Zunoquad Squad Cycles the Kettle Valley Railroad Trail (7)

May 27

Chute Lake’s placid surface mirrored clear skies on Tuesday morning. Behr and Robert drove off and the five men remaining headed down the trail whose surface was hard packed after days of rain. For the whole of the 30 km descent the slope remained steeper than anywhere on the ascent, increasing speed and ease of pedaling. Bleak burnt and logged-over landscape gave way to mature second growth forest carpeted with grass and wildflowers. A rushing stream crisscrossed the trail.

We stopped to explore Rock Ovens in the woods built to bake bread for the railroad work crews. The nurses whizzed past shouting instructions for us to bake bread for them. Lionel replied that their place was in the kitchen. Flush with downhill speed, we overtook the women slowed by their bike trailers, and stopped at an opening in the forest cover to take pictures of the sand cliffs, endlessly stretching lake, orchards, vineyards and small settlements in the Okanagon valley below. As soon as Andy broke out three beers remaining from yesterday, the nurses came barreling down behind us and screetched to a halt when we held out the bottles. After a shared toast, they passed around a mickey of powerful cinnamon liqueur, and we agreed to meet for lunch at a vineyard once we reached Naramata.

The glorious rolling descent continued, with more elegant prospects at every turn, reminiscent of the English Lake District. At the mouth of a huge tunnel framing the southern end of the lake, we encountered three professional bicyclists in their middle seventies who advised us to have lunch at the Red Barrel winery and promised to tell the nurses to meet us there. But once again, we had trouble following directions. So, driven by hunger and the desire to keep moving, we forsook the fantasy and pressed on to Penticton, through whose streets we roared, feeling like the Wild Ones come to town.

Along the Lakefront Drive of this prospering resort we found a lively establishment, Salty’s Carribean Café. A middle aged couple seated there told us the food was great and when they heard of our adventure, the husband told us we were admirable and offered to pick us and our bikes up in his truck and take us to their place in Summerland for a free Barbeque with lots of wine. We hedged on an answer and ordered meals”no rice and vegetables–along with several bottles of good local wine from our server, a young Valley Girl in a flimsy top and tight jeans whose parents, she told us, had settled here “to found a church.”

As we were drinking our coffee, the restaurant’s manager, came over to chat. She was planning a trip on the KVR the following week and wanted to hear all about it. After a few minutes of lively conversation she declared, “It looks like you guys haven’t talked to a woman in quite a while.” One member of our group stroked her sleeveless arm and she noticed some frayed threads on his jersey, which she trimmed with her teeth.

The long lunch complete, Steven and Murray took a swim in the lake, and then our reduced band dispersed to find a place to sleep. Some stiff bargaining came up with a Lakefront pre-season suite at $30 per man with bikes indoors. After a nap and more local vintage, we explored town and ate another excellent meal in a posh Italian restaurant serenaded by recorded opera. This day’s dissolute return from the woods to civilization concluded with a visit to Slack’s, a stripper bar highly recommended by the motel manager. Two ladies performed for the sparse audience with the requisite abandon, but without raising much excitement in our tired party.

Next morning we were picked up by Neal and ferried back to Princeton. On the way we started considering possibilities for next year’s excursion, including canoeing down the raging Similkameen river that paralleled our road, rafting in the Yukon, and backpacking the slot canyons of Utah.

The wiki for this excursion can be found here. The Flickr Photoset is here.

Leave a Reply