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Cache Creek 600
Ride dates: May 31 - June 1, 2014
by Étienne Hossack

Gallery Here

So admittedly I was a bit nervous before the start of this ride. I mean 600kms up the Canyon... hmm...

But then I ran into Will whose assurances that the road was not super busy, that the Canyon was magical at night with the trains and that it was actually a super ride got me really excited!
Also reminding me that there were drop bags to store my enormous supplies of food :D

Additionally, my girlfriend's parents let me stay at their place which is within walking distance of Meadowtown, so I was able to get a great night's sleep and arrived at the start super-fresh and ready to roll!

The start was the usual meander through the city until the highway - though River Rd is a route I've barely taken in years since the Haney Bypass was redone (or maybe paved? I don't know how long ago that was...) and there really was some nice bits of that - the Lougheed was where the pace picked up.
The faster-paced riders were mostly one group until what looked like Harrison and when we rolled through Aggasiz approaching Seabird Island I think we split up (I was too busy enjoying the 38-42km/h zippy paceline :D)
I think it might’ve been that big glorious hill.
Rolling into seabird it was certainly shaping up to be a warm day, and many of us started to delayer, in anticipation of the heat up the valley. Most of the group took off into the wind just as Tobin, my trusty Escape Velocity riding buddy rolled in. After a brief stop for his control card & pulling off leggings, we were off.
The road ahead was reasonably flat, but for two humps that had steady climbs and somewhat steeper descents. They would be steeper on the way back. I remembered that. Why you might ask?
After 13 nice kilometres of putting out a decent pace, Tobin and I are riding along, and all of a sudden there was a “crack!”, “ping!”, “clang!!”. We rolled to a stop and as Tobin stood up off his seat, the saddle rolled to the ground. Turns out his seatpost clamp had entirely snapped. PSA: listen to PSAs. Even though they did the usual not-great VO job of advertising that, Tobin somehow knew, but well….

Anyway, so we stopped, wondering what to do. We tried zip ties, and all sorts of straps, but that just seemed futile. We were passed by a couple of the Randos, but there was nothing they could do except offer suggestions that there were ‘probably’ bike stores in Hope. John apparently had past experience with an outdoor store there, but there were of course issues with Tobin’s lovely Boulder. Since there is a light mount we also needed something to size down the post as the mount goes inside the seattube and prevents the post from continuing downward.

At this point, we were at a loss as to what to do, so I called Alex Pope, EV Rando #1 to ask his advice, since he seems to have had every bicycle problem I can think of out riding, and if he knew of any bike shops. Unfortunately he knew of none. So we stood there, pondering when all of a sudden the phone rang again, “Alex Pope”.
Barbara Pope, goddess of rando rescue was willing to drive out to Seabird Island, with a post, stopping for a hacksaw along the way. If only I find someone so incredible when I marry.

A solution in mind, Tobin and I began the ride backwards to the Seabird Island truck stop, finding the steeper uphill considerably more challenging when you can’t sit down. And descend when you can’t sit down. And then go up another hill. Of course I was feeling great! :)

We waved and laughed at the puzzled looks those we passed gave us, but eventually arrived back at the lovely truck stop.

Seabird Island truck stop. I feel like I’ve spent an hour longer at that stop than I ever wanted to. Oh well, at least it was sunny! :)

We sat, chatted. I fiddled with my stuff as I am wont to do, took a short bathroom break. We enjoyed the sun, commented on the lovely community of people - seriously, everyone is so friendly and nice! - before finally spotting our lovely rescuer Barbara.

Quickly we sawed. Rapidly we sized. She took off as soon as we looked okay to get to what I think was a dance recital? And we took off as soon as we could.

Back on the road we took off at a nice clip back towards the number 1, rolling through the hills before reaching the beginning of the climbing. By that point I think I had put out a bit too aggressive of a pace, combined with the start, and Tobin began to slow down a bit, so I dropped back for the usual butt-staring after the first hill had passed. There was a really nice rolling section, with a variable shoulder up the start of the canyon, flitting in and out of sunlight, and around bends and turns.

Reaching the first of the fabled tunnels, I had always wondered what excitement came from riding through them, but really they aren’t a big deal. I appreciate the buttons one can press on the longer tunnels further north to alert drivers of a cyclist within, but I mostly felt safe (partially due to the times spent in the tunnel).

Yale was an interesting visit, as we passed by what looked like a garage sale, and debated the merits of buying a purple eagle to mount on our bicycles and carry it up the valley. Needless to say, we decided against it. Next time purple eagle, next time.

Continuing onwards, we hit the first canyon crossing over a sweet bridge with gorgeous views. I recalled some of Alex’s pre-ride pics and remembered why I love this kind of riding. Distance-shmistance, the views and scenery!! Slowly chugging along, we crawled up and down hills in the hot sunlight, wondering when we’d reach Boston Bar.
Both Tobin and I were running low on water and the signs reading ‘ice cream’ were oh-so tempting. So tempting. But a quick chat and we both recognized that to keep the time going, we should hurry on to the motel, and take our break there.

I vaguely recalled checking the route beforehand and noting that the control was slightly past Boston Bar, but upon exiting the town and viewing a nice steep downhill + another climb, we were skeptical. We pulled over to the side of the road, wondering what to do. Our technology told us that we had roughly gone the distance, our phones weren’t working and the day was scorching. What do young people do without their gadgets?

Why, look up more stuff on our gadgets!!! Tobin had his hiking GPS and was able to look up the Canyon Alpine Motel on a list of nearby places, and voilà, there it was 1km down the road.
Happy and relieved, we set out down the hill, before racing up the climb to the motel! (Okay, so maybe I raced a little and Tobin plodded, but he was still enjoying himself. Right Tobin? Right?)

Pulling into the motel, we discovered that we were only 4 hours behind schedule, and Manfred the solid, always-rolling machine, was still ahead of us. As racers, we both felt a little slow. As realistic people we totally just chugged down coke and ate cookies. YUM. Nigel and Darren were cheerful and lovely as ever and we chatted for a while before hopping back on our bikes and about to scoot out the door, when Nigel noted that we might as well check into our motel room now. So I did.

We rolled up to the counter, checked and were suggested that we buy some sort of weird snack thing that honestly just looked like oven-baked cheese-in-a-can. But Tobin liked it, so he got some, and we signed in, grabbed our key. Signing the form, I wondered where I had put my pen and control card, sure enough, as we exited the office, Nigel, the lovely man, ran over with my control card. Probably useful on this kind of trip.

Then we were off once more! Shooting down the road and riding towards what looked like a good upwards rise in the road. It was really hot, and reasonably long, so I slowed down as Tobin plodded slowly in the distance. Sometimes I wonder what’s with the excessive gearing on my bike. Tobin rides around with his 14-speed Boulder and loves it. I ride my massive frame with a 10-speed triple. On that hill it was admittedly kindof nice. Turns out that hill was Jackass mountain.

The ‘stories’ I’d heard were that this was going to be a “serious climb” and “whoa what a hill”. Tobin mentioned talking to someone who cycled across Canada and cited the mountain as the ‘hardest part of my trip’. Chris Cullum described it as ‘no big deal’. So I assumed it would be not a big deal.
It wasn’t really.

There was a nice lookout though at the top and I stopped to take some pictures and much on a snack bar when Tobin crested the hill. At this point it was pit-stop time, and I was eagerly wanting to get back on the road nonetheless, so I tried to entice Tobin back on his saddle with dancing and raging enthusiasm. He didn’t rise to the occasion :P
A nice car-trip family stopped by and got us to take our picture, remarking that they had seen riders north of Spences Bridge just recently, and asked what our ride was. We informed them to receive the usual response to a brevet. Fun-seeking at its finest. But by my calculations, we would run into Ryan and Keith at the Spences Bridge control. A small chat. Excellent.

Eventually Tobin was enticed to go, and we set off. Passing a diner, he hopefully asked if we could go in for a pit stop, but I was determined to press on and stop only if necessary. It became clear though that my pace wasn’t ideal from Tobin, who clearly was still recovering from 4 weeks of Mexico and all-inclusive resort pampering.

So, spotting a nice pit stop on the roadside, I encouraged Tobin to ride ahead while I enjoyed a rest-stop porta-potty. It even had its own toiled paper! Luxuries in life!

Unsuccessful, but ready to hit the road, I pulled onward and cruised along at a decent clip until I recognised a bit of Tobin’s backside in the distance, but realising it was a bit bored, I stopped and threw in a headphone in Lytton. Hoisting myself over the bike once again, I was ripping through the countryside looking at the views and enjoying the splendid breeze upon my face.

Catching Tobin just as we hit the section that began to follow the river more closely, he wasn’t in the best of states, but I attempted to cheer him up as we rode on and headed more and more northward. The last section into Spences Bridge was quite fun, and flat, but windy. Yet we made it just as the sun was beginning its gradual sink into night. A short ride on the bumpy road and we were at the Spences Bridge Inn.

Sure enough, Keith and Ryan were there about to hit the road, and we had a brief chat (they wondered what on earth had happened to us) before they set off again. Tobin sat down for a rest after a bathroom break while I dug through my drop bag. Carole was a lovely conversationalist, and we chatted for a while until Luis rolled in and Tobin was ready to roll out. I wasn’t quite done snacking and rearranging so I stayed. Also my tire was a bit low on pressure, so I decided it was worth changing the tube there as well for insurance purposes. Eventually I went up to fill my bottles and get ready for the trip to Cache Creek and met Craig who was settling in to bed: a planned 3 hour nap before tackling the rest of the ride. Having ridden with him on the 200 a bit and on the 400, we were similar paced, so I figured if I could inspire Tobin to ride a bit faster, we could do the return as a trio.

Setting off about 20 minutes after Tobin, I rode along just as night was beginning to fall. I switched on my lights and was glad to have a true test of my flashing rear and sweet dynamo setup. Being new to this whole night-riding thing, I was stoked at the view it gave me. Granted it wasn’t even that dark yet.
In the distance I could see Tobin’s flashing light, but it wasn’t for a long while that I would catch him.
I gave friendly bell-rings to opposite direction randonneurs and chugged along as the road rolled upwards and downwards. About halfway to Cache Creek I had absolutely no idea which was uphill and which was downhill, making the trip all that much more exciting! I was also a bit worried and the ‘tsk tsk tsk’ sounds I kept hearing, wondering if it was brake rub. Eventually I figured out it was the sprinklers in the fields around me.

Just as I passed the turnoff to Ashcroft, I realised that Tobin was really close to me, so I hit the gas and once again we were a riding dynamic duo. However, as we pulled into Cache Creek I heard the words, “You’re a really great friend, and I love riding with you, but you’re going to hate me for this”.
“For being slow on the way back?? Never!” I replied, hoping the enthusiasm would squash the plan I knew he had in his mind.
In the A&W we reached he plunked down and looked dejected as he announced his plans to abandon.
Back before we separated after Boston Bar, we discussed what real incentive there was to head to Cache Creek. A&W and a rootbeer float. That was it, and that would be the goal. Now here we were in the A&W, and only I was having my float. Sadness.

Jeff M. unhappy with the heat was sprawled across a couple chairs catching some shuteye, while Andy was bidding adieu to Manfred and Bob K. who arrived just before us, and set off soonafter.

Realising that there was nothing to do but say goodbye to Tobin as he phoned his family, I packed up my things, stole a couple snacks from him and set off to catch Andy and the others.

Now realising that it was about midnight, and I had all night to get back to Pitt Meadows at full gas, I was actually pretty excited. My goal of riding with Craig seemed great, and I punched it out of Cache Creek.

Quickly climbing past Andy, I set off at what I thought was a decent clip, hoping to pass Bob and Manfred sooner or later. I turned off my GPS screen to see better, and to not watch my speed too closely on the uphills, and it really was quite exciting. I rolled with the road, once again not knowing if I was climbing or descending very well.
Eventually I passed Manfred, and ages later Bob, but it took a great deal longer than expected.
Returning to Spences Bridge felt like an eternity, and the descents were a little nerve racking in the dark. Lights do help.

Eventually, just as I was approaching the Bridge at Spences, I spotted two more riders and once again hit the gas, hoping to pass them by the control. Despite my best efforts, I only passed them in the last few metres. As I was rolling in, I witnessed Deirdre head off in the opposite direction. Hoping to see Craig there, I saw no sign of his bike, and popped inside to get my card signed by Carole, only to find her somewhat frantic. “A rider has been shot” was the gist I got, and off she went to the scene.
Not knowing any real details, and finding little conversation in Bob, I went to grab my drop bag to take on some more food. A brief chat with the owner about the relative closeness of the Ashcroft vs. Lytton police and ambulances, I thought worried thoughts before navigating the sleeping bodies, hopping back on my bike and riding off into the darkness.

Pretty soon I passed the roadside gathering where I saw the bloodied covered rider and Deidre and company waiting. I pulled over and asked if I could help, but was told there wasn’t really anything I could do. I heard what sounded vaguely like “keep riding” so I did just that.

Now having no details at this point, not knowing who was shot, or how, I was admittedly pretty scared on the road. I dimmed my lights and pressed on hoping that I would not be the next victim. The adrenaline I think helped keep me awake on the next 100kms. Passing a few areas in the pitch black where I knew there were people about was a bit more comforting, but still, climbing in the dark felt a little hairier than expected.
Slowly but surely I made my way along the highway, recognizing the outlines of familiar places.

Realising my need for a bathroom break once again, I noted where I was and rode another 15kms before arriving at the glorious Skuppa rest stop once again. Huzzah! The same porta-potty was visited, and the slamming doors sounded very loud as I observed that someone had set up a camper in the rest stop. Leaving the porta-potty, it was beginning to get slightly lighter on the road, so I excitedly pressed forward a bit faster. The climbs were much more interesting, and when I approached what I knew to be Jackass mountain, I hit the climb as hard as I could for a bit of fun. Much more exciting that way :)

The descent off Jackass was admittedly a bit scary, as my fork chatter is pretty bad normally, and picks up for no reason even with my hands on the bars on descents, but I reached the bottom of the hill in once piece before scaling a few more hills (don’t remember those!) up to the Canyon Alpine Motel.

At this point I had no intentions of sleeping, but a shower sounded nice, so I rode up to the room of Darren and Nigel and knocked on the door. A snoozing Darren jumped to his feet and answered the door as I hopped in and began rummaging through my things. A welcome offer of soup was given and I rolled off to shower before returning to eat some food.

I heard that Nigel had gone back to warn the other riders on the road about the incident, and the one shot was in fact Craig - that’s where he went! - and that he was currently in Lytton, on his way to Ashcroft. What a mess. Also learnt of Shiro’s abandoning and of the guys who were ahead of me...
Not many, I learnt to my excitement. As I wolfed down half a bowl of soup and threw some coke cans in my jacket pockets, Susan rolled in about to hear the same news, as I hopped on my bike, Randy pulled in and I knew it was time to go.

The last section was where all the effort came in. Returning back from Boston Bar to the Lougheed was very pleasant, as it was not too hot, and the hills were nice and rolling. Apart from a few sections with rather narrow shoulders, it was really quite nice. The temeperature picked up as I passed through Yale, and by the time I reached the Caribou Trail Motel/park it was noticeably too hot to keep wearing a jacket - something I still thought was weird in the middle of the hot weather…

Once again, I found myself returning along the Lougheed, climbing those two climbs towards Seabird Island. Oh Seabird Island truck stop. How I had *not* missed you! But, since it was open, despite warnings of such on the Control Card, I stopped in to grab some drink and write down the control information before heading on the last section of the Lougheed.

Traffic was picking up by this point, but it wasn’t that bothersome, since the Lougheed has pretty wide shoulders up until Aggasiz. Climbing the hill out of Harrison was where I was really beginning to feel my legs. It looked bad to begin with, but with 400-some-odd kms in my legs, well let’s just say it wasn’t ideal. I’m sure many randonneurs know the feeling.

Heading into Derouche I had some lovely honking drivers who really know the meaning of ‘pass with 3 feet of space’. That was a bit freaky, but eventually flew past the Derouche General Store with hopes of returning in under 30 hours.

Unfortunately I had forgotten about the glorious winds in the valley. That superb tailwind that flew us up the day before was now a massive headwind in which I pedalled as hard as I could, getting as low as I could on the bars, but just could not make any headway. Combined with the traffic, I’m pretty sure I spent the majority of my energy from the 600 on this one section. I was dying to have company there, but every cyclist I passed was moving at an utter snail’s pace, so I was forced to just hammer on. I lost a ton of energy there, and by the time I had passed Whonnock, I was unable to sustain the 32-35km/h I had had prior to Derouche. It was pretty disheartening.

But, never one to give up, I still tried to whizz down the road, only the shoulder wasn’t great and there was a ton of traffic on the road, making for a not-so-fun ride anymore. Combine that with my mirror had bent itself so seeing behind me wasn’t great, I had the lovely closeness of trucks and SUV’s past my shoulder every few km’s or so.
I hate that part.

Finally turning off on the Haney Bypass, I could taste the finish, and the turnoff for River Road was oh-so-sweet.

That last hill barely registered as I wanted to hammer straight back, but noticing the cue sheet took a nice detour around the river’s edge again, I dutifully obeyed and did a final, exciting roll-in to the finish at Tim Hortons.

There I was greeted by Dave King who signed my card and pointed to the lovely media that was hanging around. They of course were super excited at the news potential in Craig’s story. Having not slept for the 32-odd hours or so, and not really caring to spill out Craig’s life story, I politely refused and chatted to Dave a bit about drop-bags, before grabbing ½ (the others were still with Nigel) and rolling off back to the nearby home.
Apparently I still got filmed riding off though. Weirdos.

So in all the hectic-ness, no photos from the return journey, but all-in-all a pretty exciting conclusion to my first series!!


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July 12, 2014