A family occasion is the opportunity to explore the hills, curves and mining history of British Columbia’s Boundary Country.
Heidi and Jason get married
As it happens, I don’t attend a lot of weddings. They weren’t popular in my social circle. When I heard my niece Heidi was getting married, I wanted to go. It wouldn’t be easy. I had to fly and squeeze time off work. When I told my supervisor, the response was surprising. Of course I should go; this is a big deal! I found myself confused by the solid endorsement. I’m still learning about the privileges I’ve not known.
Flying to BC over Labour Day meant riding in BC. I arrived with one day to prepare for a wedding at St Jude’s where my sister preaches. Yep. My full blood sister (who I’ve known only 15 years because we were separated early in life) is an Anglican priest. But Cathy Straume was not presiding over this one. She was organizing it, and the many who helped.
It wasn’t a cookie cutter wedding. You couldn’t cut faces out and paste them on some other wedding party photos. But when they got to the “I do” part the groom, Jason Myers, was so nervous we could barely hear him at the back. Heidi’s brother Arne complained, so Jason had to repeat, “I do” loud enough to satisfy all.
The potluck in the garden was cold beer, hot fire, and a delightful collection of people. My sister’s friends stared and smiled, noting the resemblance between us. (Mine do the same.) I chatted with interesting riders, including the best man and groom.
I had few days to ride and began with dirt. My nephews blast around in the woods, one a highly skilled maniac. Years ago my niece Mina told me she’d dirt ride every day after work to relax. Could I keep up? I could barely get on the bike. Mina offered me her four-stroke, a 2004 Kawasaki KX250. The seat was up to my armpit. She’s five feet, eight inches. The two-stroke Honda CRF250 that she was going to ride was no shorter. Arne offered me his KX125 two-stroke with the suspension a little clapped out: still no way. This speaks to the genetics of their father, Arne Sr. I rode the four-stroke on the road but was afraid to leave it. I’ve never ridden such a tall bike in my life.
I watched Mina’s nine-year-old Zoe ride her little three-wheeler, feeling silly and defeated. Mina jumped in her truck and returned with the first bike she ever bought: a 1991 CR80 two-stroke. She had filled flat tires with air, checked the engine oil and added fuel. The bike was in very good condition and started right away—shocking for a bike that’s been stored for years (for Zoe’s future).
And so it was that I got to ride a bike so small I couldn’t comfortably stand on the pegs, but wasn’t afraid of falling down. Arne took me out on single lane forest roads that go from Greenwood all the way to Kelowna. All roads were like these until the province chose to pave some, determining which towns flourished. The old roads are fully and functionally signed. I was impressed. One can go far on the back roads, no plate or insurance required.
The next day Mina and I rode dirt to the old BC Copper Company Smelter where I was fascinated to climb on an enormous mound of slag, and to see the incredible stonework that was done over a hundred years ago when the price of copper was high. The 36-metre brick chimney is a sight, as well as stone and brick tunnels one can climb through. Hiking there is fun. Working there must have been hell. Fired up in 1901, it ran 24 hours a day.
The area known as Boundary Country was rich in mineral ores, and there were many prosperous claims. By 1897 when Greenwood had grown so large it had three hotels and an opera house, it incorporated as a city. After WW1 the price of copper dropped and by 1918 the smelter closed. It’s now Canada’s smallest city. Impressive architecture still exists and the original hotel block houses numerous restaurants, including the Copper Eagle Cafe. While enjoying their decadent pastries and WiFi I overheard college students say Greenwood is the only place of interest enroute to Nelson. It has a museum, gourmet grocery store and more.
I coerced Mina to ride two-up on her 2004 Yamaha YZF R6, which was a challenge. But we made it to Kelowna and directly to McScoot’s. I rented an upright 2014 Suzuki GSX 600F that was a perfect companion to Mina’s bike, fun to ride and almost brand new. I learned that most rent their Harleys.
We rode delightfully twisty mountain roads. I led, at first concerned that Mina would have trouble keeping up or negotiating the curves. I quickly learned that this was not the case. She has driven on local highways her entire life, and so, unlike me, they are normal. Perhaps she’d have trouble holding a straight line!
So I got to ride as fast as I could, on a bike with a brilliantly responsive throttle such that I rarely used the brake. Keeping to a reasonable speed, but never below the limit, we rode sweeping curves and flipped gently from side-to-side. I would hold a steady speed and shift down for the well-marked curve to come, then roll it out and shift up again. I learned how fast I could corner when the sign says 60 and how slow I had to go when it said 30 or 20. This required full attention, and was challenging. After an hour of hard riding we were tired. But then we rode more.
I particularly enjoyed the Vernon Slocan Highway Six, where the Monashee Summit was freshly paved. After riding it the first time I told Mina I’d lost something and we had to go back. She looked concerned for me until she realized I was making it up. We rode back up the mountain and then down again, because why not?
The Halcyon Hot Springs were most welcomed at the end of the day. It was my first time: a nice cabin, off season rates, and a soak in a hot tub under the stars. Imagine riding all day, and hot springs at night. Ahhh…
The next morning we hiked down to the lake and found the most incredible rock shore to climb on. Then Val of the Needles/Fauquier Ferry directed us to a magnificent mossy forest that led to a beautiful waterfall. It was good to stretch our muscles before hitting the mountain roads again.
Now I have a new idea for a short adventure. Fly to Kelowna, hit McScoots and go. Take curvy routes through the Kootenay Mountains and spend nights at a different hot spring resorts. Sounds sweet to me.