Day 21 Creston to Skookumchuck BC
The hill before Fort Steele with the Rockies as a backdrop
I intended this day to be a relatively short day and to end in Kimberly, but changed my mind just before leaving Cranbrook this evening and ended up in Skookumchuck instead. In addition to the more interesting name, I also am 25 miles or so closer to Radium Hot Springs, my stepping off point for crossing the Rockies. I covered a bit over 100 miles today and have less than 60 miles to go to reach Radium Hot Springs. If I feel really ambitious tomorrow, which is unlikely, I could ride over the first pass and sped the night inside the Kootenay Park between Sinclair and Vermilion passes. If I don't, this ride report and web page may, along with the one for yesterday, get posted/put up a lot sooner. Once I start into the Rockies, I expect it will be a while before I have net access again.
Creston is so near the US that signs aren't just in km
I left Creston an hour earlier than I would have had my map not errored on the boundary between Pacific and Mountain time. The shed my bike was locked in was supposed to be opened at 8 AM, so when I work up just before 8, Mountain time, I got everything packed and ready to go by 8:30. The shed was still locked, so I went to the Motel office to ask that it be unlocked, then, when I got my bike I asked about places to eat, put my stuff on the bike, and rode to Susie's Café just a block away. Hmm, the clock in Susie's said it was 7:45! Oh well, I ate, had a nice visit with a 94 year old man who was eating at a table next to mine, and rode out of town headed for Cranbrook. I did find out from Susie that there was a store/restaurant in Kitchner and services in Yahk and Moylie, giving me services roughly every 15 miles. Somewhere north of Yahk I came across a changing time zones sign which confirmed that it was 7:30 when I roused my host to get me my bike.
Hwy 3 heading east after Kitchner
Looking back into the valley hwy3 runs through
Although there was a bit of hill leaving Creston, the riding was much less hilly today than yesterday. I measured about 2400 feet of climbing in 100+ miles versus 2800 feet in 80- miles yesterday, but, more importantly, almost all of today's climbing was done on moderate grades, 3 or 4% or less versus 7 or 8% yesterday. The ride to Kitchner was just plain fun, climbing gradually through a pretty valley. I stopped for a snack at Kitchner Station, where granny does a good business feeding truck drivers and other travelers on. I was impressed with this small store/café and think I would enjoy eating a real meal there. While I was sitting outside eating my snack, a driver of a very large semi asked my how the bicycling was. I said it was excellent. He said he wished he had time to bicycle tour.
At the end of the valley, there is a passing lane that last for a mile or two while the Hwy 3 climbs gently out of the valley. Then it gradually turns south and descends, following the Goat River to meet Hwy 95 coming up from the US. Hwy 3/95 then heads northeast up the Moyie River through Yahk to Moyie.
The highway running along the Moyie river
Yahk has motels, camping, a café which was closed this Sunday morning, and a store or two. I stopped for a convenience store lunch at Yahk.
The highway acquires one the nasty kinds of rumble strips when 3 and 95 combine. That strip, mostly with a rideable shoulder outside it, is there for the next fifty miles. I'd rather not have it since there were several miles of road where it, in combination with road litter or bad shoulder pavement, rendered the shoulder unrideable, but mostly it was just a minor annoyance.
No usable shoulder!
The road follows the river, and the railroad tracks, till Moyie. It was nice riding, albeit sometimes with too much traffic and some other times with too little shoulder. I addition to a number of big trucks, there were a lot of recreation vehicles. I think this road might be dangerous to ride on a nice summer weekend, when traffic density was higher. Traffic density was low enough today that I had no problems with the shoulderless sections or the many shoulderless bridges. Polite BC drivers also helped! There was some climbing away from the river and the tracks, but no steep grades.
No shoulder on the bridge either
At Moyie, I stopped at the pub for lunch. It was the only place in town offering hot food and washrooms, both of which I wanted. It took a long time - half an hour - to get my lunch, but it was quite good. When I left, the waitress asked which way I was heading. I told her and she responded: Oh, that is the bad construction part!
I discovered that it was spitting a bit of rain when I left, so I removed my camera from the handlebars and put it in one of my Ortlieb panniers. The spitting picked up a bit as I reached the construction, but never really got to be rain. The construction was on Moyie Bluffs where the road comes down a few hundred feet to beside Moyie Lake. The pavement was gone and oiled dirt/gravel was there instead. It was bit bumpy but no real problem except for the incompetent driver of a big RV who couldn't seem to get pass me. At least two dozen other cars, trucks, and RVs did without a problem, but for this one I had to pull out of the lane onto loose gravel so that he could pass. The biggest vehicles get driven by the least competent drivers?
When I got to the bottom of Moyie Bluffs, I put the camera back on, but under a showercap as it was still spitting a bit. I rode on toward Cranbrook, but slowly now into a bad headwind. I figured it was going to take me more than an hour to cover the remaining ten miles or so, but, after maybe half a hour, the headwind became a tail wind and I cruised on into Cranbrook doing 20 mph.
I stopped at a A+W for a large root beer float, and at a service station next door for some cash from an ATM. Cranbrook has everything in the way of US fast food and had a bunch of motels, the cheapest of which was $35 CND. It wasn't an attractive strip, but the downtown area, which I saw in passing, looked pretty nice. Cranbrook itself is flat, but the Rockies make a nice backdrop for the town.
As I was leaving Cranbrook, headed north, I approached the Radium Intersection where 95a heads off for Kimberly and 3/95 heads for Fort Steele. I had planed to go to Kimberly, but the sign said it was 12 km longer to Radium Hot Springs if you went that way. Hmm, that isn't what my Microsoft mapping software told me: It said it was the same distance! Ahh, there is a BC Info place just before the intersection: I'll stop and ask about services on the shorter route!
They told me that there were motels in Wasa and Skookumchuck, about 25 and 35 miles along the other route, as well as a B+B, but a resortified one, at Lake Wasa. I decided to go that way and, after about two hours of wind assisted riding, made it to Skookumchuck. The name means coming together of many waters and the Kootenay River is one of them. The sound of the river is quite nice in my room.
By staying on 95 - Hwy 3 heads south between Cranbrook and Fort Steele, saved 8 miles, and probably a good bit of climbing. 95, after Fort Steele, follows the Kootenay River. With the wind assist I was cruising in the high teens. I did have some problems with the, very rough, shoulder, but traffic was bursty enough that I rode in the lane 98% of the time, going over onto the shoulder only when vehicles were coming from both directions. After 95 and 95a came back together, there was an excellent shoulder and I was able to cruise at around 20 mph.
A section of 95 before Wasa. Most of it wasn't this hilly
It turns out that there are two motel/campgrounds in Skookumchock, as well as a restaurant/ store/ service station. I like it here and I'm glad I came here instead of going to Kimberley.