Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Road trip – report 2

with 3 comments

I left Hope and headed up the Coquihalla.The south end of the route is parallel to the old KVR so the place names reflect Shakespeare – Othello, Lear, Juliet. Then it gets real wild and wooly, climbing steeply over the passes with an avalanche shed and many warnings on painted signs about how nasty this route can be in winter.

Pine Beetle Damage

Pine Beetle Damage

And that is not lovely fall colours – that is evidence of the damage the mountain pine beetle is doing. It is one thing to read about it, it is quite something else to see the damage like a graph of red in the dark green across the mountain sides.

By the time I got to Merritt I was low on gas. Now in the US the intersection of 97C and 5 would be a mess of gas stations, motels and fast food outlets. In BC we make you drive three kms into town. And the signs show that three gas stations that were here have closed, and Supersave is the only option, with prices only a few cents lower than Langley. The Coquihalla and the Okanagan connector were built through wilderness and not much has changed since. There is almost nowhere to stop and admire the scenery – and certainly no facilities other than places for trucks to chain up or check their brakes. So I was really pleased to see the the tourist information sign and find a bathroom, as well as maps and leaflets. But by now I was almost in Westbank.

This is a place that has been carved out of the mountainside. But all that has been achieved is the sort of nowhere that could be anywhere North America. Take a pristine landscape on the shore of the lake and turn it into a replica of Sandusky or Butte. The signs at the side of the road offer fruit, tires and condos. All just commodities.

I picked a motel on the basis of free internet and probably the ability to bring the bike into the room if necessary. I was bit depressed by the proximity of IHOP and White Spot but just across the street is a fantastic sushi place – O-ZEKI. The menu is familiar but the execution is flawless and somehow the sushi-chefs manage to keep up an incredible work rate and a stream of banter – in Japanese and English. If you are on your own, a sushi bar is a good place to eat supper. What better entertainment is there than watching people work? The guy sitting next to me had just fixed the waitress’s Subaru, and somehow light hearted banter seemed to flow easily. Perhaps two large Kirin had something to do with that.

Domo Obrigado

Written by Stephen Rees

September 9, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Transportation

3 Responses

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  1. For washrooms, we usually stop at the toll boths and the tourist info building at Merritt (actually at the 97C and the 5, not in town) – you may have missed it if you turned off and went into town. Halfway between Westbank and Merritt (at least westbound) there’s a truck pull-off with an outhouse – very nondescript – but a lifesaver if you need one.

    Ron C.

    September 10, 2008 at 12:12 pm

  2. If you’re on the way to Kelowna and need fuel in Merrit, youll find a lot of service stations at the *north* interchange, the junction of 5 and 5A, it’s quicker than taking 97C into town.

    And if you’re ever in the Fraser Canyon, watch your gas, some communities no longer have any stations, even Boston Bar seems to be down to one Huskey.


    September 10, 2008 at 12:20 pm

  3. That’s something I noticed on a recent 4 day BC roadrip, our “rest areas” usually contain “outhouse” facilities…. quite primative compared to our US neighbours…. that being said, the roads themselves were in relativlly good shape, no frost heaves on the Hope-Princeton or the Blueberry-Paulson, 2 roads that are ofen in pretty rough shape….even 31A was in good shape, no delays due to construction other than a short stretch south of Castlegar, although we intentionally avoided Hwy 97 north of Summerland due to reports of intense reconstruction.

    David Banks

    September 10, 2008 at 11:14 pm

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