To many drivers, Revelstoke is just a stopover between Vancouver and Calgary. But for motorcyclists, the Kootenay-Columbia region around the city contains some of British Columbia’s best highways and byways, from sublime cruising to cuss-word challenging.
Salmon River Raid
It’s a brisk June morning when my buddy Bevin Jones and I spin east out of the Vancouver suburbs on the Trans-Canada Highway. We turn north on the Coquihalla Highway and head toward the cowboy town of Merritt. I’m riding a 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XCx, the most multi-surface capable in the Tiger range; Bevin is on his trusty Suzuki DL650 V-Strom. I switch on the cruise control and marvel at how smoothly, quietly, and effortlessly the Tiger eats up the miles.
We’ve left the dense cedar forests of the British Columbia coast behind. Turning onto B.C. Highway 5A, we track its narrow, weaving ribbon of tarmac past Douglas Lake Ranch—the largest working cattle ranch in Canada—through the time-warped, timber–fronted village of Quilchena and across rolling plains to Kamloops, where we rejoin the Trans-Canada. East of Kamloops we turn onto Barnhartvale Road, rambling over arid ranchland under the warm afternoon sun before winding through scrappy stands of pine to the junction with B.C. Highway 97on our way to Westwold.
I remember the Country Christmas Store in Westwold from previous visits. A bizarre conglomeration of barns with an attached restaurant, it was circled by rusting hulks of vintage cars. But it’s no longer there, replaced by a formulaic Route 97 Diner, complete with an Elvis cardboard cutout and jukebox. Their ice cream is welcome, though, in the heat of the afternoon.
We continue south to Historic O’Keefe Ranch, a theme park that recreates the cattle ranching lifestyle of the 1850s. Just north is Armstrong, which overlooks the broad, bucolic meadows of the Spallumcheen Valley. We stop to admire the defunct Shuswap and Okanagan Railway’s nicely preserved station then seek out Salmon River Road, which will take us to Salmon Arm.
Motorcycles & Gear
2015 Triumph 800 Tiger XCx
2012 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom
Jackets: REV’IT! Defender Pro GTX, Alpinestars Cape Town
Pants: REV’IT! Defender Pro GTX, Sedici Arturo Mesh
Helmets: Schuberth C3 Pro, HJC IS-Max BT
Gloves: REV’IT! Sand Pro, Icon Twenty-Niner
Boots: Tour Master Solution, Firstgear Kili Hi
Wooded valleys open into farmland as the road meanders along the river’s twisting path. Beyond rolling fields of grain, we turn right just south of Salmon Arm to connect with 97B toward Grindrod, where we turn north again on 97A. This is today’s treat: a seemingly endless string of sweeping curves and light traffic as 97A tracks the eastern shore of Mara Lake, rejoining the Trans-Canada in Sicamous.
The route follows the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) east from here, and we take a break from dicing with the 18-wheelers to check out Craigellachie Station. Here, on November 7, 1885, CPR financier Donald Smith drove in the last spike, signaling the completion of the railroad. Following this is one of the prettiest stretches of the Trans-Canada. As it climbs through the Monashee Mountains, thick forests crowd the route, which tracks the rushing Eagle River upstream.
We cross the Columbia River Bridge into Revelstoke and check into Regent Hotel, our home for the next four days; then we head for the patio of the hotel’s River City Pub for a refreshing pint of Mt. Begbie Brewing’s Easy Hopper ISA.
Rain is in the forecast for the next day, so we take the fully paved B.C. Highway 23 to Mica Dam. It’s one of more than 60 dams in the Columbia River watershed, and one of the largest in British Columbia. The headwaters of the river are 120 miles southeast of Revelstoke in the Rocky Mountain Trench, but its tortuous course takes it 200 miles north to Kinbasket Lake, the dam’s reservoir, before turning south for Washington state. There are no gas stations on the road, and without knowing the full range of the Tiger, I decide to carry an extra can. Bevin is confident his V-Strom will make the distance.