Western Living Magazine
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A trip into the Interior is just the cure for Masa Takei's big-city blues.
Leaning into a long, sweeping curve just west of Kamloops, a deep rumble reverberating through my chest, I had my first epiphany: I sort of got the whole Harley thing. I’d ridden motorcycles since I was a teenager, but never considered myself a Harley kind of guy. Now, mid-pack in a group of riders, accelerating a Road King uphill in sixth gear, I was grinning like we’d just got away with robbing the train. Hills of semi-arid grassland and sagebrush undulated past. By the time we got off our bikes at the rodeo in Ashcroft, I was even swaggering a little, creaking around in my borrowed leathers, tipping an imaginary hat at the truly tough bronco riders and small-town beauty queens. A few hours into the trip and few hundred kilometres from home and it felt like another world.Isn’t that what road trips are for? They’re more than just getting out and putting rubber on the road. They’re an opportunity to engage with people and places, to let go of preconceptions and make new connections. And if you’re a travel writer you get two kicks at the can. As Anaïs Nin proclaimed, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” The first taste, I’ve found, may bring some flashes of gut insight, but it’s the second taste when the more disparate connections form in the head.It was mid-June and a dozen riders and writers from as far afield as Germany and Texas had converged here, in one of the sunniest regions of Canada, to spend a week looping through the B.C. Interior. My posse would start in Kamloops, cloverleaf up through the Cariboo-Chilcotin, down through the Fraser Canyon, and around the Thompson-Okanagan.As a Vancouverite, this was my backyard. But beyond a few seasons of treeplanting, I really didn’t know this country. I was generally on my way to someplace else. It takes more than stopping for gas to get a feel for a place. Midway through our trip, rolling through the rain west of Clearwater, we took a nondescript turnoff onto a gravel road, past some rustic lakefront cabins, and up to the log lodge that held the reception and dining area for Lac des Roches Resort. Found just off Highway 24, in a stretch between Little Fort and Lone Butte with over 200 lakes, Lac des Roches is known for yielding 19-pound Gerrard rainbow trout. The proprietors, Luca and Laura, welcomed us as if we were their personal guests. They lit a fire to warm the room and in short order produced a four-course meal from the old country that kicked off with homemade bruschetta and ended with homemade ice cream and tiramisu. In between were dishes that included green tortelli with sage and arrosto di maiale al latte, a pork roast in a milk sauce, all made from scratch. That we could have such a meal (possibly paired with a ’74 Amarone Bertani from their wine list) so far from their native Tuscany was a revelation. Our minds were blown, our bellies expanded, our souls gently petted.The literal taste in the moment was certainly memorable, but what comes more to mind, in retrospect, was eavesdropping as Luca sat down to relax at the end of the evening in the dining room with his teenage kids and their friends to discuss, in his still-present Italian accent, their lives, world events, the range of things that mattered to them. It struck me that they weren’t just management at a resort. This was their home. Of all the places in the world, this beautiful but obscure spot is where they’d chosen to drive their stake and live.Shoving off the next day, we headed south again, winding it out past ponderosa pine forests and river canyons. By afternoon, gently baking in our riding gear, we came upon a lobe of deep azure waters tapering to turquoise, made even more vibrant by the white silt beach that framed it. We pulled off at an overlook with a prime vantage point on this refreshing-looking jewel. It could have been B.C.’s Lake Louise, minus the mountains. I had no idea that this place existed, just off Highway 97c near Logan Lake, less than a half-day’s drive from my front door.As beautiful as it was, it would likely never grace the back of our $20 bill (although a vista just to the north was featured on the old $100). It’s a by-product of North America’s largest open-pit mine, one of the largest in the world. At 34,000 hectares, you could fit in all of West Vancouver and North Vancouver, and still have enough room for 20 Stanley Parks.We looked at the tailings pond—the effluent, the waterborne waste, chemical and otherwise, leftover from the mining process. Further up the road, the open-pit part of the Highland Valley copper mine, with its chalky terraces, seemed a marvel of engineering. The whole thing was downright Burtynsky-esque in its scale and impact.A day later we were standing behind the Mighty Fraser Motel outside of Boston Bar. Now dusty from road miles, we lined our bikes up out front and feasted on Fat Jack’s world-class renditions of classic diner food. I was still getting over seeing the owner, Todd Baiden, in his new home. The last time we’d met I was writing about his immensely popular underground restaurant, run out of his apartment on Main Street in Vancouver. Now we were standing next to the large vegetable garden he’d coaxed out of the dry earth behind his motel, down the highway from a town of about 800 people. We were staring at the chasm into which some guests thwack golf balls. I had thought then about how those balls would rip down the river, through the canyon, and perhaps beat me back to the where the Fraser River braided its way through Vancouver.But it wasn’t until long after I’d reluctantly returned the Road King and was back at home making sense of the trip—giving it another taste—that I made the connection. During our trip we’d crisscrossed through an eclectic region about the size of South Korea. Poring over our trip route on a map, I realized that as far-ranging as our travels would be, covering over 1,500 kilometres of the province, the Fraser River was the backbone of the experience, as clearly as if we’d been travelling by boat instead of bike.I’d lived by the Fraser most of my life, but never really thought much about it, just as I’d not really thought too much about my own circulatory system. Which is what the Fraser Basin is, a network of all the major drainages that funnel into the Fraser River, the largest in our province. According to author Richard C. Bocking, the basin accounts for “half of British Columbia’s forests and agricultural lands, the majority of the province’s salmon streams, two-thirds of its human population and 80 percent of its economy.” We could have dropped a golf ball into just about any body of flowing water en route and it could conceivably have been borne back down to Vancouver.In my everyday life I cross the Fraser from time to time—though no longer on a Harley—and now I find my thoughts go upstream, to Luca and his family, to Todd at the Mighty Fraser, and even to that tailings pond. The river a constant flow, connecting us all.
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