Newsletter - 2002 Archive

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My First 600 km

Susan Barr


Although I've been a dues-paying member of the B.C. Randonneurs for five years or so, I recently discovered that I was not a "bone fide BC Randonneur" -- not only had I never done a full series, I'd never done a single 600 km. So it was time to aspire to join this elite group. And, suspecting that readers of my debut article in this newsletter had been clamouring for more, I decided to write about the experience. (That debut article, written several years ago, had the inspiring and imaginative title of "My first 400 km", so an article on "My first 600 km" was a natural.)

The Route
The Southern Interior 600 km route from Kamloops to Valemount and back seemed perfect for a wannabe BC Randonneur. The scenery promised to be spectacular, the amount of climbing was modest, and the route was straightforward (so straightforward that a route sheet wasn't necessary - begin at Heffley Creek, go to Valemount, turn around, and return to Heffley Creek). Most important, however, was that a certain tandem was doing the route, and I'd previously discovered that hanging out behind a tandem was a very pleasant way to complete a longish ride. So Deirdre Arscott, Bob LePage (the tandem), Richard Blair and I made plans to complete the 600, with an overnight in Blue River.

This is a *great* route. The scenery is magnificent, with lots of snow still on the mountains; there's a good paved shoulder for all but about 10 km; the traffic was minimal; and the truckers were unfailingly generous in the amount of room they gave us when passing.

The one possible downside of the route is that there are few opportunities for gourmet dining between Kamloops and Valemount. Deidre and Bob remedied this by bringing their own: salmon and egg salad sandwiches, date squares, banana bread, pudding and God-only-knows-what-else were stashed in their panniers. Richard's solution was to develop a peanut butter fixation, while I managed to survive on gas station offerings (the cinnamon rolls at the Blue River Husky are almost worth a return trip!). We'd been anticipating a real meal in Valemount, but when we arrived the power was out, and there was at least a half-hour wait for the buffet at the only restaurant in town serving food. So it another mini-mart meal, made memorable by cruising the aisles in the dark.

Wildlife Sightings (or reasonable facsimiles thereof):
We saw an osprey nest, a beaver dam, a beaver, several deer, two moose, and three bears. One bear ran across the road some distance ahead of us, and the other two (mama and cub) were eating by the side of the road. When I noticed that junior was some distance from mom, my heart went into overdrive, my two fast twitch muscle fibres kicked in, and I actually sprinted for a meter or two, figuring that the rear of the paceline was not the most opportune place to be. But we were ignored. Fortunately, we didn't see the mother grizzly and her cubs that had been sighted just south of Valemount - the rumour was the she was quite aggressive, and enjoyed chasing cars. But perhaps cyclists wouldn't have been enough of a challenge.

Other wildlife included four B.C. Randonneurs. We met Michel Richard and Henry Berkenbos at the Clearwater control. They'd started in Blue River and were heading south to Heffley Creek, then north to Valemount and back to Blue River. We saw Mike Eder when we were heading south from Valemount. He'd started from there Friday afternoon, and was completing the home stretch. And then there was Ken Bonner: We actually rode with him to the first control! (O.K., so it was a secret control at the 4 km mark; we still had our cards signed at the same time). He then dropped us in short order, but before too long we passed him, and made it into the Clearwater control some time ahead of him. (O.K., so he had a flat or two…). He finally passed us while we were stopped at a gas station in Avola, but we saw him again at Blue River - we pulled in as he was leaving. After that, however, one might say that "our times diverged".

And finally, there were two Bobs: Bob Marsh had started from Blue River with Michel and Henry, but his back wasn't up for the ride. He turned around after 30 km or so, traded his bike for his car, and kept us company at the Blue River Husky and the Valemount mini-mart. Bob Boonstra showed up on his Honda Sunday morning just north of Clearwater - it was only a bit depressing to realize that he'd be home in an hour (averaging 130 km/hr, which wasn't far off the truth) AND he had a comfortable seat to sit on.

It was warm and clear on Saturday morning and the forecast was benign, so I made the mistake of leaving Big Blue (goretex jacket) behind. Warm and clear in Kamloops changed to toasty warm by Clearwater (yes, I rode with bare arms and legs), which morphed into hail in Blue River (coinciding perfectly with our arrival at the Husky station, and leading to a longer-than-anticipated meal break!). Other highlights were thunderheads and WIND (of the tailwind variety) on the way to Valemount (you can guess what that meant when we turned around), and a cold foggy Sunday morning in Blue River. The moral? Don't leave Big Blue behind next time, even if the route goes through a desert and the forecast calls for record highs.

I had a huge amount of fun on this ride! We finished in 32:15, with just over 21 hours of riding and ample time to eat and sleep. Thanks to Bob, Deirdre and Richard for great company and great pulls, Bob Marsh for lending me his rain jacket (see above: DO NOT LEAVE BIG BLUE BEHIND), and Bob and Barb Boonstra for their warm hospitality.

I was out-of-town for the 200 and 300 km rides this year, so I'm still not a bona fide BC Randonneur. I am, however, aspiring to become one by the end of the season.