Newsletter - 2004 Archive

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Danelle Laidlaw

For quite some time now, I have wanted to go up to the Peace country and do one of Wim Kok's rides. I have only been up that way once before and I flew in and out of Fort St. John. That experience did not leave me with much of a feel for the area. I grew up in northern Ontario, and so the countryside, vast expanses of trees and more trees, felt very familiar, but I wanted to try riding in the area. And besides, it was time to try some new rides.

In May, John Bates, Val White and I were scheduled to do a week's worth of riding to pre-ride this year's TourBC route which starts and finishes in Kamloops (great training for the Rocky Mountain, btw). This ride always coincides with my birthday and I thought - this is my chance - as a little birthday treat to myself, let's carry on north to FSJ and ride Wim's 300 - it isn't that much further… Well, it is quite a bit further. After scrunching the TourBC pre-ride into 5 days instead of 7 (that was our training for the 300), we had 2 days for a leisurely drive to FSJ and we needed that much time. We didn't drive long days, but we put quite a few kms on the car by the time we got there.

We chose to drive up via Hinton and Grande Prairie and return via Prince George and Williams Lake. I had always wanted to go to Grande Prairie, though now, I am not sure why. The stretch between Hinton and GP is quite monotonous and to top it off, we had snow flurries at Grande Cache - the high point on the way there. This did not bode well for our ride.

However, we eventually got to FSJ, and it wasn't too cold, though like everyone does, we were monitoring the weather channel in the hopes of some Chinook or something. We met up with Wim and his wife (who thinks we are all crazy), got our cards and route sheets and back to the motel to finalize our preparations and get some sleep.

Although we carry a camera on all these rides, I don't always think of using it. And unfortunately, did not think to snap a photo at 6 a.m. at the Tim Horton's for the historic occasion of 4 people starting one of the Peace Country brevets! Actually there were five of us, but the fellow from Alberta admitted that his plan was only to cycle to Hudson's Hope and back as he had not yet done a 200. There was actually a hint of frost as we started out, but we had the all the gear and weren't too worried about the cold.

I was expecting flat - you know Canadian Shield style - after all, we'd been through Grande PRAIRIE - it wasn't that far fetched. But it was anything but flat. There are a number of rivers coursing through this area (WACKY Bennett dam and all that is in this region), and at each one of them, you go down to the river and then you climb back up - these are long climbs - 5, 6, 7 km long (and wonderfully long descents also). It was very different from what I had imagined. And there was tons of wildlife - deer everywhere, moose, coyote, and bear were most prevalent, but lots of birds also.

The 300 route is very straightforward - Hudson's Hope, Chetwynd, cut off the corner before Dawson Creek and back to FSJ. And in between those control points there isn't very much in the way of services or assistance. Wim knows the countryside intimately - he was able to tell us what the winds would be like, exactly how many hills there were, which stretches we would find interesting and which are a little dull and where you could get food. And he was right on all counts. The weather improved for our ride. After the chilly start, and a few showers, the sun came out and we actually finished the ride in our shorts. Val unfortunately missed the cut-off and went almost into Dawson Creek before realizing her mistake. This added another hour or so to her time.

At the finish we were treated to northern hospitality at its finest - a home cooked meal at the Kok's and lots of cycling talk. I really have to hand it to Wim - getting out there and doing the rides all on his own, through very remote areas where if you had a spill or a mechanical problem, it may be 2 hours or more before anyone came by and there is no cell phone coverage. And getting up on days when snow is threatened… I would be tempted to turn over and enjoy a few more ZZZs.

Wim has a system where he calls his wife from each control. Then if he fails to show up somewhere, she knows where to start looking - a good system. And there are areas where Wim will not cycle after dark, mostly for fear of wildlife, so he plans his routes accordingly. So for all of you who are finding it tough to motivate yourselves - just think of Wim.

I hope to do more rides outside the lower mainland - just to see some different scenery. Maybe others will think of going up to the Peace country - it is well worth the experience.

June 4, 2004