next came the time to enjoy the descent on a 5 foot bicycle, weighing substantially less than “Miss Daisy” and re-tracing the path I’d travelled the day before. The descent took a mere 20 minutes and while challenging at times at times, it didn’t add any more “grey” matter to the top of my head.
I experienced my share of ups and downs on Highway 99. It is certainly a challenging section of highway, either for an RVer or a cyclist. I preferred it is a cycle route, one that does offer you some stiff “ups and downs” but one that will definitely leave you feeling “up” for the stunning and invigorating mountain ride you’ll get to enjoy.
Heather’s Cross-Canada Cycling Adventure
Join Ottawa author, personal trainer and life coach Heather Pardon who recently sold and packed up her home, downsized her life, bought an RV and is taking her belongings and bicycle for an adventure across Canada this summer. Each week, Heather will be sharing photos and stories from her cycling adventures en route. You may also visit her personal blog at http://wilddaisy.ca/Blog/ for more frequent updates from the road.
Read Heather’s Previous Posts:
A Day with the Gurlz
A Day on Manitoulin Island, Ontario
There is Cycling Gold in Thunder Bay
Muddy Waters 100
A Prairie Perspective
Cycling in Banff National Park: The Mountains Will Take Your Breath Away
I Couldn’t Pass Up on Rogers Pass
Savona, the Jewel of the Canadian Desert