Photo by Dan Barham
Words by Seb Kemp
My favorite drive in the world is the one from Vancouver to Whistler. Every time it makes my heart fly with excitement because I know what lies at the terminus. The destination is the reason, but the journey still moves me.
Today, however, I was southbound and with pedals to turn rather than push. I’ve wanted to cycle the section of Highway 99 known as the Sea to Sky Highway for a long time, but never found a good enough reason to try it. Seems like little reason is reason enough.
The Sea To Sky is a fantastic road. Carved and piled high by battalions of workers, blasted by force and raised up with care, the Sea-to-Sky is now a cineplex experience where every seat is front row. The strip of asphalt appears to cling to a towering chorus of cedar, pine and firs that cascade right into the Howe Sound.
The morning started wet and windy in downtown Squamish under the watchful eye of the Stawamus Chief, a hunk of granite that thrusts itself up 700 meters from the otherwise jagged surrounds. Usually it’s a good sport to try to spot the minute dots of men climbing the giant walls. Today, nothing, just pissing rain wrapped in incessant drizzle and coated in a damp breeze.
It’s amazing what you notice while pedaling on roads that you’re only familiar with from behind the steering wheel of a car. There was the pile of carpet tacks which forced a dismount, the broken bottles that lie in wait, and the hastily discarded sandwich bag full of fake credit cards, IDs, and other flexible friends with murky backgrounds that lay on the side of the road. We did hand this stack of evidence to a local police officer, but he didn’t seem that interested, I think he just wanted to get out of the rain.
Apart from the occasional trip hazard, the view is quite spectacular along the Sea To Sky. We would round a turn in the road and be drawn to pause long enough to remember the view. Then we would start off again, only to stop around the very next corner where another dramatic cove/mountain/seaview/wildlife combo would have us squeeze the brakes again. I don’t think I could ever tire of this journey. It certainly is tiring to be gorping, gasping, and standing slack jawed, but not that tiring.
Eventually we pulled into Horseshoe Bay just as our ferry pulled out. No big deal, the sun was out. However, the retina-burning daylight – something winter’s cloudy blanket has made us unfamiliar with – was nothing more than an illusion.
The sky was blue, but the air was frigid. Our feet were soaked and frozen to the bone – or at least we thought they were…we couldn’t feel much – so we stopped off in Trolls for a spot of all-day breakfast (or one pound of salad sans dressing for Dan “Ooo, I could crush a grape” Barham). We peeled off our road salt-sprayed outer layers–our bodies, thankfully, dry and warm underneath–and tried to rush some blood back into our toes before boarding the Kitsbow .
By the time we had boarded the ferry we had thawed out a little bit, enough to deal with the chill out on the deck so we could take in the view. By now the clouds had been pushed further up the Howe Sound, and as if peering beneath a lifted skirt, we could see exactly how high Mother Nature’s wears her hosiery. The mountains looked like they had been dipped in icing sugar, the snow line as crisp as the chill in the air.
I’d been woken in the morning from a text from Sean Dinwoodie of Chromag Bikes that simply said, “It’s puking.” I half expected to pull back the curtains and find Squamish under snow, so that half of me told me to go back to bed because all was lost. The other half of me decided that it was probably not true so I may as well stay curled up in bed. Luckily for us, and the powder starved Whistler residents, the snow had come down hard enough to make a trip up the electric chair worthwhile, but hadn’t fallen at low elevation to hamper our escape.
We had planned to ride some Sunshine Coast singletrack, but because we had dragged our feet while taking in the Sea To Sky views, we had to take a late ferry and got to the coast just in time to enjoy the sunset on the beach. Like a tractor beam we were pulled west towards the sunlight. Bikes had brought us there and we drank in the warming rays of the falling red blob, content enough.
As I write this, we are holed up in the warm and homey Up The Creek Hostel and tomorrow we will be leaving the BOB trailers behind so we dance around the Sunshine Coast trail network for a whole day. We bumped into photographer and videographer Nicolas Teichrob while jumping off the ferry and he told us the loam is ripe for the picking. We can’t wait.