Penticton, British Columbia: Discovering the Undiscovered

Text: Jon Beck • Photography: Jon Beck

The teacher in The Truman Show, who stated “Oh, you’re too late. There’s really nothing left to explore,” was incorrect. There is always something new to be discovered. Exploration can be as simple as visiting a place you’ve never been—perhaps venturing across the US-Canada border, as I did, and discovering a city you never knew existed. In my case, that was Penticton, BC, a city surrounded by lakes and mountains, with beaches, shimmering water, and a cool vibe. It’s a place that makes you want to return.

Situated on a finger of land separating massive Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, Penticton is an intriguing mix of history, blue-collar community, action sports mecca, and postcard-worthy environments of the Okanagan Valley. Resplendent hotels and restaurants line the waterfront area. Walking the streets a short distance from the manicured lakefront reveals a community of homes and businesses, with small herds of deer interrupting things occasionally. Just outside this bucolic launching point, adventure awaits.

Five Loops

Meeting up with Thom Tischik, of Travel Penticton, I’m presented with a motorcycle-specific route map titled “Undiscovered Touring.” One of the five loops was plotted based on maps and flyovers but had not been ridden yet. In keeping with the community slogan, “Undiscovered Penticton,” we would set out to ride this untested loop, as well as three others, plus a few extra-credit options. Electing first to connect roads south to Osoyoos near the US-Canada border, Thom and I leave Penticton and begin climbing BC Highway 97, with views of Skaha Lake below and the Skaha Bluffs rock climbing area on the opposite shore. As the highway begins to turn west away from the lake, we veer off onto White Lake Road, where undiscovered takes on greater meaning.

Ancient Gas and Unleaded

Looming over the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory complex, the 85-foot diameter John A. Galt Telescope is one of the facility’s four radio telescope systems probing the Milky Way and beyond. The observatory is nestled in a high valley, and surrounding mountains provide the facility an environment that’s all but shielded from man-made radio signals. “No cellphone” signs are merited. If you left your phone on, even if you were able to launch it into space, send it 140 million miles away, and land it on Mars, this observatory could still pick up the signal. Much in the same way we as motorcyclists will spend time searching for gas in between locations, this facility spends the majority of its time observing the gas between stars. Each form of observation has unique benefits. While stellar hydrogen won’t do much for a stranded motorcycle, a tank of premium unleaded won’t help depict an image of the universe from 8 million years ago. Fortunately for Thom and me, the day is still young, and apparently so is the planet. Fuel not being a concern, we veer south into the curvy vistas of Willowbrook Road.

(End of preview text.)

For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2019 back issue.