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.
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.