Soooo…the last time I wrote we were on the road out west. At the time of that writing we were holed up in Edmonton. It was June, about 5c and raining sideways due to a strong north wind. The plan was to push on and take a highway that wound it’s way through the Rockies from Jasper to Banff. Scratch that. There was a forecast for 10 cm of snow so we diverted. Straight down toward Calgary then west again and into the Rockies.
Driving into the Rockies from the prairies is always awe inspiring. We would stop when we could to just take it all in. I will say this, I much prefer driving through the mountains along the bottom rather than taking those mountain passes that take you over top. You know, the ones with no guard rails and the only thing between you and a drop of death is a 2 foot shoulder. There was plenty of white knuckle driving on my part…
As per usual, there were the occasional delays due to highway construction or clearing fallen debris (boulders) off the road. As much as these delays can be annoying, they also give you a chance to stop and take a good look around at the scenery.
After a night in Golden BC, we made the push to Kelowna, knowing there were a couple of stops along the way.
One of the places was in Salmon Arm BC. Home of Shuswap Pie Company. Arlene had seen this place featured on Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here”.
Great little place with exceptional sandwiches, meat pies and of course dessert pies. We found that stopping in these smaller centres really paid off with finding spots to grab a great meal and take in more outstanding scenery. Breaking up the trip as we did, also took the panic out of “having” to get to the next destination. We had a plan, but a loose one.
Once on the road again, we took a little detour up to Kamloops. We arranged to see our cousin Bob and Ronda’s son James. A common theme we seemed to find in these towns was that the downtown areas had a rustic look with well kept, but older look brick store fronts and sidewalk cafes.
Another common theme was a choice of bistro style coffee shops much like Whitecap in Winkler. We’ve always been attracted to these older style buildings. They just seem to have more character and nostalgia. Maybe we’re just old lol.
We were able to meet James mid afternoon and had a wonderful visit at a bistro located downtown. From what we gathered, James and his family have settled nicely in Kamloops and they have no intentions of moving back to experience a Manitoba winter. He delivers the news for a local radio station there and if you’re a twitterer, you can follow him @Jamloops.
Next was the final push to Kelowna. I’d heard a lot about scenic Kelowna. The route we chose took us through some rural areas. Paved roads, just not on the main highways. This afforded us a view we of the agricultural areas, not the large wheat fields we see, but fields, orchards and ranches. The biggest difference of course was the rugged terrain in the background. Entering the east side of Kelowna, I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed. Much more industrial than I had pictured. After getting settled in our hotel, we took a drive to the west side and the waterfront. A whole different picture! Beautiful condo/hotels, lake filled with boats, another picturesque downtown area full of restaurants to choose from.
We stayed here for a couple of nights, during which time we were able to visit the parents of a couple we knew from Nicaragua, Mike and Cindie Smetana. Had another great visit catching up at their condo along the waterfront. Very down to earth and generous folks. Hopefully, we can catch up with them again.
Another couple we met for lunch were Stewart and Laura Matychuk. They’ve moved to Kelowna full time. Our trip was dotted with get togethers either with people we knew from back home or met along the way. It certainly added some context to the trip in that we got to hear from locals where to eat and things to see.
Kelowna was going to be our turning around point. That was until we received a message from friends now living in Abbotsford, Kyle and Dorothy Brucki. I got to know Kyle through my work at Southland Honda. He was a sales rep I’d meet with in my early years there and we’d usually spend lunch in the gazebo of our back yard in Winkler when he was out.
Aside from his sales job in Abbotsford, he and Dorothy run an Airbnb out of their house. It just so happened our trip lined up with a couple of openings they had. Didn’t take much to convince us. He had us at “free” nights lol. So from Kelowna, we pushed on to Abbotsford.
Have any of you driven over the Coquihalla? Six lanes of 120 kph on winding roads over top of a mountain range. Yes, this is where I honed my skills as a senior driver. Staying in the right or “slow” lane at a solid 80 K trying not to fall off the edge to certain death. My gosh, my legs quiver just thinking about it! Arlene did offer to drive, but that would just put me on the passenger side looking straight down, so there was NO way I was doing that. This was just one of what seemed like a never ending series of passes we had to conquer along our drive in BC. The scenery is stunning, at least from what I remember when I ventured to take my eyes off the road in front of me.
Getting through this stretch we reached Hope BC, and a much needed break. Hope is another one of those quaint little towns nestled in a cradle of mountains surrounding it on all sides.
Found yet another great little bistro with excellent coffee and baked goods. We’d purchased groceries along the way which certainly helps with keeping the eating out budget in line. Hope has a great park in the centre of town with skyscraper trees and no shortage of excellent views for a picnic lunch. Have I mentioned how much we like stopping in the smaller centres?
After our rest it was more upward and onward or should I say upward and downward. I guess you get used to it, but for this prairie boy I started to wonder why we hadn’t flown LOL.
We arrived at Kyle and Dorothy’s late afternoon I think. They are a very generous couple. Kyle has energy to burn and Dorothy is a wonderful and creative graphic artist. They’ve opened up a second floor in their home as an Airbnb that features 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, living room, full kitchen a deck with a hot tub and fire table overlooking some lush green trees and bushes. They give you the choice of total privacy or, if you like, they’ll gladly spend time showing you around. Obviously, given the friendship, we chose the latter.
We quite enjoyed the tours to local eateries, wineries, cideries, a visit to Vancouver’s Stanley Park, waterfront and countryside. But the best times were just visiting and catching up on the deck with some snacks and a few beverages.
It just emphasized to us again that we need to cultivate our friendships by putting the phones down and just visit. These, to me, were the most valued parts of our trip west.
If you’re looking for a place in Abbotsford, look for The Fraser Valley Boxhouse.
Alas, after our visit with Kyle and Dorothy it was time to turn around and head home. Looking to avoid the same up and down, we thought we’d try taking #3 highway out of Abbotsford and head to Osoyoos. Well, it seems the up and down just isn’t avoidable. We did see more amazing scenery, rushing mountain streams, tree covered mountains on our way up and down winding mountain roads. Just when I thought we finished the last “pass”, we met someone going the other way that said she just came through a pass even higher than the one we’d just been through. High enough for us to reach snowy areas. Yes, the mountain goats clinging to the narrow shoulders I referred to were laughing at me I’m sure of it. At the highest point, there was indeed snow and a helicopter pad. I think I heard Arlene ask me to stop to take a look around, but I was determined to get down the other side and there was no stopping this train going another solid 80 K.
After negotiating the passes, it takes a while for the blood to regain some position in my fingers. Thankfully, the road levelled somewhat for the rest of the ride to Osoyoos. Osoyoos appears to be a laid back retirement town with a large lake suitable for watersports. It was quite warm when we arrived and being tired from the drive, we had supper, went for a walk then headed back to our room for the night.
The next day it was off to Cranbrook. A nice ride from Osoyoos to Cranbrook. Enough hilly to keep in interesting, but without the threat of falling off cliffs 😉
Cranbrook for one night, and everything shuts down early by the way then on to meet a friend in Lethbridge the next day for lunch and Regina by evening. Again, the outlying area of Cranbrook was very nice. We can see the attraction to moving to these regions. Everywhere you stop is like a postcard.
Our ride took us through a few small towns showing the decline of tourism moving to other centres. A little sad to see. Fernie didn’t appear to be one of those places. Although not as busy as it is in winter, it still had a lot of life and that small town charm. A coffee shop we stopped in had a gal from Altona working there. We seemed to meet a lot of Manitobans along the way…
Once we hit prairie highways, we were able to make tracks homeward. A stop in Regina, then a few days in the ‘Peg taking in the Jazz Fest.
I write these as much for me to remember what we’ve done as anything else. If you get some enjoyment from it, all the better and I’m grateful.
We’ve been asked on numerous occasions if we’re back for good and the answer is yes. We enjoyed taking a risk and trying something completely different, but in the end, we’re very happy to be back in familiar surroundings and amongst family and friends.
We’re able to get back to doing the things we enjoy, like exploring the area, exploring new bands or taking in familiar ones. I’ve been asked if I’ll enjoy winter. I think I will.
We’ve settled in a townhouse on Redhawk Trail, on the north end of Winkler. I’ve been lucky enough to find employment with a great bunch of people at Pembina Valley Cellular here in Winkler. Josh Reimer and Lisa Harder have made me feel very welcome.
I’m able to make music with my buddies in The Committee again. That’s something I missed way more than I thought I would. Look for us to start playing in the area again real soon. Our first public even is Jan 12 at CKs in Winkler.
Arlene has taken to retirement after putting in a lot of years with the RHA. She may look for part time work come spring, but then again….
We’re grateful that we’ve been healthy enough to take a few trips and experience a few adventures. We’re grateful for all the people we’ve met along the way. It’s been quite a year…who knows what lies ahead?
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I read your post aloud to Harold while he’s cooking dinner. We enjoyed it very much. Our own personal experiences of driving through the Rockies are so very long ago. My only driving experience was with my parents when I was about 11, and I recall abit about my Dad’s anxiety on the switch-back roads with 4 of us kids in the backseat! Harold has also traveled through the Rockies just once as well, in the fall season immediately after high school. He says they traveled over Roger’s Pass at night time, of all times! He was with Terry Thiesen, Gary Hildebrand, Chuck Kehler, and Warren Wiebe, pulling a fold-down camper trailer. They crossed the border at Vancouver into Washington and eventually L.A. The fearlessness of young teens embracing a challenge! I really appreciate that your blog alerted me to the driving challenge that it is. Because I really love to drive, I’m almost always the one behind the wheel, and even though the Rockies are in my own country, I would want to approach the trip with awareness and great respect…if I take this trip at some time, that is. What a gorgeous country Canada is. We absolutely love seeking out the small towns too! It was a great read.
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Thanks Lori, looks like you have your own adventures happening again. Good for you guys. Do it now while you can. Drink it all in.