Twenty minutes out of Cache Creek, the end of the canyon run, my low fuel light winked on. This was really my first tank of fuel through this bike for the year and I had forgotten what kind of range I could expect. I was regretting not topping off that tank in Hope.
There was fuel to spare as I rolled into town and I passed two stations before I pulled into a Shell station (maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in enough gas for a patronage point /airmile).
Cache Creek marks the beginning of the Cariboo region for me. As a child I remember travelling this route (Highway 97) regularly with my family as we farmed both in the Fraser Valley as well as in northern BC. The highway roughly follows the trail blazed by gold seekers in the mid 1800’s. Little towns situated along the way were stopping places for stage coaches and measured in distances from Lillooet (70 Mile House, 100 Mile House) along the road to the gold fields. Some of these towns have retained that pioneer focus while others have broadened their tourist base and have also developed as regional centres.
Further north, the impact of is evident in the roadside vegetation. The south Cariboo is very arid, the north has longer, colder winters but more precipitation. The scrub of the desert is gone and is replaced by rolling fields of hay bordered by birch, poplar and pine trees.
Not a lot of tight curves on the highways here, they are relatively straight with gentle hills. The Cariboo region is a plateau. In Williams Lake I buy gas and a gentleman walks over to talk about my bike and my trip while his buddy gases up. He’s interested in the GoPro so we talk about that a bit. His friend is getting ready to go as I tell him about road2blue and he quite enthusiastically takes my card and tells me it’s a small world!
Passing through Quesnel, I am assaulted by the aroma of the pulp and paper industry, a unique odor I had not smelled in twenty years. I pondered the difference between driving in a vehicle and riding a motorcycle. In a car (or cage as a biker might call it) the scenery passes by but the your environment stays the same(its like watching a TV screen).
On a motorcycle you are a part of the environment. You can ride the same stretch of highway ten times in a day and it will always be different due because of the impact of the environment on the rider. You feel wind currents, subtle temperature changes, you smell fresh rain or hot brakes on semi trucks. Remembering all the road trips I have taken with family in a vehicle, I remember the scenery flashing by but not the sensation of the climate change. The only environmental change we experienced was the gradual build up of clutter from candy, gum wrappers and junk food containers in the vehicle as we progressed along our journey.
Approaching Prince George, I am reminded again of farming up in the Peace Region of BC when I was young. The gently rolling land produces good forage but has the scrubby look of hard growing conditions and less than optimal soil. The Pine Beetle devastation is clear here. Thousands of acres of dead trees have been harvested and in some cases piled to burn. Again I am reminded of how we cleared land in the sixties and seventies. Bulldozing the trees, piling them, burning them, repiling the roots reburning them until we could finally drag a heavy disk through the soil to “ break” the land.
From Prince George, I headed west toward Smithers. It was a long day but I had miles to make. I had not been on this section of the Yellowhead highway before and I was happy to finally be covering new ground. Forty minutes out of town I realized I was travelling on the infamous Highway of Tears and tomorrow I would step up the adventure a notch when I turned onto Highway 37 – the Stewart Cassiar highway.