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I thought I was doing really well this year, with all routes decided on and posted well in advance. Then, just as we were leaving to go to the Fleche, one week before the 300, I found out that Highway 8 was closed, first in one, then two, locations. Immediately upon our return, I started looking for plan "B". Maybe it was residual lack of sleep, but I couldn't come up with anything that I was confident would be usable on May 13. Susans to the rescue! Susan (my wonderful wife) came up with the concept of doing the Westside Rd. loop on a Highway 97 out & back rather than the usual routes through low lying areas of Enderby or the Salmon Valley (both flooding or in danger of doing so). Susan DeBolt was able to confirm that Westside Rd. was open, and likely to remain so.
Maybe it was the weather, or the hilly nature of the route, or the possibility of more closures, but only five riders registered and started. It was a beautiful morning, but a bit chilly. My Garmin registered a low of 1 degree C about 12 km into the ride. We warmed quickly on the hills. Peter Nickerson, Susan, and I were riding together, Joe Heath and Jacquetta Benard somewhere behind. Jacquetta was the first one out. At the bottom of the first (of many) big hill, she damaged a tire on debris from an exploded truck tire. A slow leak developed into a flat 50 km in, where she discovered he pump was useless. She was able to catch a ride back to the start and avoid the hills and weather to come.
Our little group had a pleasant ride to the first control in Vernon, with sunshine and a bit of headwind. Old Kamloops Rd. was in horoble condition, with potholes every few feet. Susan's arrival was a bit delayed, as she had fallen a bit behind on a climb and then missed a turn, adding a few bonus kms. I made a mental note to watch my mirror more carefully. We peeled off some layers and started up Commonage Rd, (steep). At the top, Trevor Taylor was there, with offers of water and snacks. Thanks, Trevor! Approaching Kelowna, it was still sunny' but it was hard to ignore the growing peripheral cloud. We needed a control point and food. Susan recommended the Bread Company. An excellent grilled cheese and potato salad, combined with the rest stop, did wonders, and we sat outside being entertained by someone going back and forth on the sidewalk on a longboard, announcing (repeatedly) to all that he was drunk and didn't know how to ride a longboard. Onward across the lake, and onto Westside Rd.
There was a bit of a construction delay, but we had an uneventful, though tiring ride on Westside. There were lots of deer to distract us from the fact that we were gaining and losing the same 50 metres of altitude over and over again. Another control and feed stop at the Little Kingdom Store (they make a great breakfast wrap), and we were on our way. By the time we got to Falkland it was cooling off. We stopped for coffee and to add more clothes, and looked a the black clouts we were heading towards. It started to rain a bit a Westwold, and by the time we hit Monte Lake we were facing a fierce headwind and being hammered by heavy rain.
Shortly before the last big descent, Susan was soaked and freezing. Checking Strava data the next day I found that the temperature had dropped to 3 degrees!!! Just the thing for a long 8% descent. Some re-allocation of clothing was in order. The soaked jacket (a few sizes too small) went on the guy who was already warm and was wearing wool. My waterproof jacket went to Susan, along with long fingered gloves with nitrile gloves over top. I had a bit of a flashback to last year's Mabel Lake 400- similar conditions, minus the long downhill. We got down the hill in one piece, and finished the last, flat (finally) 12 km to the finish,where we were greeted by (my) Susan, and Peter, who had gotten down the hill more quickly.
As we were coming out of Denny's after a bowl of soup, we saw Joe. Unfortunately, he had not finished. A concerned motorist had stopped, pointed out that despite his red tail light, he wasn't very visible in the wet, dark night, and offered a ride to the finish. Joe, obviously smarter than many of us, took him up on his offer. Probably the right choice, considering the amount of debris on the road shoulders.
With any luck, the next time this route is run, we will be able to use the Okanagan Rail Trail, presently under construction, to reduce the climbing to a manageable level (get rid of Commonage Rd), while still staying off the highway.
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May 14, 2017