Good Day Sunshine

Our ride back to the border was filled with sunshine and positive feelings about going home. While we were in Stehekin, Bruce (Heather’s Dad) was admitted to hospital and we needed to get back. We were really fortunate to have Dustin, Karla and Megan in charge while we were away. It was during Meg’s stay that she decided a Doctor’s visit for Bruce was needed. Good call. They admitted him that same day. So, we’re back home, Meg is back in Kelowna and life carries on. Bruce is now home awaiting test results and working on getting his strength back. He’s an incredible person and an inspiration to those of us that can only imagine what it’s like to be 91 and still cracking jokes.
We left the bizarre campground in Chelan about 4:45 to be at Starbucks by 5:00… But more importantly to get most of our riding done before noon. It’s bizarre to us because everyone was living in and outside of their subdivision homes on wheels. Large flat screen TV’s were the norm, set up outside the ‘Arctic Wanderer’ or the ‘Allegro Elite’. For those without the proper on-board systems, additional generators were keeping the fridges cool, the air conditioners conditioning and the sideshow mini lights glowing. The flat screens were set up so that carefully plotted semi circles of chairs offered a commanding view of the program. Large groups were gathered in front of the ‘tube’ (I guess we have to come up with a different name?) but WHAT were they watching? Hello… the Olympics silly. Oh well, cycle touring can have the effect of drawing one away from the Madding Crowd. It’s particularly wonderful when you lose track of what day of the week it is. That happened a couple of times during this trip.
Highway 97 follows the Columbia all the way to Pateros and the neighboring town of Brewster. Pateros is a definite stop on the tour as it is home to one of the three best bakeries outside of the major cities in the Pacific Northwest. They are: The Stehekin Pastry Company, Fomi’s Bakery north of Winlaw in the Slocan Valley and the Sweetwater Bakery in Pateros. Yes, we stopped.
The “Old Highway 97” from Brewster to Okanogan is a great cycling road. Little traffic, big views and towns like Mallot along the way all add to the lure of this back to basics byway. Mallot is one of those towns that reached its prime a long time ago and has kind of gone to sleep. It’s named after the first white settler who came in 1886. It was a stopover point on the Cariboo Trail. Everything was going along famously until 1938. That year a dam burst above Mallot and basically wiped out the town. Fortunately the Mallot Improvement Club building survived. Started in 1924, the MIC had goals of improving community spirit and promoting moral temperance in young people. We stopped at the beautiful headquarters building to see if they could do anything for us. Nobody was home.
We made it to Okanogan to find it’s another casualty of the changing face of America. Last time we were there not 5 years ago, we shopped at a big grocery store and the main street was busy. Not now. It’s odd to see a modern grocery store just closed up. Nevertheless, we weren’t cycling any farther as it was waaay too hot to get serious about cycling any distance. We made our way to the Okanogan Fairgrounds and were rewarded by cool shade and almost nobody around. There was one thing though… a big wedding celebration was obviously scheduled to happen that evening on the grounds. Dozens of tables with flowers and white table cloths were ready for the folks. There was even a DJ with a big sound system set up. “Oh… that’s good”. Our shady spot stayed with us for the rest of the day. We made a great Mexican dinner (the new smaller grocery store is all Mexican stuff), played some cards and were in bed by 8:00. Jeez. Earplugs are mandatory equipment now so with those inserted the wedding party was just a faint “proud mary keeps on burnin” in the background. Another early start tomorrow. We might actually do 3 days riding in 2.
We were on the road at dawn. Getting a little low on food, we waited until we arrived in Omak to find something. Ah! There it is! The Flying J Travel Plaza. They have everything! Everything that is if you’re looking for beer (in the Beer Cave) or Hostess Ho Ho’s, cousin to Twinkies. We wandered around the brand new brightly lit store with a deer-in-the-headlights look, clearly bewildered at what was passing for food in this Travel Plaza. Note the word “travel”. That’s it! Maybe beings from another planet stop here on their way through the cosmos. Ok, it makes sense now. Trying to fit in with the other planetary vagabonds, we had to leave with something… Convenience stores back home even have a bowl of fruit to peck through…where is that fruit? We found a bag of nuts and got out of there.
The back road to Riverside follows the east side of the Okanogan River. Stern wheelers ran up this way in the past and were headed for the same town as we were.. Riverside. Everyone was still asleep on a Sunday morning so we just stopped for a quick breather and headed back out to Hwy 97.
The shoulder was great all the way to Tonasket where we were greeted by 3 big, fluffy and very angry dogs. We stopped so quickly that Heather did a handstand on her handlebars. After yelling at the bloody people that allow their dogs on to Hwy 97, (We never did see them. We just yelled at the top of our lungs in the direction of the house) we moved on. Stores were now open so we fueled up and hit the road for a final push to Oroville. It was getting hot now.
A couple of stops in the orchards for shade would see us through to the town on Osoyoos Lake just south of the border. The city campground was full as it was BC day and all of BC was there. Not a problem for touring cyclists though. We were prepared to sleep behind the church but we were offered a piece of grass at the campground. Turned out to be the best spot in the CG. Shade all afternoon.
Our overnight stay in Oroville was the last of our trip. We had a great day getting there cycling in the hottest temps of the month. When we arrived it was 36 and ‘felt like 39′. We made it by drinking lots of water, starting early, stopping often, using electrolytes and wearing the hydrating cool bands around our necks … It all helped.
Jackie the Jack Russell was one of our neighbors at the campground. We were astonished to see her there as she was in the same spot last year! We were reacquainted and happy to see her and her family!
After another great Mexi dinner at a local eatery we waddled back home to our comfy tent. Crap, was it hot in there! Never mind, we were tired enough from the day’s excitement to hit the sack at 7:30!
Needless to say we were up again before dawn. With nobody in the campground up and about, we hit the trail one last time for this trip. No waiting at the border. Apparently we don’t look like a threat to the national security of Canada although we had to endure the obligatory interrogation regarding firearms, alcohol and large sums of money. We WERE happy to be back in Canada. We hadn’t had breakfast so we stopped at one of the icons of Canadiana… The Husky truckstop in Osoyoos. Yup, worked for us. After trucker’s coffee and eggs and HB’s just way you like ’em we rode on to Oliver. We were greeted with a smile and a big hug from our friend Helene who had allowed us to park our truck at her place for two weeks. Thanks Helene!
After a wonderful cup of java with Helene and her friend Gary, we loaded up for the drive home. We were hoping to be in Q-town in time to visit Bruce in the hospital but we weren’t on the connector to Merritt ten minutes and the traffic stopped. Those with a great deal of optimism, money to burn and the dependence on AC kept their engines running. It was a parking lot … On the last day of the holiday weekend. Up ahead, we could see smoke rising from the road but we were too far away to tell what had happened. Ninety minutes later we drove by the scene. It was a small car, maybe a Volvo, burned to the ground. No sign of the occupants. We never found out what happened.
We made it home in plenty of time to see Bruce.
We realize how fortunate we are to be able to do these tours. Maintaining our health is absolutely critical. This trip reaffirmed our plans to continue touring with much longer trips that have no set timeline. During the tour we had the chance to talk about where they might be. We’ll fill you in as things come together.
We’ve decided to keep this blog as our “cycling forum”. Check back to see what’s spinning.

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