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Day 5 – Nakusp to Cranbrook

Total Day: 346.4 km

Total Trip: 1,108.3 km

Any Canadian that has spent time driving out of a major city is familiar with losing radio signals. When the signals pick back up, they tend to be one station, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, our National Broadcaster, the Mother Corporation as many call it (including me). And if you’re familiar with CBC, you’re familiar with the National Research Council Official Time Signal, the longest running radio program in Canada. It comes on the broadcast just before 1:00 pm Eastern Time each day, 10:00 am in British Columbia, 11:00 am in Alberta, etc. The announcer always says the same thing, before a series of electronic beeps:

The National Research Council official time signal. The beginning of the long dash indicates exactly one o’clock, Eastern (Standard/Daylight Saving) Time.

cbc radio one

That phrase “beginning of the long dash” always resonated with me – it was a phrase that felt right when I was moving jobs, or moving across the country, or getting married, or having children. It was resonating now, as I had both my children going off to university in the fall. But it was resonating with me because of this trip, this epic journey that we were about to begin. We were going to leave the campsite, leave the familiar surroundings of the interior of BC, and head to areas that were unknown to us, and new for us to explore. We were at the Beginning of the Long Dash to Sturgis.

We woke up early and, first things first, made coffee. This time, the interloper slept in and missed out. We began to break camp, and were loaded up and ready to head out by 8:30 am. We said our last goodbyes, and then backed off the concrete pad for the last time. Until we were 5km up the road, when I realized I didn’t have my wallet in my riding pants. This necessitated a quick trip back to the campsite, and the wallet was nowhere to be found. However, I knew that it must, it must be in the tent, as that is the last place I remember seeing it. So, I unstrapped my bag, rummaged into the tent’s stuff-sack… and found the wallet. Crisis averted, we were back on the road, now closer to 9:00 am.

We stopped in New Denver at the only motel, which seemed to house the only restaurant in town, and had a fair breakfast before we hit the road in earnest. Our route took us past Kaslo and Ainsworth, riding along the eastern edge of the Kootenay Lake, and we would occasionally catch glimpses of the beautiful clear, cold lake through the trees. The forest was close again, in that beautiful BC way, feeling both at home and somehow far away from it. Both the RRP and I had never been further than Ainsworth before, as far as this route went. The temperature was up today, but it was still glorious riding once you were at speed, on winding two lane roads that are amazingly well maintained, the shadow of the trees helping to keep us cool at times.

Our waypoint was the Kootenay Bay / Balfour ferry – but catching that ferry was a bit of a debacle. We were set to be loaded for the first ferry after we arrived, but we were at the end – and normally bikes are moved to the front and loaded first. However, a new employee had loaded a large work truck first, which meant that there was no room for us to board – which wasn’t determined until we were already on the gangway. This necessitated an uncomfortable 17 point turn. The more senior of the employees – who was, you know, about 12 – apologized profusely, and let us know that we would be first on board the next ferry – which we weren’t but we were up near the front, so that was fine.

It was a short wait – less than an hour – so we got an iced coffee (actually coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which was amazing in the heat) and hung out until we boarded. I took my first video of the trip on that ferry, as it is still a pretty cool ride, especially since it’s free. We chatted with other bikers, and passed the time enjoying the sun and the breeze off the lake. We kept on the move after the ferry, making our way down to Creston BC, where we fuelled up and stopped for a bite at that bastion of the Canadian Road Trip, Tim Horton’s. It’s odd, but it’s the only time we stopped there on the entire trip, and was one of only a handful of fast food stops.

From there, we pressed on until we reached the first of our Experiments in Extreme Front-Country Camping – the only Kampgrounds of America (KOA) franchise in BC, located in Cranbrook. We specifically chose KOA because they have three amenities you can count on – flush toilets, showers, and laundry. Many have others. The Cranbrook KOA was clearly very new, and had absolutely fantastic private shower rooms that were self contained washrooms with a toilet, sink, and a separate large shower. We arrived, showered, changed clothes, and did laundry – then went the short walk to the nearby casino for dinner. This time it was, in fact, a bison burger, and it was pretty good – but that venison burger earlier in the week was way better.

The other great thing about this campsite is that we had both water and power at our site, dedicated for us. We had a large grass field to pitch our tents, and nearby was an eyrie inhabited by (it turned out) a family of osprey. While there, we met a young German couple touring British Columbia’s mountains on bicycles. They were very nice, but clearly they’re over achievers. In hindsight, this was probably one of the nicest campsites of the entire trip – and unbeknownst to us, we about were to become the equivalent of Michelin Guides by the end of this ride, so believe me when I say this one rated quite high on the list.

Tonight, we rested well. Tomorrow, we would cross into that uncanny valley that is our neighbour to the south, the United States – at once familiar, and at the same time, completely foreign. We were about to embark on the Beginning of the Long Dash on the next part of this epic journey.

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