Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer 2011 road trip day 4

I woke up early, around 6am and got ready and packed up before being served a quick breakfast by my host. It was all a bit weird with the guy barely awake as I munched on some eggs and sausage before paying cash and bidding farewell. Next time I will stay at one of the places I know around there!

From Peachland it is a short drive to the Okanagan Connector which heads straight west towards Merrit. It was a bit cooler and cloudy that morning so I kept the top up and made short work of the Connector, it was early on a Sunday morning so there was little to no traffic. The Connector is a scenic road, two lanes each way with mostly straight on driving. At a good speed, you'll be in Merritt an hour after leaving Okanagan Lake behind you.

I had done the roads I was about to embark on before and knew what to expect. Some of the most twisty, windy and deserted pieces of road you can find in western BC so I was eager to get there and once I did, I kept on going. I didn't stop much or take a lot of pictures...

After a gas top-up and a fresh bottle of water in Merritt, I headed further west, through Merrrit and the tiny hamlet of Lower Nicola. As soon as you pass through that, things get very, very interesting. Hwy 8 toward Spences Bridge is a twisty ribbon of asphalt through a rough and dramatic landscape of cliffs, sandstone hills and dry, deserted and empty land. Almost entirely devoid of traffic, it is the kind of road where you can open things up a bit and really let the car shine. This is where the Boxster fully comes into it's rights and boy, oh boy, is it a lot of fun. Lots of 2nd and 3rd gear turns, long sweepers, hairpins and steep slopes up and down. You never stop moving the steering wheel and things can get quite technical with the brakes, gas pedal, clutch and shifter. Exhilarating and utterly absorbing!

At Spences Bridge I joined the Trans Canada, which at that point is still the usual highway, albeit traversing some pretty amazing scenery. This only lasted for a bit, at Lytton I got off the Trans Canada and was presented with a good view of the village below:

Looking the other way, nothing but scenery:

I headed through Lytton and north along hwy 12. Once again, the road was truly delightful to drive and I can only remember the song of the flat six behind me and the next turn ahead. This lasted for 45 blissful minutes until I entered Lillooet. There I stopped again at the bridge that leads into town. I took some final pictures, including one of a plaque describing the remarkable story of a number of camels that were brought to BC in 1862:

Why do rural lots usually include dead cars?

After Lillooet it was time for a legend, the mother of all roads, highway 99 between Cache Creek and Pemberton aka the Duffey Lake Road. This is a perfect twister, a stretch of pure driving delight. Every sports car owner and motorcyclist in western BC knows the Duffey Lake and many make yearly pilgrimages to pay homage to the perfect drive...

Right then, expectations set. I take a deep breath, shift down, put my foot down and head south. And yes, it was like it always is. There are whole stretches where you link turns perfectly, staying in 3rd gear with the engine revving happily and feeling the car doing its Porsche magic. Most of the Duffey Lake was freshly paved only a couple of years ago so the surface is still nice and smooth. There were some pretty rough patches earlier on in the day with everything rattling like mad. Not here, just the rush of the tires, the blowing wind and sound of the engine.

Everything was driving Nirvana until it started raining. I was completely absorbed by the driving and only peripherally noticed the clouds getting heavier and darker. I slowed down, closed the top and carried on. At some point the rains became quite torrential and I got stuck behind some drivers who clearly weren't comfortable driving that road under those conditions. 30 km/h was a bit tortuous but there are some handy spots like single lane bridges after which you can blast past the slowpokes with a fast car. I left them far behind me and emerged from the heavy weather into clearer skies, top down again, ripping down the twisties.

All good things come to an end, the Duffey Lake ends at Pemberton. In fact, it ends after a dramatic descend to Lillooet Lake after which you end up in a small town that culminates in Mt Currie before passing through Pemberton. There was major construction happening here and the entire way from Lillooet Lake to Mt Currie was gravel, a bit sobering after the joys of the Duffey Lake Road. This marked the end of the day's driving bliss, I now had to make my way further down the 99, through Pemberton, Whistler, Squamish and finally Vancouver. My original plan was to have lunch in Whistler but at that point I simply wanted to go home so I pressed on and entered Vancouver around 3pm. The Lion's Gate traffic was all the way backed up to the top of Taylor Way so I sighed deeply, turned around and took the long way around, across the Second Narrows and back into the city. I stopped off for coffee and some basic groceries before finally coming home and parking the car in the garage. I made a note of the odometer, 2,161 kilometers in three days. Not bad!

This was some trip, each day had it's different characteristics. The first day's drive across Washington State was fairly laid back, good scenery and a nice driving road with plenty of twisties to keep the driver happy. Too bad about all the construction and sometimes inch of gravel on the road. I bet once that is all cleared up the road will be a lot better to drive. The second day was one of amazing scenery on a busy highway. Not too much driving fun but a major treat to the senses. The third day was the driver's day. Good scenery but it all becomes irrelevant once you hit the zone and lose yourself in the act of driving. I think the stretch from Merrit to Lytton, Spences Bridge, Lillooet and Pemberton treats you to some of the best driving roads I know of. And they are in my back yard. I consider myself very lucky...

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